21st century

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Last Wednesday, I sat down for an interview by Rob Wijnberg for VPRO’s Tegenlicht (Backlight) at the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam. For the episode that is to air on March 23, the question was asked, “what do education systems need to do to excel in the 21st century?”

The program first interviewed Frank Furedi, who argued that education revolves too much around making children happy, focuses too much on their feelings and social interaction, and does little to facilitate knowledge acquisition. Teachers, he argues, spend too much time as the “guide on the side” and needs to act more as the “sage on the stage.”

They then talked with Robbert Dijkgraaf, president of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences. He discussed Holland’s “New Learning,” where children sit in groups, where the teacher serves as a coach, and where students direct their learning. In this environment, concern is expressed that the role of teachers is undermined as passive people, lacking authority.

Then, I was interviewed. We discussed the differences between Societies 1.0 through 3.0, and the implications for education. I think Rob wanted me to say that both Furedi and Dijkgraaf are wrong about future needs for education. I suspect he’s right, but I tried to avoid saying that because we simply do not know what the future will be like. I did suggest, however, that we focus on teaching kids a set of New Basics. A few more key points:

  • If you want a “sage on the stage,” you can package it in a box. The Chinese are already doing this.
  • We need to prepare kids for jobs that are beyond our imagination.
  • Kids and adults have a lot that they can teach each other — allowing us to realize new potentials as we co-create our futures

VPRO typically posts their episodes on YouTube. Watch for it later in March!

Update March 6, 2009:

VPRO posted further details on the episode at

Jayson Richardson returns as guest blogger

For the week of October 12, Dr. Jayson Richardson will return to Education Futures as a guest blogger. (I will be away in China.)

Jayson is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership in the Watson School of Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. His research interests include international / intercultural education and global school leadership. He is particularly interested in how nations and societies can find innovative ways to build a 21st Century knowledge-based workforce.

Jayson has served as a project manager / consultant on various educational technology grants with Seward Incorporated out of Minneapolis, MN. He has also worked as a mathematics teacher on the Navajo Indian Reservation, in inner-city Indianapolis, and in East London, UK. At various levels, he has been involved in international teaching, international service learning, and intercultural education for over 14 years. Jayson earned is PhD in comparative and international development education from the University of Minnesota, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction / English as a Second Language from Indiana University, and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education / Spanish from Purdue University.  (You can view his UNCW faculty profile here.)

Welcome back, Jayson!

Teaching Society 3.0 kids

I’m back from the ASOMEX technology conference in Monterrey, where we had a series of conversations on educating children of the 21st century. Our discussions were focused on the effective and purposive use of technologies in schools, and were joined by educators at private, English-language schools throughout Mexico.

My presentation focused on building education for a future society that is emerging rapidly, which I label “Society 3.0.” My key point is that schools that are built for the industrial era (Society 1.0), are ill-equipped to teach Society 3.0 kids. More importantly:

You can view slides from my presentation here. Also, Cristóbal Cobo posted his thoughts from the conference at e-rgonomic.

Chris Dede: Leapfrog beyond research triangles

Last month, Leapfrog Institutes and Education Futures interviewed Dr. Christopher Dede, Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies, Technology, Innovation, and Education at Harvard University, on what it would take for a state to become a leader in innovation. His answer was quite simple: successful states set up regional economic education development centers. These centers need to focus on K-20 development, rather than on higher education –which is what research triangles typically focus on. His recommendation: Leapfrog over traditional research triangles and build something relevant for the 21st century.

More in the video:

E-competencies: Building human capital for the 22nd century

Upcoming event:

October 31, 2008

Mexico City, Mexico

Conference website:

The Knowledge Society demands that we leapfrog ahead in our education systems, build a new digital literacy, and improve soft skills (creativity, innovation, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking, among others) that could help all 21st century citizens become productive, effective knowledge workers. Educators, policymakers, business leaders, parents, and youth must identify and develop new sets of e-skills and e-competencies to help youth succeed, and build a capacity for success toward the 22nd century.  The purpose of this event is to identify, project and discuss the e-skills and e-competencies required for success in the 21st and early 22nd centuries. This event will explore, gather and analyze relevant experiences in training and development of e-skills throughout North America.

The activity builds from the collaborative work of scholars from FLACSO-México, the University of Minnesota and the University of Toronto.  This public session invites thought leaders and innovators in the development of the e-skills to share their work and experiences. Guest presenters will be invited to participate physically or virtually, and all presentations will be recorded, translated into Spanish and English, and available for viewing online and discussion.

This event is funded through the support of PIERAN, the Interinstitutional Program for North American Studies at El Colegio de México, and the collaborating institutions.

This is not your typical conference!

To facilitate focused discussions and innovative approaches to dialogue on e-competencies, the organizing committee has established the following rules:

  • No presentation may be longer than 10 minutes (this is the maximum length allowed by YouTube, and will be strictly enforced).
  • A maximum of four PowerPoint (or similar) slides will be allowed.  It is the presenter’s responsibility to ensure both English and Spanish versions of their slides and any accompanying materials are available.

In addition:

  • There are no registration fees for this conference!
  • Although in-person presentations are encouraged, presenters may participate virtually (via Skype or Adobe Acrobat Connect) or in-person.
  • Participants that find it difficult to participate via live video or in person may contribute a pre-recorded YouTube (or similar) video to be shown during the event and made available in the online library.
  • Presenters and participants from throughout the world are invited.
  • All participants will be invited to continue our discussions online at this conference website and elsewhere.
  • All conference products will be made available for further dissemination and development through a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license.

To submit a proposal, click here. (Deadline: September 26, 2008)

More information at the conference website:

Owatonna's model for the 21st century

At yesterday’s Horizon Forum meeting at the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Steve O’Conner, Director of Instructional Services for Owatonna Public Schools, presented an overview of an initiative in a classroom in Washington Elementary School where a fifth grade classroom has gone mostly paperless. Desks are replaced with medicine balls and music stands, and textbooks, papers and pens are replaced with laptop computers. We then connected to the classroom by videoconference, and spoke with the students and their teacher, Matt McCartney.

What do the kids think? They love it!

Jeff Cagle from Owatonna People’s Press joined the conversation in Owatonna, and wrote:

Megan Andrist said she found the laptops helpful because she was able to access a number of kid-friendly Web sites for research.

Cam Muchow enjoyed using technology and adding other elements such as digital photography to his assignments.

By removing desks from the classroom, the students are able to instantly reconfigure their learning and work settings. In theory, the instant physical reorganization and software-enhanced environment allows for more individualized instruction. One kinesiologist at the University of Minnesota wondered if the medicine balls could help reduce the need to medicate children diagnosed with neurobehavioral development disorders (i.e., ADHD). Others saw instant potential in the cost savings that can be realized by eliminating traditional desks. Again, we asked: what do the kids think? They love the medicine balls. Cagle wrote:

Most students, including Brady Steinhorst, enjoyed sitting on the therapy balls.

“Usually when you’re sitting in a chair, you have nothing to do,” he said, “and then you talk to a friend.”

Despite the excitement and hope the classroom is generating, a troubling question looms: What will happen to these kids when they graduate from the 5th grade and enter a middle school with desks, and where computers and other resources are restricted to tightly-controlled laboratories?

Special thanks goes to Superintendent Dr. Tom Tapper, principal Mary Baier, and Matt McCartney for their collaboration on this event.

World Competitiveness Ranking – Where is Japan?

World Competitiveness. For the first entry of my guest-blogging, this topic would not be too bad, I suppose.

Thus, World Competitiveness.

According to World Competitive Yearbook 2007 by IMD (International Institute for Management Development), Japan is now ranked in the 24th place, sliding out of the top twenty. Allowing China to pass (China rose from 18 to 15), Japan has moved down eight spots, from the 16th in 2006. In fact, Japan is now surpassed by many of it’s neighboring countries, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and even Malaysia (See the below ranking for details). Though there is a debate over if China truly deserves to be ranked so high, let’s put away that debate for the moment and I would like to think why Japan has fallen dramatically.

One IMD research fellow points out why Japan is slipping, noting some of the factors that I have also pondered many times in the past when thinking about my own country’s higher education system. As she puts it:

[…] Entrepreneurship is not widespread (ranking 57th out of 61 countries), business managers are not characterized as having much international experience (52nd) and there is a low participation of women in business (47th). […] Other obstacles to global integration include a national culture that is closed to foreign ideas (54th) and strict immigration laws (55th), despite the fact that Japan ranks higher for its “attitude towards globalization” (14th).

It has also been pointed out that this low ranking is caused by the serious descrepancies between the skills companies need and the skills Japanese university provides to students.

What does this mean?

To me, it means that the higher education system needs to focus on producing a new type of college graduate: someone who is ready for the globalized economy of the 21st century, someone who can think independently and able to function in the international market, and someone who has great creative mind as well as entrepreneurship.

Yes yes, these points have been discussed for many years by now, but nothing has changed so far, as Japan’s competitiveness ranking keeps dropping down.

I am unwilling to admit, but it looks as though it will take some time before Japan starts climbing back up the rankings… *sigh*

IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2007 (top 30)

1. U.S.A, 2. Singapore, 3. Hong Kong, 4.Luxembourg, 5. Denmark, 6. Switzeland, 7. Iceland, 8. Netherlands, 9. Sweden, 10. Canada, 11. Austria, 12. Australia, 13. Norway, 14. Ireland, 15. Mainland China, 16. Germany, 17. Finland, 18. Taiwan, 19. New Zealand, 20. United Kingdom, 21. Israel, 22. Estonia, 23. Malaysia, 24. Japan, 25. Belgium, 26. Chile, 27. India, 28. France, 29. Korea, 30. Spain.


BT futurist on Nobels and alien thinking

Australia’s Computerworld jumps on the futures bandwagon, and provides insight into the 21st century (in stark contrast to what others are writing on the future). In an interview with British Telecom futurist Ian Pearson, a few daring predictions emerged:

1. “Thinking” is going to seem very alien to many people:

We will probably make conscious machines sometime between 2015 and 2020, I think. But it probably won’t be like you and I. It will be conscious and aware of itself and it will be conscious in pretty much the same way as you and I, but it will work in a very different way. It will be an alien. It will be a different way of thinking from us, but nonetheless still thinking. It doesn’t have to look like us in order to be able to think the same way.

2. Some machine intelligences will outsmart humans by 2020, and they will begin winning Nobel Prizes.

This raises an important concern. Our schools are not preparing students to thrive in an environment with a plurality of creative and intellectual modalities. Rather, through regimes such as No Child Left Behind, they are being transformed into cookie-cutter automatons. The irony is that as machines become much more intellectually-capable and creative, human capital is becoming more mechanistic. Which has the better potential to thrive through this century?