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Project Dream School

Project Dream School starts with a simple question:

If you could build a dream school, what would you do?

Furthermore:

What would the building look like? The methods? The teachers? Technology? The mission? …does it need to be a school, or should it be a bootcamp for designing futures… life… the perfect job?

Last Thursday, many great minds assembled to discuss just this… and how to make it happen. Sir Ken Robinson, Jeff Jarvis and I joined the discussion by Skype with Peter de Visser (principal), Marcel Kampman (creative organizer), Ellen Mashhaupt, Bianca Geerts, Fons van den Berg, Rob van der Ploeg, Bram Verhave (Architecture historian STEK, advisor to Chief government Architect), Peter de Visser, Ton Dohle, Bjorn Eerkes, Maurice Mikkers, Lex Hupe, Arjan Dingsté, Hartger Meihuizen (staff Stad&Esch), Roel Fleurke (staff Stad&Esch), Koene Kisjes (student Stad&Esch), Christian Paauwe (student Stad&Esch), Bart Hoekstra (student Stad&Esch), Jan Albert Westenbrink, and Annette Stekelenburg.

The project will have a website up-and-running soon at projectdreamschool.org, and also in Dutch at: projectdroomschool.org. As a Skype (distant) participant, I really cannot report on how the entire discussion went, so make sure to follow the project sites for their take on the meeting and their next actions as they work to transform their dreams into reality.

Stay tuned… more soon!

Postscript: Here is my Dream School (as shared on Thursday):

  • The organization abandons the word “school” — in reinventing education, it becomes a bootcamp for design where youth and collaborating community members apply their creativity toward innovative applications.
  • The traditional classroom is abandoned in favor of space that favors multidirectional collaboration. Moreover, building that houses the organization is designed to be more than just a box. Rather, it is designed to be easily transformed and reconfigured as quickly as our ideas regarding teaching and learning evolve and transform.
  • An infrastructure is created to support technologies, but the technologies themselves are not deeply embeded (because they will likely change by the time they’re institutionalized). Students are responsible for bringing in and supporting their own technology, perhaps by providing them with a technology grant/budget. (Update: Kraft Foods is trying out this approach.)
  • The school is not just a tool for youth, but is a resource for the entire community it serves: Provides co-working and incubator resources for people with ideas that want to involve youth, and facilitates innovative, non-formal, informal and “invisible” learning opportunities.
  • A new breed of teacher/facilitators are trained and recruited to do away with download-style pedagogy, and rather serve as curators of ideas and enablers of creativity and innovation.

That’s my dream… which is easier said than done. But, it is what it is: A dream.

Knowmads take on KLM's extended office

This video contains a great introduction to the Knowmads in the Netherlands and their latest project: Improving the extended office for KLM‘s business travelers.

The application period to join the next Knowmads team (“Team 2”) is now open, and will close on June 18. Click here for more information and to apply. Also, click here for previous Education Futures coverage of the Knowmads school.

[iPad/HTML5-compatible version of the video]

Fab Lab: Build 'almost anything'

“The Fab Lab program has strong connections with the technical outreach activities of a number of partner organizations, around the emerging possibility for ordinary people to not just learn about science and engineering but actually design machines and make measurements that are relevant to improving the quality of their lives.” [MIT Center for Bits and Atoms] Moreover, each Fab Lab is connected with others around the world, sharing ideas and experiences. Every Fab Lab user is required to document how they created products so that their inventions may be replicated anywhere around the world.

Yesterday afternoon, I visited the Fab Lab at Century College in Minnesota. A Fab Lab (fabrication laboratory) is a small-scale workshop with an array of computer controlled tools that cover several different length scales and various materials, and is the brainchild of MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld. The facility, faculty and institutional support for the initiative is amazing. Loaded with 3D printers, laser cutters, and other rapid prototyping and small-scale fabrication tools, allows uses to make “almost anything.”

My take on Fab Labs is that they provide school students and other members of the community with valuable expertise and resources to transform their creative ideas into tangible products … and, hopefully, meaningful outcomes and innovations. Since the Fab Labs blend social and fabrication technologies, I feel that school systems should consider either investing in the concept for every school, or collaborate actively with an institution that already has a Fab Lab.

Last November, I also had the privilege of visiting the Fab Lab hosted by the Waag Society in Amsterdam (the video in this link is worth watching). A couple of the key differences is that this Fab Lab is open to the public (at a cost), but is also integrated with the other services provided by the Waag Society (i.e., Creative Learning Lab, incubators) and its use is eligible for subsidization by the Dutch government through innovation grants.

An observation from my whirlwind tours of both facilities is that is the Minnesota-based Fab Lab seems to produce things that already exist, whereas the Dutch Fab Lab produces many new creations — things that have not existed yet. The question on my mind is, why is there a creativity gap? Is it a cultural phenomenon? Or, is it structural:

  • Is it because our education system is no longer producing many creatives (focusing instead on creating functionaries)?
  • Is it because the Dutch have access to a broader support system that draws creatives to the Fab Lab?

Or, is something else happening?

The Education Futures timeline of education

Education Futures celebrates its first five years of exploring new futures in human capital development with a timeline of the history of education from 1657-2045. This timeline provides not only a glimpse into modern education, but plots out a plausible future history for human capital development. The future history presented is intended to be edgy, but also as a conversation starter on futures for education and future thinking in human capital development.

As always, we invite your feedback and suggestions for further development! We expect many enhancements and updates to this resource in the near future.

Curriki: Open source education materials

Screen shot 2009-11-11 at 2.27.05 PMOpen source collaborative content holds the promise of freely distributed high-quality education materials. Developing and sustaining the community to needed to accomplish that is the difficult part.

Curriki, an online community of over 100,000 educators, learners and experts collectively developing curriculum resources freely available to anyone who wants them, seems to be meeting the challenge.

The organization behind the web community aims to produce a breadth of high quality education materials that can be globally distributed at no cost. Dr. Bobbi Kurshan, Executive Director of Curriki, believes the budget-friendly aspect of the service could fuel its growth.

“We license the materials under Creative Commons,” Kurshan explained, “so it is free to use provided you give attribution.”

By using the open source process for education, Curriki hopes to empower educational professionals to become active in the creation of “world-class” curricula. That includes lesson plans, student activities and text books.

While it is difficult to say how widely the content is being used, Curriki has been involved in several high profile endeavors both in the United States and globally.

“We’re doing quite a bit of international work, often filling the void in areas without access to text books,” said Kurshan.

Curriki was founded by Sun Microsystems in March 2004 as the Global Education & Learning Community (GELC), it was later spun off as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit to focus on developing open source curricula. The group has so far gotten by on money from foundations and grants, but Kurshan must now think about maintaining the effort long term.

“We’re interested in engaging in conversations about sustainability.”

Curriki is among the winners of the WISE Awards 2009, recognizing outstanding practice and achievements within the themes of Pluralism, Sustainability and Innovation in education. EducationFutures.com will be covering this WISE Summit through next wekk.

Wanted: 30 Knowmads

Remember Knowmads in Society 3.0? Something amazing is brewing in Europe. And, they’re looking for thirty candidates from around the world.

Knowmads is a new school for the world of tomorrow, starting in January 2010 in The Netherlands. After two years of learning with and from KaosPilots (International School for New Business Design and Social Innovation) in Rotterdam, a couple of entrepreneurs will join together in Knowmads-land. KaosPilots Netherlands transformed and the body of thought is very much alive!

Their purpose is to create a life-long learning community that starts with a one–year program and the possibility to add another six months after that. They work from the principle of a team-setting based on Action Learning; meaning that they work with their heads, hearts and hands. They believe in action, creativity, fun, diversity, social innovation and sustainability in real life assignments.

The program consists of the following elements:

  • Entrepreneurship and New Business Design
  • Personal Leadership
  • Creativity and Marketing
  • Sustainability and Social Innovation

The real life assignments for the students will be realized by collaborations with several international business partners and organisations. With this they will create constant win-win-win situations. And, the student themselves are stakeholders and owners of the school.

They are looking for thirty knowmads from around the world to join the inaugural team, with a deadline of November 20 December 18.

For more information, stories or applications check www.knowmads.nl or write to: carianne@knowmads.nl / pieter@knowmads.nl

“Welcome home!”

Friedman: U.S. education system endangering global competitiveness

New York times columnist Tom Friedman speaks out:

A Washington lawyer friend recently told me about layoffs at his firm. I asked him who was getting axed. He said it was interesting: lawyers who were used to just showing up and having work handed to them were the first to go because with the bursting of the credit bubble, that flow of work just isn’t there. But those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables.

That is the key to understanding our full education challenge today. Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive. Therefore, we not only need a higher percentage of our kids graduating from high school and college — more education — but we need more of them with the right education.

Citing Dan Pink, Friedman continues to conclude that, to be competitive in a global marketplace, the U.S. needs to infuse its schools with “entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.” As we stated before, there are many obstacles for schools that wish to produce creatives. Most importantly:

  1. No Child Left Behind. NCLB is producing exactly the wrong products for the 21st Century, but is right on for the 1850’s through 1950. NCLB’s fractured memorization model opposes the creative, synthetic thinking required for new work and effective citizenship.
  2. Schools are merging with prisons. As soon as students enter schools, they lose many of their fundamental rights, including the right to free speech. Students who do not wish to conform to prison-like, automaton production must develop individual creativity to survive… often at a price.
  3. Inadequate teacher preparation, recruitment and retention. The U.S. public schools have always been lemmings, but are now failing to produce teachers who are savvy to the contemporary trends their students must learn and respond to in times of accelerating change. The other half of the picture is teacher-modeled creativity, something the public schools have never seriously attempted.
  4. Insufficient adoption of technology. The squeeze is on from both ends: Student-purchased technology is usually derided, suppressed, and sometimes confiscated. These tools are part of the technology spectrum kids know they will have to master. On the other end, technology in the schools is dated, the Internet is firewalled, and there isn’t enough equipment to go around.
  5. Focusing on information retention as opposed to new knowledge production. Disk-drive learning is for computers. Knowledge production and innovation are for humans. The first requires fast recall and low error rates from dumb systems; the second, driven by intelligent people, builds the economy and keeps America competitive.
  6. Innovation is eschewed. Most U.S. teachers think innovation is something that requires them to suffer the discomforts and pains of adaptation. They don’t accept change as a necessary function of expanding national competitiveness. Many U.S. teachers might be more comfortable in industrial world economies and societies represented by China and South Korea, or 1950’s America.
  7. Continuous reorganization of school leadership and priorities, particularly in urban schools. Serious questions can be raised whether schools are the organizations required to cope with semi-permanent underclasses, violent youth, incompetent, irresponsible parenting and negative adult role models. What institutional substitutions would you make for the schools?
  8. National education priorities are built on an idealized past, not on emergent and designed futures. Blends of applied imagination, creativity, and innovation are required to visualize preferred futures, to render them proximal and grounded, and to forge them into empirical realities. On the other hand, it is quite possible that Secretary Spellings and other highly placed education “leaders” have never had an original thought in their entire lives.
  9. Social class and cultural problems in schools and communities suggest that the schools live in a Norman Rockwell past. Bright kids capable of novel thought and new culture creation have never fit into the industrially modeled American schools, and lower-middle class teachers have little respect for working- and poverty-class art, music, and culture. It appears that the schools are populated by timid, unimaginative, lower-middle class professional placeholders who crave convention (spelling bees, car washes, exceptional sports performances) over invention.
  10. Failing to invest resources in education, both financially and socially. Education is formal, informal, and non-formal in structure and function. It is possible that formal education will be recognized as the least powerful of this trio, in part because it is so dated, and in part because it occurs in such a small percentage of life compared with the other two types. Perhaps new funding algorithms and decisions must follow this ratio.

Where do we begin?