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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

The School of the Future Wasn't Supposed to Look Like This

Back in 2003, I asked the 10-year old students in my class what they imagined school would be like in the year 2020.

They enthusiastically spoke of glass walls, flying skateboards, and “learning machines” that we would wire ourselves up to at night.

A photograph of a boy walking along a white corridor
What did we once imagine the school of the future would be like in 2020?

As the 2019-20 school year begins, I cannot help but reflect on the fact that this long anticipated future horizon is right around the corner - and that perhaps the “childish” reflections of my students were better than many in anticipating the future of learning.

How many of us have rebuilt new learning spaces with glass walls? How many of our students and colleagues “fly” through urban streets to school today on e-scooters? How many of us are literally tied to these “learning machines” that we hold in our hands all day and all night?

Not long after the students in my class made their predictions, those of us who are part of leadership teams and school boards around the world got to have our turn.

We wrote strategic plans that were, in many cases, ambitious lists of things to build, resources to buy, programmes to expand, and services to improve. And then we circulated our vision, with the promise that these upgrades would ensure that we were truly ready for the future.

Back in 2010, it seemed like we had all the time in the world to get the job done. So we opted to do the easy things first and postpone the rest for later in the day.

And here we are. We’ve arrived.

In 122 days, it will be 2020.

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve covered a lot of ground. We’ve built the buildings, bought the resources, expanded the programmes, and improved the services.

But can we say that we significantly advanced? Have we lived up to our promise and re-imagined school like we said we would?

As someone who was part of these conversations for the last ten years or more, I can honestly say that I’m not so sure.

We completed most of the things on our list.

But, in the end, it appears that the school of the future was never going to be the sum of all these parts. It required of us more courage, more focus on what we know to be true, and less attention to things.

The school of the future wasn’t supposed to look like this.

So I guess our Advancement quest continues.

Photo by Zhimai Zhang on Unsplash

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