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Cristóbal Cobo

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Big Data in education

In this episode of the Education Futures Podcast, we chatted with Dr. Cristóbal Cobo, director of research at the Ceibal Foundation in Uruguay. He is an expert on Big Data in education, and he shared his thoughts in our exploration of Cathy O’Neil’s provocative book, Weapons of Math Destruction: How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy.

O’Neil exposes the opaque, black box models that shape our future, both as individuals and as a society. These “weapons of math destruction” score teachers and students, sort résumés, grant (or deny) loans, evaluate workers, target voters, set parole, and monitor our health. In an era where we are obsessed with measurement, there are some huge implications for the world of education!

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This is an open conversation, and your participation is invited! Email your stories and responses to us at info@educationfutures.com.

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Moravec presents “A theory for invisible learning”

Education Futures founder, Dr. John Moravec, presented A theory for invisible learning during his keynote at the IDEC@EUDEC conference in Mikkeli, Finland on June 9, 2016.

His address to the conference was based on an update and rethink of the work he and Dr. Cristóbal Cobo published in their book Aprendizaje Invisible (“Invisible Learning”). Says Moravec:

A lot has changed since we wrote the book in 2011, and we need a formal theory for invisible learning more than ever. We seem to have gotten a bit hung up on technology. It’s not about computers. It’s about connecting with ourselves as humans, embracing the human experience, and trusting in each other to learn.

He further emphasizes:

Invisible learning is about placing trust in learners and shifting the flow of power from the top-down to the learner-out. By removing the rigidity of top-down control, and placing trust in learners, invisible learning can be made visible.

To date, hundreds of thousands of copies of the book Aprendizaje Invisible have been distributed. The text has become essential reading for educational change makers in the Spanish-speaking world. The book is available as a free download at aprendizajeinvisible.com.

Slides from John Moravec’s talk:

(Download as PDF)

More:

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

A theory for invisible learning

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

Theory for Invisible Learning

When Cristóbal Cobo and I set out to write the book Aprendizaje Invisible (“Invisible learning”) five years ago, we sought to take a 360° and 3D view of the educational landscape—with an eye toward the future. We found the gap between formal learning and informal and non-formal modes of learning is becoming increasingly apparent.

We initially structured invisible learning as a metatheory, which recognizes that most of the learning we do is “invisible” —that is, it is through informal, non-formal, and serendipitous experiences rather than through formal instruction. We learn alone, or in a group, through individual and shared experiences. We learn more through experimentation, exploration, and through the consequences of enabling serendipity. Even though we cannot measure the knowledge in our heads, the consensus is that the vast majority of our knowledge is developed through invisible or informal means (see esp. this classic article by Jay Cross).

Invisible learning is not a theory for learning, itself. It is an end point or state of learning that emerges when we remove structures that control or direct our experiences. Therefore:

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.

The purpose of controlling an educational experience is to make learning visible. It is built on distrust of the learner – the false assumption that students will not learn unless they are told what to learn. In this sense, invisible learning is the end product of a theory which predicts that learning may blossom when we eliminate authoritarian control or direction of a learning experience by an “other” (i.e., teacher).

Removing structures of control opens possibilities. The end outcomes or goals of an experience are neither dictated nor determined from the start, but instead emerge as learning develops. Such experiences include free play, self-organized learning communities, authentic problem-based learning, and experimentation to acquire new knowledge.

Theory for Invisible Learning is focused on the development of personal knowledge: blends of tacit and explicit elements that embrace a portfolio of skills such as cooperation, empathy, and critical thinking as much as retaining facts. The implication is that there is no master template for enabling invisible learning, but rather we need to attend to the formation of an ecology of options for individuals to find their own ways. This suggests a growing need for bottom-up approaches to learning. By removing the rigidity of top-down control, and placing trust in learners, invisible learning can be made visible.


Posts in this series

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

The need for invisible learning

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

Five years ago, Cristóbal Cobo and I published the book Aprendizaje Invisible (“Invisible learning”). The work analyzed the impact of technological advances and changes in formal, non-formal, and informal education –and the meta-spaces in between. The product was a journey that offered an overview of options for the future development of education that is relevant for this century.

A lot has changed since then, and we need a theory for invisible learning more than ever:

First, society needs knowmadic workers who work with context, not rigid structure. One key reality is that the jobs schools typically prepare us for—work as factory workers, bureaucrats, or soldiers—are disappearing. They are being replaced with knowledge- and innovation-based work which requires people to function contextually, working almost anytime, anywhere, and with nearly anybody. These emerging workers are knowmads, and they apply their individual knowledge across different “gigs” or contingent engagements to create new value. By the year 2020, we project 45% of the workforce in the U.S. will be knowmadic. This is a huge shift considering that only 6% of the population in the U.S. was self-employed, contingent, or some sort of contract worker in 1989.

As unique individuals, knowmads possess personal knowledge with developed explicit (i.e., “book knowledge”) and tacit (i.e., soft skills) elements. They are comfortable with change and ambiguity, applying their personal knowledge contextually to solve new problems.

The challenge for schools and learning programs is now to enable individuals to thrive in a world that needs more imaginative, creative, and innovative talent, not generic workers that can fill seats at an office or factory. The pathway to meeting this requirement is through the development of schooling environments and professional learning settings that foster invisible learning.

Second, many beliefs and practices in mainstream education are antiquated and have no grounding in reality. We would be hard pressed to find a study that argues that kids learn best from 7:45am to 2:37pm, yet we model our schools around absurd hours and times that better mirror industrial practices that are fading into extinction. We further separate them by age into grades, assuming children learn best when they are separated from each other. This, as Maria Montessori observed, “breaks the bonds of social life” (p. 206).

We too often assume that the motivation to learn must be extrinsic. That is, we have grown to believe that kids will not learn anything unless they’re told what to learn. This cannot be any further from reality as it can be argued that kids’ main activity is learning whether or not it is in a school format. Even more troubling, the most meaningful ways kids learn –play, curiosity, and exploration– are discounted in formal learning, unless if directed in a top-down, structured activity. How can we dare say we are enabling kids’ curiosity if we are telling them what to be curious about? How can we justify labeling activities as exploration if we already know the destination? And, why are we so afraid to allow children to play freely?

If we wish to develop children that can thrive in a knowmadic society, the consequences are grave. Peter Gray wrote:

By depriving children of opportunities to play on their own, away from direct adult supervision and control, we are depriving them of opportunities to learn how to take control of their own lives. We may think we are protecting them, but in fact we are diminishing their joy, diminishing their sense of self-control, preventing them from discovering and exploring the endeavors they would most love, and increasing the odds that they will suffer from anxiety, depression, and other disorders.

Finally, we simply cannot measure a person’s knowledge. Tests only measure how well a student completes the test. Soft skills and non-cognitive skills can be difficult or impossible to measure. Yet, we have become obsessed with measurement in schools. So much so that we’ve convinced ourselves that we can measure what a person knows. This is not true. As we wrote in Manifesto 15:

When we talk about knowledge and innovation, we frequently commingle or confuse the concepts with data and information instead. Too often, we fool ourselves into thinking that we give kids knowledge, when we are just testing them for what information they can repeat. To be clear: Data are bits and pieces here and there, from which we combine into information. Knowledge is about taking information and creating meaning at a personal level. We innovate when we take action with what we know to create new value. Understanding this difference exposes one of the greatest problems facing school management and teaching: While we are good at managing information, we simply cannot manage the knowledge in students’ heads without degrading it back to information.

At the same time, yes, we do need to demonstrate accountability in our schools. Cristóbal Cobo, in his lectures, beats the drum that we should not value what we measure, but rather measure what we value. We need to find a way beyond high-stakes testing that do little to reveal what students know. It is time to focus on what we value as individuals, schools, and as communities.


Posts in this series

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

Knowmads on Umbrales

Last week, the Peruvian television program “Umbrales” (TV Perú) broadcasted a program on knowmads in Peru and Latin America. Dr. John Moravec was interviewed along with Dr. Cristóbal Cobo and other local and international experts on what the emerging knowmad paradigm means, and what the implications are for countries such as Peru.

The producers were kind enough to upload the complete program to YouTube, broken into four segments (in Spanish): http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlm3adGMhVbrjHpYOexXTm-JKuKZnjU0j

Knowmad Society is now available!

Last December, we celebrated the completion of the Knowmad Society project by launching it at Seats2Meet.com in Utrecht. Now, we are pleased to launch the website, and offer the book as a free download, a free iPhone app, or a $0.99 Amazon.com Kindle purchase.

Full details about book is available at http://www.knowmadsociety.com.

Photo by Rene Wouters

Knowmad Society launch – Photo by Rene Wouters

A collaboration between John Moravec, Cristóbal Cobo, Thieu Besselink, Christel Hartkamp, Pieter Spinder, Edwin de Bree, Bianca Stokman, Christine Renaud, and Ronald van den Hoff, Knowmad Society explores the future of learning, work and how we relate with each other in a world where we are now asked to design our own futures. These nine authors from three continents, ranging from academics to business leaders, share their visions for the future of learning and work, and provide insight into what they are doing now to help drive positive outcomes. Former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart provides an afterword on his take on how to best support a knowmad society in the international arena.

Knowmads are nomadic knowledge workers –creative, imaginative, and innovative people who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere. Industrial society is giving way to knowledge and innovation work. Whereas industrialization required people to settle in one place to perform a very specific role or function, the jobs associated with knowledge and information workers have become much less specific concerning task and place. Moreover, technologies allow for these new paradigm workers to work within a broader options of space, including “real,” virtual, or many blended. Knowmads can instantly reconfigure and recontextualize their work environments, and greater mobility is creating new opportunities.

The authors explore knowmad society in terms of socioeconomic evolution from industrial, information-based society to knowledge-based society, to a creative, context-driven Knowmad Society. Educational and organizational implications are explored, experiences are shared, and the book concludes with a powerful message of “what’s it going to take” for nations and cultures to succeed in Knowmad Society.

Key topics covered include: reframing learning and human development; required skills and competencies; rethinking schooling; flattening organizations; co-creating learning; and new value creation in organizations.

Knowmad Society is published by Education Futures LLC with additional support from Seats2Meet.com.

Invisible Learning: The first 365 days of open access

On September 15, 2011, Cristóbal Cobo and I released Invisible Learning (published in Spanish as Aprendizaje Invisible) into the Creative Commons as an open digital text. The printed edition, published by the University of Barcelona, was available since April of that year, and is still available for purchase through a number of sources, including Amazon.es.

We’ve counted well over 50,000 direct downloads of the PDF edition of the book from invsisiblelearning.com. By itself, this number is impressive for an education book (most printing are limited to just a thousand or two copies), but it probably grossly underestimates the total reach of Invisible Learning. The book is also distributed on a number of other websites, including Google Books, institutional digital collections, blogs, and others.

We are also really pleased with the media response and derivative products being created from Invisible Learning — some of the most interesting pieces are cataloged at aprendizajeinvisible.tumblr.com.

For those of you looking for Invisible Learning in English, the book will be summarized in the first two chapters of Knowmad Society, to be released later this year. Stay tuned!

Continuing the conversation

Join the Aprendizaje Invisible Facebook group, or follow us on Twitter:

If you’re interested in organizing a presentation or workshop about Invisible Learning at your organization, we’d love to talk with you!

An Invisible Learning travelogue

The world is indeed flattening, and we are very happy. Since March, Cristóbal and I have presented Invisible Learning in a dozen countries, and at more than 35 events for debate and discussion. The outcomes from the project exceed our expectations — and, more importantly, open the debate to a wider and global level. Some examples that inspire us:

…and more

In less than three months since we opened the book for free access online, we’ve had about 9,500 downloads that we know of — and many, many more that we do not know of. Others are sharing the book alike, including Google Books and OpenLibra. And, it is already attracting great citations. As we embraced a unique approach to blending traditional and “new” publishing, we look forward to seeing how others will respond to our distribution approach.

We look forward to many more conversations in 2012, and we want to thank everybody that helped make Invisible Learning a success. We especially extend our thanks to Hugo Pardo, the XXI Transmedia team, the University of Barcelona, and the University of Andalucia for providing the support to make this project possible.

And, a short video about what’s coming next:

Invisible Learning: Now free

Cristóbal Cobo and I are pleased to announce that the Spanish edition of Invisible Learning (Aprendizaje Invisible) is now released as a free PDF download.

You can download the book at http://www.invisiblelearning.com/download

We are thankful to Hugo Pardo Kuklinski, the series coordinator, for arranging this free release, and permitting the volume to be published under a Creative Commons license — meaning that you are invited to share and remix this work with your own.

What happened to the English edition?

We have decided not to print an English edition of Invisible Learning. Translating the text into English provides not only editorial challenges, but also cultural writing style challenges. As a result, much of the book would need to be rewritten. Compounded with the fact that much of what we have written about has already changed since publication, we decided to adapt the content of Invisible Learning into two chapters of a new book, due in 2012: Knowmad Society.


Knowmad Society will contain an adapted, updated version of the first chapter in Invisible Learning (which introduces Knowmad Society). A second chapter will summarize the Invisible Learning project, including key concepts from the book. I will have more to say on Knowmad Society in the coming days. Stay tuned!

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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