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Repost: 10 ways U.S. education is failing to produce creatives

ten-days-sm.pngOur third item this week on the United States’ unstable orbit around mediocrity is a repost of our top ten list of how U.S. education is failing to create students that will succeed in creative, knowledge- and innovation-based economies (first published last June). We apologize for beating a dead horse, but No Child Left Behind heads-off this list as failure #1:

  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.

Top ten list #10: Resources for education futurists

ten-days-sm.pngWe wrap up our ten days of top ten lists with ten resources that can help you start to think as an education futurist. This list is far from complete — feel free to post your own in the comments!

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Wired
  3. The New York Times
  4. The Wall Street Journal
  5. Kurzweil, R. (2005). The Singularity is near: When humans transcend biology. New York: Viking.
  6. Pink, D. H. (2005). A whole new mind: Moving from the information age to the conceptual age. New York: Riverhead.
  7. Gardner, H. (2006). Five minds for the future. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.
  8. Kelley, T. (2006). The ten faces of innovation: IDEO’s strategies for beating the devil’s advocate & driving creativity throughout your organization. London: Profile.
  9. Owen, H. (2001). Just how good could you be? grow your personal capital: what you know, who you know, how to use it. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Pub.
  10. Harkins, A., & Kubik, G. (2006). StoryTech: A personalized guidebook to the 21st Century. Minneapolis: The StoryTech Group.

Top ten list #9: The power of informal and nonformal learning

ten-days-sm.pngSignificant learning occurs beyond formal education contexts. Today’s top ten list describes the power of informal and nonformal learning.

  1. Informal learning is learning by living – learning isn’t specifically planned, it simply occurs. Two examples of informal learning: 1) taking in what one observes while walking the streets; and 2) listening in on an interesting conversation being held by others.
  2. Informal learning is arguably how most people learn most of what they know and are able to do, because the learning occurs automatically within (often) quite specific contexts. Yes, informal learning also occurs within classrooms.
  3. Nonformal learning takes place through planned activities that are not strictly regarded as educational. Two examples of nonformal learning: 1) flying an airplane with the assistance of an instructor pilot; and 2)learning to run dope under the guidance of a veteran pusher.
  4. Nonformal education is growing. In television, tens of channels are devoted to nonformal learning. The Internet may be said to be a huge and growing nonformal learning context.
  5. The Internet is a spectacular engine for both informal and nonformal education, because some of its resources are structured for casual learning and more focused, context-specific learning.
  6. Schools are foolish not to use the resources of the Web to help students learn 24/7 and to pass tests, because the Web lends itself to formal learning as much as to informal and nonformal learning.
  7. Schools that use the Web to the maximum simply duplicate what is already going on in business and industry around the world. Currently, schools lag the world of work by not emulating the practice of learning through all three modes in real-world contexts.
  8. It is possible to imagine a new educational institution evolving from dovetailed, Internet-supported formal, informal, and nonformal learning. Such an institution might be labeled the Global Classroom because it would be (nearly) ubiquitous around the planet.
  9. Anywhere/anytime learning is already with us, but it presents a threat to most formal educators. Families and their children can minimize this threat in a number of ways, including joining the Global Classroom and using it to Leapfrog their relative advantages within the world economy.
  10. Individualized and peer-to-peer learning are huge changes on the educational horizon. This is exciting because the Web vigorously supports both. Through individualized and peer-to-peer learning, new expressions of formal, informal, and nonformal learning will emerge.

Top ten list #8: Ways to transform schools into centers of knowledge production and innovation

ten-days-sm.pngToday’s list discusses how to move beyond the failures of U.S. education and transform our schools, communities, and families into centers of knowledge production and innovation.

  1. Schools of the agricultural and industrial ages produced graduates suitable for their economies and societies. Change is accelerating, and students that are being prepared for old society jobs cannot be expected to succeed in a rapidly evolving socioeconomic environment. Today’s schools must reorient themselves toward producing graduates that will adapt and lead in societies that do not yet exist.
  2. Knowledge is meaning, and meaning is knowledge. A new emphasis on the production of knowledge/meaning in formal education will mean students should not be viewed merely as vessels to into whom knowledge is downloaded, but should be vigorously involved in new knowledge co-creation. A good starting point toward creating new meanings is to bring dialogue and dialogical approaches to education back into the classroom.
  3. No Child Left Behind undercuts the quest for meaning that is part of every intelligent human life. To reverse this damage, the schools must leave behind NCLB and psychometric-centric school cultures behind.
  4. Many new ways of attending formal education are now available in a number of societies. The major implication of this is that families have greater choices in determining blends of educational contexts, and can contribute to the further development of new knowledge-producing contexts
  5. Innovation is derived from the timely and effective use of knowledge. To help produce both knowledge/meaning and innovation, the schools will have to routinely seek out new contexts, problems, and experiences to bring into each classroom.
  6. Schools routinely firewall the Internet. The simplest ways to minimize the losses to imagination and creativity generated by this practice are to stop fighting information and open access to the net; and develop improved ICT tools to help students harness their creative potential.
  7. Generally, families are sources of educational conservatism. Such squeamishness about potential changes of school missions from download education to the production of knowledge/meaning and innovation can be abated by engaging parents in future-oriented storytelling conversations, such as StoryTech.
  8. Schools in America tend to ignore or even denigrate creative, imaginative students. A quick fix for this problem is to remove creative students immediately, and place them in supportive contexts where they can build upon their individual knowledge and begin to innovate immediately.
  9. Production of knowledge/meaning and innovation in the schools can vastly increase the choices available to society. The problem with this is that the choices quickly may quickly become overwhelming. New technologies must be developed and embraced to help support and mediate personal and social decision-making.
  10. To further overcome the problem of “knowledge and innovation overload,” a minority of students may have to partner with adaptive technologies to maintain cognitive competitiveness with their more choice-comfortable peers.

Top ten list #7: Ways U.S. education is failing to produce creatives

ten-days-sm.pngToday’s list discusses how U.S. education is failing to create students that will succeed in creative, knowledge- and innovation-based economies. Not surprisingly, No Child Left Behind heads-off this list as failure #1:

  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.

Top ten list #6: Tech tools and Web resources to start leapfrogging now

ten-days-sm.pngWe’re back this week with the final five top ten lists! Today’s list contains tools and Web resources to help people start leapfrogging now.

Note: It’s hard to create an innovative tools top ten list while omitting services from Google – but, for the purpose of this list, Google is left off because everybody wants to be like Google. Why be like Google when you can leapfrog the industry?

  1. GNU/Linux: It’s open. It’s free. It works. And, it’s very well supported.
  2. Tom at Sky Blue Waters believes no leapfrogger can get by without a proper RSS feed to quickly digest and disseminate information.
  3. WordPress: Get your message out and solicit reponses with the best blogging tool out there.
  4. Wikimedia or other open knowledge-based software to quickly publish your stuff and open it for public additions, corrections, or (if necessary) deletions. Wikimedia is the platform that powers Wikipedia and Wikiversity.
  5. Second Life, World of Warcraft, Croquet and other virtual environments for building new social contexts, experiences and for trying out things you can’t get away with in the real world.
  6. Skype: You’ll want to talk a lot to others around the world. Why not do it for free or almost free?
  7. Old skool media (also available on the Web): New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, etc., etc., etc…
  8. Social bookmarking (e.g., del.icio.us): Find new ideas and resources, share them with others, and learn more along the way.
  9. Creative Commons licensing: Mark your creative work with the freedoms you want it to carry.
  10. Finally, if the resources you need aren’t out there, create your own. Need help? Consider building a team online.

Top ten list #5: Is China poised to leapfrog the world in the knowledge economy?

ten-days-sm.pngIt’s not enough to question if China is on the verge of leapfrogging the world in education. Is China poised to leapfrog the world in the knowledge economy, or are they simply catching up? Perhaps the knowledge economy isn’t what matters, but the emerging innovation economy does. For the time being, however, consider China’s advances in the knowledge realm:

  1. As Karl Fisch astutely points out, there are more Chinese honor students than the United States has students. China outnumbers all other nations in terms of talent potential.
  2. Adoption of handheld/mobile learning devices (m-learning) in schools: See our comments on this form of “legalized cheating” in the classroom.
  3. Thousands of units of software and courseware for m-learning devices are being developed rapidly using new Chinese cultural and thought models. Much of the software is designed for the two learning devices previously reviewed at Education Futures.
  4. Chinese are eager to dispense with Confucian education traditions. The Chinese education system is opening itself to the rest of the world to learn global “best practices” and adopt them on a mass scale.
  5. Western companies are looking to outsource their creative work to China, creating ripe conditions for Chinese education to leapfrog toward the production of creative workers.
  6. Similarly, China is the new global favorite for R&D spending among global businesses. This will require the rapid transformation of Chinese education and the development of knowledge workers to meet market demands.
  7. There is no sign of a significant cooling down in China’s rate of change in the near future. Despite the central government’s best efforts, it is unable to control or adequately measure the amount of economic growth, infrastructure development, or social change.
  8. China is rapidly adopting open source development philosophies. In addition to developing indigenous Linux flavors to meet local needs, the nation is the top participant in the OpenCourseWare consortium.
  9. Chinese leaders understand that education is the foundation for the nation’s future economic success: They are willing to reorient education to meet future needs.
  10. The “brain drain” is transforming into a “brain bank.” Returning overseas students are starting new enterprises and ventures; and, the government is recruiting foreign talent to fill in gaps as it moves into the knowledge economy and knowledge society.

What is needed for China to stop playing “catch up” in the knowledge economy to ascending to a position of leadership in an innovation-based world?

Top ten list #4: Examples of leapfrogging

ten-days-sm.pngYesterday, we explored what leapfrogging is. But, what are a few examples…?

  1. Someone says what s/he thinks, despite their fear.
  2. A kid stops hanging with the Crips and returns to school.
  3. Americans get into micronutrition and eschew McFood.
  4. You start thinking about positive rather than negative futures.
  5. You buy a Prius and sell the Cadillac.
  6. You contract for companionship and leave marriage behind.
  7. You vote when none of your friends will take the trouble.
  8. You help elect an intelligent and competent President.
  9. You ask your professors to demonstrate Leapfrogging within their professions.
  10. You come out of your closet and add to this list.

Top ten list #3: The correlates of Leapfrogging

ten-days-sm.pngLeapfrogging means 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.

What else does it mean?

  1. Leapfrogging means that you are anticipatory.
  2. Leapfrogging means that you are creating options.
  3. Leapfrogging synergizes classical and virtual realities.
  4. Leapfrogging means never having to say, “I’m catching up.”
  5. Leapfrogging creates instant strategies — and controversies.
  6. Leapfrogging creates past, present, and future co-realities.
  7. Leapfrogging creates new adventures and their novel social roles.
  8. Leapfrogging makes you more interesting, even if only to yourself.
  9. Leapfrogging can help divert the United States from its present decline.
  10. Leapfrogging is what came naturally — before you went to school.

Top ten signs the "Singularity is near"

ten-days-sm.pngAs we stated in yesterday’s top ten list, human-surpassing intelligence will guarantee that the future is far more different than we can imagine. Our second top ten list plays off ideas from Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is near, Hans Moravec’s Mind children and Robot, and the work of Vernor Vinge. Onward Singularitarians!

  1. Accelerating returns: S-curves of change are occurring much more rapidly, forcing humans to cope with unexpected resource diversity. Much of this exists in the form of bona fide forms of abundance, for which there are few or no means of effective absorption and equitable distribution.
  2. Advances in genetics: By many definitions of creation, including those within religious systems and conservative science, humans are about to become as gods.
  3. Advances in nanotechnologies: Richard Feynman pointed out a basic new direction for R&D: toward the much, much smaller. After a clumsy start that attempted to blend Newtonian mechanics with nanomachinery, the field has broadened and moved into chemistry, circuitry, and molecular self-assembly.
  4. Advances in robotics: The more spectacular advances in robotics are occurring at the level of microelectromechanical systems. In many ways less sophisticated than nanobots, mems offer the potential for a myriad of near-term applications, including some within the human body.
  5. Advances in computational capacities: According to Ray Kurzweil, reverse engineering of the human brain is on a path to duplicate the brain’s circuitry within one or two decades. Cost estimates of such systems are projected to follow the now-familiar downward curve even as capabilities skyrocket.
  6. Advances in understanding human intelligence: Intelligence may need to be redefined as higher-order domains of potential and capability rather than properties specific only to humans. Dovetailed intelligent humans and smart machines have already begun to generate a gradual equation of organic and inorganic intelligence potentials and capabilities.
  7. Virtual reality is beginning to complement reality: In a yin-yang manner, virtual reality (VR) and classical reality (CR) are dovetailing as well as coexisting. Distinctions between VR and CR may gradually dissipate as the properties of both are defined and measured empirically and as more blended systems and experiences are created.
  8. Paradigm shifts in thought and the senses are emerging as important cultural software: It will become ordinary to speak of paradigm changes outside the boundaries of cognition. Knowledge and innovation workers must change their thinking and feelings both anticipatorily and reactively to create opportunities and cope with sudden changes.
  9. The future is more difficult to imagine than ever before: The more information that becomes available through trends, scenarios and visions, the more that numerous alternative futures can be created. Alvin Toffler recognized this in 1967, but it is an insight that continues to provoke claims that humans are incapable of entertaining more than a handful of future alternatives, most of them utopic (all too “unlikely”) or dystopic (all too “likely”).
  10. Accelerating technological change is accelerating social change: Technological advances routinely change our cultural norms, political systems, economics, and modes of thinking. New cultures are routinely created, both as new configurations of blends of existing cultures (transcultures) and innovative, designed, personal cultures (postcultures).