Innovative Thinkers

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Basti Hirsch: Rethink purposive uses of technologies in schools

I met up with Basti Hirsch at the NEXT Berlin 2012 conference last week. He is a leader at the Education Innovation Lab at the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA School of Governance in Berlin. His work focuses on reinventing learning in the digital age. We chatted about what it would take to drive innovation in education, and some of what he believes are the most exciting examples we can learn from.

Basti’s approach to innovation involves bringing stakeholders to the table, integrating technology that didn’t exist before, and focusing on making it happen. He cautions that while technologies can be enablers, but we need to be purposive on how we use them. Moreover, Basti refers to Charles Leadbeater’s matrix of disruptive innovation (see Leadbeater’s TED talk), which illustrates new modes for user-created innovations by using tools smartly.

Charles Leadbeater’s matrix of disruptive innovation

Who’s leading the way? He is inspired by the work of i.c.stars in Chicago, which uses project-based learning approaches to develop young leaders in communities that are otherwise underserved by mainstream education. He also suggests looking at the Stanford They’re reinventing classrooms, he observed, and helping educators to think beyond static conceptualizations of “education.”

Building enclaves of entrepreneurship education through pirate-like thinking

On Tuesday, I stopped by the NEXT Berlin 2012 conference at STATION-Berlin to meet up with young innovators in the European education sphere. I had the pleasure of chatting with Inês Silva, co-founder of the Startup Pirates, a one-week startup school that works with various communities around the planet. Headquartered in Portugal, the Startup Pirates work to:

[…] help and foster new ventures that are going to be game-changers, capable of breaking the rules set in their markets. This way, we are creating an inspiring and informal environment, together with a great curricular plan and fantastic experts on the subjects. We expect to open minds and to provide the tools to come up with, and to develop some awesome ideas.

Watch my interview with Inês, where I ask her to describe what Startup Pirates works to achieve, and what the implications are for formal education:

A conversation and workshop with the KaosPilots and Knowmads

For those of us in the Minneapolis area, I’m pleased to share news that the KaosPilots and Knowmads will visit with the University of Minnesota for a free event on redesigning university education.

Here’s the official announcement:

Following on the activities of the College of Design’s Design Intersections symposium (, the University of Minnesota community is invited to join in a FREE follow-up workshop, co-sponsored by the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development and the Jandris Center for Innovation in Higher Education:

Rethinking Teaching and Learning at the University of Minnesota: A Conversation and Workshop with The KaosPilots and Knowmads.


Friday, March 30
9 am – noon, lunch follows
Shepherd Room, Weisman Art Museum

Registration will be limited to 50.

Join us for a FREE co-creation event at the University of Minnesota featuring global creatives from the KaosPilots (Aarhus, Denmark) and Knowmads (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) —innovative schools focused on applied creative and design thinking, business, and social entrepreneurship.
We will discuss the future of education and what it means for the University.

  • How can we rethink how we learn, share, and apply what we know in this time of accelerating technological and social change?
  • How we can apply design thinking principles to transform how we teach, learn, live and work in Minnesota?
  • How can students and faculty at the University of Minnesota be engaged in democratic, participatory ways in co-creating new approaches to teaching and learning?
We welcome the University community and others interested in education for building a creative and innovative Minnesota.

Event co-sponsors:  College of Design; Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development; Jandris Center for Innovative Higher Education; Humphrey School of Public Affairs; Carlson School of Management; and the Weisman Art Museum

For more information, visit or contact Virajita Singh ( or John Moravec (

Whose crazy idea is it anyway?

As the 21st century digital revolution continues to disrupt the economy, and the traditional knowledge claim held by experts of the 20th century is making way for a global entrepreneurial mindset, (university) education finds itself on the verge of its most radical transformations since the industrial revolution. Whose Crazy Idea Is It Anyway is an academic endeavor that has the ambition to set the agenda in the educational landscape of the coming decade.

The work conference takes a specific angle to tackle the education issue: the (presumed) tension between entrepreneurial and academic values. Where do these values overlap and when do they contradict each other? What kinds of learning environments can start to emerge when both these worlds join forces? And how can these new learning networks be equipped to address urgent societal issues?

Following a “Yes – No – What the F*ck” intermission exercise facilitated by the Knowmads business school in Amsterdam, I gave a keynote talk that centered on invisible learning, and how higher education can contribute toward building Knowmad Society.

Later, I chatted with Andrew Keen on how we might foster entrepreneurship and expressions of innovation in higher education. Unfortunately, the studio lighting couldn’t mask my jet lag and emerging head cold:

Other interesting interviews:

Parag Khanna

Zoltan Acs

Thieu Besselink

Hrobjartur Arnason

Uffe Elbaek on social entrepreneurship

Uffe Elbæk is a social entrepreneur, politician, and cultural leader in Denmark. In his knowmadic career so far, he founded the KaosPilots school in Århus, organized the World Outgames 2009, and the Change the Game consultancy. Currently, Uffe is running for a seat in the Danish parliament as candidate from the Social Liberal Party (Radikale). Last week, we met up, and he shared his views on social entrepreneurship in the “fourth sector” (metaspace where government, private, and non-governmental organizations converge):

In the Invisible Learning project, Cristóbal Cobo and I revealed that the development of soft skills are critical for success in Knowmad Society. In an era where the useful lifespan of information and personal knowledge decreases at an exponential pace, soft skills are increasingly seen as critical to help individuals navigate and lead in a perceptively chaotic and ambiguous world. When posed with the question of which skills and competencies are critical for successful social entrepreneurship, Uffe cited four key competencies from the KaosPilots program:

  1. Meaning: If you don’t understand what you’re doing and why you are doing it, your activity will fail. It is important to create meaning through what we do.
  2. Relationship: Today’s society requires more teamwork and sophisticated communication and problem-solving skills. Building good relationships with the people you work with is critical.
  3. Change: You have to be able to unlearn what you already know so that you can learn what is important in a changing world.
  4. Action: You need to produce solid, visible results.

Update: In September 2011, Uffe was elected to the Danish parliament. On October 3, he was appointed the Culture Minister of Denmark. Congratulations, Minister Elbæk!

Read more on Uffe’s work:

"Reboelje!" – Invisible Learning in the Netherlands

Finally, after several weeks of travel and meetings, I am able to report on the Invisible Learning Tour, which was hosted by NHL in Leeuwarden. The event was an example of self-organization. Given the seed of an idea, three universities, two Sudbury schools, the Knowmads school, and various other partners came together, using social media, to construct a two-day event. The purpose of the Invisible Learning Tour was to raise awareness for the need for innovation in education. Mainstream teaching focuses mainly on the preparation of students for compartmentalized roles and jobs (mainly factory workers and bureaucrats) that contrast sharply with the needs of the modern economy, which requires people that are imaginative, creative, and innovative. We explored ideas, existing options, and new pathways for learning that is relevant for the 21st century.

The first day was built into an open space event, moderated by Edwin de Bree (De Koers Sudbury School) and Franziska Krüger (Knowmads). About 130 participants attended the live meeting, and another 295 joined online. I gave the opening keynote, which is posted on Vimeo (my slides are also posted here):

The first day also included open conversations on how to make Invisible Learning visible, and a few participants self-organized a flash mob (video by Guido Crolla):

The second day involved a media tour to the De Kampanje and De Koers Sudbury Schools, and the Knowmads school in Amsterdam. I produced a short video based on interviews with students and staff members at the two Sudbury schools. What struck me in our conversations was, that despite the fact the students have no teachers (they are responsible for their self-learning), their responses were articulate and cogent — despite the fact they were speaking in a second language:

Unfortunately, my time with Knowmads was cut short as I had to race to the airport to catch my flight back from Amsterdam. As I left, however, one thing was very clear: A tremendous momentum for change is building up in the Netherlands. As Knowmads tribe leader Pieter Spinder puts it, it’s time for a Friesian rebellion: “Reboelje!”

Special thanks go to Edwin de Bree, Franziska Krüger, Christel Hartkamp, Jeroen Bottema, Pieter Spinder, Guido Crolla, and the team at Mooipunt/CMD program at NHL in Leeuwarden (Tom Ravesloot, Tom Klaver, Jeroen van de Bovenkamp, Wout Laben, Peter Klaas, Sanne van der Heide, Julien Hogemans, Robert de Kruijf, Sander Nota, and Robin van Poelje). Without their leadership and contributions, this event would never be possible. Better yet, they turned it into a smashing success!

Thank you!

Invisible Learning conversation with Knowmads – Monday, June 7

20:00 Netherlands and España
13:00 U.S. CDT and Mexico
15:00 Argentina
19:00 Portugal
21:00 Finland
14:00 Chile

Next Monday, June 7, the Invisible Learning project invites you to participate in an open webinar with our invited guests: Knowmads (Amsterdam, Netherlands), a creative, entrepreneurial school for developing entrepreneurs who want to make a difference in this world.

This is not a conference, but an opportunity to converse, exchange ideas and viewpoints among cyber-participants. Participation is open to all.

If you have questions and ideas in the upcoming days before the webinar, you can send them through the Invisible Learning website to @john or @cristobalcobo — or by Twitter (@moravec or @cristobalcobo).

  • The link to join the webinar will be posted at the portal
  • Please spread the word about this event by sharing this invitation (i.e., feel free to copy it into your blog)
  • On Twitter, we use the #invislearning hashtag for tracking Invisible Learning conversations.

We will use Adobe Connect Pro to broadcast the webinar, and a recording of the encounter will be posted online immediately after the meeting.

If you would like to know the corresponding hour for this activity in your country, we recommend you use this tool:

We look forward to seeing you at the webinar!
John Moravec
Cristóbal Cobo

Invisible Learning conversation with Juan Miguel Muñoz – May 24

On Monday, May 14, at 1pm (U.S. Central Time) the Invisible Learning project will host an open webinar with Juan Miguel Muñoz (Barcelona, Spain). This is not a conference, but an opportunity to converse, and exchange ideas and viewpoints in an open forum. (For this event, the operating language will be mostly in Spanish.)

For more information, visit the Invisible Learning website:

Project Dream School

Project Dream School starts with a simple question:

If you could build a dream school, what would you do?


What would the building look like? The methods? The teachers? Technology? The mission? …does it need to be a school, or should it be a bootcamp for designing futures… life… the perfect job?

Last Thursday, many great minds assembled to discuss just this… and how to make it happen. Sir Ken Robinson, Jeff Jarvis and I joined the discussion by Skype with Peter de Visser (principal), Marcel Kampman (creative organizer), Ellen Mashhaupt, Bianca Geerts, Fons van den Berg, Rob van der Ploeg, Bram Verhave (Architecture historian STEK, advisor to Chief government Architect), Peter de Visser, Ton Dohle, Bjorn Eerkes, Maurice Mikkers, Lex Hupe, Arjan Dingsté, Hartger Meihuizen (staff Stad&Esch), Roel Fleurke (staff Stad&Esch), Koene Kisjes (student Stad&Esch), Christian Paauwe (student Stad&Esch), Bart Hoekstra (student Stad&Esch), Jan Albert Westenbrink, and Annette Stekelenburg.

The project will have a website up-and-running soon at, and also in Dutch at: As a Skype (distant) participant, I really cannot report on how the entire discussion went, so make sure to follow the project sites for their take on the meeting and their next actions as they work to transform their dreams into reality.

Stay tuned… more soon!

Postscript: Here is my Dream School (as shared on Thursday):

  • The organization abandons the word “school” — in reinventing education, it becomes a bootcamp for design where youth and collaborating community members apply their creativity toward innovative applications.
  • The traditional classroom is abandoned in favor of space that favors multidirectional collaboration. Moreover, building that houses the organization is designed to be more than just a box. Rather, it is designed to be easily transformed and reconfigured as quickly as our ideas regarding teaching and learning evolve and transform.
  • An infrastructure is created to support technologies, but the technologies themselves are not deeply embeded (because they will likely change by the time they’re institutionalized). Students are responsible for bringing in and supporting their own technology, perhaps by providing them with a technology grant/budget. (Update: Kraft Foods is trying out this approach.)
  • The school is not just a tool for youth, but is a resource for the entire community it serves: Provides co-working and incubator resources for people with ideas that want to involve youth, and facilitates innovative, non-formal, informal and “invisible” learning opportunities.
  • A new breed of teacher/facilitators are trained and recruited to do away with download-style pedagogy, and rather serve as curators of ideas and enablers of creativity and innovation.

That’s my dream… which is easier said than done. But, it is what it is: A dream.