One of the activities I used to enjoy on a Monday morning was a quick look into the future. Students would gather news stories that had caught their eye over the previous week and would bring in news cuttings, which we would put to the marketing, finance, social and HR test. For example, we might examine a technology advance and examine the possible ramifications in terms of the market, costs and human resources. I would nominate two students per week in a rota to lead the morning activity; sometimes this worked and sometimes it bombed – well nothing is perfect.

Of course things have moved on – fewer students read the written word in a physical form, but the Internet provides an even more accessible and global outlook, so there is less reason why your students would find this activity difficult. The results can be a wonderful source of inspiration, not only providing exemplars for the syllabus in general, but as seed ideas for internal assessments and extended essays. If you have a department blog site, the students can also turn their stories into a posting and invite reactions from other students to the issues of the week. News items can also stimulate cross-curricular and TOK debate.

So what could be the focus of such a visioning activity? One excellent topic is the virtual school and a virtual education. Around the world, national education systems are under the spotlight with Governments looking for value for money and a more focused education to meet the needs of the 21st century.  When I first started this exercise ten years or more ago the future and the technology was unclear, but of course things have moved on since then with the virtual high school and virtual universities and not forgetting the Open University in the UK, which has been operating this model for many years.

Could a virtual education be extended to younger age groups? What about some of the following ideas for an e-learning debate:

  • Pupils login at home as a form of registration downloading the day’s programme.
  • Courses are accessed from local and national databases including lessons, games, videos, podcasts, activities and tests with opportunities for online meeting with tutor mentors.
  • Support services exist where pupils can access FAQ databases and leave questions to be answered by mentors or peer groups.
  • Pupils are assigned to various working groups, some national and some international.
  • Pupils invite peer groups and mentors to access their work through social learning groups.
  • Examinations are on demand, when pupils have completed adequate pre-reading and qualifying exercises; age is not the prerequisite for taking a particular test, but ability.
  • Pupils interact with each other through a Second Life style virtual world, where pupils’ avatars meet and socialise.
  • Pupils maintain lifelong e-portfolios, which are used as part of the higher education and employment process.
  • Physical education premises are retained, but in limited numbers. Pupils attend on certain days for physical activities such as sport and for enhancement and social programmes.

What are the implications of such an approach for society, governments, teachers, employment and commercial firms? Does the idea make you throw your hands up in horror?

So what was in my weekend paper worthy of debate on a Monday morning?  What are the marketing, financial HR, social and ethical consequences of the following?

  • Test tube burgers: The first test-tube beef burger made of mince grown from stem cells is only a year away, scientists claim. They believe their creation could pave the way for humans being able to eat meat without animals being slaughtered. The scientists are currently developing a burger which will be grown from 10,000 stem cells extracted from cattle, which are then left in the lab to multiply more than a billion times to produce muscle tissue similar to beef.
  • Twitter #help – the new emergency service: Launched only in 2006, Twitter hosts 140 million messages a day with 200 million members. Increasingly it is being used to help societies function in times of personal and community crisis.
  • Canine Silver service: hotels around the globe are seeking extra revenue streams by developing Unique Selling Propositions –  in this case pampering ‘man’s best friend’.
  • The future of the iPad: ditch the TV zapper – new apps and gizmos are turning mobiles and tablets into intelligent, easy-to-use remotes for TVs, fridges, coffee makers, central heating and creating interactive, intelligent homes.
  • Sales and Losses up at smoothie maker Innocent; Innocent saw sales increase 20%, but losses double. Coca-Cola took a majority stake in Innocent in 2009. The company has been accused over charity ‘con’: the smoothie giant ‘failed to hand over promised cash’ to its charity foundation.
  • Electric cars – selling the future: welcoming in a new era of ultra-efficient electric minis such as the T.27.

I would welcome your comments on successful strategies you have used in your classroom to generate interest in current affairs, and of course if you, or any of your students have any ideas for posts on this blog, please contact me: [email protected].