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When governments try to understand open learning platforms

In the Chronicle of Higher Education this morning, Katherine Mangan raised the alarm: Minnesota has informed Coursera it is outlawed. From the article:

Coursera offers free, online courses to people around the world, but if you live in Minnesota, company officials are urging you to log off or head for the border.

The state’s Office of Higher Education has informed the popular provider of massive open online courses, or MOOC’s, that Coursera is unwelcome in the state because it never got permission to operate there.

It seems to me that the entire issue is moot. Coursera is not a university, and does not award university credit. Furthermore, attempts to limit Minnesotans’ access to alternative learning platforms could violate fundamental rights to association and assembly.

As we’ve seen the rapid growth of phenomena such as Coursera, MITx, Stanford’s d.school, Khan Academy, unschooling and uncollege movements, education leaders across the PreK-21 spectrum are scrambling to figure out “what’s next.” Policy makers and university leaders are at a loss of how to confront futures that may be radically different than what we enjoyed in the past, and they’re scrambling to find answers. This crisis, as I view it, is reflected in the drama President Sullivan experienced at the University of Virginia, MIT’s one-month blitz to find a new president, and even the University of Wisconsin’s scramble to develop a “Flexible Degree” program.

I think that we can expect these institutions to make more mis-steps as they try to understand the new learning landscape and their roles. This includes new ideas, language, and platforms where degrees may not be the end goal for learners. The unfortunate reality is that most policy leaders are playing catchup, not leading.

A conversation and workshop with the KaosPilots and Knowmads

For those of us in the Minneapolis area, I’m pleased to share news that the KaosPilots and Knowmads will visit with the University of Minnesota for a free event on redesigning university education.

Here’s the official announcement:

Following on the activities of the College of Design’s Design Intersections symposium (http://intersections.design.umn.edu/), the University of Minnesota community is invited to join in a FREE follow-up workshop, co-sponsored by the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development and the Jandris Center for Innovation in Higher Education:

Rethinking Teaching and Learning at the University of Minnesota: A Conversation and Workshop with The KaosPilots and Knowmads.

FULL EVENT DESCRIPTION: http://z.umn.edu/rethinking

Friday, March 30
9 am – noon, lunch follows
Shepherd Room, Weisman Art Museum

Registration will be limited to 50.

Join us for a FREE co-creation event at the University of Minnesota featuring global creatives from the KaosPilots (Aarhus, Denmark) and Knowmads (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) —innovative schools focused on applied creative and design thinking, business, and social entrepreneurship.
We will discuss the future of education and what it means for the University.

  • How can we rethink how we learn, share, and apply what we know in this time of accelerating technological and social change?
  • How we can apply design thinking principles to transform how we teach, learn, live and work in Minnesota?
  • How can students and faculty at the University of Minnesota be engaged in democratic, participatory ways in co-creating new approaches to teaching and learning?
We welcome the University community and others interested in education for building a creative and innovative Minnesota.

Event co-sponsors:  College of Design; Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development; Jandris Center for Innovative Higher Education; Humphrey School of Public Affairs; Carlson School of Management; and the Weisman Art Museum

For more information, visit http://z.umn.edu/rethinking or contact Virajita Singh (singh023@umn.edu) or John Moravec (moravec@umn.edu).

Will it blend? Social media and education

This morning, MPR’s Midmorning aired a forum on the role of social media and education. From the program’s description:

How can social media and technology influence the way students learn and the way teachers teach? Kerri Miller hosted a live forum discussion with a Minnesota-based entrepreneur who is pioneering a social teaching project called Sophia, an internet (sic) platform that aims to enhance student learning both in and out of the classroom.

I also give my two cents at 30:41 into the program:

Sophia is featured in the broadcast. To request a beta invitation, click here.

Fab Lab: Build 'almost anything'

“The Fab Lab program has strong connections with the technical outreach activities of a number of partner organizations, around the emerging possibility for ordinary people to not just learn about science and engineering but actually design machines and make measurements that are relevant to improving the quality of their lives.” [MIT Center for Bits and Atoms] Moreover, each Fab Lab is connected with others around the world, sharing ideas and experiences. Every Fab Lab user is required to document how they created products so that their inventions may be replicated anywhere around the world.

Yesterday afternoon, I visited the Fab Lab at Century College in Minnesota. A Fab Lab (fabrication laboratory) is a small-scale workshop with an array of computer controlled tools that cover several different length scales and various materials, and is the brainchild of MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld. The facility, faculty and institutional support for the initiative is amazing. Loaded with 3D printers, laser cutters, and other rapid prototyping and small-scale fabrication tools, allows uses to make “almost anything.”

My take on Fab Labs is that they provide school students and other members of the community with valuable expertise and resources to transform their creative ideas into tangible products … and, hopefully, meaningful outcomes and innovations. Since the Fab Labs blend social and fabrication technologies, I feel that school systems should consider either investing in the concept for every school, or collaborate actively with an institution that already has a Fab Lab.

Last November, I also had the privilege of visiting the Fab Lab hosted by the Waag Society in Amsterdam (the video in this link is worth watching). A couple of the key differences is that this Fab Lab is open to the public (at a cost), but is also integrated with the other services provided by the Waag Society (i.e., Creative Learning Lab, incubators) and its use is eligible for subsidization by the Dutch government through innovation grants.

An observation from my whirlwind tours of both facilities is that is the Minnesota-based Fab Lab seems to produce things that already exist, whereas the Dutch Fab Lab produces many new creations — things that have not existed yet. The question on my mind is, why is there a creativity gap? Is it a cultural phenomenon? Or, is it structural:

  • Is it because our education system is no longer producing many creatives (focusing instead on creating functionaries)?
  • Is it because the Dutch have access to a broader support system that draws creatives to the Fab Lab?

Or, is something else happening?

The impact of NCLB in the workplace

This year, Minnesota 2020 has released some exciting critiques of the state of education in Minnesota and nationally. And, by “exciting,” I mean sometimes scathing critiques … with a glimmer of hope. At the top of their hit list (and rightfully so) is No Child Left Behind. This morning, they blogged:

Last fall, the prestigious publication Education Week hosted an on-line chat about the federal No Child Left Behind law. One of the panelists was David Figlio, a professor at Northwestern University and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Ellen Solek of East Haddam, Conn., asked if Figlio was aware “of any current research that has, or is being conducted that determines correlation (if any) between K-12 student test scores, accountability, and future success in the workplace?”

This is a magnificent question because it goes to the heart of NCLB and how it relates to every Minnesotan. The question is simple: What difference does NCLB make?

Figlio doesn’t really have an answer. First, he says this: “It’s too early to know about the effects of accountability on workplace success.” Then he says “there have been a number of studies that have linked K-12 test scores to labor market outcomes as adults,” but then adds “these papers use data that are decades old, however.”

This is a great question: Does the government’s vision of education output products that are meaningful in today’s workforce? My hunch is that research will show that NCLB is failing to produce workers of the caliber the United States needs. NCLB is great at producing automatons that can parrot back responses required for tests (or make great assembly line workers), but not creatives that will power our growing imagination- and innovation-driven economy. Who will hire graduates from the NCLB generation?

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.)

The adequate yearly conspiracy?

Whitney Stark at Minnesota Public Radio wrote me to ask what I think about the increase in schools that fail to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under No Child Left Behind:

Minnesota Public Radio News is interested in learning more about what is going on with Minnesota’s declining and low Adequate Yearly Progress results. What are the underlying factors in these numbers? What is contributing? We would like you to help us learn! Working wuth Education Futures, I am sure that you have an informed and connected insight. We would love to hear from you.

You can help us learn more about Minnesota education and our recent AYPs at:
http://tinyurl.com/mprschooltests

And to learn more about the Public Insight Journalism Network, please go to:
http://americanpublicmedia.publicradio.org/publicinsightjournalism/

We would also love if you could post some information on our query in your blog, or pass that link along to students, volunteers, parents, co workers, a neighbor — anyone you feel may have thoughtful and informed insight into the topic.

Here is some info and links you can post:

More Minnesota schools failed to meet federal No Child Left Behind standards. Why?
The Minnesota Department of Education shows that a greater number of state schools are failing to meet federal education standards, falling nearly 10 percent from the previous year.
The survey also shows that, for the first time, most of the decline was in suburban schools.
What’s going on in your school?
Help MPR News understand what’s behind the increase. Please click here.
While Minnesota students actually got better test scores this year, only half the schools in Minnesota made adequate yearly progress, according to federal guidelines.That’s down from two-thirds last year and three-quarters in 2006 (for more information, read this story).

Most of this year’s decline was in the suburbs, since Minneapolis and St. Paul schools showed little change. Only four more urban schools were added to the state’s watch list this year, out of about 160.
What are the underlying factors for these numbers? What would you say are the one or two most significant reasons for the increase in schools failing to make AYP?
From your vantage point as a student, a parent, a teacher or administrator, help MPR News understand the significance of these test results. Tell us your insights.

A colleague who works with the Minnesota Department of Education on projects responded, “don’t they know that AYP is a conspiracy?”

More on this story tomorrow…  that is, if I can get my colleague to guest blog…!

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: