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Data collection phase completed in landmark study in Uruguay

What now?

This is a question to help us think about what we want in education – and what we want to get out of technologies in education. It is the driving question behind the ¿Y agora qué? research project, funded by the Uruguayan National Agency for Research and Innovation (ANII) and Fundación Ceibal.

Serving as the lead investigator and visiting professor at Universidad ORT Uruguay, Education Futures founder John Moravec is collaborating with ORT graduate student Verónica Zorrilla de San Martín to ask, can we build a collective capacity to transform the use of technologies in primary education in Uruguay? Utilizing the World Café action research method to engage with over 350 participants, the project is conceived as an invitation to co-create solutions with all stakeholders in the educational process (opinion leaders, collaborative institutions, governments, teachers, students to ask:

  • What are our “bold” and “innovative” ideas to better use new technologies for primary education in Uruguay?
  • What are some possible actions all members of our communities (teachers, parents, students, administrators, neighbors, etc.) can take to collaborate in creating a positive future for primary schools in Uruguay??
  • Can we come together as a community to transform learning? Why? Why not? How can leaders facilitate the growth of a collective capacity?

Moravec states:

What really distinguishes this study is that we are working from the bottom-up, bringing teachers, students, parents, and other community members together to envision new education futures. Too often –and particularly in Latin America– educational policy is dictated from the top-down with little input from teachers, parents, and students. This study turns that relationship upside down and asks these typically underrepresented stakeholders, what now?

Moravec and Zorrilla note that over the past 9 years, Uruguay has implemented a 1:1 computing initiative, providing each primary-level learner with a tablet or laptop (known as Plan Ceibal). Recent research has found, however, that the mere presence of these resources have no increased educational achievement. So, what now? Utilizing these tools in new ways, and building from the bottom up, can we build a collective capacity to use these technologies innovatively in education?

The data collection phase closed May 31. A final report will be published in September, 2016 on the website






No. 1

Download PDF version.



No. 1 – February 15, 2016

What we’ve learned:

  1. As schools try to learn about themselves through the PISA for Schools program, “the language of ‘elsewhere’ is used to justify local reform,” challenging traditional governance.
  2. An excessive focus on PISA scores alone oversimplifies more complex issues in school performance.
  3. Young children can differentiate between direct and indirect knowledge.
  4. We do not know how the use of tablet computers improves learning.
  5. The best predictors for success in a MOOC are prior experience and intended time spent with it by students.
  6. Adults that were unschooled as children report themselves to be doing just fine, and are employed largely in creative and knowledge work.

Welcome from the editor

Has the OECD become the “Ministry of Education for the World”? As many schools near testing season, we open with two articles from Australia that look into the reach of the OECD through its PISA regime and how this impacts policy at both national and school levels.

This issue marks the launch of Education Futures Review: A digest of essential academic literature in education. This newsletter curated to highlight the best, new thinking in education and is designed for decision-makers and leaders in K-12 and higher education, connecting with research, reports, and articles that might otherwise go unnoticed.

This serial covers “pre-K to grey” education news and research from around the world, with an approximately equal focus on both primary/secondary and tertiary education. Topical areas include: learning technologies, new approaches and concepts about learning, innovation in education, insightful research, and case studies for leaders, incorporating experiences from around the world.

Journal editors and publishers interested in having their content considered for review should send queries to

We aim to continue offering subscriptions for free at We are considering a sponsored content model for Education Futures Review that would allow us to publish more regularly. Queries for sponsorship (and your feedback regarding sponsorship) should be sent to

Finally, feel free to copy and distribute this newsletter within your networks! I invite your feedback on how we can improve this publication, make it more accessible, etc. Is this newsletter too short? Too long? Or, Just right? Is there something missing that you would like to see? Please feel free to email me personally at

John Moravec, Ph.D.
Editor, Education Futures Review

1. PISA for Schools: Topological rationality and new spaces of the OECD’s global educational governance 

Source: Comparative Education Review (2016), Vol. 60, No. 1, pp. 27-57
Author(s): Steven Lewis, Sam Sellar, & Bob Lingard

As schools try to learn about themselves through the PISA-based Test for Schools (“PISA for Schools”) program, “the language of ‘elsewhere’ is used to justify local reform” (p. 50). This suggests that, even at a local level, the OECD exerts tremendous influence through its PISA programs.

The PISA for Schools program is designed to allow schools to make comparisons among and between each other, based on the PISA exam. In this article, the authors analyzed 33 interviews with OECD staff, and “relevant edu-businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and philanthropic foundations,” in addition to relevant literature. They found that the ability of the OECD to enable the creation of school-to-school comparisons facilitated new heterarchical forms of educational governance.

By this, they mean that the traditional, top-down form of government-to-school governance is now complemented with an OECD-to-schools layer. By gaining of what is happening “elsewhere” (globally), schools find justifications for making reforms locally, thus potentially augmenting (or even bypassing) higher levels of local and national-level policy development. In this sense, governance for schools in the PISA for Schools program has a new, added horizontal dimension (peer-to-peer) in addition to the vertical dimension of traditional governance.


2. Leaning too far? PISA, policy and Australia’s ‘top five’ ambitions 

Source: Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education (2015), Vol. 36, No. 5, pp. 647-664
Author(s) Radhika Gorur & Margaret Wu

An excessive focus on PISA scores alone oversimplifies more complex issues in school performance. This suggests that policy makers need to focus less on aggregate, average scores, and look more into the details of school performance.

Looking into the Australian government’s desire to propel to nation to the list of the top five performing nations on the PISA by 2025, the authors looked into the usefulness of using PISA data to drive educational policy. They found that the rankings that policymakers rely on obscure more nuanced data that are more useful for determining policy than the rankings alone. Further, critiquing the usefulness of PISA for policymaking, they cited prior research that suggests that many decision makers simply do not understand the technical aspects of PISA and how to interpret the data.

Although politicians and policymakers have decried a “crisis” in education, taking a deeper look into Australia’s case, the authors found that there was no real crisis to be found. What they found, instead, was a high amount of performance variance, that suggests there are “possible differences between what is valued in Australian curricula and what is tested in PISA” (p. 662). Policymakers would do well to understand the variances within the data rather than the average scores and table rankings.


3. What could you really learn on your own?: Understanding the epistemic limitations of knowledge acquisition 

Source: Child Development (preprint article)
Author(s) Kristi L. Lockhart, Mariel K. Goddu, Eric D. Smith, & Frank C. Keil

Young children can differentiate between direct and indirect knowledge. This helps to inform us on how to enable children to learn on their own, including how to manage social relationships.

Distinguishing between direct knowledge vs. indirect knowledge can be a difficult task for many people, but is critical in modern society. Courts, for example, rely on eyewitnesses (direct knowledge) and do not value hearsay (indirect knowledge). Direct knowledge is viewed as possessing higher integrity than indirect knowledge, which can pass on false truths and beliefs, unintentional or not. Indirect knowledge, on the other hand, helps to build our sense of shared, social knowledge. How do children make distinctions between the sources of their knowledge?

The researchers recruited groups of kindergarteners, fourth graders, and university students to review 31 stimulus items: “18 of which described knowledge that can only be acquired secondhand, such as knowledge about invisible processes or things (e.g., germs), historical figures or events (e.g., dinosaurs or George Washing- ton), and 13 of which described knowledge that could be acquired firsthand through perception (e.g., that the sky is blue) or through personal experience (e.g., that one sleeps when one is tired).” The participants were then led in an imaginative scenario where they had to determine what a man who had been stranded on a deserted island his entire life, alone since birth, would know or not know. The idea is that such a man would only have knowledge that was acquired first hand.

The researchers found that each group of participants could differentiate direct knowledge and experience from indirect knowledge and experience. Most importantly, they found, “even young school children have a clear sense of the kinds of direct knowledge an individual could acquire growing up on their own in isolation from any cultural influences as opposed to indirect information that requires cultural transmission of some sort” (p. 12). A couple key implications this suggests are that teacher-student relationships can be better “calibrated” with a better understanding of what is self-learnable, and younger children may be more prone to misunderstanding social relationships because they feel they can discover them firsthand as opposed to having been learned socially (p. 14).


4. Tablet use in schools: A critical review of the evidence for learning outcomes 

Source: Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (preprint article)
Author(s) B. Haßler, L. Major, & S. Hennessy

We do not know how the use of tablet computers improves learning. The evidence suggests that unknown factors, together with tablets, may lead to greater gains.

The authors of this study took a hard look at 23 studies that reported the use of tablets by primary and secondary school children. They aimed to “determine if, when and how using tablets might impact on learning outcomes: do the knowledge and skills of students increase following the use of tablets for particular purposes, and, if so, what factors contribute to successful or unsuccessful use?” (p. 2).

After the review, they found that 16 of them reported positive learning outcomes, 2 were negative, and five showed no difference. When looking in to how tablets impact learning, the authors found that the reality was much more complex than expecting measurable improvement with the presence of tablets as an intervention factor alone. While acknowledging the limitations of their literature review, they suspected professional development opportunities for teachers may play a bigger role with the successful implementation of tablet-based learning in schools over student-device ratios (p. 14). Nonetheless, without clear evidence present, they concluded there is much room for further research.


5. Predictors of retention and achievement in a massive open online course 

Source: American Educational Research Journal (2015), Vol. 52, No. 5, pp. 925-955
Author(s) Jeffrey A. Greene, Christopher A. Oswald, & Jeffrey Pomerantz

The best predictors for success in a MOOC are prior experience and intended time spent with it by students. This suggests that if we are to rely on MOOCs for student instruction, we need to rethink how we introduce students to MOOC-like learning.

MOOCs have gained in popularity across a variety of institutions over recent years, with a promise to revolutionize learning. The problem is that they suffer from low retention. A MOOC may attract many student participants, but it is common for a low percentage to actually complete the course – often dropping below 10% (p. 927). Why?

The authors found “empirical research on achievement in MOOCs is rare” (p. 929), so they sought to look into predictors of retention through a MOOC offered by their own institution, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After building a list of hypotheses to be tested, based on Carol Dweck’s work on implicit theories of intelligence. Their findings, limited from their study of their single MOOC, suggest that the best predictor for likelihood of dropout was prior experience with other MOOCs. As for achievement, they found that “intended hours spent on the MOOC had a positive, statistically significant relationship with achievement” (p. 947).

This, of course, leaves much room for further investigation as it suggest a “chicken and egg”-type problem. If the greatest predictor for staying in a MOOC is having prior MOOC experience, how can work to ensure student commitment the first time?


6. Grown unschoolers’ experiences with higher education and employment: Report II on a survey of 75 unschooled adults 

Source: Other Education (2015), Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 925-955
Author(s) Gina Riley & Peter Gray

Adults that were unschooled as children report themselves to be doing just fine, and are employed largely in creative and knowledge work. They credited unschooling for promoting their personal responsibility, self-motivation, and desire to learn.

This article presents the first known research into experiences with higher education and careers by unschoolers. The idea that unschoolers learn through free play is thought by practitioners to enhance the development of creativity and self-motivation among children, but do they emerge as capable, creative adults?

In a survey of 75 adults, who have been unschooled for at least the last two years of high school, the author found that 83% of them continued on to higher education, and 44% completed (or were expecting to complete) a bachelor’s degree program. As for employment, “the survey responses also revealed a general willingness, even eagerness, to change employment as interests changed. Many said that they were still exploring, playing, and learning, and that as their lives evolved their jobs would change too” (p. 45). Approximately half of the respondents (53%) reported that they had become entrepreneurs, and another approximate half reported that they were engaged in (or pursuing careers in) the creative arts (48%). Even more interesting:

Concerning higher education, it is noteworthy that those who were in the most unschooled group, who had skipped all of K-12, were also the most likely to pursue a bachelor’s degree or higher. Some of them had rarely or never been previously in a classroom, or read a textbook, or been required to study a topic that they wouldn’t have chosen to study, or taken an academic examination, yet found themselves getting A’s and earning honors, both in community college courses and in bachelor’s programs. Apparently, the lack of an imposed curriculum had not deprived them of the background knowledge and skills needed for college success. Consistently, they reported that the attitudinal and motivational benefits they had acquired in unschooling more than outweighed any handicap that might have resulted from their not having taken the standard high-school courses that are supposed to prepare people for college. (p. 47)

An important limitation of this study is that participants were recruited from the Internet, not a random selection of all unschoolers, increasing the risk of self-selection effects, where those who are still engaged with unschooling (or are more likely to have had skewed experiences with unschooling) are likely to respond. Nonetheless, the authors claim this study strongly suggests unschooling can lead to future success and satisfaction in life, opening pathways to a new body of research.


Glossary of terms used in this issue

  • MOOC: Massive open online course. An online course designed for unlimited participation and open access via the Web.
  • OECD: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. An international economic organization founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade.
  • PISA: Programme for International Student Assessment. A study organized by the OECD every three years to look at 15-year-old student performance in mathematics, science, and reading. Its purpose is to help inform policy through comparative measurement.
  • Unschooling: An educational method and philosophy that advocates for “life learning” — activities chosen by the learner, often through play, as their primary means for learning. “Unschoolers” neither go to a traditional school nor are homeschooled through a curriculum-based program.


Education Futures Review is published by Education Futures LLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Contact:

To subscribe, visit:

Editor: John Moravec, Ph.D.

This issue of Education Futures Review is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit

SOMECE and Education Futures announce inter-institutional agreement

MEXICO CITY (November 10, 2015)– SOMECE, the Mexican Society for Computing in Education, today announced an inter-institutional partnership with Minneapolis-based Education Futures LLC to further academic activities and professional development aimed at education, training, and the dissemination of research, particularly in regard to further developing the movement for change that is based on the principles espoused in Manifesto 15.

Speaking at their international virtual symposium this morning, SOMECE president Luis Lach stated, “this partnership with Education Futures allows us to rethink the use of computers and other technologies in our schools and universities.” Added Education Futures founder and Manifesto 15 lead author John Moravec, “with this agreement in place, we can start to leverage North-South and South-North ideas and resources toward generating solutions that will benefit all students and learning organizations.”

Read Manifesto 15 online at

Released at the beginning of this year, Manifesto 15 is a public declaration of a vision for education futures, based on what the authors learned through their own research and experiences. It issues challenges such as, “if ‘technology’ is the answer, what was the question?” And, it boldly states that “1.0 schools cannot educate 3.0 kids,” while providing principles for creating meaningful solutions. As an open document, the manifesto has been translated by volunteers into 18 language (to date), annotated with visual graphics, streamlined with a version for kids, and has appeared in print and digital media worldwide.

The challenges we face are centered on fundamental problems. Moravec elaborated, “we separate kids by age and grade, we manage schools in a top-down style, we operate within industrial hours, and teachers hold absolute power and authority over students — these are part of a mainstream structure implemented around the world in schools that is not backed by research. We’ve assumed that if we don’t tell students what to learn, they will not learn anything at all.” Moreover, he continues, “we’ve lost touch with WHAT we are educating for, WHY we do it, and FOR WHOM this is all intended to benefit.”

“While we may not be able to predict the future with precision, we can at least set the vision for the type of potential futures we can create with others,” said Lach. “Manifesto 15 is not a mirror to the past, but it is a prism that takes a diverse spectrum of ideas and melds them into a coherent vision that helps us to rethink how we approach educational technologies. With this vision, we now have clearer pathways to make change happen today.”

SOMECE-Education Futures collaboration announced at SOMECE's virtual symposium in Mexico City

SOMECE-Education Futures collaboration announced at SOMECE’s virtual symposium in Mexico City

SOMECE is a Mexican non-profit that, since 1986, promotes the widespread use of information and communications technologies at all levels and in all forms of education, training, and human resource development.

Education Futures LLC is a global education research and development agency with experience in collaborating with creatives, thought leaders, innovators, and learning organizations to create new opportunities for human capital development.

Contact: Education Futures,

Emerald opens Knowmad Society special issue of On the Horizon at IPON

This morning, I arrived in Utrecht, Netherlands for IPON, an annual educational technology event that attracts over 5,000 ICT professionals and educators. I will give a keynote tomorrow on “redesigning the future of education in Knowmad Society: our next steps,” where I will share some of the key ideas that we presented in the Knowmad Society book.

Related to this event, Emerald Group Publishing has agreed to provide early, open access to the next issue of On the Horizon, which is themed on Knowmad Society: Borderless work and education. Please note that these are the “EarlyCite” versions of the articles, and that there may be some modifications by the time the issue goes to print on May 17. This complimentary, online access to the issue is available for IPON participants only until June 10.

A simplified instruction page for accessing the journal is available at:

Also, full instructions for accessing the special issue are provided for IPON participants here:

Very special thanks go to Emerald for making this early look possible. Again, thank you!

A conversation and workshop with the KaosPilots and Knowmads

For those of us in the Minneapolis area, I’m pleased to share news that the KaosPilots and Knowmads will visit with the University of Minnesota for a free event on redesigning university education.

Here’s the official announcement:

Following on the activities of the College of Design’s Design Intersections symposium (, the University of Minnesota community is invited to join in a FREE follow-up workshop, co-sponsored by the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development and the Jandris Center for Innovation in Higher Education:

Rethinking Teaching and Learning at the University of Minnesota: A Conversation and Workshop with The KaosPilots and Knowmads.


Friday, March 30
9 am – noon, lunch follows
Shepherd Room, Weisman Art Museum

Registration will be limited to 50.

Join us for a FREE co-creation event at the University of Minnesota featuring global creatives from the KaosPilots (Aarhus, Denmark) and Knowmads (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) —innovative schools focused on applied creative and design thinking, business, and social entrepreneurship.
We will discuss the future of education and what it means for the University.

  • How can we rethink how we learn, share, and apply what we know in this time of accelerating technological and social change?
  • How we can apply design thinking principles to transform how we teach, learn, live and work in Minnesota?
  • How can students and faculty at the University of Minnesota be engaged in democratic, participatory ways in co-creating new approaches to teaching and learning?
We welcome the University community and others interested in education for building a creative and innovative Minnesota.

Event co-sponsors:  College of Design; Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development; Jandris Center for Innovative Higher Education; Humphrey School of Public Affairs; Carlson School of Management; and the Weisman Art Museum

For more information, visit or contact Virajita Singh ( or John Moravec (

Are you a knowmad or are you just lost?

Knowmads differentiate their jobs from work. Jobs are positions, gigs, or other forms of employment. Work is longer term in scope, and relates toward creating meaningful outcomes. One’s work differs from a career in Knowmad Society. Whereas a career is something that “carries” a person throughout life, an individual’s work is a collection of activities that are backed with elements that are purposive at the personal level. In other words, the results of a knowmad’s work are their responsibility alone.

Knowmads strive to continually define and refine their work. This can be expressed through occupying various jobs, apprenticeships, entrepreneurship, social activities, etc. If the knowmad makes a difference at their job, but there is little opportunity for creating change, then it’s time to move on. Without having a purposive direction to herd one’s various jobs into work, we must question if that person has found his or her way.

As we look to co-invent our futures of work, we need to look hard into what we are doing, and ask each other, are you a knowmad, or are you just lost?