Learning About the Future by Reflecting on the Past and Present

The Past

I consider myself a life-long learner and enjoy entertainment based on historical events. I am watching the Peaky Blinders, which is about a group of gangsters who ruled Birmingham, England a hundred years ago. In the show, I was struck that they did not have a phone in 1919. When they did get a phone in the 1920s, they were not able to use it since they could only call people who also had a phone. I have read that in America, there were under 600,000 homes with telephones in 1900, 2.2 million in 1905, and just under 6 million in 1910!  We have seen the aggressive expansion of a plethora of technological innovations during our lifetime.


I just noticed that Grandma sent me an Email yesterday.  She likes having the ability to contact us by Email because she worries that she might interrupt our busy schedule if she calls.  We have told her that she would reach us faster if she would just send a text message, but she does not want to try learning a new technology, even though it is easy to do and has benefits.

The Present

Are you like that? As a technologist, I would like to say that I am not like that. Currently, I teach a communication course to dual-enrolled high school students and I needed to contact them on the second day of class to inform them that despite the snow day, our class will still meet.  We would use Tegrity for the lecture, Discussion Board for the interaction and the homework could be submitted online through Pearson.  Universal Design for Learning encourages the use of multiple means and technology provides the mechanism to do so. The problem was that even in this high-technology age, I could not inform the students.  I felt like a Peaky Blinder in 1919 Birmingham who had an urgent message that could not get to the receiver fast enough.  The students needed to know their homework was still due and that the lecture was available online, but since it was the first week of school, they were not accustomed to checking their Ferris Email or Blackboard Announcements yet.  I had to Email the high school counselor and ask her to send a message to the students using their school Email address, which the students were used to checking.  It would have been easier and more relational for me to text them because that is how this generation communicates. “Technology has had an enormous effect on the way that Generation Z communications, which is quickly, efficiently, accessibly, and all the time” (Seemiller & Grace, 2016, p. 62).

The Future

We have a long way to go.  Communicating to our students by text message is currently the norm, but we need to make changes to be ahead of the norm since tomorrow’s technology is already here. Many people do not have a land-line phone because mobile device does everything we need, including Artificial Intelligence (AI).  I think when people think about AI, they imagine futuristic robots like in the HBO series Westworld. The reality is that this futuristic technology of AI is already being used by you today.  Tools such as Siri, Alexa, Nest, Pandora, Netflix, Amazon, and the self-driving Tesla are some of the powerful examples of AI in use today.


What does this have to do with education? EVERYTHING. The way you view technology shapes your classroom and the student experience. It is our job to expose students to the technologies they will use in their careers.  Have you noticed the AI built into your Microsoft Office Products? If not, go to Word, click on Tools and then select Translate to change your document from English to Finnish for your international student.  Go to any Microsoft tool, highlight something and then click on Tools to turn on the Smart Lookup feature.

This is the AI experience our students should be exposed to. It is time to let go of the past and train our students for the future.  We need to let go of old, safe practices and embrace a risky, creative, collaborative future. We need to begin looking at newer technologies built on newer infrastructures. Let’s not only imagine more but let us take risks to DO more for the betterment of our students, of Ferris, and for society.

~Written by Jackie Hughes, Coordinator of Instructional Technology


Seemiller, C., & Grace, Meghan. (2016). Generation Z goes to college. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


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