08/26/2014 03:20 pm ET Updated Oct 26, 2014

Thinking at Harvard: What Is the Future of Learning?

What is the future of learning?

It is a question that can intrigue, excite and be discussed on many levels and platforms.

From an academic standpoint, one may ask, whose future of learning? What context, in which continent, country and city? Is there any past research available and why is this inquiry important now?

Therefore, this topic made me fly 6000 plus miles to the magical kingdom of 6 Appian Way (Harvard Graduate School of Education), where the brightest of minds meet, conceptualize ideas and have often, more or less changed or trained the world.

During sessions at Harvard, we looked into the future of learning through the lens of globalization, digital revolution and mind/brain research. The high energy and representation from around the world made me realize that the "future of learning" is on the mind of most nations of the world. Everyone seemed curious, excited but also uncertain about where this journey would take him or her. However, we soon realized that no one really had the perfect answers or models because of the nature of the question. Still, while looking at the future of learning, we as a cohort realized that asking the right questions was as important as the answers because exploration gives birth to great ideas.

Listed below are some of my reflections on the future of learning:

For proper learning to occur, whether it was in the past, now in the present or in the future, great teachers are always indispensable.

During my interactions, I realized that most educators from different parts of the world believe that learning must adapt to the style and needs of the knowledge seeker. Essentially, this means that we question the whole process of standardized testing systems. How can we give students a common standard test, when we all agree that each student is unique?

Digital revolution is a boon, and it really has put all the data on our fingertips but now the onus is on us. What we do with this data, how we process this information, and turn into practical usefulness will be a key skill for the future generations.The real challenge will be to sift through this information strategically, so that one can remain aware, efficient and avoid information overload.

Globalization is not a new phenomenon and it is beyond introducing Coca cola or McDonalds to third world countries. We are one world, with blurring boundaries, and a melting pot of cultures. Therefore, knowing about others (rest of the world) is as important as knowing about self. If we get our DNA checked, we may trace our lineage to a place in the world that we may have never been to before.

Globalization and Digital Revolution can make quality education accessible to countries like India. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi just launched the Digital India initiative that is going to work on similar lines, where world-class faculty can connect and train learners in remote areas.

The intricacy, capacity, power and the endurance of the human mind is still not fully comprehensible.
However, one thing is clear that we can train our mind in multiple ways and there is just not one way to learn. We are born to learn. The mind becomes stronger as it gets trained. Here, I would like to end by quoting Swami Vivekananda who said that people should have "muscles of iron, nerves of steel, inside which dwells a mind of the same material of which the thunderbolt is made."

Hence, the future of learning should be such that it gives greater flexibility to the learner, confidence that the self can learn anything, basic idea clarity on complex thoughts and processes, strength of mind (critical thinking), practical application abilities (employment), awareness about the world at large and tolerance.