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Futures Thinking

Futures Thinking
Dr. Edna Hussey

I spent the last week in the good company of educators immersed in discussion, writing, and reflection at the Deeper Learning 2024 conference at High Tech High in San Diego. Unlike typical conferences structured around keynote speakers and hour-long sessions, this conference is structured in workshops and full-day “deep dives.” There’s no escaping talking to and meeting others, and participation is expected. Here collaboration and communication are just some of the essential competencies that are meaningfully practiced. A unique learning experience where you leave with questions, not answers, to ponder because that’s what deeper learning creates. An insatiable appetite for learning.

One very important reality is that learning is not contained in a classroom space and cannot be isolated from the exigencies of socio-political-economic issues, culture, environment, and our own histories and experiences. Children do not come to school just to decode printed text (read), learn to write, manipulate numbers, or follow a sequence of procedures. We teach our students how to develop the mindset and the skills in social and academic situations to think critically, to collaborate, to value and respect differences, to persevere, to be empathetic and compassionate persons.

“Future” sounds obscure, abstract, so distant from the present that we think we can put off what we should do today. In the context of environment and climate, the alarm raised thirty or more years ago about the future impact of fuel emissions and global warming? That future is here today. Or the risk to Oʻahu’s water sources voiced more than ten years ago in relation to the oil leakage in storage tanks at Red Hill? Today there are many military families suffering long-term effects of oil-tainted water they drank for years. The challenge for us in education is how to motivate and inspire our students to understand the warning signs today so that they can make decisions to change a probable future.

Parents talk about their childʻs future. Some parents might even plan their childʻs future. After Mid-Pacific, it’s a certain college or university and then a career, and only certain careers. Itʻs a one-way highway with no exits. Instead, let’s consider the idea that children have not a future but futures ahead of them. They should be the designers of their own life, with opportunities and choices — futures — for them to consider.

I’ve written often about the concept of deeper learning, and you’ve read teacher blogs where the concept is manifested in an inquiry approach. This approach begins in our Reggio-inspired preschool and continues through the elementary. My own inquiry at the conference was on learning about the future of education and the possibilities we might be heading into based on the current realities of teaching and learning. Reinforced for me was the reason why I chose education and an even stronger sense of responsibility that my colleagues and I must have in guiding generations of students into their futures. E Kūlia Kākou! Letʻs strive and aspire together!

E Kūlia Kākou! Let’s strive and aspire together!

For our children,

Edna L. Hussey, Ed.D.

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