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Last week in brief: BIG things brewing

A lot has happened in the past week, and I feel that bits and pieces are coming together to form a huge break from the mainstream in human capital development in the Netherlands. In brief:

On Monday, I visited TEDxDelft at TU Delft. The day was very well organized and included a selection of talks from a book maker, an astronaut, constructors of a high tech opera, a parkour exhibition, and a talk by Marcel Kampman on how to close what he calls the Dream Gap. Marcel provides 9 ideas to tackle the issue, including re-organizing TED so that it it focuses on T-shaped approaches to EDucation (hence, T-ED), that work to connect people-to-people in knowledge creation and sharing. Smart idea.

During the lunch break, Marcel and I also got together and recorded videos for each others projects. Here’s what I had to say for the Dream School initiative he’s playing a major role with for Stad & Esch:

Stad & Esch & Onderwijs & John Moravec from Stad & Esch on Vimeo.

(I’ll post my video interview with Marcel in a future post, which will include his TEDxDelft talk, as soon as it becomes available.)

On Tuesday, I visited the UniC school in Utrecht, which flips the use of technology in the classroom around to allow students to engage in learning activities that enable them to follow their own passions and interests. They bring in their own laptops or tablet devices, and spend their time on individual and team learning projects that are guided by faculty that do more to attend to their learning rather than trying to manage it. Jelmer Evers showed me around, and explained that because higher level students are required to take a standardized learning exam, they must unlearn everything the school has taught them so that they can complete the tests in an industrialized manner. Jelmer writes about this difficult situation on his blog, and fears an NCLB-like nightmare in the Netherlands may be emerging:

So far so good. If it was up to a lot of teachers and students, learning would take place more outside of the school as well. But reality is different of course. That’s where the inspection comes in. The education inspection is an organization which visits schools. In general it sees to good educational practice and particulary it audits “weak” schools which produce bad grades, most notably exam results. We’re a new school and those results are continuously improving. So in the end I think we’ll do fine (and our students better in the ways that count as well). The thing is, a lot of the skills that we focus on aren’t captured in the official results and a lot of people are scrutinizing us to see if we will be able to produce these results. We had a real nice discussion with the inspectors of course and they were very generous, but in the end it is the “result” that matters. In fact there is an ever increasing focus on results and testing, like in the United States.

Wednesday centered on a collaborative workshop at the Third National Self-Organization Day, organized by Stichting Zelforganisatie in Rotterdam, with Edwin de Bree and three students from the Sudbury education schools in the Netherlands. I spoke about Invisible Learning, and Edwin moderated a panel discussion and “speed dating”/Q&A session between the students and the workshop participants. Later in the day, Ronald van den Hoff gave a talk on his vision of Society 3.0. One interesting projection I took with me: He projects that 45% of the workforce will be comprised of knowmads or engaged in knowmad-like work.

On Thursday, my journey continued with a visit to the NHL Hogeschool in Leeuwarden for a day-long workshop on Knowmad Society and Invisible Learning, entitled “MEAT with John Moravec.” The group of faculty and students at NHL, lead by Jooske Haije, was a lot of fun to work with, not only because they are working to implement ideas from Invisible Learning and Knowmad Society into their own institution, but also because the group were excited to remix and share new ideas. I was delightfully surprised to find that they had made morning snacks out of the brain imagery that Cristóbal Cobo and I originally intended to use for the cover of our Invisible Learning book. The faculty are fired-up on making invisible learning visible, and I look forward to hearing about they will present from the workshop to an assembly celebrating the school’s 40th anniversary later this month.

Later, in the afternoon, I joined the Otava Folk High School in Finland for a talk on Invisible Learning via Adobe Connect:

On Friday, we began to bring all these pieces together. Ronald van den Hoff hosted a round table on education in Society 3.0 at Seats2Meet in Utrecht. In the world of educational innovation, with various stakeholders and initiatives largely operating independent of each other, we recognized a need to better connect and integrate the work and thinking of all key players — including students. With interim futuring activities to keep us thinking and acting, our group will again meet in January and March to plot next steps. Already, Ronald has pledged in-kind support from Seats2Meet International to support the initiative, coordinated by Annemarije Bakker, so I am quite optimistic about what we may accomplish in the coming months.

During the second half of the day, I traveled to Amsterdam with Thieu Besselink for a quick visit to the Waag Society and the Creative Learning Lab, where they have recently released a book entitled Open Design Now: Why design cannot remain exclusive. As they describe it, the book:

surveys this emerging field for the first time. Insiders including John Thackara, Droog Design’s Renny Ramakers and Bre Pettis look at what’s driving open design and where it’s going. They examine new business models and issues of copyright, sustainability and social critique. Case studies show how projects ranging from the RepRap self-replicating 3D-printer to $50 prosthetic legs are changing the world.

Finally, upon hearing that Otto Scharmer was visiting Amsterdam, I crashed the final minutes of the Crossing the Tipping Point congress:

I apologize to anybody that may have been upset that I didn’t register before stoping by (I wish I had known about the event sooner!), but I really enjoyed meeting all of you. 🙂


Coda

Throughout Northern Europe, and, in particular, in the Netherlands, I sense a real push for creating educational reforms that will enable the countries to leapfrog beyond old industrial paradigms to 21st century innovation and knowmadic paradigms. In these countries where education policies are so deeply rooted in the old Prussian tradition that aims to produce loyal factory workers and government bureaucrats, perhaps we can also find the greatest potential for meaningful change and leadership in developing Society 3.0.

The stars seem to be aligning for this shift. And, when it happens, it will be big. The right people are connecting to bring new ideas to the table, and are generating new ways for generating positive futures. For leading, facilitating, and hosting many of these conversations, I extend my greatest gratitude especially to Seats2Meet International, Ronald van den Hoff, Iris Meerts, Jooske Haije, and Edwin de Bree. Thank you for making this happen!

(I’ll be back in January.)

Roger Schank on Invisible Learning: Real learning; real memory

With the free release of Invisible Learning (Aprendizaje Invisible), I am pleased to share the original English version of the epilogue, penned by Roger Schank.

The full Spanish-language text of Invisible Learning may be downloaded directly from http://www.invisiblelearning.com/download


Epilogue: Real learning; Real memory

by Roger Schank

What do people need to learn and how can they learn it?

Every curriculum committee and every training organization has at one time or another convened a committee to answer this question. Their answers are always given in terms of telling about subjects: “more math,” “leadership,” “risk management,” “company policies.” But subject matter is far less important in learning than one might think.

Consider medicine. What should a doctor learn? Doctors take courses in anatomy and immunology and so on, and certainly we want any doctor who treats us to know about these things. But, what skill do we want him to have above all? We want a doctor to make a proper diagnosis of our problem.

Now consider a car mechanic. We want him to understand how an engine works and such. But what do we want him to know more than anything? We want a mechanic to make a proper diagnosis of our problem.

The same is true of business consultants, architects, financial planners, and most other professions. We want people who can do diagnosis. But, when do we teach diagnosis? Typically we teach it within the confines of a particular subject, way at the end, after all the theories and facts have been explained. This is exactly backwards.

What is harder to learn, proper diagnosis of an illness or the names and functions of all the body parts? Most anyone can learn body parts, but diagnosis is a seriously important skill. You would never choose a doctor based on their ability to name the body parts quickly.

But, if diagnosis is difficult to learn, that implies that one needs a lot of practice in doing it. And, if it is important to learn, that implies that one ought to be practicing it very early on in life.

Other critical skills include determining causation, making predictions, making plans, and conducting experiments.

How can we learn these skills?

People learn diagnosis by doing diagnosis. This means that learning occurs when people have to do diagnosis. They might have to do diagnosis in order to figure out why they are losing a video game or why they always eat too much. While diagnosis is, unfortunately, not a subject in school, it is a process that everyone practices. They practice it without help most of the time and unless they have a parent who can help they may well be lost and might not get better at it.

Consider experimentation. We think of this as being something scientists do, when in fact, two year olds do it constantly. They try out experiments about what is good to put in their mouths, what annoying behaviors they can get away with, and what happens when they smash a favorite toy.

When we assess someone’s intelligence we can forgive lack of subject matter knowledge much more easily than we can forgive lack of diagnostic ability. Here is a Sarah Palin supporter responding to a question about Palin’s foreign policy:

I don’t know much about her foreign policy but the state that she did govern was right across the street from Russia. You know so I’m not saying that she ever had to deal with Russia but I’m sure she had boundaries issues she had to deal with. We have boundary issues right now with Mexico now.

Clearly this man has no ability to make an effective diagnosis. He does not understand causation either. In short, he seems stupid not because he doesn’t know about Palin’s foreign policy, but because he has diagnosed “illegal immigration” as something one would certainly be an expert on if one had governed Alaska. The critical issue in learning is learning to think more clearly.

How can technology play a role in teaching diagnosis and in teaching thinking in general? Or, to put this another way, why is it that courses rarely work the way I am suggesting (diagnostic issue first, facts and theories later)?

When you teach a course in a classroom, it is not so easy to start with a diagnostic problem. Such problems require real thought, hard work, recovery from errant hypotheses, and mentoring focused on creating new ways of looking at a problem. In other words, teaching diagnosis is facilitated by one-on-one interactions between teacher and student. We can do this easily online (or at home with our children), but it is very hard to do in the classroom. One value of technology is to enable one-on-one teaching in a world where people can no longer afford personal tutors. And, of course, we can model physical situations virtually. These situations can be richly elaborated and allow for exploration and discovery. It is much better to diagnose a virtual patient (or a business or an electrical problem) than a real one.

To understand why learning needs to happen this way it is important to realize that all human beings have a dynamic memory, one that changes in response to new experiences. The popular conception of memory is a static one, more like a library in which what one puts in stays there unchanged until it is needed again. This popular conception of memory causes schools to try to pour in information and test to see if it is still there. And, it causes parents to worry if their child doesn’t seem very good at either acquiring information or retaining it.

Human beings do not have static memories. They can change their internal classification systems when their conception of something changes, or when their needs for retrieval changes. For the most part, such changes are not consciously made.

Despite constant changes in organization, people continue to be able to call up relevant memories without consciously considering where they have stored them. A dynamic memory is one that can change its own organization when new experiences demand it. A dynamic memory is by nature a learning system.

People use the knowledge structures created by this memory, the ways of organizing information into a coherent whole, in order to process what goes on around them. What knowledge structures does a child have and how do they acquire them? They have knowledge structures about their own worlds: what the people they know are likely to do, how the stores and parks around them function, and they ask questions endlessly to find out more.

Understanding how knowledge structures are acquired helps us understand what kinds of entities they are. A script is a simple knowledge structure that organizes knowledge we all know about event sequences in situations like restaurants, air travel, hotel check in, and so on. We know what to expect and interpret events in light of our expectations.

If something odd happens to us in a restaurant, how do we recall it later? We would recall it if we entered the same restaurant later on, or if we had the same waitress at a different restaurant, or if we ate with the same dinner companions (assuming we ate with them rarely.), or if the food was extraordinary, or if we got sick. An incident in memory is indexed in many ways. Those indices are about actions, results of actions, and lessons learned from actions.

People can also abstract up a level to organize information around plans and goals. To put this another way, if the waitress dumped spaghetti on the head of someone who offended her, you should get reminded of that event if you witness the SAME KIND OF EVENT another time. The question is, what does it mean to be the same kind of event? Whatever this means, it would mean different things to different people. One person might see it as an instance of “female rage” and another as an instance of “justifiable retribution.” Another might see it as a kind of art.

The key issue is to learn from it. Any learning that occurs involves placing the new memory in a location in memory whereby it adds to and expands upon what is already in that place. So, it might tell us more about that waitress, or waitresses in general, or women in general, or about that particular restaurant, and so on, depending upon what we previously believed to be true of all those things. New events modify existing beliefs by adding experiences to what we already know or by contradicting what we already know and forcing us to new conclusions. Either way, learning is more than simply adding new information.

A child’s mind is acquiring and abandoning scripts. A child is wired to create patterns by expecting something to happen after something else because that is the way it happened last time. A child is set up to make generalizations, have them fail because his expectations were not met, and then create a new generalization.

And then, there is school. No actual experiences, except those about school itself, are had. So a child easily learns how one is expected to behave in school and how school functions, but he may not want to behave that way or function in that way. Reading, writing, and arithmetic, actual skills, can be taught because they are the new experiences the child is wired to seek. But other subjects, ones that are not themselves experiences, i.e., scripts that can be practiced, are much harder for a child to learn because they are not offered up by schooling, typically.

As a child gets older, he begins to understand implicitly that it is his goals, and his plans to achieve those goals, that drive his learning. While the child seeks to make his script base larger and to clarify the expectation failures he has had and to find new stories to tell or hear stories that will help him make sense of his world, the school takes a passive, librarian’s view of knowledge as something you can just deposit.

In school, all children are seen as the same, and the goal is teach them all the same stuff. But, a child processes new information in terms of the memory structures he already has. Since those are different than those of the child sitting next to him, he literally will not hear the same thing that a teacher is saying, in the same way.

The people who are in charge of schools completely misunderstand the inherently experiential nature of learning.

Students who are wired to learn from experience will have a hard time learning from static information that does not clearly relate to goals they have. Curiously, little children learn very well until they meet up with school and its arbitrary standards. They have experiences and they learn from them. The more varied their experiences, the more they can be said to know. The more they have interesting people to discuss their experiences with, the more excited and comprehending they become about their own knowledge.

Not only does school ignore what we know about how human memory and learning work, it is also concerned with teaching subjects that have nothing to do with everyday life. So students learn the wrong stuff in the wrong way.

young men grow up such blockheads in the schools, because they neither see nor hear one single thing connected with the usual circumstances of everyday life

That was written by Gaius Petronius in the Satyricon although it is just as true today.

We need to re-think our very conception of learning. What we have now simply doesn’t work. It’s time for a new model.


Dr. Roger Schank is the CEO of Socratic Arts and Managing Director of Engines for Education (a non-profit). He was Chief Education Officer of Carnegie Mellon West and Distinguished Career Professor in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University from 2001-2004. He founded he renowned Institute for the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University in 1989 where he is John P. Evans Professor Emeritus in Computer Science, Education and Psychology. From 1974-1989, he was Professor of computer science and psychology at Yale University, Chairman of the Computer Science department, and Director of the Yale Artificial Intelligence Project. He currently works with La Salle University in Barcelona on developing new online degree programs.

Review: 2011 state of the future

Book: 2011 state of the future
Authors: Jerome C. Glenn, Theodore J. Gordon, and Elizabeth Florescu
Publisher: The Millennium Project (August, 2011)

Released last week, the Millennium Project’s 2011 state of the future report contains a sobering warning that:

The world is getting richer, healthier, better educated, more peaceful, and better connected and people are living longer, yet half the world is potentially unstable. Food prices are rising, water tables are falling, corruption and organized crime are increasing, environmental viability for our life support is diminishing, debt and economic insecurity are increasing, climate change continues, and the gap between the rich and poor continues to widen dangerously.

The annual State of the future series taps into an expert panel of 40 “nodes” (groups of futurists or organizations), and engages them in a modified Delphi process to identify trends, challenges, and consequences that impact our planet’s future. This year’s report includes special focus on:

  • Egypt 2020
  • Future arts, media, and entertainment
  • Latin America 2030
  • Environmental security

The authors wrap-up with a cautious assessment that the consequences of the tremendous transformations we are experiencing in the 21st century require new leadership:

Ridiculing idealism is shortsighted, but idealism untested by the rigors of pessimism can be misleading. The world needs hardheaded idealists who can look into the worst and best of humanity to create and implement strategies of success. (p. 106)

While the authors produce their own conclusions, they also encourage readers to create and share their own ideas about the future. As in previous editions, the accompanying CD-ROM contains a treasure trove of thousands of pages of outputs from the Millennium Project since it began in 1996. Spread over 8,500+ pages, the digital supplement reflects the spread and depth of the Millennium Project’s ambitions with forecasts and discussions that span from near-term to ultra-long-term futures. This rich resource in itself makes the book’s $49.95 purchase price a bargain, and a necessitates inclusion in any trend watcher, policymaker or futurist’s library.


Note: The authors provided a copy of this book for review. Please read our review policy for more details on how we review products and services.

Invisible Learning released

Cristóbal Cobo and I are pleased to announce that the Spanish edition of our new book, Invisible Learning (Aprendizaje Invisible), has just been released by the University of Barcelona (Col·lecció Transmedia XXI. Laboratori de Mitjans Interactius / Publicacions i Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona). The e-book is available for purchase at the UB website today. The print edition will arrive in the coming months. Update May 15, 2011: The print edition is now available for order at the UB website.

TO DOWNLOAD THE BOOK, VISIT THE UNIVERSITY OF BARCELONA PRESS

Dialogue with the Cristóbal Cobo and John Moravec about Invisible Learning

The Invisible Learning concept

Our proposed invisible learning concept is the result of several years of research and work to integrate diverse perspectives on a new paradigm of learning and human capital development that is especially relevant in the context of the 21st century. This view takes into account the impact of technological advances and changes in formal, non-formal, and informal education, in addition to the ‘fuzzy’ metaspaces in between. Within this approach, we explore a panorama of options for future development of education that is relevant today. Invisible Learning does not propose a theory, but rather establishes a metatheory capable of integrating different ideas and perspectives. This has been described as a protoparadigm, which is still in the ‘beta’ stage of construction.

Our conversation starts in Spanish

We are pleased that the University of Barcelona approached us to publish the book, and they have the privilege to produce the first printed edition as well as the first electronic edition. Moreover, with more native Spanish speakers in the United States than in Spain, we believe there is a legitimate market for a Spanish-language text throughout the Americas and Europe.

An English edition is in the works, and we hope to reward our patient English readers with the next release as a free ebook. If you are interested in helping us produce this edition (i.e., direct assistance through translation support or other resources), please email us.

Presentations and workshops

Yes, we love to talk! If you are interested in organizing a presentation or workshop about Invisible Learning at your organization, please email us. Recordings of some of our previous talks are linked, below:

Continuing the conversation

This book uses the hashtag #invisi in Twitter. You can also follow us:

икони

"Reboelje!" – Invisible Learning in the Netherlands

Finally, after several weeks of travel and meetings, I am able to report on the Invisible Learning Tour, which was hosted by NHL in Leeuwarden. The event was an example of self-organization. Given the seed of an idea, three universities, two Sudbury schools, the Knowmads school, and various other partners came together, using social media, to construct a two-day event. The purpose of the Invisible Learning Tour was to raise awareness for the need for innovation in education. Mainstream teaching focuses mainly on the preparation of students for compartmentalized roles and jobs (mainly factory workers and bureaucrats) that contrast sharply with the needs of the modern economy, which requires people that are imaginative, creative, and innovative. We explored ideas, existing options, and new pathways for learning that is relevant for the 21st century.

The first day was built into an open space event, moderated by Edwin de Bree (De Koers Sudbury School) and Franziska Krüger (Knowmads). About 130 participants attended the live meeting, and another 295 joined online. I gave the opening keynote, which is posted on Vimeo (my slides are also posted here):

The first day also included open conversations on how to make Invisible Learning visible, and a few participants self-organized a flash mob (video by Guido Crolla):

The second day involved a media tour to the De Kampanje and De Koers Sudbury Schools, and the Knowmads school in Amsterdam. I produced a short video based on interviews with students and staff members at the two Sudbury schools. What struck me in our conversations was, that despite the fact the students have no teachers (they are responsible for their self-learning), their responses were articulate and cogent — despite the fact they were speaking in a second language:

Unfortunately, my time with Knowmads was cut short as I had to race to the airport to catch my flight back from Amsterdam. As I left, however, one thing was very clear: A tremendous momentum for change is building up in the Netherlands. As Knowmads tribe leader Pieter Spinder puts it, it’s time for a Friesian rebellion: “Reboelje!”

Special thanks go to Edwin de Bree, Franziska Krüger, Christel Hartkamp, Jeroen Bottema, Pieter Spinder, Guido Crolla, and the team at Mooipunt/CMD program at NHL in Leeuwarden (Tom Ravesloot, Tom Klaver, Jeroen van de Bovenkamp, Wout Laben, Peter Klaas, Sanne van der Heide, Julien Hogemans, Robert de Kruijf, Sander Nota, and Robin van Poelje). Without their leadership and contributions, this event would never be possible. Better yet, they turned it into a smashing success!

Thank you!

Five predictions for 2011 that will rock the education world

Continuing a tradition started in years past, I list out my predictions for the key stories that will rock the education world in 2011. If I could put it into five words, 2011 will be all about mobile, mobile, change, change, and mobile. This next year, I’m looking more at the big picture:

  1. 2011 will be the Year of the Tablet, but schools still will not know what to do with them. Let’s face it, technology companies do not quite know what tablets are good for, either. Rather than provide consumers with details on the iPad, Apple called it “amazing” and “magical” at its launch — but what does it do? Tie it in with the unfortunate reality that schools lag behind in technology leadership (they generally need others to tell them what to use), my fear is that we will end up with a lot of schools buying into the tablet craze but having no idea what to do with them. 2011 will be the year that we start to look for real leadership for educational technologies, and start to look into using new technologies to do “amazing” and “magical” things.
  2. Accelerating adoption of iPads, iPhones and other mobile technologies into social and cultural frameworks is transforming computing into an ambient experience — that is, immediate and purposive access to ICTs is available anywhere and anytime. Just as 2010 saw shifts in culture where it is no longer socially awkward to check into FourSquare or Facebook while on a date, 2011 will see the social and cultural acceptance and embracing of ambient computing continue.
  3. The New Normal: The recession is officially over, but many people are left unemployed or significantly underemployed. This human capital crisis needs to be dealt with promptly as people who thought they could live a middle-class lifestyle with old economy jobs (i.e., manufacturing and retail) are now considered as obsolete and unemployable. The challenge for educators and governments is to help them retrain for relevant career pathways — or, enable them to create new, innovative jobs that have not existed before. This new recognition of the importance of life-long learning and human capital development could launch a “Manhattan Project” equivalent in education that will transform our generation.
  4. We’re not out of the woods, yet. The principle of accelerating technological change prompts social change, which requires new technological transformations, and so forth. We are slowly recognizing that the only constant is change, and many industries will experience increasingly rapid cycles of transformation — for humans that are ill-prepared for change, this could mean more socioeconomic turmoil and unemployment. 2011 will give us a taste of what’s to come.
  5. People are mobile, too. Rapid developments in mobile technologies also enable society to become much more mobile, and we will see this reflected in the workforce, of which the leading edges will exhibit Knowmadic qualities. 2011 may not yet be the year of the Knowmad, but it could be the year that individuals wake up and realize they have options. For countries like the U.S. that are obsessed with controlling immigration, how would they respond when their best and brightest (especially our most competent educators) begin to migrate elsewhere? Will anybody be left around to turn off the lights?

What do you think?

Read my predictions from previous years:

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 http://invisiblelearning.com — 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!

Mid-November roundup: Future of work edition

As we are hard at work on getting everything in the Invisible Learning book finalized, it’s been quiet at the Education Futures website — but, believe us, you will be hearing a lot more soon. Here are a couple quick updates from elsewhere that focus on the changing nature of work and the importance of creative human capital:

  1. The Deloitte Center for the Edge released it’s 2010 shift index, authored by John Hagel, John Seely Brown, Duleesha Kulasooriya, and Dan Ebert. They synthesized the work of Richard Florida and others, and noted transformations in the talented work force — they are moving to more creative cities, and they are also migrating to companies that value their presence. Moreover, the “creative class is capturing an increasingly larger share of the economic pie” (p. 126).
  2. In regard to the recent Gartner report, Watchlist: Continuing Changes in the Nature of Work, 2010-2020, Abhijit Kadle summarizes that “Gartner points out that the world of work will probably witness ten major changes in the next ten years. Interesting in that it will change how learning happens in the workplace as well. The eLearning industry will need to account for the coming change and have a strategy in place to deal with the changes.” For a summary of the ten points, see Abhijit’s blog post.
  3. Finally, the Knowmads in the Netherlands are accepting applications to join their next tribe. They’re looking for motivated people that want to make a difference. Are you one of them?

Review: Education Nation (by Milton Chen)

Book: Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools
Author: Milton Chen
Publisher: Jossey-Bass Teacher (July, 2010)

Like sunspots, books critical of the education system seem to follow periodic cycles. And, it seems we’ve hit a high point over the past year or so. We’ve seen popular books on the theme emerge from Clayton Christensen, Malcolm Gladwell, Sir Ken Robinson, and others.

Their messages are largely the same.

They converge on a genre that can only be classified as “change manifestos” — texts that are often written by educators (or people on the fringe of education) and suggest that we need a revolution in education. These, nearly universally, fail to tie in research, and lack a real futures orientation. As a result, many of these change manifestos fail to help bring about meaningful change.

Milton Chen deviates from the change manifesto genre somewhat by reflecting on his own experiences and the work undertaken by Edutopia, which he previously directed. The book is so deeply oriented toward the work of Edutopia and its key source of income (George Lucas), that, prima facie, it nearly comes across as a swan song of their accomplishments. Reading beyond this, however, the book emerges as another list of indictments of many of the things wrong with the U.S. education system. Where Chen shines, is in making a case for changing our mindsets so that we can find remedies. Specifically, Chen writes that we need to focus on implementing six edges of “innovation” in K-12 learning — not all of which are mutually compatible:

  1. The thinking edge: We need to upgrade our thinking about education itself
  2. The curriculum edge: Modernizing what is taught, how, and how we assess learning
  3. The technology edge: Meaningfully bringing modern technologies into educational environments
  4. The time/place edge: Realizing that education occurs all the time, not just during school clock hours
  5. The co-teaching edge: Teachers are important, and bringing more experts into the classroom is beneficial
  6. The youth edge: Recognizing generational differences between students, educators, and society

These six edges are just fine, but let’s focus a little bit on semantics: I view innovation as the purposive application of imagination and creativity to produce new benefits, but the edges of “innovations” Chen covers are really frameworks for practitioners, policy makers, revolutionaries, et al, to think about making positive change. Moreover, most of these reframings have existed since the time of Dewey, making me wonder why they’re in a book about “innovation.” What Chen does well, however, is connect his six edges with research and stories — most of which was compiled from his arm’s length relationships with Edutopia and other researches in the San Francisco Bay Area. And, he uses these connections to build support for integrating project-based learning, cooperative teaching, proper technology integration, professional development, and other ideas — except they all emerged from the 20th century, not the 21st century. There are tomes of additional research available, nationally and internationally, that Chen could have folded into his book to make for a richer and deeper read — perhaps one relevant for the 21st century. But, this book is really the story of Edutopia.

And that’s just fine. Unless if you’re looking for innovation.

Whereas peaks in sunspot activity can have real consequences for people on Earth, peaks of change manifesto activity have generally lead to no real change. I have enormous respect for the work of Chen and Edutopia, but the casual rehashing of old themes with an “innovation” rebranding leaves the reader asking “how?” and “so what?” Unless if Chen can address these how and so what questions in a second volume or an update, I’m afraid this book will share space on my bookshelf with other change manifestos.

Bottom line: Chen’s Education Nation is an enjoyable read within its genre, but lacks new ideas.


Notes: 1) Thanks to Carmen Tschofen for introducing the term change manifestos to me to describe the genre discussed above. 2) Wiley provided a copy of this book for me to review. Please read our review policy for more details on how we review products and services.

Building a Knowmad Society in Minnesota

From Consult Minnesota’s press release:

John Moravec predicts a revolution, and is calling on Minnesota technology consultants to help make it happen.

During his presentation to Consult Minnesota Thursday, Aug. 19 at 6 p.m. in the Walnut Room of Axel’s Char House at the Roseville Radisson Hotel, Moravec, a faculty member in Innovation Studies and coordinator of the Leapfrog Institutes at the University of Minnesota, will call on his Consult Minnesota audience to use their technological skills in helping bring about new approaches to infuse creativity and innovation into education.

“As changes in society pressure enormous transformations in education, we need to consider that education at all levels will change so radically that we won’t recognize it,” states Moravec. “Standardized learning – the lecture – is giving way to hands?on, individualized learning at each student’s own pace. Although change will be disruptive, it has many potential benefits.”

Among the advantages of the new educational paradigm are:

  • More effective use of scarce assets to meet a rising demand. At the same time, students can access a wider selection of high?quality course offerings and teachers.
  • Fewer time constraints. Advanced students no longer have to choose between waiting for others to catch up versus leaving them behind.
  • New combinations of tacit and explicit knowledge creation, or invisible learning. As the focus switches away from rote learning merely for higher test scores, students build capacities for continuous learning, unlearning, and relearning – not WHAT to think, but HOW to solve problems.
  • New priorities. Says Moravec, “In the age of YouTube lectures, universities need not worry about their bubbles bursting, but rather, what they should be doing in the classrooms instead of lecturing.”

Admission to the August 19th meeting is free. Dinner and beverages are optional at regular prices. All present will be eligible for a free drawing for door prizes including USB flash drives from General Nanosystems and carwashes from Downtowner Express Lube.

Consult Minnesota is a voluntary association of Minnesotans with a shared interest in facilitating Information Technology support to community and non?profit organizations. The group meets bimonthly. Further information is available at www.consult-mn.org or (612) 568-3243.