General

Announcing Education Futures Review

3392024746_0c67ed81e9_o

The hard truth is almost nobody reads research papers.

With over 100,000 scholarly journals across all fields (and growing), expanding bodies of information and knowledge, and high subscription costs, many journal articles fail to get noticed. One-in-three social sciences articles and 80% of articles in the humanities fail to get cited at all. We can only speculate as to how many people are actually looking at any of the articles.

And, we’re always busy. This is especially true for leaders and organizational decision makers. There is a lot of great research out there, but we have little time to filter through the noise to find that which is most relevant for innovating in education.

Let us help.

On February 15, 2016, we will launch Education Futures Review: A digest of essential research and news in education.

For the time being, subscriptions are offered for free at https://www2.educationfutures.com/review

Education Futures Review is curated by top experts for decision-makers and leaders in K-12 and higher education. The newsletter is distributed as a monthly email.

The newsletter covers “pre-K to grey” education news and research from around the world, with an approximately equal focus on both primary/secondary and tertiary education. Topical areas include: learning technologies, new approaches and concepts about learning, innovation in education, insightful research, and case studies for leaders, incorporating experiences from around the world.

The challenge decision-makers and other leaders face with academic research in education is that there is a LOT of it, and much of it is out of reach: ignored on library bookshelves, behind paywalls, or even written in ways that are not appealing to general readers. Education Futures Review cuts through these obstacles to provide an expert-curated and global perspective of the changing educational landscape. We intend to build this publication into essential weekly reading for every decision-maker and leader in education.

The publication’s target audiences are decision-makers and leaders in the education industry that either do not have the time to keep current on the latest research and ideas in learning or those that do not have the resources to access the hundreds of journals and news sources to keep current to lead with vision in their fields. These groups are particularly important to sponsors as they have the greatest influence on purchasing and resource allocation within their organizations.

Photo credit: Johann Dréo https://www.flickr.com/photos/nojhan/3392024746/

 

Creative classrooms in Patagonia

I 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 I released Manifesto 15 two months earlier, I 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. I am really touched that this work is helping to change the conversation and form new perspectives for evolving education in the province. For me, that’s the most rewarding part of my work.

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!

16213200153_a87ac1f089_k

Building a manifesto for evolving learning

What? Why? And, for whom?

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 structure in education around the world that is not backed by research. We’ve assumed that if we don’t tell kids what to learn, they will not learn anything at all.

This is absurd!

We’ve lost touch with WHAT we are educating for, WHY we do it, and FOR WHOM this is all intended to benefit.

On January 1st of this year, I released a statement that started a conversation. It is about principles for building positive education futures by evolving learning. The document is called “Manifesto 15” – a public declaration of a vision for education futures. After I completed a draft, I invited others to join in reviewing, editing, and to also add their names as co-authors. We are a group of 33 scholars, teachers, artists, designers, thinkers, and medical doctors. In the last three months since its release, it’s been read and discussed by thousands of people; signed by many; and volunteers translated it into 18 languages!

What we have learned so far:

  1. “The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed” (William Gibson in Gladstone, 1999). The field of education lags considerably behind most other industries largely from our tendency to look backward, but not forward. We teach the history of literature, for example, but not the future of writing. We teach historically important mathematical concepts, but do not engage in creating new maths needed to build the future. Moreover, everything “revolutionary” taking place in learning has already happened at different scales, in bits and pieces, at different places. The full impacts for ourselves and our organizations will be realized when we develop the courage to learn from each others’ experiences, and accept the risk and responsibility in applying a futures orientation in our praxis.
  2. 1.0 schools cannot teach 3.0 kids. We need to redefine and build a clear understanding of what we are educating for, why we do it, and for whomour educational systems serve. Mainstream compulsory schooling is based on an outdated, 18th century model for creating citizens with the potential to become loyal, productive factory workers and bureaucrats. In the post-industrial era, this should no longer be the end goal of education. We need to support learners to become innovators, capable of leveraging their own imagination and creativity to realize new outcomes for society. We do this because today’s challenges cannot be solved through old thinking. And, we are all co-responsible for creating futures with positive outcomes that benefit all people in the world.
  3. Kids are people, too. All students must be treated and respected as human beings with recognized, universal human rights and responsibilities. This means students must have an active say in the choices regarding their learning, including how their schools are run, how and when they learn, and all other areas of everyday life. This is inclusion in a real sense. Students of all ages must be afforded liberties to pursue educational opportunities and approaches for learning that are appropriate for them, as long as their decisions do not infringe on the liberties of others to do the same (adapted from EUDEC, 2005).
  4. 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.
  5. Don’t value what we measure, measure what we value. In our obsession over testing, we have somehow allowed the OECD to become the “world’s ministry of education” through the PISA regime, and the cult of educational measurement is spreading throughout the world. At a national, state-to-state level, it is as if we are competing to be the best-looking kid in a humdrum family. Even worse, our schools are producing politicians and policy leaders that do not know how to interpret test scores. The best innovations are often killed the moment we start worrying about measurement. We need to put an end to compulsory testing and reinvest these resources into educational initiatives that create authentic value and opportunities for growth.
  6. If “technology” is the answer, what was the question? We seem to obsess over new technologies while having little understanding of what they’re for or how they can impact learning. Technologies are great for doing what we have been doing better, but using new technologies to do the same old stuff in the classroom is a lost opportunity. Black boards have been replaced by whiteboards and SMART Boards. Books have been replaced by iPads. This is like building a nuclear plant to power a horse cart. Yet, nothing has changed, and we still focus tremendous resources on these tools, and squander our opportunities to exploit their potential to transform what we learn and how we do it. By recreating practices of the past with technologies, schools focus more on managing hardware and software rather than developing students’ mindware and the purposive use of these tools.
  7. Digital skills are invisible, and so should technologies be in schools. Invisible learning is a recognition 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 (Cobo & Moravec, 2011). It takes into account the impact of technological advances to really enable the invisible spaces to emerge – but, like the spaces, the use of technologies is likewise invisible and fluid. If the challenge for our schools and governments is to create students that stand out in creativity and innovation, and not students that mindlessly memorize and repeat old ideas, any use of technologies for learning must enable these creative and innovative directions. Schools should not use computers to “do work” around preassigned parameters with prescribed outcomes; they should be used to help design and create products and learning outcomes that extend beyond the imagination of the curriculum. Rather than putting technology in the forefront and obscuring learning, make it invisible yet ambient, enabling learners to discover their own pathways for development with these tools.
  8. We cannot manage knowledge. 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 informationKnowledge 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.
  9. “The network is the learning” (Siemens, 2007). The emerging pedagogy of this century isn’t carefully planned. Rather, it’s developed fluidly. Our traversals across networks are our pathways to learning, and as the network expands, so does our learning. In connectivist approaches to learning, we connect our individual knowledges together to create new understandings. We share our experiences, and create new (social) knowledge as a result. We must center on the ability of individuals to navigate this space and make connections on their own, discovering how their unique knowledge and talents can be contextualized to solve new problems.
  10. The future belongs to nerds, geeks, makers, dreamers, and knowmads. While not everybody will or should become an entrepreneur, those who do not develop entrepreneurial skills are at a great disadvantage. Our education systems should focus on the development of entreprenerds: individuals who leverage their specialized knowledge to dream, create, make, explore, learn and promote entrepreneurial, cultural, or social endeavors, taking risks and enjoying the process as much as the final outcome, without fearing the potential failures or mistakes that the journey includes.
  11. Break the rules, but understand why, clearly, first. Our school systems are built on cultures of obedience, enforced compliance, and complacency. The creativities of students, staff, and our institutions are inherently stultified. It is easier to be told what to think than to think ourselves. Openly asking questions, and building a metacognitive awareness of what we have created and what we would like to do about it, can best cure this institutionalized malaise. Only then can we engineer justified breaks from the system that challenge the status quo and have the potential to create real impact.
  12. We must and can build cultures of trust in our schools and communities. As long as our education systems continue to be based on fear, anxiety, and distrust, challenges to all of the above will continue. In the Minnevate! project (MASA, 2014), the researchers found that if educators are to build a collective capacity to transform education, we need engaged communities, and we also need to engage with the communities we serve. This requires a new theory of action, centered on trust, where students, schools, governments, businesses, parents, and communities may engage in collaborative initiatives to co-create new education futures.

(Read the full text and add your signature to Manifesto 15 here).

I’m thankful for the interest and success of this project; and, I traveled to TEDxUFM in Guatemala to share what I learned so far. In just a few months, we find ourselves driving a new global conversation on learning.

16158920667_90b64b1398_k

Three months later, the conversation on evolving learning continues. Manifesto 15 is a set of principles, built for open discussion, remixing, and sharing.

And, here’s the best part: This is a conversation we all own.

Take this document as a starting point, building in your own ideas. Or create a new manifesto of your life. We learned that we can build a collective capacity to evolve learning, but this requires a tremendous amount of trust from all of us to realize our visions. And, we need to challenge the assumptions our learning systems are built on. We need to understand why, how, what, and for whom we are educating.

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. And, from this, we can take meaningful action today. 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. We’ve set our vision.

Mahatma Gandhi is credited for teaching us: “Be the change you want to see.” Our invitation remains open to join us and build community, centered on trust and open dialogue, as we work to change the face of education – the absurdity ends now.

16343927072_e294cfcc61_k

House education chair named sleaziest Member of Congress

The competition was fierce, but at the end, there could be only one “winning loser” in Bill Maher’s #FlipADistrict challenge. That honor goes to Rep. John Kline (R-MN), Chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Maher’s #FlipADistrict challenge started by injecting 16 lawmakers into a social media-fueled, NCAA-style bracket to determine which Member of Congress is most deserving to be voted out. A student-run social media campaign together and Kline’s opponents in the 2nd Congressional District DFL substantiated claims that, as Maher stated, “[Kline] easily embodies the whores and sellouts that keep [Washington] running.” Moreover:

As the powerful chairman of the education committee, Kline has done more to keep 20-somethings in their parents’ basements than anyone else alive. He’s the champion of for-profit colleges, which they used to call “diploma mills,” but that’s back when you at least got a diploma. At the University of Phoenix, Kline’s biggest donor, 88% do not graduate. That’s a worse rate than celebrity rehab. These are not real colleges… These places are scams, and they thrive because John Kline is bought and paid for by the very people he’s been elected to regulate. This is the problem with Washington.

Despite his position as a for-profit shill on the powerful House education committee, John Kline is one of Congress’ most unproductive members. In his six-term career as an empty suit, Kline has sponsored only six bills that became law – two of which named post offices, three that impacted military administration of benefits, and one that dramatically increases student loan rates. At a time where Wall Street can borrow money for less than 1%, Kline’s move to increase Stafford and PLUS loan rates to 7.7% and 9.7%, respectively, by 2018 is robbery.

For the institutions that issue and service student loan debt, keeping Kline in office is the next best thing to free money. Student loan debt carries very little risk because it can never be written off in case of bankruptcy or hardship. In fact, if you have outstanding student loans when you begin to collect Social Security, the government will garnish your payments. Kline is a threat to students and seniors alike.

Because of politicians like John Kline, it is no wonder Congress has a 14% approval rating. Couple this with a recent Pew survey that found 60% of Americans do not know which party controls Congress, and you get a sense that most Americans are angry but do not know who to be angry at. If there’s anything we can do to help fix Congress, we can start by voting out the poster child for Washington sleaze and flip Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District.

Please join me by joining the #FlipADistrict movement, help #FireKline, and contribute to Kline’s challenger, Mike Obermueller.

John Kline

Why I am requiring all my clients to sign my Sustainability Pledge, and why you should do the same

in the jungle

I drive as little as possible, buy locally when I can, recycle far more materials than I throw away, and consume far less energy at home than the average American. Despite this, I was still an environmentalist’s worst nightmare. It’s the nature of my work. Until now.

It is not unusual for me to be asked to fly 4,166 miles to deliver a 20 minute speech, and then promptly travel 4,166 miles back to the home office in Minneapolis – that calculates to about 1.07 metric tons of CO2 equivalent released into the atmosphere, or about 53.5kg of CO2e per minute of my talk. Multiply a trip like this by at least once per month, and the problem becomes huge. That is not just irresponsible; that is insanity.

Increasingly, I have been asked to participate in engagements in the developing world. For me, this is great, because I believe our work can make a tremendous impact in these parts of the world, but the environmental cost of our work can be even more damaging. People in developing countries face greater risks to climate change than developed nations. In other words, the potentials for social and economic gains through our work may all be for naught if we do not address parallel environmental concerns immediately.

While many of the organizations I have partnered with in the past have their own sustainability initiatives, effective September 1, 2014, I am requiring all my partnering organizations to join the Education Futures Sustainability Pledge to offset at least 100% of carbon emissions and minimize resource depletion for all future engagements.

I am not a lawyer, so I invite your input on how I might improve this text, which I have drafted to be as clear, concise, and meaningful as possible. If you have ideas for improvement, please drop a comment, below, or write to me at john@educationfutures.com.

Link: Education Futures Sustainability Pledge

Dear Edutopia: Kids aren't the problem

Dear Edutopia:

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of yours – a really big one. You’re precisely the type of engaged organization that can perhaps inspire real changes in education.

I really need to voice a concern, however: Lately, it seems that you’re picking on kids.

Sure, it’s nice to rally teachers around populist themes during the “back at school” time of year. But, wouldn’t you agree that posting images like these on your Facebook page is a bit absurd?

September 13, 2013:

1231379_10151866188694917_289159235_n

August 16, 2013:

12680_10151803198299917_1364804736_n

Maybe these are sloppy attempts at humor, but why would you promote the idea that kids are a problem? This sort of deficit thinking is precisely what I thought Edutopia was working hard to discourage. Why not change your approaches to kids, and start thinking of them as assets? What if we treated and appreciated kids as human beings instead of as caged animals or prison inmates?

Edutopia, please take note of George Lucas’ call to action:

You have the most important job of anyone today. Our kids need you to advocate for their futures.

Kids today need you more than ever. Please give them the respect they deserve, and encourage teachers to co-construct positive futures with them.

I hope you will take this to heart as constructive feedback. Now, having said this, I hope we can still be friends.

Yours,
John

Report from the European Democratic Education Community 2013 Conference

Peter Gray lecture at EUDEC

Note: This article was originally published in Other Education, vol. 2, no. 2 (2013), pp. 113-115, and is reprinted under Creative Commons license (BY-SA).

From July 28 to August 2, 2013, the European Democratic Education Community (EUDEC) held its fifth annual general meeting and conference. This year’s host was De Ruimte democratic school in Soest, The Netherlands, with an organizing committee comprised of staff members and alumni of Dutch democratic schools. 261 participants attended, ranging from students, staff members, parents, and interested community members. I attended as a member of the Sudbury Munich startup school’s scientific advisory board.

An affiliate of the International Democratic Education Network, EUDEC claims to represent about 58,000 people across 26 countries, including 42 schools, 19 start-up schools, and other member organizations and individuals. The bulk of the conference was organized into an open space, where all participants were invited to organize workshops, including ones that were organized spontaneously according to conversations and needs of participants during the conference. The annual general meeting was limited to voting members, but the final day of the conference was open to an additional 27 public visitors. At the last day, invited scholars, researchers, entrepreneurs, and school founders provided lectures and workshops.

Democratic education, as defined by EUDEC is comprised of two pillars:

  1. Self-determined learning: “Students in democratic schools and universities choose how to spend their school days, pursue their interests and prepare themselves for their lives and chosen careers” (EUDEC, n.d.).
  2. A community of equality and mutual respect: “Democratic schools have school meetings in which all members of the community have an equal vote, regardless of age or status. Students and teachers can sit together as equals to discuss and vote on school rules, curricula, projects, the hiring of staff and even budgetary matters” (EUDEC, n.d.).

EUDEC member schools have various models and approaches to how democratic education is practiced in their institutions, but many face similar obstacles in gaining the approval of government authorities across Europe, which nearly universally impose structural limitations that ban self-determined learning and disallow students to have an equal voice. The result is that many schools face constant legal battles to stay open, and, in some cases, even parents of the schools are charged as criminals for sending their children there (see esp. Thomas, 2013 for a typical case outline). For the schools that are under siege by authorities, the conference provides a valuable retreat to share experiences, learn from others, and expand networks.

The conference theme was “we create the future,” which from my perspective as an education futurist could not be more pertinent. This clashed with a sentiment shared by many of the schools, and particularly the Sudbury-type schools, that their approach to education is “radical.” I strongly disagree. In an era driven by accelerating technological change, globalization, and the emergence of a “knowmadic” society (Moravec, 2013a, 2013b), democratic schools are a necessary option for creating a near-future workforce that is creative, imaginative, and innovative in its application of personal-level knowledge.

As the democratic schools movement grows, the shift from their approach from being perceived as radical to a viable option presents new opportunities for research and academic discourse development. From my observations at conference workshops and in conversations with participants, there are tremendous variations in how self-determined and democratic learning is implemented. Deep research into differing practices could yield rich new, vocabulary and dimensions of democratic education that have been largely ignored.

In my overall opinion, the EUDEC conference in 2013 deserves high praise for both quality of content and organization. In my informal conversations with participants, however, the conference itself was not the star of the show – but rather the food. Chef Sytse Kramer from HetEten set up a full kitchen outdoors, employed at-risk youth as cooks, and produced restaurant-quality dishes that received near universal acclaim throughout the week. At the closing ceremony of the conference, we had a lot to cheer about, but only the raucous applause for Chef Kramer could be heard over several kilometers away in the center of Soest.

About the author

John Moravec is a scholar on the future of work and education; a global speaker; editor of the Knowmad Society project; a co-director of the Invisible Learning project; and is an advisor with Education Futures (http://www.educationfutures.com).

References

  1. EUDEC. (n.d.). European Democratic Education Community | Democratic Education. Retrieved August 05, 2013, from http://www.eudec.org/Democratic+Education
  2. Moravec, J. W. (2013a). Knowmad Society: The “new” work and education. On the Horizon, 21(2), 79–83. doi:10.1108/10748121311322978
  3. Moravec, J. W. (2013b). Rethinking human capital development in Knowmad Society. In J. W. Moravec (Ed.), Knowmad Society (1st ed.). Minneapolis: Education Futures.
  4. Thomas, A. (2013). Autonomous and informal education under threat: Summerhill, UK, Sudbury schools in The Netherlands and home education. Other Education, 2(1), 75–77.

We need to challenge our basic assumptions of motivation in schools

Marcel Kampman (who is busy work on a brilliant design for the print edition of Knowmad Society) forwarded this KQED/MindShift article on Dan Pink’s approach to selling love of learning to students.

Having just awoken, I fired off a quick response from my iPad:

Why do we keep thinking that motivation needs to be driven externally? If we don’t tell kids what to learn, they won’t learn anything?

And, Marcel immediately sent a much more brilliant reaction:

I agree.

Intrinsic motivation by curiosity – and doing things fearlessly, but of course, not unafraid, wanting to find out how things work, go, etc. has always been my motor that brought me to places I have never been before. External factors influenced my path of course, like walls I bump into, and then continue another way with even more energy than before the hit. A bit like Pong, but with the difference knowing that there is always a second or a third wall that bounces you back, unlike the game where you can miss and die. Reality always has a safety net you only learn to know about when you sometimes miss the the first wall, either by accident or choice. When you’re little you never think about “failing.” Failing is succeeding – you win that you learn. When you’ve grown up, you have learned that succeeding = “not failing,” and with that you learn nothing. Then, repetition = success, not trying something new, but something known = success. Best practises dictate everything and do not allow for new practices that require risk and the willingness to fail. Same is boring. New is energy. The thrill of jumping off a cliff by deciding to do so yourself is a high you will never have when someone will push you off the cliff. Then, you never have the same conscious experience — you’re just making sure you survive and land safely.

Should it be any surprise then that the vast majority of what we learn comes from outside formal schooling experiences?

Knowmad Society launches December 21!

You’ve probably noticed that it’s been a bit quiet at Education Futures. On the contrary, we’ve been very busy, and getting prepared for a big event. It seems many people are worried that the Mayan calendar will run out of modified base-20 numbers on December 21, and that this, of course, signals a coming apocalypse, not the arrival of another clock digit. Frankly, we see no better reason to party a bit.

TO CELEBRATE THE END OF THE WORLD, OUR NEXT BOOK, KNOWMAD SOCIETY, WILL BE RELEASED ON DECEMBER 21, 2012!

This volume explores knowmads in society in terms of natural evolution steps from industrial and information-based society (“Society 1.0”), knowledge-based society (“Society 2.0”) and Knowmad Society in an era of accelerating change (“Society 3.0”). Educational and organizational implications are further explored, bringing together academics, practitioners, and policy leaders from the United States, the Netherlands, and Chile. In addition to presenting a full theoretical framework for Knowmad Society, examples and first-hand experiences of knowmadic educators and business leaders are shared. The book ends with a powerful message of “what’s it going to take” for nations and cultures to succeed in Knowmad Society.

Knowmad Society is a collaborative effort by Thieu Besselink, Cristóbal Cobo, Gary Hart, Christel Hartkamp, Ronald van den Hoff, John Moravec, Christine Renaud, Pieter Spinder, and Bianca Stokman.

For more information on the Knowmad Society project, please visit http://www.knowmadsociety.com

On December 21, the Web and iOS versions of the book will launch. In early 2013, we will offer a PDF and paperback copies, designed by the creative minds of Marcel Kampman and Martine Eyzenga. The iOS edition is being provided through generous support from Seats2Meet.com.

There will be two public events as we celebrate the launch of Knowmad Society in the Netherlands:

Let’s continue the conversation! If you are interested in hosting a lecture or workshop at your organization, please get in touch with me. I’d love to chat!