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Webinar: Does the future need schools?

In March, we asked, does the future need schools?

The question was deceitfully simple, and the responses were rich. What we were really asking was, what is the purpose of school? As we look 10, 20, or 50 years into the future, will ‘school’ be relevant?

We got some great answers. We are analyzing the data now, and we will share what we have learned in a free, online webinar.

The webinar will be held Wednesday, May 16 at 4:00 PM ET (US).

John Moravec and Kelly Killorn-Moravec will present their findings for about fifteen minutes, and then they will open the floor for conversation, comments, and questions. We won’t use this as an opportunity to sell anything to you. Rather, we are pleased to offer a one-hour continuing education certificate for educators who join the webinar. It’s one of our ways of saying ‘thanks’ to the community for participating in this project.

Reserve your seat now!

When: Wednesday, May 16 at 4:00 PM ET (US)
Hosts: Dr. John Moravec and Dr. Kelly Killorn-Moravec
Online meeting space: To be announced

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Introducing our new Manifesto 15 t-shirt!

When Manifesto 15 was released, we celebrated with a short run of t-shirts with the slogan “kids are people, too.” We exhausted our supply quickly, and, this week, we received larger supply of new, screen printed t-shirts.

These shirts are gorgeous, printed on 4.2 oz. 100% combed and ringspun cotton. You can get $2 off each shirt ordered between now and March 31, by using the coupon code NEWSHIRT at educationfutures.com/store.

Click here to order your shirts today!

Introducing the Education Futures Podcast

Welcome to the Education Futures Podcast, a new series curated by John Moravec and Kelly Killorn-Moravec.

What is your vision of the future of education? What stories do you have to share? What great examples and practices already exist? In this podcast, we share what we have learned, connect with others, and interview thought leaders who provoke us to think differently in education and human development.

Listen to a preview trailer here:

Voices we will interview include top authors and thought leaders in the realm of education, and we will weave in our own thoughts and opinions, too. Your participation is invited! Email your stories to the hosts at info@educationfutures.com.

New episodes will be released every two weeks, beginning August 25, with our first episode on unintended consequences in Utah and Florida. Here’s how to follow along:

Approaches for enabling invisible learning

Note: This is the final article of a three-part series on a new theory for invisible learning.

The Theory for Invisible Learning is that we learn more, and do so invisibly, when we separate structures of control that restrict freedom and self-determination from learning experiences.

Invisible learning can emerge in many ways, and often manifests through bits and pieces here and there. The examples of approaches to invisible learning provided here are not exhaustive, and are meant to be illustrative only. Each of these approaches embrace participation, play, and exploration.

Schools for invisible learning

Democratic education schools are arguably the most visible examples of enabling self-determination. From the 2005 EUDEC guidance document, students in democratic schools have the right:

to make their own choices regarding learning and all other areas of everyday life. In particular, they may individually determine what to do, when, where, how and with whom, so long as their decisions do not infringe on the liberty of others to do the same.

Sudbury-type schools embrace this principle at their core, providing each student an equal voice and vote along side staff members and other stakeholders as to what they learn and how their schools are run. Students spend their time together without age or grade separation and they decide how to spend their time at the school. Central to the school’s operation are school meetings in which students and staff members make key decisions in a process focused on participatory democracy. In these schools, students are afforded tremendous freedom together with the personal and collective responsibility to make the best decisions possible.

These schools are part of a broader category of free schools which developed over the past century, with many approaches that interpret “free” schooling differently. Some operate as full democracies, and others as anarchist collectives. Of particular importance is the Summerhill School (UK), which permits each student to develop their own lesson plans within a structured timetable. Students have the freedom to pursue their own learning interests, based on offerings, and like the Sudbury model, they operate within a framework of participatory democracy with shared responsibilities.

There is very little research on democratic and free schools compared to mainstream education, but my hunch is they best serve students of at least middle-class or better-educated families, where students have greater flexibility and support to pursue their own interests. For students in economically disadvantaged families, we can look into liberation pedagogies such as critical pedagogy, eco schools, and praxis-type schools as pathways. While their foci are often connected with particular ideologies, they share core themes of socioeconomic liberation for students and the communities in which they live.

Finally, youth organizations and community participation opportunities that exist, often connected to formal schools, provide pathways toward invisible learning. Most often, we see this through scouting, clubs, and extension programs where students are not evaluated on a rigorous program, but instead earn badges, develop creative products, and create community-relevant outcomes that are based on their own interests.

Free play and exploration

Free play is a natural human activity where invisible learning flourishes. Through play, children discover their interests and aptitudes. Play inspires curiosity to test boundaries and learn social rules and norms, together with the development of many soft skills. Unfortunately, mainstream approaches to education ignore or underplay its importance in learning. Psychologist Peter Gray defines play as:

“first and foremost, self-chosen and self-directed. Players choose freely whether or not to play, make and change the rules as they go along, and are always free to quit. Second, play is intrinsically motivated; that is, it is done for its own sake, not for external rewards such as trophies, improved résumés, or praise from parents or other adults. Third, play is guided by mental rules (which provide structure to the activity), but the rules always leave room for creativity. Fourth, play is imaginative; that is, it is seen by the players as in some sense not real, separate from the serious world. And last, play is conducted in an alert, active, but relatively unstressed frame of mind” (from an interview in Journal of Play, Spring 2013).

Play is separate from sports and other organized activities in that it is explorative and satisfies an individual’s curiosity to try new ideas or simulate different possibilities in the world. Through play, a learner’s environment becomes his or her laboratory. This satisfaction of curiosity encourages the development of auto-didacticism, the practice of learning by one’s self.

Similar to free play is free exploration within our own communities and beyond to learn from others. What happens, for example, when children explore a culture beyond their own? What do they discover? How does it change them? What skills, competencies, or insights might they develop? Many of the answers to these questions are difficult to quantify or measure, but research suggests they can be related through the development of soft skills (i.e., intercultural competence, capabilities to handle ambiguity, empathy), which are critical outputs of invisible learning. This is learning beyond codifiable curricula, and places trust in kids that they can develop their own skills.

Building cultures of trust

To break free from the structures of control, we need to build cultures of trust. We need to trust children to learn without being told what to learn. Democracies are built on trust and shared responsibility. Free play and exploration are built on trusting others to help us learn from each other.

Teachers and school leaders have many opportunities to develop pathways toward invisible learning through participation, play, and exploration. These can be realized through their own development and praxis as well as through their work with students. But, the bottom line is enabling invisible learning is centered on trust, and trusting that children always learn — no matter what. As we wrote in Manifesto 15:

“The thrill of jumping off a cliff by deciding to do so yourself is a high you will never have if someone else pushes you off of it. In other words, the top-down, teacher-student model of learning does not maximize learning as it devours curiosity and eliminates intrinsic motivation. We need to embrace flat, horizontalized, and distributed approaches to learning, including peer learning and peer teaching, and empower students to realize the authentic practice of these modes. Educators must create space to allow students to determine if, and when, to jump off the cliff. Failing is a natural part of learning where we can always try again. In a flat learning environment, the teacher’s role is to help make sure the learner makes a well-balanced decision. Failing is okay, but the creation of failures is not.”


Posts in this series

  1. The need for invisible learning
  2. A theory for invisible learning
  3. Approaches for enabling invisible learning

Become a Manifesto 15 Ambassador

We are looking for change makers around the world to help us spread the word about Manifesto 15.

As an Ambassador, you play a key role in building the conversation and growing the Manifesto 15 movement in your community. At Education Futures, we will help connect you with resources and ideas to help make a difference, and you will be a part of a network of like-minded Ambassadors!

Manifesto 15 Ambassadors

  • Are committed to evolving learning
  • Serve as the voice of the Manifesto 15 movement in their community
  • Design local campaigns to share the message and encourage others to take action
  • Share what they’ve learned with a global network

Examples of what Ambassadors do

  • Hand out stickers and other materials to share the Manifesto 15 vision
  • Attend community meetings and speak out on evolving learning
  • Organize meet-ups of like-minded change makers
  • Organize workshops to create an action agendas for their community
  • … and, other activities that authentically connect the principles of Manifesto 15 with their own initiatives!

Full information on the Manifesto 15 Ambassadors page.

Apply to become an Ambassador!

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Manifesto 15: A handbook for leading change

On January 1, 2015, Manifesto 15 was released: a statement that inspired a conversation about principles for building positive education futures, grounded on the idea that we urgently need to evolve learning. This is a public declaration of a vision for better education futures. In the months since its release, it’s been read and discussed by thousands of people, signed by hundreds, featured in various media and conferences, and teams of volunteers around the world have translated it into a growing number of languages (and visual notes!) – and the movement continues to grow!

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 3.00.51 PM

We are thankful for the interest in this project and the support we have received around the world. To help continue the conversation, we have drafted a handbook for leading change, which is available at the Manifesto 15 website.

This handbook presents some guidelines on how we can move forward, including hosting conversations, workshops, and starting local Manifesto 15 groups. The guide is an invitation to join us and build community, centered on trust and open dialogue, as we work to change the face of education. And, it contains some posters to help you get started with your own messaging.

Please take Manifesto 15 as a starting point, and build in your own ideas and practices. Or, create and share your own sets of principles. The manifesto and the emerging movement is open for discussion, remixing, and sharing – and we encourage you to drive the conversation with your own networks.

If there’s any way that we can help with conversations in your own community, please do not hesitate to contact us: manifesto15@educationfutures.com.

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 http://manifesto15.org.

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. http://www.somece.org.mx

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. https://www.educationfutures.com

Contact: Education Futures, info@educationfutures.com

A kid’s take on Manifesto 15

Our summer Education Futures intern, Hillel, has created a video on his work related to Manifesto 15 for kids! He translated the text into a kid-friendly version (http://manifesto15.org/kids), visited a maker faire, and created a rocket in Minecraft. In this video, presented in his own way with his own words, he shares his work and his thoughts on what he has learned this summer.

Creative classrooms in Patagonia

Education Futures founder, John Moravec, had the pleasure of visiting with the Ministry of Education in the Province of Chubut, Argentina for Aulas Creativas on February 27-28 this year. The program team recently published this excellent video, which outlines new perspectives for thinking about education.

When John released Manifesto 15 two months earlier, he had no idea that the message and the movement it is inspiring would grow so quickly, and attract so much international attention, especially in Patagonia. We are really touched that this work is helping to change the conversation and form new perspectives for evolving education in the province. For us, that’s the most rewarding part of our work.

John wrote to us:

In this brief visit, I enjoyed meeting the ministry and area teachers. I am grateful for the hospitality Ileana Farre and her husband, Ian Davie, extended to me during my visit. After hanging out with Ileana, Ian, and Gonzalo Frasca, I must say there is nothing better than good company and great food with dinosaurs, great views of the Southern Sky, and penguins!

Report from the European Democratic Education Community 2013 Conference

Peter Gray lecture at EUDEC

Note: This article was originally published in Other Education, vol. 2, no. 2 (2013), pp. 113-115, and is reprinted under Creative Commons license (BY-SA).

From July 28 to August 2, 2013, the European Democratic Education Community (EUDEC) held its fifth annual general meeting and conference. This year’s host was De Ruimte democratic school in Soest, The Netherlands, with an organizing committee comprised of staff members and alumni of Dutch democratic schools. 261 participants attended, ranging from students, staff members, parents, and interested community members. I attended as a member of the Sudbury Munich startup school’s scientific advisory board.

An affiliate of the International Democratic Education Network, EUDEC claims to represent about 58,000 people across 26 countries, including 42 schools, 19 start-up schools, and other member organizations and individuals. The bulk of the conference was organized into an open space, where all participants were invited to organize workshops, including ones that were organized spontaneously according to conversations and needs of participants during the conference. The annual general meeting was limited to voting members, but the final day of the conference was open to an additional 27 public visitors. At the last day, invited scholars, researchers, entrepreneurs, and school founders provided lectures and workshops.

Democratic education, as defined by EUDEC is comprised of two pillars:

  1. Self-determined learning: “Students in democratic schools and universities choose how to spend their school days, pursue their interests and prepare themselves for their lives and chosen careers” (EUDEC, n.d.).
  2. A community of equality and mutual respect: “Democratic schools have school meetings in which all members of the community have an equal vote, regardless of age or status. Students and teachers can sit together as equals to discuss and vote on school rules, curricula, projects, the hiring of staff and even budgetary matters” (EUDEC, n.d.).

EUDEC member schools have various models and approaches to how democratic education is practiced in their institutions, but many face similar obstacles in gaining the approval of government authorities across Europe, which nearly universally impose structural limitations that ban self-determined learning and disallow students to have an equal voice. The result is that many schools face constant legal battles to stay open, and, in some cases, even parents of the schools are charged as criminals for sending their children there (see esp. Thomas, 2013 for a typical case outline). For the schools that are under siege by authorities, the conference provides a valuable retreat to share experiences, learn from others, and expand networks.

The conference theme was “we create the future,” which from my perspective as an education futurist could not be more pertinent. This clashed with a sentiment shared by many of the schools, and particularly the Sudbury-type schools, that their approach to education is “radical.” I strongly disagree. In an era driven by accelerating technological change, globalization, and the emergence of a “knowmadic” society (Moravec, 2013a, 2013b), democratic schools are a necessary option for creating a near-future workforce that is creative, imaginative, and innovative in its application of personal-level knowledge.

As the democratic schools movement grows, the shift from their approach from being perceived as radical to a viable option presents new opportunities for research and academic discourse development. From my observations at conference workshops and in conversations with participants, there are tremendous variations in how self-determined and democratic learning is implemented. Deep research into differing practices could yield rich new, vocabulary and dimensions of democratic education that have been largely ignored.

In my overall opinion, the EUDEC conference in 2013 deserves high praise for both quality of content and organization. In my informal conversations with participants, however, the conference itself was not the star of the show – but rather the food. Chef Sytse Kramer from HetEten set up a full kitchen outdoors, employed at-risk youth as cooks, and produced restaurant-quality dishes that received near universal acclaim throughout the week. At the closing ceremony of the conference, we had a lot to cheer about, but only the raucous applause for Chef Kramer could be heard over several kilometers away in the center of Soest.

About the author

John Moravec is a scholar on the future of work and education; a global speaker; editor of the Knowmad Society project; a co-director of the Invisible Learning project; and is an advisor with Education Futures (http://www.educationfutures.com).

References

  1. EUDEC. (n.d.). European Democratic Education Community | Democratic Education. Retrieved August 05, 2013, from http://www.eudec.org/Democratic+Education
  2. Moravec, J. W. (2013a). Knowmad Society: The “new” work and education. On the Horizon, 21(2), 79–83. doi:10.1108/10748121311322978
  3. Moravec, J. W. (2013b). Rethinking human capital development in Knowmad Society. In J. W. Moravec (Ed.), Knowmad Society (1st ed.). Minneapolis: Education Futures.
  4. Thomas, A. (2013). Autonomous and informal education under threat: Summerhill, UK, Sudbury schools in The Netherlands and home education. Other Education, 2(1), 75–77.