Future Forum

I’ve been lucky to attend two Interface Future Forums over the last year. I attended another one yesterday which was really interesting and another good opportunity to get thinking about where education design is going in the future.

This time, Anne Knock facilitated the session, and took us through an exploratory journey of where education is at, and where it’s going. There seems to be a growing body of research actively seeking to bring more creativity, problem solving and real world connection, into learning. Which is an exciting time, when we can vision how the design of learning spaces might evolve to capture these new required skill sets.

However, we did also discuss the political and social realities of our current education system. As much as teachers might want to change, they are often bound by a curriculum that does not allow them to, requiring a large amount of learning to be ‘pushed into’ students over a relatively short time. As much as school leaders might want to change, they are at the mercy of ‘their customers’ demanding their children get high marks and achieve success. And as much as policy makers might want to change, no politician wants to be responsible for risking the future of their constituents. So it’s a difficult issue to create change, regardless that the research shows the benefits. We have spoken about this issue in quite a few sessions I’ve been to lately, and although the groundswell of support seems to be growing, it’s not yet at a tipping point where mainstream education seems confident enough to change (in Australia anyway!).

In our group of three, we looked at how to design an interactive space for a term-long project looking at History, Design and Technology, English and Media. It’s exciting to see this renewed focus on cross-curricular learning, featured with such benefits in documentaries like Most Likely to Succeed. (Let us know if you want a screening in Perth!) It was good again to see some of the similarities between the two groups designing new learning spaces – recognising difference through a variety of spaces where students learn best for them (solo spaces, small group spaces, whole class spaces, multi-group presentation spaces etc). Also interesting to see both groups showing trees and access to the outdoors/nature.

It seems from my recent discussions, workshops and forums that we seem to know that our education system is not keeping pace with the development of our society, and technology. Why do students need to know what the capital of every European country is, when they (mostly) can look it up instantly on the device in their pocket? What is the difference between knowing something, and remembering something for a test? Our world is changing so swiftly and it’s interesting to see how our learning spaces do, and don’t, keep up..

Anne gave us lots of good reading material, which is great for these things, so we can go and read up more about it all. Some of them I want to read more about are:

  • Start with Why by Simon Sinek, looking at people’s, organisation’s and society’s purpose.
  • ‘Hello Gen Z’ by Claire Madden. Can you believe Gen Z’s will be ready for the workforce in 2032. Gosh! What will the world look like then? What will workforces look like, and what skills will people need?
  • ‘Teachers as Designers of Learning Environments’, a new publication by the OECD on how teachers are actively changing their learning space to suit new pedagogies.
  • The Australian Council for Education Research which had so so much information on what is happening in learning spaces right now. It’s great to see so much research happening about something so important – how do we get the best (personally) out of our students, our future?
  • The Institute for Research in Schools which works with schools to provide real scientific research to laboratories. I really like this concept, that schools are providing real information that can be used to solve real problems.
  • The Innovative Learning Environments and Teacher Change research project is trying to bridge the gap between great learning spaces, and how teachers can/do/should/will design and use them.

There is so much research around at the moment about how the world future students will inhabit is changing, and how spaces and mindsets also need to change to allow that to happen. This was a really good session to learn a bit more about these issues and try and be part of real change for solutions.

As always, thanks to Interface for investing in research and understanding the society their products will go in to. I’ve always admired Interface for their commitment to sustainability and wanting to make a positive contribution to the world. Committing to a better understanding of our world and how we can improve it, is yet another good step forward, and something I hope more companies choose to learn from.

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