What If? Exploring Possible Futures

By 2030, the equity policies of the early 2020s became entrenched in educational policy. COVID was the catalyst that proved change was possible and it positioned technology as the tool to make this change happen. COVID allowed for educational think tanks, academics, and stakeholders to dream of a better, more inclusive future, propelled by the Black Lives Matter and Idle No More movements. The next triggering event, or crisis, would be much easier to manage because systems of education would have learned from the past. In this future, learning would be boundaryless because it crossed geopolitical borders as satellites gave school systems unfettered access to the internet for any place any time learning, while policy regulated dangers such as data-driven learning analytics that infringed on human rights and student-well being. Education would become a cyclical process of give-and-take, a balancing of student-centred customizable learning filtered through international standards of holistic equity policy governed by non-partisan councils. Learning would benefit the student, no matter their socioeconomic background or geographical location. Land-based learning in one remote blended learning environment was live-streamed to a densely populated smart school in a country on the other side of the planet to bring students closer together, toward empathy, one of the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

EQUITY?

Bozkurt (2020), through a systematic review of educational technology research patterns, notes that every innovation triggers socio-economic change (Bozkurt, 2020). These findings reveal critical research of concerns such as: datafication, justice and equality (Macgilchrist, 2019), ethics and privacy (Ifenthaler & Tracey, 2016; Regan, & Jesse, 2018) ongoing optimistic predictions and hypes (Cuban, & Jandrić, 2015). Bozkurt contends a shift is taking place from technological determinism to centre issues of ethics and equity (Bozkurt, 2020).

SO WHAT?

Davidson (2021) relies on W.E.B. Du Bois’s ugly progress to highlight the twisted journey that discourses travel throughout history, or “a looping conception of time that involves shuffling between the disappointments of the past and utopian hopes for the future” (Davidson, 2021). We can examine our recent history and reactionary policy as examples of the narrative failing the discourse of equity. It’s time to envision a predictive education system rather than a reactionary one.

HOW? (a few ideas)

  • A critical look at the expansionist mindset (Selwyn et al., 2020) where we can theorize a subversion of the ‘any place, any time’ assumptions of virtual education to consider digital tech allowing ‘space’ to infinitely expand to the sharing of learning and experiences on a global scale.
  • Naming the tensions that exist, highlighting broader issues in contemporary society, and questioning data practices and datafication. (Macgilchrist, 2019)
  • Consider Alternative Pathways to Education (2020 Horizon report, p.11) and Flexible Entry Points through Blended/Hybrid Modes of Education (2021 Horizon Report, p.42)
  • Use of technology from a holistic perspective to develop student competencies: Becoming a Smart School: A Holistic View of Technology Integration
  • In Digital Education after COVID Symposium, Selwyn notes a few predictions of the aftermath of COVID, while in the midst of it; while Macgilchrist describes a design justice agenda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmvN7V9dqCg

 

References:
Bozkurt, A., 2020. Educational Technology Research Patterns in the Realm of the Digital Knowledge Age. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2020(1), p.18. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/jime.570

Davidson, J. P. L. (2021). Ugly progress: W. E. B. Du Bois’s sociology of the future. The Sociological Review, 69(2), 382–395. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038026120954330

Selwyn, N. (2021). Ed-Tech Within Limits: Anticipating educational technology in times of environmental crisis. E-Learning and Digital Media, 18(5), 496–510. https://doi.org/10.1177/20427530211022951

Selwyn, N., Pangrazio, L., Nemorin, S., & Perrotta, C. (2020). What might the school of 2030 be like? An exercise in social science fiction. Learning, Media and Technology, 45(1), 90-106.

Macgilchrist, F. 2019. Cruel optimism in edtech: When the digital data practices of educational technology providers inadvertently hinder educational equity. Learning, Media and Technology, 44(1): 77–86.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2018.1556217 

4 thoughts on “What If? Exploring Possible Futures”

  1. Angela, you have selected an important topic, DE&I in education and your essay shows the critical connection you are making. You are optimistic about the resilience of the school system, and reading your optimistic essay filled me with hope and confidence. I did have a few questions pop up in my mind..
    Will your assignment expand more specifically on equity and possible futures in the North American or Canadian school system or maintain a global approach? If you choose to maintain the global approach, what do you see as detractors from your vision of an equitable future for all by 2030? There are countries where key movements BLM and Idle No More have limited visibility, there are political entities that have declared independence and sought diplomatic recognition from the international community as de jure sovereign states but have not been universally recognized as such- for example, Taiwan and there are non-member countries of the UN like Palestine. How do you see the dream of educational equity play out in countries like this? How do you see global inequality, socio-economic factors and global politics simultaneously necessitate, propel and impede your vision?
    Angela, your topic is fantastic, your vision is bright and clear.. for the sake of the assignment, and to contain the interest of readers like me, would it help to narrow the scope a bit and provide more detail with specific examples of the signs you are seeing that we are moving towards this vision and will hit the mark in 2030?

    I am so excited by your topic and am eager for your assignment. Thank you for this positive, optimistic and informative read.

    1. Thanks, Sharmila, I appreciate your feedback and had to take a couple of days to narrow down a response:
      The past two years have been the first true testament of how our education systems would react to crises. Let’s take, for example, K-12 students in Toronto, Ontario:
      It was possible to give kids tech such as access to devices, but only for a brief period of time because you have to give the chromebook back.
      It was possible to get students connected to the Internet: schools gave out a one-time payment to families to purchase home internet accounts (as long as they didn’t have one) and the provincial government gave out 400$ to help with costs (I can tell you firsthand of a story of a student who had to listen to his family argue over how to use the money, and their priority was not school supplies).
      Remote Virtual Teaching and Learning: students were told to stay on their devices all day (mandated 300 minutes per day – the specific amount of time depended on the teacher’s professional judgement), but there was no training or programming to help students with how they felt at the end of the day, how their eyes hurt, or how they were feeling sad, tired, and lonely.

      Where was the care and compassion for student well-being?

      To this end, I had one major criticism that underpinned this entire scenario. By their very existence, movements like BLM and Idle No More represent a major failing of systems such as education. Policy cloaked in beautified language to appease the masses.

      My limited experience has taught me that we continue to seek out voices that are on the periphery but do not pay close enough attention to these voices. In this way, I am commenting on a consequence of both education and society: that it is not only the structures themselves but those that oil the machine and reap its benefits. Scholar-advocates throughout history have given us fair warning so that when an event that causes a major sociological shift like a global pandemic occurs, it should have an impact.

      *crickets*

      Which brings me to a point that I will not be able to address in my essay: the idea that concepts such as critical race theory continue to be reenvisioned or manipulated for various narratives, often without substantial action (see “The Tenets of Critical Race Theory Have a Long-Standing and Important Role in Population Health Science” about debunking myths around critical race theory). To be clear, these are power dynamics at play in education that run through everything from curriculum to politics to community.

      The future that I envision is informed by those who have conceptualized and laboured equity policy. If the K-12 school system is a microcosm of the sociological state of our communities where resistance movements have had to resist, then this future no longer requires their existence.

      Reference:
      Lantz, P.M. (2021). The tenets of critical race theory have a long-standing and important role in population health science. Milbank Quarterly Opinion. https://doi.org/10.1599/mqop.2021.0714

  2. I agree with Sharmila on the hope-centered aspect of this writing Angela. But I also agree with them in the sense that I’d like to see some more specificity in the final essay. Just an idea: Perhaps you can take 1 or more of the “how” and imagine what they might look like for a specific actor, group, or community in 2030? I suppose what I’m asking is for you to make one of those areas “come to life” via descriptions (e.g., rather than telling me “we’ll implement alternative pathways,” describe to me an alternative pathway that’s put in practice in 2030). I hope this helps!

    1. Thank you, George,
      I am working on narrowing down the who and how, while working on remaining optimistic!
      Angela

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