The Value of Teaching Trends to Students

The ability to imagine, think about and plan for the future is an amazing characteristic of the human mind. Being curious about the future and trying to understand the future is not a specific symptom of current times. We all think and plan in one way or the other. In that sense, you could argue, we all are futurist (Dragt, 2017) Yet, people tend to have very different relations to the future. To some, thinking about the future can have a motivational and energizing effect (Dragt, 2017). In some types of therapy, thinking about the future and imagining future situations is an essential and empowering part. Also, in professional sports imagining positive future situations, like winning a match, has been a pivotal part of training for decades (Langer, 2016). The ‘simple’ act of imagining can improve performance and help athletes reach their desired goals (Murphy, 2012). However, to some, thinking about the future can be frightening and stressful. Some do not want to think about the future, precisely because it is uncertain, and this uncertainty feels unpleasant. Generally, creative and future thinking is challenging for most students and people in general. Today, young people are facing an increasingly complex and fast-changing world, and more than ever, they are facing an unpredictable and uncertain future life. Being young in our post-modernistic age, you “design your life” (Burnett & Evans, 2016, Birsel, 2015, Langer, 2009,2016, Sørensen, 2019). The story that people are responsible for their success adds enormous pressure on young people about creating a happy and prosperous future. Professor in youth studies Katznelson (2018) argues: “Young people need tools for life maze”. Young people in the western world are among the most stressful group of citizens. Also, they feel anxiety, depression etc. (The national health profile). Therefore, working with how to think about the future, working with trends in general or using design to materialize and experiment with alternative futures (Dunne & Raby, 2013) can seem to empower opposed to thinking of the future as something that you need to adapt to. In the field of educational research, the philosopher Maxine Greene was an influential and insightful thinker, who fought for students´ imagination. She continuously challenged students to experience the world in new ways and guide them into "wide awakeness, to imaginative action, and a renewed consciousness of possibility"(Greene, 1995, 43). For Greene (1978), imagination was the most crucial human capability and key in being ‘wide ¬awake’, open, and attending the world. As Kaufman argues, there is a vast difference between reality discoverers, typically scientists and possibility thinkers, typically creative people (Kaufman, 20xx). In line with Greene and general futurists (Dragt, Miller, Ahvenianen), we see a possibility to help students to open their minds not only to the future but to more futures and create deeper awareness about how to relate to the future. We can do this in different ways; working with creative thinking, trends and trend research is a more simplistic way (Dragt, 2017). This paper refers to a 3-day workshop for 125 students on trends. Based on preliminary insights, we argue it is valuable working with trends in two different ways: 1) working with ‘trends as a tool’ in order to see new weak signals' and 'strong signs' (Dragt, 2017) you can get knowledge and inspiration from in your profession. A weak signal is ”…an indicator of a potentially emerging issue, that may become significant in the future (Dufva, 2019). 2) working with trends as a future mindset encouraging the students to reflect on their relationship with the future and making it personal (Ahvenianen, 2017). References Ahvenianen, M. (2017) Futureness – The Futures in Me. Findland Futures Research Centre. 2017 Ahvenainen, M., Heikkilä, K. Jokinen, L., Miettinen, S, Ollila, J., Pietikäinen, N. and Vuorisalo, K. (2017) Future – Open For Possibilities. Futures Guidance Workbook. Finland Futures Research Centre. 2017. Birsel, A. (2015) Design the Life You Love. Ten Speed Press. Burnett, B. & Evans, D. (2016) Designing Your Life. How to build a well-lived joyful life. Borzoi Book Published by Alfred A. Knopf. Dragt, E. (2017) How to research trends – moving beyond trend watching to kickstart innovation. BIS Publishers B.V. Dufva, M. (2019) What is a weak signal Dunne, A. & Raby, F. (2013) Speculative Design – Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming.The Mit Press. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Greene, M. (1978) Landscapes of Learning. Teachers College Press. Greene, M. (1995) Releasing the Imagination. Essays on Education, the Arts, and Social Change. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Katznelson, N. (2018) Inaugural lecture, Aalborg University 2018, in Altinget, downloaded 25.03.18: Kaufman & Gregoire (2016) Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind. Tarcher Perigee; Reprint edition, December 27, 2016. Langer, E. (2009) Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. Ballantine Books.
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