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Introducing our new Manifesto 15 t-shirt!

When Manifesto 15 was released, we celebrated with a short run of t-shirts with the slogan “kids are people, too.” We exhausted our supply quickly, and, this week, we received larger supply of new, screen printed t-shirts.

These shirts are gorgeous, printed on 4.2 oz. 100% combed and ringspun cotton. You can get $2 off each shirt ordered between now and March 31, by using the coupon code NEWSHIRT at educationfutures.com/store.

Click here to order your shirts today!

Approaches for enabling invisible learning

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

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.

Invisible learning can emerge in many ways, and often manifests through bits and pieces here and there. The examples of approaches to invisible learning provided here are not exhaustive, and are meant to be illustrative only. Each of these approaches embrace participation, play, and exploration.

Schools for invisible learning

Democratic education schools are arguably the most visible examples of enabling self-determination. From the 2005 EUDEC guidance document, students in democratic schools have the right:

to make their own choices regarding learning and all other areas of everyday life. In particular, they may individually determine what to do, when, where, how and with whom, so long as their decisions do not infringe on the liberty of others to do the same.

Sudbury-type schools embrace this principle at their core, providing each student an equal voice and vote along side staff members and other stakeholders as to what they learn and how their schools are run. Students spend their time together without age or grade separation and they decide how to spend their time at the school. Central to the school’s operation are school meetings in which students and staff members make key decisions in a process focused on participatory democracy. In these schools, students are afforded tremendous freedom together with the personal and collective responsibility to make the best decisions possible.

These schools are part of a broader category of free schools which developed over the past century, with many approaches that interpret “free” schooling differently. Some operate as full democracies, and others as anarchist collectives. Of particular importance is the Summerhill School (UK), which permits each student to develop their own lesson plans within a structured timetable. Students have the freedom to pursue their own learning interests, based on offerings, and like the Sudbury model, they operate within a framework of participatory democracy with shared responsibilities.

There is very little research on democratic and free schools compared to mainstream education, but my hunch is they best serve students of at least middle-class or better-educated families, where students have greater flexibility and support to pursue their own interests. For students in economically disadvantaged families, we can look into liberation pedagogies such as critical pedagogy, eco schools, and praxis-type schools as pathways. While their foci are often connected with particular ideologies, they share core themes of socioeconomic liberation for students and the communities in which they live.

Finally, youth organizations and community participation opportunities that exist, often connected to formal schools, provide pathways toward invisible learning. Most often, we see this through scouting, clubs, and extension programs where students are not evaluated on a rigorous program, but instead earn badges, develop creative products, and create community-relevant outcomes that are based on their own interests.

Free play and exploration

Free play is a natural human activity where invisible learning flourishes. Through play, children discover their interests and aptitudes. Play inspires curiosity to test boundaries and learn social rules and norms, together with the development of many soft skills. Unfortunately, mainstream approaches to education ignore or underplay its importance in learning. Psychologist Peter Gray defines play as:

“first and foremost, self-chosen and self-directed. Players choose freely whether or not to play, make and change the rules as they go along, and are always free to quit. Second, play is intrinsically motivated; that is, it is done for its own sake, not for external rewards such as trophies, improved résumés, or praise from parents or other adults. Third, play is guided by mental rules (which provide structure to the activity), but the rules always leave room for creativity. Fourth, play is imaginative; that is, it is seen by the players as in some sense not real, separate from the serious world. And last, play is conducted in an alert, active, but relatively unstressed frame of mind” (from an interview in Journal of Play, Spring 2013).

Play is separate from sports and other organized activities in that it is explorative and satisfies an individual’s curiosity to try new ideas or simulate different possibilities in the world. Through play, a learner’s environment becomes his or her laboratory. This satisfaction of curiosity encourages the development of auto-didacticism, the practice of learning by one’s self.

Similar to free play is free exploration within our own communities and beyond to learn from others. What happens, for example, when children explore a culture beyond their own? What do they discover? How does it change them? What skills, competencies, or insights might they develop? Many of the answers to these questions are difficult to quantify or measure, but research suggests they can be related through the development of soft skills (i.e., intercultural competence, capabilities to handle ambiguity, empathy), which are critical outputs of invisible learning. This is learning beyond codifiable curricula, and places trust in kids that they can develop their own skills.

Building cultures of trust

To break free from the structures of control, we need to build cultures of trust. We need to trust children to learn without being told what to learn. Democracies are built on trust and shared responsibility. Free play and exploration are built on trusting others to help us learn from each other.

Teachers and school leaders have many opportunities to develop pathways toward invisible learning through participation, play, and exploration. These can be realized through their own development and praxis as well as through their work with students. But, the bottom line is enabling invisible learning is centered on trust, and trusting that children always learn — no matter what. As we wrote in Manifesto 15:

“The thrill of jumping off a cliff by deciding to do so yourself is a high you will never have if someone else pushes you off of it. In other words, the top-down, teacher-student model of learning does not maximize learning as it devours curiosity and eliminates intrinsic motivation. We need to embrace flat, horizontalized, and distributed approaches to learning, including peer learning and peer teaching, and empower students to realize the authentic practice of these modes. Educators must create space to allow students to determine if, and when, to jump off the cliff. Failing is a natural part of learning where we can always try again. In a flat learning environment, the teacher’s role is to help make sure the learner makes a well-balanced decision. Failing is okay, but the creation of failures is not.”


Posts in this series

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

Evolving learning in Istanbul

We enjoyed a wonderful evening in Istanbul at an event organized by Egitimpedia, a group of education leaders in Turkey who are focused on educational innovation. Egitimpedia is also responsible for the Turkish translation of Manifesto 15.

Together with Egitimpedia founder, Ali Koç, Education Futures founder John Moravec shared the principles of Manifesto 15 in a joint seminar, connected to SOMECE in Mexico. The connection by Skype enabled us to have a true East-West and South-North dialogue on the future of education.

John Moravec opened the seminar with a presentation on the story behind Manifesto 15. He asked, “We need to ask ourselves what we are educating for, and precisely for whom is this all supposed to benefit?” He continued with trends in technology and labor markets, concluding that none of today’s jobs can be considered “safe.” We need to train to adapt to and build jobs and professions that do not exist yet.

Ali Koç shared his experience growing up in a village in Kırsehir. Relating his own experiences as a child in 1970s central Turkey, he emphasized how the non-formal and informal elements of his education connected to the Manifesto 15 principles.

The last part of the event consisted of questions and comments by participants and followers online. Thank you to the 80+ attendees who participated (plus hundreds online), and for making the conversation so rich!

Ali Koç shares his experiences learning in Central Turkey

Ali Koç shares his experiences learning in Central Turkey

Rene Herrera shares his comments on Manifesto 15 on behalf of SOMECE

Rene Herrera shares his comments on Manifesto 15 on behalf of SOMECE

80+ participants joined us live in Istanbul, plus hundreds more online

80+ participants joined us live in Istanbul, plus hundreds more online

A group photo

A group photo with many of the participants

The organization team in Istnabul

The organization team in Istnabul

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

Become a Manifesto 15 Ambassador

We are looking for change makers around the world to help us spread the word about Manifesto 15.

As an Ambassador, you play a key role in building the conversation and growing the Manifesto 15 movement in your community. At Education Futures, we will help connect you with resources and ideas to help make a difference, and you will be a part of a network of like-minded Ambassadors!

Manifesto 15 Ambassadors

  • Are committed to evolving learning
  • Serve as the voice of the Manifesto 15 movement in their community
  • Design local campaigns to share the message and encourage others to take action
  • Share what they’ve learned with a global network

Examples of what Ambassadors do

  • Hand out stickers and other materials to share the Manifesto 15 vision
  • Attend community meetings and speak out on evolving learning
  • Organize meet-ups of like-minded change makers
  • Organize workshops to create an action agendas for their community
  • … and, other activities that authentically connect the principles of Manifesto 15 with their own initiatives!

Full information on the Manifesto 15 Ambassadors page.

Apply to become an Ambassador!

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Manifesto 15: Where do we go now?

manifesto15-eudec

In an webinar discussion, as part of the IDEC@Internet digital symposium, Drs. Kelly Killorn-Moravec and John Moravec discussed their findings from World Café conversations at the European Democratic Education Community (EUDEC) annual meeting in Warsaw in August, 2015. In these conversations, they invited the EUDEC community to provide feedback and insight on how to best actualize the principles enshrined in Manifesto 15.

The following notes present a summary of our conversations, together with actionable “next steps” that will be worked on by the Manifesto 15 community and shared further at the IDEC@EUDEC conference in June, 2016.

Question 1: What good examples or good practices already exist?

Participants in this discussion identified many practices that currently exist which fit within with framework of the Manifesto 15 principles. In regard to educators, these include growing the number of teachers who are questioning and seeking answers for change, sharing good ideas with one another, and living the principles of Manifesto 15.

Current good practices specific to learners include engaging students emotionally, socially, and mentally by creating a physical space conducive for learning and developing within it an environment of respect and transparency through providing opportunities for moving from child-centered toward child-emergent learning, allowing for personal choice in learning, connecting to students’ previous experiences and interests, and participating in projects involving collaboration and teamwork. Specific examples included free-schooling methods, “flipped” classroom instruction, students as teachers where the teacher is a partner or mentor, mixed-age groups, developing a school government system, providing opportunities for social entrepreneurships during which students learn through engaging with the community, student education retreats, student-developed startup weekends funded through foundation resources, Social Impact Awards, and the development of learning communities where participants are both teachers and learners simultaneously and on equal terms and are engaged through mixed disciplines and subjects, linked to society’s needs. Resources for development currently being used included Ted Talk videos and discussion, MOOCs, networking and collaborating through EDUFORUM, and systemic modeling of teaching and learning methodologies.

Question 2: Where do you want to go in the future?

Ideas for a future vision of education were also considered. These centered on the concepts of learning environment and relationship building. Within the topic of learning environment, participants suggested ideas such as changing the model to allow for more “knowmadic” experiences, removing compulsion from schooling, providing free opportunities for education and learning, classes with mixed-age groups, differentiated settings for learning, small class sizes to encourage student cooperation and collaboration, development of centers for projects on different topics, student choice in course offerings and learning opportunities, developing one’s own sense of learning, students leading teaching with teachers serving as advisors or mentors, development of soft skills, providing a space for failure and supporting students in their attempts to try and fail, developing a safe space for communication, and cultivating an environment of trust where intercultural respect exists and everyone is tolerant of one another.

Similarly, participants identified the importance and advantage of integrating “micro worlds” through developing relationships between students, parents, schools, and communities. Through this interconnected community, experiences can be shared and ideas may be communicated; global and transnational learning communities can be developed; and established resources (universities, communities, libraries, texts, etc.) may be connected and shared with interested learners. Finally, needs were identified to further develop teacher preparation coursework to support these ideas and the principles of Manifesto 15, while deliberately incorporating technology in non-invasive, “invisible” ways.

Question 3: What are our next steps to make this happen and what can we share with future Manifesto 15 groups?

As participants discussed what they envisioned for the future, several next steps emerged. First, developing opportunities to promote, explain, discuss, and further clarify the principles of Manifesto 15 through development of a glossary of terms, translation into new languages, synthesis of new ideas, and authentic redistribution through such means as social media presence, stickers, bumper stickers, magnets, notebooks, calendars, t-shirts, and short video clips highlighting each principle. Further, curating the principles of Manifesto 15 within communities and online could be done through a group of “Manifesto 15 Ambassadors” who would share and promote ideas, co-educate one another, and involve kids (we are already moving forward with this idea and will have an update soon).

Second, participants suggested identifying more good practices for application, such as deconstructing the myths in education and sharing the realities of schools; being examples of openness and trust; sharing the experiences of what has been done, what is wanted, and what is needed; using every opportunity to learn; and taking time for reflection and summary.

Third, the importance of creating communities through a shared trust was also discussed. This might be done by connecting with – and involving – schools, businesses, communities, and industries through shared communication, education, and decision-making; organizing and gathering people to produce impactful collective action; and engaging teachers within various contents (English, vocational, humanities, social sciences, etc.) in discussion around the principles of Manifesto 15.

Finally, it was suggested that we might involve political groups and influence decision-makers to create alternatives to what currently exists. Examples of this include taking steps to change teacher education programs, merging formal and informal education, and developing opportunities for entrepreneurial skills development, and creating a union to advocate for children’s rights.

Manifesto 15: A handbook for leading change

On January 1, 2015, Manifesto 15 was released: a statement that inspired a conversation about principles for building positive education futures, grounded on the idea that we urgently need to evolve learning. This is a public declaration of a vision for better education futures. In the months since its release, it’s been read and discussed by thousands of people, signed by hundreds, featured in various media and conferences, and teams of volunteers around the world have translated it into a growing number of languages (and visual notes!) – and the movement continues to grow!

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 3.00.51 PM

We are thankful for the interest in this project and the support we have received around the world. To help continue the conversation, we have drafted a handbook for leading change, which is available at the Manifesto 15 website.

This handbook presents some guidelines on how we can move forward, including hosting conversations, workshops, and starting local Manifesto 15 groups. The guide is an invitation to join us and build community, centered on trust and open dialogue, as we work to change the face of education. And, it contains some posters to help you get started with your own messaging.

Please take Manifesto 15 as a starting point, and build in your own ideas and practices. Or, create and share your own sets of principles. The manifesto and the emerging movement is open for discussion, remixing, and sharing – and we encourage you to drive the conversation with your own networks.

If there’s any way that we can help with conversations in your own community, please do not hesitate to contact us: manifesto15@educationfutures.com.

SOMECE and Education Futures announce inter-institutional agreement

MEXICO CITY (November 10, 2015)– SOMECE, the Mexican Society for Computing in Education, today announced an inter-institutional partnership with Minneapolis-based Education Futures LLC to further academic activities and professional development aimed at education, training, and the dissemination of research, particularly in regard to further developing the movement for change that is based on the principles espoused in Manifesto 15.

Speaking at their international virtual symposium this morning, SOMECE president Luis Lach stated, “this partnership with Education Futures allows us to rethink the use of computers and other technologies in our schools and universities.” Added Education Futures founder and Manifesto 15 lead author John Moravec, “with this agreement in place, we can start to leverage North-South and South-North ideas and resources toward generating solutions that will benefit all students and learning organizations.”

Read Manifesto 15 online at http://manifesto15.org.

Released at the beginning of this year, Manifesto 15 is a public declaration of a vision for education futures, based on what the authors learned through their own research and experiences. It issues challenges such as, “if ‘technology’ is the answer, what was the question?” And, it boldly states that “1.0 schools cannot educate 3.0 kids,” while providing principles for creating meaningful solutions. As an open document, the manifesto has been translated by volunteers into 18 language (to date), annotated with visual graphics, streamlined with a version for kids, and has appeared in print and digital media worldwide.

The challenges we face are centered on fundamental problems. Moravec elaborated, “we separate kids by age and grade, we manage schools in a top-down style, we operate within industrial hours, and teachers hold absolute power and authority over students — these are part of a mainstream structure implemented around the world in schools that is not backed by research. We’ve assumed that if we don’t tell students what to learn, they will not learn anything at all.” Moreover, he continues, “we’ve lost touch with WHAT we are educating for, WHY we do it, and FOR WHOM this is all intended to benefit.”

“While we may not be able to predict the future with precision, we can at least set the vision for the type of potential futures we can create with others,” said Lach. “Manifesto 15 is not a mirror to the past, but it is a prism that takes a diverse spectrum of ideas and melds them into a coherent vision that helps us to rethink how we approach educational technologies. With this vision, we now have clearer pathways to make change happen today.”

SOMECE-Education Futures collaboration announced at SOMECE's virtual symposium in Mexico City

SOMECE-Education Futures collaboration announced at SOMECE’s virtual symposium in Mexico City

SOMECE is a Mexican non-profit that, since 1986, promotes the widespread use of information and communications technologies at all levels and in all forms of education, training, and human resource development. http://www.somece.org.mx

Education Futures LLC is a global education research and development agency with experience in collaborating with creatives, thought leaders, innovators, and learning organizations to create new opportunities for human capital development. https://www.educationfutures.com

Contact: Education Futures, info@educationfutures.com

A kid’s take on Manifesto 15

Our summer Education Futures intern, Hillel, has created a video on his work related to Manifesto 15 for kids! He translated the text into a kid-friendly version (http://manifesto15.org/kids), visited a maker faire, and created a rocket in Minecraft. In this video, presented in his own way with his own words, he shares his work and his thoughts on what he has learned this summer.

Creative classrooms in Patagonia

Education Futures founder, John Moravec, had the pleasure of visiting with the Ministry of Education in the Province of Chubut, Argentina for Aulas Creativas on February 27-28 this year. The program team recently published this excellent video, which outlines new perspectives for thinking about education.

When John released Manifesto 15 two months earlier, he had no idea that the message and the movement it is inspiring would grow so quickly, and attract so much international attention, especially in Patagonia. We are really touched that this work is helping to change the conversation and form new perspectives for evolving education in the province. For us, that’s the most rewarding part of our work.

John wrote to us:

In this brief visit, I enjoyed meeting the ministry and area teachers. I am grateful for the hospitality Ileana Farre and her husband, Ian Davie, extended to me during my visit. After hanging out with Ileana, Ian, and Gonzalo Frasca, I must say there is nothing better than good company and great food with dinosaurs, great views of the Southern Sky, and penguins!