schools

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 Mainstream compulsory schooling is based on an outdated, 18th century model for creating citizens with the potential to become loyal, productive factory workers and bureaucrats.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.

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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.

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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

One year later: 1.0 schools still cannot teach 3.0 kids.

Knowmad_Society_Cover_for_KindleLast month, the collaborators of the Knowmad Society project celebrated the one-year anniversary of the launch of the book, Knowmad Society. In the open, Creative Commons-licensed volume, nine authors from three continents, ranging from academics to business leaders, share their visions for the future of learning and work. Educational and organizational implications are uncovered, experiences are shared, and the contributors explore what it’s going to take for individuals, organizations, and nations to succeed in Knowmad Society.

The book is available as a free download or is available for purchase in print, and readers are invited to remix their own editions of Knowmad Society. In the first year since the release of the book, tens of thousands of copies have been downloaded by people worldwide. Thank you to everybody who made this project a success!

Some of our favorite quotes from the book

Cristóbal Cobo:

The soft skills have become the hard skills.
 

 
John Moravec:

1.0 schools cannot teach 3.0 kids.
 

 
Thieu Besselink:

 Learning in #KnowmadSociety is about the experience of being alive as much as it’s about the study of life.
 

 
John Moravec:

 We need to train kids HOW to think, not WHAT to think.
 

 
Christel Hartkamp:

 Education is more than schooling.
 

 
Ronald van den Hoff:

 What we really need is an INNOVUTION!
 

 

Edwin de Bree and Bianca Stokman:

 The enablers of the 20th century are the disablers of the 21st century.
 

 

Pieter Spinder:

 Knowmads is not a dress rehearsal, we create real stuff.
 

Some media from around the Web, inspired by the project

From Lenovo:

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From IPAE (Perú):

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John Moravec at TEDxUMN:

Rise of the Knowmads: John Moravec at TEDxUMN

Knowmads are nomadic knowledge workers –creative, imaginative, and innovative people who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere. The jobs associated with 21st century knowledge and innovation workers have become much less specific concerning task and place, but require more value-generative applications of what they know. The office as we know it is gone. Schools and other learning spaces will follow next.

Watch my introduction to Knowmad Society at TEDxUMN, and read the book, Knowmad Society at http://www.knowmadsociety.com

What I'm watching: Dustin Haisler on disrupting education

From TEDxLivermore:

Dustin Haisler shares his experience from the front edge, in an age of hyper-connectivity and rapid innovation, the pace of which is fundamentally shifting. Every minute of the day, 30 hrs of video are uploaded to YouTube alone. As we move from consumption-based learning to consumer-based learning (on our computers, on our phones, and on our ipads) we are seeing the rise of a new crowd. Dustin’s basic premise is that people are creation machines. People, even teenagers, are harnessing the power of rapid innovation, gamification, crowd-sourcing, and connectivity that allows them to quickly move from idea to prototype. What is the role of education in this new era? Dustin feels that education aimed at providing children the tools, the right environment, expertise and mentoring will unleash a whole new generation of creators.

Dustin Haisler, President of KlabLab, has developed collaborative approaches for discovering the relevant questions, and creative solutions, from within a community itself, be it student or citizens. At KlabLab, he launched The Sound of Knowledge Tour 2012, which brought a mobile recording studio to schools, where students could write, perform and record their own songs. As CIO and assistant City Manager of Manor, Texas, Dustin launched Manor Lab, an online civic engagement platform. His background is disrupting banking, disrupting government, disrupting private business, and now disrupting education. These experiences have revealed the explosive pace of change when a community is unleashed.

For more information on Dustin see www.dustinhaisler.com.

Knowmad Society released – and it is beautiful!

I am very pleased to share that the print edition of Knowmad Society is in press, and it is beautiful!

Knowmad Society cover-print-smallYou can read it now at http://www.knowmadsociety.com – the book is available in print, PDF, iOS, and Kindle editions. If you enjoyed a free copy of the book, please consider purchasing a printed copy. It helps us recover our costs, and, as I can’t say enough: It is beautiful.

Knowmad Society explores the future of learning, work, and how we relate with each other in a world driven by accelerating change, value networks, and the rise of knowmads.

Knowmads are nomadic knowledge workers: Creative, imaginative, and innovative people who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere. The jobs associated with 21st century knowledge and innovation workers have become much less specific concerning task and place, but require more value-generative applications of what they know. The office as we know it is gone. Schools and other learning spaces will follow next.

In this book, nine authors from three continents, ranging from academics to business leaders, share their visions for the future of learning and work. Educational and organizational implications are uncovered, experiences are shared, and the contributors explore what it’s going to take for individuals, organizations, and nations to succeed in Knowmad Society.

Coda: In producing the print edition, Martine Eyzenga took charge of the creative layout of the interior, and the cover was illustrated by Symen Veenstra. Thank you to everybody who provided feedback while the book was available in its “preview” format – you provided critical peer review.

The university of the future: Marching toward obsolescence?

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A couple weeks ago, Carlos Scolari interviewed me for a project on pedagogical innovation and disruptive practices in higher education at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona). The aim of the project is to produce a document on the “university of the future,” including diagnosis, trends, and proposals for moving forward.

With his permission, I am sharing my responses to his questions:

CS: How do you see the situation of the universities from a pedagogical point view? I’m thinking in the situation of teaching-learning processes inside these big institutions.

JM: From a pedagogical viewpoint, universities have invested too much in a monocultural approach to education. Most universities are using the same methods to teach all the same stuff. This is very dangerous as the world is changing so quickly that entire fields and bodies of knowledge risk being outdated/outmoded very quickly.

I believe that we need to start to expand the ecology of options that we have in higher education, including pedagogical approaches. Otherwise, we run the risk of failing universally.

CS: Why do you think it’s so difficult to change the teaching-learning practices in the universities?

JM: I think change is difficult within universities because we rely heavily on academic “traditions” that are built on faulty assumptions of teaching and learning. Some of most troubling assumptions (which are not based on science) include:

  • Motivation: We assume students must be externally motivated to learn, otherwise they would not learn anything. This is akin to assuming the natural state of humans is laziness and non-curious.
  • Age segregation: We assume people learn best when segregated by age or ability. We tend to compartmentalize education into certain discrete levels (i.e., primary, secondary, and tertiary education), and further segregate students by age. There is very little reason to support this practice, and evidence suggests that cross age/ability integration enhances students’ learning.
  • Power structures: We assume that the only “qualified” knowledge generators are the teachers at the head of the classroom, who download knowledge into students’ heads. In today’s world where the magnitude of change is accelerating at an exponential pace, information and knowledge is always in flux. Rather than relying on static “experts,” we need to start recognizing and attending to new power structures where we all serve as co-learners and co-teachers.

The good news is that “traditions” are things that we invent all the time. I am optimistic that we can create new traditions that are relevant to modern society.

CS: How can we improve the teaching-learning processes in the universities?

JM: I think we should look at new uses for software and social technologies to enable all participants at universities to become life-long co-teachers as well as co-learners. This means that students (and teachers) need to stop behaving as consumers of education, but become creators, producers, and prosumers. At the same time, learning needs to become more immersive and personally-meaningful (subjective experiences) to each learner. This means that we are likely to not have one master narrative for learning at universities, but we may have many different ones, enabling students and faculty to express themselves as postdisciplinary knowledge experts (possessing unique knowledge at the individual level).

CS: Could you please indicate three (3) innovative/disruptive teaching-learning experiences? They could be single practices (i.e. flip teaching) or institutional ones (i.e. Coursera).

JM:

  1. Democratic education: Educational institutions tend to run as dictatorships, and are structured to preserve themselves. By horizontalizing our relationships, and making sure to give each stakeholder an equal voice, we could see significant, positive disruption as students and faculty become co-responsible for attending to all aspects of the educational experience.
  2. Quest-based learning: Thieu Besselink wrote an excellent chapter on this in Knowmad Society: http://www.knowmadsociety.com
  3. Co-teaching: This is best expressed by what E-180 and the Shibuya University Network already engage in.

CS: How do you imagine the university of the future? Please indicate three (3) characteristics.

JM: This question is perhaps faulty in that it assumes that we will have universities in the future. Maybe you should start with the question: Does the future need universities?

Let’s assume that the future does need universities. In that case, I envision near-future institutions will operate in an environment where…

  1. Any form of information delivery that can be commodified, will be. We see this today with the emergence of MOOCs, Udemy, Coursera, etc. Any non-unique content delivery (especially through download-style pedagogies) will be provided through these platforms, and through a small group of providers. This is particularly threatening to junior colleges, general education courses at mainstream universities, and perhaps also to secondary education.
  2. The gap between top tier schools and everybody else will widen. The top schools may not have superior educational offerings, but they have powerful brands. Why pay to take a course at the University of Minnesota when you can participate in a free, online experience that is affiliated with a top school, such as Stanford or MIT? My take is that the top-tier schools with powerful brand identities will “own” higher education; and, in many respects, other universities will become subscribers to their products and services.
  3. Smaller, “boutique” programs outside the formal, accredited system will boom in presence and market share. Small, but highly specialized, programs such as KaosPilots, Knowmads, YIP, Hyper Island, and the Shibuya University Network operate outside of formal education, and have each developed their own approaches to teaching and learning. In an era where mainstream society are beginning to question the value of a university degree, these programs offer alternatives, and employers will become much, much more receptive to the “graduates” of these alternative education/credentialing programs.

I think that, apart from the very few elite institutions, universities are marching themselves toward obsolescence, and they may be the last to figure it out. Remember, as Anya Kamentz pointed out in her interview at Education Futures, the Roman Senate continued to meet for several centuries after the collapse of the empire.

Is there no room for democracy in Dutch schools?

When is a school not a school? Yesterday, a judge in the Netherlands ruled that De Kampanje school in Amersfoort is not a school, and fined the parents of its students for sending their kids there.

Readers of Education Futures might recognize De Kampanje as it is the subject of Christel Hartkamp‘s chapter in our new book, Knowmad Society. In it, she summarizes the Dutch situation:

There is a growing demand in society for alternatives to the regular educational system. Although the Netherlands is famous for its diverse schooling options (i.e., Montessori, Waldorf, Dalton, Freinet, Jenaplan, etc.), most of the options have become standardized by the governmental regulations for public schools over the past decades. As a result, these schools moved away from their initial pedagogical approaches. The government is placing more and more emphasis and pressure on testing and exams. The system, itself, is outdated, and more kids are suffering, both physically or by being labeled and over-cared for. As a result, motivation of students is decreasing. The time is right to develop real alternatives to the mainstream model. (p. 107 of preview edition)

What sets De Kampanje apart from most other schools is that it is structured as a democratic organization, following two basic principles adopted by the European Democratic Education Community. The first is that students have the right to make their own choices about learning and all other areas of everyday life (and bear the responsibility for their consequences). The second is that students have an equal say in the decision-making at the school, including administrative and judicial matters.

The government is concerned that when students are empowered to make their own decisions, they are not likely to learn. When I visited the De Kampanje and De Koers Sudbury-type schools, and interviewed students, parents, and staff members, I found very little evidence of that:

The next step of De Kampanje parents is to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights. At issue is the question of whether parents have a right to a say in how their children are educated. Stay tuned.

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?