Exploring Visions of Learning for the 21st Century
By James L. Morrison and Karin Hagaman

St. Louis 2004 Logo

The Proceedings of the
St. Louis 2004 Learning Action Team

February 13, 1997

We are being bombarded by tumultuous forces for change as we go into the 21st century: Virtual classrooms, global communications, global economies, telecourses, distance learning, corporate classrooms, increased competition among social agencies for scarce resources, pressure for institutional mergers, state-wide program review and so on. In order to plan effectively in this environment, we must be able to anticipate and plan for new developments that will affect learning generally and the roles of schools, colleges, and other agencies and organizations in the St. Louis region specifically.


The purpose of this working session was to:

  • identify potential developments that could affect education and learning in the St. Louis region in 2004.
  • derive implications and draft recommend actions vis--vis these potential developments


More than 125 educators, administrators, parents, community leaders and others from throughout the St. Louis region participated in the session. Participants represented the full range of lifelong learning, including: pre-K and early education; K-12; higher education; vocational education; continuing and adult education; and special education. In addition, participants represented the public, private and parochial systems, and came from both Illinois and Missouri.

Exercise: Potential Events That Can Change the Future of Learning in the 21st Century

Identify Potential Events

This exercise focused on identifying potential events that could affect the future of learning if they occurred. Events are unambiguous and confirmable. When they occur, the future is different. Event identification and analysis is critical in anticipatory planning.

The read-ahead pointed out that it is important that an event statement be unambiguous; otherwise, it is not helpful in the planning process because (a) it is unclear what may be meant by the statement (i.e., different people may understand the statement differently) and (b) we have no clear target that allows us to derive implications and action steps. For example, consider the following event statement: There will be significant changes in political, social, and economic systems in the U.S. Each person on a planning team may agree with this statement, but may also interpret it differently. It would be far more useful in analysis for a statement like: In the next election, the political right gains control of Congress and the presidency. Or Minorities become the majority in 10 states. Or The European Community incorporates Eastern Europe in a free trade zone. The latter statements are concrete, unambiguous, and signal significant change that could impact the future of learning.

Another point was made in the read-ahead: Do not include an impact statement in the event statement. Consider the following event statement: Passage of welfare and immigration reform will negatively impact higher education and the community college sector. First, we need to specify each welfare reform idea and each immigration reform idea as an event. Second, it may well be that an event can have both a positive and a negative impact. For example, there may be signals that within five years 30% of college and university courses will use multimedia technologies in instruction. This event could have both positive and negative consequences on an institution. If, for example, the faculty are not currently oriented to using multimedia technology, the event may adversely affect the competitive position of your institution. On the other hand, distributing the signals of this event in a newsletter to the faculty may bring about an awareness of what is happening and assist in developing a desire to upgrade their set of teaching skills.

After an initial event identification exercise, each group was asked select those events that may have the most impact on learning in the St. Louis region in the next decade. We used paste-on dots for this exercise. Group members were given four dots to indicate their selection using the following voting criteria:

  • Vote for four of the most critical events for the future of the learning in the St. Louis region that have some probability of occurrence within the next decade.
  • Do not be concerned about the event being high or low probability; be concerned only about the severity of the impact (positive or negative).

The most critical events identified in these exercises are in bold as listed below.


  • "Minorities" become the majority
  • St. Louis Region has zero population growth
  • Tribalism: cultural diversity results in divisiveness rather than cooperation
  • Teacher/administrative pool decreases by 40-50% (by 2007)
  • All children have access to pre-school
  • Every child entering school is prepared and anxious to learn
  • Widespread riots resulting from welfare reform
  • Inner-city infrastructure collapses
  • Society funds educators as surrogate parents
  • Private education collapses; 30% of daycare, 30 K -12 schools, and two colleges in the St. Louis Region close


  • The traditional school structure is completely rehauled as technology transforms how, what, when and where we teach and learn
  • 75% of educators are "on line" and computer literate and have computers in the classroom
  • School administrators say they cannot keep up with the geometric pace of change and the "fugitive" nature of information on the information superhighway
  • Texts and other written materials are replaced as major sources of information by electronic sources
  • All schools and colleges connected by light fiber
  • 30% of St. Louis residents are enrolled in degree programs on the Internet
  • Statewide instruction offered via cable
  • Access to the Internet is available to all via public sites such as libraries, etc.
  • Home access to computers and the Internet exceeds 80%
  • 80% of homes in St. Louis use Web TV to connect to the Internet
  • 40% of school curriculum delivered via interactive telecommunications technology


  • 90% of organizations change their structure from a hierarchical model to a horizontal model by 2007
  • Education adapts to keep pace with the changing nature of the workplace
  • Job candidates with certification in job skills are favored by employers over candidates from traditional degree programs
  • Corporations establish an accreditation system for their development programs
  • Recession
  • Customized, consumer-driven education, encouraged by a mosaic population augmented by changing funding resources


  • Demise of current voluntary desegregation program in St. Louis city and county
  • Continuation of current voluntary desegregation program in St. Louis city and county
  • State support of public universities reduced by one-third
  • Supreme Court rules that use of property taxes to fund public education denies equal access to education
  • State and/or local dollars are committed to fully fund early childhood family education
  • Federal legislation establishes every child's right to free 14 years of public education.
  • Education funding levels decline due to short-term (recession, change in political leadership) and long-term (loss of tax base, inequity of funding) events.
  • MO legislature allows tuition credit
  • Voucher system established for all schools
  • Charter schools approved
  • National standards/norms established and implemented for all levels of education
  • City/county government merged
  • Large financial school districts established for MO, restructuring traditional school districts' borders to allow control on a regional basis
  • The special education district dismantled; special education rolled into general education districts.
  • U.S. Department of Education eliminated
  • Federally mandated regional education control to equalize education funding
  • School board governance eliminated
  • Performance-based credentialing for pre-service teachers or educators

Identify Signals and Implications for Selected Events, and Recommend Actions

The next tasks were for each group to identify the signals of one of the top five events that could occur, to list the implications of the event if it were to occur, and to draft recommended actions given this analysis.

The events, signals that they could occur, and draft recommendations from each group follow:

1. Event—Tribalism: cultural diversity results in divisiveness rather than cooperation


  • development of culture-specific schools
  • growth of hate groups
  • dropout problems
  • gangs


  • community turned into groups competing with one another for limited resources
  • climate in community is ridden with increasing fear and animosity
  • failure to utilize richness that comes from diversity
  • difficult for schools to define and achieve educational goals
  • profound impact on curriculum in an attempt to serve all, more served well


  • build learning communities through collaborative planning and decision making (collaboration of parents, teachers, students, business people, healthcare providers, social service providers, religious institutions, and other stakeholders)
  • provide opportunities for meaningful interaction among groups; the school building becomes a community education center
  • re-examine media's role in building learning communities
  • stabilize neighborhoods / develop neighborhoods
  • build learning communities via technology

2. Event—90% of organizations change their structure from a hierarchical model to a horizontal model


  • elimination of middle managers
  • mobile offices
  • more collaborative working relationships
  • changes in curriculum approaches and assessment
  • changes in teacher training
  • changes in workforce training
  • schools focusing on diverse approaches
  • workforce needing to be technologically literate
  • shift in leadership reflecting more inclusive elements of gender, race and culture
  • change in role of educator from information source to facilitator

Action plan

  • design more integrated and broader curriculum
  • provide team-building experiences for students
  • provide more hands-on, interactive and practical experiences
  • provide new pre-service training for teachers as well as training for new leadership roles for all educators
  • ensure more equitable funding through a variety of sources, including in-kind contributions

3. Event—The traditional school structure is completely re-hauled as technology transforms how, what, when and where we teach and learn


  • decentralization of education
  • universal availability of knowledge
  • lifelong learning, adult computer literacy and technical literacy; changing job description
  • technology skills required to function in society
  • fax machines disappearing; replaced by e-mail
  • prevalence of automation/convenience
  • state and federal legislation creating an infrastructure for technology
  • expanding use of Internet as a learning tool
  • students increasing access to technology at home (often more than at school)
  • greater emphasis on engaged learning made possible via technology
  • increased resources for faculty development
  • increased spending for technology


  • growing dependence on our technologies (when server goes down . . .)
  • cross-cultural and cross-linguistic learning
  • time (e.g. workday, schoolday, re-definition of Carnegie Units)
  • changes in the way we teach; what we teach
  • focus on teaching how to find facts rather than facts themselves
  • decreasing significance of church and school, character and moral education
  • focus on universal access to technology
  • focus on cooperative learning
  • focus on interpersonal relationships
  • impact on teachers' jobs (tenure, class sizes)
  • overabundance of information as debilitating as restricted access to information
  • shift in teachers' role in classroom from sage on the stage to guide on the side
  • if employment is decentralized, then home becomes important again
  • low income populations; access/equity; haves/have-nots
  • new forms of marginalization of (age, skills) etc.
  • financial challenges-how to pay for this
  • retraining challenges
  • increase of support services-software, hardware, integration
  • more learning opportunities; more individualized instruction
  • students learn how to learn
  • greater integration of learning
  • greater separation between haves and have-nots, both at school and at home


  • address financing issues
  • encourage state and federal and local legislation to develop collaboration activities with business
  • investigate alternative financing resources
  • develop a regional technology plan
  • establish technological learning standards for students and teachers
  • set up community learning centers
  • work for universal access to the Internet
  • educate the educators about the use of technology
  • educate adults
  • make hardware and software available through libraries in St. Louis:
  • Use Science Center to get people interested; use community colleges to help with adult learning; use libraries, community centers to offer community collaboration
  • Make entrepreneurial opportunities available as they were historically in 19th century
  • Use computers cooperatively (with groups of 5)
  • Promote computer literacy but also scientific, technical literacy; get people up to speed, don't focus on just computer literacy
  • Redefine the role of teacher, in-service and pre-service professional development, and roles of administrators to "learn about learning"
  • Evaluate on basis of outcomes in 21st century; no longer "certify" good teachers!
  • Redefine the curriculum of what we need to know and do to be considered an educational citizen and St. Louisan in the 21st century (and 2004)
  • Create new means of funding

4. Event—Schools won't be able to keep up with the geometric pace of change and the "fugitive" nature of information (knowledge is exploding, is fluid, problems of validity)


  • widening gap in public opinion polls based on differences in educational background
  • over one half of United Way agencies focus on mental health
  • teachers are already having to teach kids how to distinguish valid/invalid sources of information on the Internet
  • textbooks can't keep up now, especially in science areas
  • how do we know something is no longer valid?
  • news coverage; is it premature announcement of fluid knowledge?
  • people looking to trusted sources of information more and more because of information overload and because of doubts about reputable/valid sources of information
  • space program now is collaborating with Russia, France, etc., to survive
  • text books are obsolete as soon as teachers receive them now
  • data overload
  • democratic society based on educated citizens who can make rational decisions
  • already seeing businesses, organizations in marketplace who don't succeed because they can't change fast enough
  • everything is interconnected


  • unless electronic information structure of St. Louis improves drastically, we will not function well (like railroads or past-era highways)
  • need greater collaboration among all those with stake in education: public, private, parochial, business, general public, higher ed, etc.
  • changing roles for libraries-sort through data sources and give stamp of approval


  • set up metro-wide technology infrastructure and communications infrastructure that ensures access for all; affordable, cost-effective, efficient with valid sources of data/information
  • Need to change focus of teaching from content to balance between context and process of learning; change from "what" to "how" in pre-service education, professional development, teacher recruitment, school leadership, etc.
  • create incentives for collaboration and partnerships
  • study ways to restructure school finance and governance on individual and regional basis
  • find ways to eliminate fiscal, physical and psychological barriers of Mississippi River

5. Event—Teachers/administrative pool decreases by 40-50%


  • enrollment in college programs for educators is not increasing
  • retirements are larger than enrollees to college
  • demographics show number of students coming in to school is going up
  • teacher salaries are not keeping up with industry
  • now SIUE is helping to look for 40 guidance counselors


  • larger class sizes
  • smaller number of qualified teachers
  • change in focus from teacher to student in classroom; must rely on technology to achieve the result
  • hope for return to family learning
  • time: longer day, longer school year, staggered schedule
  • money will shift to technology and students or there will be a competition for teachers driving up salaries
  • role of the teacher must change
  • learning vs. schooling
  • methods and standards of testing will change


  • make teaching internships part of college curriculum
  • develop alternative certification programs for teachers and priority to enter other educational programs
  • increase salaries for teachers to attract and retain teachers
  • emphasize that a career is not a "life sentence"-people may come in and out of education
  • give control of classrooms back to teachers
  • purchase technology and educate teachers to use it wisely

6. Event—Education funding levels decline [due to short-term (recession, change in political leadership) or long-term (loss of tax base, inequity of funding) events]


  • corporations leaving the area
  • unemployment
  • federal abandonment of social responsibilities
  • failure to balance federal budget
  • rise in interest rates


  • increase in pupil/teacher ratios
  • educational stagnation
  • increasing alternative forms of education, vouchers, etc.
  • mass migration
  • erosion of support for reform


  • improve schools' performance, student achievement
  • create new, broad-based funding of system (e.g., not local property tax)
  • real public engagement in education

7. Event—Customized, consumer-driven education encouraged by a mosaic population augmented by changing funding resources


  • demand for new bilingual teaching
  • state/federal mandates-ADA, IDEA
  • increased parent activism
  • development of charter schools (and other specialized schools)
  • significant increases in minority population
  • changes in school schedules
  • growth in specialized courses


  • change from teaching topics to achieving outcomes
  • education becomes more of a business
  • teacher certification: specialized knowledge and experiences
  • tenure system: merit-based
  • learning communities
  • change in gender roles
  • greater flexibility in content and style
  • more expensive to implement
  • more competition among schools
  • more segmentation that could lead to less civility


  • review and revise teacher training and reeducation
  • increase certification flexibility
  • increase charter and magnet schools within the public system
  • reengineer the traditional classroom
  • establish merit pay system
  • combine into regional districts to achieve equitable financing
  • replace property tax funding with education tax (individual, corporate, sales)
  • develop statewide salary system
  • develop educational voucher system

8. Event—Web TV becomes available to all, creating greater equity and opportunity through technology


  • current TV advertising
  • technology is available
  • demand (from kids' current access)
  • doing!
  • games access
  • every household has a phone and TV
  • competition for control by major companies
  • political priority
  • high profit
  • education not bound by geographic boundaries
  • may reinforce isolation
  • less sense of community
  • schools will look at how they distribute information
  • increase in teachers' access to resources
  • citizens have equal access to powerful resources
  • changes in formal education and high school-college continuum
  • more distance learning
  • what happens to books?
  • increased interest in learning
  • greater interaction in family
  • youngsters teaching parents
  • lifelong learning
  • no snow days
  • teachers can teach from home
  • change in school calendar
  • IGP for every student
  • everyone read really well
  • what to do with credit
  • greater value in social aspect of schooling so a balance is necessary
  • school still needs to be humanizing agent
  • school facility needs (less stress on information pipeline)
  • distance learning centers
  • smaller schools possible
  • schools become a symbol of a place you go periodically
  • lifelong learning/ongoing professional development
  • buy stock in web TV
  • foster community dialogue
  • ensure universal and public access
  • anticipate changes in laws and regulation
  • redevelop public policy
  • develop quality St. Louis-based web sites
  • make sure educators maintain and develop social qualities

9. Event—minorities become the majority

  • declining birth rates of whites
  • immigration of minorities
  • intermarriage
  • demographic projections
  • census trends
  • expanded ESL (temporarily - one generation)
  • greater integration of neighborhoods
  • continued white flight
  • greater stratification due to economics, educational and social class
  • increased cultural richness
  • change in political base; shifting power structure, new alliances and coalitions
  • changing language
  • coalitions (diverse) based on causes and values
  • train teachers for diverse population
  • celebrate diversity in teacher training
  • secure more financing from state
  • work to enhance civility - citizenship, conflict resolution, community partners

10. Event—Education funding is outcome-based

  • corporate community will become a source partner to school/university
  • corporations will locate in communities with positive results
  • corporations will facilitate start-up of charter schools and participate on the board
  • students will need to continue learning after they have been hired by corporations - ability to work in teams, they are self-guided, have good work ethics
  • definition of funding not limited to money
  • all components of community are involved in funding
  • stimulate a proactive involvement of corporations and education institutions
  • create new avenues to involve older adults so to support education (need their votes)
  • educate legislators on educational needs
  • open forums on alternatives in education-charter, public, vouchers
  • locate/create new funding sources
  • develop district internal resources (facilities, teaching experts within districts to share services)
  • expand distant learning opportunities (one teacher offers resources to numerous schools and/or districts)
  • develop a link between results and funding
  • utilize agencies in sharing resources or facilities among schools

11. Event—Society supports role of educators as surrogate parents

  • only 1 of 4 children live in a traditional home
  • need for early childhood and school age child care
  • increase in single parent families
  • decrease in age of parents
  • rapid increase in prison population, male and female
  • increase in gangs
  • increased utilization of free and reduced lunch and breakfast programs
  • increase in number of homes with two parents employed
  • increased need for health care services in school
  • communities must care about potential of all children
  • educators must be committed to the holistic development of each child (e.g. character ed., values, life skills, ed. attainment)
  • reduced crime
  • reduced teen pregnancy
  • create an informed public that gets the "big picture" and understands the implications of multiple decisions on education
  • elect legislators committed to public ed. and school board members committed to all children
  • demonstrate importance of long-term caring relationships between children and adults for education and development outcomes
  • demonstrate effectiveness of key programs to enhance educational outcomes (e.g. school breakfast leads to better learning in classroom in the morning)
  • promote children with the same teacher for more than one year
  • promote devoting more time and facilities/space to broader needs
  • demonstrate commitment to early intervention, children with disabilities, and lifelong learning beginning at birth

12. Event—Federal legislation establishes every child's right to free 14 years of public education

  • legislation introduced to provide structure and funding
  • public sentiment favors such legislation
  • declining enrollment in private institutions
  • employers demand better-educated/trained workforce
  • need for lifelong learning
  • decline in job opportunities for unskilled/uneducated workers
  • expectation of higher level of learning
  • different educational curriculum/structure focusing more on school-to-work
  • increase of governmental control of education
  • more productive society (higher skill job = increased productivity)
  • raise educational expectations for all children
  • develop action/event to affect major public paradigm shift
  • restructure methods for funding public education
  • lead charge for change
  • develop greater cooperation between industry and educational community
  • develop media campaign that additional education leads to more productive work force/citizens

13. Event—Voucher system established for all schools

  • Milwaukee using vouchers
  • legislature initiative in MO
  • constantly discussed in media
  • growing racial disharmony
  • continued inequity in public education funding
  • accessibility to technology
  • death of public schools/resurrection of public schools
  • creation of new/alternative schools (e.g., vocational schools)
  • escalate flight from city
  • state control and tax collection
  • student applicants overwhelm private schools
  • subsidize private education
  • public schools come together
  • need further study by commission to ensure public schools don't sink
  • head for the hills or rejoice; increased collaboration of state/public education
Critical Trends That Define the Context Within Which Learning Will Take Place in the 21st Century

Some of the potential developments identified in the working session were trends. Trends are estimations/measurements of social, technological, economic, and political characteristics over time. They are gradual and long-term. Trend information may be used to describe the future, identify emerging issues, and project future events. Trends define the context within which organizations function. Therefore, it is important to identify critical trends, particularly those that are emerging, forecast their future direction, derive their implications for effective planning, and construct plans to take advantage of the opportunities they offer or ameliorate their consequences if they may negatively impact the future of learning.

Trends identified in this session are as follows:


  • Increasing gulf between children of involved parents and non-involved parents
  • Increase in the numbers of both parents working full-time
  • Increased erosion of non-verbal communication skills
  • Changing role of traditional family
  • Increase in minority populations
  • Continued increase in teen pregnancy
  • Increase in coping with "drug babies" and alienated youth
  • Changing values between generations
  • Increased economic differences
  • Erosion of a sense of shared community
  • Changing educative roles and relationship of social institutions; new sources and collaboration
  • Crisis in state of family structure
  • Growing emphasis on early childhood
  • Population shifts from urban to suburban areas
  • Greater demand for technical education at secondary and post-secondary levels
  • Teachers changing from information delivery to facilitating student learning
  • Increasing technology gap between older and younger people
  • Decreasing emphasis on social, emotional and moral values
  • Continuing integration of all aspects of instruction program
  • Increasing opportunities for distance learning
  • Widening difference in technological haves and have-nots
  • Increasing shortage of technologically trained teachers
  • Changing make-up of the workplace
  • Changing emphasis from traditional liberal arts curriculum to vocational programming
  • Increasing acceptance of workers into workforce without formal education
  • Future work more likely to require "making" a job rather than "taking" a job
  • Increasing emphasis on lifelong learning - intergenerational learning, continuous, life and career changes
  • Increasing global market competition
  • Changing nature of work - multi-careers
  • Increasing regionalism, globalization
  • Closer relationships between business and education/partnership between schools and businesses and universities
  • Increasing competition between schools and corporations to provide learning
  • Schools becoming more market-driven (flexible, charters, vouchers, school choice)
  • Increasing competition for same resources has economic impacts
  • Decline in federal, corporate, private support for schools
  • Continual inequity in funding public schools
  • Significant decrease in funding for all levels of education
  • Loss/decrease of tax base
  • Changing in funding base from real estate tax
  • Increasing forms of alternative education, such as vouchers

Next Steps

  • On March 4, we will review these proceedings in light of current realities in the St. Louis Region. This review will give us the basis to determine the strategic direction of the project.

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