TALK OF TOMORROW | by Ted Fujimoto

Imagine how kids might be learning 100 years from now. This exercise is not easy. To put this in perspective, 40 years ago, consumers didn’t have cell phones, smart phones, personal computers, internet, social networking, digital cameras, email, GPS, tablets, laptops, Skype, YouTube—and the list goes on and on. In fact, many of these items came into existence just in the past 10 years. It’s hard to imagine living today without these technologies. It’s also quite amazing how much these technologies have changed how we live our lives and society. I look back on my own experience hearing about the “world wide web” or about “Facebook” or “Twitter” and how long it took for me to understand what it was, why would anyone care, and why I would even care. Projecting what learning could look like 100 years from now will, in hindsight, probably be ridiculous—like flying cars that we were supposed to have in 2000—but it’s worth the exercise to stretch the imagination and dream! Here are some possibilities for a high school and college student:

1. No such thing as plagiarism in learning. All knowledge is open source—anyone can use and copy it. What students are evaluated on is being able to come up with the right solution to a problem in the most efficient way using all tools, resources, and knowledge available.

2. No standardized tests just demonstrations. There are standards, but students can decide how they want to show the world what they know and submit the evidence online. This evidence is rated on a five star scale by a combination of automated artificial intelligence systems as well as panels of content experts around the world. Kids earn badges, scholarships, special opportunities, and unlock access advanced tools when they earn more stars.

3. Anyone can be a teacher. No special training, just support for kids. However, there are content specialists, advisors, coaches from around the world who are available anytime 24×7 to help a kid out when they need information. Each specialist/advisory/coach gets star ratings from students about how helpful they were.  Kids get tokens that they can spend on a single session with a specialist, advisor, coach—and the government pays that person based on the number of tokens that were collected.

4. No classes—face-to-face time only for advisory with social media. Three times a week, kids get together as a support group…sharing what’s going on in their lives and providing support for each other. A facilitator helps them with their discussion and provides them motivation to dream big and succeed. Everyone stays connected through social media.

5. No classrooms—learning centers have opened up all across towns in old school buildings, libraries, business conference rooms—all available for kids to use. There is an adult host at each site that helps kids when needed, connects them to resources, inspires them, and chaperones.

6. Kids learn through challenges. Challenges are created by specialists and communities around the world to solve real world problems—mapped to learning standards. Kids can select which challenge they want to take on based on interest as well as what standards and badges they are working toward. Tokens are given to each challenge that gets used—so the most popular ones will earn the most money. All challenges come linked to advisors, mentors, and other resources that could be helpful.

7. Regional simulation centers—industries have made available simulators and simulation scenarios to kids to experiment hands-on.

8. Advanced programs (we call them Universities) have programs that performs nightly scans of  student portfolios, stars, badges and lets them know precisely what they need to qualify to work with them and how much scholarships and tokens they qualify for. Kids know exactly what they need to do at all times to advance to the next level.

9. Companies also have programs that perform nightly scans of student portfolios, stars, badges, and lets them know precisely what types of careers and jobs they could qualify for and what they could be earning.

10. Kids who are struggling are assigned a mentor coach who works with them virtually and face-to-face to connect them to resources, helps them stay on track, and doesn’t let them drown.

Today, we are seeing glimpses of the future with the emergence of hybrid learning and Khan Academy. What are the barriers in the way that need to be removed to let the learning environment of the future take place? What can you do as an educator to remove a barrier and create an innovation that will take us toward the future of learning?


Ted Fujimoto helps communities and school districts create and support 21st-century schools. As an entrepreneur and consultant, he has helped develop business strategies for Bay Area Coalition of Essential Schools, Big Picture Learning, Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, Partnership for Uplifting Communities, Linking Education & Economic Development, California Charter Schools Association and the New York Charter Schools Association. His work represents more than $150 million in funding. He was instrumental in designing and founding Napa New Technology High School and the New Technology Foundation that now comprises 62 schools nationwide, with dozens of new schools opening by Fall 2010. Contact him through Landmark Consulting Group, Inc.