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Invisible Learning to be published in early 2011

About a year ago, Cristóbal Cobo and I announced a research project called Invisible Learning. After many months of work, collecting experiences, researching literature, interviews, and exchanges with experts (and –above all– many hours of writing), we can announce that in 2011 the Invisible Learning book will be a reality (in print and digital formats).

Details about the upcoming book, Invisible Learning: Toward a new ecology of education, are available at — and, because we will first publish in Spanish, the website is (for now) in Spanish. We will roll out an English edition of the website and book later in 2011.

The project has exceeded all of our expectations. Not only in terms of interest (over 15,000 references in Google, 7,500 TEDx video playbacks in Spanish and many as well in English), but in the scope of contributions from universities and researchers in the United States, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Finland. We view this as a global commitment (Western, at least) to take a transnational perspective on education at all levels.

The ingredients from these sources are combined in this work to build a large map of ideas, proposals, experiences, tools, methodologies, and research frameworks that seek to make visible those invisible components that lie behind learning. This text seeks out new questions about learning for the upcoming decades.

Although the text has a critical perspective, resulting from the analysis of the shortcomings of educational systems, it also seeks to highlight innovative and transformative initiative that are launching in various corners of the globe.

We do not offer magical fixes for the problems identified, but we assemble the pieces of a conceptual puzzle, constructed from: Society 3.0; lifelong learning; the use of technologies outside of the classroom; soft skills; methodologies for building education futures; serendipic discovery; the hybridization between formal and informal learning; skills for innovation; edupunk and edupop; expanded education; digital maturity; Knowmads and knowledge agents; plus many new literacies relevant to the times in which we live.

We believe that the vested interest and the support provided by dozens of collaborators and institutions such as the Laboratori de Mitjans Interactus (LMI) at the University of Barcelona (publisher) are a living demonstration of the deep interest that exists for building a better education for tomorrow. Hugo Pardo, editor and the publisher’s tireless engine of this book provides some insight on his blog. We will write more about this project and its “added values” as it approaches publication. Stay tuned!

The impact of NCLB in the workplace

This year, Minnesota 2020 has released some exciting critiques of the state of education in Minnesota and nationally. And, by “exciting,” I mean sometimes scathing critiques … with a glimmer of hope. At the top of their hit list (and rightfully so) is No Child Left Behind. This morning, they blogged:

Last fall, the prestigious publication Education Week hosted an on-line chat about the federal No Child Left Behind law. One of the panelists was David Figlio, a professor at Northwestern University and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Ellen Solek of East Haddam, Conn., asked if Figlio was aware “of any current research that has, or is being conducted that determines correlation (if any) between K-12 student test scores, accountability, and future success in the workplace?”

This is a magnificent question because it goes to the heart of NCLB and how it relates to every Minnesotan. The question is simple: What difference does NCLB make?

Figlio doesn’t really have an answer. First, he says this: “It’s too early to know about the effects of accountability on workplace success.” Then he says “there have been a number of studies that have linked K-12 test scores to labor market outcomes as adults,” but then adds “these papers use data that are decades old, however.”

This is a great question: Does the government’s vision of education output products that are meaningful in today’s workforce? My hunch is that research will show that NCLB is failing to produce workers of the caliber the United States needs. NCLB is great at producing automatons that can parrot back responses required for tests (or make great assembly line workers), but not creatives that will power our growing imagination- and innovation-driven economy. Who will hire graduates from the NCLB generation?

Toward a smarter planet

Last month, IBM took out a two-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal that touted their vision for a smarter planet. They believe:

The world continues to get “smaller” and “flatter.” But we see now that being connected isn’t enough. Fortunately, something else is happening that holds new potential: the planet is becoming smarter.

That is, intelligence is being infused into the way the world literally works—into the systems, processes and infrastructure that enable physical goods to be developed, manufactured, bought and sold. That allow services to be delivered. That facilitate the movement of everything from money and oil to water and electrons. And that help billions of people work and live.

Furthermore, they write that the smarter planet is powered by three drivers:

  • The world is becoming instrumented. By 2010, there will be a billion transistors per human, each one costing one ten-millionth of a cent.
  • The world is becoming interconnected. With a trillion networked things—cars, roadways, pipelines, appliances, pharmaceuticals and even livestock—the amount of information created by those interactions grows exponentially.
  • All things are becoming intelligent. Algorithms and powerful systems can analyze and turn those mountains of data into actual decisions and actions that make the world work better. Smarter.

What does this mean for the futures of our various institutions?  For our hopes in quality of life?  IBM examines these questions in their blog, Building a Smarter Planet. They don’t provide answers, but they get the conversation going.

With the world becoming increasingly instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent, what new opportunities and challenges are presented to education and human capital development systems?

Navigating the blogosphere is getting better

As touched upon lightly a couple weeks ago, the blogosphere is getting easier to navigate. Both Alltop and Blogged offer editor-picked/-rated indices of blogs, sorted by topic. These goes beyond the usual scope of blog/news aggregators by incorporating human elements of review.

  1. Receiving generally-positive initial reviews (including a thumbs-up from me), Guy Kawasaki‘s Alltop venture provides a consolidated “magazine rack” of many of the top blogs, editor-picked, and sorted by subject. (For education-related blogs, click here.)

  2. Another resource,, launched last month, and provides editor reviews as well as allowing registered users to post reviews. This allows for weighted crowdsourcing of ratings and reviews, which helps to filter out blogs that are used for spam or are simply outdated. The site also provides recommendations for related blogs to readers that might not otherwise be visible through a traditional blog search, based on its categorization system. (Thanks to the editor who gave Education Futures a 9.0/10!)


Education Futures mailbag

With many folks away at SXSW, CIES and AERA, the next couple weeks are going to be quiet. What better time than now to catch-up on the mail!

First, Elaine Wooton sent a note a couple weeks ago in regard to my chart of Education 1.0/2.0/3.0:

I am part of a group starting a school outside D.C. called The Freedom School ( Modeled after the Subdury Valley School ( and sort of Summerhill in England. Democratic. Kids do whatever they want all day (in an environment the adults try to ensure is “rich” with opportunities) as long as they follow the rules that they made. Total age-mixing, no curriculum unless they want it… We are actually a homeschool coop that looks just like a school, because Maryland is “complicated” (the complication is about building codes, not about starting a “school”). (Next year, the co-op will run 5 days/week with a paid staff person.)

Holy cow! …a school/coop that tries to embrace the creativity inherent in kids rather than beating it out is worth following!

She also wrote:

Strangely, the kids have had “school” 3x week since September, and have formulated many, many rules about computer access. As it stands right now, they made a rule that they can only use the computers for play from 10-12 (academics are fine any time), so that they are entirely available for other activities in the afternoon. There have also been rules about time on/time off. Also, in this environment, the computer is a social thing, usually functioning as a triangle – two kids/one computer. One kid as the user and one as a coach (or backseat driver). The typical computer lab situation in schools is totally different, 25 headphoned kids on 25 machines. I think the public school computers should always have 2 jacks, so there can be that triangle. But I digress…

That is a fascinating example of a self-organizing system. I’ve seen this happen in other classrooms where adults make an effort to step aside, too. Kids are much better at teaching each other about technology and “managing” technology than adults. What would happen if these kids worked with each other (and with adults) to develop new technologies to support their learning and knowledge-producing environments?

Second, Mark Surman posted a critique of my critique of the Cape Town Declaration, where I “worry” that “open course materials will do little to change education.” I had asked: Is there something else that we should focus on where we can use new technological and social models to develop innovative tools for education? Mark responds:

The answer is: of course! There are dozens of things that pop to mind immediately: Tools that capture, share and evolve the tacit knowledge involved in teaching practices (LAMS). Peer-to-peer learning platforms where students support each other and teachers become more like facilitators (Kusasa). Sites that connect ‘amateur’ teachers with interested learners (The School of Everything). For-credit classes that embed students in the real time, hands on learning environment of an open source software community (Seneca College). Or simply DIY learning by doing, which is the point of the web and open source in the first place (Wikipedia). While most of these are nascent examples yet to scale or even prove themselves, they hint at where things are going.

It surprises me how many people jump to the conclusion that the Cape Town Declaration ignores all this. The people who wrote the Declaration — and I suspect most people who signed it — totally get how education can and is changing.

The problem is that the Cape Town Declaration doesn’t say any of that. Maybe a new declaration is needed?

Finally, Guy Kawasaki dropped me a line to alert me that Education Futures is listed on his feed aggregator, Alltop, located at:

Alltop is organized as a dashboard with not only education news, but also: autos, career, design, food, gadgets, humor, journalism, religion, social media, sports, venture capital, and much, much more…

Do-it-yourself global education

Maya Frost has put together an interesting blog to help promote ideas she’s assembling for a book: The world is your campus: How to skip the SAT, save thousands on tuition, and get an outrageously relevant global education. Her take is that people need to balance education with creative life experiences. Why learn about the world in a classroom when there’s a world to explore nearby? Here comes do-it-yourself education!

A few interesting, recent posts:

Since I work in a department that trains study abroad advisors, here’s my question for the day:  In a Web 2.0 world of knowledge sharing, do students and youth need study abroad advisors?  Or, is there a better solution?

A co-seminar in action

Following-up from yesterday’s post on the characteristics of co-seminars, here’s a taste of what they look like.

This joint co-seminar, organized between the University of Minnesota, FLACSO-México, FLACSO-Chile and the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja is an “open seminar” – that is, with permission from the students and collaborating institutions, all course content and most of the interactions are available online through the course content management system and blogs for each of the participating institutions (see the class blogs for UMN, FLACSO-Mex, FLACSO-Chile, and UTPL).

The four institutions connected each work through a different syllabus, but we meet virtually to discuss intersecting points of interest related to various knowledge formats, knowledge management, etc. In this co-seminar, we chose to post mini-lectures online, which are available in both English and Spanish (see Spanish and English examples of this week’s video). Students then bring their questions to a bi-weekly video conference (and Skypecast) for discussion. To compensate for instances where technology breaks down, podcasts of recorded discussions are made available for download, and instructor responses students’ questions are made available as YouTube or Google Video:

So, what makes co-seminar experiences different from other online or in-person learning options? I’ll post more reflections as the seminar continues, but several key areas have already emerged:

  1. Student work (posted on the blogs) is phenomenally improved over what typically is produced in courses. What has been posted so far in the past two weeks has been refreshing in terms of thoughtfulness and academic scope – is this because they know other people are viewing and reviewing their writing as professional work?
  2. Without a shared, core “empirical reality” of what knowledge is among the cultures represented, participants at each institution are beginning to learn to embrace and attend to the chaos and ambiguities that emerge in such a course.
  3. The amount of coordination among international partners required by instructors is tremendous –but, it’s all worthwhile as we are all learning new things and making new contacts.

More on co-seminars coming up over the next few months…

Is it time to boycott non-open journals?

Danah Boyd joined the call for reforming how academics publish their work by calling for a boycott of non-open-access journals …and, provided a list of suggestions on what needs to be done now:

  • Tenured Faculty and Industry Scholars: Publish only in open-access journals.
  • Disciplinary associations: Help open-access journals gain traction.
  • Tenure committees: Recognize alternate venues and help the universities follow.
  • Young punk scholars: Publish only in open-access journals in protest, especially if you’re in a new field.
  • More conservative young scholars: publish what you need to get tenure and then stop publishing in closed venues immediately upon acquiring tenure.
  • All scholars: Go out of your way to cite articles from open-access journals.
  • All scholars: Start reviewing for open-access journals.
  • Libraries: Begin subscribing to open-access journals and adding them to your catalogue.
  • Universities: Support your faculty in creating open-access journals on your domains.
  • Academic publishers: Wake up or get out.

(The above list is abstracted from her original post.)

I probably fall under the “young punk” category in her list, and publish in both traditional and new media as an attempt to compromise and appeal to both conservative and cutting-edge scholars. How can we move away from a culture of appeasement of 20th century academic culture and refocus our knowledge diffusion toward media formats that are more appealing to younger and more tech-savvy academics –such as blogs, and the spaces where open access journals and other, new, open media interface? How long until the academy will finally accept highly commented and linked blog posts as legitimate, peer-reviewed articles in a tenure review?

Getting smart about books

As a follow-up to last week’s posts by Ai Takeuchi with Japanese perspectives on global education, I wanted to comment on Steve Jobs’ claim that nobody reads books anymore –and counter his claim by pointing out that books are alive and well in Japan because the Japanese are embracing the distribution possibilities provided by new media and new technologies.

Mike Elgan beat me to the punch, though, and posted this article at Computer World. An excerpt:

Half of Japan’s top 10 best-selling books last year — half! — started out as cell phone-based books, according to the New York Times.

The books-on-phones genre started when a home-page-making Web site company realized that people in Japan were writing serialized novels on their blogs, and figured out how to autocreate cell phone-based novels from the blog entries.

The popularity of these blog novels on cell phones sparked huge interest among readers in writing such novels. Last month, the site passed the 1 million novel mark.

Some of these amateur writers become so famous on the cell phone medium that the big publishing houses seek them out and offer lucrative deals for print versions. The No. 5 best-selling print book in Japan last year, according to the Times, was written first on a cell phone by a girl during her senior year in high school.

In this brave new world of literature where anybody can become a best-selling author using mobile technologies, we need to rethink what a “book” really is. Instead of blocking mobile technologies in schools, what if schools allowed them so that kids could produce their own books?