Futurist David Thornburg argues that "disruptive technology" is reshaping how students learn. But how can schools prepare for what they can't predict?
These days it may seem like education is changing faster than educators can keep up--Common Core State Standards, the charter school movement, "new normal" shrinking budgets -- but it's not moving nearly as fast as technology. That's par for the course though, according to David Thornburg, a noted futurist and education consultant who teaches graduate courses on emerging technologies at Walden University. After all, education is a deep-rooted part of society, one that can't always keep up with rapid-fire advances in technology.
"It's a common error that people make, which is to overestimate social change and to underestimate technological change," Thornburg says. That makes it especially tough to predict how the two will impact the future.
Thornburg contends that, in the whole of human history, only three major technological revolutions have fundamentally resculpted education. The first two are taken for granted: the construction of a phonetic alphabet, and the propagation of the mass-produced book in the 16th century. These changes seeped into education because they were consumer-driven, and ultimately too big to ignore.
Thornburg argues that mobile device technology has placed us on the cusp of the next great revolution, which is already very much in progress and is certain to affect education. Like its predecessors, this one is consumer-driven, and has the potential to drastically transform an education environment that has become, to his mind, too focused on assessment and evaluation.