Viewing posts from the Innovation category

Knowmads in the Netherlands

Education Futures introduced the knowmads concept last November. And, now we just learned that a major Dutch school of youth entrepreneurship, KaosPilots Netherlands, has decided to rebrand themselves as “Knowmads” (soon to be located online at


From i-genius:

KaosPilots Netherlands in Rotterdam is shutting its doors and the team is reopening under a new guise (rumour has it, it will be called Knowmads!). They Dutch started 5 years ago sharing a dream with KaosPilot Arhus in Denmark to create an international platform for young people that want to make a positive difference in the world through entrepreneurship. Working outside traditional Dutch higher education institutions the school worked with their students in a highly innovative way encouraging students were to developing their own projects whilst participating in other forms of experience led entrepreneur education, ‘learn by doing’.

From the KaosPilots statement on the change:

We are currently re-designing the educational concept. Building on learnings and best practices. Aiming at a better fit between the actual needs of ‘social entrepreneurs to be’ and the learning environment offered. Looking for the cutting edge of developments in social entrepreneurship. Strengthening our businessmodel and our entrepreneurial team.

Our editorial reaction: “Rock on!”

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.

Leapfrogging to the New Basics

classroom in Anqing

Are the old basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic relevant in the 21st century? Or, is it time for an upgrade?

Arthur Harkins and I assembled a list of New Basics for education that can help us leapfrog to an education paradigm that is both innovative and relevant for the 21st century and beyond. These learning outcomes are not intended to be definitive. They are, however, designed to serve as starting points for conversations on how youth-oriented human capital development systems may become more innovative and encourage learning that is more meaningful.

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"Innovation in the field of innovation"

I received feedback from several readers that Arthur Harkins’ reasoning for why we need to Leapfrog might seem a bit too Machiavellian — “us versus them.” I therefore hope everybody will enjoy the contrast of perspective in this next video.

In early November, we had an opportunity to interview Jutta Treviranus, director of the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre at the University of Toronto. Her approach to creating sustainable innovation is somewhat different. Instead of relying on competition, we can operate on an assumption of collaboration for innovation, creating win-win scenarios for all.

The “king of the hill, competitive” type of thinking, Treviranus argues, is contributing to the modern world’s problems. To get past this, she declares we need, “innovation in the field of innovation.” Brilliant!

More in the video:

Toward a smarter planet

Last month, IBM took out a two-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal that touted their vision for a smarter planet. They believe:

The world continues to get “smaller” and “flatter.” But we see now that being connected isn’t enough. Fortunately, something else is happening that holds new potential: the planet is becoming smarter.

That is, intelligence is being infused into the way the world literally works—into the systems, processes and infrastructure that enable physical goods to be developed, manufactured, bought and sold. That allow services to be delivered. That facilitate the movement of everything from money and oil to water and electrons. And that help billions of people work and live.

Furthermore, they write that the smarter planet is powered by three drivers:

  • The world is becoming instrumented. By 2010, there will be a billion transistors per human, each one costing one ten-millionth of a cent.
  • The world is becoming interconnected. With a trillion networked things—cars, roadways, pipelines, appliances, pharmaceuticals and even livestock—the amount of information created by those interactions grows exponentially.
  • All things are becoming intelligent. Algorithms and powerful systems can analyze and turn those mountains of data into actual decisions and actions that make the world work better. Smarter.

What does this mean for the futures of our various institutions?  For our hopes in quality of life?  IBM examines these questions in their blog, Building a Smarter Planet. They don’t provide answers, but they get the conversation going.

With the world becoming increasingly instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent, what new opportunities and challenges are presented to education and human capital development systems?

Two-Way Immersion is Twice As Good

An innovative program offered in some Massachusetts elementary schools is giving kids a chance to become bilingual early—and learn from each other.

This story in the Boston Globe describes how the program, which begins in kindergarten, mixes native English speakers and native Spanish speakers and teaches all subjects in both languages. The article states:

According to parents and educators, two-way foreign-language immersion is giving students a rare opportunity to break down social barriers. And although test scores are likely to lag in the early grades as students grapple with grammar, vocabulary, and math in two languages, they are more likely to outperform other students on high-stakes tests in middle and high school, educators say.

Let’s look at what we already know:

1) Kids learn new languages at the age of six far more easily and quickly than at 16.

2) About 45 percent of all kids in US elementary schools are minorities—and that number will be growing in the years ahead.

3) School districts across the US are recruiting teachers from abroad, many of whom are native speakers of languages other than English.

4) An increasing budget item in many school districts is the ESL program that focuses on teaching non-native speakers of English in a setting separate from the native English speakers.

5) As a nation, we recognize that having our kids speak a foreign language fluently will be a distinct advantage in the global economy.

6) Introducing foreign language instruction in high school rarely results in fluency.

7) Developing a greater awareness and appreciation of other cultures at a young age results in a more global perspective and better communication skills.

At a time when we are facing overwhelming challenges and budget cuts in our schools, we need to look at new ways to both support and leverage our key players–teachers and students. If we want our kids to have an education that provides them with relevant skills, we need to start by recognizing that we have a remarkable resource for language and cultural learning in almost every school in the country: kids who are native speakers of other languages. By using bilingual curricula and native-language teachers in the early grades and encouraging kids to communicate with each other in two languages in all subjects, we can easily expand the number of US students who become both fluent in a foreign language and fully cognizant of the cultures represented right in their own community.

Some solutions are just so darned obvious. By relaxing our ideas about early achievement testing, reconsidering our emphasis on high school foreign language requirements and focusing instead on two-way language immersion in elementary schools, we can create a generation of kids who are beautifully prepared for life in a multicultural world—whether they stay in the US or choose to live and work abroad.

(Guest post by Maya Frost, author of the forthcoming book, The New Global Student:  Skip the SAT, Save Thousands On Tuition, and Get A Truly International Education)

Dropping Out–Or Leaping Ahead?

Even in a week packed with all kinds of dire predictions about the economy, it was hard to ignore this headline: Kids Less Likely To Graduate Than Parents. (See the AP story here)

According to the report by the Education Trust, more than one in four high school students in the US drop out before graduating, and the numbers are even more alarming in urban schools. This makes the US the only industrialized country in which young people are less likely than their parents to earn a high school diploma.

There are plenty of reasons for hand wringing and navel gazing about what’s gone terribly wrong with our education system, but there’s also a surprising opportunity to offer high fives.

You see, the numbers don’t tell the full story. Obviously, there are a lot of kids dropping out of education altogether, but because the formula used for calculating graduation rates varies by state, we don’t really have any idea what those kids are doing once they leave high school. Homeschoolers, virtual students, those who spend a year abroad or get alternate types of diplomas (three of my four daughters fit this description) are all tossed into the drop-out pile.

As part of the research for my book, I’ve been fortunate to have an opportunity to talk to over a hundred students across the US who are the antithesis of the you-want-fries-with-that? image we hold of the high school drop-out. In fact, some of the most motivated, accomplished, articulate, and clear-headed students I’ve ever met would be counted in most state tallies as drop-outs. The good news is that they’re too busy racing through college, traveling around the world and landing their dream jobs to worry much about such labels.

That’s right. They’re “dropping out” of high school in order to fast track—they’re entering college early. And by the time their classmates are reaching for that high school diploma, these “drop-outs” have earned enough college credits to transfer as a junior to a four-year university. Many earn their college degree by the age of 20–with no debt—before their high school buddies have even picked a major, and they’ve spent enough time abroad to become fluent in a foreign language (or two or three) and develop a clearer perspective of themselves, their culture and the world in general.

Look, there’s no question that there are many challenges to overcome in our approach to education, but when you read about the low high school graduation rates, remember that there’s a silver lining: those numbers also reflect the fact that an increasing number of kids who are smart, bold, innovative and on fire to learn in an adult setting are leaving high school far behind in order to blast forward. These future leaders are defining education in new ways—and they’re the ones to watch.

We talk a lot about the need to pay attention to the way we educate our brightest students.  What we don’t mention is that while we’re arguing about the best program to implement, these smart kids are finding creative ways to educate themselves.

We can learn a lot from them.

(Guest post by Maya Frost)

3D Simulations and Model Eliciting Activities

I am involved in an Institute of Educational Sciences project with Seward Incorporated out of Minneapolis. We are currently building a simulation to support a Model Eliciting Activity (MEA). MEAs are predominantly used in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, and mathematic). Here is a good read on how MEAs have been used. In short, these are activities that force students to build mathematical models based on real world problems.

Check out these sample MEAs:

In short, we are building simulations to support MEAs. Currently we are building a simulation using Croquet. This is an open source technology that allows the user to create interactive 3D worlds. The current simulation is based on a paper airplane MEA. In this MEA students need to create a judging model for what makes a paper airplane a best floater, the fastest plane, most loops, the most accurate, etc, With this MEA it is impossible for teachers to replicate a data set in class. But in a simulated environment, teachers can replicate a throw over and over! Below is a screenshot of our current project:



In this environment students will be able to:

  • Launch and relaunch flights
  • Chat with other students
  • Compare and contrast flight paths
  • Change angle from judges table to top view, to sideline view.
  • Interact with the flight data using a measurement tool.

Teachers will:

  • Be able to monitor all students in the environment
  • Give feedback and probe using the chat function

We are working on the laboratory now. In that environment, students will be more interactive and will be able to play with the angle, the force, height, and plane choice to determine its impact on the flight.

If you had any experiences using / building simulations to support mathematical problem solving skills, please comment! If you know of anyone else doing this kind of work, we would love to hear about it!

Edison High School is poised to Leapfrog

[Cross-posted from Leapfrog Institutes newswire.]

Last March, Minneapolis Public Schools announced that Edison High School and Washburn High School will be overhauled in response to under-performance. As part of the “fresh start” agenda, nearly all staff members at each school received notice that their contracts would not be renewed, and they would have to reapply for their jobs. (See this Minnesota Public Radio story for more information.) At around the same time, Edison High School and Leapfrog Institutes committed with each other to explore how to build a new culture of innovation within EHS.

At the Synergy 2008 conference, Arthur Harkins and I had an opportunity to interview Assistant Principal Jerry Pederson, Teacher Amy Conger, and Wendie Palazzo, Director of Career and Technical Education for MPS. We wanted to hear their take on EHS’s fresh start, and what changes are underway at the school that aims to reflect the tradition of innovation associated with the Edison name: