Category Archives: trends

You might know more about your future than you think

railroadWe’ve all seen those famous quotes used in ed tech presentations (I use a few myself) that highlight lack of vision in previous predictions. A few examples:

  • “By 2000, machines will be producing so much that everyone in the U.S. will, in effect, be independently wealthy.” – Time, 1966
  • “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.” – Ken Olsen, President Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

Yet, when I read books such as Where Good Ideas Come From or Blink or Decisive, I become more convinced that, given the right protocols and tools, we are actually better at anticipating our future than we might think. If we have a system for paying attention to current trends and for adding to our view of the world beyond our own narrow realities, we stand a chance of not only accurately predicting future trends, but preparing ourselves for success within that future world.

I will be presenting on how McREL used the scenario planning process to change how we thought about our work at this year’s TIE Leadership Academy on June 17 in Copper Mountain, CO. If you would like to learn more about the process and start your own planning, I hope you will join me!

In the meantime, here’s a quick video where I describe the basic tenets of the process.


Good Quotes from Elizabeth Merritt

JapaneseGardensMy last few posts have centered around my current thinking on the future of museums and the role they may play in evolving education models. This is probably my last post on the subject, but I wanted to capture some of the key points that Elizabeth Merritt, Founding Director of Center for the Future of Museums, made on Steve Hardagon’s webinar. The webinar is archived on his site and I highly recommend watching it if this topic interests you.

One point that I loved, and I hope to get the quote exactly right: “…we create systems where we develop a fear of failure. Unless people are unafraid to fail and understand the benefits of failure, we’re not going to have a truly innovative and creative society.” I can already imagine Thomas Edison, Charles Darwin, and thousands of other scientists and inventors from our history applauding this statement.

She continues, “In museums, you don’t feel wrong or dumb…you just explore.

As a former Montessori teacher and now someone who sees great potential in a movement towards a more informal learning environment, this statement intrigues me. I think about how much I, as an adult, have learned when visiting some of the world’s greatest museums. There were no quizzes, no standards to follow, yet I took away knowledge and appreciation of art, history, politics, and design that could not have happened otherwise.

Finally, she said something that I have heard in earlier discussions with those who are concerned about the future of our National Parks. She remarked on the fact that many museums still only appeal to a small group of affluent, Caucasian audiences. This is concerning when we consider that, by 2040, we will likely be a minority-majority society. Museums, symphonies, the ballet, national parks, and other cultural organizations are currently  struggling to appeal to a broader, more diverse, younger audience. This will be an important trend to watch.

Good food for thought – and thank you, Steve, for hosting such an intriguing conversation.

(Photo: Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon taken September 2010)


Post on the Evolving Role of Museums in Education

Met NYCYesterday, I posted about Urban Advantage Denver, a cooperation between metro area schools and our local museums to foster interest in science for middle school students.

I also posted on McREL’s blog, expanding on how museums could play a dynamic role in the growing interest in informal education. Is the fact that museums are focusing on their future role in education a signal that we are moving towards the fourth scenario described in The Future of Schooling: Educating America in 2020? Head over to the McREL blog and let me know your thoughts.

(Photo from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, 2008)


How Denver’s Museums Are Addressing Urban Education

dmnsIt wasn’t until I read Elizabeth Merritt’s  piece on Museums and the Future of Education (PDF) that I learned of Urban Advantage Denver, a program designed to improve science literacy among middle school students. A cooperation between the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (pictured), Denver Botanic Gardens, the Denver Zoo, and several metro area school districts, the program provides resources to educators to engage students in critical thinking and authentic learning.

In an upcoming blog post (UPDATE – here), I will write more about how I think partnerships such as Urban Advantage signal a shift towards informal learning models for students and the role that local organizations – such as museums – can play in that shift.


Organic learning communities

EdwardianI had breakfast with a former professor and colleague this past week and, as it is whenever we get together, I left with so many exciting, brain-churning thoughts that I found it hard to focus on my other day-t0-day tasks. Our discussions ranged from the creation of the universe to American sterling silver, but one topic that really resonated with me was what seems to be a trend towards very localized, focused, informal learning communities. I think what most surprises me about this trend is that these groups are very often central to a geographical location in spite of having all the technology in the world to connect otherwise.

One example of this includes Colorado’s Learning 2.0 conference. I look forward to going to this gathering every time I can. There is something about connecting with people who are in your industry and in your same geographic area in an informal, non-conference environment that I find so motivating. Perhaps, with the thousands of connections that I have online, it’s a nice change to discuss ideas face-to-face.

To stretch this idea even further, wouldn’t it be fun to organize a “salon,” as they did in Victorian & Edwardian times, for polite discussion and debate about our current views and concerns regarding education?

Or perhaps I’ve been watching too much Downton Abbey…

(Image: Wikipedia)


An article from 2000

When I was still a teacher, a small group of us decided to reignite the Montessori Association of Colorado (MAC). We managed to get out one small publication and host a conference before enthusiasm fizzled and many of us went on to other endeavors.

I still have that little publication from 2000 and came across it the other day. In re-reading my article, I noted several things. One, it’s where I see my first musings that would later lead me to getting a Master’s in Information & Learning Technologies, focusing on 21st century classrooms, incorporating modern tools into my instruction…everything that led me to where I am today.

I also noted, with frustration, that we are still having the same conversations eleven years later. Does this mean that I’m going to come across one of my more recent publications in the year 2022 and see the same issues? I most certainly hope not.

In the meantime, here is the article as published in November of 2000. To put this year in perspective: I had just purchased my first cell phone and laptop that summer. The three computers I had in my classroom were the Apple “candy” colored desktops. No one had ever heard of an iPod, a PLN, or wikis. I see imperfections in some of my thinking, but I can also see seeds of what would grow into my love of networking with other educators and helping students to think deeply rather than look up facts. (You can also see evidence that I was really into Jared Diamond’s work at the time.)

Montessori for the 21st Century: The Changing Face of Montessori

by Elizabeth A. Ross

It’s common knowledge when discussing the development of a species…

It’s often a driving statement behind the restructuring of a business…

It is true of any machine, life form, or philosophy…

That which does not evolve eventually dies.

Many Montessorians, as of late, have had to struggle with this phenomenon. In this age of research, technology, and more quickly changing societies, when students are having to learn more information at an increasing speed, we find ourselves sometimes having to make tough decisions. Should I focus more on keyboarding skills? How much time should I spend teaching test-taking strategies? How soon should children be proficient at using a CD-ROM and the Web? With an already-full curriculum, what are we willing to sacrifice for these added units?

I guiltily find myself asking: Is knowledge of facts now as important as being able to independently find the answers when needed? I seems that, as some point, one has to stop memorizing and begin learning reference material.

Life coach Martha Beck recently wrote in the September issue of Real Simple magazine: “Consider…that there’s more information in one daily edition of The New York Times than the average 18-century person would have consumed in a lifetime.”

Not only is there more to know now, but the profile of a typical Montessori student has shifted incredibly since its beginning. Maria Montessori shaped her philosophy and materials based upon observations of inner-city, underprivileged children in the 1800s. While children share many commonalities throughout ages, cultures, and socioeconomic circumstances, most children educated in the Montessori tradition today come from middle- to upper-class homes. They have been reared by well-educated parents. They have been entertained by TV, the Web, and various electronics. They are generally well-traveled and have a vast knowledge of the world at a very early age. Can we compete and hold these children’s interest with traditional Montessori? (Incidentally, many Charter Schools and Head Start programs are thankfully making Montessori available to children of all backgrounds. Montessorians are so grateful to finally see such a wonderful program offered to everyone.)

Even within my own 6-9 classroom, I’m seeing changes. By the third grade, gone is the interest in using the Stamp Game or learning plant nomenclature. The children make mental leaps earlier and earlier with each passing year. Sadly, things that glitter and move hold much more of an interest than those beloved green, blue, and red tiles. A child will not necessarily get exposure to every wonderful material Montessori has to offer. Now, to keep from boring the learner, I have to quickly move on once a concept is understood.

What’s a Montessorian to do? I believe the first step is finding others who are sharing these frustrations. Knowledge that others are feeling torn between what we were taught as fundamental in our training and answering the twenty-first century’s educational demands would be a great relief. From that point, sharing ideas is a must. Montessori must undergo some changes, but we need to be able to also hold on to what makes Montessori education the beauty that it is. This also filters into training centers: do they keep the training pure or must they, too, revolutionize? How many changes are too many changes? When is Montessori no longer Montessori?


The Future of Schooling: Educating America in 2020

The Future of SchoolingMy second book (as a co-author) came out this month and I’m so thrilled to finally have it in hand!

This book, unlike Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, allowed us to have a little more creative license as we imagined four possible scenarios of what education could look like in the year 2020. It was a fascinating process of identifying current trends (or “certainties”), then finding the two critical uncertainties that would most affect us as an organization. I think any school or district could benefit from this process. The book is intended for educators to imagine their role in all four of these scenarios and the book includes tools to help them do so.

For more information, visit Solution Tree’s website.