Joel Galbraith
Jan. 22, 2003
Ruminating on the Future of Learning

Just-In-Time Learning...on Steroids

Prophesying the future how we will learn is a difficult task, although I do believe that increased war will be part of this nation's future that we can count on. Unfortunately, war disrupts economics, investment, labor pools, government spending, people's priorities, consumer spending, and ultimately my ideas for the future of learning. I will not attempt to describe teaching and learning under such extreme circumstances, but will assume that life in 20 years has continued largely as it has over the last 20 years in relative peace, and that wars will remain "overseas" and not significantly disrupt the daily lives of most of our (North American) society…(wishful thinking)

These ruminations on primarily adult learning are NOT well thought out and are rife with serious and potentially negative implications. In my crystal ball, I foresee the following for 20 years from now:

  • Access to needed information is more readily available anywhere and on numerous devices. Ubiquitous wireless
  • Information will be more intuitively (and personally) catalog-able, navigated and retrieved
  • Much information previously remembered or rehearsed will now be
  • Education will be more focused on higher order processes, methodology and design skills than on knowledge and computing abilities.
  • We will also spend time learning to better manage our cognitive resources and attention.
  • We will need to learn to use our technologies and assistive instruments/tools better.
  • Our literacy of alternative media types (other than text) will need to increase dramatically.
  • The relevance and power of formal higher education institutions will be diminished.
  • Increased specialization will be required, but leaders with an understanding of multiple specializations will be valuable.
  • Further automation will be seen in industry or manual labor will continue to be performed overseas.
  • A society even further removed from their natural environment (they don't know where/how milk, bacon or frozen peas are made).
  • This dependence on technology will make us increasingly vulnerable in many ways. We will increasingly need to spend more resources on protecting our "interests" overseas that sustain our way of life. (…but I digress…)

Because information that we need will be readily available to us, less learning of information will be needed. If we need a definition, we'll just look it up. if we need job aids we'll simple retrive them. Natural language and "intelligent" searches will be much improved. Our devices may also be context and location-aware. Always on, always connected, always active, will be the norm, as will all-the-time learning.

Future learning will focus on learning how to continually improve our abilities to locate, store, organize and retrieve the knowledge and helps needed to function in our lives and jobs. Relevance will be critical! We will need to learn to manage what information we give our limited attention to (attention economy). We will learn strategies and build devices to help filter and proactively seek out only relevant informartion and stimulus.