Viewing posts tagged outcomes

Educational innovation in Puebla

Education Futures and Fundación Ceibal (Uruguay) are pleased to share the outcomes of their 2-month research project for the Secretary of Public Education of the State of Puebla (“SEP-Puebla,” Mexico). Dr. John Moravec served as the primary investigator for the study La innovación educativa en Puebla: Las voces de los actores.

Click this link to read the full report (in Spanish).

Project background and objectives

The SEP-Puebla identified the need to assess the main achievements, challenges and future actions for developing a better future for education in the state of Puebla.  The innovative feature of the study relied in directly involving and listening to local actors (students, teachers and parents), who are affected by educational policies. Moreover, this is related to the increasing use of digital technologies, its associated practices along with the new challenges and opportunities for the teaching and learning processes. In the case of Mexico, it is particularly important to assess the challenges associated with the implementation of the national program for inclusion and digital literacy, the Programa de Inclusión y Alfabetización Digital.

The research was developed in three phases. The first was based in a survey to assess people perceptions about different topics. The data collected informed the development of the second phase of the study, based in the World Café methodology. The use of this open and inclusive methodology fostered a collaborative exchange between participants around four thematic areas: New ways of knowing, learning, teaching and assessing; Teachers in the Digital Age; Social uses of ICT and digital culture; Resources and Platforms. The third phase included the data analysis and final reporting.

Main questions addressed by the research:

  • Which achievements of the current administration of SEP-Puebla you consider more relevant?
  • Looking forward, which are the main challenges faced by education? What kind of innovations are needed in the educational agenda?
  • Which actions and actors should be taken into consideration in the educational agenda strategic planning in Puebla?

The questions above, were jointly developed with SEP-Puebla. Despite the fact that the use of tablets in schools and the implementation of the program were relevant parts of the study, the research trascends those topics and is focused in capturing the voices of the actors involved.

The research concluded with recommendations that aim to help thinking in innovative strategies for promoting ICT access and use in the state of Puebla. These are structured around three main areas: Flexibility for promoting new teaching and learning mechanisms. Self-efficacy through the promotion of sustainable and decentralized models that stimulate innovative practices, collaborative work and solidarity. Community culture that creates value from the exchange of knowledge among communities.

Click this link to read the full report (in Spanish).

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

A theory for invisible learning

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

Theory for Invisible Learning

When Cristóbal Cobo and I set out to write the book Aprendizaje Invisible (“Invisible learning”) five years ago, we sought to take a 360° and 3D view of the educational landscape—with an eye toward the future. We found the gap between formal learning and informal and non-formal modes of learning is becoming increasingly apparent.

We initially structured invisible learning as a metatheory, which recognizes that most of the learning we do is “invisible” —that is, it is through informal, non-formal, and serendipitous experiences rather than through formal instruction. We learn alone, or in a group, through individual and shared experiences. We learn more through experimentation, exploration, and through the consequences of enabling serendipity. Even though we cannot measure the knowledge in our heads, the consensus is that the vast majority of our knowledge is developed through invisible or informal means (see esp. this classic article by Jay Cross).

Invisible learning is not a theory for learning, itself. It is an end point or state of learning that emerges when we remove structures that control or direct our experiences. Therefore:

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.

The purpose of controlling an educational experience is to make learning visible. It is built on distrust of the learner – the false assumption that students will not learn unless they are told what to learn. In this sense, invisible learning is the end product of a theory which predicts that learning may blossom when we eliminate authoritarian control or direction of a learning experience by an “other” (i.e., teacher).

Removing structures of control opens possibilities. The end outcomes or goals of an experience are neither dictated nor determined from the start, but instead emerge as learning develops. Such experiences include free play, self-organized learning communities, authentic problem-based learning, and experimentation to acquire new knowledge.

Theory for Invisible Learning is focused on the development of personal knowledge: blends of tacit and explicit elements that embrace a portfolio of skills such as cooperation, empathy, and critical thinking as much as retaining facts. The implication is that there is no master template for enabling invisible learning, but rather we need to attend to the formation of an ecology of options for individuals to find their own ways. This suggests a growing need for bottom-up approaches to learning. By removing the rigidity of top-down control, and placing trust in learners, invisible learning can be made visible.

Posts in this series

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

Redesigning the future of education in Knowmad Society: Our next steps

In case if you missed my keynote at IPON, I’m sharing slides from my talk via SlideShare:

IPON is moving away from serving as an ICT platform for education toward a platform for innovation in education. This requires a very human touch, and I aimed to reflect this aspect in my talk with an overview of Knowmad Society.

How we’ll get to the meaningful development of workers who can work anytime, anywhere, and with anybody in a knowmadic world requires significant realignment of our educational priorities. At IPON, I shared three approaches:

  1. Focus on soft skills development.In our book, Invisible Learning, Cristóbal Cobo and I explored the important roles of informal and soft skills learning — many of which contribute to elements of success in modern organizations or entrepreneurial activities. These include leadership, responsibility, managing chaos and uncertainty, and maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships. And, these are very hard for formal schools to teach if we keep on focusing on hard skills development and curricula designed to meet the needs of a society where change occurs slowly. In today’s world, change is occurring so rapidly, that the hard skills students develop may be obsolete by the time they graduate. With an appropriate mix of soft skills, they might have a better job at surviving a job interview.
  2. Attend to the creation of new ecologies of learning. This requires taking risk. We are so adverse to risk in education, that we rarely try anything new. As a result, we are at risk of failing universally. It’s time to expand the ecology of learning formats and intended outcomes, allowing learners and communities to find their own way, and develop their own pathways to success.
  3. Reinvent our relationships with technologies. Too often, schools behave as consumers of technologies, buying into ideas and practices developed by others. This is a block to innovation, and, as a result, we tend to use new technologies to do the same old stuff. It’s time for schools to rethink their relationships with technologies, and to consider designing solutions that are meaningful for them as prosumers, if not as outright full producers.

Above all, to make all of this happen, we need vision. To me, it seems we have a global crisis. We don’t know where we want to go. Our vision for the future isn’t as clear as it used to be.

Some people say we need a revolution. Others say we need to innovate. We need both. Or, as Ronald van den Hoff puts it in Knowmad Society: We need an INNOVUTION.

Nine key characteristics of knowmads in Society 3.0

A knowmad is what I have previously termed a nomadic knowledge and innovation worker – that is, a creative, imaginative, and innovative person who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere. Moreover, knowmads are valued for the personal knowledge that they possess, and this knowledge gives them a competitive advantage. Industrial society is giving way to knowledge and innovation work. Whereas the industrialization of Society 1.0 required people to settle in one place to perform a very specific role or function, the jobs associated with knowledge and information workers have become much less specific in regard to task and place. Moreover, technologies allow for these new paradigm workers to work either at a specific place, virtually, or any blended combination. Knowmads can instantly reconfigure and recontextualize their work environments, and greater mobility is creating new opportunities.

In Invisible Learning, Cristóbal Cobo and I presented a “passport of skills for a knowmad” (p. 57). Refining the list a bit, I am pleased to present an update with nine key characteristics of knowmads in Society 3.0:


  1. Are not restricted to a specific age. (see note, below)
  2. Build their personal knowledge through explicit information gathering and tacit experiences, and leverage their personal knowledge to produce new ideas.
  3. Are able to apply their ideas and expertise contextually in various social and organizational configurations.
  4. Are highly motivated to collaborate, and are natural networkers, navigating new organizations, cultures, and societies.
  5. Purposively use new technologies to help them solve problems and transcend geographical limitations.
  6. Are open to sharing what they know, and invite the open access to information, knowledge and expertise from others.
  7. Develop habits of mind and practice to learn continuously, and can unlearn as quickly as they learn, adopting new ideas and practices as necessary.
  8. Thrive in non-hierarchical networks and organizations.
  9. Are not afraid of failure — and see their failures as learning opportunities.

The remixing of places and social relationships is also impacting education. Students in Knowmad Society should learn, work, play, and share in almost any configuration. But there is little evidence to support any claim that education systems are moving toward a knowmad-enabled paradigm. When we compare the list of skills required of knowmads to the outcomes of mainstream education, I wonder: What are we educating for? Are we educating to create factory workers and bureaucrats? Or, are we educating to create innovators, capable of leveraging their imagination and creativity?

These questions –and more– will be explored further in the book Knowmad Society, which will be released later this year.

Note: Due to current social structures that limit participation in the new society (i.e., access to pooled health insurance), the largest growth in knowmadic workers today are among youth and older workers.

Three alternatives to temponormative pedagogy

When most people mention the word “pedagogy,” they are likely to think of it within a temponormative framework. It is a framework that embraces linear time and Cartesian thinking. This continues to be the most prevalent framework within Western educational contexts. A linear conceptualization of time ensures that the learning process has a beginning and an end, with predictable (and measurable) waypoints between. The causal linearity of the temponormative frame allows for the developmental procession of teaching and learning that is often best suited for transmitting explicit knowledge to learners.

The temponormative approach has worked well in the industrial era, but afforded the purposive use of technologies, can we break away from this old framework to one that is organic and synergetic, rather than mechanical — one that supports the creation of knowledge workers and innovators over factory automatons? Pekka Ihanainen (at HAAGA-HELIA and Ihanova) and I think we can. To start the discussion, in a paper we submitted for a special issue of time in Studia Paedagogica, we propose three alternatives to break us away from temponormative pedagogies: pointillist, cyclical, and overlapping. The following text is excerpted and adapted from the paper.

Pointillist learning

Elements for pointillist learning are masses of fragments and pieces – i.e., as used within Twitter messaging. They transmit, separately, beginnings for events, middle-points of events and endings of events in an order that may seem perceptibly vague. Among others, they comprise experiences, opinions, perceptions, comments, and “what if” scenarios.

The spontaneous nature of pointillist learning has always been a natural part of everyday human activity. When pointillist learning is examined from a pedagogical point of view, it opens itself as an anti- or a de-pedagogy. The greatest challenge for de-pedagogy is that we must trust that learning actually takes place, and that de-pedagogical learning is both valuable and significant. For pedagogical activity, de-pedagogy means that, as facilitators of learning, we have to give up our role as teachers and to start being and working as co-learners and peers within the pointillist environments we are involved.

Cyclical learning

In online forums, where participation (usually discussion) occurs within threads as a more or less dialogical activity, densification and diffusion of learning intensity are present to experience and take part in. The cyclical activity and learning is connected with an ability to observe intensive periods of online interaction and to join them. New competencies emerge in the perception of pulses from within emerging processes of thoughts, emotions, and understandings (among others). Often times, people wish to continue their explorations and re-understandings of pointillist events and contextualize the knowledge to better suit their own needs and interests. For this reason, we label this phenomena a re-pedagogy.

Overlapping learning

The above three frameworks do not necessarily exist exclusive of each other, but can coexist and overlap within simple or complex relationships. Overlapping may occur as 1) fragments within fragmentary entities; or, 2) waves within pulsating content processes. In regard to the former, for example, it recognizes the ability to move from pointillist activities to cyclical learning and vice versa. In regard to the latter, this includes an ability to construct new insights, conceptualizations, and contextual applications for knowledge given pulsating waves of cyclical, pointillistic and/or temponormative pedagogies. Overlapping pedagogies may be expressed through the overlapping uses of technologies. For example, in online education, microblogging (a pointillist activity) may be layered with intense activity within discussion forums (a cyclical activity).

Overlapping learning is knowledge building of everything/anything, everywhere/anywhere and at all times/anytime. In other words, overlapping learning is boundless in its scope and capabilities. When the learning of everything/anything, everywhere/anywhere and at all times /anytime is examined from pedagogical point of view, it can be seen as pedagogy of encoding. The overlapping education is therefore labeled en-pedagogy.











Cartesian, linear




Knowledge produced


Personal (explicit and tacit)

Personal and social

Personal and social

Learning happens through…



Evolution of dialog

Convergence of direction, serendipity and evolution

Learning outcomes pre-defined






Lectures, readings

Microblogging, podcast

Online forums


Our challenge

The problem is, although we are familiar with many of the technological tools that enable these pedagogies, we still view the process and the experience through the lens of temponormativity. Recognition of this framework with expanded temporal characteristics calls on us to develop new, purposive approaches that embrace and maximize the best of any configuration of de-, re-, and en-pedagogies.

Afforded the post-temponormative capabilities of online environments, how can we best leverage these multidimensional understandings of pedagogical time to facilitate multidimensional learning and meaningful new knowledge production?

Five secrets futurists don't want you to know

Professional futurists continue to make outstanding contributions toward the development of understandings of the future, but is futures thought limited to this select group? Definitely not! With a do-it-yourself attitude, and leverage of the right resources, anybody can become an effective futurist. Here’s why:

  1. Nobody knows the future – don’t trust anybody who says otherwise. The world is changing at an accelerating pace, and it’s simply getting harder and harder to imagine what will happen next, let alone 20 years from now. We are all white belts when it comes to approaching the future. We have never been there before, and it is hard to model a world that does not exist yet. What futurists provide is their “best guess” — hopefully supported by quality research and trends analyses.
  2. Futuring is easier than you think. While some futures research methodologies, such as the Delphi method, require an element of professional experience and expertise, many others are easily done — and should be done — by just about anybody. Environmental scanning, for example, involves simply exposing yourself to as much data and information on a broad range as possible (i.e., reading as many newspapers as you can, daily). The futures wheel is related to mindmapping, and can be easily done within individual or group settings. Jerome Glenn and Theodore Gordon wrote an excellent volume on methodologies used by futurists, Futures Research Methodology Version 3.0 (Available at For do-it-yourself futurists or those wishing to explore the field, it is an excellent resource that will get you going.
  3. We are all futurists. Few activities are as natural and universal among humans and human cultures are storytelling. We use stories to share our memories and imaginations of events that have happened or will happen. We use stories to share histories, fables and myths of the past. We also use stories to share visions of and for the future — including goal setting, promises of change, narratives of how we improve ourselves, and even apocalyptic nightmares. Even in our sleep, we often dream about future scenarios. Futurists explicitly tap into our stories and the power of storytelling to share their visions and dreams. So can everybody else.
  4. You can access the same information as professional futurists can. Unless if you’re divining knowledge from an isolated and highly controlled information source, the ubiquitous availability of data and information in today’s networked society mean that you can easily and cost-effectively build up your knowledge base of future trends. Moreover, you are welcome to join the same professional societies that professional futurists participate in, such as the World Future Society, providing you with the same connections and access to professional society-level knowledge they have.
  5. We all create the future. Futurists do not create the future, everybody does. Time may move forward, but the future does not just “happen.” Rather we share a responsibility to ensure that the futures we create are positive (ideal outcomes for humanity, the world, etc.). Moreover, in our interconnected world, we cannot disconnect from our futures. We cannot “futureproof” an organization. Nor can we find ways to fight it as individuals. Rather we can harness our inner futurists and lead in the creation of futures of our own design.

Summer in review: Part 1

Summer in Oxford

We return from our reduced summer publication schedule — this week, we will focus on some highlights of what others talked about while we were away. Today, we start with a look at higher education:

First: Writing for the New York Times, Jacques Steinberg ponders on whether the standard length for undergraduate programs should be shortened to three years — a move that could put a dent into the cost of higher education. Building from UPenn professor Robert Zemsky’s call for three-year programs, Steinberg writes:

The idea of a three-year degree has already won support. On Monday, The Arizona Republic reported that “Arizona State University wants to develop a network of lower-priced colleges where students could earn bachelor’s degrees in just three years.” The article added that “the plan, which could cut the cost of a degree by about 40 percent, or $11,150, goes before the Arizona Board of Regents on Thursday for discussion, although the board won’t vote until later this year.”

Second: Writing for the SFGate, Carole Lloyd observes that “Online education, long an ugly duckling of the ivory towers of the world, is coming into its swan years.” Of particular interest:

Vicky Phillips, founder of, which rates online education degrees and filters out diploma mills, says that in the past 12 months, she has seen an 18 percent increase in enrollment inquiries for online college degrees on her Web site – with the strongest increase in associate degrees and certificates.

Moreover, Lloyd noted that “the Department of Education released a study suggesting that a mix of online and face-to-face education produces the best learning outcomes. Exclusively online education proved slightly more effective than only face-to-face learning.”

Read more at SFGate and check out the Department of Education’s meta-analysis of the online vs. in-person spectrum.

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?

Leapfrogging to the New Basics

classroom in Anqing

Are the old basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic relevant in the 21st century? Or, is it time for an upgrade?

Arthur Harkins and I assembled a list of New Basics for education that can help us leapfrog to an education paradigm that is both innovative and relevant for the 21st century and beyond. These learning outcomes are not intended to be definitive. They are, however, designed to serve as starting points for conversations on how youth-oriented human capital development systems may become more innovative and encourage learning that is more meaningful.

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