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The future of education, open accreditation, and DIY U: An interview with Anya Kamenetz

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

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Anya Kamenetz, a senior writer at Fast Company Magazine, and the author of several thought-provoking books on education, including Generation debt and DIY U: Edupunks, edupreneurs, and the coming transformation of higher education.

Anya’s most recent projects — two free ebooks Learning, freedom and the Web (Mozilla Foundation) and The Edupunks’ Guide (Gates Foundations) build on her previous work investigating issues of self-directed learning, peer-networks, and access.

Our discussion focused on the future, purposes, and meaning of formal education, as well as alternative accreditation models, Knowmad Society, and academic and institutional change.

Here is a summary of our conversation:

On the purpose of college:
“As I get deeper into the topic of higher education it strikes me all the time that there really is a blind man and the elephant quality to it. That people appear to be discussing the same thing and yet you find that their internal models of what higher education means are very, very different.”

On the mission of educational institutions in our modern economy defined by being post-industrial, highly globalized, and subject to accelerating change:
“We are living in a time of bottomless scrutiny of all of our institutions and education foremost among them and that’s because they are subject to so many structural pressures and the weakest points in their creation are really exposed by the winds of the new society and the world that we are living in…”

On the value of a college degree:
“…at its best, a college degree is a unique kind of currency that was created by human societies to show that someone has been through a process of personal development, of cultural development, that they are a ‘citizen’ in the truest sense of the word. They are able to participate in society intelligently. Ideally they are able to contribute to society…”

On compulsory high school in America:
“The whole idea of compulsory education is a little bit of a strange one in the United States. We’ve never had more, than what we have today which is a three-fourths high school graduation rate. Even though we compel people to attend, we are not that great at getting them to graduate. And for those that do graduate, in many districts, over half need some type of remedial courses to repeat when they get to college, if they get to college.”

On our projection of the demise of formal schooling by 2037:
“I’m not sure that I share the bluntness of a projection like that. It’s very easy to envision a world in which formal education is far demoted down the list in terms of choices that individuals have…”

On how alternative accreditation can benefit Knowmads:
“We are seeing all kinds of exciting developments in alternative accreditation. There are two major trends and they sort of work in complimentary directions. The first one is, this more atomized, very specific skills based orientated kind of accreditation which is best encapsulated by the badge. … On the opposite end of the spectrum, I think in a very intriguing way, you have sort of the person, the whole life, life as certification. The idea of a portfolio based assessment, things that allow you to document your learning that has taken place in various stages and aspects on your life, create a narrative around that learning, reflect on that learning, and develop metacognitive skills and document the learning you’ve done as well.”

On sociotechnical practices that are shaping the future of learning:
“The availability of social networks and peer based social networking is really enabling people to make visible the peer roles in learning that have sort been faded into the background by the last 150 years of formal education which sort of, and really in some sense the last 1000 years which considered of a person at the front of the room talking and the rest of the people are sitting down. And the assumption is that the people who are sitting down are very passive listeners and are not actively involved which each other; and, in fact, we have the phrase “classmates” but necessarily give you the idea that you have something valuable to learn from the person sitting next to you or behind you as much as you do from the person at the front of the room.”

On creating a more accessible and equitable education system:
“I think what is clearly being revealed at the moment is that the structures that we are building don’t necessarily allow for increased social equity or access over an above what we have in the brick and mortar system because merely making things available for free doesn’t necessarily lower the barriers to access and in fact we are actually we are in danger of recreating many of the same privileges that exists in the Ivory Tower world online simplify because people online tend to work through more informal networks that goes back to sort of an idea of an old boys network, it can be more meritocratic in some ways, it can be more open in some ways, but in the bottom line you need to have more onramps, ways to make these structures visible to people who wouldn’t necessarily know how to use them.”

On rising costs in higher education:
“Basic disruption theory tells us disruptive choices rarely come from the inside institutions, they have too much to lose. It’s the new institutions that are finding the ability offer things at radically lower costs. and sort of reframe and question what we mean by higher education.”

On evolution and revolution in education:
“I think that education is a peculiarly resistant to change of any institution because the whole purpose of formalized education is to preserve the past. … I guess I would vote on the side of very radical change happening but it may not take the take the form we expect.”

I also suggest watching two of Anya’s recent talks at Harvard’s Berkman Center and the American Enterprise Institute.

Review: Empowered (by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler)

Book: Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business
Author: Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (2010)

Back in August, Josh Bernoff tweeted an offer for a free copy of his new book, Empowered, in exchange for a review at Amazon. I enjoyed his previous book, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, co-authored with Charlene Li, so I took him up on the offer. Somehow, there was a delay in getting the book to me, and the text did not arrive until we were well into the fall semester — not a good time for a review. So, this is a little bit late, but better than never.

Over the past couple years, I have used Groundswell in my “Designing the future of education in Society 3.0” course at the University of Minnesota. In the book, Li and Bernoff write on how to integrate professional activities (and the activities of the organization you work with) into 21st century-relevant frameworks. In a way, it is a roadmap for transforming organizations from industrial to knowledge and innovation-based social frameworks that value personal knowledge and expertise:

“Simply put, the groundswell is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of from companies. If you’re in a company, this is a challenge” (x).

Empowered builds on these ideas a bit further, focusing on new media and how they impact traditional businesses. Specifically, the book focuses on what they term HEROes: “highly empowered and resourceful operatives” — geeks and other social media savvy people that can help an enterprise navigate the Groundswell. The concept is simple. Rather than trying to manage your technological and social media footprints at the enterprise level, business managers should work to attend to their employees’ and customers’ use of novel technologies. Whereas disgruntled employees and customers can use social media (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, etc.) to do harm to a company’s reputation (intentionally or non-intentionally) with relative ease, companies likewise need to learn how to leverage social media to build their brand images.

Empowered is more of a manual with suggestions than clear answers on how to cope with social media — and, given the rapid rate of evolution of these technologies, the authors’ less-prescriptive pathway is welcome. What the book lacks, however, are game changing perspectives on how to lead in the world of the Groundswell. In other words, the text seems geared toward organizations that are trying to catch up rather than those that are leading social futures.

In a world of expanding knowmadic and do-it-yourself opportunities, this book is likely to leave organizational leaders scratching their heads, wondering how they will possibly keep up with their employees. Can they keep up in an “empowered” world?


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.

Settlers of the Shift

New World Order 2.0

I like conceptual maps –tools for illustrating the relationships among ideas– and, Tero Heiskanen created an interesting one. It’s huge. Without any further commentary:

Settlers of the shift is an open map of experts, organizations and ideas that are scattered around the globe. It’s for people whose work is shifting us towards a better tomorrow – a New World Order 2.0. This map aims to encourage people to connect across sectors and enable you to tie partnerships with like-minded individuals.

And:

Six values are suggested as a common backbone for the partnerships:

  • Justice: fair and honest treatment of everyone involved
  • Co-creation: synergistic dialogue and collaboration
  • Meaningfulness: solutions to problems worth solving
  • Generosity: giving time and resources for the sake of giving
  • Dignity: acting in a respectful and ethical manner
  • Abundance: denying artificial scarcity and limitations

(Thanks to Pekka Ihanainen for sharing this find!)

Designing Education 3.0

This week, Education Futures presents a series on Education 3.0. For a little background on this new paradigm of human capital development, you may wish to start with this chart on Education 3.0, or view this presentation on SlideShare.

This is my take on the future of education. Just as there are various conceptualizations of what Web 2.0 and future Web 3.0 might be, there are various conceptualizations of the Education 1.0 – 3.0 spectrum. Derek Keats shared one model he created with J. P. Schmidt a couple years ago, and a simple Google search provides links to various other frameworks or conceptualizations. My model focuses on the feedback-looped, transformative relationship between technology and society, and extends the relationship to transformations in human capital development. In brief,

  • Society 1.0 refers to pre-industrial, industrial and information age society that was based on linear, task-oriented relationships. The role of the corresponding Education 1.0 regime was to create graduates that would perform well in jobs with easily defined parameters and relationships.
  • Society 2.0 refers to the knowledge-based society that is driven by globalization and the growth of networking technologies. In this paradigm, information is no longer as important as the knowledge that’s created as we interpret information and create meaning. Increasingly, people are becoming more valued for their personal knowledge rather than their ability to perform tasks. Moreover, rapidly evolving information and communications technologies allow us to socially construct knowledge in new ways (i.e., through Twitter, Facebook and other social networking tools). The role of Education 2.0 is to develop our talents to compete in a global market with new social relationships, and where we are able to leverage our knowledge.
  • Society 3.0 refers to an emerging innovation-based society that is not quite here, yet. This is a society that is driven by accelerating change, globalized relationships, and fueled by knowmads. In an era of accelerating change, the amount of information available doubles at an increasing rate, and the half-life of useful knowledge decreases exponentially. This requires innovative thinking and action by all members of society.

Borrowing from the New Paradigm model that I recently published in On the Horizon, basic characteristics of the 1.0 – 3.0 spectrum may be summed in this table:

Paradigm

Domain 1.0 2.0 3.0
Fundamental relationships Simple Complex Complex creative (teleological)
Conceptualization of order Hierarchic Heterarchic Intentional, self-organizing
Relationships of parts Mechanical Holographic Synergetic
Worldview Deterministic Indeterminate Design
Causality Linear Mutual Anticausal
Change process Assembly Morphogenic Creative destruction
Reality Objective Perspectival Contextual
Place Local Globalizing Globalized

We will dive into more detail on these trends throughout the week.

What about education? This week, we will examine how Society 3.0 impacts Education 3.0:

Please visit often and submit your comments!

The networked student

Forwarded by Cristóbal Cobo: The Networked Student was inspired by CCK08, a Connectivism course offered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes during fall 2008. It depicts an actual project completed by Wendy Drexler’s high school students…

Digital Media and Learning Competition winners

17 projects will receive up to $238,000 in funding as part of the first ever Digital Media and Learning Competition funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and administered by HASTAC (the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory). While my proposal wasn’t among the less than 2% of submissions awarded funding, all of the winning projects look awesome:

  1. Always with You: Experiment in Hand-held Philanthropy: The Always With You network will connect young African social entrepreneurs with young North American professionals. Using mobile phone technology, which is now widespread, this network will facilitate both micro-funding and the exchange of professional advice to projects in Africa that promote public benefit.
  2. Black Cloud: Environmental Studies Gaming: Black Cloud is an environmental studies game that mixes the physical with the virtual to engage high school students in Los Angeles and Cairo, Egypt.
  3. Critical Commons: Critical Commons is a blogging, social networking and tagging platform specially designed to promote the “fair use” of copyrighted material in support of learning.
  4. FollowTheMoney.org: Networking Civic Engagement: FollowTheMoney.org: Networking Civic Engagement, a project of the Institute on Money in State Politics, is an online interactive site and users’ guide that supports civics research by young people and promotes their understanding of — and engagement with — electoral politics and legislative activities.
  5. Fractor: Act on Facts: Fractor is a web application that matches news stories with opportunities for social activism and community service.
  6. HyperCities: Based on digital models of real cities, “HyperCities” is a web-based learning platform that connects geographical locations with stories of the people who live there and those who have lived there in the past.
  7. Let the Games Begin: A 101 Workshop for Social Issue Game: The Let the Games Begin workshop is a soup-to-nuts tutorial on the fundamentals of social issue games.
  8. Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies (MILLEE): Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies, a project to be conducted in rural India, promotes literacy through language-learning games on mobile phones: the “PCs of the developing world.”
  9. Mobile Musical Networks: Mobile Musical Networks will build an expressive mobile musical laboratory for exploring new ways of making music with laptops and local-area-networks.
  10. Networking Grassroots Knowledge Globally: Networking Grassroots Knowledge Globally, a project of the Global Fund for Children, is a new community and “information commons” that will include blogs, video clips, sound slides, podcasts, and photographs to help share innovative practices for helping marginalized and vulnerable children.
  11. Ohmwork: Networking Homebrew Science: Ohmwork is a new social network and podcast site where young people can become inventive and passionate about science by sharing their do-it-yourself (DIY) science projects.
  12. Self-Advocacy Online: Self-Advocacy Online is an educational and networking website for teens and adults with intellectual and cognitive disabilities, targeted at those who participate in organized self-advocacy groups.
  13. Social Media Virtual Classroom: The Social Media Virtual Classroom will develop an online community for teachers and students to collaborate and contribute ideas for teaching and learning about the psychological, interpersonal, and social issues related to participatory media.
  14. Sustainable South Bronx Fab Lab: The Sustainable South Bronx Fab Lab project is a laboratory that allows people to turn digital models into real world constructions of plastic, metal, wood and more.
  15. Virtual Conflict Resolution: Turning Swords to Ploughshares: Virtual Conflict Resolution is a digital humanitarian assistance game that creates a learning environment for young people studying public policy and international relations.
  16. The Virtual World Educators Network: The Virtual World Educators Network will be developed to serve as an online hub to promote the use of virtual worlds as rich learning environments.
  17. YouthActionNet Marketplace: The YouthActionNet Marketplace is a dynamic digital networking platform for young leaders to engage in social entrepreneurship and address critical social problems.

How can we fund more of these projects?

Future Scanner

I received this note regarding Future Scanner, located at memebox.com:

The Future Scanner is a community-powered resource that scours the web for the best future-focused content (predictions by experts, discoveries that will impact future events, product prototypes, industry forecasts, useful resources, etc.) and makes it accessible by future Year and Category. When users locate these types of cool links, they tag them accordingly and submit them as “scans” to the site via their personal accounts. As other users come across interesting scans and vote for the ones they like best, the links that receive the most votes appear on the front page of the Future Scanner. Individual users can also easily keep track of the scans they’ve submitted and voted for via their user accounts.

Looks like Digg for futurists, eh?

"My World" rumors persist

From Ars Technica:

Rumors of Google’s plans to create a virtual world that rivals that of Second Life have popped up once again over the weekend. The company could now be collaborating with Arizona State University to test the 3D social network, which may be tied into Google’s current applications of Google Earth and Google Maps.

By targeting the higher education social networking crowd (at least initially), can we expect this to take education by storm? Whereas Second Life is based on an invented (and inventable!) world, My World appears grounded in the real world –and more purpose-driven. Would such a grounding help to bridge virtual learning environments with reality?