Speculative Learning Futures podcast: Episode 1 with Dr. Jen Ross

One of the knowledge mobilization activities of my SSHRC grant on education futures was a podcast. This post shares episode 1 of 7.

First, a bit of background

The future of education is open and contested. In this podcast we approach the future of education from a storytelling perspective.Stories about the future of education are diverse, complex, and run the gamut of wild hope to doom and despair. In some of these stories techno-optimism drives what is thought to be possible. In others, education is imagined to be a regenerative cultural force. In yet others, the impact of capitalism and authoritarian systems of surveillance already taking hold in education create dystopian spaces of control and management. The stories we tell have the power to create the world we live in. Understanding the stories we tell about what is possible, and the trends in those stories, can give us insight into the present, into ourselves and each other, and the worlds we might seek to or are already in the process of creating.

What are the stories being told about the future of higher education today? Who tells them? What do these stories reveal about our values and our assumptions? What do they reveal about technology and about our universities? What do they say about the future, but also about the present? The speculative learning futures podcast,brings together diverse voices and perspectives, from artists to scholars of different backgrounds, to imagine and discuss the future of education and the role of storytelling in moving towards or away from those futures. [As an aside: More on this questions in this paper and this paper. And if you have a paper of yours that centers these questions, consider submitting it to a journal special issue I am co-editing].

Subscribe to all episodes on Google, Apple, or Spotify. Or, if you prefer to download the mp3 files without subscribing, you can download all of them from here.

Episode 1

George and Shandell chat with Jen Ross about the future of education and the role of speculative methodologies for thinking about the future. Jen is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Education, co-director of the Centre for Research in Digital Education, and Education Futures fellow at the Edinburgh Futures Institute. She researches, teaches and publishes on online and open education, digital cultural heritage engagement, and digital cultures and futures. She’s one of the team behind the Manifesto for Teaching Online and the E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC. She co-ordinate the Digital Cultural Heritage cluster in the Centre for Data, Culture and Society, and lead the Digital Cultural Heritage Research Network. Jen, who recently published with Routledge the book Digital Futures for Learning: Speculative Methods and Pedagogies, helpfully defines for us what we mean when we talk about speculative methods. What is the value of speculating about the future, and the future of education? How does thinking about the future help us make the present a more just place to live? It’s a wide ranging conversation helpful not just for thinking about education, but for anyone who wants to have a better sense of why thinking about and imagining diverse futures is important, and almost as importantly, why it’s fun.



We are deeply grateful to the guests who spoke with us for each of the episodes of this series. We’re also fraeful to the Digital Public Interest Collective for their support, in dedicating the third series of the Digital Public Interest Collective podcast to education. Editing was provided by Andrea Galizia, and production advice was provided by Dr. Jaigris Hodson. The podcast was produced with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Grant #430-2020-00404)


Running and hurting


Speculative Learning Futures podcast: Episode 2 with Helen Nde

1 Comment

  1. Darren Wilson

    This is really great, and very timely! (I’ve just ordered Jen Ross’ book)

    You asked why there seems to be increasing interest in speculative narratives, and I have some thoughts on this. We’ve just come through an unprecedented global disruption in the way we live, work, and learn. As we watched schools and workplaces pivot to alternate delivery methods – often poorly – I was struck by how everyone seemed to be caught off guard. How had nobody done long-term strategic planning to prepare for this kind of possible scenario? How had institutions failed to anticipate this uncertainty and to plan for it?

    While scenarios and speculative futures may not have “predicted” COVID-19 per se, the practice may have better prepared organizations to respond more confidently to uncertain and unexpected events.

    As we imagine these potential futures as a way of anticipating and adapting to uncertainties in higher education, what work is being done at the government and institutional levels to mitigate the uncertainties in the futures we have foreseen?

    How do we get there from here? By examining the interconnected pathways to the future through a systems-based lens, designing strategies, and drafting policies to build a bridge toward that utopian future state (or away from a dystopian one).

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