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Classroom of the future? A response

This article from the New York Times on the use of technology in classrooms and test scores merited a response:

Dear Mr. Richtel–

I enjoyed your article “In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores” — but I have a key concern.

The entire “debate” around the use of technology in classrooms is focused around using new technologies to teach the same, old stuff. You cite a few studies, and there have been more globally (i.e., OECD) that agree with the finding that simply injecting technologies into the classroom will not make any difference. The *purposive* element (the “so what”) of what they’re being used for is not adequately addressed.

Instead of using these tools to teach centuries-old subject matter, perhaps we should instead use them to help us develop meaningful skills and personal knowledge — and to enhance our capacities to imagine, create, and innovate.

Any furtherance of using such devices for “teaching” ancient information hinders the potentials these technologies provide, and puts our children at risk by excluding them from the co-creation of opportunities in the 21st century. We need to create, not repeat.

Sincerely,

John W. Moravec, Ph.D.

Bulgarian students dream about future schools

As we shared earlier, Project Dream School started with a simple question: If you could build a dream school, what would you do?

This morning, I received some inspiring ideas. Elena Stateva writes,

Dear Dr. Moravec,

I would like to share with the you the Dream Schools of my students. They worked on them as a project for their Philosophy in English class (grades 8-11). We are from Bulgaria, and we are part of a summer school program.

And these dreams are inspiring: Robot teachers? No tests? Creativity and the development of individual identity?! Read on:

PROJECT: “JUST A DREAM”
Creators: Radoslav Asparuhov (16), Daniel Rashin (18)

Just a Dream is a school made of technologies, but not only about technology. It places a very high value on the potential of technology to transform the ways we see education. As full-fledged citizens of our dynamic modernity, students at Just a Dream are extensively trained how to use technology in the most innovative and effective way. For example, sculptures and other three-dimensional figures are created on computers, thus enabling students to develop their spatial and analytical intelligences. Top-notch technological innovations render the school one of the pioneers of knowmadic thinking.

Furthermore, Just a Dream gives students the crucial opportunity to have a practical go at their field. Relevant internships at successful companies are provided to each student, through a wide a range of sponsors. The sponsorship by highly acclaimed names in the business makes it possible for the students to go to school and use their modern facilities practically for free. In fact, these companies often recruit graduates from Just a Dream as the most prepared professionals.

In addition, Just a Dream is a school which recognizes extracurricular activities, within and outside the professional field, as essential to students’ academic and personal growth. Therefore, school trips are regularly organized, featuring exciting destinations in the country and abroad.

PROJECT: “MY DREAM SCHOOL”
Creators: Victoria Ivanova (17), Magdalena Kostadinova (15), Blagovest Pilarski (16)

My Dream School is a unique institution, notable for its out-of-the-box, ground-breaking philosophy. Using a student-centered approach, which values what really is best for the student (and not for the administration, for example), My Dream School incorporates a wide range of fundamental practices. Combining the arts and technologies, students experience a comprehensive headstart to their professional careers. All subjects are taught in a way, which does not stifle student’s ideas, but on the contrary – encourages students to have their own opinion. Thus, My Dream School stimulates its student body to be active citizens, able to think critically about the world around them, instead of following blindly the leaders of today.

Moreover, My Dream School defines the term “revolutionary”, with its grade-less system and robotized teacher collective. Originating from the notion of boosting motivation internally (as opposed to externally, which is often the case), My Dream School has removed assessment completely, allowing its scholars to pursue knowledge itself, and not just good grades. The replacement of teachers by robots has further contributed to the establishment of an objective, knowledge- and skill-oriented classroom, free of discrimination and favoritism. Thus, students can learn in a safe, conflict-free and thought- provoking environment.

In addition, My Dream School puts great emphasis on the connection between learning and nature. During the weekends, students can enjoy environmental activities, such as hiking in the mountains, which build up mind and body together. The beautiful parks surrounding the school are themselves a source of relaxation, inspiration and energy.

PROJECT: “ART SCHOOL”
Creators: Elena Kehayova (15), Dafina Nedeva (15)

The name of this school – Art School – already speaks a lot about its fundamental values. And yet, the Art School is much more than a school about art. It is a school where students go not only to grow in the direction of their talent, but where they actually find their talent and grow as a whole person. At Art School only the core subjects are obligatory – Literature, Math, Foreign Languages. The other subjects are a matter of preference: each student has the right to choose every part of their education. This freedom allows the students to explore their interests, inclinations and talents, to strengthen them or create them. Creativity – this is the key word which this school emanates through all its elements – from its facilities, to its curriculum, and of course – its teachers. The teaching collective is distinguished with its sharp eye to talent, broad mind for creativity and liberal view on individuality.

In addition to its exceptional creativity, Art School prides itself with a policy which preserves equality and prevents discrimination. Everybody at Art School is regarded equally, as an equal member of the school community.

Want more? Have a dream to share? Project Dream School invites you to submit your dreams online at http://projectdreamschool.org/

2011 Educators' Choice Awards: An Adobe reboot?

Make no mistake. Adobe makes great products. But, it is hard for educators and students to connect with them. First, the company produces professional-grade tools (Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects, etc.), and, as a result, they are very expensive for resource-starved institutions to purchase (even with discounted education pricing). Second, these professional-grade tools often come with a steep learning curve. Many education professionals do not have the time or resources to make the most of the software.

To address this second issue, Adobe is launching an initiative to reach out to educators through the Adobe Education Exchange, which is an online community (initiated by secondary-level teachers) to share, discuss, and collaborate on the development of educational resources that make use of the company’s tools. Launched just over a year ago, the exchange also connects educators with software engineers to increase the level of support in the classroom.

To promote the AEE, Adobe announced the 2011 Educators’ Choice Awards this week:

The 2011 Educators’ Choice Awards will recognize and reward Adobe Education Exchange members who submit the most innovative teaching and learning materials. Your fellow members will choose the winners of the Awards by rating one another’s work, so impress your colleagues and compete for valuable prizes by submitting your best projects, lesson plans, curricula, and tutorials. For inspiration and examples, join or sign in to browse the resources on the Adobe Education Exchange.

This is perhaps indicative of a larger, much welcomed, external relations refresh. Previously, Adobe and Apple engaged in a very public war over the fate of the Flash platform, and Adobe lost.

Adobe appears to have reconciled with the reality of a post-Flash Web, and is previewing Edge, a HTML5 development tool that promises much of the same functionality as Flash, but with less of a headache. This enables developers to make better use of standards-based toolsets, and deliver products that can interact better with native architectures. For the end user, this provides hope for speedier integration, better compatibility, and (hopefully) improved reliability. For schools that need to rely on outdated or underpowered hardware (or are using the latest, cutting-edge technology), this is welcomed news.

Adobe’s education reboot is a good sign for content-producing educators and students. The humble remake of core Flash concepts into Edge, along with AEE, suggests that the future is starting to look very bright. Stay tuned…


Note: Adobe provided a copy of their software for evaluation. A thorough review will appear in the upcoming months after field testing in academic environments. Please read our review policy for more details on how we review products and services.

Matching learning to the real world: Forget the box!

I met up with Ali Hossaini in Amsterdam and Noordwijk earlier this month. In this short interview we made, Ali states that “to think out of the box, you have to start out of the box, and we’re not letting people leave it right now in the current educational institutions.” He advocates for approaches to learning that are collaborative and reflective of real world problem solving that allow people to become experts on the fly (and not just in business, but also in art, academia, etc.). The development of creative thinking, he argues, is one thing that Western educational institutions could develop as their competitive advantage.

Ali does a lot. Read his bio posted at ArtLab.

Perspectives on Invisible Learning

By popular demand, here are the slides from my Invisible Learning “stump lecture” from the past month:

In an era of globalization and “flattening” of our relatiohships around the Earth, how can we learn better? What happened to learning as we moved from the stable structures of the 20th century to fluid and amorphic structures of the 21st century? What roles do schools and colleges play when you can learn in any context and at any time? Do we continue with formal learning or do we formalize informal learning?

This is an open invitation to explore some of the best ideas emerging around the planet that are contributing to a new ecology of learning.

More info: www.invisiblelearning.com

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:

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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: 21st Century Skills (by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel)

Book: 21st Century Skills: Learning for life in our times
Author: Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel
Publisher: Jossey-Bass (2009)

Some ten years into the 21st century, I find it amazing that we are still having conversations on what skills are necessary to succeed in this new century. We’ve explored some ideas of what skills are relevant before (see this, this, this, and this, for example), and there appears to be a general consensus that there are needs for skills development in creativity, innovation, smart use of ICTs, and social leadership. This is exactly in line with what Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel, co-board members on the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, identify (lifted from the book jacket):

  • Learning and Innovation Skills: Creativity and Innovation, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, and Communication and Collaboration
  • Digital Literacy Skills: Information Literacy, Media Literacy, and ICT Literacy
  • Career and Life Skills: Flexibility and Adaptability, initiative and Self-Direction, Social and Cross-Cultural Skills, Productivity and Accountability, Leadership and Responsibility

What makes this book valuable to practitioners, however, is that instead of building up chapters of reasoning for why we need to adopt the P21 skill set in education, they focus more on what each of these skills mean. Moreover, they tie in examples of the skills in practice with an included DVD, containing real-life classroom examples.

While the book excels at understanding each of the P21 skills and their implications, it falls short on how to build these skills in broader contexts – i.e., as a replacement set for NCLB standards. For this, the text could have benefited with an invitation –and mechanism– for its readers to join the conversation on adopting and embracing new skills for the 21st century. Instead, leading the conversation seems left to us: Where shall we begin?


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

Mid-summer news roundup

As we continue to enjoy our reduced workloads over the summer, here is a summary of developments from elsewhere of interest to the Education Futures community.

  1. NASA and Virtual Heroes (@NASAgames on Twitter) launched Moonbase Alpha, a game designed to spark youth interest in exploration beyond Earth. In the first ten days of release, over 105,000 people downloaded Moonbase Alpha. The game also placed in Steam’s top 30 most popular games out of more than 1,100 and was one of a handful of free games in the top hundred as well. The developers set up a NASA Games community on Steam where players can meet and discuss the Moonbase Alpha and other games. The community also includes a chat room and other features. Find it at http://steamcommunity.com/groups/nasagames
     
  2. The Peter Drucker Society has launched an Essay Contest which, in the spirit of Druckerian duality of teaching and learning from the young generation, is organized as a contest for students, young managers and young entrepreneurs. All those aged 35 and under who are passionate about the future of management and society may submit their essay. More information is available at http://www.druckerchallenge.org
     
  3. 3. Finally, we’ve followed Sir Ken Robinson a bit in the past, and here’s another —but excellent— video of him in action. WPSU-TV recently interviewed him Robinson in a series called “Conversations From Penn State” where he elaborated his views on the problems facing the education system and suggests ways to improve it (by promoting creativity):