Future of Learning Top Reads for week of Aug 27 2018


Only two reads this week, because they point to paradigm shifts that are worth contemplating carefully...


"Think Differently: Expertise Shifts: The I to the T to the X," by Heather McGowan on LinkedIn

"I is deep discipline-identity and silo thinking. T remains discipline-identified with cross collaborative skills, knowledge, and abilities. In the Age of Accelerations, we need to develop X-shaped thinkers who have a transdisciplinary mindset and are adept at technological collaborations leading with their uniquely human skills. No matter how sophisticated the technology, it is still a tool and tools need humans. In this we move, as John Hagel says, from working with stocks of stored existing knowledge to working in flows of emerging knowledge and creating new knowledge."

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

Most schools today are designed to form T-shaped thinkers: take four years of English, at least 3 years of Math and Science, major in one or two specific disciplines, after which you're "fully baked." 

That model reflects the pace of a slower moving world, in which facts had longer half-lives (though the best leaders have always been lifelong learners).

In our Age of Accelerations, we need X-shaped thinkers. Their learning will look less like "stacking up" blocks of information (T's) and more like "swimming" among flows of constantly shifting and evolving knowledge (X's).

T-shaped thinkers have excelled at knowing the correct answers.

X-shaped thinkers excel at asking better and better questions.

T-shaped thinkers have excelled at learning through static resources.

X-shaped thinkers excel at collaborating with exponential technologies (AI, mixed reality, etc.) to learn.

T-shaped thinkers excel at working individually or with stable teams.

X-shaped thinkers are skilled at rapidly assembling teams that are diverse and blended (i.e., human + machine).

For a glimpse of the future, consider how X-shaped engineers are already collaborating with AI.

How might we create the conditions for X-shaped learning?


"Automation Will Make Lifelong Learning a Necessary Part of Work," by Jacques Bughin, Susan Lund, and Eric Hazan in Harvard Business Review

"Shifts in skills are not new: we have seen such a shift from physical to cognitive tasks, and more recently to digital skills. But the coming shift in workforce skills could be massive in scale. To give a sense of magnitude: more than one in three workers may need to adapt their skills' mix by 2030 [...] and lifelong learning of new skills will be essential for all. With the advent of AI, basic cognitive skills, such as reading and basic numeracy, will not suffice for many jobs, while demand for advanced technological skills, such as coding and programming, will rise, by 55% in 2030, according to our analysis."

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

In our "more automated future, when machines are capable of taking on many more rote tasks," we will see:

  • increased demand for social and emotional skills, "including initiative taking and leadership"
  • increased demand for "higher cognitive skills, creativity and complex information and problem solving"

As a consequence, the authors predict that companies will "measure future success by their ability to provide continuous learning options to employees."

Are you teaching your students to produce the correct answers to your questions? Or are you teaching them how to ask better and better questions?

Are you teaching your students to learn what is on the test? Or are you teaching them to learn how to learn?

These are not idle questions. Your answers may call for new design principles for your organization.


Question of the week: 

File_001 (5).png


Thank you for reading this post from Basecamp's blog, Ed:Future. Do you know someone who would find the Ed:Future blog worthwhile reading? Please let them know that they can subscribe here.

Christian Talbot