Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

World Future Society Conference 2010

This is the 3rd year I’ve attended the WFS Conference and it’s a difficult event to describe.  You might imagine a collection of Nostradamus-like individuals, making predictions about the future, and I’ll admit it; this conference does have a larger proportion of older, bearded men than most conferences I attend.  However, the vast majority of attendees are completely serious professionals who are in the business of making informed predictions and hedging bets against uncertainty.  All of us participate in futuring – at least all of us that have ever made a budget or participated in some kind of strategic planning. The difference between your futuring and the futuring that these folks do is that they’ve gone the extra mile to learn the tools of long-term foresight planning.

What follows are the snippets of wisdom (mostly from tweets) that I collected at this year’s WFS Conference.

WFS: Scenario Building Workshop (Adam Gordon, @FutureSavvy)

Scenario planning is used when your institution is not governed by “well-behaved change.”  The idea is not to make a single prediction about what will happen in the future, but to explore the options, looking for commonalities in the cone of plausibility.

  • If you’d like to see the slides from the Scenario Planning workshop, here’s a link to a 2008 version of Adam Gordon’s presentation.
  • Well-behaved change happens in predictable environments: information rich, not prone to technology upheavals, well-established markets, stable players, high barriers to entry, a stable regulatory environment, consistent demand, or no great social pressures.
  • Badly behaved change: uncertain technology evolution, uncertain demand for products/services, uncertain performance of new business models, unstable macro-economic conditions (inflation, interest rates), shifting values, shifting morals, shifting preferences, shifting regulations.
  • Scenario planning is NOT determining the most likely outcome & planning for it, it IS assuming every important outcome might occur, and planning the best business options for each case.

WFS: Education Summit

I have hopes for what the WFS Education Summit could be … but it’s not there yet.  The problem is that the Education Summit is a mix of K-12/Higher Ed folks with no clear direction about whether the discussion is about teaching futuring skills or predicting the future of education and technology related to education.  Personally, I think that many conferences look at the “edge of learning” – what’s going to happen.  The specialty at the WFS Conference should be on linking educators who teach aspects of futuring skills in their educational programs.

With that in mind, here are some resources and links about Foresight/Futuring Education that might be helpful to you or your college:

If what you are looking for is really how to prepare graduates FOR the future, or introduce skills that will withstand the rapidly-shifting job market of the future, then you might find these links helpful:

WFS: Humans 2020 (Ramez Naam, @ramez)

  • Presentation on Humans in 2020 by @ramez can be found here.
  • It is acceptable in society to bring someone who is below the human baseline up to the baseline.  It is societally unacceptable to take someone AT (or above) the human baseline of intelligence and enhance it further.
  • It is considered socially acceptable to use medical intervention to improve lower cognitive abilities or to combat loss of cognitive function (especially as you age).
  • The same biological discoveries that cure disease are also the ones that can enhance humans. Power to heal = power to enhance.
  • Our genome is basically digital – it encodes us with a finite number of “bits” (ATCG). A gene sequencing facility looks like a server farm for a data center.
  • How much of who you are is coded by your genes? See slide #39.  [really, you should go look, it's shocking!]
  • Wouldn’t it suck if your parents make genetic decisions for you (code you for an artist) … but then you’re bitter your whole life.
  • Prediction: Parents WILL readily opt to do genetic manipulation to remove diseases.
  • Shuddering at the thought of a virus to carry genetic modification in adults. At the same time, if I can have a faster metabolism …

WFS: Internet Evolution (@Pew_Internet)

  • Two-thirds of adults are now using the cloud for something in their life. 61% of those adults are on social networks.
  • Bandwidth doubles every 2 years, but I would argue that it only doubles for those that already have it. The haves/have not gap widens.
  • Bumper stickers about the future of the Internet: The cloud is the 3rd phase of the Internet. -Mike Nelson [would love the rest of these, but I couldn't catch them fast enough and there were no slides or visuals to make it easier]
  • Nelson recommends reading “Let IT rise” from the Economist (subscription required).  You can get part of “Let IT rise” (Economist article) free here.
  • The cloud is going to be the platform that enables the Internet of things.  We will have 100s of net-connected devices. -Mike Nelson [... once again, what about the population that lacks broadband internet?]
  • Most of this presentation was simply results published on the Pew Research Center website (they have an RSS feed if you click on Subscribe in the upper right-hand corner). If you’ve never read their reports, you should start.

WFS: Building the Human Mind (Ray Kurzweil)

  • Note: You’ve probably seen Ray Kurzweil on TED Talks: How Technology Will Transform Us.  If not, go watch that, this was a more up-to-date version of that talk.
  • Whether you agree with the coming singularity or not, the research is certainly interesting.  If you go to KurzweilAI you can subscribe to receive all the links to the latest scientific research that support the eventual interface between humans and technology.  Prepare for the singularitweets. ;)  #
  • So many mentions of the exponential curves of invention … it’s so nice to hear in a presentation when you teach math. #wf10 # As a matter of fact, you could easily play a game of “Math Bingo” where you count the number of times the words exponential, log-log plots, or linear are used in a Kurzweil presentation.
  • How long do you go without updating the software you use? But we haven’t updated our genes in 1000 years.
  • “If this is all going to happen anyways, why don’t we sit back, party and let it happen .. because of course, then it WON’T happen.”
  • “The tools of disruptive change, in every field, are in everybody’s hands … FB, Google, all started by couple kids with laptops.”
  • Very cool animation on “The Law of Accelerating Returns” that takes us through history of technology. Wonder if it’s on the web? Anyone know?
  • Kurzweil is using a slide deck, but many of the slides are a mix of static images with an CG animation. Seamless and very cool. However, I’m not sure if the animations are distracting … do I stop listening when there’s an animation to watch? Hmmm.
  • I wonder if Kurzweil has a graph of the average amount of information we have to process as adults in each decade of human existence.
  • “Ignoring exponential progression would be a mistake [speaking about photovoltaic technologies]
  • In 15 years, according to models, we will be adding 1 year of life expectancy every year.
  • Kurzweil slides at and in a truly old-fashioned way, they will DOWNLOAD to your computer when you go there instead of bringing you to a site where they just play.  They wouldn’t OPEN on my computer, but I can confirm that they did download.

WFS: Levers of Change in Higher Education (Maria H. Andersen, @busynessgirl)

Thanks WFS staff for letting me do a fill-in presentation for a cancelled session. I am grateful for the opportunity to reach a wider audience!

WFS: The Future of Men and Women (Karen Moloney)

  • Housework is feminism’s final frontier. Very unequal distribution in the U.S.
  • Thought experiment: What would happen if there was a sex-specific pandemic?
  • Note: I’m not sure how much information I got from the talk, but it was well-designed and entertaining.  Plus I got a book suggestion to get the information I want. :)

WFS: Future of Faith: Conflict or Creativity (panel)

  • Cosmodeism: Evolution of the cosmos creates God- not God created the cosmos-that’s the proposition advanced by Tsvi Bisk (who made me flashback to sermons I listened to in my youth).
  • Some of the graphs about religion are available at AtlasOfGlobalChristianity (go to sample pages). They are great and I wonder if they’ve considered putting the data through Gapminder?  I think all libraries should buy this book – it is a great resource, but mere mortals? It might be out of our price range.
  • Did the influence of television shift the culture of religion? Good question. We’ll have to include this in our themed studies this fall.
  • Really enjoyed Rex Miller’s part of the Future of Faith talk, where he discussed the four “Ages” of religion: Oral, Print, Broadcast, and Digital [good speaker and presentation, would recommend]
  • How will religious groups get things done in the future? For 500 years we’ve relied on the institutional structure to get things done. The new “institution” is collaboration. The adaptive challenge will be dealing with the loss of the “institution”
  • Thought: Professional organizations are built around physical institutions (at least physical conferences) What does this shift mean for them?

WFS: Future of Academia (Bryan Alexander)

  • Unfortunately, I have no tweets from this talk, which was great.  I lent my WiFi to Bryan and didn’t want to burden the signal by using it myself.
  • Five Visions for Liberal Arts Campus (Scnearios) – which is a great thought experiment for those of you planning for the future of Higher Education (the prezi is here)
  • NITLE Predictions Market

Books, etc.

Just for Fun (other suggestions)


The thing that makes the WFS conference so unique is that you are interacting with people from all over the world and from all sorts of different disciplines and professions.  In the same room at any presentation there are educators, military personnel, scientists, technology experts, authors, press representatives, students, business leaders, religious leaders, and of course, professional futurists.  The space between presentations is roomy (usually 30 minutes or more) and the conversations that you find yourself wandering in to are incredibly stimulating.  This year, I had several conversations that will push me to do even more reading and video watching (especially at the Acceleration Studies Foundation (ASF) Archive … not even sure how to BEGIN here).

Final Thoughts

I attended three game design conferences this year, and the presenters are starting to have this tradition of making the second slide the games they’ve been playing recently.  In all seriousness, at WFS, I think the second slide should be the Science Fiction you’ve been reading recently.   After my experiences last year at WFS 2009, I wasn’t sure I would come back – the conversations and networking had been great, but the presentations in the general conference were mostly “misses.”  However, at WFS 2010, most of the presentations I attended were “hits” so I’m thinking that I’ll probably find a way to attend (and hopefully present) at WFS in Vancouver, July 8-10  in 2011.

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The Cohort Effect: Coming of Age in Academia

The non-italicized portions below are excerpted from portions of my dissertation-in-progress.  Just so we’re clear, the quoted material in this post is strictly copyrighted (not licensed under the CC for the rest of the blog).

There is little doubt that self-experience influences beliefs (Nespor, 1987 and Goodman, 1988 as cited by Pajares, 1992). Instructors’ self-experience regarding educational practice comes first from their own experiences as a student (e.g. how they experienced instruction from a students persepective), and second, from their experiences as a practitioner in the classroom (e.g. the outcomes they observed as a result of their instruction). Early experiences tend to form beliefs that are highly resistant to change (Pajares, 1992). These beliefs are so strong that people will go out of their way to avoid confronting contrary evidence or engage in discussion that might harm these beliefs (Pajares, 1992). Instructors may present particularly resilient educational beliefs they spent years experiencing the system of education and likely, and most had positive identification with education to be motivated to pursue a career in it (Pajares, 1992; Ginsburg and Newman, 1985).

There is some natural resistance to change as a result of the human aging process, but there is also evidence that the greatest resistance to change in academia seems to come from cohort effects (Lawrence & Blackburn, 1985). In the cohort effect, new propositions may be in conflict with the longstanding core beliefs of an individual, which formed during the time that they came of age in academia. Faculty careers are best explained by the cohort model – that is, “…professors who complete their graduate work and achieve tenure during the same historical era are enculturated with a particular set of values that remain constant over time” (Lawrence & Blackburn, 1985, p. 137). Further evidence of this can be found in the 2004-2005 HERI Faculty Survey, which found that there were considerable differences in the use of student-centered instruction versus teacher centered instruction across the different faculty career stages (see figure below). Early-career faculty were more likely to use a variety of student-centered instructional practices (i.e. group projects, student presentations, reflective writing) and advanced-career faculty were more likely to use extensive lecturing (Lindholm et al., 2005).


Recognizing that an instructor is most likely to change during the time they “come of age” in academia, many faculty development programs target brand-new faculty.  What follows are descriptions of two of the math-specific programs that are aimed at new faculty.

Project NeXT and Project ACCCESS are professional development programs, sponsored by MAA and AMATYC respectively, that focus on brand-new college math faculty. Project NeXT (New Experiences in Teaching) is for new or recent Ph.D.s and provides training on, among other things, improving the teaching and learning of mathematics (LaRose, 2009). Project ACCCESS (Advancing Community College Careers: Education, Scholarship, Service) is a mentoring and professional development initiative that was conceived originally as a version of Project NeXT for community college faculty. ACCCESS is now wholly administered by AMATYC, and its mission is “to provide experiences that will help new faculty become more effective teachers and active members of the broader mathematical community.” (Project ACCCESS website, 2009).

So, let’s be clear here.  I don’t think we use the cohort effect as an argument to give up on mid- and advanced-career faculty.  But given the cohort effect, it may be necessary to give experienced faculty an intense and lengthy experience that causes them to “come of age” again in academia.  For example, many participants in our week-long Math & Technology workshop have told us that they had forgotten what it was truly like to be in the student role.  After a week of being confronted with lots of new technology and experiencing learning in new (and much more active) ways, these faculty tell us they have fresh perspective on teaching and learning.  Will that translate into more student-centered instructional practices?  I have no idea.  But I’d like to see AMATYC and MAA create a professional development program for a cohort of experienced faculty every year, using the model already established for Project NeXT and ACCCESS.

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Adopt AND Adapt

Sometimes, I see new technology being integrated into the classroom, but the instructor is not really harnessing the power of the new technology.

Instructor A (adopts, but does not adapt): Began their math career writing out math problems using chalk on a chalkboard … then black markers on a whiteboard … they switch to writing out problems in black & white on an overhead projector … then later type the same problems in a powerpoint presentation (now all their text is in yellow) … and later later still they write out the same problems on a tablet PC.

Instructor B (adopts and adapts): Began writing problems on a chalkboard, immediately bought some colored chalk. Upgraded to a whiteboard … began projecting graphing grids, tables, and theorems onto the whiteboard, adding annotation in markers directly on the whiteboard space. Later integrated the chapter content into Powerpoints that included animations, and focused on using Powerpoint for the material written word for word in the textbook (like theorems), to free up class time for group work. How will this instructor adapt their content for a Tablet PC?

Personally, I always hope to be in the Adopt & Adapt category, however successfully I can do that. I did actually begin my teaching career in classrooms with old-fashioned chalkboards.

Now I have a tablet PC, so I’m rethinking the way that I “present” content again. What kinds of things can a tablet do that I didn’t have the capability to do before? I’ve been using it in the classroom for a week now… here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1) In Windows Journal (or any of the “tablet” programs I’m guessing) you have the ability to highlight using a variety of colors. I’ve always used underlining and circling in colors, but with the color highlighting , the substitutions simply “pop” out of the integrals. Here’s a video example of color highlighting using several comparison integrals using secant and tangent. Integration by parts using the color highlighting was WONDERFUL! And even my algebra class agreed that they understood the factor reduction in rational expressions better with each set of factors highlighted in a different color.

2) I am recording the example problems for my online class “live” during the on-campus class. Really the two courses live in a blended environment this semester, sharing their LMS space, online homework system, and message boards, so it seems appropriate to bring them together in the video lessons too. So I took a leap of faith last Tuesday, and projected the tablet screen on the whiteboard behind me, set up a headset, and recorded problems that we did in class using Camtasia. I made sure to repeat questions that on-campus students asked, and repeated their answers when they provided them, so that the online students would benefit from the conversation. Here’s an example from my algebra class “live” on factoring the sum or difference of cubes … and here’s my first “live” recording from my Calc II class … our first problem on integration by parts.

Technical notes: I stopped recording and saved between examples (worried about computer crashes). During the slight lag time between examples, I had students begin thinking about the strategy for the next problem. One of the reasons I recorded each problem separately was that I wanted them to post as separate links in the LMS… see picture below of live links.

Then I realized that I could use markers in Camtasia to place “bookmarks” in my recordings of the places that I wanted to split up the files for production. Now I’m up to 3-4 examples in each recording without getting nervous. There is a 5-minute training video on markers in the Visual Lounge on the TechSmith website.

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College Learning Spaces

One of the pictures from this Inspired Classroom Wiki got me thinking about our college learning spaces.

I’d be willing to bet that at least 80% of college classrooms in the U.S. are set up for the “sage of the stage” model of learning. How can you create a new learning environment when the classroom setting is fixed? For example, next semester I am teaching an algebra class in a room with one whiteboard. I have been teaching algebra in a room with whiteboards on three walls for several years now. My whole teaching style in the classroom now revolves around having multiple whiteboards so that the entire class can stand up and work on the boards in pairs (see my Innovations Abstract article Back to the Board).

But now, I am back to a bare bones classroom. Actually, the situation was worse, because the first classroom I was assigned to had nothing but a whiteboard and old-fashioned overhead projector. I had to go scouting for an available classroom with a computer cart and Internet access, and the only way to secure that was to split my class into two classrooms (one on Mon/Wed and a different one on Tues/Thurs – my department secreatary says there’s no way that I’ll remember which classroom to go to on any given day and she’s probably right).

If pedagogy depends on the environment, then what do we do if we have no control over the environment?

I never like to pose a problem without thinking about a solution, and I have an idea about how to fix the problem, but it’s very slow in being implemented. When instructors make their schedules for a semester, they should also be able to indicate the type of classroom they require for the learning environment they hope to create. Here’s an outline of what has to happen to get the end result:

1) Someone on the campus (maybe a team of faculty, facilities staff, and OIT) has to create a coded list of learning environments, maybe something like this:

B: Basic – Overhead Projector and Whiteboard
S: Sink station (chemistry classrooms)
T: Technology – computer cart, DVD player, internet connection, ceiling projector

D: A discussion environment (classroom set up for group work)
W: Extra whiteboards
AT: Advanced Technology – smartboard or mimio in addition to standard technology
CL-1: Computer Lab – Windows XP
CL-2: Computer Lab – Macs
CL-3: Computer Lab – Windows Vista
RC-###: Reserved Classroom – some courses require very specific spaces, like our physics lab. In this case, the room cannot be substituted, so you might request RC-134 to indicate you must be placed in room 134.

2) All the classrooms on campus have to be classified using the coding system. Note that a classroom may have more than one code!

3) In the scheduling system, there must be a field added to request specific classroom types, comma delimited for multiple codes (I would ask for T, W at the very least, and T,W,AT if they were available).

4) When classes are scheduled, the person responsible for this function would have to start by scheduling the classrooms in the most limited supply first (probably AT or S). Then move down the list so that B classrooms are scheduled last.

In the process, when your campus reaches #4, you would quickly see if there is a gap between the learning spaces that are desired and the learning spaces that exist on campus. I suspect that a lot of classroom space is not optimally utilized as there are always instructors who wished that they had a classroom with more technology, and other instructors who are in classrooms with amazing technology who teach only with the whiteboard. Potentially this could be a cost-saving process; your campus may not have to convert EVERY classroom on campus to a technology-enriched classroom.

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Motivating math faculty to adopt new technologies

Well, I’d like to say I know exactly how to do this, but I’m still researching the theory behind this one and experimenting a bit myself.
I would like to send you to a recent issue of the Educause Review called “Back to School: It’s All About the Faculty” This issue contains several articles about the difficulty of getting faculty to adopt technology in their teaching and the challenges faced by faculty who try to learn new technologies.

There are three articles that I’d recommend reading here:


  • My Computer Romance (Campbell, G., 2007) is a meandering story about how the author finally “fell in love” with technology. What I found to ring true about this one was his idea that for every faculty member, there is some “hook” that will get them to finally bring technology into their classroom and use it in their teaching. The real trick is finding the requisite hook, and everyone will have a different one.



  • Faculty 2.0 (Hartman, J. L., Dziuban, C., and Brophy-Ellison, J., 2007) outlines the impact of technology on faculty in particular.


All of the articles are available free as pdf files. So… curl up in your favorite comfy chair with your laptop (or old-fashioned printout) and do some reading!

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