Sunday, May 2, 2021

Student Success Relies on Future-Proofing Learning

Imagine if we all had a crystal ball? It sure would have come in handy prior to the pandemic. What if I told you that we might have actually had one in the form of a retro animated series that aired over fifty years ago that predicted some modern technological innovations? Below is how I opened Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms:

One of my favorite shows as a kid was The Jetsons. Even though it only aired for one season in the 1960s, I got my fill thanks to non-stop reruns throughout my childhood. For those who have not seen the show, it focuses on a futuristic family residing in Orbit City, whose architecture looks like it was invented by Google with all the living residences and businesses raised on adjustable col­umns high above the ground. The entire series revolved around the family’s life one hundred years into the future assisted by labor-saving technologies that often broke down in humorous ways. 
The Jetsons provided us with a glimpse into what society could look like one day and inspired people young and old to dream about the future. Some of the show’s bold predictions actually came true, includ­ing video conferencing, robots, smartwatches, drones, jetpacks, holo­grams, and automated homes. Other inventions are within our grasp such as flying cars, driverless vehicles, and computers so powerful they have the operating capacity of the human brain.  Things are moving fast in our world. In the words of the wise Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” This is spot-on advice to keep in mind as we enter further into our own Jetsons moment.

Life sure does move fast. Even before the pandemic, it was difficult, if not near impossible, to keep up with all the exponential change as a result of the 4th Industrial Revolution. The “Jetsons moment” has become engrained in our lives no matter where we live or work. In a short period of time, we have seen innovative companies such as Uber, Lyft, Vrbo, DoorDash, and Robinhood disrupt many traditional service areas.  While there might be a consistent focus on disruption now, the fact remains that it is not new and has been impacting the world since the beginning of time.  A ride through Epcot’s Spaceship Earth shows how papyrus paper, the printing press, television, and the first home computer not only disrupted but revolutionized the world.  

Exponential change is the new normal. To adequately prepare students, the key is to future-proof learning, so they are always ready for whatever faces them. While this might seem like a stretch or even impossible, I assure you it’s not. Here is how to begin:

  • Develop higher-order thinking through scaffolded questions and tasks
  • Authentic application of knowledge and concepts in connection with real-world problems.
  • Purposeful use of tech-driven by the learner
  • Equity and cognitive flexibility through personalization
  • Learning environments that reflect current (and future) contexts


Creating a classroom culture that empowers students to replace conventional ideas with innovative solutions to authentic problems can lead to prosperity in a bold new world. Disruption is here to stay, thus the need to future-proof learning. Disruptive thinking is the way to get there. To learn more, get your copy of my new book on Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. Mr Sheninger, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic. For me, thoughts of the future are often accompanied by feelings of apprehension. I think of the seemingly insurmountable challenges we face in Antigua (a small island located in the Eastern Caribbean), and I am overwhelmed. However, as a lifelong learner, I am challenged to learn the technology to better meet the needs of the diverse needs of my students. The five proposed approaches for future-proofing have encouraged me to revisit my practices and my teachers' effectiveness in meeting students' needs.

    Many schools on my island struggle with integrating technology in the classroom as they seek to take on a blended approach to teaching and learning. I have found that many of our teachers are resistant to engaging with the technology because they lack the confidence to do so. As an administrator, are there any specific strategies you have used that have proven successful in boosting teachers' confidence in this area?

    Ps, I am excited to read your new book. I look forward to the wealth of knowledge it contains that I can use to effectively serve my learning community in my new role as Vice-Principal.
    Regards

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