Magazine article Teach

Curricula: The Future Products Project

Magazine article Teach

Curricula: The Future Products Project

Article excerpt

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When thinking about the future and what sorts of goods and services will be required and then developed, it is important to have a clear vision (or as clear as possible) of the type of society that will exist. And the time frame is also a key factor. From our perspective, here and now in the present, how far ahead should one look? Ten, twenty, fifty or a hundred years? Designing for the future is always a dicey business because we won't really know, will we? There is a great deal of risk involved. After all, what if we are wrong? It's difficult to say, oops, then head in another direction. This is especially true given that a large number of corporations and governments are doing exactly that. Working ahead and planning for the years to come. It makes you wonder how capable they are and if they are making good decisions on our behalf. Think of the aerospace industry designing planes and rocketships or even the car companies who manufacture vehicles for personal transport. Will we need them at all if we can be transported in an instant like we've seen and imagined on Star Trek? We are becoming more mobile than ever given that many of our information needs can be fed to us without wires virtually anywhere in the world. A recent Arctic expedition kept in touch with their supporters via email and posted their progress on the Internet through satellite access via notebook computers that employed batteries that were recharged using energy from solar panels. The panels, in conjunction with special batteries provided enough power for the computers throughout the expedition. All of this means that information is now accessible anywhere and anytime.

In a previous series of teaching units we developed, we broached the idea of a future society and how to develop one in The Past, Present and Future of Communications. Let us refer you to the unit on The Future of Communications (soon to be posted at this web address: where you can go through the exercise with your students of designing your future society in part, by examining existing societal models. Then, it is possible to think about the needs and requirements of the citizens of that society and what products and services they may want.

This lesson plan is intended as a bit of a departure from those we normally publish. It won't be as rigidly structured and most of it will contain some examples of products and projects that are actually in the process of being developed. For much of this, we must thank the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( and some futurist organizations and Web sites where many of these ideas are being worked on feverishly by the practitioners there. The listing of these examples is intended to give you a stimulus for the development of your own product ideas in conjunction with your students. We hope it will get you thinking creatively.

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The following curriculum areas are applicable: Technology/Computers, Media Studies, Language Arts, Visual Arts, History and Social Studies. This teaching unit is most appropriate for Grades 4-12. Research tools: Encyclopedias (hard copy and CD-ROM, Library Resources, Books and the Internet.

Learning Outcomes

Students will:

1 Have a basic understanding of how society is structured and how it functions.

2 Work toward solving challenges with practical solutions.

3 Understand somewhat the technical aspects of some manufacturing processes.

4 See the relationship between events in the past, present and future.

5 Create, invent and build products for a future society

6 Enhance socialization by working in teams.

7 Use critical thinking skills to solve future-world problems.


We gather impressions through the information that is presented to us in the media. …

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