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The future focussed issues project

June 23rd, 2009

Josie Roberts and I are beginning a new research project called “Future focussed issues in New Zealand education”, or FFI project for short. We’d like to use shiftingthinking as a forum for developing and sharing some of our thinking as we get into the work of this research. If you’d like to be part of this thinking (or at least take a peek at where our thinking is going), please read on!

The backstory to the FFI project lies partly in previous contract research work in two areas of “future focus”: education for sustainability, and education for enterprise. If you’re familiar with the New Zealand Curriculum, you might recognise sustainability and enterprise as two of the four “future focussed issues” mentioned in the section on Principles for New Zealand curriculum. (The other two FFIs are globalisation and citizenship).

Original drawing (c) Josie Roberts 2009

Original drawing (c) Josie Roberts 2009

Although some work has been done to support futures thinking in New Zealand education (for example, Secondary Futures), our experience suggests that many people within the education sector still have reasonably limited familiarity with the idea of futures thinking in general, and of these four particular FFIs in the New Zealand Curriculum in particular. We think there is something very important in these ideas, and we want to spend some time exploring them, looking at the relationships between them, and researching their relevance to (or possible contribution to transformation of) curriculum, teaching, learning, schooling, and communities.

As educational researchers we spend a lot of our time looking at what is happening within the formal education sector. But lately we’ve become interested in looking at pockets of innovative thinking and development that are occurring on the margins of the formal education sector, and in the spaces where education intersects with other sectors. We want to explore these pockets of thinking and innovation to see whether they could provide us with new insights that might also speak to audiences within the formal education sector.

One of our initial aims is to look for examples of what we’re loosely labelling “self-generating networks for knowledge building, learning, and change”. We are interested in how such networks form around the future focussed issues in both formal and non-formal education, with particular emphasis on how new knowledge is generated in these networks, and in connection with learning beyond school (i.e. with business, communities, youth groups, web-based social networks, etc). (We’re working with a few groups and networks as mini-case studies, but we won’t be talking about them here unless we have permission from the people and groups involved)

At the same time as we are working with these people/groups/networks, we are also reading as much as we can to help braid together our own understanding of what we mean by a “self-generating network for knowledge building, learning, and change”. Over the next few months we are going to try to post blogs about what we’re reading and what we’re thinking. If you want to follow this thread, look for blogpostings that start with “FFI”.

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  1. | #1

    Here’s a clever little youtube clip that I’ve just picked up via a twitter follower, @chriswinchester, who in turn found it on the Virtual Learning Network. It’s called “The Lost Generation” and, I think, a lovely call to action regarding futures thinking.

  2. | #2

    Maurice’s questions about the genealogy and contexts of futures focussed thinking has given me the motivation to go back to some previous work that I and others at NZCER did in this area for Secondary Futures, and to dig a little further. I have now put some of these historical and theoretical threads together on a new theory page and I look forward to further conversation!

  3. | #3

    Hey Maurice – Great question. Futures thinking is a “thing”, as in it does have a specific history, a literature associated with it, and arose for particular purposes (and has been used in particular ways). I am going to nudge Josie Roberts to write more about this as she’s worked more in this area than I have.
    BUT – to share an anecdote – Last year I was sitting next to Morgan Williams, former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment – who pointed out rather incredulously that these aren’t future issues, they are today’s issues.
    It reminded me of my own tendency of treating “the future” as somewhere to put things that I don’t want to deal with right now. I keep a small book of life lessons where I write down things I have learned that I sometimes need to be reminded of. One of these things is that “the future happens”. It seems pretty obvious, but I think at some level we do tend to treat the future as a place to chuck all the stuff we don’t want to deal with, as if it’s a closet that you can pack full of junk and pretend like it has disappeared….
    I haven’t seen that documentary yet, thanks! Keep reading and posting comments and questions, it’s really great to receive your feedback!

  4. Maurice
    | #4

    Hi again Rachel

    what is the whakapapa of future-focused thinking?
    where does it come from?
    what was the context within which this phrase resonated?
    where do we expect it to develop?

    To what extent do we now accept the notion that, as Murray Schafer said:
    We aren’t born human beings. We learn to be a human being“?

    Have you watched Home – the documentary about us and our impact on our planet? It finishes with a degree of hope, but I wonder how much we collectively and individually have the strength to keep this in our daily consciousness …

    Anyway, as we say at school: “the learning is in the dialogue“. :-)

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