The Science of Foresight

It’s not easy to predict the future. There are so many different and at the same time possible roads ahead. The society, the world, the technology around us is changing at an extraordinary pace. The assumptions I’m presenting here are of course a result of my own hopes and fears. I don’t know if we’ll see a paradigm shift or if we just will drift slowly into the future, but I’m optimistic on the behalf of mankind, so this will mainly be a positive presentation.

«The illierate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.» (Alvin Toffler, 1971)

There are many important drivers in the development and changes in how, where and what we learn. I will mention some that I find interesting and exciting. And I’ll also try to address some possible benefits and some challenges.

Some interesting and already present developments

  • Social learning
  • Machine learning
  • Neural networks
  • Assessment for learning
  • Augmented reality
  • Gamification and motivation
  • Battery capacity
  • Cloud computing
  • Wireless transmission of data
  • Location-based learning

There are, of course, only some of the future technologies that will enhance, change and influence the way we learn – both in school and in life. Given the enormous growth in data power and possibilities I believe that future devices will be able to collect, synthesise and analyse massive amounts of data via the Cloud. This will make it easier to personalise almost everything, also the education system. This way educational and instructional systems will, by 2030, have a deep understanding of students, including their weaknesses, challenges and motivational style.

We will most likely see a tremendous growth in intelligent, interactive and immersive learning environments and augmented spaces. An example of this could be seen this year at the Apple iPhone Keynote. Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Steve Nash and CEO of HomeCourt David Lee explained the real-time shot science and machine learning behind the HomeCourt app. The app provides advanced realtime analysis of movement patterns for basketball players and couches. Nothing else is needed than the phone itself.

Such developments will provide educators, teachers, students and people in general with immense possibilities. And it will make assessment, learning analytics no matter what subject we are dealing with much more personal.

But the future is not only about technologies

I hope and believe that this and other factors will lead to an overhaul of teaching methodology. We are already experiencing some of this in the school system in Oslo. New approaches to assessment are being tested. Vurdering for læring and assessment for learning instead of assessment of learning is one such important change.

And even the new plans for education (Fremtidens skole by Ludvigsen-utvalget) are being influenced by this new approach to learning and education. We are seeing a re-evaluation of necessary life skills – from consuming and reproducing to producing, evaluating and navigating.

Teachers and teaching in the future

Teachers will still play an essential role in the future. They will take part in, and maybe take the lead in mobile learning and instructional design. Pedagogy, motivation theories, psychology and insights in modern and alternative teaching strategies will be important.

I am very excited about the possibilities regarding assessment. Some of the huge benefits will be:

  • the assessment will be seamless and instant
  • it will also provide suggestions to the road ahead.
  • the shift from summative to formative assessment is important!


There will of course be some challenges:

  • Privacy – this is always an issue, but it’s especially important when working with children. How will modern systems protect the privacy of the pupils, but at the same time offer personal and ubiquitous learning?
  • Fragmentation of learning. What happens when we learn different things at a different pace in different places? Will something disappear along the way?
  • What integrations/mash-ups of devices/platforms would more effectively support social learning distributed across time, space and media? Will we ever get there?
  • Ubiquitous learning – Is that only a positive development, or can it cause stress amongst the pupils and students?

References and inspiration

Inayatullah, S. (2008). Six pillars: Futures thinking for transforming. Foresight, 10(1), 4–21.

Woolf, B. P. (2010). A Roadmap for Education Technology, (Ccc), 80. Hentet fra Roadmap for Education Technology Final Report.pdf

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