Two+ years of a wild ride

Two years and a month ago I created and launched the Future Trends Forum.  For two years it has been going and growing.  I wanted to reflect on it now, with some data and milestones.

All right, to be honest, I want to kvell a bit:

2,008 The number of participants currently registered on the Forum email list.  Those are unique individuals.  That number is smaller than the total number of people who’ve been in all sessions so far, because not everyone signed in with an email, and some participants didn’t want to be on the email distribution list, which is fair.  I’d estimate that larger number – everyone who’s been in at least one Forum – to be as high as 2,500 or more.

Forum with Chris Gilliard and Robin ReRosa

With Chris Gilliard and Robin DeRosa

Two thousand people.  That’s a decent-sized conference, or a small town, or a nice concert.  That’s a good number of people – and remember, not just those who visited, but each of them decided to stay and keep participating.

97 That’s how many Forum sessions we’ve held so far.  Ninety-seven. That’s just shy of 100 live meetings.  Remember that each has been free (no cost to participate).  Each session has been open, in the general sense – i.e., no special downloads necessary, no personal approval required, nor special equipment needed.  All that’s been required has been a web browser (Chrome, preferably) or the mobile device app, and a decent connection speed (I know, I know, believe me), plus a basic microphone and camera to join us on stage or to privately videoconference with other participants (a laptop, phone, or desktop’s built-in mic and camera work just fine).

In 2016 we held 41 sessions.  In 2017, 45, or almost one per week.  This year, 11 sessions as of today, and we’re on track for at least 45 for 2018.

97 That’s how many session recordings are currently and freely available on YouTube.  The total amount of video content is closing in on 100 hours.

6,000+ That’s how many total views there have been of those YouTube session recordings.

Forum live at the NMC 2017 conference with Richard Culatta_and Roxann Riskin

30 Average number of Twitter interactions for a given week.  That includes my tweets (around 7 each), several promotional tweets from Shindig, and tweets from participants before, during, and after a live Forum.

Interestingly, we haven’t had much traction on giant social media platforms other than Twitter.  We streamed events on Facebook for a while, but few dug in there; my Facebook updates on the Forum rarely elicit more than a handful of likes and fewer responses.  This is probably due to Facebook preferring its own video platform, and being hostile to URLs linking off-site.  I haven’t seen much interest on Mastodon, Google+, or LinkedIn.  (But see below!)

Without numbers Starting from scratch – from zero, to pick a number, and from nothing but the good technology and kind people at Shindig and my reputation – we have grown the Forum into a major media venue for exploring the future of education.

I’m not sure if this is widely understood, but the Forum grew without an institutional home, without a single media partner, without external buzz of any kind, without any venture capital funding – heck, without any funding, period!  We made it work.

I don’t know of anything quite like the Forum, honestly.  There are some individuals who write, speak, etc. about the future of education and technology, as do I, but without hosting this kind of diverse discussion.  There are occasional panels, either face to face or digital, but they tend to be one-offs.  Some publications summon up multiple contributors, but the results are consensus-driven, unitary, without a minority report (for example, the late Horizon Report).

It is also, I think, a social network in the old sense, or, well, a community.  Some folks now know each other through the Forum experience.  They connect on the Forum and elsewhere.  Together we have surfaced and developed shared concerns and themes, as with any community.  People who know each other through the Forum meet up in person.  There’s something good going on here.

The Forum remains fiercely independent.  Nobody shapes programming and discussion except me and participants.  Shindig keeps the tech running, but has always been hands-off when it comes to content.  My Patreon supporters have offered support and advice, but have never pushed us in a programmatic direction.  Nobody has gotten me to avoid a topic, or change my stance on an issue, or successfully encouraged me to shape discussion in a particular way.

You can see this independence in the contradictions and open conflict between participants and guests.  The former frequently challenge the latter.  Guests call out other guests over time.  Participants express different points of view – unsurprising, given more than 2,000 people addressing complex and, at times, contentious issues.

Forum: MissionU questioned by Cali Morrison

Cali Morrison questions the founder of MissionU.

Heck, we began on February 11th, 2016, with Audrey Watters, herself no stranger to controversy.

I try to make the Forum a welcoming space for diverse perspectives.  As a facilitator I encourage people to share their thoughts, supporting those who look like they need backup.  As the person who arranges guests, I seek out a diversity across nations, institutions, races, gender, profession, and viewpoint.

(Speaking of arranging for guests: this is a major piece of making the Forum happen.  It’s invisible, I think, but please know that I’m constantly on the hunt for fine guests.  I fire requests to a range of people, and guide them down the pathway to being in the Shindig space.  This involves a mix of diplomacy, audacity, stalking persistence, research, and hand-holding.)

Supporting these diverse and important conversations matters deeply to me.  As I’ve said before, holding conversations on challenging issues and involving deep disagreement is hard in 2018, and also – and therefore – very important.  It’s not easy creating a venue for precisely these discussions, but I think the Forum has become such a space.

I began this post by saying I was kvelling, which is true.  I’ve kvelled all over this post. But I am above all in awe of how much energy, time, thought, and love people have contributed over the past two+ years.

Some of you have given so much.  For example, frequent participant Frank Beshears has launched a Future Trends Forum database project, which is very ambitious.  Another frequent contributor, Roxann Riskin, has been a terrific friend and booster.

Some guests have carried their Forum discussion on their own blogs, like Phil Hill , Jim Groom, and Martin Dougiamas. Friends like Kelly Walsh, Rayane Alamuddin and Robert Kelchen, Michael Haggans, Rich DeMillo, Timothy Harfield, and Jonathan Blake Huer have supported us through their blogging.  Maya Georgieva and Emory Craig have been hyper-friends, appearing as guests, panelists, participants, and all-around boosters.  Joshua Kim has supported us from his Inside Higher Ed perch (when would you like to be a guest, sir?).  David Raths has generously followed our conversations at Campus Technology.  We’ve even appeared in a book, cited by Nicole Hennig in her 2017 Keeping Up with Emerging Technologies: Best Practices for Information Professionals.

I want to explore what happens next with the Forum, but here I want to stop with this note on the people who make it work.  I am very grateful to you all, each and every one of you, and hope to keep honoring that trust.


Posted in Future Trends Forum | Leave a comment

Very very brief comments on blockchain and automation

Yesterday I participated in a webinar panel hosted by EDUCAUSE.  The subject was the future of education and technology.  It was originally supposed to be about the 2018 Horizon Report, but, well, my readers know that story.

The audience was a mix of people working in education and technology.  I think there were CIOs, IT leaders, instructional designers, and so on.

That’s who I had in mind when I prepared my remarks.  I aimed for strategic questions, not tactical implementations, and didn’t get into technical details.  I wanted to involve entire institutions, not just technology staff, so I brought in students, curricula, pedagogy, alumni, and the grand purposes of academia.  I also counted on fellow panelists addressing other issues, be they Kyle Bowen (Penn State) also speaking to AI, or Amy Collier (Middlebury) making a case for privacy and against big social media platforms.

A crucial detail: I had a very, very, very short time, about 4 or 5 minutes.  So I wrote carefully, directly (little framing or scene-setting), hitting key points as clearly as possible, and cramming in as many words as I could orate without running them into a blur.  There wasn’t time to introduce or explain the technologies and practices.

(I don’t usually write full scripts for presentations.  Most times I speak from an outline or jotted highlights or from slides, my head full of research and mindful of local conditions, in a kind of improv.  I speak up to six times per month in person, and who knows how many times virtually, so the phrases and arguments are right at the top of my brain.)

No slides were injured or even created for this.  They felt superfluous, especially as I was flanked by other presenters doing their own things.  I didn’t want to add unnecessarily to the audience’s cognitive load.

Here’s the text.


Greetings.  I’d like to speak to the future possibilities and short-term potentials of two technologies.

First, blockchain.  Based on what I’ve seen over the past several years, there are multiple implications, including – now – students on physical campuses trying to mint bitcoin in labs with with their own machines, and the occasional faculty member trying to launch an ICO.  But I think there are two more salient possibilities for the short and medium term.

To begin with, blockchain may well be a niche technology, inappropriate for general use.  As Nouriel Roubini and Preston Byrne observed, blockchain is essentially an expensive and latency-hobbled database: “Bitcoin is a slow energy-inefficient dinosaur that will never be able to process transactions as quickly or inexpensively as an Excel spreadsheet.

However, while this is true, there are cases where the costs are worthwhile.  For example, it might be worth securing public records with blockchain in a time when data access and transparency are fraught (to put it mildly; Amy Collier will have more to say on this).  Or, as Chris Jagers of Learning Machine put it during a Future Trends Forum conversation, we should use the blockchain when we want to store something for permanent access, rather then in temporary or institutionally unstable storage.  In other words, blockchain is for when we want something that will go down on our permanent record.

Ethereum logoMore speculatively, we should watch for technologies built on top of blockchain as a platform.  Think of the way the world wide web was created on top of internet protocols; let’s see what happens with new tech like Ethereum or LBRY that uses blockchain as a substrate.  Such new tech might have campus or classroom uses; our faculty, staff, and students may build some of it.

Second, on AI and automation:

In the long term, we can imagine several possible big-picture scenarios for the impact of AI and automation on society.  In the first, automation replaces many human functions and jobs, leading to widespread anxiety, underemployment, and unemployment.   In the second we rethink many human functions and jobs as human-machine syntheses, where we work closely together to maximize our respective strengths.  In the third scenario we creatively invent new, post-AI human functions and jobs. 

I mention these long-term possibilities because we are starting to prepare for them now, especially in education and technology, and that shapes our short and medium term futures.  If scenario 1 plays out, with increased human underemployment and downtime, the academy has three functions: to better prepare students for a more fiercely competitive job market, with fewer jobs; to prepare students for lives with greater downtime than we now have; to explore what it means to be human when machines increasingly render us outmoded or obsolete.

If scenario 2 determines the future – the one with human-machine syntheses – then education has different functions.  We now have to rethink curricula and pedagogy for a nearly cyborg closeness with machines.  The work of many academic disciplines mutates as professionals and students work more closely with robots and/or software and AI.  For campus enterprise IT that means, among other things, a serious expansion of services, greater institutional centrality, and deeper complexity of role and services.  For starters, consider adding AI functions to campus software (imagine cognifying the LMS or library catalog, or running course tutors at enterprise scale).

If scenario 3 is the more accurate one – where we respond to automation by creating new  jobs and new functions for humans – then we have to revise our curriculum now, emphasizing classes and research in what humans do better than machines. We have to be ready to teach and research new or transformed careers, like AI ethicist, automation librarian, cognification officer, or human creativity lab director.  Campuses will have to open lines for some of these jobs themselves.  All this will take a mixture of intelligence (monitoring for the appearance of new positions), creativity (creating new fields), collaboration across disciplines and professions, and a willingness to explore and experiment.


I’m not sure how the audience responded.  The webinar technology was Adobe Connect, which means the main discussion venue was a narrow chat box.  I think most of the questions addressed other panelists as well as other participants’ observations.  There was some traffic on Twitter (#ELIWEB), including my tweets.

What do you think?

Posted in future of education, presentations and talks | 2 Comments

A door, a paradox, and a parable

Yesterday I visited a United States federal building in Washington, DC.  I strode along its long frontage, looking for doors to enter, as many were closed.

Then I found this one:
door entrance paradox

I meditated on this for a while, as a kind of visual Zen koan.

Chuckling, I took this photo, pocketed my phone, found a less cognitively confusing door, and entered.

Inside was a security checkpoint, with several Homeland Security officers.  One looked straight at me and asked, “Why were you taking photographs of the building?”

I tried to explain the humor, but it didn’t go over well.  He didn’t think it was funny.

Readers may draw their own conclusions.

Posted in horizon scanning | Tagged | 5 Comments

What we’d like to build, and how: findings from our FOECast ideation week

From February  26th through March 2nd, a bunch of us conducted a week of brainstorming, discussion, and prototyping for FOECast.  The idea was to explore what a research project on the future of education and technology could look like.

Today I’d like to try summarizing our collective findings.

(For more information about the week and FOECast, check these posts and the FOECast website.)

(If you participated in the ideation week in any way, including just reading a few thinbgs, please complete our evaluation!)

tl;dr – people want a range of stuff.


CodeName FOECast_Jon NalderThere’s a lot to sum up, so I’ve come up with headers and themes.   To recap, we asked people to respond to five prompts:

  1. What needs did the Horizon report meet?
  2. What forecasting methods should we consider?
  3. What shape should a new effort take?
  4. What scope should this cover?
  5. Make a prototype and/or proposal!

Responses addressed these, but also cut across the prompts.  There seemed to be a lot of agreement or consensus, yet also some… divides, or different positions along continua.  I’ll try to represent all of this.  First, I’ll identify framing concepts that would shape any such work.  Second, a list of specific projects and services people derived.  Third, a sketch of organizational thinking.  Last, a meta-note about a possible redirection.

Please, please correct or amend if I missed or mischaracterized key elements.

1. Frames

Community There was a general sense that any future project should involve and connect with a broad population.

Diverse and complex Several argued for a project to recognize that education and technology are very diverse.  Technology appears unevenly, as per William Gibson.  As Tom Abeles recommended, “the idea of a vision for the future of HEI’s will be heterodox”.  Audrey Watters called for attention to “race and place and status, for example.”  Steven Crawford reminded us that economics can strongly shape what technologies get used.

Many were interested in including a range of educational domains, such as K-12 as well as post-secondary education (kudos to Elena O’Malley).  People also called for covering non-academic learning, such as business training and informal learning.  Mark Ulett: “it is incredibly important to also take into consideration learning, training, and development.”  Sonja Strahl asked and observed:

if we look toward a body of “experts” to do the forecasting, do we look only toward higher ed experts? I think that the lines between higher ed and, if you will, the real world, are blurring a bit. I think there’s value in the “the real world’s” views being part of this project.

Description and prescription and politics Some ideation week participants (Taylor Kendal and Maha Bali, for example) (distinguished between describing possible or likely futures versus calling for preferred futures.    Others (Phil Katz, Audrey Watters) asked us to engage technology criticism, with a critique informed by political analysis.

Audrey also asked FOECast to be more self-aware of its own politics and power relations:

This sort of project is always shot through with questions of power and authority. There isn’t really any escaping that, I suppose. But there can be a better recognition of what that means and how it shapes the process and the outcomes – the decisions that are made based upon it.

Single or multiple? On the organizational level, some people argued in favor of a single, unitary project, along the lines of a given Horizon Report.  Others explicitly or implicitly called for a mega-project with multiple functions and projects.

On the content level, Audrey Watters asks us to consider if we want our project to produce a single, perhaps consensus forecast, or instead to share multiple futures.

Macro or micro? Some liked a top-level view, while others preferred concrete data about individual cases.  A similar opposition played abstract and conceptual information off of concrete data. Veronica Armour offered a fine synthesis:

It would be good to see an overall snapshot – think picture of the Earth from space that can people can then filter or drill down into based on interest or section of the industry (K12, HE, Library/Museum, training)

Education or learning? On the one hand, people were very keen on exploring institutional issues (change management, implementation).  We can call this education, as it focused on educational structures. On the other, there was interest in learning, the act of learning, which opens up the picture to informal learning, as well as on independent learners and other actors (scholars, writers).  Ted Newcomb: “I would like to see something that focuses on those of us life long extra-institutional learners”.

Continuous or punctuated production?  Some argued for single publications, while others argued for rolling or continuous work.  For the latter, we heard about frequent polling and wikis.  Anthony Helm brainstormed about having: “[l]ess frequency of the report, maybe every 3 years, but supplemented by deeper dives into specific parts of the report in the interim.”

Methods There was some discussion of methods, but not much consensus.  Indeed, Pat Tully asked us to think of first principles first: “What are those values and principles that are our lodestar, that guide us in the tools we use and how we use them?”

Not only technology There seems to be consensus that whatever project plan FOECast produces, it should include technology, but also address other domains.

Why is there a focus on technologies and tools, rather than solving problems? How can future trend reporting truly reach and cover a broad spectrum of how learning and development is evolving with “innovative” or forward thinking pedagogical practice?

Openness and transparency  There were many calls for these, and no opposition.

Desiderata, by Duncan C

2. Desiderata questions and answers The Edge site regularly poses deep questions for a preselected group of relevant experts, then hosts their responses (for example).  We could do something similar – i.e., ask “How will mixed reality change education?”, then post replies from twenty VR/AR/MR gurus.

A survey of the community This goes way beyond the Delphi method’s focus group, and turns to the broader education and technology world.

The reverse funnel, also the concentric project This would be a group futuring effort in stages by scale:

…‘recognized experts’ using criteria that are published and refer to a mix of traditional indices (publication metrics, alt-metrics impact measures, standing in professional associations or whatever) combined with some more community-based consensus valuations of expertise. Who’s invited to speak at meetings we think are significant to this field or topic, for example. Then a next layer ring of expertise that might be derived from community ranking of nominated people.

A data trove Many asked for access to data about education and technology.  Some saw this in terms of individual technology implementations and experiments.  Others wanted a better sense of deployment (how widespread is the flipped classroom approach?).  One use case for this was institutional benchmarking (Kelly Walsh).

Data could be externally located.  Stephen Downes floated one model:

Analyze what bloggers and pundits (not Twitter or Facebook) are writing about, and identify key categories. Find examples of cases of instances of those key categories. Provide an index of what major industry consortia and standards organizations are focusing on. Filter patent searches for keywords or trends.

Shaping Tomorrow automates this kind of work.

Another way to organize data could be a web-based database, a la Drupal, upon which other things can be build (see below).

A showcase Laura Pasquini envisions evidence displayed in a certain way:

A digital showcase of applications beyond a webinar or webcast could include bit-sized examples of testing and experimenting with learning design, a technology in application for learning, or other via a podcast+show notes, video demonstration, testing exemplar of a concept, team blog of experimentation in progress, or a “behind the curtains” look for how to apply pedagogical practices.

Analytics Many wanted the ability to analyze data in various forms, from text responses to evidence of technology use.  At least one person recommended using natural language processing (one example).

Narratives Some participants expressed interest in narratives or stories about the future of education and technology.  At times this was from a consumer side (I’d like to read/listen to/watch/experience a narrative), while at others it was from a production side (I’d like to build a narrative).

Audrey Watters linked storytelling to multiple perspectives:

Can there be a completely different sort of storytelling in its place? One that isn’t a report? One that’s about sharing nascent counter-narratives and semi- speculative fictions, perhaps, rather than the shopping list-like surety of an industry-oriented forecasting document?

Leslie Madsen-Brooks was one of several voices describing multiple audiences for the Horizon Report.  Perhaps our new project would either be consumable by different audiences, or would include multiple stories suited for various populations (technologists, administrators, funders, etc.).  Peter Shea thought we “should acknowledge the complexity of prediction by creating several models of what might happen rather than confidently present one singular vision.”

Tom Haymes offered an example of this, by “divid[ing] the FOEcast into a Blue Sky Section and Mature Section.”

I think it’s important to stir the imagination with possibilities (even if they don’t pan out as foreseen) but also have a “mature” area that shows off technologies that are suddenly achieving widespread adoption. The real challenge for the practitioner is to connect the aspiration with the practical. This might be a key feature of the report(s).

Further, “Connecting Blue Sky with Mature is also a form of futuring as we can track the trajectory of technologies moving from one pole to the other.”

A workshop kit A document or product alongside the futures research, aimed at helping organizations translate it into practice.   Phil Long described a version of this he wanted to see for the Horizon Report:

 to leverage the HR in a focused translational way to the issues/needs of a given institution, or category of institution (R1 university, versus comprehensive…. whatever a useful breakdown of categories might be).

Visualizations One video discussion explored a variety of visualizations we’d like to see for this research, including heat maps, scatter plots, 4d imaging.  Daniel F. Bassill strongly recommend we publish maps, both geographic and conceptual.  Roxann Riskin offered another model: “I imagined your snapshot looking like an inverted ice-cream cone where participants can click into areas within the cone- zone of their environment?”

Environmental scan There was some interest in doing environmental scans, even micro ones.

Evaluation We need to build in a way of checking and improving futures work.  Several reminded us of the importance of checking one’s forecasts, a la Phil Tetlock.  Veronica Armour wants us to consider that “there needs to be a method for evaluating how we are doing. How will we know if we are identifying the “right” trends?”

Phil Long envisioned a more ambitious form of evaluation, using the scientific method:

we likely need to run some experiments to see how different methods turn out, their characteristics, where they do well and where the fail… [T]he only way to have any sense of this is mount some degree of parallel efforts to collect the data and see what outcomes emerge.

Scenarios There was some controversy here.  In favor, Phil Katz: “I like scenarios as heuristic devices, as long as people do not mistake them for predictions”.  Opposed, Stephen Downes: “I am also not a fan of scenario-based mechanisms because the core predictive work is conducted a priori in the definition of the factors defining the various scenarios. As well, it’s a bit like the meteorologist telling you that it might be hot tomorrow, or it might be cold, and maybe there will be rain, or maybe not.”

A version of scenarios comes from Cynthia Calongne/Lyr Lobo:

why not brainstorm “the most outrageous futures possible if technological capability was not an issue,” and then use the other strategies to envision what it would take to realize them? Rather than hire from outside, I’d crowd source it as a Great Thinkers” futuring exercise (free).

Ethnographic analysis Phil Long also suggested conducting ethnography about emerging technologies and their uses:

a metric looking at their adoption ‘patterns’ might be a valuable lens by which the judgment of ‘will this tech innovation work here?’ can be better made. I’m particularly thinking of the recent work at CMU by Lauren Herckis and the crying need for an effort to advance ‘implementation science’ (borrowing from Joel Smith’s term for this, with appreciation).

3. Organization

Some would like to see an organization arise that handles different functions.  Tom Haymes called for “a dynamic, thoroughly modern, and ultimately resilient network that can grow organically and provide immense benefit to a worldwide network of communities”.  Paul Signorelli developed a similar vision:

I would suggest interrelated “shapes” rather than a single “shape” (e.g., the printed/online Horizon publications). If we’re able to settle on a foundational central meeting place (e.g., a wiki, the Slack community, or something else that offers an easy-to-navigate structure), then our efforts could have rhizomatically expanding offshoots (interconnected blog posts; tweet chats that are captured and archived by whatever replaces Storify, reports/white papers that could be updated as needed; Shindig sessions along the lines of what Bryan so effectively does; an updated version of the reports so many of us have adored; or…or…or…)

This reminds me of Roxann Riskin’s call for “[a] next gen structure – a participatory structure”.

Stephen Downes offered a related but different view:

Organizationally it probably looks pretty typical, with an executive and a membership (but maybe with greater transparency and reporting requirements). I’d assign an editor to each ‘iteration’ (or each question, or whatever we would call it) who would curate the discussion. Analysis of the contributing discussions (via NLP or whatever) would be an ongoing responsibility (though various processes could be used). I think that the key here is this: for each thing that is done (an organization created, a topic covered, an analytical process undertaken) there is a ‘champion’ who will push that thing forward, in cooperation and with the support of the whole organization.

4. One strategic meta-note

Overall my sense is that participants really valued conversation about the future of education and technology.  They showed this by their various acts of participation, as well as many requests for community interaction.  Nobody cited a particular platform or venue for supporting this kind of discussion.  Some say the late Horizon Report as that kind of site.

In fact, Kay Oddone saw FOECast as a learning community, and that “Project FOECast is not only focused on the production of information for others – it in itself is a learning community”.  Maybe I’m rushing things too quickly by pushing for a project plan.  Instead, perhaps the most important thing to achieve now is a space or network for supporting these conversations.

What do you think?

And let me ask what you make of these findings.  Did I miss or mischaracterize any activity from the ideation week?  Which desiderata sound most appealing?  Do you like the frames?  What would you add?

(photo by duncan c)

Posted in professional development | Tagged | 1 Comment

On global economic inequality: a vital book for education

I wanted to share some thoughts about a recent book, as it bears strongly on the future of education. Branko Milanović’s Global Inequality A New Approach for the Age of Globalization (2016: Amazon) is a major work in current events, forecasting, and economics. It offers powerful ideas for understanding the present, recent history, and the medium term future. I fear people won’t read it.

That’s because Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization attempts a tricky thing. First, it looks hard at economic inequality, which is a subject that already appalls most people, or just skates over their heads. Second, it places the subject on an international level. This means that many people who see a world limited by their nation’s borders for whatever reason – nationalism, xenophobia, education, lack of time – will stop paying attention. Third: it’s macroeconomics, usually guaranteed to drive most people away in shuddering terror.

That’s a shame, because Milanović’s findings are very, very important.

Branko Milanović is famous among some policymakers for identifying a crucial fact: that while incomes rose in many nations over the past generation (from 1988; 3), they did so unevenly. Poor and middle class people experienced serious income growth in the developing world, starting to catch up with developed nations (a form of “economic convergence”), while those in some advanced nations (including the US) saw their incomes stagnate or decline. Meanwhile, the richest people everywhere got richer.

This appears very clearly in what has been nicknamed “the elephant graph”:
Milanovich elephant chart

To be too reductive, Milanović derived these findings from using several rich datasets from multiple nations, than analyzing them in comparison.  (Check the “Excursus” sections for more) . What can we learn from this data?

It helps explain populism and panic in certain advanced nations – i.e., Trump, Brexit, the Euro right’s resurgence. If you’re watching the rich get richer while you go nowhere, you won’t be happy about those in charge, to be blunt. “People… belong[ing] to the lower halves of their countries’ income distributions… are certainly not the winners of globalization.” (20) And it might feed xenophobia, if people link their stagnant or declining condition to people doing better elsewhere.

China’s extraordinary post-Mao economic boom played a huge and often underappreciated role in this transformation. So did globalization (although Milanović takes care to distinguish between the free flow of capital across borders, versus the movement of labor).

There’s also a bit of macroeconomic argument over the Kuznets cycle. This is a famous idea, stating that economic growth tends to grow income inequality, but then the gaps start to fade.

Apparently this model has been controversial for decades.  Milanović argues that the cycle is broken now – or rather that there’s a new model, where development (income growth) now means steady inequality rising in the post-industrial era (4).

As examples of this revised Kuznets cycle Milanović dwells on arguably the two biggest and most influential nations in the world, China and the United States, and offers a sobering analysis of why income inequality is likely to keep growing in both. (176ff) In China, urban concentration of wealth is widening a gap with the countryside, and a centralized authority structure might not decide to act against inequality for reasons of self-interest. For the United Staters, reasons include: substituting capital for labor (i.e., automation); concentrating wealth with education; assortative mating; the fierce political power of the economic elite. Corruption plays a role in both, albeit in different forms (regulatory capture, political party control, local favoritism, etc).

The author also does a great job of distinguishing between economic inequality within nations (rich versus poor in Italy), economic inequality between nations (average income in Kazakhstan versus Brazil), and comparing economic strata across nations (118ff). I’ve rarely seen anyone do this. Among other things, this leads Milanović to see Frantz Fanon‘s model of a world separated by colonial and colonized nations are a better guide to present day global inequality than Marx’s description (128-9), while suggesting class will overwhelm geography in this sense in the future, as inequality between nations (weighted for populations!) seems to be declining (131, 166).  So: Fanon for now, Marx to come.

As a futurist I found much to appreciate in Global Inequality, starting with his bracing review of economic forecasting in the mid- and late 20th century. Based on a range of books, Milanović argues that futurists all too often fall into certain errors: overstating present-day factors; failing to account for dramatic changes, up to black swans; paying too much attention to certain actors, while failing to account for others – China is a great example of the latter, largely missing from these forecasts (155ff).  These are sound critiques – not absent from the futures field, but still salutary.

Along these lines, after a great deal of hedging, the author offers up some tentative forecasts. Perhaps the darkest is this:

[S]ocial separatism [or c]lass bifurcation has many implications: politically, the middle class becomes increasingly irrelevant; production shifts toward luxuries, and social expenditures change from being directed toward education and infrastructure to policing. (198-9)
While the political system remains democratic in form because the freedom of speech and the right of association have been preserved and elections are free, the system is increasingly coming to resemble a plutocracy. (199)

Moreover, accidents of birth are starting to eclipse the American Dream’s potential for economic mobility (216).  This leads us to Thomas Piketty’s* grim view that the 21st century will resemble the 19th, being less a world of careers and compensation open to talent, and more about the birth lottery.

There’s also an interesting note about different attitudes towards economic growth in developed and developing nations. A rising argument in the former holds that we should consider restraining GDP growth, as it contributes to carbon emissions. However, as the author points out, without growth the latter nations won’t catch up with the former. This implies a very interesting global tension to anticipate. (233)

The book offers some policy solutions, but, as with Thomas Piketty’s great work, isn’t happy about their prospects. Intriguingly, Milanović is less interested in states redistributing wealth through income taxes than in having them address “endowments” – i.e., taxing personal fortunes through inheritance and getting companies to give more shares to workers (221; this comes close to advocating for worker-owned and -run enterprises). In a breathtaking challenge to American education, the author calls for equalizing educational access, including

mak[ing] access to the best schools more or less equal regardless of parental income and, more importantly, to equalize the quality of education across schools. (222)

I was surprised by a few items missing from Global Inequality. There isn’t a discussion of financialization, which has played an enormous role in the American economy. That sector grew enormously over the past generation and now has not only great wealth but vast political clout… and it’s a key factor in generating inequality. I was also surprised that the book relies heavily on the Gini method of measuring inequality, as Piketty – cited many times here – took great care to slam it as a poor measurement.

Then again, this is a very short book, just around 240 pages, and very accessible. It’s a good sign when you leave a book wanting it to say more.

Strongly recommended.

*On Piketty: please see here for our book club’s discussion of his groundbreaking Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

Posted in book club, reviews | 1 Comment

Learning, thinking, making stuff together: on FOECast’s ideation week

Last week FOECast ran an ideation exercise.  That was five days of online brainstorming and discussion, culminating in making stuff towards a new research project.

Shortly I’ll share my sense of the findings.  Here I wanted to reflect on the process in terms of communicating, learning, and working together online.

(If you participated in the ideation week in any way, please complete our evaluation.  It’s short, I promise!)

CodeName FOECast_Jon NalderWe organized things online using the distributed class principles of cMOOCs, DS106, and my book club (most notably this reading).  There was a hub – well, two: blog posts here and the new FOECast site – which people could read for information and content, as well as responding both socially and individually.  People participated through various other venues: Twitter (using hashtag #FOECast), a Google Doc, three videoconferences, their own blogs, and a Slack group (really one channel therein).  There was the option of discussion through Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn, but little resulted (except for Taylor Kendal’s comments).

Two of these, very different technologies, became the primary channels for communication.  The Google Doc became the biggest activity site, now reaching 19 pages and 9768 words.  We framed discussion there with five key prompts, and people self-organized nicely within, breaking out their own subheads, coming up with protocols for self-identification, and so on.

At the same time the three videoconferences were very, very energetic.  We saw between ten and twenty for the first two, then 60 for the third.  Participants needed no prompting or cat-herding, but jumped right in.  Ideas flowed quickly.

So a synchronous tool and an asynchronous platform were the primary sites for the week.  Secondary sites saw some activity as well.  My blog posts here elicited between zero and six comments apiece.  Other bloggers posted their thoughts, like Maha Bali, Audrey WattersKay Oddone, and Pat Tully (multiple posts from her: brava!).

It’s interesting that most if not all blogging participants were from women.

Slack saw intense discussion from several people.  Twitter was surprisingly quiet, both on the #FOECast tag and in responses to my themed comments.  I’m not sure why that was.

There was also some coverage from journalists, like this THE article.

There wasn’t much interaction across sites.  That is, few tweeted about FOECast-related blog posts, there wasn’t much discussion about videoconferences on LinkedIn or Slack, etc.  Overall – and my impression could well be wrong – people seemed to pick a channel and stay there, like tines.


A helpful visualization.

The rhythm of participation fascinated me.  Most of the asynchronous energy appeared on the first two days, then declined thereafter.  I’m not sure why, although it might be that the Google Doc had the whole week’s events present, so people could (and did) roam ahead.  Perhaps the final day’s charge to make stuff was too daunting, too much a change of tone.  I kept pushing prompts and ideas through all venues; maybe that backfired.

Later in the week we tried to inject a quick shot of energy with a spot poll.  Not many people responded.

The ideation week wasn’t a class per se.  We didn’t identify or share learning content (with one exception of a few readings).  There was an agenda, but not a syllabus.  Now, people did identify articles, books, videos, etc. and shared them.  And we all learned, I think, in various levels and to different degrees.  The goal, though, was to make, brainstorm, and put our heads together productively (which feels like learning to me).

One brilliant aspect: so many people pitched in to help.  Some of the folks who helped see FOECast into the world gave generously of their time and energy. Maya Georgieva, Phil Long, Tom Haymes, Jonathan Nalder, and Lisa Nigara set up web pages and sites, made images, gave advice, wrote up thoughts, bought domains, cheered others on, taught others how to use new tools, and more.  Taylor Kendal and Keesa Johnson volunteered  and built stuff (documents, sites) and tossed ideas back and forth.  Without any formal structure or organization (remember, this was – is – a DIY, bootstrapped thing) they organized to make things happen.

On a personal note, the experience was intense and rewarding for both intrinsic and unrelated reasons.  Intrinsically it was exhilarating to see everything come together, and to see so much interest and energy.  It was also risky as heck, since we did this without any external support (no sponsors, no funding), didn’t have a recognized brand, weren’t affiliated with any institution, and were addressing a pretty arcane topic.

When I say “unrelated”, it’s because I spent the week seeing my father through heart surgery.  So all of this activity occurred in hospital rooms, cars, planes, an apartment, etc,  The ideation was a fine counterpoint.  (And my father did well.)

Coming up next: findings, and what’s next for FOECast!

(tine photo by Ulka)

Posted in professional development | Tagged | 6 Comments

Another Wisconsin university to close programs, lay off faculty

Another American university is planning on cutting academic programs and laying off faculty.  Now it’s a public institution in the upper midwest.

(I’ve been calling such moves “queen sacrifices” for several years.  That’s a metaphor based on the chess strategy, the desperate move whereby a player gives up their most powerful piece in an attempt to win the game.  In the metaphor tenure-track faculty are the campus equivalent of the queen, having (in theory) greater powers and influence than most others.  You can find far too many posts on this here.)

This time it’s the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and their leadership is proposing significant cuts after floating the idea last month.  The way the administration frames this is as reallocation, of “shifting resources to invest in areas with growth potential” and away from those with… the opposite, presumably: “programs where fewer students are enrolled.”

Programs facing the axe include – sorry, “Discontinuing the following programs is recommended”:

  • American Studies
  • Art – Graphic Design will continue as a distinct major
  • English – English for teacher certification will continue
  • French
  • Geography
  • Geoscience
  • German
  • History – Social Science for teacher certification will continue
  • Music Literature
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Sociology — Social Work major will continue
  • Spanish

Since reducing majors means decreasing demand for instructors advising students and teaching upper-level classes, cutting tenure-track faculty positions is right on the table: “If a reduction in tenured faculty positions is recommended, cuts would occur no sooner than June 2020.”

In contrast, note the programs being added or expanded:

UW-Stevens Point proposes expanding academic programs that have demonstrated value and demand in the region, including:

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Computer Information Systems
  • Conservation Law Enforcement
  • Finance
  • Fire Science
  • Graphic Design
  • Management
  • Marketing

These programs have existed as options and would expand to majors. In addition, new bachelor’s (or advanced) degree programs are proposed in:

  • Aquaculture/Aquaponics
  • Captive Wildlife
  • Ecosystem Design and Remediation
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Geographic Information Science
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Natural Resources
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy

Broadly speaking, this is a shift away from the humanities and towards the natural sciences, which fits into other enrollment trends we’ve been examining.

What is the reason for these drastic steps?  Say it with me, dear readers: declining enrollment and tuition dollars: “UW-Stevens Point faces a deficit of $4.5 million over two years because of declining enrollment and lower tuition revenues.”  More:

This repositioning is necessary because of declining financial resources, demographic changes with fewer students in K-12 schools and rising competition among public and private universities, said Greg Summers, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs…

A key part of this is the state of Wisconsin cutting support under a Republic governor and legislature (cf my previous posts).

In another statement, Stevens Point administrators describe this proposal as the latest strategy after a series of have tried, well worth quoting in full.  It’s a catalog of modern university options, and many of my readers have doubtlessly experienced some of these:

Within Academic Affairs over the years, we have tried nearly every other strategy except this approach, from improving the marketing, recruitment, and retention strategies of enrollment management to endlessly searching for cost-savings until efficiency became pervasive austerity. We have increased workloads, raised class sizes, reduced administrative spending, and nearly eliminated budgets for supplies, equipment, technology and facilities. We have restricted travel, sabbaticals, and other professional development, and declined for years to invest in salaries for our faculty and staff members. We have squeezed administrative support functions to a point where we are failing to provide badly needed services, especially in those areas on which we depend regardless of enrollment. In Information Technology alone, nine and a half positions have been lost in the past three years, a number that will likely grow further in the current restructuring—this at a time when the demands on their services and expertise are greater than ever.

Which brings them to this point:

In short, we have “lived without” across the entire Division of Academic Affairs, disadvantaging nearly all of our programs and services, and most importantly, undermining the education we provide our students. There is a limit to how long a university can thrive under these kinds of across-the-board austerity measures and remain a vital and thriving institution, and we have reached it. (emphases added)

Yet, as David Vanness notes on Twitter, Stevens Point did not declare financial exigency.  Interesting:

So, to sum up: this looks like a classic queen sacrifice.  A university, buffeted by enrollment and therefore financial problems, driven in part by demographics, decides to fix its business model by cutting programs and therefore faculty.  There’s a shift to more student-attractive programs, and also one from the humanities to STEM, generally.

As long as these forces are in play – aging demographics, states no longer supporting public higher ed while demanding more students take classes there, a tightening business model for campuses, decreasing appeal of the academic humanities, soaring STEM reputation – we should expect more such queen sacrifices.

Posted in research topics | Tagged | Leave a comment

Five quick dark stories about the future of education

This is a tricky month for blogging, as I’m writing in between multiple trips, winter storms, horrendous travel, and a ton of projects all coming together at the same overclocked moment.  But I’ll keep checking into the bloghouse.

For this entry, I’d like to quickly share five recent stories which, for me, have the potential to inflect education’s future.  They cover a wide range of topics, from enrollment to technology to campus governance.  What they have in common is, well – you probably won’t like most of them, depending on your interests.

ITEM: there are signs that the flow of Chinese students to the United States might slow down, or stop.

“Just 10 years ago, the flow of talent was at about seven Chinese students leaving for every one that came back. Now it’s six [students] returning in every seven,” said Wei Yang, president of the National Natural Science Foundation of China. “The brain drain is almost over.”

Many American colleges and universities depend on a good number of these students for diversity, for income (they tend to be full pay more than the typical American), and for sheer numbers (remember my posts about enrollment declines).  Keep an eagle eye on this one.

ITEM: the University of Vermont is considering significant cuts.   It’s pretty close to queen sacrifice territory.

UVM union protests proposed faculty cuts

The proposal would eliminate about 40 percent of the college’s part-time faculty, the statement said. Another 20 lecturers could be laid off over the next five years, it said. The college also would not replace the estimated 50 senior professors expected to retire over the next five years, according to United Academics.

Why?  Oh, my dear readers, you know the reason.

“We have a faculty that was sort of built for enrollments we had in 2010,” Falls said. Since then enrollment has decreased by about 17 percent, and while in recent years there have been a slight upswing, enrollment is still below what it was in 2010.

It’s not just overall enrollment, but enrollment in a certain subset of classes:

UVM, like many colleges around the country has seen fewer students interested in liberal arts, said Bill Falls, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. The resulting drop in enrollment in Arts and Sciences classes has led to a teacher surplus, and a $4 million budget shortfall.

Note the administration’s response:

The university has not yet adjusted the size of the college’s faculty to reflect declining enrollment, Falls said. UVM administrators are in fact giving the college $2 million per year to allow for wiggle room as the budgets are adjusted…

The college has a student to faculty ratio of about 14 to 1. Falls said he would like to increase the ratio to 16.5 to 1.

So a slow-motion adjustment, a curricular correction.  An acceptance of pedagogical challenges and bad optics (increased teacher-student ratio) because of economics.

Note, too, that the majority of UVM students don’t come from Vermont.

(in full disclosure, my son is a student there)

ITEM: speaking of queen sacrifices, they aren’t always offered in the spirit of full disclosure. University of Wisconsin-Superior senior administrators planned major program cuts without consulting faculty, according to a Chronicle article.

Looked at one way, this is just another move in the old political game between administrators and faculty.  But it also reflects more recent developments, such as the professoriate’s transformation into majority-tenure-track to majority adjunct, with the resulting decline in governance, as well as the ongoing higher ed financial crisis.

(For a related story, compare this development in a controversial California State University system move.) and

ITEM: the Campus Technology conference is no moreThe UBTech conference just absorbed Campus Tech (“[t]he merger of these two conferences under the UBTech banner”) and ended its run of events.

To be clear, I don’t know anything about the business case for these decisions.  There’s very little information out there.  But I do wonder if this is another example of the ed tech professional development world’s contraction.  The New Media Consortium died in December.  NITLE ended some years before that.  And now Campus Tech’s conferences… without any new entities or events arising to take their place.  Overall, is the field shrinking?

ITEM: we might now be in the early stage of an arms race over machine vision.  Let this example explain: “Here, we create the first [AI] adversarial examples designed to fool humans…”

How does this work?

by leveraging recent techniques that transfer adversarial examples from computer vision models with known parameters and architecture to other models with unknown parameters and architecture, and by modifying models to more closely match the initial processing of the human visual system. We find that adversarial examples that strongly transfer across computer vision models influence the classifications made by time-limited human observers.

Some are getting better at creating or having machines create visual content that can pass some levels of inspection.  As others have observed, we could be starting an age whereby more forms of evidence are fakeable and therefore lose public credulity, or are too widely believed, or some combination of the two.

What do these have in common?  I’d like to leave drawing connections between them to the reader.  One to think about, as a starter, is links with China: that nation’s increasing academic heft (first item) and rapidly growing AI skills (last).  I’m expecting some serious anti-Chinese sentiment to arise in the US as a result, tying into other forces.

Taken together, these are examples of major stresses on higher education.  They exert pressure on institutions and people.  How will we respond?

(thanks to George Station for one link)

Posted in future of education, research topics | 9 Comments

Dear Delta Airlines: why the horrendous service?

What do you do when you experience horrible customer service, and can’t get redress?

Blogging is one response.

This is a story about bad air travel in the United States.  Maybe it’ll draw some attention from the service provider, or at least document just how bad flying in America can get in 2018.  I’ll add some reflections at the end.

On Friday I spent fourteen hours at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, or DTW, according to the airport code schema, and didn’t even make it home that night.  I arrived at the airport at 8 am with two freshly printed boarding passes in hand.  One American Airlines was to take me from DTW to a Washington, D.C. airport; the other from DC to Burlington, the airport closest to my home.


What a direct flight’s route looks like.

Two major winter storms had hit the east coast hard that day and the previous night, so American canceled those flights, and offered to rebook me for… Sunday, two days away.  This seemed awful (would I have to get hotels for two days, or find a friend’s sofa to crash upon?), so I pressed for alternative airports.  Manchester, New Hampshire (3 hours from my home): nope.  The best they could do was Albany, New York, about four hours’ drive from my home.  The American rep had to turn to Delta Airlines for that.  He printed their tickets to a late night flight, and also made up a ticket for an afternoon standby flight.

This wasn’t incompetent on the face of it.  Quite the opposite.  The American agent did his best, and the situation was very stressed, between many cancelations and delays.

I took a (delayed) shuttle over to what is basically Detroit’s Delta terminal, and planned to spend hours trying to work on my laptop over weak WiFi, enjoying the dubious culinary offerings of P.F. Chang’s while waiting for my escape.  After lunch I tried to get on that Albany standby.  Not only did I not get a seat, but they canceled the flight anyway.

DTW canceled flights

Plenty of flights were canceled.

Depressed at the prospect of spending 14 hours in an airport, I tracked down another Delta agent.  This one discovered a direct flight to Burlington, leaving in a couple of hours!  It was already booked, but the helpful agent got me on a standby list.  Maybe…

Now, the kind agent did not print a ticket; instead, she printed an itinerary and told me to have the flight’s gate agent generate a real boarding pass.  That sounded reasonable to me.  I was hopeful.

When I arrived at the gate (C1) I handed over the itinerary to a smiling gate agent, explained the situation, and asked for a boarding pass.  The smile gradually dropped from the agent’s face as she couldn’t actually print a ticket. She said the data was entered improperly in the system. She summoned another agent to help, and then a supervisor. For the next hour I stood by in the crowded departure “lounge” as multiple PA systems barked flight information, desperately hoping to get a seat on a flight home, while the three agents struggled with the system.  They also boarded the flight, summoning passengers by various categories.

At no point did the Delta staff suggest there was a problem with my i.d. or reservation.  There weren’t any issues with their terminals, the network, or the database.  The storm did not seem to have played a role in creating the problem.

Eventually all ticketed passengers who were actually in the area boarded the plane, and then all – all – standby passengers followed them onto the flight.

Except me. The gate team still couldn’t get the ticket to work.

When, a few minutes later, it was time to close the plane’s door and send it off a single open seat remained on the flight. Yet the agents still couldn’t get me a boarding pass.  Instead, they closed the door firmly as I watched, helpless.  One by one the staff members apologized to me.  They couldn’t explain what happened, and then they sent me away.

The flight looks like it landed as I wrote this post.

Shocked and now quite depressed, I crossed the giant room of departure gates to a Delta service center.  There I picked up an old school wall-mounted phone and called their help line.

The phone representative, Chris, could offer no explanation for what had just happened.  He seemed shocked and dismayed by the story.  Hilariously, he also let slip that they had just deleted my Albany flight, and were hastily “reactivating” it.

I asked how confident he was that I still had that late Albany flight, after its resurrection. Would I actually be able to take the flight?  Would my printed pass let me board, after all?

“I am pretty sure you will be on this next flight,” he replied.  He paused, then added, a bit shakily, “100% sure.”

At this point I sank into a Kafka mood.  I had to ask Chris if I had done something wrong.  Had I somehow entered some data into their system and broken something?  Had I offended Delta and was being targeted for special treatment?

No, said Chris.  It… just happened that way.  No explanation.  He apologized a few times.

Starting to imbibe a deep feeling of fatalism. I stood in line for a while at the service counter to find another agent who could make absolutely sure the ticket was valid.

I live tweeted the experience.

Delta’s Twitter account never replied.  In fact, as of this writing they have yet to respond in the slightest.  I followed up with a detailed customer complaint through their web form.  That, too, hasn’t elicited any reaction.

Tired, furious, feeling deeply disconnected from the world, I then staggered over to the next gate to get ready to board.  The gate agent there had no time to see me, which was disturbing.  But I eventually managed to enter the jet nearly fourteen hours after arriving at DTW.  We sat on the tarmac for a while, then took off.  I flew… well, part of the way home. That night – actually the next morning, about 1 am – I staggered into an Albany area hotel room and passed out in bed.   After sunrise my kind wife arrived, and drove me back home to Vermont, an eight hour round trip for her.

Why did this happen?  Does it mean anything?

On the technology side, I wonder about the handoff between American and Delta.  In the abstract, this looks like a basic problem of records moving between different data structures.  Yet it’s 2018, and airlines have been trading passengers for generations.  Could this still be a problem?  Or is Delta’s internal data structure so unwieldy that multiple agents can easily mess up a transaction?

Maybe this story is, instead, an anecdote about how big organizations relying heavily on networked data can easily mess up and fail in their mission.  That isn’t news.

Perhaps it’s a sign of American air travel’s steady decline.  Different staff members can’t make the system work in a basic way.  They are unable to respond capably to a winter storm which, while stressful, occurs regularly, and the weather of the past several days was by no means unusual.  The system is too tight and inflexible.

Maybe American passenger air has reached the limits of its capacity, and breaks down when hit by strong events.  It might be too fragile, lacking necessary give for responding to shocks. If so, what’s next?


Posted in travel | 8 Comments

FOECast ideation week concludes with a final push: create!

Today, March 2, we come to the climax of our week of brainstorming a future of education project.  Yes, it’s day #5 of the FOECast ideation week, the final day!  That means a push to create, based on everything we’ve done all week.  Put another way, this is when we distill down our insights.

Today’s prompt is, generate a plan or prototype for a new future of education project.

In other words, what do you think a Future of Education Forecast might look like?

prototyping Think about it.  This week more than one hundred people from around the world have brainstormed, ideated, refined, and scoped out loud, from video to Twitter to Slack to Google Doc and more.  We started with big questions of value and method, then narrowed things down by form and scope.  We’ve been talking about the way things could work.  Now we’re poised to whip up some first plans and mock-ups.

Don’t be intimidated by the sound of “plan” or “prototype”.  Be as sketchy, drafty, basic, and outline-y as you need to.  Nobody’s getting graded or assessed.  This is a design thinking exercise, not a professional production line.  We are playful, not somber. The goal is to try out the ideas, to gesture in the future’s direction.

Bend your thoughts in that direction, then share your drafting plans or prototypes.  We’ve set up two Google Docs for the first two projects, loaded with helpful questions and framing (Design Jam #1, Design Jam #2) (and by “we” I mean the awesome Keesa V. Johnson; thank you!).  We can put up more if you like, or you can seize your own preferred platform and have at it.

There are other places for you to work, too: in comments on this blog post; in the Google Doc; on your own blog; in the Slack channel; on Twitter, using hashtag #FOECast; on other social media venues.  Make physical things with paper or Legos.  Shoot a video or record a podcast. Be as public or private as you like.  Comment on this post or ping me directly if you have questions or want to make sure we see your contributions.


CodeName FOECast_Jon NalderI’d also like to share comments and ideas that appeared over the past day (since my last post):

  • Maha Bali (Egypt) blogged about the difference between forecasting what was likely to happen versus what one thinks should happen.
  • Kay Oddone (Australia) blogged about the week’s progress, meditating on how things have progressed.  She’s like FOECast to be an ongoing process, always in beta, flexible and in reinvention mode.  To visualize this, Kay created a rich graphic, and invited us all to respond to it, including editing it, I think (!):
Project_FOECast_through_the_lens_of_Connected_Learning_Kay Oddone

Click to get to the big and editable version.

She also offered this sweet and startling take: “For me, Project FOECast is not only focused on the production of information for others – it in itself is a learning community”.

At a quick glance of the GDoc word-cloud…a single threaded statement was glaring back at me: “Look to community to think new and see good ideas and a future approach.” (right edge of prominence, read top to bottom). Likely some degree of pareidolia, but felt good nonetheless.

  • There’s been a lot of discussion about a two-level project, including data and narratives, or macro and micro domains.
  • The consensus seems to be that whatever project we like, it should be collaborative and community-oriented.

Looking ahead a little, after today’s prototyping and planning is done, there are some things coming up next week:

  • an evaluation form, for people to reflect on this week’s wild ride
  • recordings and other documents from the week
  • a first reflection on how it went
  • reflections on what FOECast is doing and becoming
  • and more, from all kinds of people.

Happy planning and prototyping!

For more information on the week’s plan, see here.  For all FOECast posts, including prompts and summaries of each day, see here.

Posted in professional development | Tagged | 5 Comments