News

community

Viewing posts tagged community

Cheating the death of imagination: Teaching the unknowable

The idea of a Technological Singularity has been discussed and debated intensely since the early 1990s. Coined by Vernor Vinge and popularized by Ray Kurzweil, the idea is that as technologies evolve, technologies improve, costs decrease; and, in turn, the process of technological evolution advances and speeds itself up, creating a J-curve of exponential, accelerating change. Eventually, the J-curve hits an inflection point, and change begins to occur at timescales that seem nearly instantaneous. This is the Technological Singularity.

At Education Futures, in our work to help guide governments and organizations, we’ve looked hard at what this means to humans and human systems – in particular with regard to how we will learn and work in the future. In this frame, the Technological Singularity also represents the point at which change occurs so rapidly that the human mind cannot imagine what will happen next. Moreover, technological change facilitates social change (and vice-versa). We need to prepare for rapidly-occurring, intense periods of social, cultural, and economic transformation.

The Technological Singularity represents the limit of human imagination.

It is important to note that the J-curve of accelerating change is graphed independently of scale. There is not a standard measurement of change, and there is no measurement of time. We can look at illustrative examples for correlates, such as the growth of microprocessor computing power under Moore’s Law, but the idea of a Technological Singularity is subjective to the human experience.

Herein lies the rub: We are all very different. We have differing abilities to cope with change, to imagine new futures, to communicate, to solve problems, use resources wisely, and so forth. We cannot expect to experience ‘the’ Technological Singularity together. Rather, we should prepare to experience many individual singularities, as individuals, groups, and as a society. Depending on who we are and the contexts in which we are placed, we will hit the limits of our imagination – our singularities – at different times and under different circumstances. Industries are transforming (and disappearing!) at different rates and at different times, communities are shifting at independent and co-dependent paces, and individuals and families are under increasing pressure to stay relevant.

Humans are not afraid of change, but we fear the unknown. When we hit the limits of our imaginations, we push back toward the knowable, often with very ugly consequences. Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the state-sponsored fake news phenomenon, and the rise of slavery advocate Roy Moore in Alabama – all inconceivable a decade ago – serve as examples that humans are prone to a retreat toward bigotry, ignorance, and hate when confronted with uncertainty. Like the followers of Ned Ludd worked to sabotage the industrial movement in the 19th century, these socially regressive Neo-Luddites subvert technological change to regress society toward an imagined past, no matter how horrible, that presents themselves with a sense of certainty.

A community cannot progress technologically while sabotaging itself socially. While our singularities may be unavoidable, we can at least learn how to cope with them by learning to embrace the unknown. This, at the forefront, requires a tremendous amount of imagination and creativity from all of us.

Our schools, which are designed to prepare youth for static futures, need to be urgently repurposed to prepare all of society for the unknowable. Imagination, creativity, and innovation, together with support for greater agency and self-efficacy must underpin serious efforts to achieve meaningful outcomes for all learners. We must balance core content knowledge with soft skills such as simulational thinking, knowledge production, technology, intercultural communication, critical and multi-paradigmatic thinking, focused imagination, developed intuition, emotional intelligence, and systems design.

Are you ready to take the dive into teaching and learning for the unknowable? Continue on with our series on invisible learning:

 

Educational innovation in Puebla

Education Futures and Fundación Ceibal (Uruguay) are pleased to share the outcomes of their 2-month research project for the Secretary of Public Education of the State of Puebla (“SEP-Puebla,” Mexico). Dr. John Moravec served as the primary investigator for the study La innovación educativa en Puebla: Las voces de los actores.

Click this link to read the full report (in Spanish).

Project background and objectives

The SEP-Puebla identified the need to assess the main achievements, challenges and future actions for developing a better future for education in the state of Puebla.  The innovative feature of the study relied in directly involving and listening to local actors (students, teachers and parents), who are affected by educational policies. Moreover, this is related to the increasing use of digital technologies, its associated practices along with the new challenges and opportunities for the teaching and learning processes. In the case of Mexico, it is particularly important to assess the challenges associated with the implementation of the national program for inclusion and digital literacy, the Programa de Inclusión y Alfabetización Digital.

The research was developed in three phases. The first was based in a survey to assess people perceptions about different topics. The data collected informed the development of the second phase of the study, based in the World Café methodology. The use of this open and inclusive methodology fostered a collaborative exchange between participants around four thematic areas: New ways of knowing, learning, teaching and assessing; Teachers in the Digital Age; Social uses of ICT and digital culture; Resources and Platforms. The third phase included the data analysis and final reporting.

Main questions addressed by the research:

  • Which achievements of the current administration of SEP-Puebla you consider more relevant?
  • Looking forward, which are the main challenges faced by education? What kind of innovations are needed in the educational agenda?
  • Which actions and actors should be taken into consideration in the educational agenda strategic planning in Puebla?

The questions above, were jointly developed with SEP-Puebla. Despite the fact that the use of tablets in schools and the implementation of the program @aprende.mx were relevant parts of the study, the research trascends those topics and is focused in capturing the voices of the actors involved.

The research concluded with recommendations that aim to help thinking in innovative strategies for promoting ICT access and use in the state of Puebla. These are structured around three main areas: Flexibility for promoting new teaching and learning mechanisms. Self-efficacy through the promotion of sustainable and decentralized models that stimulate innovative practices, collaborative work and solidarity. Community culture that creates value from the exchange of knowledge among communities.

Click this link to read the full report (in Spanish).

Bob Dylan and the genius of context

When I woke up this morning, I was delighted to learn Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” For those of us in Minnesota, still mourning the loss of Prince, this was a welcomed surprise that feels healing, both culturally and spiritually.

I’ve been watching the University of Minnesota’s twitter feed closely. Dylan went to the University of Minnesota when his career was forming, and the University always lets us know immediately anytime anybody connected with the institution wins a Nobel Prize. If they had their way, they’d have us believe that the sun would not rise without them!

But not this time. It took them until just before 11am to make the announcement. And, it was distant, if not cautious:

Why such an innocuous statement this time? Well, history records that Dylan dropped out after just a few semesters; he was successful without the University.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the University of Minnesota – or, the “U” as we affectionately call it. I got my Ph.D. there, and started off my academic career at the Twin Cities campus. But I think there is a crucial lesson to be learned:

Genius is not created by the institution; genius is fostered by the context in which the institution interfaces with the community.

Dylan’s career started not at the University, but across the street in the Dinkytown district of Minneapolis. Dinkytown was eclectic: a zone for free thought, open expression, independent businesses, and a food and bar scene that catered to students, faculty, and staff. The University attracted people in, but it was the music scene of the adjoining neighborhood that helped to propel him and get a start in his career.

After a year at the “U,” he moved to Greenwich Village in New York, and the rest is history.

And the University remains. It’s churned out a few Nobel laureates along the way, but I fear that we will see fewer creatives, like Dylan, emerge. The reason is simple: the context is being destroyed.

The University of Minnesota, like nearly every other institution, has learned that higher education is a big business. This extends not just to research and teaching, but also to the University’s presence in the community. It comes as no surprise that the “U” has been a major player in the redevelopment of Dinkytown. Small, older buildings that once housed its creative scene are being replaced with monotonous, monolithic apartment buildings, chain stores, and generic fast food options. Freewheeling politics, art, and other cultural expressions are being replaced by unimaginative configurations of concrete, steel, and glass.

The context for fostering genius is vanishing. I’m sure many more Nobel laureates connected with our beloved “U” will be announced in the coming years, but there will be no other Bob Dylan emerging from the University without an interface for creativity.

Data collection phase completed in landmark study in Uruguay

What now?

This is a question to help us think about what we want in education – and what we want to get out of technologies in education. It is the driving question behind the ¿Y agora qué? research project, funded by the Uruguayan National Agency for Research and Innovation (ANII) and Fundación Ceibal.

Serving as the lead investigator and visiting professor at Universidad ORT Uruguay, Education Futures founder John Moravec is collaborating with ORT graduate student Verónica Zorrilla de San Martín to ask, can we build a collective capacity to transform the use of technologies in primary education in Uruguay? Utilizing the World Café action research method to engage with over 350 participants, the project is conceived as an invitation to co-create solutions with all stakeholders in the educational process (opinion leaders, collaborative institutions, governments, teachers, students to ask:

  • What are our “bold” and “innovative” ideas to better use new technologies for primary education in Uruguay?
  • What are some possible actions all members of our communities (teachers, parents, students, administrators, neighbors, etc.) can take to collaborate in creating a positive future for primary schools in Uruguay??
  • Can we come together as a community to transform learning? Why? Why not? How can leaders facilitate the growth of a collective capacity?

Moravec states:

What really distinguishes this study is that we are working from the bottom-up, bringing teachers, students, parents, and other community members together to envision new education futures. Too often –and particularly in Latin America– educational policy is dictated from the top-down with little input from teachers, parents, and students. This study turns that relationship upside down and asks these typically underrepresented stakeholders, what now?

Moravec and Zorrilla note that over the past 9 years, Uruguay has implemented a 1:1 computing initiative, providing each primary-level learner with a tablet or laptop (known as Plan Ceibal). Recent research has found, however, that the mere presence of these resources have no increased educational achievement. So, what now? Utilizing these tools in new ways, and building from the bottom up, can we build a collective capacity to use these technologies innovatively in education?

The data collection phase closed May 31. A final report will be published in September, 2016 on the website y-ahora-que.uy.

26907355811_b8fa79aabd_b.jpg

26370524684_8616a9b0c0_k-2.jpg

27087169936_71e8c509db_k.jpg

26498023934_a02542d651_k.jpg

27035037231_52da6cc365_k.jpg

Approaches for enabling invisible learning

Note: This is the final article of a three-part series on a new theory for invisible learning.

The Theory for Invisible Learning is that we learn more, and do so invisibly, when we separate structures of control that restrict freedom and self-determination from learning experiences.

Invisible learning can emerge in many ways, and often manifests through bits and pieces here and there. The examples of approaches to invisible learning provided here are not exhaustive, and are meant to be illustrative only. Each of these approaches embrace participation, play, and exploration.

Schools for invisible learning

Democratic education schools are arguably the most visible examples of enabling self-determination. From the 2005 EUDEC guidance document, students in democratic schools have the right:

to make their own choices regarding learning and all other areas of everyday life. In particular, they may individually determine what to do, when, where, how and with whom, so long as their decisions do not infringe on the liberty of others to do the same.

Sudbury-type schools embrace this principle at their core, providing each student an equal voice and vote along side staff members and other stakeholders as to what they learn and how their schools are run. Students spend their time together without age or grade separation and they decide how to spend their time at the school. Central to the school’s operation are school meetings in which students and staff members make key decisions in a process focused on participatory democracy. In these schools, students are afforded tremendous freedom together with the personal and collective responsibility to make the best decisions possible.

These schools are part of a broader category of free schools which developed over the past century, with many approaches that interpret “free” schooling differently. Some operate as full democracies, and others as anarchist collectives. Of particular importance is the Summerhill School (UK), which permits each student to develop their own lesson plans within a structured timetable. Students have the freedom to pursue their own learning interests, based on offerings, and like the Sudbury model, they operate within a framework of participatory democracy with shared responsibilities.

There is very little research on democratic and free schools compared to mainstream education, but my hunch is they best serve students of at least middle-class or better-educated families, where students have greater flexibility and support to pursue their own interests. For students in economically disadvantaged families, we can look into liberation pedagogies such as critical pedagogy, eco schools, and praxis-type schools as pathways. While their foci are often connected with particular ideologies, they share core themes of socioeconomic liberation for students and the communities in which they live.

Finally, youth organizations and community participation opportunities that exist, often connected to formal schools, provide pathways toward invisible learning. Most often, we see this through scouting, clubs, and extension programs where students are not evaluated on a rigorous program, but instead earn badges, develop creative products, and create community-relevant outcomes that are based on their own interests.

Free play and exploration

Free play is a natural human activity where invisible learning flourishes. Through play, children discover their interests and aptitudes. Play inspires curiosity to test boundaries and learn social rules and norms, together with the development of many soft skills. Unfortunately, mainstream approaches to education ignore or underplay its importance in learning. Psychologist Peter Gray defines play as:

“first and foremost, self-chosen and self-directed. Players choose freely whether or not to play, make and change the rules as they go along, and are always free to quit. Second, play is intrinsically motivated; that is, it is done for its own sake, not for external rewards such as trophies, improved résumés, or praise from parents or other adults. Third, play is guided by mental rules (which provide structure to the activity), but the rules always leave room for creativity. Fourth, play is imaginative; that is, it is seen by the players as in some sense not real, separate from the serious world. And last, play is conducted in an alert, active, but relatively unstressed frame of mind” (from an interview in Journal of Play, Spring 2013).

Play is separate from sports and other organized activities in that it is explorative and satisfies an individual’s curiosity to try new ideas or simulate different possibilities in the world. Through play, a learner’s environment becomes his or her laboratory. This satisfaction of curiosity encourages the development of auto-didacticism, the practice of learning by one’s self.

Similar to free play is free exploration within our own communities and beyond to learn from others. What happens, for example, when children explore a culture beyond their own? What do they discover? How does it change them? What skills, competencies, or insights might they develop? Many of the answers to these questions are difficult to quantify or measure, but research suggests they can be related through the development of soft skills (i.e., intercultural competence, capabilities to handle ambiguity, empathy), which are critical outputs of invisible learning. This is learning beyond codifiable curricula, and places trust in kids that they can develop their own skills.

Building cultures of trust

To break free from the structures of control, we need to build cultures of trust. We need to trust children to learn without being told what to learn. Democracies are built on trust and shared responsibility. Free play and exploration are built on trusting others to help us learn from each other.

Teachers and school leaders have many opportunities to develop pathways toward invisible learning through participation, play, and exploration. These can be realized through their own development and praxis as well as through their work with students. But, the bottom line is enabling invisible learning is centered on trust, and trusting that children always learn — no matter what. As we wrote in Manifesto 15:

“The thrill of jumping off a cliff by deciding to do so yourself is a high you will never have if someone else pushes you off of it. In other words, the top-down, teacher-student model of learning does not maximize learning as it devours curiosity and eliminates intrinsic motivation. We need to embrace flat, horizontalized, and distributed approaches to learning, including peer learning and peer teaching, and empower students to realize the authentic practice of these modes. Educators must create space to allow students to determine if, and when, to jump off the cliff. Failing is a natural part of learning where we can always try again. In a flat learning environment, the teacher’s role is to help make sure the learner makes a well-balanced decision. Failing is okay, but the creation of failures is not.”


Posts in this series

  1. The need for invisible learning
  2. A theory for invisible learning
  3. Approaches for enabling invisible learning

Become a Manifesto 15 Ambassador

We are looking for change makers around the world to help us spread the word about Manifesto 15.

As an Ambassador, you play a key role in building the conversation and growing the Manifesto 15 movement in your community. At Education Futures, we will help connect you with resources and ideas to help make a difference, and you will be a part of a network of like-minded Ambassadors!

Manifesto 15 Ambassadors

  • Are committed to evolving learning
  • Serve as the voice of the Manifesto 15 movement in their community
  • Design local campaigns to share the message and encourage others to take action
  • Share what they’ve learned with a global network

Examples of what Ambassadors do

  • Hand out stickers and other materials to share the Manifesto 15 vision
  • Attend community meetings and speak out on evolving learning
  • Organize meet-ups of like-minded change makers
  • Organize workshops to create an action agendas for their community
  • … and, other activities that authentically connect the principles of Manifesto 15 with their own initiatives!

Full information on the Manifesto 15 Ambassadors page.

Apply to become an Ambassador!

[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

Manifesto 15: A handbook for leading change

On January 1, 2015, Manifesto 15 was released: a statement that inspired a conversation about principles for building positive education futures, grounded on the idea that we urgently need to evolve learning. This is a public declaration of a vision for better education futures. In the months since its release, it’s been read and discussed by thousands of people, signed by hundreds, featured in various media and conferences, and teams of volunteers around the world have translated it into a growing number of languages (and visual notes!) – and the movement continues to grow!

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 3.00.51 PM

We are thankful for the interest in this project and the support we have received around the world. To help continue the conversation, we have drafted a handbook for leading change, which is available at the Manifesto 15 website.

This handbook presents some guidelines on how we can move forward, including hosting conversations, workshops, and starting local Manifesto 15 groups. The guide is an invitation to join us and build community, centered on trust and open dialogue, as we work to change the face of education. And, it contains some posters to help you get started with your own messaging.

Please take Manifesto 15 as a starting point, and build in your own ideas and practices. Or, create and share your own sets of principles. The manifesto and the emerging movement is open for discussion, remixing, and sharing – and we encourage you to drive the conversation with your own networks.

If there’s any way that we can help with conversations in your own community, please do not hesitate to contact us: manifesto15@educationfutures.com.