A Look at near-future sci-fi. Disrupting the Institution (DI) Network – Blog Post

There are many voices saying that now is the time for significant change to the “institution” of K-12 education. These voices come from students, parents, teachers, administrators, communities, and corporations. They rarely agree on the best path forward, but all seem to be pointing to ways that we can improve education.


The purpose of the Disrupting the Institution Network is explore, challenge, and evaluate the new pedagogies and technologies enabled by the digital age.


One of the best ways I know to think about the future is to explore some of the amazing “near-future” sci-fi that has been written recently. “Near-Future” sci-fi looks just a few decades down the road and tries to imagine what the work might look like. It also attempts to envision how some of the ethical and moral dilemmas posed by technology come to be resolved.


Here is a list of some popular and fun “near-future” sci-fi that would be great for a Summer read and book discussion:

  1. Halting State by Charles Stross
    In the year 2018, Sergeant Sue Smith of the Edinburgh constabulary is called in on a special case. A daring bank robbery has taken place at Hayek Associates, a dot-com startup company that’s just been floated on the London stock exchange. The suspects are a band of marauding orcs, with a dragon in tow for fire support, and the bank is located within the virtual reality land of Avalon Four. For Smith, the investigation seems pointless. But she soon realizes that the virtual world may have a devastating effect in the real one-and that someone is about to launch an attack upon both.
  2. River of Gods by Ian McDonald
    As Mother India approaches her centenary, nine people are going about their business-a gangster, a cop, his wife, a politician, a stand-up comic, a set designer, a journalist, a scientist, and a dropout. And so is Aj-the waif, the mind reader, the prophet-when she one day finds a man who wants to stay hidden.In the next few weeks, they will all be swept together to decide the fate of the nation.River of Gods teems with the life of a country choked with peoples and cultures-one and a half billion people, twelve semi-independent nations, nine million gods.
  3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
    Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them.
  4. Avogadro Corp by William Hertling
    David Ryan is the designer of ELOPe, an email language optimization program, that if successful, will make his career. But when the project is suddenly in danger of being canceled, David embeds a hidden directive in the software accidentally creating a runaway artificial intelligence.David and his team are initially thrilled when the project is allocated extra servers and programmers. But excitement turns to fear as the team realizes that they are being manipulated by an A.I. who is redirecting corporate funds, reassigning personnel and arming itself in pursuit of its own agenda.


Once your brain has been stretched a bit by one of the books above, take a look at some of the resources below to what kinds of “real-world” things are happening at the bleeding edge of education.



  1. SAMR – Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition
  2. Flipped Learning – Resources and Research
  3. Blended Learning – Blended Learning Resources
  4. Competency Based Learning – RISC website
  5. Gamification of Learning – Edutopia Gamification Resources
  6. Maker Movement – Makezine Magzine


Technology Tools / Content

  1. Teaching Kids to Code – Resources and Links
  2. Adaptive Learning – FAQ from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  3. Open Educational Resources – Tools you should know about
  4. BYOD / BYO(x) – Vision, planning, and implementation guide
  5. 3D Printing – THE journal Article


Please take a minute to take the DI Networks Interest Survey. We look forward to exploring together this year!


  1. Wade Roach says

    I’ve read halting state and ready player one. Both great. Ready player one was recommended to me by Philip Rosedale, designer of second life and one who continues to be on the digital frontier. Anyone who grew up in the 80s will find lots of parallels with the story. Another good read is reamde by Neal Stephenson, of snowcrash fame.