Student with DeLorean Time Machine

Written by on January 16, 2015

Learning to imagine the future with Bryan Alexander

Thinking about the future can be difficult. How do we know what is going to happen? How do we know what the future holds for education and technology? How do we know what our lives will be like 20 years from now?

Bryan Alexander, futurist, researcher, writer, speaker, consultant, and teacher, shared a few ways we can predict the future in our Science Cafe workshop, “How to Be a Futurist” on January 13.

His visit was heralded by Doc Brown’s Time Machine, which was parked out front preceding the event (pictured above). It is 2015 after all!

Sci Fi

One way to predict the future is to read and watch science fiction. “If you are not reading science fiction, you are not prepared for the 21st century,” Bryan said. Many fans in the audience agreed.

Another huge way to help us predict the future is to look at the present. By looking at current trends, we can predict how that will affect us in the future, Bryan said. With that kind of thinking in mind, here are a few trends in education and technology that will help us guess the future:

Education trends

  • Reform movements: The pressure to reform education is not a new topic. However, this pressure to reform will have a big impact on the future of education.
  • Rising student debt: About 2/3 of college students graduate with debt, Bryan said. This trend is new, especially considering that going to college 20 years ago was not so expensive.
  • Alternative certification and badges: Degrees may be less critical as new ways to demonstrate learning emerge.
  • Demographics of people in education: The demographics of people in school is changing. The youth population is shrinking, and for the first time ever we have about the same amount of people over 50 that we do children (usually children out number people over 50). Students are also becoming more diverse.

Technology trends

  • Rise of stacks: It’s becoming more popular to integrate all of your personal technology. For example, you can sync your iPhone, iPad and Mac computer together so that they become one big “stack” of information. You can respond to a text message that you get on your iPhone by using your iPad.
  • Post-Snowden privacy concerns: People are becoming more aware of privacy concerns when it comes to having an online personality. Some people are completely open about their privacy while others want to remain as private as possible.
  • Digitization: Digitization has been going  on since the 1960s, Bryan said. And because of that, we have access to so much information online.

Our predictions for the future of the library

Creating prototypes for the future of Kennedy Library.

Creating prototypes for the future of Kennedy Library.

Towards the end of Cal Poly Science Cafe, Bryan asked us to create prototypes of what we think the library will look like in the year 2025. Taking the education and technology trends into account, we used pipe cleaners and Legos to make our prototypes and artifacts. There were some really creative ideas!

One person created a “sleep pod” that students could use to nap between classes. Another imagined the library as a completely outdoor space, even with 3-D printers. Another person predicted that education and movement would overlap more. She imagined a library with treadmills and other exercise machines integrated into learning.

The hands-on experience really got us all thinking about wild possibilities… or are they so wild?

A "pet pod" that will have dog or cat inside that can roam around the library, relieving stressed out students.

A “pet pod” that will have dog or cat inside that can roam around the library, relieving stressed-out students.

Part of strategic planning

During his two-day visit to Cal Poly, Bryan also met with library and campus faculty, staff, students and administrators to help the library plan for a future that best serves Cal Poly. Read more about the library’s strategic planning process, and how it fits in with Cal Poly’s master and strategic plan on our website.

Read more on bryan alexander, Cal Poly Science Café, futurist, kennedy library, science cafe, and strategic planning.

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