University of Minnesota

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E-competencies: Building human capital for the 22nd century

Upcoming event:

October 31, 2008

Mexico City, Mexico

Conference website:

The Knowledge Society demands that we leapfrog ahead in our education systems, build a new digital literacy, and improve soft skills (creativity, innovation, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking, among others) that could help all 21st century citizens become productive, effective knowledge workers. Educators, policymakers, business leaders, parents, and youth must identify and develop new sets of e-skills and e-competencies to help youth succeed, and build a capacity for success toward the 22nd century.  The purpose of this event is to identify, project and discuss the e-skills and e-competencies required for success in the 21st and early 22nd centuries. This event will explore, gather and analyze relevant experiences in training and development of e-skills throughout North America.

The activity builds from the collaborative work of scholars from FLACSO-México, the University of Minnesota and the University of Toronto.  This public session invites thought leaders and innovators in the development of the e-skills to share their work and experiences. Guest presenters will be invited to participate physically or virtually, and all presentations will be recorded, translated into Spanish and English, and available for viewing online and discussion.

This event is funded through the support of PIERAN, the Interinstitutional Program for North American Studies at El Colegio de México, and the collaborating institutions.

This is not your typical conference!

To facilitate focused discussions and innovative approaches to dialogue on e-competencies, the organizing committee has established the following rules:

  • No presentation may be longer than 10 minutes (this is the maximum length allowed by YouTube, and will be strictly enforced).
  • A maximum of four PowerPoint (or similar) slides will be allowed.  It is the presenter’s responsibility to ensure both English and Spanish versions of their slides and any accompanying materials are available.

In addition:

  • There are no registration fees for this conference!
  • Although in-person presentations are encouraged, presenters may participate virtually (via Skype or Adobe Acrobat Connect) or in-person.
  • Participants that find it difficult to participate via live video or in person may contribute a pre-recorded YouTube (or similar) video to be shown during the event and made available in the online library.
  • Presenters and participants from throughout the world are invited.
  • All participants will be invited to continue our discussions online at this conference website and elsewhere.
  • All conference products will be made available for further dissemination and development through a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license.

To submit a proposal, click here. (Deadline: September 26, 2008)

More information at the conference website:

Owatonna's model for the 21st century

At yesterday’s Horizon Forum meeting at the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Steve O’Conner, Director of Instructional Services for Owatonna Public Schools, presented an overview of an initiative in a classroom in Washington Elementary School where a fifth grade classroom has gone mostly paperless. Desks are replaced with medicine balls and music stands, and textbooks, papers and pens are replaced with laptop computers. We then connected to the classroom by videoconference, and spoke with the students and their teacher, Matt McCartney.

What do the kids think? They love it!

Jeff Cagle from Owatonna People’s Press joined the conversation in Owatonna, and wrote:

Megan Andrist said she found the laptops helpful because she was able to access a number of kid-friendly Web sites for research.

Cam Muchow enjoyed using technology and adding other elements such as digital photography to his assignments.

By removing desks from the classroom, the students are able to instantly reconfigure their learning and work settings. In theory, the instant physical reorganization and software-enhanced environment allows for more individualized instruction. One kinesiologist at the University of Minnesota wondered if the medicine balls could help reduce the need to medicate children diagnosed with neurobehavioral development disorders (i.e., ADHD). Others saw instant potential in the cost savings that can be realized by eliminating traditional desks. Again, we asked: what do the kids think? They love the medicine balls. Cagle wrote:

Most students, including Brady Steinhorst, enjoyed sitting on the therapy balls.

“Usually when you’re sitting in a chair, you have nothing to do,” he said, “and then you talk to a friend.”

Despite the excitement and hope the classroom is generating, a troubling question looms: What will happen to these kids when they graduate from the 5th grade and enter a middle school with desks, and where computers and other resources are restricted to tightly-controlled laboratories?

Special thanks goes to Superintendent Dr. Tom Tapper, principal Mary Baier, and Matt McCartney for their collaboration on this event.

Open source conference: From information to innovative knowledge

On April 16, I will join Dr. Cristóbal Cobo and colleagues at UNAM in Mexico City for an “Open source conference: From information to innovative knowledge.” I will frame my talk around my Education 1.0 – 3.0 taxonomy, and discuss how co-seminars/open seminars help to create relevant educational experiences for modern learners.

Since I will deliver my talk by video conference from the University of Minnesota, faculty, students, and readers of Education Futures are invited to join me in Education Sciences Building room 325. (The conference will start at 5pm sharp, so please plan to arrive early.)

Conferencia Open Source

International Leapfrog conference coming this fall

During October 12-14 of this year Anqing Teachers College will sponsor a conference on Leapfrog-inspired changes in the near futures of Chinese and U.S. education. The University of Minnesota, Anqing Teachers College, and the World Future Society are collaborators in this exciting development.

The official title of the conference is Interdisciplinary Education in Teacher Training Programs via Leapfrog Principles. More information about the conference will be released in the near future.

Eight draft papers for the ATC conference are linked here. Please make any comments that you feel will improve the papers. In the near future, the papers will be edited by Dr. Tim Mack, President of the World Future Society, for a special issue of the journal Futures Research Quarterly.

Where is the drive for entrepreneurship?

The StarTribune is running an excellent story on an intellectual property crisis at the University of Minnesota that probably is contextualizable to other “Research I”/”Research Universities (RU/VH)” universities as well: Entrepreneurship is avoided. Perhaps this is a cultural thing:

The university “provides all sorts of disincentives to new technology,” John Alexander, president of Twin Cities Angels, a local investor group, recently told the state’s House Committee on Biosciences and Emerging Technology.


“It was difficult to get access to intellectual property,” said Dale Wahlstrom, a former Medtronic executive who is now chief executive of the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota. “It was a one-sided discussion. If they couldn’t get the optimal deal, they wouldn’t do anything.”

The article goes on to suggest that “the university traditionally lacked the necessary money and managerial talent to turn promising research into viable companies.” As an employee of the University of Minnesota, I feel I should avoid addressing that topic. But, still, I wonder…

  • Is the drive for innovation and entrepreneurship what separates really great universities from the others?
  • If world-class private universities actively support entrepreneurial activities and support the spinning-off of enterprises (i.e., Stanford and MIT), why shouldn’t land grand institutions do so as well if they are providing for the public good by releasing technologies and other intellectual property that otherwise would not impact society?
  • As the rest of the world adopts new intellectual property models (i.e., Creative Commons), what will become of the research institutions that today fail to succeed in realizing opportunities from yesterday’s models?

A co-seminar in action

Following-up from yesterday’s post on the characteristics of co-seminars, here’s a taste of what they look like.

This joint co-seminar, organized between the University of Minnesota, FLACSO-México, FLACSO-Chile and the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja is an “open seminar” – that is, with permission from the students and collaborating institutions, all course content and most of the interactions are available online through the course content management system and blogs for each of the participating institutions (see the class blogs for UMN, FLACSO-Mex, FLACSO-Chile, and UTPL).

The four institutions connected each work through a different syllabus, but we meet virtually to discuss intersecting points of interest related to various knowledge formats, knowledge management, etc. In this co-seminar, we chose to post mini-lectures online, which are available in both English and Spanish (see Spanish and English examples of this week’s video). Students then bring their questions to a bi-weekly video conference (and Skypecast) for discussion. To compensate for instances where technology breaks down, podcasts of recorded discussions are made available for download, and instructor responses students’ questions are made available as YouTube or Google Video:

So, what makes co-seminar experiences different from other online or in-person learning options? I’ll post more reflections as the seminar continues, but several key areas have already emerged:

  1. Student work (posted on the blogs) is phenomenally improved over what typically is produced in courses. What has been posted so far in the past two weeks has been refreshing in terms of thoughtfulness and academic scope – is this because they know other people are viewing and reviewing their writing as professional work?
  2. Without a shared, core “empirical reality” of what knowledge is among the cultures represented, participants at each institution are beginning to learn to embrace and attend to the chaos and ambiguities that emerge in such a course.
  3. The amount of coordination among international partners required by instructors is tremendous –but, it’s all worthwhile as we are all learning new things and making new contacts.

More on co-seminars coming up over the next few months…

Just what are co-seminars?

A while back, I promised to share more on what co-seminars look like and how they operate. I promise to show a little bit tomorrow, with sample videos and a link to a co-seminar in progress. But, before I get to that, let me supply some background.

Co-seminars exhibit the following main characteristics:

  • international;
  • multilingual;
  • embraces the use of Web 2.0 technologies (i.e., blogs, wikis, SlideShare, YouTube) to share ideas and promote learning;
  • designed to enhance learning methodologies based on the principles of collective intelligence
  • problem solving in complex environments;;
  • purposive and intelligent use of information technology; and,
  • use freely-available or open source technologies to limit expenses.

The co-seminar model was designed by collaborating faculty at FLACSO-México (mainly Cristóbal Cobo) and the Leapfrog Institutes at University of Minnesota (Arthur Harkins and John Moravec). In a pilot of the co-seminar model in summer of 2008, we built a course that integrated internally-focused content on innovation, knowledge management, and a forward-looking analysis of education in the 21st and 22nd centuries. The project included training instructors from multiple countries, and the participation of specialists from around the world (through virtual and in-person participation).

The co-seminar experience involves a new academic approach –particularly in regard to innovative teaching—that moves away from “download”/banking pedagogies toward “upload and download”/co-constructivist pedagogies that thrive in interdisciplinary environments. This means that both students and their instructors both learn and create new, meaningful knowledge.

A taste of a co-seminar in progress is coming tomorrow…

"Tomorrow is yesterday"

“Tomorrow is yesterday,” Skyped an attendee at today’s Networks & Neighborhoods in Cyberspace conference at the University of Minnesota today. “Even worse – yesterday is tomorrow.” The irony is that this conference is supposed to be related to a Minnesota Futures grant project.


This conference is highlighting a key problem at the University of Minnesota that I am sure is endemic elsewhere: higher education is full of technology followers, but few leaders. In this conference on the virtues of innovative technologies in education, one panelist admitted to not using Web 2.0 in his work. Others complained of the obstructions and limitations presented by WebCT and Moodle. A few others admitted they have no idea what Facebook is, but feel obliged to promote it because their students use it.

At a Research I university, you think we would discuss the new technologies that we will create rather than try to describe the technologies that already exist that we don’t know how to use … or would prefer to not use. Instead of forming a Facebook or Moodle support group, can we start to talk about what we will create next?

Minnesota: 1998 called.  They want their educational technologies back.

Online Education: Innovation or Illusion?

Education Futures readers in Minnesota are invited to join us for the next Horizon Forum meeting!

Online Education: Innovation or Illusion?

Facilitated by Jeffrey Schulz

Friday, February 22

11:00am – 1:00pm

Arthur Upson Room, Walter Library (University of Minnesota East Bank)

As online education continues to explode at all school levels, many questions arise. Is it valid? Does it take funding away from traditional sources? How is it different from what is being delivered in brick and mortar schools? What futures exist for online education? As an added bonus, Allison Powell, Vice President for the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOLplans to join us via Adobe Connect for a portion of the time.

Jeffrey Schulz, Curriculum Coordinator for BlueSky Online Charter School (now a Leapfrog Institutes partner), will lead a discussion and working session regarding online education, current trends and research, along with visioning for the future. You are invited to join the discussion as we envision education for the 21st Century and beyond.

Lunch and validated parking will be provided. Please RSVP your attendance to Carole MacLean at or call 612-625-5060. We look forward to another rich conversation and hope you can join us!