How can educators best prepare students for the world in which we live — one where our tools, our knowledge, and our societies are transforming before our eyes? This question is at the heart of Future of Learning, an on-campus professional education program to be led by Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education July 27–31, 2015.
“There is a sense of urgency and relevance in rethinking learning for our times,” says Veronica Boix Mansilla, Ed.M.’92, Ed.D.’01, principal investigator for Project Zero. “We must ask what matters most to learn in a world of increasing cultural complexity, ubiquitous digital innovation, and fast-growing knowledge about the mind and brain.” Boix Mansilla serves as faculty chair for Future of Learning, which also features sessions led by Professors Howard Gardner and David Perkins.
Bringing together leading thinkers and practitioners from around the world, the program examines how these three high-implication factors — globalization, the digital revolution, and our evolving understanding of the mind and brain — inform what, where, and how students should learn in order to thrive in the 21st century.
In addition to incorporating the latest research on these themes, each year the program embraces innovation in form as well as its content. “Future of Learning has a deliberate experimental quality,” says Boix Mansilla. “Thinking about learning in the future requires that we’re permanently revising what we do, improving, drawing on research, and tinkering with our practice.”
In 2012, with help from a grant from the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching, Future of Learning piloted a human-centered design “charrette,” borrowing a practice from the world of architecture in which groups of people collaborate on a solution to a design problem. In 2014, the charrette took on real-life problems, as participants brainstormed solutions to challenges shared by educators from the Portland Public Schools in Portland, Maine.
The charrette is just one of the immersive experiences offered throughout the week-long program. No matter the format, Boix Mansilla says participants leave Future of Learning with a renewed sense of the importance and purpose of their profession and with an ability to step back from their daily work to ask the more fundamental questions that lead to more effective innovations.
“I hope participants leave with a rich sense of how learning and our ideas about learning are changing and with the disposition to ask what is relevant to teach and learn today,” she says. “They’ll have a keener awareness of the world in which we live and for which we’re educating our children.”