Member Post: Who Taught the Future in 2016? By Katie King

The following is a member post written by Katie King and originally posted on the Teach the Future blog. Teach the Future believes that students of any age can learn to think critically and creatively about the future and develop the agency to influence it. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of the APF. 

Last month, we sent out a survey to everyone who downloaded materials from Teach the Future’s library last year. We wanted to understand what worked for these earliest adopters and what we can do better in the future. The respondents were split about 50/50 between higher education and K-12, and about two-thirds of them were teachers or instructors.

Grade: A-

What did we learn from them? Let’s start with the good news:

  • About two-thirds of respondents said they were “extremely” or “very” satisfied with the material they downloaded. No one said they were unsatisfied.
  • Ninety percent of respondents said they were likely to use the material again or teach other lessons about the future.

Those data points are uplifting, but they only represent those respondents who had used the materials they downloaded. About half of respondents had downloaded but not yet used the material with their students. We also learned that nearly half of those who had used the materials said they modified them “moderately” or “significantly.”

Neither of those points was surprising. Nor did we feel that they reflected poorly on Teach the Future. I can confirm that when I was in the classroom, I downloaded many materials that I found interesting but never got around to using. I also very rarely used online materials “as-is”; my students and teaching style were my own, and my lessons and units needed to reflect them.

Lessons learned

Nonetheless, those responses reflect a need. Most educators we come across “get” why teaching the future could be valuable. They find the concept intriguing and recognize the disservice we’re doing to young people by omitting the future from classrooms. Still, few teachers make the leap to actually teach the future. That’s partly due to time constraints, which we will never overcome, but it’s also because teachers themselves were never trained to think this way nor to introduce these concepts to their students.

So, we’re focusing in 2017 on teacher professional development and support which has always been part of our plan. In fact, we individually supported several teachers last year. But we are buckling down on that effort this year with the hope that we can make educators more comfortable with the concepts and the material to the point that they don’t need us or even our Library anymore. We envision a community of educators who can incorporate futures thinking into any subject and are committed to doing so.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey. If you know of a school or group of educators who want to learn how to teach the future, or if you want to sponsor educators to participate in this professional development, get in touch.

Watch Katie in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjpfNjwZh-s.