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We Higher Ed Futurists and Gleick's Gorgeous 'Time Travel'

Our edtech time machines.

October 18, 2016
 

Time Travel: A History by James Gleick

Published in September of 2016

We are all higher ed futurists now.

What I mean is that all of us - or at least all of us working at the intersection of learning and technology - have at least one of our feet firmly planted in the future.  What drove us towards a life of educational technology is a belief that the future of learning (and higher ed) will be better than the past or the present.

We are impatient with today - with the status quo of credits and quality variation and high-costs and low completion rates - with the entire scarcity economy that defines and describes postsecondary education.

The work that we do in digital learning, in blended and online learning, and in open online learning at scale is our attempt to build higher ed time machines.

This is why every higher ed futurist should read James Gleick’s gorgeous new book Time Travel: A History.

What Gleick has done is to have read everything ever written about time travel.  He then boils down all his time travel scholarship into a set of ideas and themes that help us make sense of our obsession with traveling to the future.

The big surprise of the time travel canon is how new it is.  The fictional foundations of time travel were not constructed until 1895 - the year that H.G. Wells published The Time Machine.  It is hard to imagine in today’s science fiction world a time when time travel was not a standard plot device.  We are so steeped in the norms and expectations of time travel that we tend to take for granted that they have always been part of our creative narrative.  Gleick shows us that Wells invented a whole new way of thinking about time, and hence our possible adjacent and distant futures.

This is probably a good time for us higher ed futurists to ground our work in the solid foundations of literary time travel analysis.  Reading about reading about time travel will help us be clearer in our premises, and more concrete in our assumptions.  We could better situate our higher ed time traveling in the larger time travel literature.

What are your favorite books - either literary or nonfiction - about traveling into the future?

Has anyone written a great future of higher ed novel?

What are you reading?

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