Scenario planning and the future of education
Definition 1: Wind tunneling
Wind tunneling can be thought of as an intellectual exercise for testing the fitness of an idea or concept, much as a wind tunnel tests the fitness of an airplane or automobile design. In a wind tunneling exercise, a concept, product, process, or even a persona is placed into a future scenario and the team assigned to develop that scenario visualizes how it would be represented, if at all, in that particular future. In the strategic dialogue that generates scenarios, wind tunneling offers a process by which elements of a system can be played against possible futures to reveal the different ways in which those elements might influence, and be influenced by, other factors in the scenario. The process forces the organization to challenge assumptions and fosters creativity in imagining scenarios.
In the case of the Microsoft education vision, several areas of technology as well as social and economic forces were wind tunneled against various aspects of education. Where would learners get information in Proud Tower, and how would that be different in Continental Drift? Who would employ teachers in each of the scenarios? Where would education funding come from? What organization would create curricula?
When the various aspects of education had been wind tunneled, the team developed a perspective on how those elements would fit together. A view of education emerged as the constraints placed on the various elements by the scenario influenced the development of the particular attributes of education in each scenario. Continental Drift, as a world of nationalist and regional bias, has a strong, centralized, government-controlled education system with nationalistic overtones. In Freelance Planet, the tone and character of education is personal; learning results from the interaction of learners within a complex ecosystem where questions often end in debate rather than an answer.