Viewing posts tagged learning

Education Futures in the Netherlands

I’m back from a busy week in the Netherlands. First on the agenda was Education Futures NL, an Education 3.0-focused workshop collaboration between Education Futures and Helikon (Fons van den Berg). In addition to our collaboration, the workshop was supplemented with contributions from Cristóbal Cobo and the Knowmads. Meeting space for the event was generously provided by the Creative Learning Lab, a part of the Waag Society. The event attracted 40 of the sharpest minds in the country, most of whom indicated that they were prepared to bring disruptive innovations to education immediately. The group will continue to meet and develop ideas — stay tuned for further developments, and make sure to view Marcel de Leeuwe‘s photos from the event!

My second conference visit was with i+i, where I gave a keynote talk on innovative teaching and learning “in the cloud.” An interesting component of the conference is the close relationships between its members, who, often, are isolated as technology leaders within their institutions. The event was therefore an intellectual reunion for many. One interesting aspect was “TeachMeetNL09,” an unconference within the conference, organized by Fons van den Berg and Marieke van Osch. By capitalizing on the social aspects of the i+i group and refocusing it into an unconference, I believe that Fons and Marieke are pioneering new trends that we will see emerge in professional and academic conferences.

As a side note, I also joined the Knowmads advisory board. With these great developments (and more), I hope to be back soon!

Photo credit:

Jean Piaget on creativity and innovation in education

Piaget: “We can classify education into two main categories: passive education relying primarily on memory, and active education relying on intelligent understanding and discovery. Our real problem is what is the goal of education? Are we forming children who are only capable of learning what is already known? Or should we try to develop creative and innovative minds capable of discovery from the preschool age on through life?”

November agenda: Boundless conversations

The month of November promises to be a remarkable series of boundless conversations on the intersections of creativity, technology and innovation in education.

First and foremost, I owe many thanks to Fons van der Berg for organizing Education Futures NL at the Creative Learning Lab in Amsterdam, November 2. The event will feature talks by me and Cristóbal Cobo, with additional activities facilitated by Fons. The Knowmads will also pay us a visit. Central to our conversations is the question: How shall we create new educational contexts that are relevant to Society 3.0?

I will then travel to the i+i Conference in Lunteren (Netherlands) on November 4. This technology-oriented group is interested in the technological, social and philosophical opportunities afforded by computing “in the clouds.” The focus of my keynote: ICT professionals are among the first to notice how accelerating technological change is driving dramatic transformations in society and how we work -but, what about the classroom? Are schools lagging behind in providing meaningful teaching and learning for the 21st century? Unfortunately, in most places, the answer is “yes.” This talk focuses on the evolving needs of society and the economy, and the failure of education to address them. I will present a roadmap to the changes required of education, and open a discussion on “what’s required next” as technology-enabled innovators reinvent Education 3.0.

Later that evening, I will join up with Fons for TeachMeet NL 09, where they say, “the best technologies for learning are conversations and beer.” I can’t wait!

Tom Elko will report from the premiere meeting of the WISE Forum to be held in Doha on November 16 – 18, 2009. The Forum will draw leaders and decision-makers from governments, businesses, civil society, schools & universities, international institutions, NGOs, grassroots movements, top-tier media, multimedia, art and other creative communities around the globe. The event is bringing in an impressive list of speakers, including Gerhard Schröder and Biz Stone (Twitter). Of particular note to educational innovators, Curriki will accept one of the first WISE Awards for innovation in education.

Finally, I head to Helsinki on November 20 for a visit with a seminar at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Science on Boundless Learning. With both virtual and in-person components, the seminar is developing into a real treat to participate in. For a sample of the ideas we will explore, view the videos posted on the Boundless Learning blog.

More soon… stay tuned!

Friedman: U.S. education system endangering global competitiveness

New York times columnist Tom Friedman speaks out:

A Washington lawyer friend recently told me about layoffs at his firm. I asked him who was getting axed. He said it was interesting: lawyers who were used to just showing up and having work handed to them were the first to go because with the bursting of the credit bubble, that flow of work just isn’t there. But those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables.

That is the key to understanding our full education challenge today. Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive. Therefore, we not only need a higher percentage of our kids graduating from high school and college — more education — but we need more of them with the right education.

Citing Dan Pink, Friedman continues to conclude that, to be competitive in a global marketplace, the U.S. needs to infuse its schools with “entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.” As we stated before, there are many obstacles for schools that wish to produce creatives. Most importantly:

  1. No Child Left Behind. NCLB is producing exactly the wrong products for the 21st Century, but is right on for the 1850’s through 1950. NCLB’s fractured memorization model opposes the creative, synthetic thinking required for new work and effective citizenship.
  2. Schools are merging with prisons. As soon as students enter schools, they lose many of their fundamental rights, including the right to free speech. Students who do not wish to conform to prison-like, automaton production must develop individual creativity to survive… often at a price.
  3. Inadequate teacher preparation, recruitment and retention. The U.S. public schools have always been lemmings, but are now failing to produce teachers who are savvy to the contemporary trends their students must learn and respond to in times of accelerating change. The other half of the picture is teacher-modeled creativity, something the public schools have never seriously attempted.
  4. Insufficient adoption of technology. The squeeze is on from both ends: Student-purchased technology is usually derided, suppressed, and sometimes confiscated. These tools are part of the technology spectrum kids know they will have to master. On the other end, technology in the schools is dated, the Internet is firewalled, and there isn’t enough equipment to go around.
  5. Focusing on information retention as opposed to new knowledge production. Disk-drive learning is for computers. Knowledge production and innovation are for humans. The first requires fast recall and low error rates from dumb systems; the second, driven by intelligent people, builds the economy and keeps America competitive.
  6. Innovation is eschewed. Most U.S. teachers think innovation is something that requires them to suffer the discomforts and pains of adaptation. They don’t accept change as a necessary function of expanding national competitiveness. Many U.S. teachers might be more comfortable in industrial world economies and societies represented by China and South Korea, or 1950’s America.
  7. Continuous reorganization of school leadership and priorities, particularly in urban schools. Serious questions can be raised whether schools are the organizations required to cope with semi-permanent underclasses, violent youth, incompetent, irresponsible parenting and negative adult role models. What institutional substitutions would you make for the schools?
  8. National education priorities are built on an idealized past, not on emergent and designed futures. Blends of applied imagination, creativity, and innovation are required to visualize preferred futures, to render them proximal and grounded, and to forge them into empirical realities. On the other hand, it is quite possible that Secretary Spellings and other highly placed education “leaders” have never had an original thought in their entire lives.
  9. Social class and cultural problems in schools and communities suggest that the schools live in a Norman Rockwell past. Bright kids capable of novel thought and new culture creation have never fit into the industrially modeled American schools, and lower-middle class teachers have little respect for working- and poverty-class art, music, and culture. It appears that the schools are populated by timid, unimaginative, lower-middle class professional placeholders who crave convention (spelling bees, car washes, exceptional sports performances) over invention.
  10. Failing to invest resources in education, both financially and socially. Education is formal, informal, and non-formal in structure and function. It is possible that formal education will be recognized as the least powerful of this trio, in part because it is so dated, and in part because it occurs in such a small percentage of life compared with the other two types. Perhaps new funding algorithms and decisions must follow this ratio.

Where do we begin?

Uruguay reacts to Plan Ceibal book pre-launch

Roberto Balaguer notes that a book we are collaborating on has captured the attention of the president of Uruguay:

The website of the Presidency of the Republic [of Uruguay] takes the news. On Tuesday, in connection with the [Montevideo International] Book Fair, we held the pre-presentation of the book on Ceibal Plan and the OLPC model, collective work and shared invaluable colleagues in Argentina, Mexico, Spain, USA, and, of course, Uruguay.

Plan Ceibal

Uruguay, through the Ceibal Plan, was the first country to adopt the One Laptop Per Child platform. Roberto Balaguer compiled an international, critical look into the initiative, that provides an extensive review. The following collaborators contributed to the volume:

1. Roberto Balaguer (Uruguay) “Plan Ceibal: Los ojos del mundo en el primer modelo OLPC a escala nacional” [“Plan Ceibal: The eyes of the world in the first OLPC nationwide model”].
2. Fernando Garrido (Spain) “¿Otra vez el mismo error? OLPC, Determinismo Tecnológico y Educación” [“Again the same mistake? OLPC technological determinism and education”].
3. Edgar Gómez Cruz (Mexico) “Domesticación de la Tecnología: una aproximación crítica al proyecto de OLPC” [“Domestication of technology: A critical approach to the OLPC project”].
4. Tíscar Lara (Spain) “Aprender a ser ciudadano desde las prácticas digitales” [“Learning to be a citizen from digital practices”].
5. Guillermo Lutzky (Argentina) “La Escuela Digital, un cambio obligatorio para los modelos 1 a 1” [“The Digital School, a change required to 1 to 1 models”].
6. Mónica BaezGraciela Rabajoli (Uruguay) “La escuela extendida. Impacto del Modelo CEIBAL” [“The school extended: Impact of the Ceibal model”].
7. Alicia Kachinovsky (Uruguay) “La Universidad de la República en tiempos del Plan Ceibal” [“The University of the Republic in times of the Ceibal Plan”].
8. Octavio Islas (Mexico) “Retos que representa la enseñanza en el imaginario de la ‘Generación Einstein'” [“Challenges posed by teaching in the imagination of the ‘Einstein Generation'”].
9. Cristóbal Cobo (Mexico) “Aprendizaje de código abierto” [“Learning from open source”].
10. Raúl Trejo Delarbre (Mexico) “Un niño para cada laptop” [“A laptop for every child”].
11. John Moravec (USA) “¿Y ahora, qué?” [“So, what now?”].
12. Miguel Brechner (Uruguay) “Los tres si” [“The three yeses”].

I join many of the collaborators in dedicating my contribution to the volume to our colleague and co-author, Guillermo Lutzky, who passed away late last month.

Summer in review: Part 1

Summer in Oxford

We return from our reduced summer publication schedule — this week, we will focus on some highlights of what others talked about while we were away. Today, we start with a look at higher education:

First: Writing for the New York Times, Jacques Steinberg ponders on whether the standard length for undergraduate programs should be shortened to three years — a move that could put a dent into the cost of higher education. Building from UPenn professor Robert Zemsky’s call for three-year programs, Steinberg writes:

The idea of a three-year degree has already won support. On Monday, The Arizona Republic reported that “Arizona State University wants to develop a network of lower-priced colleges where students could earn bachelor’s degrees in just three years.” The article added that “the plan, which could cut the cost of a degree by about 40 percent, or $11,150, goes before the Arizona Board of Regents on Thursday for discussion, although the board won’t vote until later this year.”

Second: Writing for the SFGate, Carole Lloyd observes that “Online education, long an ugly duckling of the ivory towers of the world, is coming into its swan years.” Of particular interest:

Vicky Phillips, founder of, which rates online education degrees and filters out diploma mills, says that in the past 12 months, she has seen an 18 percent increase in enrollment inquiries for online college degrees on her Web site – with the strongest increase in associate degrees and certificates.

Moreover, Lloyd noted that “the Department of Education released a study suggesting that a mix of online and face-to-face education produces the best learning outcomes. Exclusively online education proved slightly more effective than only face-to-face learning.”

Read more at SFGate and check out the Department of Education’s meta-analysis of the online vs. in-person spectrum.

Two weeks of creativity

This past week, I have been in Knoxville, TN, for Destination ImagiNation’s Global Finals. Perhaps one of the best kept secrets in education, “DI is an innovative organization that teaches creativity, teamwork and problem solving to students across the U.S. and in more than 30 countries. Its main program is an unconventional team learning experience where student teams all over the world solve mind-bending Challenges. Teams are tested to think on their feet, work as a team, and devise original solutions that satisfy the requirements of the Challenges. Participants gain more than just basic knowledge and skills—they learn to unleash their imaginations and take unique approaches to problem solving.”

Following DI, I will travel to Amsterdam for the Creative Company Conference and ITSMF Academy. The CCC, in particular, should be interesting as I will join Sir Ken Robinson, Frank Heemskerk (Dutch foreign trade minister) and human capital expert Mirjam van Praag in a discussion on creativity and entrepreneurship in education. This will be fun. Stay tuned!

The role of teachers in Education 3.0

Note: This article is a part of the Designing Education 3.0 series at Education Futures.

The debate continues: What is the role of a teacher? The sage on the stage or a guide on the side? In a recent Tegenlicht episode, Frank Furedi argued for a return to “classical,” power-based, download-style (banking) pedagogies. I countered that we need something different. Here’s my take:

Download-style education fails when we try to provide students with knowledge and skills that will enable them to lead in a future that is very different from what exists today –and, in a future that defies human imagination. Teaching facts or knowledge that was relevant in the past may not be acceptable today or in the near future. Moreover, if teachers are as unprepared for the future as students, why not learn invent it together?

Teaching in Education 3.0 requires a new form of co-constructivism that provides meaningful extensions to Dewey, Vygotsky and Freire, while building the future. Specifically, teaching in Education 3.0 necessitates a Leapfrog approach with:

  • Adults who are eager to imagine, create and innovate with kids
  • Kids and adults who want to learn more about each other
  • Kids and adults who partner to collaborate in teaching to and learning from each other
  • Kids who work at creative tasks that mirror the innovation workforce
  • An understanding that kids need to contribute to all economic levels, and with better distribution of effort than in the past

This will all require new forms of educational professionalism, tapping well beyond traditional teachers, and blending together with the communities that schools serve. The future that kids and adults co-create can provide the emerging knowledge/innovation economy a boost, greatly enhancing human capital and potentials. How would you teach, learn, and create in Education 3.0?

The role of technology in Education 3.0

Note: This article is a part of the Designing Education 3.0 series at Education Futures.

Little evidence suggests that new technologies in the classroom are being used to transform educational paradigms. At last year’s ASOMEX technology conference, ISTE‘s Don Knezek pointed out that student graduation rates — and their rates of interest in schools — have dropped over the past few decades.  At the same time, investments in educational information and communications technologies continue to expand. If technologies are not making an impact in the classroom today, should they power Education 3.0?

Yes, but we need to use technologies differently.  Moreover,

The problem is that Society 1.0 schools most often use technologies to teach old information rather than taking advantage of them to generate new knowledge.The use of technologies must be purposive and expand to the realm of adopting social technologies in schools. To harness the potential of open, socio-technological systems, 3.0 schools will need to rebuild themselves not on software, not on hardware, but on mindware. Such new technologies integrate the development of imagination, creativity and innovation –all critical in the 21st century workplace.  Mindware maximizes the potentials for human capital development that ambient awareness technologies permit.

Is your school investing in mindware technologies?