Has ‘Shift’ Happened? Revisiting a Viral Video From 2008

column | Digital Learning

Has ‘Shift’ Happened? Revisiting a Viral Video From 2008

By Betsy Corcoran (Columnist)     Nov 6, 2018

Has ‘Shift’ Happened? Revisiting a Viral Video From 2008

About 10 years ago, a short video called Shift Happens went viral, providing a wake-up call to educators that their students would enter a very different world once they left the classroom and entered the workforce.

The video presented a series of surprising statistics set to music, including:

  • “In 10 years, it is predicted that the number one English speaking country in the world will be … China.”
  • “The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that today’s learners will have 10 to 14 jobs by their 38th birthday.”
  • “One in eight couples married in 2005 met online.”

More than a quarter of a million people have watched the eight-and-a-half-minute video, and one of the video’s creators estimates millions more have viewed four follow-up videos. It marked a bit of a cultural moment.

So we decided it would be interesting to follow up with one of those creators, Scott McLeod, to ask what he would change about the video today, and what he would include if he released a new version based on where we are in 2018.

McLeod, an associate professor of education leadership at the University of Colorado in Denver, said things haven’t gone exactly as he hoped when releasing that video ten years ago.

Listen to highlights of the discussion on this week’s EdSurge On Air podcast. You can follow the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you listen. The transcript below has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

EdSurge: First, tell us how this ‘Shift Happens’ video came together.

McLeod: Karl Fisch, who was a tech coordinator in Colorado, pulled together some slides and some music for the staff at his high school. He shared it out on his blog back in the days when there weren't very many of us education bloggers. And I remixed it a bit with Karl's permission, and it turned out that my version was the one that went viral. And, over the next few years it just really took off.

Remind us what you were thinking of when you did that? It's called ‘Shift Happens,’ and it was about the changes in the world, but take us through just a couple of points. What were you trying to say?

Karl and I were trying trying to capture this idea that the world is changing very quickly. The digital Shift Happens series is just a stream of facts that come at you pretty fast about how quickly and rapidly things are changing. And how to think about that in a global context. Every 15 seconds you're hit about the head with the new factoid that really gets you thinking about how different things are, and how quickly things are moving.

It was a huge wake-up call to schools and educators around the country, and parents saying, “Wow, this world is going to be really different.”

Yeah. Not only educators. We were hearing from military people, and business people, and nonprofits. Basically every sector of society contacted me and Karl. It was like, this video's going viral, what's up?

Right. And it was viewed by how many millions of people?

We think the five videos were seen by at least 100 million people.

Now comes the really big question. What did you get right? And, what turned out to not matter very much?

I think we got the workforce stuff right. I think that all the stats in there about global competition for jobs, and how other countries are catching up quickly—we got that right. I think that we're seeing rapid displacement of job sectors in America, and in other developed countries. We're seeing that play out politically and economically—this job loss, and the need to re-skill people.

What we didn't get right was [imagining] the urgency with which schools would act. The impetus for the video was to try and get people to move from a place of complacency to start making some changes. And those changes have been much slower than we hoped or anticipated.

Interesting, particularly in the school sector?

Yeah. I've been spending a lot of time lately talking about relevance gaps. A relevance gap is any space in which schools are changing much slower than the society around them.

Let's take this concept of what it means to be literate these days. Our old conceptions of literacy were grounded in an ink-on-paper environment, so we got pretty good at that over a few centuries. But in these new digital, online, global, hyper connected spaces, what it means to be literate is very different. Schools are having trouble keeping up—and catching up. As the information landscape changes rapidly, schools changed slowly, and that relevance gap has widened rather than closed.

Are you ever going to redo it—because now it's more than 10 years?

Well, the stats are actually relatively easy to gather. I mean, they are floating out there. I don't have any graphic design skills. So I always need a graphic design company to step up and help with the graphic part. But, otherwise, yeah, we could make one.

That’s a tantalizing idea. So, here's the last question then. If you were to make one, what would you want to focus on now?

I think we would focus more on the education side. The original Shift Happens videos focused a lot on economics, and workforce, and technology, and not so much about learning and teaching. We would get a little more of the schooling side into the next version.

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