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knowledge production

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OLPC's potential for revolution

An element missing from media coverage of the One Laptop per Child XO is the ramifications of using mesh networking. This scheme allows for data to be passed through individual machines acting as nodes, where data hops from machine-to-machine until its destination on the network –or on a foreign network is reached. This allows for instantly reconfigurable and self-healing networks that can self-adapt to a variety of network accessibility environments.

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This networking model has also been recontextualized into the interface and software design of the device which encourages as much co-teaching and co-learning as possible. Working with teams from Pentagram Design and Red Hat, OLPC created SUGAR, a graphic user interface that captures the students’ world of fellow learners and teachers as collaborators, emphasizing connectivity between people and activities. From OLPC:

Everyone has the potential for being both a learner and a teacher. We have chosen to put collaboration at the core of the user experience in order to realize this potential. The presence of other members of the learning community will encourage children to take responsibility for others’ learning as well as their own. The exchange of ideas amongst peers can both make the learning process more engaging and stimulate critical thinking skills. We hope to encourage these types of social interaction with the laptops.

[…]

As most software developers would agree, the best way to learn how to write a program is to write one, or perhaps teach someone else how to do so; studying the syntax of the language might be useful, but it doesn’t teach one how to code. We hope to apply this principle of “learn through doing” to all types of creation, e.g., we emphasize composing music over downloading music. We also encourage the children to engage in the process of collaborative critique of their expressions and to iterate upon this expression as well.

While the developed world is using new technologies to teach the same old stuff its been pushing since the 19th century, the co-constructivism allowed by OLPC could allow children in less developed countries leapfrog their peers in new knowledge production. Is this purposeful orientation toward the use of technologies the start of a new revolution in education?

A New Paradigm of Knowledge Production

My doctoral dissertation, A New Paradigm of Knowledge Production in Minnesota Higher Education: A Delphi Study, is available for purchase online or for online preview:

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Download now and save! For the month of September, the PDF edition is available for download at the discounted price of $30.00 $15.00 (50% off)!

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Top ten list #8: Ways to transform schools into centers of knowledge production and innovation

ten-days-sm.pngToday’s list discusses how to move beyond the failures of U.S. education and transform our schools, communities, and families into centers of knowledge production and innovation.

  1. Schools of the agricultural and industrial ages produced graduates suitable for their economies and societies. Change is accelerating, and students that are being prepared for old society jobs cannot be expected to succeed in a rapidly evolving socioeconomic environment. Today’s schools must reorient themselves toward producing graduates that will adapt and lead in societies that do not yet exist.
  2. Knowledge is meaning, and meaning is knowledge. A new emphasis on the production of knowledge/meaning in formal education will mean students should not be viewed merely as vessels to into whom knowledge is downloaded, but should be vigorously involved in new knowledge co-creation. A good starting point toward creating new meanings is to bring dialogue and dialogical approaches to education back into the classroom.
  3. No Child Left Behind undercuts the quest for meaning that is part of every intelligent human life. To reverse this damage, the schools must leave behind NCLB and psychometric-centric school cultures behind.
  4. Many new ways of attending formal education are now available in a number of societies. The major implication of this is that families have greater choices in determining blends of educational contexts, and can contribute to the further development of new knowledge-producing contexts
  5. Innovation is derived from the timely and effective use of knowledge. To help produce both knowledge/meaning and innovation, the schools will have to routinely seek out new contexts, problems, and experiences to bring into each classroom.
  6. Schools routinely firewall the Internet. The simplest ways to minimize the losses to imagination and creativity generated by this practice are to stop fighting information and open access to the net; and develop improved ICT tools to help students harness their creative potential.
  7. Generally, families are sources of educational conservatism. Such squeamishness about potential changes of school missions from download education to the production of knowledge/meaning and innovation can be abated by engaging parents in future-oriented storytelling conversations, such as StoryTech.
  8. Schools in America tend to ignore or even denigrate creative, imaginative students. A quick fix for this problem is to remove creative students immediately, and place them in supportive contexts where they can build upon their individual knowledge and begin to innovate immediately.
  9. Production of knowledge/meaning and innovation in the schools can vastly increase the choices available to society. The problem with this is that the choices quickly may quickly become overwhelming. New technologies must be developed and embraced to help support and mediate personal and social decision-making.
  10. To further overcome the problem of “knowledge and innovation overload,” a minority of students may have to partner with adaptive technologies to maintain cognitive competitiveness with their more choice-comfortable peers.

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?

A question on linking open courseware to faculties

The Online Education Database published their list of “Top 100 open courseware projects.” This list demonstrates that there is a lot of content available, encompassing in the fields of agriculture, arts, architecture, archeology, audio & video, biology, botany, chemistry, civil engineering, economics, electronic engineering, general engineering, Earth sciences, geography & geology, history, languages & linguistics, law, literature, mechanical engineering, paleontology, physics, political Science, psychology, and the social sciences.

Quality among open courses vary significantly, and most open courseware do not plug into the Web 2.0 “wisdom of crowds” that can enhance quality and provide avenues for new knowledge production. Furthermore, most faculty distance themselves from online publishing and knowledge dissemination. Even worse, few faculty (at the undergraduate level, at least) as concerned about generating new knowledge with students.

My question is, how can open courseware and academics/professionals be retooled jointly to create open, new knowledge-producing spaces for students and life-long learners?

Using tech to teach the same old garbage

Folks, when you use new technologies to teach the same old garbage, you’re not going to get the results that you want. The NY Times started to touch on this in their article, Seeing no progress, some schools drop laptops:

…the Liverpool Central School District, just outside Syracuse, has decided to phase out laptops starting this fall, joining a handful of other schools around the country that adopted one-to-one computing programs and are now abandoning them as educationally empty — and worse.

[…]

Such disappointments are the latest example of how technology is often embraced by philanthropists and political leaders as a quick fix, only to leave teachers flummoxed about how best to integrate the new gadgets into curriculums. Last month, the United States Department of Education released a study showing no difference in academic achievement between students who used educational software programs for math and reading and those who did not.

Michele at the Bamboo Project has it figured out. She quotes Mark Warschauer at UC Irvine:

Where laptops and Internet use make a difference are in innovation, creativity, autonomy and independent research. …If the goal is to get kids up to basic standard levels, then maybe laptops are not the tool. But if the goal is to create the George Lucas and Steve Jobs of the future, then laptops are extremely useful.

So, the lesson learned is that if you want to create kids that will perform well in a non-ICT-oriented society, then don’t provide them with technological tools. If you want them, however, to develop creative and innovative uses to succeed in knowledge and innovation-based societies that demand the use of ICT, then you must embrace the tools. And, when you do so, you cannot use them to teach the same old garbage (usually rote, “download”-style learning). Pedagogies that embrace ICT must leapfrog conventional paradigms and support students’ pervasive creativity, knowledge production, invention, and innovation.

Politics and present problems of education in Mexico

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(English version)

I will give a talk about Teaching and leading in the 21st Century: A New Paradigm of knowledge production at FLACSO Mexico on March 12:

The convergence of globalization, emergence of the knowledge society and accelerating change contribute to what the presenter terms a New Paradigm of knowledge production in education. The New Paradigm reflects the emerging shifts in thought, beliefs, priorities and practice in regard to all levels of education in global societies. These new patterns of thought and belief are forming to harness and manage the chaos, indeterminacy, and complex relationships of the postmodern.

Drawing from the author’s original research, the three phenomena driving the New Paradigm are explored together as a whole, particularly as it pertains to new pedagogies and educational leadership. Emphasis is placed on the examination of the future of education in the New Paradigm. By putting the pieces of the New Paradigm together through the forecasting of futures for primary through tertiary education, implications, consequences and actions for educators and policy leaders are identified.

Chaordic knowledge production: A systems-based response to critical education

teorie_vedy.PNGAh, yes… now for a moment of shameless displays of pride and self-promotion ! Desk copies of my “Chaordic knowledge production: A systems-based response to critical education” article, published in Theory of Science vol. XV/XXVIII/2006, no. 3, pp. 149-162, arrived last week.

Drop me a line if you’d like a PDF of the scanned article!

Abstract

Proponents of critical education and critical pedagogy call on us to question the “oppressor vs. oppressed” relationships that the global mainstream “banking” system of education enforces (see esp. Freire, 2000). This practice produces learners that do not have the knowledge and skills to solve their own problems and maximize their individual potential. Systems thinking is the contextual analysis of an organization or process as a whole (Capra, 1996, p. 30; von Bertalanffy, 1968). A future-oriented, systems approach to the examination and redesign of critical education theory yields a chaordic, coconstructivist metatheory that maximizes each individual’s ontological potential. By building upon an example that employs automated information technology as a mediator in a coconstructivist system, this paper suggests that not only are coconstructivist critical knowledge systems plausible, but the design of the systems themselves need not be designed complexly to exhibit complex, transformative behavior.

Open source collaboration in the social sciences

Pressured largely by publication delays and a bandwidth limit in the amount of information and knowledge that can be distributed through traditional academic publishing formats, the “hard sciences” have made inroads in expanding the growth of the open sharing of research and ideas. The accelerating rate of change of knowledge and shortening of the half-life of knowledge in the 21st Century render traditional publication and knowledge sharing methods obsolete. Open access libraries such as the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory collaboratory project and the National Fusion Collaboratory allow for the rapid sharing of ideas and rapid publication.

With few exceptions, these open collaboratories are absent from the social sciences. FLACSO México initiated a collaboratory project that can help fill the gap: Colaboratorios (the name is a play on “collaboration” and “laboratory”). Allowing authors to publish under a Creative Commons license, Colaboratios provides space for the sharing of ideas through publication of papers, a collaborative wiki, shared blog, and Skype-based conferences.

Check it out. Non-Spanish speakers may want to use the Babel Fish.