Nov 30, 2021
In Futures Thinking in Education
A conversation... Kay Lynn Fenn (KLF), 11/26 However..... The new AP Capstone program has a "futuristics" lens specifically mentioned in the course guide! Hurray for whoever got that done!!! That wording is a huge opportunity, because achieving success in the College Board AP program is important to all secondary schools, private and public. John Gresham and I are in conversation and planning about training teachers to utilize futures strategies in the Seminar and Research classes. Peter Bishop (PB), 11/27 I was looking for how they define that. It seems to be the following – One of three terms to classify conclusions or claims as described here -- https://edpioneer.com/understanding-perspectives/ A definition of the futuristic lens here: explore the predicted impact of the issue on the future. And examples here -- https://bayonetenglish.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/lenses-examples.pdf. In these examples, it seems what distinguishes the futuristic lens from the others if the use of “will” in the statement. Two more thoughts occurred to me as I switched computers! Thank you for pointing out that one can include futures material even when teaching to the state standards without putting in a new standard or course. A great example of that was your file I shared with Brad on your suggestions for discussions and activities right below the TEKS. I’ll use that quote a lot! While the futuristic lens is a tremendous step forward for foresight education, it could also be improved by substituting “could” for “will.” That introduces uncertainty and contingency which we need to teach along with the consequences of the claims in the argument. Might be too much to ask for at the moment, but we can start teaching it that way nevertheless. Brad Matthews (BD), 11/27 Your point about ‘could’ vs. ‘will’ got me thinking. Science teaches us to know that we do not ‘know’ with absolute (infinite) certainty. To say anything will definitely happen just as intended when saying it ‘will happen’ is, therefore, not accurate. There is always the possibility, if not the actual likelihood that that something other than the intended will happen. This ‘reality’ can (not necessarily will) disturb those preferring black/white, yes/no certainty (looking I suppose for some safety in such certainty). It’s one factor in why fundamentalist thinkers rail against science. Humans do seem to actually prefer hearing the lies and half-truths we want to hear. It seems disquieting to note that no truth is complete and absolute, making all truths incomplete, inaccurate half-truths based on inadvertently or consciously selected information processed and understood with imperfect minds. There is also evidence that saying that something ‘will happen’ does appear to frequently activate (influence) a more emotional response than saying that something ‘could’ or ‘might’ happen. So, if we want to ‘influence’ and activate people, more than we want to be ‘wholly’ and ‘holy’ accurate in our statements, our using deterministic words like ‘will’ (however inaccurate that may be) could well be a better strategy. So do we care more about influencing people, or being accurate? John Gresham, 11/29 Having worked at creating and designing curriculum at a huge urban district, the words that are chosen by the state are intentional, for better and for worse. I understand what is meant by your preference for “could” vs “will.” It is understandable and makes sense from the perspective which we hold, however, the state (Texas) deals in absolutes, hence the absolute language of “will.” They want to make sure that every district adheres to the expectations, it’s about accountability and compliance, compliance, compliance. We hear the world of possibility in “could,” but the state wants no part of anything that is not measurable and accountable (see your comment below about certainty.) My experience is with Texas, but I’ve been told and heard many presentations to believe this is true elsewhere. Can we change this mentality? Yes, but probably not a hill I’m willing to die on. Regarding how AP Research and Seminar view student research through a futures lens, I’m looking for the definitive evidence in the AP Course guides. These are the “bibles” of the course work. Personally, I’ve had conversations with several College Board folks about using a futures lens in developing student research work, but I want to make sure it is in print so we can have it as evidence. I am happy to send these along in digital form, but they are on the bulky side and I don’t want to clog anyone’s email service unnecessarily, just let me know if you want copies. For my kiddos, 11th and 12th graders in a mixed income and culture environment, they benefit with using a futures perspective when designing their research program, assembling their lit reviews, identifying a gap to address with their research and selecting a method or two to work with in addressing that gap. Most in the past have never thought about the ramifications the work they perform will, er, could have on the future. For most, its just a grade and then they forget it. My students “Get” that there is something more once we begin talking about the future, that there are impacts that trickle forward through time, creating subtle change that magnifies over time. They are beginning to realize that the research they do today may not cure cancer or solve the problem of flooding in our swamp here in Houston; but they do realize now that the research they do may inspire another, or even a future version of themselves to be inspired to take it to the next level, and so on. I keep going back to my tired analogy that we would not have HVAC systems if not for the cave man who saw lightning hit that tree. My PhD research was on the future of education, specifically how self-directed learning made so much sense in the secondary environment. Today, my research has expanded into the future of education from the perspective of how do we help our secondary learners understand the importance of comprehending how to engage with all the future possibilities they are faced with and to navigate their way through to finding a preferred future for themselves, and making it become a reality. So while I am asked often why I am not at the university, I reply that I’m here where I feel I can do the most good, until another and better leverage point reveals itself. Responses -- PB (blue) and BM (green), 11/29 Your point about ‘could’ vs. ‘will’ got me thinking. – I love it! I usually respond that thinking is dangerous, but Oh so productive! Before commenting in detail, I have to register the disclaimer that you are talking to an undergraduate philosophy major and one who took an abiding interest in epistemology which I currently apply to thinking about the future. So Beware! They say, “To those who study metaphysics, the rest is details.” Science teaches us to know that we do not ‘know’ with absolute (infinite) certainty. To say anything will definitely happen just as intended when saying it ‘will happen’ is, therefore, not accurate. There is always the possibility, if not the actual likelihood that that something other than the intended will happen. This ‘reality’ can (not necessarily will) disturb those preferring black/white, yes/no certainty (looking I suppose for some safety in such certainty). It’s one factor in why fundamentalist thinkers rail against science. Yes, scientific knowledge does have a degree of uncertainty. In fact, all empirical knowledge, from science and technology to their applications in engineering, the professions, government, etc., is uncertain. Descartes asserted it so, and as far as I know, no one argues that he is wrong. Certain knowledge is possible only in those branches of knowledge that are created by humans, such as mathematics, formal logic, and games. (Ever hear of an American football game that ended in a score of 2-1?) We only know what we think we know – as we continue to both: (1) to discover information and create new perspectives (knowledge) about existing realities; and (2) expansively create new aspects to the rules of sciences, mathematics, games, etc. Interestingly some people are aware that they are keepers of rapidly changing data, analytic processes, formulations, understandings, opinions …. “Knowing’ is as dynamic as learning. If a tree falls in the forest unnoticed has it fallen, much less made a noise. Quantum pfysics is running full circle with metaphysics. Humans do seem to actually prefer hearing the lies and half-truths we want to hear. It seems disquieting to many people to note that no truth is complete and absolute, making all truths incomplete, inaccurate half-truths based on inadvertently or consciously selected information processed and understood with imperfect minds. Unfortunately, that’s not the way science or any empirical discipline is taught. There things are either true or not true, in science, history, etc.. Getting ‘right’ answer is how we got through school. No wonder then that adults believe that there is a right and wrong answer or solution, not only in science, but in government, culture, etc. They are looking for the right answer, and others are only too willing to tell them what they are looking for, the right answer. Can anybody spell ‘polarization’? The quest for certainty might be an instinctual human trait, but it is at least enhanced if not created in school! ☹ Fear and desire ‘may’ be ‘the’ two primary instinctual motivators – prompting all sorts of mental and behavioral contortions (self-delusion, lying, cheating, etc.) to avoid/stop risk and access/acquire comfort/pleasure. Teachers (and consultants like me) are often expected to provide ‘the answers’ that will protect students/clients from pain of one sort or another, and/or that will ensure them the comforts they are seeking. Teachers/consultants are often rewarded or punished for their success at meeting these expectations. Some teachers/consultants get caught up in seeking these rewards and avoiding these punishment. They may even become their own most critical judges – praising and punishing themselves. With so much at stake for educators (teachers, consultants, parents, influencers, etc.) it is not surprising that they engage in and pass this myth of ‘knowing what’s right and wrong’ along from generation to generation. There is also evidence that saying that something ‘will happen’ does appear to frequently activate (influence) a more emotional response than saying that something ‘could’ or ‘might’ happen. So, if we want to ‘influence’ and activate people, more than we want to be ‘wholly’ and ‘holy’ accurate in our statements, our using deterministic words like ‘will’ (however inaccurate that may be) could well be a better strategy. So do we care more about influencing people, or being accurate? Agreed again. What grammarians call the indicative or declarative mood is a statement of fact, whether “was,” ”is” or “will be.” It’s strong, definite, you know what you are talking about. It is more believable and more actionable than the subjunctive mood of “may,” “might” and “could”. That’s a cultural problem for those of us who prefer “better” and “worse” to “right” and “wrong.” Your question is whether we should go with the cultural requirement to be strong and definite, even though we know it be inaccurate, or stay with the subjunctive and teach people that it is a better way to think of things. I have chosen the latter, but it’s really hard to get that across… Great point, Peter. In a world where we are being encouraged to believe that success is THE goal of living, and impact (such as admiration and financial wealth) is the measure of success, and impact requires power over others, and such power requires enthusiastic activated followers, and followers require being influenced, and such influence is most powerful when it is definitively convincing, it is not surprising for would-be leaders to be faced with the conundrum you describe. With what risks and rewards are we faced for challenging versus using the ‘definitive’ to influence re-examination of the very core belief that there is something that is ‘rightly’ and ‘righteously’ judged as ‘success’, toward which we must all strive. Teaching critical expansive ‘thinking’ and ‘choice’ is truly revolutionary, and is a disruptive threat to the existing order and its beneficiaries. Congratulations on choosing ‘shit disturbing’. 😊 I tend to be more definitive when making recommendations (Outbound change) than in describe alternative futures (Inbound change). Even there, however, one has to give up on ‘must’ and embrace ‘should’ as the best course of action, not as the only, right one… BM, 11/29 When I can catch myself – I often decide to replace my use of ‘should’ with ‘might well consider’. I see the latter as respecting the ‘agency’ of others as the decisionmakers of the primacy of their various options. My use of ‘should’ tends to suggest/make my determination to be THE standard for correctness, putting other person in the role of compliance/agreement or conflict/rejection. My goal is their seeing and consciously/conscientiously deciding upon their choices. Does that make any sense from your perspective? PB , 11/29 Yes, of course. That is much more respectful. But as I said, I tend be more definitive, especially with WE SHOULD BE TEACHING THE FUTURE! I think I’ve lost the nuance for that over the years. 😊…
Nov 10, 2021
In Using the Playbook
This is a conversation about using the Futures Thinking Playbook started by Rob Gibson on the USA group. I've moved it here so others can join in -- Rob Gilson 11 days ago Hello, I'd like to give this forum a try. I teach Futures content to middle school students in NYC. I've worked with the Futures Thinking Playbook and have enjoyed that resource greatly. I’m hoping to generate a series of prompts for classroom discussion and debate, one prompt per class period, in an arc of inquiry that gently reveals student beliefs and biases while steadily activating their agency in creating preferable futures. My initial thoughts are to have prompts that we can process together as a class, using journaling, interviews, and small group and large group discussions. The prompts would start 'big picture', collecting their Possible Future beliefs and biases, the Meta Ethics, if you will, with language like: · The most exciting thing about the future is ... · The most terrifying thing about the future is ... · The most amazing innovation is currently ... · The most dangerous innovation is currently ... · (more?) Then honing in a little, still in Possible Futures, but leaning more into Normative Ethics: · The future will be good if ... · The future will be bad if ... · The future will be fair if ... · The future will be unfair if ... · (more?) Then zooming into specific topics, shifting into Probable Futures, engaging Applied Ethics: · Robots will be extremely helpful in the future because they will ... · When robots can do all the jobs that nobody wants to do ... · When people have lots and lots and lots of free time ... · When a company that provides a service that I use a lot knows a lot about me (social media platform, text service, shopping service, etc) ... · When I can choose what my children will look like … · (3 or 4 more?) Then bringing students into the Preferable Futures, with prompts like: · In order to make sure that robots help bring about a good future … · In order to make sure that self-driving vehicles safely move us around … · In order for wildlife to thrive in the future along with us ... · In order for people to have fair housing in the future ... · (3 or more of these, as many as feels right, especially as each prompt might reveal new prompts) All along, we're weaving in research, interviews (for some Descriptive Ethics), a sprinkle of Hollywood speculation, and lots of collaborative and energizing dialog. Students are collecting their own thinking and documenting peer learning in their journals throughout the arc, providing a rich resource. At the end of the course students will have a better understanding of the future and their place in it. In my particular STEAM course they will build an interactive model city that captures some of their thinking. This is my general anticipated trajectory for the course. I'd be very interested in your thoughts and suggestions. Thanks everyone, Rob Peter Bishop 3 days ago This is a terrific agenda. And sorry we don't have more people on the Forum. Our colleague, Willem, has also launched an initiative with a few students that asks them to fill out this form. He's collecting a database of responses. Maybe your students might contribute to the dataset. And there's a lot here. Want to talk about sometime? Rob Gilson a day ago Replying to Peter Bishop Thanks Peter. I've begun with my 7th graders. We meet 2x/week, so we're taking on a prompt each day, independently journaling. After we finish with the Meta and the Normative ethics, we'll pause and break into small groups for them to share their writings with peers, hearing from each other for the first time in the exercise and hopefully getting more dimension about it. I'll have the following prompts to guide those conversations: · What is something exciting about the future that you hadn't considered that came up in your discussions? · What is something terrifying about the future that you hadn't considered that came up in your discussions? · What are the innovations that your group discussed, both amazing and terrifying? · What do you agree upon as a group that will make the future 'good' and 'fair'? · What do you disagree upon within the group in those conversations? I suppose I'm still interested in hearing other thoughts for the Applied Ethics, the Probable and Preferable Ethics prompts. I want to generate prompts that push them to form an opinion without leading the witness, so to speak. I also am interested in finding good research resources for 7th graders, to explore things like AI and facial recognition and robots. I'm finding it challenging to find early-teen-ready content that shares the pros and cons clearly and without much bias. Happy to talk in person or continue on this thread. This has been a helpful planning tool for me as my thoughts work themselves out on the forum.👣 Peter Bishop a day ago Replying to Rob Gilson Thanks for continuing the discussion, Rob. I have requested that the website people create a Forum called Using the Playbook. Once that happens, I'll transfer our discussion to that so others can participate. I think I see three questions/issues in your last response -- 27. Applied Ethics -- Ethics is an excellent topic for students to consider, but it's a vast topic, as you know. Our colleagues in South Africa have started making presentations on that topic, but it's till being formed up. My undergrad degree was in philosophy, but I learned more about epistemology than ethics so I'm afraid I won't be much help. But happy to engage in a discussion about this vital topic if you wish. 28. Probable and Preferable Futures -- The two basic questions for these are a) What do you think is going to or is likely to happen in the Future and b) Which of those things do you want (or not want) to see happen and why? 29. Research sources for middle school -- We haven't really identified specific sources, but Katie does recommend particular search terms. See Slide 20 in this Playbook training deck -- https://www.dropbox.com/s/jubota1qrggmi92/Facilitator%20Training%20%28Playbook%29.pptx?dl=0. And indeed whatever else in there that you might consider valuable. So looking forward continuing the discussion. I'll get this discussion on its own Forum as soon as someone can help me create that... Rob Gilson 19 hours ago Replying to Peter Bishop Thanks Peter. I'd love to start a thread on Ethics as well, perhaps even a global one, discussing ways to bring dynamic ethical inquiry to middle schoolers, for instance. Collective ethics drive society, and one might argue that in today's marketplace of ideas, there's no one actually behind the wheel. We've lost our wholly collective ethic, the One reminding us we're all in this together. It would be fun to hear how perspectives evolve (of students and of teachers!) as we explore that in the classroom. Helping kids recognize the commonalities across humanity within human ethical dilemmas in an increasingly inhuman world might just save the species. It would make for a great TV series, at the very least.