SXSWedu Student Bloggers: How to think (and learn) like a futurist

EDUpicThis morning’s keynote was given by Jane McGonigal, a self-professed futurist. She explained to us that the future is here already, but that it’s only happening in a few places– in essence, a small group of people is likely already doing what the larger population as a whole will be doing in the future. Thus, a futurist looks for these “future hotspots” that already exist and combines them into forecasts of possible futures for our world. She invited us to use this new way of thinking to create our own future forecasts for education. The second thing I attended was a workshop on design thinking.

Design thinking is a process where you solve a problem by thinking about human experiences and interactions, proposing and testing solutions that create the best experience, and repeating the process constantly in order to improve.

We applied what we learned about design thinking to help a charter school in New Orleans called Bricolage come up with ways to strengthen their school community.

– Quinn Simpson


“How to think (and learn) like a futurist” was led by Jane McGonigal, director of Games Research and Development, and Institute for the Future. A futurist is a person who thinks of all the possibilities that can create a better future. McGonigal is a futurist, and began to practice the skill after nine eleven. In her session, she taught the attendees on how to be a futurist, by following four key points: 1) collect signals from the future, 2) combine signals into forecasts, 3) create personal foresight, and 4) play with the future. The signals are taken from the present environment. These could be statistics, products, ideas, and a variety of other sources. McGonigal believed gamers have the ability to create a better future. It was a very interesting idea of how gamers can create ideas for a better future. Gamers do face problem solving challenges in video games. Gamers have to be quick on their feet, both mentally and physically in videogames. McGonigal believed thatWhen you have a community of gamers, it creates an elevation of investigation.” McGonigal uses games to help others forecast the future. I really enjoyed this session, and hope to read McGonigal’s book “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World” to learn about gamers and futurist.

– Mercedes Gonzales


Jane McGonigal’s keynote this morning has been a highlight of my day at SXSWedu. In addition to being a game designer and New York Times bestselling author, McGonigal is a futurist, which means she uses the innovations of today to predict what the future will bring. She led the audience through the process of imagining “the Ledger,” a future in which all sorts of educational experiences (from doing a project at work to attending a physical university to reading an audiobook) will be rewarded with edublocks similar to the concept of bitcoins.

We were encouraged to think about the struggles of this possible system, its strengths, and what our lives might look like in this future only 10 years away.

What was fascinating for me was to realize that when putting together current innovations like Bitcoin and Blockchain with the issues the education sphere faces today, McGonigal has an idea that seems like a real possibility for the future. McGonigal said “imagining the future prepares you to be more creative and inventive today,” and I’m certainly feeling creative after listening to her keynote about the exciting future of education.

– Logan Kramer

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