Invisible Learning

A manifesto for evolving learning

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2014 was a great year. Among my favorite activities, the Minnevate! project established a dialogue process to build an action agenda for educational leadership in Minnesota, we helped to build a 20-episode television series for Aprendendamos on digital entrepreneurship (to air in early 2015), and I got to talk at a conference in Peru built around the knowmads concept. And, my favorite, because it was so unexpected: Cristóbal Cobo and I appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine for our work in Aprendizaje Invisible. How cool is that?

After all this, it seemed it was time to re-center, and get back to basics. It’s too easy to get distracted and lose track of our principles and where we want to go with them. It was time to write a manifesto on what we’ve learned so far.

Read Manifesto 15 at manifesto15.org.

All of the manifestos that have inspired me are strongly associated with a date. The U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. Charter 77 emerged in January 1977. Dogme 95 was crafted in 1995. Also, as ideas transform and develop over time, Manifesto 15 represents a snapshot of our ideas, visions, and what we have learned to date on January 1, 2015. It serves as a reference point to help us understand how we’ve done so far, and what actions we need to do next.

I started writing Manifesto 15 a few days ago, and opened it for public edits, contributions, and comments via Google Docs as soon as the first draft was completed. I’m in awe of the global interest and letters of support this small initiative has generated, including offers to translate the document into local languages. Let’s see what conversations we can spark and what initiatives we can inspire.

Thank you, 2014. Onward, 2015!
jm

Who’s the best looking kid in an ugly family?

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(Spoiler: It’s Finland.)

I recently did a short interview for the Madrid magazine PLÁCET. Here’s the complete English version of our conversation:

What are the biggest mistakes that education has been committed in the last 50 years in western countries?

I think that it is easy – and very popular – to look at all of the problems in education and all of the mistakes that we’ve made. But, in actuality, our schools do precisely what they are designed to do, and they do it very well: prepare our youth for careers as factory workers and government bureaucrats.

The problem is, we don’t have as many factories as we had in the past. And, we certainly want fewer bureaucrats.

So, I think our biggest mistake has been in asking schools to prepare students for jobs that existed in the past, but have little relevance today or in our foreseeable futures.

Are the politically or economically powerful people the ones who dominate education, and are those who are interested in a well-educated population demanding their rights to design their own future?

I think there’s a real question on whether we can collaborate and build a collective capacity to develop a common education agenda. A lot of self-interest emerges when we approach any change in schools. We have to be willing to have an open and honest discussion what those changes mean to each of us, personally and professionally. Most people learn about education issues during elections, and they are often presented as “wedge” issues that prevent us from taking a long view or creating a shared vision of how we would like to develop our communities for the future.

So, we need to ask ourselves: What are our common goals? Can we agree on who a learner is? What is learning? What is a “positive” future for our community? And, who is the collective “we” making these decisions?

The world is changing faster than ever. What are the demands of the labor market of the near future?

We seem to be in a feedback loop where technological change prompts social change, which in turn demands further technological change, and so on… And, this is occurring at an increasing pace. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict what the demands will be. So, we need to start thinking about how we can meet demands that we cannot imagine, yet.

In education, this means that we need to stop teaching what to think and what to know, and instead focus creating students that know how to learn beyond school, and how to develop new skills and competencies.

How will we determine technological innovation in our education, training, and work?

Technologies, so far, help us do things that we’ve been doing already a little bit better. The real game changer will be when we develop intelligence amplification and artificial intelligence technologies that augment (or even replace) our capacities for imagination, creativity, and innovation.

How does globalization affect education?

Whether we like it or not, today’s graduates are competing one-to-one for jobs with alike people around the world. Why hire a (Spanish) teacher in Madrid to teach your child Chinese when you can hire an actual Chinese speaker with greater qualifications from China, utilizing connective technologies such as Skype, for far fewer Euros?

What is Invisible Learning?

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. It takes into account the impact of technological advances to really enable the invisible spaces to emerge. So, in the Invisible Learning project, Dr. Cristóbal Cobo and I explored a panorama of options for the future development of education that can be relevant today. We did not propose a theory, but sought to blend many ideas together to present a broadened landscape of ideas and perspectives. Because we are still building this paradigm, it is very much in “beta.”

What country is the world leader in education today, with proven results?

That’s like asking, “who’s the best looking kid in an ugly family?” In that case, Finland is the best looking. But, I’m not saying they’re looking beautiful…

What are the keys to happiness that every student (16 – 24 years old) should know to ensure a happy and well-off future?

I don’t know what the keys to happiness are, but today’s students need to prepare for futures where they can work anytime, anywhere, and with just about anybody. I call these people “knowmads.” Moreover, knowmads:

  1. Are not restricted to a specific age.
  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 contextually apply their ideas and expertise 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 and support open access to information, knowledge and expertise from others.
  7. Can unlearn as quickly as they learn, adopting new ideas and practices as necessary.
  8. Thrive in non-hierarchical networks and organizations.
  9. Develop habits of mind and practice to learn continuously.
  10. Are not afraid of failure.

ExpoEnlaces 2013 recap

The text is in Spanish, but Educarchile posted a nice recap of my keynote at ExpoEnlaces 2013, organized by the Chilean Ministry of Education. Here are some highlights, translated into English:

We do not know what education will be like in the coming decades, but it is clear that the Internet and new technologies are changing the way we learn; not only by the amount of information that can be queried , but also the ability to connect and collaborate freely other.

Is that the new technologies that bring context gives students a much more active role in their own learning. Something that John Moravec, American expert on education, globalization, and work calls “invisible learning.” According to this paradigm, developed in conjunction with the Chilean Cristóbal Cobo, the opportunities for learning extend beyond the scope of the classroom.

“We are facing what I call the ‘[knowmadic] society of knowledge’ (society 3.0) focused on the action and personal innovation. Against this background, schools should not focus on what to learn but how to learn. 1.0 schools cannot teach 3.0 students, nomads of learning,” Moravec said.

According to the expert, education 3.0 should be focused on soft skills in creating new learning environments and ecologies of learning, reinvent our relationship with technology, “such as consumers move from content publishers to create technologies to improve relationships and not replace,” and the specialist says the hardest is to, “develop systemic approaches to address how to teach using Technology at as a systems problem.”

Thank you, Enlaces and Educarchile!

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.

Did you miss the live Webinar with Cristóbal Cobo? Don't worry. We made a recording for you.

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Life in the 21st Century has become international, multicultural, and inter-connected, requiring new skills for educators to succeed. What are the so-called “21st Century skills,” and which key conditions are needed for the development of these skills within and outside of formal educational settings? Learn what it means to learn in a “knowmadic” society, and explore the shift from what we learn to how we learn in this free, online webinar.

Event co-sponsors: Education Futures LLC, Minnesota Association of School Administrators, TIES education technology collaborative, and Whitewater Learning

Twitter hashtag for discussion: #knowmad


coboAbout the presenter: Dr. Cristóbal Cobo is a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, where he coordinates research on innovation, open knowledge initiatives and future of learning research projects. Currently he works on Internet Science, OportUnidad, K-Networks and SESERV (European Commission). He is also coordinator of a collective project on informal, non-formal and invisible learning – a collaborative book and an online repository of bold ideas for designing cultures of sustainable innovation. Cristóbal has been a Visiting Fellow at the Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance, University of Oxford and Professor and Director of Communication and New Technologies and editor of the educational platform of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, Mexico.

He has worked on academic projects with organizations such as the Open University (UK), the University of Oxford, the University of Minnesota, the University of Toronto, the Open University of Catalonia, the Mexican Ministry of Public Education, and the Ministries of Education of Chile and Argentina, the Telefonica Foundation (Argentina and Mexico) and the European Union. He has been an invited expert for RAND EU in future trends on technology and education commissioned by the Bureau of European Policy Advisors (BEPA).

Dr. Cobo currently serves on the board of the Global Open Educational Resource (OER) Graduate Network.

Free Webinar on Thursday: Skills and competencies for knowmadic workers

We are pleased to announce a free webinar with Dr. Cristóbal Cobo this Thursday:

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There is no cost to participate. Join the live Webinar by visiting http://www.educationfutures.com/live on August 8!

Life in the 21st Century has become international, multicultural, and inter-connected, requiring new skills for educators to succeed. What are the so-called “21st Century skills,” and which key conditions are needed for the development of these skills within and outside of formal educational settings? Learn what it means to learn in a “knowmadic” society, and explore the shift from what we learn to how we learn in this free, online webinar.

Event co-sponsors: Education Futures LLC, Minnesota Association of School Administrators, TIES education technology collaborative, and Whitewater Learning

Twitter hashtag for discussion: #knowmad


coboAbout the presenter: Dr. Cristóbal Cobo is a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, where he coordinates research on innovation, open knowledge initiatives and future of learning research projects. Currently he works on Internet Science, OportUnidad, K-Networks and SESERV (European Commission). He is also coordinator of a collective project on informal, non-formal and invisible learning – a collaborative book and an online repository of bold ideas for designing cultures of sustainable innovation. Cristóbal has been a Visiting Fellow at the Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance, University of Oxford and Professor and Director of Communication and New Technologies and editor of the educational platform of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, Mexico.

He has worked on academic projects with organizations such as the Open University (UK), the University of Oxford, the University of Minnesota, the University of Toronto, the Open University of Catalonia, the Mexican Ministry of Public Education, and the Ministries of Education of Chile and Argentina, the Telefonica Foundation (Argentina and Mexico) and the European Union. He has been an invited expert for RAND EU in future trends on technology and education commissioned by the Bureau of European Policy Advisors (BEPA).

Dr. Cobo currently serves on the board of the Global Open Educational Resource (OER) Graduate Network.

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.

Learning in Knowmad Society: Making invisible learning visible

Preface: Today, the Waag Society (institute for art, science and technology) released a new publication, Spelen leren, lerend spelen (“Playing games, learning games”). I have a short article article in the magazine, which was published in Dutch. Here’s an English translation:

In 1980, Seymour Papert predicted that computers would fundamentally transform education –and ultimately make schools, themselves, redundant. 30 years later, computers in schools are the norm, but we are still teaching the old way. Why?

In education, we have a hard time disentangling technologies from our conversations about innovations in learning. Too often, we place technologies in the forefront, which end up obscuring authentic knowledge formation. We often take the best technologies and squander the opportunities they afford us. Our knowledge-based societies demand a deeper change in our culture of teaching, and, particularly, in the ways in which we learn (and unlearn).

Moreover: The impacts of accelerating technological and social changes on education are enormous. Today’s stakeholders in our youths’ future must prepare them for futures that none of us can even dream are possible. We need to rethink and explore all the “invisible” (non-formal, non-certified, but equally relevant) ways of learning in a world where personal knowledge development, comprised of both tacit and explicit elements, is rapidly becoming more valuable than commodified, industrial-style information delivery. How can we create innovators, capable of leveraging their unique imaginations and creativity?

In the Invisible Learning project, we sought to research and share experiences and innovative perspectives, focused on rethinking strategies and innovative approaches to learn and unlearn continuously. We highlighted the importance of critical thinking of the roles of formal, informal, non-formal and serendipitous education at all levels – which can contribute to the creation of sustainable processes of learning, innovating and designing new cultures for a global society.

In the Invisible Learning paradigm, “just in case,” rote memorization is replaced with learning that is intended to be personally meaningful for all participants in the learning experience. Moreover, the application of knowledge toward innovative problem solving takes primacy over the regurgitation of previous knowledge or so-called “facts.”

Education in the Invisible Learning paradigm enables students to act on their knowledge, applying what they know to solve problems – including problems that have not been solved before. This contextual, purposive application of personal knowledge to create innovative solutions negates the value of non-innovation-producing regimes (i.e., standardized testing).

The purposive application of technologies can help. Our questions around educational improvement should therefore not be around what to learn, but rather about how we can learn. And, how we can make what we learned invisibly visible.

Invisible Learning: The first 365 days of open access

On September 15, 2011, Cristóbal Cobo and I released Invisible Learning (published in Spanish as Aprendizaje Invisible) into the Creative Commons as an open digital text. The printed edition, published by the University of Barcelona, was available since April of that year, and is still available for purchase through a number of sources, including Amazon.es.

We’ve counted well over 50,000 direct downloads of the PDF edition of the book from invsisiblelearning.com. By itself, this number is impressive for an education book (most printing are limited to just a thousand or two copies), but it probably grossly underestimates the total reach of Invisible Learning. The book is also distributed on a number of other websites, including Google Books, institutional digital collections, blogs, and others.

We are also really pleased with the media response and derivative products being created from Invisible Learning — some of the most interesting pieces are cataloged at aprendizajeinvisible.tumblr.com.

For those of you looking for Invisible Learning in English, the book will be summarized in the first two chapters of Knowmad Society, to be released later this year. Stay tuned!

Continuing the conversation

Join the Aprendizaje Invisible Facebook group, or follow us on Twitter:

If you’re interested in organizing a presentation or workshop about Invisible Learning at your organization, we’d love to talk with you!