Houston 2035 Predictions: Education
GEORGE L. McLENDON, PH.D.
Howard R. Hughes Provost, Professor of Chemistry
In 2035—and this is happening right this minute—the things you learn won’t be information; they’ll be processes. The learning materials of the future, let’s call them books, are not going to be simply digital the way that they are if you order a book from Amazon and download it to your Kindle. Instead, your book will be unique to you—it will be completely tailored to individual preferences and learning styles but with defined outcomes. We might have the same textbook, but your textbook and mine won’t look the same at all. There are some precursors to that. If you do a key word search on your device, whether it’s a phone or a computer, you will not get the same hits as someone else. It’s learned what we’re most interested in and is delivering customized content, and all learning is going to start to working more and more like that. You need to end up at the same place in terms of mastery of the material, but how you get there will not be the same anymore.
Experiential learning and process is going to replace content learning to a substantial degree. You won’t have people talking at you. Instead, you’ll be working together in groups trying to solve some relevant, real-world problem. That’s going to be very different, as will the way that we credentialize things—you’ll be building portfolios instead of earning grades.
K through 12 is not going to be the way to think about things—instead, it’ll be K through R.I.P. A big reason for that is that people aspired, 20 years ago, to a job within some larger entity, often as a lifetime experience. Today and in the future, you don’t even aspire to more than one job—you probably aspire to more than one career where your absolute career goals may change midstream. Living in a multi-career world means that you’re going to have to constantly refresh your learning, in major ways. If you move from being a chemistry professor to being an entrepreneur, those are very different skill sets. You’re going to have to learn how to make that transition from one to another in order to be successful in these serial careers.