Technology Uncategorized

Building an Emerging Technology and Futures Capacity in Your Organization

Presenter:  Bryan Alexander

Introductions:  Name, Institution, One Way I “Get at the Future”

This seminar was attended by folks from all over the world, and we had some great answers:

  • Colleagues
  • My system
  • My kids
  • Star Trek
  • Web searches, i.e. Robotic Brick Layers
  • Campus Innovation Store (touch screen tables, Oculus Rift, etc.)
  • My CIO
  • Twitter

Quote:  “The Web is general, podcasts and books are deep.  Podcasts and books are rarely used (by comparison to the web) and can give you a leg up if you’re using them to reach out.”


  • Add new habits of mind
  • Allow mental space to step outside immediate crises and routine
  • Reduce reliance on history, a kind of path dependency
  • Be social about it!


  • Futures world is small but deep; started in the 1960s
  • Horizon Report
  • Delphi method:  ask a group of professionals specific questions about the future and then rank them
  • Environmental scan:  trends identified, tested, projected.  What are the signals of the future to come?  You need to look through multiple sources…they’re easy to do but can be time consuming.
  • Trend tracking and analysis:  synthesize what you learn by looking at the signals and follow them.
  • Scenarios:  stories about the future.  Event/response, creativity, roles & times, emergent practices and patterns.  Give people a scenario like “how does my job change because of voice interaction?”  They’re very bad predictors, because the future is generated by many forces.  They’re playful and creative and elicit participation.
  • Consume the literature!  Tech writing, education writing, pop culture, sci-fi, design.  Mr. Robot television show was suggested as something to watch.

The Delphi Method

Which developments in tech are most likely to have the largest impact on education over the next five years?

  • Mobile
  • Active learning methods
  • Predictive analytics
  • Scaling (i.e. industry)
  • Bring your own network
  • Adaptive online delivery
  • Internet of Everything
  • 3d printing
  • Virtual Reality
  • Cloud Services

When the attendees voted on which of these items they considered most important (every attendees had two votes to cast):  Cloud Services, Data Analytics, and the Internet of Everything came out on top.

What are the most significant challenges facing education and tech?

  • Funding
  • Agility
  • Flexibility
  • Deliver education in a useful, predictable, cost-effective manner
  • Public value of higher education
  • Net.generation
  • Faculty lack of competence in teaching with new technology; failure to embrace technology
  • Diversity, i.e. accessibility
  • Business value of IT to institution
  • Student economic struggles
  • Political infighting within the institution
  • Consumerization of expectations (especially in the US), i.e. residence halls, recreation centers, etc.

Environmental Scanning

STEEP:  Social, Technological, Economical, Educational, Political

  • Social:  this is where most of the issues come from, i.e. pop culture.
  • Technological:  Kurzweil, TWiT, Slashdot, etc.
  • Economical:  The Economist, Naked Capitalism, Marketplace
  • Educational:  Inside Higher Ed, Chronicle of Higher Education, Dan Cohen, University World News
  • Political:  memeorandum

Educational Technology:  Stephen Downes, Audrey Watters, eCampus News, Steve Hargadon, Alan Levine, edSurge

Venues:  blogs, Twitter, list serves, podcasts, videos, journals, books, meetup, conferences, repetition, hashtags, RSS, mainstream and marginal sources

Environmental Scanning Exercise

ID a story over the past couple of months that suggests the future; one story from professional life, one story from personal life.

Professional Life

  • Story or event:  Team WikiSpeed modular car
  • Source:  scrum training
  • Implication:  infusion of agile methodology into every field

Personal Life

  • Story or event:  use of Google Docs for class projects
  • Source:  kids
  • Implication:  collaboration


Great quote:  “Facebook is dead.  It has over a billion users…I want that kind of dead!”

To-Do:  set up a continual environmental scan via a Wiki page or a meetup or a periodic campus event to keep these ideas flowing!

Trend Analysis Discussion Notes:  What Trends do You See In These Observations?

  • Agile methodologies:  complete business transformation
  • Google Docs:  collaboration built into every tool (along with seamless interfaces to other systems)
  • Alternate delivery methods for instruction:  learning anytime
  • Access to high-quality information for learning
  • Driverless cars
  • User interfaces
  • Personal/private life convergence
  • Changing role of the faculty
  • Unconscious bias
  • Changing role of campus physical space and resources
  • Focus on student success, rather than BiTs
  • Growing importance of analytics and data
  • Growing concern about data privacy – governance
  • Increased importance / danger of data security
  • Physical / virtual convergence

Scenario Creation Exercise:  You Can Do This at Home as a Planning Exercise

Take two trends we talked about above and push them to their limits, and then drive them to their logical conclusions.  Which one is the most unpredictable / hardest to think about?

Physical / Virtual convergence / divergence

  • Deeper humans
  • Distanced people

Campus physical space/resources changing

  • There is no campus
  • “Mega campus” full of specialized equipment

We then placed these two trends into X/Y axes in opposition to each other and discussed what situation would occur within each quadrant.  Great conversation!  This is a great exercise, but you need to make sure that you choose trends that are UNPREDICTABLE.

Practical Actions

  • Dig down into different organizational layers to get more information:  local community, professional networks, world at large
  • Use methods in-house
  • Nudge staff into becoming method practitioners
  • User methods in campus community, looking for expertise
  • Check for institutional interest and support
  • Use resources created by Futurists, i.e. ELI publications
  • Observe humans and their use of technologies
  • Share observations internally and externally



By Paul Schantz

CSUN Director of Web & Technology Services, Student Affairs. husband, father, gamer, part time aviator, fitness enthusiast, Apple fan, and iguana wrangler.

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