Horizon Forum

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Next Horizon Forum roundtable: Education and the Technological Singularity

An invitation to the next Horizon Forum meeting at the University of Minnesota:

Education and the Technological Singularity

January 27, 2010

11:30am – 1:30pm

250 Wulling Hall (U of M East Bank)

At the next Horizon Forum, you are invited to join the discussion, moderated by Arthur Harkins and John Moravec, with special guests, as we probe into the deep future of education.

The New York Times’ John Tierney published an interview with Ray Kurzweil on accelerating change:

Now, [Kurzweil] sees biology, medicine, energy and other fields being revolutionized by information technology. His graphs [of accelerating technological change] already show the beginning of exponential progress in nanotechnology, in the ease of gene sequencing, in the resolution of brain scans. With these new tools, he says, by the 2020s we’ll be adding computers to our brains and building machines as smart as ourselves.

What does this mean for schools today? Kurzweil’s vision of the Singularity is criticized for being technologically deterministic. But, are there relevant social and cultural aspects related to the human experience? At the Horizon Forum’s next open roundtable, will explore what changes could take place in our schools and learning institutions within the next 35 years as technology transforms the human mind and human potential… and what we can start doing today!

Lunch and validated parking will be provided. Please RSVP your attendance by 10am on January 25 to Carole MacLean at or call 612-625-5060.

The Horizon Forum is sponsored by the Preparation to Practice Group in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota. For for information about the Horizon Forum, contact John Moravec at or call 612-625-3517.

Owatonna's model for the 21st century

At yesterday’s Horizon Forum meeting at the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Steve O’Conner, Director of Instructional Services for Owatonna Public Schools, presented an overview of an initiative in a classroom in Washington Elementary School where a fifth grade classroom has gone mostly paperless. Desks are replaced with medicine balls and music stands, and textbooks, papers and pens are replaced with laptop computers. We then connected to the classroom by videoconference, and spoke with the students and their teacher, Matt McCartney.

What do the kids think? They love it!

Jeff Cagle from Owatonna People’s Press joined the conversation in Owatonna, and wrote:

Megan Andrist said she found the laptops helpful because she was able to access a number of kid-friendly Web sites for research.

Cam Muchow enjoyed using technology and adding other elements such as digital photography to his assignments.

By removing desks from the classroom, the students are able to instantly reconfigure their learning and work settings. In theory, the instant physical reorganization and software-enhanced environment allows for more individualized instruction. One kinesiologist at the University of Minnesota wondered if the medicine balls could help reduce the need to medicate children diagnosed with neurobehavioral development disorders (i.e., ADHD). Others saw instant potential in the cost savings that can be realized by eliminating traditional desks. Again, we asked: what do the kids think? They love the medicine balls. Cagle wrote:

Most students, including Brady Steinhorst, enjoyed sitting on the therapy balls.

“Usually when you’re sitting in a chair, you have nothing to do,” he said, “and then you talk to a friend.”

Despite the excitement and hope the classroom is generating, a troubling question looms: What will happen to these kids when they graduate from the 5th grade and enter a middle school with desks, and where computers and other resources are restricted to tightly-controlled laboratories?

Special thanks goes to Superintendent Dr. Tom Tapper, principal Mary Baier, and Matt McCartney for their collaboration on this event.

Fifth grade for the 21st century

You are invited to join us for the final Horizon Forum meeting for this school year!

Fifth Grade for the 21st Century

Hosted by Dr. Tom Tapper, Superintendent, Owatonna Public Schools

Thursday, April 24

11:15am – 1:00pm

Conference Room 325, Education Sciences Building (University of Minnesota East Bank)

Dr. Tom Tapper (Superintendent, Owatonna Public Schools), Dr. Steve O’Connor (Director of Instructional Services), Mary Baier (Principal, Washington Elementary School) and Matt McCartney (Teacher, Washington Elementary School) will lead a discussion on their experiences in purposively adopting technologies in Owatonna Public Schools. During this session, Mr. McCartney’s fifth grade class will join us by videoconference for student presentations on how they’re using technology in innovative, Leapfrog-oriented ways that better connect them with their future participation in the workforce.

Lunch and validated parking will be provided. Please RSVP your attendance to Carole MacLean at or call 612-625-5060.

Online Education: Innovation or Illusion?

Education Futures readers in Minnesota are invited to join us for the next Horizon Forum meeting!

Online Education: Innovation or Illusion?

Facilitated by Jeffrey Schulz

Friday, February 22

11:00am – 1:00pm

Arthur Upson Room, Walter Library (University of Minnesota East Bank)

As online education continues to explode at all school levels, many questions arise. Is it valid? Does it take funding away from traditional sources? How is it different from what is being delivered in brick and mortar schools? What futures exist for online education? As an added bonus, Allison Powell, Vice President for the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOLplans to join us via Adobe Connect for a portion of the time.

Jeffrey Schulz, Curriculum Coordinator for BlueSky Online Charter School (now a Leapfrog Institutes partner), will lead a discussion and working session regarding online education, current trends and research, along with visioning for the future. You are invited to join the discussion as we envision education for the 21st Century and beyond.

Lunch and validated parking will be provided. Please RSVP your attendance to Carole MacLean at or call 612-625-5060. We look forward to another rich conversation and hope you can join us!

Horizon Forum on October 3

flacso_logo.gifThe Preparation to Practice Group is pleased to announce that the first Horizon Forum meeting of this year will be held on October 3 from 8:30 – 11:00am in the historic Upson Room at the Walter Library on the University of Minnesota East Bank campus.

Two visiting speakers from the Faculty of Latin American Social Sciences in Mexico will discuss initiatives to bridge technologies between classrooms (co-seminars), and the use of electronic media in classrooms to completely replace traditional textbooks to transform pedagogies:

  • Giovanna Valenti, Director General, FLACSO México
    Internet-mediated co-seminars: Reflections on the Mexican experience
  • Cristóbal Cobo, Communications Director, FLACSO México
    Enciclomedia: Redesigning curricula with videos, text, virtual visits, sounds and images

Space for the event is limited! RSVP to me at

The Horizon Forum is an ongoing discussion group, focused on the role of innovation and the future of PreK-17 education. The Forum is sponsored by the Preparation to Practice Group in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota.

Validated parking and a light breakfast will be provided.

Legalizing "cheating"

Some troubling news has appeared in media over the past 24 hours. Many news sites and blogs have been citing an Associated Press article that claims that teachers and administrators are dismayed by students’ use of mobile devices to cheat in the classroom. The question is, why not “cheat?” If students will use similar or better information retrieval tools and knowledge generation tools in the workforce, why should they be prevented from using them in the classroom? In the world of desktop and handheld supercomputing, why are we limiting students to primitive pencil and paper technologies? Furthermore, why are we subjecting students to rote memorization when they could produce new knowledge and solve personally meaningful problems?

The Chinese have already figured this out, and are building mobile learning (m-learning) devices for use inside and outside of the classroom. On Monday, I will demonstrate two Chinese m-learning devices, the Noah NP890+ and the Ozing V99, at the Horizon Forum. Reviews of each device will follow on this blog later in the week.


If the Americans can’t figure it out, we will leave all our children behind?

Technologies and education in Latin America

At Monday’s Horizon Forum meeting, Dr. Ursula Zurita (FLACSO Mexico) presented her research on social participation and educating for social participation in Distrito Federal and her plans for further investigation nationwide in Mexico. Dr. Cristobal Cobo (FLACSO Mexico) followed-up with a presentation and discussion on technologies and education in Latin America. Dr. Arthur Harkins, Garth Willis and I closed the session with a discussion on future collaboration University of Minnesota-FLACSO collaboration.

You can also download these files as a podcast:

  • Click here to download an mp3 of Ursula Zurita’s presentation
  • Click here to download an mp3 of Cristobal Cobo’s presentation

UPDATE: The wrong files were uploaded. I’ll work to get the files with the FULL conversations online.

Additional files related to Cristobal Cobo’s presentation:

SECOND UPDATE: Additional video formats are available at

The Horizon Forum meeting will be an all-day event held on April 30, 2007. Stay tuned for more details!

Horizon Forum on technologies and education in Latin America

horizon-web.jpgJoin us for the next Horizon Forum meeting!

Technologies and education in Latin America:

Changes in the infrastructure and not in the teaching methods

Monday, February 26, 12-3 p.m.

Room 319, Coffman Memorial Union
University of Minnesota, East Bank Campus
300 Washington Avenue, S.E. Minneapolis

Cristobal Cobo, Ph.D., is a specialist in information technologies, faculty member and Manager of the Communication and Information Technology Department at Flacso-México. He completed his Ph.D. (in communications science) at the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona. In addition, he has been a teacher at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México, Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey and Universidad de Colima. He manages projects involving innovation, distance education, and knowledge management supported by information and communications technologies. His current research is centered on “collective intelligence,” the “architecture of participation,” and the phenomenon of the “wisdom of crowds” and its application in learning environments.

The Horizon Forum is a “mold breaking” round-table initiated by the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota to facilitate action-oriented discussions on how we may design outstanding educational futures for Minnesota.

Lunch and validated parking will be provided.

Please RSVP by February 19 to John Moravec, 612-625-3517 or

Map to event:

Horizon Forum on the Web:

December 12 Horizon Forum recap

At yesterday’s Horizon Forum meeting, Chris Dede delivered a presentation via Skype on using multiple-user virtual environments in educational contexts. These environments, he argues, allows students to co-design and co-instruct their own educational experiences, allowing for guided social constructivism and learning that goes beyond what traditional schools try to accomplish through test-based assessments.


Scott McLeod continued with a discussion on preparing students for the new millennium rather than the industrial age. With the pace of change accelerating, schools, by design, are not able to keep up with society. Schools are in danger of becoming irrelevant unless if they do away with reactionary, compliance-based management and build future-oriented, proactive (and preactive!) leadership.


Finally, with Garth Willis’ help, we experimented with recording the session as a Macromedia Breeze meeting. The recording is available online at: (sorry, the first twenty minutes of audio are missing).

The next Horizon Forum is scheduled for February 5, 2007, and will focus on advances in innovative learning in Latin America.