When I finished high school, I worked at Flaherty Manufacturing Company. Most days, I stood all day at a rivet machine, attaching latches to bright red toolboxes. Some days, I was called downstairs and given gloves, and then my job was to pull these bright green garden hose holders off the paint line. In the beginning, no one spoke to me. What’s worse, the woman on the next machine would growl at me a couple of times a day. I couldn’t figure it out! And then I caught on. There were scheduled breaks and a lunch, but there was also a steady stream of washroom breaks in between. When I eventually discovered that the nod was my queue to go to the bathroom, the growling stopped. I fit in, and thus ended the only challenge to six weeks of pure monotony.
That scenario is not the future, and fortunately, very few Canadian students will ever experience such regimented and dull days. But can we predict anything else with such certainty? When you consider that Google changes its search algorithm around 500–600 times per year, I would say there is very little that we can predict.
But in the past few months, I have been in Boston, New York, Toronto, and San Francisco, and I have four images that may reveal the future:
1. At Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco, I saw my first all-gender washroom, and last month, Toronto District School board announced that every school will install one in the coming years. We have gathered the latest in transgender resources for CAIS schools, and I believe that all schools have work to do to better support today’s students.
How are we ensuring our schools are affirming, safe and inclusive for all students?
2. At the Minerva headquarters, I joined a team from SAC and GOA (Global Online Academy) for a presentation on this new university. Their platform ensures that students engage in deep learning with the most intentional feedback system I have ever seen. The program is a combination of online and experiential learning in 7 countries over 4 years, with a tuition of $10,000 per year. In this screenshot, you see how professors can track students’ participation with the colour coding at the top of the screen. This, my friends, is the future of learning.
What blended opportunities can CAIS schools provide to all students?
3. At Ryerson University’s DMZ, the largest community of innovation startups exists in Google’s original office space (check out these cool office photos). DMZ stands for Digital Media Zone and students and entrepreneurs collaborate on projects of their choosing and pitch their ideas to investors. The future of work is not in a factory where you punch in and out; the future of work does not even guarantee you a weekly income.
How are we developing passion-projects and preparing students for the new reality of unpredictable work?
4. From my home, I work with a team of colleagues and volunteers, and we all meet by video conferencing. This last image is a screen shot of our recent Research Committee meeting by zoom. (I love zoom’s recent ad.) When you work from home, you really need to rethink work, time and work-life balance. When I heard Arianna Huffington in New York, I bought our whole CAIS team a copy of Thrive, her book about redefining success and creating a life of well-being, wisdom and wonder.
How are we challenging students to define success as more than money and power so they passionately pursue healthy and meaningful lives, beyond their work?
Now I recognize that it is pretentious to predict the future, and, like a good Canadian, I want to apologize. But it is so exciting to see what’s happening, and I believe our schools have a responsibility to really think deeply about the future of the professional and personal lives of our students.
My hope is that these images – and questions – contribute to the ongoing conversations.