The Value of Future Scenarios in Classrooms

A friend of mine (who happens to study manifestos and is all about futures scenarios) sent me this article the other day and I thought it was worth sharing. For the last couple of years I have been helping the English Teachers put together a project that requires the students to research the era the book they are reading is set in. I have always maintained that it wasn’t enough for them to gather the information, they have to do something with it. But really the only thing I ever came up with is getting them to package the information and present it.

This is why the idea of futures scenario resonates for me. It is getting the students to take the information they have gathered and envisioning solutions. The author uses a project on environmental degradation as a case in point. The students did the research and well, as you can imagine it was depressing. but the guidelines didn’t go any further. The author asks the following questions:

What if, say, we invited the kids to explore the landscape of waste management as a problem-finding exercise?

Then, what if instead of having them simply ‘report back’ their findings, we prompted them to go a little further?

It might look something like this:

  1. They could then extend their search to look at whether there is evidence of any change, innovation, opportunities, and obstacles in their chosen realm and make note of them. Futurists call this scanning for signals and trends.
  2. They could produce a series of possible scenarios of the future – set however soon-or-far into the future they’d like – that describe several different fictional possibilities, depending on what they uncovered in step 1.
  3. They could share and analyze the scenarios, comparing them against their own wishes, hopes, and fears, and determine which is the most desirable, least desirable, most likely, least likely, and so on. They could use the scenarios to gather data about other people’s interpretations.
  4. They could take their findings and consider what steps could be taken now, and in the time between tomorrow and their projected futures, to start to develop ideas about how we could get there.

I, for one, am intrigued.

When speaking recently at about some of the benefits of futures thinking in education, I went a little off-script and shared an anecdote. I was really nervous, but in hindsight the brief divergence…


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