collaboration

Knowmad Society is now available!

Last December, we celebrated the completion of the Knowmad Society project by launching it at Seats2Meet.com in Utrecht. Now, we are pleased to launch the website, and offer the book as a free download, a free iPhone app, or a $0.99 Amazon.com Kindle purchase.

Full details about book is available at http://www.knowmadsociety.com.

Photo by Rene Wouters
Knowmad Society launch – Photo by Rene Wouters

A collaboration between John Moravec, Cristóbal Cobo, Thieu Besselink, Christel Hartkamp, Pieter Spinder, Edwin de Bree, Bianca Stokman, Christine Renaud, and Ronald van den Hoff, Knowmad Society explores the future of learning, work and how we relate with each other in a world where we are now asked to design our own futures. These nine authors from three continents, ranging from academics to business leaders, share their visions for the future of learning and work, and provide insight into what they are doing now to help drive positive outcomes. Former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart provides an afterword on his take on how to best support a knowmad society in the international arena.

Knowmads are nomadic knowledge workers –creative, imaginative, and innovative people who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere. Industrial society is giving way to knowledge and innovation work. Whereas industrialization 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 concerning task and place. Moreover, technologies allow for these new paradigm workers to work within a broader options of space, including “real,” virtual, or many blended. Knowmads can instantly reconfigure and recontextualize their work environments, and greater mobility is creating new opportunities.

The authors explore knowmad society in terms of socioeconomic evolution from industrial, information-based society to knowledge-based society, to a creative, context-driven Knowmad Society. Educational and organizational implications are explored, experiences are shared, and the book concludes with a powerful message of “what’s it going to take” for nations and cultures to succeed in Knowmad Society.

Key topics covered include: reframing learning and human development; required skills and competencies; rethinking schooling; flattening organizations; co-creating learning; and new value creation in organizations.

Knowmad Society is published by Education Futures LLC with additional support from Seats2Meet.com.

The Singularity and schools: An interview with Vernor Vinge

Note: An mp3 of this interview is available for download.

Last week, I spoke with Vernor Vinge [Wikipedia | website], a retired San Diego State University professor of mathematics. He is better known as a five-time Hugo Award-winning science fiction author. His works include True Names, Fast Times at Fairmont High, and Rainbows End. Most importantly, his 1993 essay “The Coming Technological Singularity,” argues that accelerating technological change will bring about the end of the human era as we know it, and that the world will become so complex and foreign to human observers, it will be impossible to predict what will happen next.

Ray Kurzweil and others have since contributed to the popularization of the Singularity, but the conversation has been centered on technological determinism. In a world that is consumed by accelerating change, what are the implications for systems that are at risk of being outpaced — namely, human systems? And, what are the implications for how we will learn and work in the near future?

Vinge:

I got this sort of vision where the human workplace is scattered in both space and time, and for a single career, it’s not a merely a matter of changing your career every couple years, it’s a matter of actually changing your point of attention on smaller time scales.

What can science fiction tell us about our future?

According to Vinge, a lot. He helped introduce the cyberpunk genre in the early with his 1981 Novel, true Names. He says, “the technological situation we have now is very similar to what was described in True Names, which actually was implicitly targeted in the year 2014,” but much of that can be attributed to pure luck.

The future authors of the genre have envisioned, he argues, has emerged today as a mix of expected and unexpected dystopian and hopeful elements. Society of today, he believes, has not changed much since the early 1980s. Corporate dominance in government, for example, is still at the same level as it was before, and our views on technology shifted since 1984:

Before the year 1984, people generally looked at computers the way George Orwell did in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. After 1984, people had these great visions of computers freeing the people from tyrannies, and that is still a real possibility… and it is a possibility that has come true in large parts of the world. But, I would say the jury is still out as to what the ultimate effectiveness of computers and communication automation favors tyranny or favors liberty. I’m putting my bets on liberty, but I would say it’s not an obvious win in either direction.

It’s been nearly 20 years since the Singularity was introduced at the NASA VISION-21 Symposium. What’s changed?

I’m still where I was in my 1993 essay that I gave at a NASA meeting, and that is that I define the Technological Singularity as being our developing, through technology, superhuman intelligence — or becoming, ourselves, superhuman intelligent through technology. And, I think calling that the Singularity is actually a very good term in the sense of vast and unknowable change. A qualitatively different sort of change than technological progress in the past.

He still believes four pathways could lead to the development of the Singularity by 2030:

  1. The development of computers that are “awake” and superhumanly intelligent.
  2. Large computer networks (and their associated users) may “wake up” as a superhumanly intelligent entity.
  3. Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent.
  4. Biological science may find ways to improve upon the natural human intellect.

When asked which one is more likely, he hinted that he sees a digital Gaia of networks plus people emerging:

The networked sum of all the embedded microprocessors in all our devices becomes a kind of digital Gaia. That qualifies, as an ensemble, as a superhuman entity. That is probably the weirdest of all possibilities because, if anything, it looks like animism. And, sometimes I point to it when I want to make the issue that this can be very strange. I think that actually the networking of embedded microprocessors is going like gangbusters. The network that is the Internet plus humanity, that is also going with extraordinarily surprises, if you just look at the successes in the various schemes that go by names like crowdsourcing. To me, those have been astounding, and should give people real pause with how to use the intellectual resources actually that we have out there. So far, we do not have a single computer that is really of human-level intelligence, and I think that is going to happen. But, it is a kind of an amazing thing that we have an installed base of seven billion of these devices out there.

What does this mean for schools?

Vinge believes talking about post-Singularity situations in education are impractical. In theory, is impossible for us to predict or comprehend what will happen, so we should not focus our attention on worrying about post-Singularity futures. Rather, we should focus on the ramp-up toward the Singularity, our unique talents, and how we can network together to utilize them in imaginative ways:

Talking about the run-up to the Singularity makes sense for several different reasons. One is, we have to get through it. The other is that it is our opportunity, as the chief players… it’s our opportunity to make things turn out safely and happily. In the meantime, at just the level of just getting one’s job done, I think there are real changes that are going to be happening in education and more broadly in training issues. I think one thing that is going to become more-and-more evident is the fact that we have seven billion people out there who are variously good … very good … at different things. And, there are ways of enhancing and amplifying that by collaboration. And, when I say “collaboration” […] it is a very good thing. But, if you look at some of the group mind projects and crowdsourcing projects, there is very great imagination that can be exercised in making collaboration effective. One thing is to interface people who have very different skills — that can actually be helped a lot by the network.

When dealing with unknown futures, it remains unknown how to prepare people best for these futures. He states that the best pathway involves teaching children “to learn how to learn” (a key theme in Fast Times at Fairmont High), and that we need to encourage the development of positive futures by attending to diversity in our learning systems. We need to not facilitate the formation of diverse students, but we also need to abandon a monoculture approach to education and attend to a diverse ecology of options in teaching and evaluation.

Most importantly, to meet the individual needs of students, he believes, we need to focus on “shifting the emphasis from intense attention to process and having the process of the teaching right … shifting that attention to having independent rating agencies that are not so much interested in process as they are in giving reliable rating information to people who have to judge the results of the money that is being spent on the education.”

Do it yourself – do it together

A couple weeks ago, I had an opportunity to visit the Waag Society in Amsterdam. I met with Keimpe de Heer, director of the Creative Learning Lab, and he is focused on innovating in human potential development and education. Paired with a Fab Lab, they aim to develop the community they serve into prosumers of imaginative, creative and innovative outputs — not just consumers.

Watch the interview with Keimpe. The first ten minutes discuss the Waag and the Creative Learning Lab. The real fun starts at 10:48 into the video, where Keimpe challenges the “do it yourself” movement with “do it together” collaboration. Using open source concepts, Keimpe explains how “we” can be better than “me.” At 14:45, he shares some products bring developed at the Fab Lab, including a $100 $50 prosthetic leg and tank tread upgrades for wheel chairs.

This was my second visit to the Fab Lab in Amsterdam. For a summary of my previous visit, and comparisons to the Fab Lab at Century College in Minnesota, click here.

July 20 update: Keimpe wrote to correct that the Fab Lab is working on a $50 prosthesis, not a $100 prosthesis. Even better!

Review: 21st Century Skills (by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel)

Book: 21st Century Skills: Learning for life in our times
Author: Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel
Publisher: Jossey-Bass (2009)

Some ten years into the 21st century, I find it amazing that we are still having conversations on what skills are necessary to succeed in this new century. We’ve explored some ideas of what skills are relevant before (see this, this, this, and this, for example), and there appears to be a general consensus that there are needs for skills development in creativity, innovation, smart use of ICTs, and social leadership. This is exactly in line with what Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel, co-board members on the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, identify (lifted from the book jacket):

  • Learning and Innovation Skills: Creativity and Innovation, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, and Communication and Collaboration
  • Digital Literacy Skills: Information Literacy, Media Literacy, and ICT Literacy
  • Career and Life Skills: Flexibility and Adaptability, initiative and Self-Direction, Social and Cross-Cultural Skills, Productivity and Accountability, Leadership and Responsibility

What makes this book valuable to practitioners, however, is that instead of building up chapters of reasoning for why we need to adopt the P21 skill set in education, they focus more on what each of these skills mean. Moreover, they tie in examples of the skills in practice with an included DVD, containing real-life classroom examples.

While the book excels at understanding each of the P21 skills and their implications, it falls short on how to build these skills in broader contexts – i.e., as a replacement set for NCLB standards. For this, the text could have benefited with an invitation –and mechanism– for its readers to join the conversation on adopting and embracing new skills for the 21st century. Instead, leading the conversation seems left to us: Where shall we begin?


Note: The publisher provided a copy of the book for review. Please read our review policy for more details on how we review products and services.

Exploring education futures at TEDxLaguna


Photo by Cristóbal Cobo

On Monday, I participated in TEDxLaguna, the second TEDx event ever held in Mexico. I called for “leapfrogging toward Knowmad Society” (video coming soon). Also, Cristóbal Cobo shared an overview and invitation to join our Invisible Learning collaboration. I believe the event was a great success, and I am pleased to have collaborated with Ernesto Gonzales (the event’s organizer), his team, and the other speakers. Videos of the talks will be posted to the TEDx YouTube channel soon, possibly in both English and Spanish… stay tuned!!!

Related on the Net: El Siglo de Torreón: Muestran ideas transformadoras

Invisible Learning deadline extended

The deadline to submit papers or other materials to the Invisible Learning project has been extended to August 31, 2010.  This is due to an overwhelming response to enhance the discussions on Invisible Learning.  Therefore, we are launching a new website, using the Ning platform, which will allow for greater collaboration and sharing of ideas and projects. Please visit us at www.invisiblelearning.com for more details or contact us at invisible@flacso.edu.mx to share your ideas.

About Invisible Learning

The Invisible Learning (Aprendizaje Invisible) project is collaborative book (in English and Spanish) and an online repository of bold ideas for designing cultures of sustainable innovation.  Through the development of 1) a collaborative, printed book; 2) an e-book; and 3) a repository of innovative ideas at www.invisiblelearning.com, we seek to:

  • Share experiences and innovative perspectives, focused on rethinking strategies and innovative approaches to learn and unlearn continuously
  • Promote critical thinking of the role of formal, informal and non-formal education at alleducational levels.
  • Contribute to the creation of a sustainable (and continuous) process of learning, innovating and designing new cultures for the global society.

The project aims to facilitate the creation of a globally distributed community of thinkers interested in building new futures for the education. Sustainable innovation, invisible learning (informal learning and non-formal learning) and the development of 21st century skills are some of the core issues that are analyzed and addressed in this project.  Participation at www.invisiblelearning.com is not limited to project partners and collaborators, but is open to everybody interested in innovating in learning.

Education Futures in the Netherlands

I’m back from a busy week in the Netherlands. First on the agenda was Education Futures NL, an Education 3.0-focused workshop collaboration between Education Futures and Helikon (Fons van den Berg). In addition to our collaboration, the workshop was supplemented with contributions from Cristóbal Cobo and the Knowmads. Meeting space for the event was generously provided by the Creative Learning Lab, a part of the Waag Society. The event attracted 40 of the sharpest minds in the country, most of whom indicated that they were prepared to bring disruptive innovations to education immediately. The group will continue to meet and develop ideas — stay tuned for further developments, and make sure to view Marcel de Leeuwe‘s photos from the event!

My second conference visit was with i+i, where I gave a keynote talk on innovative teaching and learning “in the cloud.” An interesting component of the conference is the close relationships between its members, who, often, are isolated as technology leaders within their institutions. The event was therefore an intellectual reunion for many. One interesting aspect was “TeachMeetNL09,” an unconference within the conference, organized by Fons van den Berg and Marieke van Osch. By capitalizing on the social aspects of the i+i group and refocusing it into an unconference, I believe that Fons and Marieke are pioneering new trends that we will see emerge in professional and academic conferences.

As a side note, I also joined the Knowmads advisory board. With these great developments (and more), I hope to be back soon!

Photo credit:

Wanted: 30 Knowmads

Remember Knowmads in Society 3.0? Something amazing is brewing in Europe. And, they’re looking for thirty candidates from around the world.

Knowmads is a new school for the world of tomorrow, starting in January 2010 in The Netherlands. After two years of learning with and from KaosPilots (International School for New Business Design and Social Innovation) in Rotterdam, a couple of entrepreneurs will join together in Knowmads-land. KaosPilots Netherlands transformed and the body of thought is very much alive!

Their purpose is to create a life-long learning community that starts with a one–year program and the possibility to add another six months after that. They work from the principle of a team-setting based on Action Learning; meaning that they work with their heads, hearts and hands. They believe in action, creativity, fun, diversity, social innovation and sustainability in real life assignments.

The program consists of the following elements:

  • Entrepreneurship and New Business Design
  • Personal Leadership
  • Creativity and Marketing
  • Sustainability and Social Innovation

The real life assignments for the students will be realized by collaborations with several international business partners and organisations. With this they will create constant win-win-win situations. And, the student themselves are stakeholders and owners of the school.

They are looking for thirty knowmads from around the world to join the inaugural team, with a deadline of November 20 December 18.

For more information, stories or applications check www.knowmads.nl or write to: carianne@knowmads.nl / pieter@knowmads.nl

“Welcome home!”

Engaging global youth through innovation design challenges

Note: Education Futures is on a reduced publication schedule for the summer, and will return with its regular schedule in mid-August.

Slides from Saturday’s talk at World Future Society‘s World Future 2009 conference in Chicago:

Destination Imagination is the world’s largest creative problem solving program for kindergarten through college-aged learners. DI participants develop life skills while solving challenges through their unique, hands-on experiences in the sciences, technology, mechanics, engineering, theater, improvisation, goal setting, time and budget management, team building, and leadership. The University of Minnesota’s Leapfrog Institutes builds positive futures for human capital development through the infusion of creativity and innovation in education. DI’s collaboration with Leapfrog Institutes extends the organization’s creativity and imagination program with knowledge construction, innovation, and active futuring components.