30 years in the future: 3-D food printers, cancer cures, smart edtech

This weekend 1776 wraps its global challenge cup competition; in Friday night’s keynote rounds, leading experts shared their visions of the world in 2045. Summaries are here. It was a packed theater, despite the Wizards (losing) across the street.

What I heard:

— Rwanda will be the “Korea” of Africa

— Many cancers will be cured; “chemo viewed as blood letting”

— Smartphones will be used by 7 in 10 humans

— 3-D food printers will be “a common kitchen appliance,” like the microwave

— The term “quantified self” covers when you capture self-data, such as on a Fitbit

But most interesting to me was the Q&A with DC Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, whose calm, charm and grace held us spellbound as she painted a vision for the future of K-12.

Henderson sees tests as receding; after all, we don’t get tests in the workplace at the end of each day. She sees a future of “beyond the tests. … We are thinking of students learning through project-based” assignments, done in teams.

She says the school system is also rethinking the approach to careers, with a new emphasis in DC on technology education such as engineering, IT, hospitality and tourism. She told the story of T-Street Games, named for the technology school McKinley’s street address (T), started by students and set up at 1776 after they worked with Microsoft.

Henderson also dreamed of a city bathed in WIFI, lamenting how she can’t get bandwidth in even some of her most advanced schools. And she admonished the bureaucracy for putting so much content behind firewalls, forcing teachers to beg for access even to show educational videos on YouTube.

In the end, however, Henderson told a room full of techies that they need to be more targeted in designing future ed tech. “Ed Techies are coming up with ‘cool’ projects and apps,” she said, but not ones necessarily solving problems for educators. The designers are not sitting next to teachers, finding out what they need.

The whole evening, kicked off by 1776 co-founder Donna Harris, was refreshing as we listened to new and exciting ideas rather than focus on the failures of old stale ones.