Updated: May 21, 2022
How do you teach futures to high school students?
I am still figuring it out but in this article I would like to share some of my personal insights.
First and foremost, in my experience it’s not easy to make youngsters think and learn about the future. They all have one, but futures thinking is quite hard and sometimes very abstract. But the main reason why it is hard, is because this mindset/skills is not being learned at school. There is a ton of free resources available in the online library from Teach The Future and during the last years I have experimented with different forms and tactics.
Here in Belgium, we mainly use a traditional, old school way of teaching, where a teacher stands in front of the classroom and shares his knowledge. But this is far from efficient and very hard to use when we are trying to learn about futures. Also, there is so much to talk about that different opinions and perspectives are necessary.
Therefore the first strategy I have very good experience with is to find people that are smarter than you! This year I have had more that twenty experts who were willing to share their insights and expertise in a short virtual lecture (40 minutes max). For example Wendy Schultz talked about the history of futures thinking, Loes Damhof taught our students about Futures Literacy, Maya Van Leemput shared her expertise about images of the futures, Lourdes Rodríguez, shared her expertise with trends and Willem Overbosch talked about the Sustainable Development Goals … With this approach the students got a lot of different perspectives from the best experts in the world! I call this approach ‘Snacks’.
A second ingredient in my course about futures thinking is to have lots of fun while stretching the imagination muscle. In our ‘Lab’ we play games. For example we have played The Thing From The Future and Forks In The Timeline but there a lot more serious games about futures thinking available! Here the core learning objective is not using tools or understanding models, but being creative and imaginative.
The third strategy I use is called ‘Mission Impossible’, an impossible task they have to solve together. The main reason why I use this approach is that “teaching is the highest form of learning”. During my course the students get a lot of input from different experts but each year I challenge them to create valuable output about futures thinking. Last year I challenged them to create a website that explains futures to teens (www.unforeseeable.org), but this year I really wanted to raise the bar. I am dreaming of building a physical Museum of Futures, so this year I challenged them to build their interpretation of such a place in the metaverse: www.museumoffutures.eu
They succeeded, mission accomplished! but it was hard. Hard and very insightful because they only get 10 weeks and had absolutely no prior knowledge about futures and emerging technologies. They have never build a website or museum before and they never have had the opportunity to really train their skills about storytelling and branding, copywriting or design.
But the hardest thing with this approach is that you give them absolute freedom and trust! The core skill that we want to stimulate is “figuring it out”. I did not say which tool they would have to use to build their museum, I did not dictate how the should organise the floor plan, I did not instruct them which topics they should cover. They could decide everything by themselves and my role was only to be there when they needed help.
Accessing our Museum of Futures via Minecraft might not be suitable for everyone. Don’t worry. Chas, our artificial tour guide, would love to take you on a tour of our museum through video. (21min.)
As a teacher you have absolutely no control and the only thing you can do is to trust them and the process. But what you get in return is students that are intrinsically motivated to work around futures and a learning experience they will never forget!
Team e-Society (2022) They build The Museum of the Futures in the Metaverse :)