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Charting the future of education at the 100 Year EdTech Project’s Design Summit

While edtech leaders navigate today’s biggest challenges and opportunities in education, it’s also important to explore what the future holds.

That’s exactly what 190 education leaders did from February 29-March 1 at the 100 Year EdTech Project’s Design Summit. Hosted at SkySong, the Arizona State University (ASU) Scottsdale Innovation Center, the Design Summit welcomed education leaders, students, program directors, faculty and others to propose real solutions for eight pressing future scenarios. 

From culturally responsive AI to mental wellbeing in the digital age, participants imagined how to tackle these topics five centuries into the future.These scenarios took the form of 90-second video stories from the future, with characters, scripts and AI-generated graphics.

“It takes a special group of people who both have a sense of the challenges and opportunities that are currently happening in their world and the world of education technology today, and, at the same time, have the ability to stretch and imagine a different future,” said Lev Gonick, chief information officer at ASU and 100 Year EdTech Project co-founder. Gonick and ASU Enterprise Technology partnered with SAB Creative & Consulting and StoryCenter to help the field of education prepare for the next 50 years.

Together, with Design Summit principles and research questions in hand, attendees spent two days designing solutions to the most pressing challenges and opportunities, powered by human values, and enabled by technology.

“We don’t always know what’s going to happen in the world, but history and science fiction stories can be the best predictors. Coming together to collaboratively form strategies that address scenarios like climate impact and teaching in a post truth-era seems urgent now – and priceless for guiding the next 50 years of education,” shared Samantha Becker, 100 Year EdTech Project co-founder and CEO of SAB Creative & Consulting.

Key themes surface to drive forward 

With a diversity of voices, visions and values present at the Design Summit, key themes and ideas arose. These signals of change have continued to persist and have the potential to revolutionize education, now and into the future.    

Create an education system that is affordable, accessible and prepares learners for the future.
Throughout the Design Summit, placing students at the center was key to all conversations. That means that education must be open and inclusive of all, and students need to be set up for success in work and in life. ASU student Vanny DaFonseca, who is studying Biomedical Engineering at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, explained that there is a gap between academic knowledge and skills used in the workforce. She encouraged Design Summit participants to think about how we can change the learning environment to make sure students are best prepared for their careers. 

Think critically about how technology – including AI – should play a role in our future.
Predictably, AI was an important part of the discussion during the Design Summit, and particularly during the event’s student panel. Using AI to create personalized learning experiences or as an assistant or resource were encouraged: “AI is something built for humans, to liberate humanity of the monotonous labor,” said ASU student Manmeet Singh, a graduate student studying Software Engineering at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Several students expressed how educators' roles may shift from advancements in technology. With the help of AI, teachers will have more time and bandwidth to focus on human connection and mentorship with technology’s help. 

Education leadership also spoke openly about AI and learning futures, including Melissa Vito, vice provost for academic innovation at University of Texas at San Antonio, reflecting on the importance of resilience and adaptability in light of continual AI advancements.

Regardless of tech advancements, we are first and foremost humans
When it comes to our human interaction with technology, Kiara Williams, student panel moderator and founding program manager of Braven Accelerator, summed it up best: “In an ideal world, we can’t lose the human aspect of it all – the empathy, how can we work with AI and with technology to alleviate the monotonous tasks. They have more bandwidth to build community, to make sure people feel heard and welcome in their educational environments.”

Solve tomorrow’s issues with intersecting, sustainable solutions.
During the final share-outs of the Design Summit, it was clear that pressing scenarios of the future are all interconnected. For example, presenters emphasized the importance of decentralization and community connection in AI development, while also discussing the ties between psychological and physical safety, trauma-informed learning, and mental wellbeing. The need for a community-led approach to education futures – with learners at the center – was prominent. 

To prepare for the future, it needs to get weird.
Subject matter expert panel moderator Dr. Ruben Puentedura shared that, when navigating the future of learning, we need to “weirdify” how we think. “In the exploration is where the interesting stuff comes up,” said Puentedura. “No one has a perfect prediction mechanism for the future.”

Changemaking for the future

The innovation and hard work of the design groups will not end with their final solution presentations from the Design Summit. Each participant will be included as an author in an upcoming published guide for edtech leaders for the next 50 years. This manifesto will crystallize the design work and ideas from the event, and will include recommendations, reflections and calls to action – as well as a toolkit to replicate creative strategic planning activities for institutions and organizations.

Thank you to the Design Summit sponsors for making the event possible: Robots & Pencils, Salesforce, Instructure, Adobe and Pluralsight. Visit www.100yearedtechproject.org to learn more about the project and the event.

Check out photos from the Design Summit: