Yesterday I spent the day in a pretty heady, day-long workshop sponsored by the Institute for the Future out here in Palo Alto talking about what schools, and specifically teaching might look like at some point down the road. It was titled “The Future of Learning Agents” and Steve Hargadon was there too, sitting in as the unofficial, official blogger of the event. I tried to add some value to a great conversation that included folks like Howard Rheingold from Stanford (and author of Smart Mobs), Tom Carroll, the president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), and Mark Morrison, the Director of Leadership Development for the New Technology Foundation among about a dozen others.

Bottom line? As one of the participants said, “There are 1,300 teacher preparation programs that are preparing teachers for schools that none of us think should exist.” It was pretty edgy.

At one point we were put into small groups and asked to come up with a job description and an ideal candidate for a “learning agent” 10 years down the road. The result was pretty interesting. None of the job descriptions were for traditional teachers. Few of the candidates’ qualifications emphasized schooling or even classroom experience. Instead, the group identified candidates that had a wide variety of life experiences and attributes, most centered on the ability to facilitate or connect, and an understanding of social technologies and deep collaboration. And my take away was that we’re looking at a future where there will be many different opportunities for working with kids and communities in a teaching role other than the traditional idea of what a teacher is.

How long it’s going to take for that future to arrive is another question altogether, however. I think there was consensus in the room that it could take a very long time. But where we lacked consensus was where the pressure points for real change are. Some said it has to happen on a national level (myself included.) Others said that change in education might actually be driven by the faltering health care system or environmental pressures. It was a wide-ranging discussion that really left my head spinning.

For some context, you can check out this Education Map of the Future that IFTF and Knowledge Works Foundation created that looks at some of the “drivers” that are pushing change and some of the trends that are cropping up in response. And, you can check out the pretty awesome graphic recordings and some other photos from the day. Zoom in and scroll around to get the gist.

More on this later…long plane ride home today.

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