Global Leapfrog Education

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"Innovation in the field of innovation"

I received feedback from several readers that Arthur Harkins’ reasoning for why we need to Leapfrog might seem a bit too Machiavellian — “us versus them.” I therefore hope everybody will enjoy the contrast of perspective in this next video.

In early November, we had an opportunity to interview Jutta Treviranus, director of the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre at the University of Toronto. Her approach to creating sustainable innovation is somewhat different. Instead of relying on competition, we can operate on an assumption of collaboration for innovation, creating win-win scenarios for all.

The “king of the hill, competitive” type of thinking, Treviranus argues, is contributing to the modern world’s problems. To get past this, she declares we need, “innovation in the field of innovation.” Brilliant!

More in the video:

Arthur Harkins on Leapfrogging

Earlier this month, I interviewed Arthur Harkins on our approach to innovating in human capital development (Leapfrog!). Specifically, I asked:

  1. What is Leapfrog?
  2. What are some examples of leapfrogging?
  3. What are the Leapfrog Institutes?
  4. What are the global implications for Leapfrog?

Watch his responses in this video:

A little background:

Leapfroggingmeans to jump over obstacles to achieve goals. It means to get ahead of the competition or the present state of the art through innovative, time-and-cost-saving means. Leapfrog denotes leadership created by looking and acting over the horizon. Leapfrog creates the future in the present based on what is found over the horizon. Leapfrog first acts to create proximal futures, and then solidly grounds the most promising futures within the present. This process marks an extension of Vygotsky’s and Dewey’s work, while ever looking toward the future.

One example of Leapfrogging is Finland’s jump to wireless phones, saving that country the cost of deploying an expensive copper wire system. Another example is present in some of the Kent, Washington public schools, which now permit students to use wireless Web devices to help them access information to better pass tests. Leapfrogging has become a major strategy of developing countries wishing to avoid catch-up efforts that otherwise portend a high likelihood of continued followership. A similar approach to gaining the lead rather than assuming a persistent runner-up role.

Leapfrog institutions relentlessly disrupt themselves to compete successfully in the global knowledge and innovation economy. They work ahead of the competition in teaching, research, innovation, and service. They avoid playing catch-up.

Additional resources:

Dropping Out–Or Leaping Ahead?

Even in a week packed with all kinds of dire predictions about the economy, it was hard to ignore this headline: Kids Less Likely To Graduate Than Parents. (See the AP story here)

According to the report by the Education Trust, more than one in four high school students in the US drop out before graduating, and the numbers are even more alarming in urban schools. This makes the US the only industrialized country in which young people are less likely than their parents to earn a high school diploma.

There are plenty of reasons for hand wringing and navel gazing about what’s gone terribly wrong with our education system, but there’s also a surprising opportunity to offer high fives.

You see, the numbers don’t tell the full story. Obviously, there are a lot of kids dropping out of education altogether, but because the formula used for calculating graduation rates varies by state, we don’t really have any idea what those kids are doing once they leave high school. Homeschoolers, virtual students, those who spend a year abroad or get alternate types of diplomas (three of my four daughters fit this description) are all tossed into the drop-out pile.

As part of the research for my book, I’ve been fortunate to have an opportunity to talk to over a hundred students across the US who are the antithesis of the you-want-fries-with-that? image we hold of the high school drop-out. In fact, some of the most motivated, accomplished, articulate, and clear-headed students I’ve ever met would be counted in most state tallies as drop-outs. The good news is that they’re too busy racing through college, traveling around the world and landing their dream jobs to worry much about such labels.

That’s right. They’re “dropping out” of high school in order to fast track—they’re entering college early. And by the time their classmates are reaching for that high school diploma, these “drop-outs” have earned enough college credits to transfer as a junior to a four-year university. Many earn their college degree by the age of 20–with no debt—before their high school buddies have even picked a major, and they’ve spent enough time abroad to become fluent in a foreign language (or two or three) and develop a clearer perspective of themselves, their culture and the world in general.

Look, there’s no question that there are many challenges to overcome in our approach to education, but when you read about the low high school graduation rates, remember that there’s a silver lining: those numbers also reflect the fact that an increasing number of kids who are smart, bold, innovative and on fire to learn in an adult setting are leaving high school far behind in order to blast forward. These future leaders are defining education in new ways—and they’re the ones to watch.

We talk a lot about the need to pay attention to the way we educate our brightest students.  What we don’t mention is that while we’re arguing about the best program to implement, these smart kids are finding creative ways to educate themselves.

We can learn a lot from them.

(Guest post by Maya Frost)

Global Finals 2008 recap (with video!)

Last week, John Moravec and I were the guests of Destination ImagiNation during the DI Global Finals in Knoxville. We were delighted at experiencing the largest imagination and creativity gathering ever to assemble – anywhere! Our greatest respect and admiration was for the kids’ impressive demonstrations of intellectual, academic, and personal skills – just three of their many other attributes. Many with their parents in tow, over 1,000 teams of kids and young people ranging from elementary to college levels were there, some from countries such as China, Korea, Turkey, Canada, and Mexico.

Soon, we hope to begin collaborative work with the Minnesota affiliate of DI, and with the national/international level as well. Is it an exaggeration to say that DI is doing what the majority of schools (and colleges) are avoiding, namely to promote imagination, creativity, invention, and innovation? We think not! Hats off to everyone associated with Destination ImagiNation!

John compiled a short video from our visit:

International Leapfrog conference coming this fall

During October 12-14 of this year Anqing Teachers College will sponsor a conference on Leapfrog-inspired changes in the near futures of Chinese and U.S. education. The University of Minnesota, Anqing Teachers College, and the World Future Society are collaborators in this exciting development.

The official title of the conference is Interdisciplinary Education in Teacher Training Programs via Leapfrog Principles. More information about the conference will be released in the near future.

Eight draft papers for the ATC conference are linked here. Please make any comments that you feel will improve the papers. In the near future, the papers will be edited by Dr. Tim Mack, President of the World Future Society, for a special issue of the journal Futures Research Quarterly.

An ISSN for Education Futures

As Education Futures nears its third anniversary, a couple changes are taking place:

  1. The Library of Congress has issued ISSN 1940-0934 to this blog. This means Education Futures is a recognized serial and is cataloged by the Library.
  2. Global Leapfrog Education (ISSN 1933-0200) is now merged with Education Futures. Future GLE articles will be published as a section within Education Futures and cataloged with the new ISSN.

As the academy (slowly!) moves toward recognizing blogs as legitimate, peer-reviewed publications, and as the boundaries between blog posts and traditional publications continue to blur, it is important for blogs to adopt ISSNs. For more discussions on ISSN and blogs, see especially:

China's great leapfrog forward?

Yesterday’s New York Times Sunday Magazine had an article on educational reform in China. Whereas the United States is moving toward an educational model that displays characteristics of traditional Chinese education (especially an emphasis on testing), the Chinese are moving toward an educational model that is, in their view, more Western. This means integrating liberal education into curricula otherwise dominated by the “left-brained” fields of the sciences and mathematics.

As China moves to a whole mind approach to education, where will this leave the U.S. and other nations that aggressively pursue partial-mind education only?

Four futures for China Inc.

My interest in China is booming. I will travel to China in April for a teacher education conference sponsored by the Ministry of Education and several international organizations. I will present a workshop on leapfrogging in teacher education to build globally-competent and competitive human capital –particularly among youth. It appears they’re taking leapfrogging seriously. China is determined to become the world’s dominant economic power, and it is aggressively pursuing policies to meet that goal.

James Kynge believes China will “shake the world,” but others disagree. Is China on the verge of becoming the dominant world power, or will its bubble of development burst due to inherent defects in its social, economic and political structures?

By Internet standards, this article is a bit dated, but it is still a good read. Global Business Network posts a reprint of a Business 2.0 article on Four Futures for China Inc. Doug Randall and Jesse Goldhammer propose four scenarios for the future of China:

In “Emperor of Business,” China grows peacefully and plays by the rules, while in “Emperor’s New Clothes,” China’s growth rate is short-lived and it basically becomes a bigger Brazil. In “Emperor of Asia,” China grows only as fast as its neighbors; by contrast, in “Emperor of the World,” China’s speedy growth tips all the scales in its favor.

Read the full article…

GLE inaugural release

Today marks the first release of Global Leapfrog Education (ISSN 1933-0200), an open access, online journal hosted by the Global Leapfrog Institute, LLC.

The official journal repository is located at

The GLE blog (located at will be used to broaden discussion and serve as an access point for sharing further ideas and resources.

As we learn to master the OJS journal software, articles will be released in two trenches. First, Cristobal Cobo (FLACSO Mexico) discusses new learning opportunities provided by “Web 2.0” and successor technologies. In a near future release date, Arthur Harkins, myself and George Kubik (University of Minnesota) describe a leapfrog pathway through simulational learning.

Introduction and mission

Global Leapfrog Education (GLE) is devoted to exploring how, through education and human capital development, communities can transcend current problems and challenges by empowering themselves to invent their own futures. GLE publishes articles spanning a wide range of interests related to leapfrog education (viz. change, technologies, knowledge production and innovation, global youth leadership, and futures-oriented philosophies and theories of education). This journal provides open access to all of its content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge.

Our electronic submission process is designed to facilitate rapid publication. Once an article is published, peer reviewers submit written, critical feedback to the author as an addendum to the article, published in GLE. Such reviews may be considered publications in their own right. Reviewers and other participants are also encouraged to contribute to discussions related to each article via the journal blog at

What is leapfrogging?

  • Leapfrogging means jumping over obstacles to achieve goals.
  • Leapfrogging is a leadership necessity.
  • Leapfrogging saves precious time.
  • Leapfrogging builds institutional and community prestige.
  • Leapfrogging works best if everybody collaborates.

Focus and scope

The first country to adopt the Leapfrog Paradigm, bolster it with advanced communications technologies, and apply it in preschool through graduate contexts, will either continue to lead or will acquire newfound leadership among emerging knowledge and innovation economies.

We are aware of the need for simplicity, but the reality is that the Leapfrog Paradigm we describe is fundamentally cognitive in nature. It is the new educational mission required to support knowledge based innovation economies. New language and concepts are required.

The focus of GLE is on the language, concepts and education required to produce knowledge and direct it toward continuous innovation. This calls for an entirely new education mission –one that requires a different vocabulary and mindset compared to the now globally-distributed education missions for agricultural, industrial, and information-based societies.

GLE will help readers and contributors:

  • Understand that states, regions and individuals are in a global competition in human capital development and application;
  • Understand how technology shapes human world views and choices;
  • Understand the relationship between technological change and social change with emphasis on the emerging Technological Singularity;
  • Understand exponential acceleration of technological, scientific, societal and economic changes;
  • Understand multiple perceived realities and their vectors;
  • Develop leapfrog education scenarios related to technology, innovation, systems design and integration; and,
  • Connect these leapfrog scenarios with 21st Century education redesign and redirection.

Journal keywords and key concepts

accelerating change, basic knowledge engine ecology, creativity, cybernetics, design, entrepreneurship, global leapfrog education, invention, innovation, knowledge engine ecologies, knowledge production, knowledge engine ecologies, memes and new social patterns in thought and belief, sociocultural prosumers, youth development

Full information on the journal architecture and instructions to contributors is located at