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Accelerating Change

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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.

Designing Education 3.0

This week, Education Futures presents a series on Education 3.0. For a little background on this new paradigm of human capital development, you may wish to start with this chart on Education 3.0, or view this presentation on SlideShare.

This is my take on the future of education. Just as there are various conceptualizations of what Web 2.0 and future Web 3.0 might be, there are various conceptualizations of the Education 1.0 – 3.0 spectrum. Derek Keats shared one model he created with J. P. Schmidt a couple years ago, and a simple Google search provides links to various other frameworks or conceptualizations. My model focuses on the feedback-looped, transformative relationship between technology and society, and extends the relationship to transformations in human capital development. In brief,

  • Society 1.0 refers to pre-industrial, industrial and information age society that was based on linear, task-oriented relationships. The role of the corresponding Education 1.0 regime was to create graduates that would perform well in jobs with easily defined parameters and relationships.
  • Society 2.0 refers to the knowledge-based society that is driven by globalization and the growth of networking technologies. In this paradigm, information is no longer as important as the knowledge that’s created as we interpret information and create meaning. Increasingly, people are becoming more valued for their personal knowledge rather than their ability to perform tasks. Moreover, rapidly evolving information and communications technologies allow us to socially construct knowledge in new ways (i.e., through Twitter, Facebook and other social networking tools). The role of Education 2.0 is to develop our talents to compete in a global market with new social relationships, and where we are able to leverage our knowledge.
  • Society 3.0 refers to an emerging innovation-based society that is not quite here, yet. This is a society that is driven by accelerating change, globalized relationships, and fueled by knowmads. In an era of accelerating change, the amount of information available doubles at an increasing rate, and the half-life of useful knowledge decreases exponentially. This requires innovative thinking and action by all members of society.

Borrowing from the New Paradigm model that I recently published in On the Horizon, basic characteristics of the 1.0 – 3.0 spectrum may be summed in this table:

Paradigm

Domain 1.0 2.0 3.0
Fundamental relationships Simple Complex Complex creative (teleological)
Conceptualization of order Hierarchic Heterarchic Intentional, self-organizing
Relationships of parts Mechanical Holographic Synergetic
Worldview Deterministic Indeterminate Design
Causality Linear Mutual Anticausal
Change process Assembly Morphogenic Creative destruction
Reality Objective Perspectival Contextual
Place Local Globalizing Globalized

We will dive into more detail on these trends throughout the week.

What about education? This week, we will examine how Society 3.0 impacts Education 3.0:

Please visit often and submit your comments!

We're always busy, but doing nothing

blackberry

Here’s another look at accelerating change. On Friday, the New York Times published an excellent review of Dalton Conley’s book, Elsewhere U.S.A.:

“A new breed of American has arrived on the scene,” Conley, a professor at New York University, declares in “Elsewhere, U.S.A.,” his compact guidebook to our nervous new world. Instead of individuals searching for authenticity, we are “intraviduals” defined by shifting personas and really cool electronics, which help us manage “the myriad data streams, impulses, desires and even consciousnesses that we experience in our heads as we navigate multiple worlds.” The denizens of our “Elsewhere Society,” Conley argues, “are only convinced they’re in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time, when they’re on their way to the next destination. Constant motion is a balm to a culture in which the very notion of authenticity . . . has been shattered into a thousand e-mails.”

Conley looks at the social transformations that were created by technological change between the mid 20th century through today. Organization and individualism have given way to intravidualism, “an ethic of fragmented selves replacing the modern ethic of individualism.” Work, play, and everything in between are blurring into non-discrete moments of incoherentness. We’re going somewhere, but we do not know where. Then again, no matter where we go, there we are.

This has serious consequences for human capital development. Perhaps to better succeed in what appears to be a directionless society of busybodies, we need to create a New Individualism, and re-orient education for developing strategic leadership at the individual level? …for learning how to cope with increased chaos and ambiguity? …for knowing how to be more selective in how new technologies are used before the technologies use us?

Change is accelerating: Get ready!

Change is the theme of this week, and we open with a reminder from Ray Kurzweil that change is accelerating. Last week, the New York Times’ John Tierney published an interview with Kurzweil on accelerating change:

Now, [Kurzweil] sees biology, medicine, energy and other fields being revolutionized by information technology. His graphs [of accelerating technological change] already show the beginning of exponential progress in nanotechnology, in the ease of gene sequencing, in the resolution of brain scans. With these new tools, he says, by the 2020s we’ll be adding computers to our brains and building machines as smart as ourselves.

Kurzweil has a track record of being correct with his projections of technological advancement. What does this mean for education? What changes would take place in our schools within the next 12-22 years as technology transforms the human mind and human potential? This week, we will consider these questions, and look at both U.S. presidential candidates’ proposals for changing education for a better future.

Speaking of Kurzweil, he is busy adapting his book, The Singularity is Near, into a movie of the same title. Originally planned for release this spring, it’s now slated to surface sometime later in 2008.

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.

Slides from this morning's MACTA presentation

From this morning’s MACTA keynote address: Co-constructing Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century

Career and Technical Education is poised at the inflection point of a technological and social change process identified as the “J” Curve. Just like the letter J, the “J” Curve describes a sharp upward turn in the exponentially accelerating rate of change. The effects of the “J” Curve will be felt -indeed, are already being felt- by every institution, company, government, and school in all societies. This presentation centers on the leadership that can be exerted by Career and Technical Education in the context of the “J” Curve’s increasing impacts.

To view the slides in a larger format, click here.

Minnesota Higher Education in the New Paradigm of Knowledge Production: Findings and Discussion of a Delphi Study

Here’s my presentation from this morning’s La Universidad en México en el año 2030: imaginando futuros conference at UNAM in Mexico City.

(Click here for the Spanish version.)

This paper introduces how the convergence of globalization, emergence of the knowledge society and accelerating change contribute to what might be best termed a New Paradigm of knowledge production in higher education. The New Paradigm reflects the emerging shifts in thought, beliefs, priorities and practice in regard to education in society. These new patterns of thought and belief are forming to harness and manage the chaos, indeterminacy, and complex relationships of the postmodern.

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Leapfrog Ecuador!

I’m back from a week in Ecuador, where I participated in a conference hosted in the Faculty of Latin American Social Sciences (FLACSO), and delivered two invited lectures. At FLACSO, I discussed the co-seminar conducted by myself and Dr. Arthur Harkins at the University of Minnesota, in cooperation with FLACSO-México (lead by Dr. Cristóbal Cobo).

On Monday, Cobo and I visited the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, and presented to a group of about 150 students and faculty. Cobo discussed his new book, Planeta Web 2.0, and I followed-up with a presentation on the collaboration between UMN-FLACSO, with a focus on our co-seminar model.

On Tuesday, Cobo and I presented the co-seminar model, our joint course, lessons learned, and future prospects at the FLACSO 50th Anniversary conference. Much of the discussion with the audience was centered on the future of education. Dr. Eduardo Ibarra (from UAM-Cuajimalpa) commented on the need for post-disciplinary learning (the dynamic creation of new disciplines, often at the personal level), beyond the transdisciplinary scope that we presented. (That’s Leapfrog thinking!) Eduardo will host a conference on imagining futures for Mexican universities in 2030 in early December. I will participate there, so we will have a lot to talk about!

“Version 2.0” of the seminar will commence in January. This time, in addition to FLACSO-México, FLACSO-Ecuador and FLACSO-Chile may also join. Following a Skype conference with Ismael Peña-López (of ICTlogy), it’s possible that Ph.D. students at UOC in Barcelona will participate as well. So, it is conceivable the co-seminar may be conducted in three languages: English, Spanish and Catalan.

Wednesday involved an early morning flight to the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja (UTPL) in Southern Ecuador. The school has 23,000 students, of which 20,000 are distance learners. Cobo and I toured the campus, met with leaders of the central administration and research centers, and delivered lectures to about 250 students and faculty. Cobo again discussed Planeta Web 2.0, but also focused on “so what?” questions regarding his book. I discussed the New Paradigm and the Leapfrog Principle. Together, we highlighted how accelerating change is transforming everything in society, and the students presented cheered at several of the leapfrog-enabling technologies on the horizon.

A few audience members posted their reactions to our lectures:

(In two of the above posts, I am incorrectly noted as a co-author of Planeta Web 2.0. That’s not true! It’s written by Cristóbal Cobo and Hugo Pardo. Also, a statement I made was misinterpreted. To correct the record, I stated that U.S. universities are now only discussing incorporating Web 2.0 technologies into their schools; whereas Loja is already adopting their use in the curriculum.)

An interesting aspect of UTPL is that its students and recent graduates run its research centers, and that the university is providing spaces for student-run “skunk works.” In addition to providing facilities, UTPL provides these entrepreneurial students with business and legal advice for forming successful ventures in Ecuador. Their hope is to create a new Silicon Valley in the Loja Valley. I found this focus on youth empowerment to be enlightening.

Wednesday afternoon focused on conversations with UTPL leaders on “what’s next.” More on that will emerge over the next few months… stay tuned!

Three Singularities, three conversations

cog-threat.jpgEliezer Yudkowsky, on the SIAI blog, posted his observations of the emergence of three “logically distinct” schools of thought related to the Singularity:

  1. Accelerating change (Ray Kurzweil, Alvin Toffler, John Smart): “technological change feeds on itself, and therefore accelerates” along a predictable curve.
  2. Event Horizon (Vernor Vinge): “Shortly, technology will advance to the point of improving on human intelligence (brain-computer interfaces, Artificial Intelligence). This will create a future that is weirder by far than most science fiction, a difference-in-kind that goes beyond amazing shiny gadgets.”
  3. Intelligence explosion (I.J. Good, Eliezer Yudkowsky [and, I’m sure, many others]): “the smarter you get, the more intelligence you can apply to making yourself even smarter.”

All three interpretations of the Singularity, Yudkowsky argues, require specific delineation to avoid being mashed into –and interpreted as– a single, apocalyptic metanarrative in popular discourse. Perhaps to better prepare educators for seemingly more absurd, ambiguous, and chaotic futures, we ought to build Singularity awareness, acceptance and preparedness by serializing our conversations:

First, change is accelerating. The good news is that we can plot out, reasonably predict, and prepare for much of it. What changes are our schools prepared for?

Second, a smarter society will start to build smarter things. Human intelligence hasn’t increased, but distributed knowledge across society will help us build improved humans, successor species and machines that will outsmart us. Students enrolled in schools today will likely face a future where “natural” humans are no longer the most intelligent species on the planet. How can we prepare them?

Third, our future could be very, very weird. Period. Are we doing anything to prepare students for futures beyond anyone’s imagination?

Are you future-proof?

People seem really concerned about “future-proofing” in a world driven by accelerating change and accelerating uncertainty.  For example:

This promotes dichotomic thinking along the lines of, “if the rest of the world is going to change, how can I (or my beloved institution) best survive by changing the least myself?” Why shouldn’t we expect ourselves to change significantly as well? To leapfrog beyond the contradictory thinking of “future-proofing,” perhaps we should ask ourselves:

  • Does the future need schools?
  • Does the future need libraries?
  • Does the future need wealth?
  • Does the future need careers?
  • Does the future need families?

…and we ought to also ask how, why, and what do we need to change today?