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A Roadmap to the Future of Education

Updated: May 28

Welcome to the Network School journey! Whether you're new here or returning, thank you for joining us as we explore how technology can transform education.

This blogpost is the first in a series of posts that are designed to detail various aspects of the Network School roadmap. In the Network School essay, I detail a roadmap that can help lead to schools that leverage technology in novel ways to bring about systemic transformation to our schools. While the vision I laid out in the essay seems far-fetched, perhaps overly techno-optimist, maybe even controversial, the reality is that the roadmap is building on a base of knowledge that is already being explored and acted upon in some school context.

The adage that the future already exists, it just isn't evenly distributed is very relevant here, and my hope in this serious is to build credibility and legitimacy of the concept, provide clear and concrete examples of incremental transformations, and build on the systems needed to make collective transformation possible.

If you're reading this, you likely already see this, but our education is not aligned well with the needs of our rapidly changing world. The dissonance between our system built on Industrial Revolution principles and our society which is becoming increasingly predicated on technological development is becoming pretty clear. While technologies like blockchain, cloud computing, AI, etc. have fundamentally changed the way we experience our world, education has remained relatively stagnant. Having spent my career in education, I have seen little in the way of aspirational modeling that looks to explore the edges of technology to transform how we approach teaching and learning.

The Network School is an attempt to serve as a link between where we are today and the future of education.

The Urgency for Educational Transformation

As the world around us continues to change the need to radically transform our education system will grow. We have already seen significant shifts in the belief that one gets a job and keeps that same job at the same company for 30-40 years. Rather, we see the focus shifting towards lifelong learning and adult upskilling. Corporate training, community colleges, online courses, and informal learning continue to move towards an on-demand model that is more agile and adaptable to the needs of the workforce than the formal system of education.

Our society and our learners demand a system that is preparing them for the world of tomorrow and it appears that we are falling further behind. Hanging on to rigid hierarchal structures that focus more on meeting the needs of the system like:

  • Standardized Testing

  • Seat Time

  • Siloed Curriculum

  • Teacher-centric methodologies

  • and the list goes on...

For over a decade personalized learning, individualized learning experiences for all, has been the north star. Technology is a key enabler of this work, however, what we saw in the last wave of tech to flood education is that the solutions have served to reinforce the traditional structures mentioned above. In this paradigm technology is further dehumanizing the work of teaching and learning; every test, every interaction, and every project moves into some app that simply digitizes old practices.

Without a substantial shift in the way we think about and apply technology in the education space, we will continue to fall short of meeting the needs of our learners.

Redefining Education for the Digital Age

The Network School can be defined as a dynamic interconnected learning community that leverages advanced technologies to link together experiences in both physical and digital settings.

It has never been easier to learn something on your own. Access to the web has enabled us to explore our world in a myriad of ways including affording us the opportunity to learn through courses, communities, or just through Youtube. That said, it's not a stretch to say that most of our learning is not happening in a school, part of our formal education system, or even recognized on a report card.

Imagine if we were able to leverage a broad range of learning experiences in both the physical and digital world? What if we could recognize learning that takes place independently as a learner builds their own video game, start a business, or complete a community service project? What if schools could leverage the expertise that was in their community to offer new learning experiences, internships, or co-ops?

The Network School concept is an aspirational vision that considers how we leverage new technology like blockchain and AI to enable a network of connected learning experiences that are centered around the needs of the learner, not the system.

Core Principles of the Network School

At the core of the Network School concept is the shift from a teacher-centric to a learner-centric model. This shift prioritizes the unique needs, interests, and learning paces of each learner, rather than adhering to a one-size-fits-all approach. Additionally, it operates under the assumption that to meet those diverse needs, we must expand the individuals and organizations that are contributing to the effort to educate all learners AND rethink the role of technology and its relationship to learning. By rethinking the role of technology as an enabler or a foundation rather than the end point of learning, we can foster a deep sense of ownership and empowerment among learners encouraging them to take an active role in their educational journey.

The Network School harnesses the power of advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR), and blockchain to radically redesign the idea of where learning takes place, how we recognize learning, and how we support learners on their learning journey. AI can tailor learning experiences in real time, providing personalized pathways and support connecting them to individuals and learning experiences in the physical and the digital world. AR/VR offers immersive environments that transform abstract concepts into tangible experiences, making learning more intuitive and impactful. Meanwhile, blockchain technology can secure learner records and create a transparent system for the recognition of academic achievements across global platforms.

The Network School represents a fundamental shift in the assumptions that guide our thinking around school design and learning architecture. Network Schools operate from a position of abundance rather than a position of scarcity, calling on the vast resources that exist within a physical community and the digital world as opposed to creating opportunities based on available resources. Network School communities connect learners, educators, and experts from the immediate community AND around the world, facilitating exchange and collaboration across geographic and cultural boundaries.

To prepare learners for a dynamic future, we must rethink how we currently leverage technology and work towards learning architectures that are connected to the needs of our learners and of tomorrow. We must reconsider how to use technology in a way that augments the human condition and doesn't replace it. We must think about how technology can be an enabler that can bring about change that can support human flourishing.

A Roadmap to the Future of Education

In the Network School Essay I captured, at a high level, how new learning architectures could be built. I believe that this roadmap is agnostic in the sense that it could apply both to new schools OR be used to reverse engineer existing traditional schools. While the ideas presented may seem radical, much of the roadmap is rooted in practices, technologies, and conceptual frameworks that come from education albeit some of the more nuanced technical components (blockchain).

In coming blogposts I will explore more deeply the underlying antecedents to the Network School and weave a narrative that ties innovations across education together in a way that paints a picture on how we can reach the Network School Paradigm. The roadmap on the way toward building the Network School includes:

  1. Launch Pilot Projects: Initiate small-scale projects to experiment with emerging technologies specifically around the agency.  These could be exploring the use of AI tools, rethinking assessments, and leveraging new systems of recognition.

  2. Extend the Learning Community: Develop communities both in the physical and digital world that connect all stakeholders for collaborative and individualized learning experiences. Digital communities can serve as connective tissue while physical spaces can be used for high-impact learning and social opportunities. Start small, and focus on developing learner-centered approaches with trusted individuals and organizations across the network.

  3. Education Innovation Clusters: Establishing robust partnerships and developing internal systems of research and development can ensure that Network Schools stay on the cutting edge of innovation and help power co-creation and real-world testing of solutions for that approach fosters a vibrant ecosystem that iterates quickly.

  4. Develop and Implement Modern Data Structures: A critical cog in the success of the Network School is that the right users have access to the right data at the right time. This will require a new data architecture that requires emphasis on interoperability and security.

  5. This step includes the creation of secure, transparent digital credentials through the use of blockchain. These systems can help deepen the connection between and amongst learners and learning organizations in the network.

  6. Development of Learner Support Systems: The fluid nature of the Network School will require new methods of engaging, mentoring, and supporting learners. Supporting the whole learner will require careful coordination of supporting services that take into account the academic, social, and emotional needs of the learner.

  7. Scale the Network: Scale the successful elements of pilot projects and learning communities to form a comprehensive, digitally connected network of learning nodes. 

  8. Distributed Governance Systems: Distributed leadership is a well-traveled path in education research and can help guide us through the development of distributed decision-making in Network Schools. Holocracies, sociocracies, and DAOs can serve as helpful organizational frameworks as we distribute decision-making about curriculum, policies, and school operations through the use of blockchain-based governance systems.

  9. Systems of Continuous Learning:  Develop systems and resources that support ongoing learning for all stakeholders, creating and adapting to individual learners' evolving needs and global workforce demands.

  10. Recognition and Interoperability: Work towards a broader recognition of the Network School’s credentials and learning achievements, ensuring the interoperability of learner data with traditional and non-traditional education systems.

In the roadmap above, I have linked out resources supporting the model development, but in subsequent blogposts, I will dive more deeply into each stop on the roadmap providing deeper insights, resources, and where possible case studies.

What's Next?

The Network School concept is designed to provide a point of conversation around how we can rethink the architecture of learning designed around the idea that technology can support human flourishing. While the world continues to accelerate towards a technology-powered future that will move fast and demand continuous learning, we have largely not adapted in the k-12 space to those needs. I believe that if we can rethink the role of technology and tie together disparate yet powerful innovations occurring across education, we can meet the demands of tomorrow.

The Network School is more than just a concept—it's a call to action for educators, technologists, policymakers, and learners. We're on a mission to reshape education to better align with our technological society and prepare students for the future they will inherit. Join us as we explore, innovate, and transform the educational landscape.

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