Seawomen’s knots – Unlearning Futures (Englisch)

Seawomen’s knots. Could there be a simpler, more direct, more succinct way to summarise one important facet of the skills, values and artistry for the 21st century? Such simple word twistings, similar to the use of She-farers by the Women of the Seven Seas project from the Hamburg group Geheimagentur, jolt us lightly as we encounter fragments of a possible future. Exactly like this, not vague or twisted or woolly-headed were the ideas came from the group of interested participants from the education sector who gathered from 23-25 August to take part in the ESD Summer Academy organised by Forum Umweltbildung.

The participants were invited under the motto “Denken Sie Groß?!” (“Think big?!” but also “Do you think big!?”) to link educational work with different future scenarios in order to draw out possible lessons for the present.

And this is exactly what was ventured and done. We were invited to facilitate a Futuring exercise at the beginning of the multi-day event, in some sense to loosen up the participants and get them thinking new thoughts about where education can and should develop. In this process we gave a brief introduction of the storyworld around the fictional European coastal city of Turnton, then we invited smaller groups to supplement and expand precisely this Turnton world with visionary ideas in the field of education.

We used Stuart Candy’s model of Experiential Futures which, starting with a high level setting, develops a certain scenario within which a concrete situation is represented with the aid of certain artefacts (the Stuff of the world). We asked the participants to get involved in a model extended by Time’s Up in favour of a fictionalisation: we insert a Storyworld layer in the middle.

This level of fictionalisation – the expansion of the model to include the storyworld level – is what we see as essential for bringing the world, the scenario, to life. In some sense all scenarios are narrative and fictional; nevertheless we see the creation of characters and their occupations, preferences and characteristics in the world to be of value. More time spent in the story of the scenario pays off. This is where the everyday life of the possible future can be written, explored and then made experiential. This is where we can define how this world feels, how which values are weighted, who lives in this world and how they live together.

Speculate, fantasise, fabricate – this is the invitation to the participants – based on and in reference to the scenario developed for Turnton.

The initial question revolved around what skills, what knowledge, what values will be taught, learned, supported, promoted and imparted in the educational systems of the year 2047. In just a few hours fabulous, comprehensive learning and teaching possibilities, further training and educational programs for the year 2047 were created for people of all generations. We were left with the feeling that the implementation of these is to be hoped for.
This resonates strongly with our experience of workshops and scenario development in the modality of the everyday. By diving deep into detail, participants develop more insights into the textures of a possible future. And thus develop more attractive and preferable versions of how that future could be. These preferable developments are often in spite of, or perhaps in direct reaction to, the dystopic elements in the scenario. It is this interwoven mesh of utopic and dystopic elements that brings the future to life, and an educational perspective looks precisely at these intermingled utopias and dystopias as the place in which it can act, can inspire learning.

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