As I have been researching the role of Artificial Intelligence in education and the future of schools lately, one of the major questions I hear is what is driving these changes? What is making our society change so quickly?

To understand the future of society in general and schools more specifically, futurists look for patterns of signals and synthesize these together into drivers.  Drivers “are major forces of transformation that will shape our efforts to remake learning. They represent the convergence of several trends into emerging ideas and phenomena that will disrupt traditional narratives and assumptions about learning” (2020 Forecast).

The Institute for the Future (IFF) and Knowledge Works Foundation recently released a set of drivers that will also have possible impacts on education and schools which we discuss below.

  1. Altered Bodies: This driver suggests that new findings in neuroscience allow us to understand the plasticity of the brain and question the idea of what is typical or normal. These findings will spark innovations as we have discussed in previous blogs around how tools like AI can use these findings. Similarly, with climate change more environmental health concerns will add more stressors to our young called bio-distress (2020 Forecast). This driver may force schools to focus more on health and stress reduction for students.
  2. Amplified Organizations: This driver suggests that with more digital natives entering the workforce and our ability to use social media networks, our organizations may need to undergo an extensive redesign. This driver will force schools to think about other literacies students need like working with others on technology platforms. Similarly, for adults, this driver will force schools to think about how to use tools for collective input and sensemaking, and using open, collaborative platforms for experimentation and open practice.
  3. Platforms for Resilience: As we continue to enter into the 4th industrial revolution, shocks to our systems and institutions will proceed according to this driver. Healthcare, government, energy, and climate will continue to undergo significant adjustments. This driver will force schools to become more flexible and adaptive to the environment to prepare students for these changes. For instance, using a modular curriculum in which parts can be pulled in or out depending on the need and more learning networks around these changes may emerge.
  4. New Civic Discourse: As society continues to fragment into various tribes and social media allows participation of all, schools will continue as a battleground for social issues.  Education and what gets taught will become a contested resource around numerous issues like climate change and racism. This driver will force schools to offer new civic literacies around civic participation and to find ways to find middle ground with their communities. Families whose needs cannot be met will continue to find other sources for niche ideas or beliefs in conjunction with traditional schools.
  5. The Maker and Gig Economy: Our economy is shifting away from ongoing full-time work for many years, to a more maker and gig economy marked by the independent managing of one’s skills and careers. Characterized by 3-D systems, design thinking and social networks, this type of economy will force schools to rethink career counseling and preparation along with teaching skills in personal branding and marketing. The difference in economic disparity between economic/geographical regions like urban tech versus rural will have to be figured out.
  6. Pattern Recognition: Data will continue to proliferate through the next decade and beyond as more sensors, and ways to track almost anything will continue to emerge. With all of this data, this driver will allow schools to continue to determine needs and strategies for all learners to succeed. This driver will also force schools to rethink ethics policies around the use of this data, and how more visual literacy and statistics needs teaching to students.


While nobody can know what the future is bringing to schools, early signs and trends set us on specific trajectories. To get ahead of these curves, educational leaders need to develop a mindset toward the future and anticipate the implications of these trends. Next week I will uncover a simple process to help you foresee the future to meet these demands.


2020 Forecast: Creating the future of learning. Institute for the Future (IFF) and Knowledge Works Foundation. Retrieved from