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ask about the future

Dr. Peter Bishop

Question: "How will schools change in the future?"
Response by -
Dr. Peter Bishop, Associate Professor of Human Sciences and Chair of the graduate program in Studies of the Future University of Houston-Clear Lake

One of the sources of our ideas about higher education was in the medieval and early Renaissance England where students went "up" to Oxford to "read for a degree."  They didn't take classes; they literally read all the books in the library, which, before the printing press, contained all the books that a person of that time needed to read in order to be educated. They studied with a "tutor"; and when the tutor felt that the student was ready, they would "stand for the degree" (in front of the faculty) and defend a "dissertation" to show how educated they were.  English universities still use these terms although the printing press changed the way learning took place.  It was an information explosion that forced "teachers" to specialize in certain "disciplines" who would then "instruct" students in "classes" on what they had to learn to earn a degree, usually by "examination."  German universities with this arrangement formed the basis of American universities more than the English model did.

Come now to the Internet, and we might be returning to a day when students have access to all the information they need to be educated.  While they can never read or learn it all, they can at least get access to it all.  In effect, they don't need "instructors" telling them what they need to know. Will the teacher disappear?  For some, perhaps, but not for most.  Rather the teacher changes from being an "instructor," telling students what they need to learn, to a "coach," helping students acquire the skills of information search, retrieval, analysis, evaluation and communication. Learning becomes more student-directed; skills become more important than information, and even the classroom as an architectural unit might disappear from places of learning.

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Here's Dr. Bishop's professional snapshot: "My future work is pretty much the same as my past work. For the last 20 years, I have been teaching to prepare professional futurists for the marketplace. Many have gone on to successful careers in futures studies in corporations, government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, research centers and as independent consultants, writers and public speakers. For the last three years, I have been putting all our courses online so students outside of Houston can take the whole degree online if they like. I'm particularly interested in expanding that service to other countries since immigration into the United States for education is increasingly difficult these days.

I am also working to build up the profession through my position on the Board of the Association of Professional Futurists, the first international organization devoted exclusively for the benefit of professional futurists.My contribution to the Association lies mostly in the areas of professional development (consistent with teaching background), both in introducing people to the field and in continuing education of existing professionals. I am also trying to build bridges to other professional associations with an interest in the future, such as the Society of Actuaries, the Society for Competitive Intelligence Professionals, and the American Sociological Association."

Comments may be made directly to Dr. Bishop at bishop@cl.uh.edu