Following on from my first piece on LearnTech, this post explores the technologies that are likely to have the greatest impact on learning, teaching and leading.

Exponential Change is deceptive, then explosive

The phrase ‘Exponential Change’ is increasingly being used and heard in a wide range of contexts but what does it actually mean? Unlike linear change, which results from repeatedly adding a constant, exponential change is the repeated multiplication of a constant. If you were graphing linear change it would produce a stable straight line over time. Exponential change produces a line that skyrockets.

An insightful way of explaining exponential change is seen in the diagram below. It compares the distance travelled by taking thirty-one metre steps to that of the distance travelled by thirty exponential steps. Thirty linear steps of one metre will take you thirty metres, but if you double your stride each step, you progress the same distance with each step as all the previous steps combined. Before you hit a billion miles at step 30, you’re at 500 million miles at step 29. That means that any of your previous steps look minuscule compared with the last few steps of explosive growth, and most of the growth happens over a relatively short period of time.


Exponential change (adapted from Berman, Dorrier, & Hill, 2016)


As humans, we are designed to think in linear terms. This produces a paradox for education. It is very hard for us to see what is about to happen as all we can draw on is what has happened which has largely been linear.

“[T]he future will be far more surprising than most people realize because few observers have truly internalized the implications of the fact that the rate of change itself is accelerating.” Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity Is Near (2005)

 The point is we often miss exponential trends in their early stages because the initial pace of exponential change is deceptive. It begins slow and steady and is hard to differentiate from linear change.


Convergence and Exponential Technologies

Many technologies have been around for a while in some form or another but what makes this era, defined by the World Economic Forum as the ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’, so exceptional? (Brown-Martin, 2018)

A number of technologies are entering the mainstream and are converging to catalyse exponential growth in the other, all poised to have enormous impact on learning, teaching and leading:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Immersive Tech – such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
  • Blockchain
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Robotics – when combined with AI

In subsequent articles, I will deep dive into each of these technology areas with a specific focus on the K12 school sector but suffice to say these technologies are providing unprecedented challenges and opportunities for learners, teachers and leaders. Weighing in on this is the World Economic Forum’s prediction that 65% of today’s children entering primary school will end up doing work that is not yet invented. Classrooms that are still functioning like those from 100 years ago are not preparing these students adequately and it is exponential technologies that will have the boldest impact.

Which technologies do you see making their way into your school and are you already experiencing an impact on learning, teaching, and leading?


Berman, AE, Dorrier, J & Hill, DJ 2016, How to think exponentially and better predict the future, Singularity Hub, viewed 29 May 2018.
Brown-Martin, G 2018, ‘Education and the fourth industrial revolution’, Medium, viewed 29 May 2018.
Kurzweil, R 2006, The singularity is near: When humans transcend biology, Viking, USA.

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