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Obama: Education is a national security issue

In this video from The UpTake forwarded to Education Futures from Bring Me the News, President Obama speaks on the relationship between education and national competitiveness (you can skip the introductions and jump to his talk which begins around 6:20 into the video):

President Obama: “So make no mistake: Our future is on the line. The nation that out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow. To continue to cede our leadership in education is to cede our position in the world. That’s not acceptable to me and I know it’s not acceptable to any of you. And that’s why my administration has set a clear goal: to move from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math education over the next decade.”

Okay, so science and math education are important, but isn’t building a creative and innovative workforce important, too? Can we create a “race to the top” for creating meaningful innovations in education?

The Education Futures timeline of education

Education Futures celebrates its first five years of exploring new futures in human capital development with a timeline of the history of education from 1657-2045. This timeline provides not only a glimpse into modern education, but plots out a plausible future history for human capital development. The future history presented is intended to be edgy, but also as a conversation starter on futures for education and future thinking in human capital development.

As always, we invite your feedback and suggestions for further development! We expect many enhancements and updates to this resource in the near future.

Wanted: 30 Knowmads

Remember Knowmads in Society 3.0? Something amazing is brewing in Europe. And, they’re looking for thirty candidates from around the world.

Knowmads is a new school for the world of tomorrow, starting in January 2010 in The Netherlands. After two years of learning with and from KaosPilots (International School for New Business Design and Social Innovation) in Rotterdam, a couple of entrepreneurs will join together in Knowmads-land. KaosPilots Netherlands transformed and the body of thought is very much alive!

Their purpose is to create a life-long learning community that starts with a one–year program and the possibility to add another six months after that. They work from the principle of a team-setting based on Action Learning; meaning that they work with their heads, hearts and hands. They believe in action, creativity, fun, diversity, social innovation and sustainability in real life assignments.

The program consists of the following elements:

  • Entrepreneurship and New Business Design
  • Personal Leadership
  • Creativity and Marketing
  • Sustainability and Social Innovation

The real life assignments for the students will be realized by collaborations with several international business partners and organisations. With this they will create constant win-win-win situations. And, the student themselves are stakeholders and owners of the school.

They are looking for thirty knowmads from around the world to join the inaugural team, with a deadline of November 20 December 18.

For more information, stories or applications check www.knowmads.nl or write to: carianne@knowmads.nl / pieter@knowmads.nl

“Welcome home!”

Friedman: U.S. education system endangering global competitiveness

New York times columnist Tom Friedman speaks out:

A Washington lawyer friend recently told me about layoffs at his firm. I asked him who was getting axed. He said it was interesting: lawyers who were used to just showing up and having work handed to them were the first to go because with the bursting of the credit bubble, that flow of work just isn’t there. But those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables.

That is the key to understanding our full education challenge today. Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive. Therefore, we not only need a higher percentage of our kids graduating from high school and college — more education — but we need more of them with the right education.

Citing Dan Pink, Friedman continues to conclude that, to be competitive in a global marketplace, the U.S. needs to infuse its schools with “entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.” As we stated before, there are many obstacles for schools that wish to produce creatives. Most importantly:

  1. No Child Left Behind. NCLB is producing exactly the wrong products for the 21st Century, but is right on for the 1850’s through 1950. NCLB’s fractured memorization model opposes the creative, synthetic thinking required for new work and effective citizenship.
  2. Schools are merging with prisons. As soon as students enter schools, they lose many of their fundamental rights, including the right to free speech. Students who do not wish to conform to prison-like, automaton production must develop individual creativity to survive… often at a price.
  3. Inadequate teacher preparation, recruitment and retention. The U.S. public schools have always been lemmings, but are now failing to produce teachers who are savvy to the contemporary trends their students must learn and respond to in times of accelerating change. The other half of the picture is teacher-modeled creativity, something the public schools have never seriously attempted.
  4. Insufficient adoption of technology. The squeeze is on from both ends: Student-purchased technology is usually derided, suppressed, and sometimes confiscated. These tools are part of the technology spectrum kids know they will have to master. On the other end, technology in the schools is dated, the Internet is firewalled, and there isn’t enough equipment to go around.
  5. Focusing on information retention as opposed to new knowledge production. Disk-drive learning is for computers. Knowledge production and innovation are for humans. The first requires fast recall and low error rates from dumb systems; the second, driven by intelligent people, builds the economy and keeps America competitive.
  6. Innovation is eschewed. Most U.S. teachers think innovation is something that requires them to suffer the discomforts and pains of adaptation. They don’t accept change as a necessary function of expanding national competitiveness. Many U.S. teachers might be more comfortable in industrial world economies and societies represented by China and South Korea, or 1950’s America.
  7. Continuous reorganization of school leadership and priorities, particularly in urban schools. Serious questions can be raised whether schools are the organizations required to cope with semi-permanent underclasses, violent youth, incompetent, irresponsible parenting and negative adult role models. What institutional substitutions would you make for the schools?
  8. National education priorities are built on an idealized past, not on emergent and designed futures. Blends of applied imagination, creativity, and innovation are required to visualize preferred futures, to render them proximal and grounded, and to forge them into empirical realities. On the other hand, it is quite possible that Secretary Spellings and other highly placed education “leaders” have never had an original thought in their entire lives.
  9. Social class and cultural problems in schools and communities suggest that the schools live in a Norman Rockwell past. Bright kids capable of novel thought and new culture creation have never fit into the industrially modeled American schools, and lower-middle class teachers have little respect for working- and poverty-class art, music, and culture. It appears that the schools are populated by timid, unimaginative, lower-middle class professional placeholders who crave convention (spelling bees, car washes, exceptional sports performances) over invention.
  10. Failing to invest resources in education, both financially and socially. Education is formal, informal, and non-formal in structure and function. It is possible that formal education will be recognized as the least powerful of this trio, in part because it is so dated, and in part because it occurs in such a small percentage of life compared with the other two types. Perhaps new funding algorithms and decisions must follow this ratio.

Where do we begin?

How higher education wound up in this mess … and how to get out

The March 13 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education has a list of 13 reasons why colleges are hurting in the current economic downturn. They write that colleges managed their investments poorly, failed to show leadership in building quality institutions, ignored their customers’ needs, failed to get the support of state legislatures, and dodged accountability initiatives.

The list is a bit conservative in scope, so I suggest a 14th reason to liven it up a bit:

Colleges have failed to establish a bold strategic focus and direction in reshaping higher education.

Rather than reorienting themselves on becoming institutions centered on innovation and creativity, they have latched onto 19th century production models. In many universities, this is best represented in the growth of central administration regimes, which seek to better manage the products and services that universities produce. How might universities leapfrog their contemporaries to provide meaningful inputs in the 21st century?

Leapfrog institutions relentlessly disrupt themselves to compete successfully in the global knowledge and innovation economy. They work ahead of the competition in teaching, research, innovation, and service. They avoid playing catch-up.

More at the EF Leapfrog memos archive…

"Innovation in the field of innovation"

I received feedback from several readers that Arthur Harkins’ reasoning for why we need to Leapfrog might seem a bit too Machiavellian — “us versus them.” I therefore hope everybody will enjoy the contrast of perspective in this next video.

In early November, we had an opportunity to interview Jutta Treviranus, director of the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre at the University of Toronto. Her approach to creating sustainable innovation is somewhat different. Instead of relying on competition, we can operate on an assumption of collaboration for innovation, creating win-win scenarios for all.

The “king of the hill, competitive” type of thinking, Treviranus argues, is contributing to the modern world’s problems. To get past this, she declares we need, “innovation in the field of innovation.” Brilliant!

More in the video:

Arthur Harkins on Leapfrogging

Earlier this month, I interviewed Arthur Harkins on our approach to innovating in human capital development (Leapfrog!). Specifically, I asked:

  1. What is Leapfrog?
  2. What are some examples of leapfrogging?
  3. What are the Leapfrog Institutes?
  4. What are the global implications for Leapfrog?

Watch his responses in this video:

A little background:

Leapfroggingmeans to jump over obstacles to achieve goals. It means to get ahead of the competition or the present state of the art through innovative, time-and-cost-saving means. Leapfrog denotes leadership created by looking and acting over the horizon. Leapfrog creates the future in the present based on what is found over the horizon. Leapfrog first acts to create proximal futures, and then solidly grounds the most promising futures within the present. This process marks an extension of Vygotsky’s and Dewey’s work, while ever looking toward the future.

One example of Leapfrogging is Finland’s jump to wireless phones, saving that country the cost of deploying an expensive copper wire system. Another example is present in some of the Kent, Washington public schools, which now permit students to use wireless Web devices to help them access information to better pass tests. Leapfrogging has become a major strategy of developing countries wishing to avoid catch-up efforts that otherwise portend a high likelihood of continued followership. A similar approach to gaining the lead rather than assuming a persistent runner-up role.

Leapfrog institutions relentlessly disrupt themselves to compete successfully in the global knowledge and innovation economy. They work ahead of the competition in teaching, research, innovation, and service. They avoid playing catch-up.

Additional resources:

Moira Gunn on innovation

[cross posted from Leapfrog Institutes newswire]

We had an opportunity to interview Dr. Moira Gunn, host of Tech Nation (carried by NPR and available as a podcast), at the Synergy 2008 conference in Phoenix, Arizona, last month. We wanted to know what she thinks is innovation, the relationship of innovation with markets, how important innovation is for social leaders, and what it would take for a place like Minnesota to take a leadership position in terms of innovation.

For her responses, watch the video:

Repost: 10 ways U.S. education is failing to produce creatives

ten-days-sm.pngOur third item this week on the United States’ unstable orbit around mediocrity is a repost of our top ten list of how U.S. education is failing to create students that will succeed in creative, knowledge- and innovation-based economies (first published last June). We apologize for beating a dead horse, but No Child Left Behind heads-off this list as failure #1:

  1. No Child Left Behind. NCLB is producing exactly the wrong products for the 21st Century, but is right on for the 1850’s through 1950. NCLB’s fractured memorization model opposes the creative, synthetic thinking required for new work and effective citizenship.
  2. Schools are merging with prisons. As soon as students enter schools, they lose many of their fundamental rights, including the right to free speech. Students who do not wish to conform to prison-like, automaton production must develop individual creativity to survive… often at a price.
  3. Inadequate teacher preparation, recruitment and retention. The U.S. public schools have always been lemmings, but are now failing to produce teachers who are savvy to the contemporary trends their students must learn and respond to in times of accelerating change. The other half of the picture is teacher-modeled creativity, something the public schools have never seriously attempted.
  4. Insufficient adoption of technology. The squeeze is on from both ends: Student-purchased technology is usually derided, suppressed, and sometimes confiscated. These tools are part of the technology spectrum kids know they will have to master. On the other end, technology in the schools is dated, the Internet is firewalled, and there isn’t enough equipment to go around.
  5. Focusing on information retention as opposed to new knowledge production. Disk-drive learning is for computers. Knowledge production and innovation are for humans. The first requires fast recall and low error rates from dumb systems; the second, driven by intelligent people, builds the economy and keeps America competitive.
  6. Innovation is eschewed. Most U.S. teachers think innovation is something that requires them to suffer the discomforts and pains of adaptation. They don’t accept change as a necessary function of expanding national competitiveness. Many U.S. teachers might be more comfortable in industrial world economies and societies represented by China and South Korea, or 1950’s America.
  7. Continuous reorganization of school leadership and priorities, particularly in urban schools. Serious questions can be raised whether schools are the organizations required to cope with semi-permanent underclasses, violent youth, incompetent, irresponsible parenting and negative adult role models. What institutional substitutions would you make for the schools?
  8. National education priorities are built on an idealized past, not on emergent and designed futures. Blends of applied imagination, creativity, and innovation are required to visualize preferred futures, to render them proximal and grounded, and to forge them into empirical realities. On the other hand, it is quite possible that Secretary Spellings and other highly placed education “leaders” have never had an original thought in their entire lives.
  9. Social class and cultural problems in schools and communities suggest that the schools live in a Norman Rockwell past. Bright kids capable of novel thought and new culture creation have never fit into the industrially modeled American schools, and lower-middle class teachers have little respect for working- and poverty-class art, music, and culture. It appears that the schools are populated by timid, unimaginative, lower-middle class professional placeholders who crave convention (spelling bees, car washes, exceptional sports performances) over invention.
  10. Failing to invest resources in education, both financially and socially. Education is formal, informal, and non-formal in structure and function. It is possible that formal education will be recognized as the least powerful of this trio, in part because it is so dated, and in part because it occurs in such a small percentage of life compared with the other two types. Perhaps new funding algorithms and decisions must follow this ratio.