Backcasting and PLE building

At UBC’s annual Educamp session yesterday, I listened to keynote, Duane Elverum talk about sustainability education, and was particularly intrigued by the concept of backcasting – a term I hadn’t heard before but an approach I use often in my own life.

Where forecasting imagines a future based on the way we are currently operating and are likely to operate in the future based on the technologies available to us, backcasting works from the ground up. It recognizes that tools and solutions to problems are never pre-determined, and so starts with a stated vision and then invents/adapts/leverages technology to achieve that goal.

Although the strategy is used often in design, urban planning and resource management, I think it can be highly effective for personal development and learning as well. In the context of thinking about and developing a PLE, here’s how it might work.

  • imagine/envision a future picture of yourself that you like.  What kind of work are you involved in? What are your interests? What qualities/attributes/skills do you have? How are you contributing to a world you want to live in?
  • consider your current situation.  Where are the gaps?  What do you need to do to develop into the person you imagine yourself to be?
  • employ or invent the approaches/technologies/learning resources to support the path to that vision.

For me, the process of decision making, thoughtful planning and conscious reflection are central components in the making of my own personal learning environment.

As Duane points out, students “see the things they are learning as disconnected from the increasingly urgent and dire warnings they hear and talk about everyday.”  At some point, those of us who have the potential to help learners grow into their responsibilities as citizens in an increasingly complex world, need to be stepping up as guides and facilitators in this process.


2 thoughts on “Backcasting and PLE building

  1. I found your article on the Backcasting approach very interesting. You day, that backcasting is oftenly used in urban planning – can you post any examples, please? I am an urban planner and very keen to learn about new developments in the area of backcasting planning approaches..

    1. Hi rid,
      Thanks for your comment. Here is an article you may be interested in: I’m not an urban planner, but I think it is the visioning piece that is important (where do you want to be?) which helps inspire as you cast back to where you are now and plan the steps you’ll need to take in between. The backcasting methodology is more detailed and described in the paper linked above.

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