Summer Academy Explores Foresight Education

dsc_3451 Before classes resume for each new academic year, the Ross School faculty reconvenes for Ross Institute Summer Academy, three weeks of professional development that offer teachers a time to reflect on the school’s curricular theme of the year as well as explore new education initiatives. This year’s theme, Foresight Education, is a response to the rapid transformations across the world and the new demands these transformations place on our classrooms and our communities. During Founder’s Week—the traditional period when faculty hear from scholars, experts, and practitioners and focus intently on the academy’s theme—the work of some of the most influential minds in education and technology formed the basis for collaborative discussions on how to better integrate future thinking into each domain represented in the Spiral Curriculum.

The week’s presentations provided a comprehensive view of the changing face of education and the role of Ross School in creating future leaders. Founder Courtney Sale Ross spoke about the school’s history and how she envisioned its future. Dr. William Irwin Thompson, a founding mentor of Ross School, addressed cultural evolution and its impact on the future of consciousness.

dsc_3784Charles Fadel, founder and chairman of the Center for Curriculum Redesign, gave a thought-provoking talk about why today’s education model may not be adequately preparing students for the future, while award-winning economist Jeremy Rifkin explored how today’s shared economy is reshaping education to prepare current and future generations for an informed and digitally interconnected world.

Ben Fry, principal of Boston-based design consultancy Fathom, built upon this idea by presenting examples of collaborative data projects that Fathom produced—National Geographic’s interactive website showing how human consumption patterns have changed over the last 50 years, and a visual comparison of Darwin’s changes to The Origin of Species over six editions.

dsc_4055American inventor Danny Hillis closed the week with an inspiring presentation devoted to the origins of his work: a book recommended by his elementary school librarian that ultimately led to his interest in science and engineering. His speech, during which he shared video of the construction of his life’s work—a 10,000-year clock—was a reminder of the impact educators can have on the lives of their students.

At the end of RI Summer Academy, faculty members drew on these inspiring speakers as they planned for the year ahead, with special attention to incorporating the ways our culture is changing as we approach the future.