#SXSWedu – “How to Think (and Learn) Like a Futurist”

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Jane McGonigal
Institute for the Future – Dir of Games Research & Dev

Session Description


Best known for her work as a pioneering game designer and author of the bestselling books Reality is Broken and SuperBetter, Jane McGonigal, PhD, has also spent the past decade working as a futurist. In this playful one-hour master class, you will learn the three most important techniques of future forecasting, while taking a tour of five of the most surprising potential futures for education in the next decade. The final 15 minutes of this session will be devoted to playing a collaborative future forecasting game that Jane has designed just for the SXSWedu community—you won’t want to miss it!


  • 1930’s world fair, I have seen the future > I am making the future… instead. Because you can shape the future.
  • IFTF.ORG Institute for the Future
  • We think about the future to find out what’s possible.
  • To create something new you have to be able to imagine how things can be different.
  • The future is a place where EVERYTHING can be different.

We love 10 year forecasts, close enough that we can see signals today, far enough out that things can be different, and you can still imagine YOU 10 years older. – Jane McGonigal

4 Future Signals

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  1. Collect signals from the future
    • Signals are a clue from the future. Something that catches our eye. Provokes curiousity and imagination.
    • What kind of change does this represent? From what to what?
    • What is driving this change? What is the “future force” behind it?
    • What will the world be like if this signal get’s amplified? What if the trend continues? Become common? Or even ubiquitous? Is that a future we want?
  2. Combine signals into forecasts
    • Signals are like jelly belly jelly beans. We can combine signals into different recipes to create a variety of futures.
    • What will the world be like in the future by seeing what is available now?
      • 3D printers that make food (TNO innovation for life)
      • Oculus Rift changes taste perception by showing you different images
      • Stanford cow simulator reduces meat consumption – you are a cow!
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      • Carbon facts are now available on food packaging
        • All combine to make a magical mystery dinner… say, a healthy meal that actually tastes good! 😉
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  3. Create personal foresight
    • What will you do NOW to intervene and make a difference.
    • What would you do in this future to trey to help humanity to survive?
    • Personal foresight can inspire experiments!
    • Imagining the future allows you to be more creative today.
  4. Play with the future
    • Games are the most elevated form of investigation. – Albert Einstein
    • LearningIsEarning 2026 – Play the game!
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Asking questions about a signal:

  • What would happen if learning and credentialing were radically decentralized like Bitcoin?
  • What would a system that values learning that happens anywhere look like? A system where anywhere can be a teacher or grant credentials.
  • What if a degree become more like an open ledger? Would you ever graduate?
  • What if learning was treated like a currency? What kinds of new contracts would you create to exchange learning?

Bitcoin is the first decentralized digital currency and Blockchain is a shared public ledger open to all. Blockchain also uses cryptography ensures integrity with tamper-proof data and enabling “smart contracts”.

You might get a world in which…

  • Learning is unbound
  • Learning is a lifestyle
  • Working and learning are combined
  • Employers have more influence in education
  • There are many new ways to pay for education
  • There are new ways to verify learning
  • Just in time skills are key

Imagine a future 10 years from now.

  • Ledger (credit for learning)
  • Edublocks (earn from school or from individuals)
  • Profile (displays all edublocks you earn)

The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed yet. – William Gibson



2 thoughts on “#SXSWedu – “How to Think (and Learn) Like a Futurist”

  1. Pingback: eLearning and Emerging Technologies @GVSU

  2. Pingback: #SXSWedu Fostering Innovation in Teaching and Learning via #EdTech | eLearning and Emerging Technologies @GVSU

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