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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:

Tapscott: Memorizing facts is a waste of time

Cristóbal Cobo forwarded an article from Brand Republic from earlier this year. It contains a few provocative lines from Don Tapscott, co-author of Wikinomics:

Tapscott said: “Teachers are no longer the fountain of knowledge — the internet is. Kids should learn about history but they don’t need to know all the dates.

“It is enough that they know about the Battle of Hastings, without having to memorise that it was in 1066. 

They can look that up and position it in history with a click on Google. Memorising facts and figures is a waste of time.”

Absolutely! “Download”/banking style pedagogies are made obsolete by Google and Wikipedia.

In our Leapfrog series, we have argued that education should concentrate on “upload” pedagogies, based on knowledge production by students and collaborating faculty, together with augmentations provided by a new category of community-based volunteers. Using the most advanced forms of information search engines, networks, early artificial intelligence, and the aforementioned volunteers, there is an opportunity to leapfrog education beyond any of the competition. This will require fundamental changes in the mission, structure, and curricula of education at all levels.

Time to drop memorization and refocus education on the liberal skills?

A "New" Minnesota Miracle

This morning, the Star Tribune published a piece on a push by DFL legislators for a “New Minnesota Miracle,” through an injection of $2.5 billion into K-12 education in Minnesota. From the article:

The plan would pour money into basic education funding for schools to use as they see fit. There also would be more money to cover school special education costs, pay for all-day kindergarten for everyone who wants it, and reimburse schools for some of their lost revenues due to declining enrollments.

When I saw the phrase, “a New Minnesota Miracle,” I thought, “hmmm… that sounds familiar.” When I saw state Rep. Denise Dittrich’s name associated with the push, I thought that name sounded familiar, too. So, I did a little digging through the Education Futures archives, and discovered that Arthur Harkins and I presented a pathway for a second Minnesota Miracle to the House E-12 Education Committee Working Group on High School Redesign, chaired by Rep. Dittrich:

A key difference between the Leapfrog pathway and Dittrich’s scheme is that Leapfrog calls for no new money (or very little new money) to be injected into K-12 education by the state. Rather, as knowledge-producing institutions, schools and communities would be encouraged to develop new economic models for funding K-12 education by bonding schools with the innovative workforce. Following our presentation with the working group last January, we were asked how much money did we want. We said nothing – and the panel was astonished. Is it possible that innovation in education can be accomplished without legislative intervention?

At least she’s not calling her spending plan “Leapfrog.”

(And, yes, I think K-12 education need to be fully funded. I just don’t agree that we should expect money to create a miracle… unless if we have a plan. Our plan is Leapfrog.)

Chris Dede: Leapfrog beyond research triangles

Last month, Leapfrog Institutes and Education Futures interviewed Dr. Christopher Dede, Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies, Technology, Innovation, and Education at Harvard University, on what it would take for a state to become a leader in innovation. His answer was quite simple: successful states set up regional economic education development centers. These centers need to focus on K-20 development, rather than on higher education –which is what research triangles typically focus on. His recommendation: Leapfrog over traditional research triangles and build something relevant for the 21st century.

More in the video:

Futures Research Quarterly publishes special Leapfrog issue

The World Futures Society has published a special issue of Futures Research Quarterly, focused on the Leapfrog Principle.  These papers will serve as the knowledge base for the upcoming Leapfrog conference in Anqing, China this October.  Online copies should be available through EBSCOhost in the near future (check with your library for access).  Contents for the Spring 2008 (vol. 24, nr. 1) issue:

  • The role of Leapfrogging in the future of youth work and workforce preparation by George Kubik
  • Leapfrog principles and practices: Core components of Education 3.0 and 4.0 by Arthur M. Harkins
  • The Leapfrog Principle and paradigm shifts in education by Xian-rong Wang
  • The significance of Leapfrog education development in China by Changde Cao
  • Four scenarios of Leapfrog for teacher training curriculum in China by Hongzhuan Song
  • Utilizing digital technology to achieve leapfrog learning by Jun ma
  • Technological applications of Leapfrog by John Moravec
  • Leapfrog Education: An alternative present and future for Chinese tertiary education by Yi Cao

Adapting to technological and social change in education

In response to yesterday’s post: Change is accelerating: Get ready!

Socially adapting to the pace and direction of technology changes has been a mixed bag. Sometimes, consumer pressures have the effect of driving change; sometimes consumers are indifferent; and at other times they challenge or resist a particular technological innovation. In Kurzweil’s case, some consumers are challenging the potential of technologies he’s projecting for the future.

Most challenges in advance of marketable products and services indicate ignorance more than fear. Most consumers do not read speculative (read science) fiction, and those over a certain age (about 35) usually don’t flock to science fiction movies or television shows. (No, “Lost” is not science fiction!) Hanging on to the past is easier and more defensible in the absence of known alternatives.

Where the rubber hits the road is the effects of adoption lags and challenges that affect education. While Leapfrog Institutes actively promotes the use of hand held, Web-enabled devices to facilitate 24/7 learning, schools sometimes challenge Web schools and -in the US- collect students’ tech hardware at the school door. This is a remarkable example of how ignorance of alternatives produces counter-productive and even anti-intellectual outcomes.

Kurzweil has a great projective track record. His futures are already on the way. The spoils will go to those organizations and societies that act as Beta sites for new technologies, not those who compulsively challenge, shrink away, or actively resist. The bottom line: get involved in testing and assessing new technologies, even when they are projected and not yet “real”.

Creating one or more Innovation Cells within your school

[Cross posted from the Leapfrog Institutes Newswire]

Ron Fuller is an emeritus teacher at Edison High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Recently, Ron prepared this step-by-step format for creating self-organizing Innovation Cells in schools. With his permission, we are sharing his framework for building ICs in educational settings.

Students are grouped with a licensed staff member by area of interest. (Example: Music, Writing, Computer Programming, Politics, Painting, Robotics, etc)

  • The cells would meet daily during advisory time. The cell becomes the students advisory for the year. Cells would have students from all grade levels.
  • The cells would select a project or projects to focus on for the school year. (Example: Build a robot, Create a short play, Design a new computer program, Complete a community service project, Study global warming, Lobby for a political cause)
  • The cells would meet an additional ½ day once a month to complete work on the project.
  • The cells could elect to meet before or after school to complete a chosen project.
  • At the end of the year, one cell would be chosen to receive the Thomas A Edison Innovation Award. (Maybe the Superintendent or Mayor could help select the winning cell.)
  • An Innovation Fair would be held in the Spring to share innovation ideas and projects with the Edison School Community.
  • Innovation Cells could have displays at school open houses and other community events.
  • 12th and 11th graders could be academic coaches for 9th and 10th graders in their cell.
  • All Licensed Staff would advise an Innovation Cell. Staff would be chosen for cells depending on interests or expertise.
  • Business and Community Leaders could come in during the ½ day each month to advise students on cell projects.
  • The Innovation Cells would provide a learning focus for advisory and help students develop their creative skills.
  • Upper classmen could serve as role models for under classmen.
  • We could start with a few Innovation Cells next year and phase them in over the next few years.

(Created by Ron Fuller 2-7-08) (Revised 3-26-08)