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LeapFrog co-seminar: Youth development in China and the United States

China-US LeapFrog co-seminar

Join students, scholars and guests from the University of Minnesota and our broader community to discuss LeapFrog futures for Chinese and U.S. American youth. Special emphasis will be placed on expanding learning opportunities across the full spectrum of education, work and life.

The co-seminar will meet on three Saturday mornings this spring at the University of Minnesota. Although the co-seminar is offered for credit, the meetings are open to the entire community. More details are available here. For further information, please contact us.

Five predictions for 2008 and more

Education Futures is back from winter break! Regular postings will now resume.

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Photo by darkmatter

Looking forward to the rest of this year, here are my predictions of the big stories in the global education world for 2008:

  1. Largely driven by the moderate success of OLPC, Linux will emerge as the platform of choice for K-12 technology leaders. The OLPC will demonstrate that not only is Linux different, but it can also be used to do new and different things. Instead of using new technologies to teach the same old curricula, new technologies will be used to teach new things.
  2. Web 2.0 will continue to democratize the globalization of higher education as more students and professors embrace open communications platforms. This means university administrations will have a harder time “owning” their global agendas.
  3. Because of the influences of #1 and #2, education-oriented open source development will boom.
  4. Chinese orientations toward the rest of the planet will change during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The Chinese widely view that the award to host the Olympics is a sign that their country is progressing positively –and of international acceptance. During the Olympics, however, much of the international attention will focus on revisiting the Tienanmen Square Massacre, the government’s treatment of political prisoners, the annexation of Tibet, the mainland’s relations with Taiwan, catastrophic ecological destruction throughout China, and many more sensitive topics. Unless if the Chinese can distract the world with Olympian splendor, they will have to endure international condemnation. What will this do to the millions of Chinese school kids who were drafted into generating national spirit under the false assumption that the world thinks China is doing a great job? Will China reorient its education system away from the West?
  5. India’s the place to be. As more U.S. companies quietly continue to offshore their creative work to India, India’s knowledge economy will boom. The world will take notice of this in 2008.

Here are predictions for 2008 from elsewhere:

General

Business and Economy

Environment

Media and Technology

China: The phantom menace?

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a discussion paper, “British Universities in China: The Reality Beyond the Rhetoric,” published this month by Agora, a British organization focused on higher education. Paul Mooney writes in the Chronicle:

Ian Gow, an expert on Asia and former provost of the University of Nottingham at Ningbo, China, expresses similar skepticism toward dealing with that nation. British universities “must stop pussyfooting around this aggressively ambitious country,” he writes.

“Make no mistake: China wants to be the leading power in higher education, and it will extract what it can from the U.K.,” writes Mr. Gow, who now heads the business school at the University of the West of England.

Mr. Gow also describes the challenges of working in China, including finding high-quality staff members, the lack of “enabling regulatory frameworks” for joint ventures with foreign institutions, and partners that are constantly changing their terms.

I have no doubt that China wants to become the preeminent global power in education in 2050. They have the will and the investment capital to build fine institutions. I have doubts that they will achieve it, however. Their strategy to import technologies and ideas from abroad is somewhat flawed. Rather than piggybacking on ideas generated elsewhere, should they not instead leapfrog the competition to create knowledge spaces that are both indigenous and world-class in quality?

Perhaps non-Chinese universities need to assert themselves better and renegotiate their terms of cooperation with Chinese institutions. But, does this need to be a priority? If China is in a state of continuous catch-up with their foreign competition, what harm is there in collaboration?

Leapfrog Asia!

I’m still in China, so this is just a quick note that CNN.com published a special report labeled “Just Imagine,” a vision of what life would be like in 2020. The learning section is quite good, and contains an interview with Yasuaki Sakyo, who founded Shibuya University Network — and implemented a lifelong learning approach that is infused into the community it serves. In effect, the entire city of Shibuya becomes a classroom.

More thoughts on this next week, along with a potentially BIG announcement on Leapfrog in China.

Off to China

This weekend, I’ll head off to Beijing and Changchun, China for several discussions with higher education institutions and leaders on how we might collaboration on open, co-seminars and other Leapfrog projects. Since I’m not sure if the Great Firewall of China will allow me to access this site, Jeffrey Schulz, curriculum director at BlueSky Online Charter School, will guest blog. I’ll introduce him shortly…

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(Photo by Steve Webel)

Laureate's push into Asia

Lloyd Armstrong at Changing Higher Education posted comments on Laureate Education CEO Doug Becker‘s move to China… to create something new, backed by financiers that include Paul Allen, George Soros, and the endowment of Harvard University:

I have long believed that real innovation in higher education will not come in the US, but from some area such as China or India where there are enormous higher education needs, and greatly constrained resources compared to those needs. It is there that the very expensive US model of higher education will run prove most ineffective. Apparently Doug Becker, Chairman and CEO of Laureate Education, is of the same opinion. He has just announced that he and his family are moving from Baltimore ( the home of Laureate) to Hong Kong so that he can establish a new Asia headquarters there.

Make sure to read Armstrong’s full post.

If the bulk of US tertiary institutions continue to stagnate due to legacy structures and cost disease, will the next leading higher education providers emerge in Asia?

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 global trends that force us to rethink education

ten-days-sm.pngWe open our ten days of top ten lists with a list of global trends that force us to rethink education. What does the future hold for today’s students in the 21st Century? In a future driven by globalization, knowledge, innovation, and accelerating change, education will need to be re-missioned to meet new needs:

  1. A global, knowledge-based society: Ubiquitous and ever-opening access to information creates a need for skilled workers who can transform information to meaningful, new knowledge.
  2. The innovation-based society is emerging: Successful members of society will create innovative- and contextually-relevant applications for new knowledge.
  3. Knowledge and innovation-based jobs are moving to India and China: Western companies have already learned that it makes sense to move industrial jobs offshore. Today, many companies are beginning to move their creativity and R&D jobs to markets with lower labor costs.
  4. Personal success in the innovation society will require novelty at the individual level: Standardization and centralization at the workplace will give way to individualization and decentralization. Employees will be viewed and rewarded for their creative inputs as individuals, not for the roles they could play as proceduralized automatons.
  5. Technology changes human relations: Advances in technology allow people to interact in new ways that were previously obscured by geographical, economic or social boundaries.
  6. Jobs that exist today will not necessarily exist when today’s students finish school: Why do we insist on preparing students for jobs that existed before they were born instead of for jobs that will exist when they finish school?
  7. An ageing population: Advances in sanitation, nutrition and medicine have extended life expectancy in many countries. The life span, about 127, is now the object of research and development. Should people be helped to live 2,500 years, or even “forever”?
  8. Globalization: Tom Friedman is right. The world is flat. The phenomenon of globalization compels students and schools to compete on a global scale.
  9. Change is accelerating: The doubling time of information is now under one year. In 20 years or less doubling time may drop to a few weeks. If our cultural institutions don’t change at least as fast, what will happen to our senses of identity and security? How can we become situated in the future as much as the present or past?
  10. The Singularity is almost here: Human-surpassing intelligence will guarantee that the future is far more different than we can imagine. Are we supplying students with the creative skills required to thrive in a future that demands routine human creativity?

Horizon Forum mini-conference presentations

The Horizon Forum held a “mini-conference” on April 30, 2007. Here are several of the documents presented at the focused discussion on the future of PK-17 education in Minnesota.

  1. Open Tom Tapper, Superintendent, Owatonna Public Schools: After righting the reforms, are baby steps enough?
  2. Open Arthur Harkins and John Moravec: Debriefing of trip to China and demonstration of innovative Chinese learning devices (read a review of devices demonstrated)
  3. Open Cristóbal Cobo, Director of Communications, FLACSO México: Open learning models in education (view the presentation at SlideShare)

Review: Chinese m-learning devices

I traveled to Shanghai with Arthur Harkins in April to investigate the use of handheld learning devices in Chinese schools. The Chinese are beginning to use these devices to learn English, take tests, and have fun. With grant assistance from Target, we were able to bring two of the devices back with us: The Noah NP890+ and the Ozing V99. Both are priced in the $200-$225 range.

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Noah NP890+

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Ozing V99

Both the Noah NP890+ and Ozing V99 represent logical steps forward in Chinese portable learning devices, in a market cluttered by translation devices geared toward students. It comes as no surprise that both devices are oriented primarily toward English learning. The NP890+ ships preinstalled with 5 English dictionaries, a modern Chinese dictionary, an idiom dictionary, and a cartoon/animation dictionary, among others. The V99 contains 12 dictionaries, covering English, Chinese idioms, modern and ancient Chinese, and whole sentence translation. Both devices are capable of speaking words contained in the dictionaries to the user.

The V99 offers recorded lectures by “teachers with honor” and lectures by “super-advanced teachers.” The NP890+ also provides recorded lectures in an “online teaching” tool that displays a video recording along with lecture notes that can be followed along. Educational games and role playing/simulations software also add to the educational library. Currently, Noah provides a library of 31,693 primary-tertiary level courses available for download through their Web site.

Both devices offer multimedia capabilities, allowing for the playback of mp3 audio and mp4 and XviD video. Both contain 512MB of memory, which can be expanded through the devices’ SD card slots. Response time on both devices is quick, although the V99 seems quicker.

The SD slot provides additional possibilities. Although the devices are not WiFi-enabled as shipped, it should be possible to expand the devices with WiFi capabilities by using a SDIO card that incorporates WiFi. The NP890+ runs on Linux, hinting that it should be easy for any competent developer to incorporate drivers and software necessary to connect to the Web. Although the V99’s operating system is not disclosed, it can be assumed that such expanded functionality would be easy to implement.

Software and user experience for both devices have a long way to go. It appears that these devices have evolved naturally from the manufacturers’ clamshell-style translation/dictionary devices. Building these new devices into more PDA-like form factors represents a natural step in technological change. It is not surprising, then, that the devices are heavily focused on dictionary and translation applications –what both companies have demonstrated they are good at creating. The integration of learning software is a positive step in the development of quality m-learning devices.

Final evaluations

Both devices are derived from the natural evolution of translation devices, and are not invented around a need to change pedagogy or transform education. Both the NP890+ and V99, however, provide relatively powerful and relatively inexpensive platforms for creating new software applications that can transform learning.

Given the software shortcomings, do we need these devices in the United States? You bet! We just need to get the right software on them.

Download a PDF document that outlines the functionalities of both devices.