Archive for the ‘Edge of Learning’ Category

10 Things Our Kids WILL Worry About Thanks to the Information Revolution

After reading this list of “10 Things our Kids will Never Worry About Thanks to the Information Revolution” from Forbes, I was inspired to remind people that technology usually creates just as many problems as it solves.  So here’s my list of the new worries created by the Information Revolution.

1. [Will never have to worry about Taking a Typing Class] They will have to worry about … Mastering multiple input methods and keeping track of which ones autocorrect which words badly.  Now you have to master typing on a keyboard, typing on a tablet device, sliding over touch-keys on a Smartphone, using a numeric-only keyboard on a cellphone, using the voice-input from Apple, using the voice-input from Google, or using the voice-input from Microsoft. Each one of these uses different AutoCorrect features and has different oddities.  That’s plenty to worry about.  One bad autocorrect could lose you a job if you’re not careful.

2. [Will never have to worry about Paying Bills by Writing Countless Checks]  They will have to worry about … Losing control of finances because it’s too easy to make impulse purchases.   When all it takes to make an impulse buy is one click on your phone, tablet, or computer, it’s pretty easy to overspend your income.  And, while $0.99 or $4.99 is a pretty inexpensive purchase, those small impulse App purchases add up pretty quickly.

3. [Will never have to worry about Buying an Expensive Set of Encylopedias] They will have to worry about …  Evaluating the Source of their Information.  I’m sure you know an educator or parent who has “banned” Wikipedia.  Now information comes from Twitter, Facebook, Internet Search, online journals, firewalled “scholarly” research journals, Wikipedia, and more.  Is it good information or bad information?  Well, now you have to make that determination too.

4. [Will never have to worry about Using a Pay Phone or Racking Up a Long Distance Bill]  They will have to worry about … Racking Up a Roaming Charge or Data Overage Bill.  The last time I roamed on my phone in Canada (for about 30 minutes), it cost me $27.  The current overage on a wifi hotspot on Sprint is $50 per GB (after you surpass 5 GB a month).   And, for the record, most phone plans DO come with a limitation on certain types of minutes, and the overages on those are NOT cheap.

5. [Will never have to worry about Having to Pay Somebody Else to Develop Photographs]  They will have worry about Managing the Storage and Rights on their Digital Photos and Videos.  Now they need to decide on their photo- and video-sharing strategy.  Where will they store their photos?  On a hard-drive only? (better have a backup system in case the computer is stolen or lost)  In the cloud? (Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, Vimeo, YouTube …)  What kind of access do you want to give to your photos?  Should they be private or public? Private to specific groups or all your friends?  Do you want to copyright the photos?  If so, which copyright should you use? Oh, and did you still want hard copies of some photos? Then you’ll have to purchase and maintain a printer that is capable of printing color photos (together with proper toner or ink + special photo paper).

6. [Will never have to worry about Driving to a Store to Rent a Movie]   They will have to worry about … Violating Copyright by Accident when they Make their own Videos.  The U.S. Copyright laws have become so complex and confusing that you can accidentally violate them when you make a home movie in your living room while some copyrighted song plays on the radio in the background.  One can imagine a future when being sued for copyright infringement is an almost daily occurrence for the average person.

7. [Will never have to worry about  Buying or storing music, movies, or games on physical media.]  They will have to worry about … Being Locked in to a Single Media Device (and Format) Forever.  Kindle books won’t work on Nooks, Nook books won’t work on Kindle, and iTunes songs won’t play on Android.  Once you make your choice of digital format for books, music, and note-taking, you are either locking yourself in forever, or facing a very expensive switch to a new provider at some point.  The choice of media network not only locks you in to a format, but might lock you out of a sharing network with some of your friends.

8. [Will never have to worry about Having to Endlessly Search to Find Unique Content.]  They will have to worry about … Managing the flow from the firehose of information. When I was a kid, you could write a research paper after consulting your school library and your set of Encylopedias.  With the information now available (and having recently written a dissertation) I can say that having too much access to information can make it incredibly difficult to know whether you’ve thoroughly researched your topic.  How much searching is “enough” to say you’re done?

9. [Will never have to worry about Sending Letters.] They will have to worry about … Responding to Communication on a Multitude of Platforms and Networks.  A professional will have to communicate with their colleagues through email, several social networks, texts, and synchronous communication systems.  Not only is this a lot to manage, but each medium requires different etiquette. If you screw up the etiquette of the medium (for example, you use text-speak in an email) you’ll look like an idiot to the receiver.

10. [Will never have to worry about Being without the Internet & instant, ubiquitous connectivity.]  They will have to worry about … Getting enough Sleep and Managing Stress.  In an always-on world, you have to be able to disconnect to stay sane.  Many youth go to sleep with their cell phone on their pillow, unable to disconnect from their social network for even one minute.  As these sleep-deprived teenagers become adults and parents, one can only imagine the damage to their psychological well-being if they are unable to learn to disconnect.

So, yes, there are some things that our kids will not have to worry about thanks to the Information Revolution.  However, I don’t think technology has exactly made it less worrisome to grow up in today’s world.


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What skills should we be teaching to future-proof an education?

Some time last year I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on what skills we could be focusing on in higher education to “future-proof” a degree.  What skills will stay relevant no matter what future careers look like?  There are two frameworks used and endorsed in K-12 education: Partnership for 21st Century Skills and Equipped for the Future.

I felt that the lists not quite right for adults that are returning or seeking an education.  Here is the list that I developed, and a link to the Prezi that includes many video resources that correspond with the skills.


  • Manage your information stream
  • Pay attention to details
  • Remember (when you need to)
  • Observe critically
  • Read with understanding
  • Set and meet goals


  • Media literacy (determine and create the right media for the job)
  • Present ideas digitally
  • Design for the audience
  • Depict data visually
  • Convey ideas in text
  • Speak so that others understand


  • Advocate and influence
  • Resolve conflict and negotiate
  • Collaborate (F2F or virtually)
  • Guide others
  • Lead


  • Interpret data
  • Make decisions
  • Think critically
  • Solve problems
  • Forecast
  • Filter information


  • Think across disciplines
  • Think across cultures
  • Innovate
  • Adapt to new situations
  • See others’ perspectives
  • Be creative


  • Formulate a learning plan
  • Synthesize the Details
  • Information Literacy
  • Formulate good questions
  • Reflect and evaluate
  • Know what you know


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TEDxMuskegon: A Recipe for Free Range Learning

Here’s my recent TEDxMuskegon talk called A Recipe for Free Range Learning.

In my opinion, there is the basic recipe for learning. Any type of learning, be it free range or structured, should mind the recipe to be effective.

A Recipe for Learning
Ingredients: High-quality Information
Directions: Re-engage often and reflect
Spice: Social Interaction
Final Preparation: A Final Learning Challenge

While it is possible to be a “free-range learner” I would argue that it’s not likely that the average person can successfully learn on their own, and I outline why in this talk.  The industrial education system, much maligned of late, may be a necessary evil as long as we want the majority of people to have a broad liberal arts education.

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A Recipe for Free Range Learning

On Saturday I spoke on the Live Stage at the Maker Faire in Detroit. The stage was in the Henry Ford Museum and it was the first time I have ever spoken under an airplane.

Description: Never has there been a time where information could be so freely found outside of formal education. It’s a time when you can learn just about anything you desire. However, it’s not enough to just have access to the information. To engage in learning (in or outside of education) you need to have the essential ingredients and a good recipe. What can you do today to enhance the effectiveness of free-range learning, and how will the DIY movement affect learning in the future?

This prezi has a fabulous new illustration by Mat Moore (the house of free-range learners/makers).


We did record a video, but I’ll warn you right now that while the audio is good, the video quality is not fantastic (the room was dark).

I only had about two weeks notice to come up with a presentation for this event, so this was quite a bit of work in a short time frame. Hope you enjoy it!

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Interview with a Learning Futurist

Last week I was asked to do four interviews!  One of them was with Dale Dougherty, the publisher of Make Magazine.  Here’s the link to the post over at Maker Faire Daily.

I’m excerpting the questions here to make them easier for me to find later:

You are a learning futurist and you’re also a math teacher at a community college. How do these different perspectives give you a fresh understanding of what’s important in education?

As a learning futurist I scan the technology, international, and business horizon to look for changes that will be affecting learning – that means looking at the future of careers, work-life, and technology-assisted learning. Rather than make predictions (best left to the work of psychics), I try to create positive visions for learning paths we could achieve… if the right steps are taken along the way. I believe that good common visions lead us to great accomplishments. One of the most famous examples of this is the 1961 speech by J.F.K. visioning us landing an American on the moon – a task accomplished 8 years later, fueled by a common vision of a positive future. So many of our forecasts for the future of education are gloomy, so I try to provide alternative paths – ways we could take another route if we just choose to do so (see Where’s the Learn This Button).

The fact that I am still an educator within the formal higher education system provides grounding to my ideas. Mathematics is a subject that builds on itself with every course that is taken, so if math is learned poorly one semester, this problem is magnified in the next semester. Mathematics is also the first subject to really be tackled by companies developing technology-based tutoring/learning systems because it is easilyprogrammable (math-based subjects like physics, economics, and chemistry are close behind). Online homework systems, “smart” computer tutoring systems, and open learning platforms are all proliferating in mathematics first. From my vantage point as a math instructor, I can see how learners interact with these systems and develop a realistic understanding of the role of such technologies in the future of learning.

Making is a form of learning, an active demonstration of what we know and what we can do. What potential do you see for making in education?

Making is definitely a great way to assess learning, and you can see examples of making in education now (though you might not recognize it as “making” from your perspective). When you write a paper or put together a presentation as part of a class, youare”making” – demonstrating what you know and what you can do. Unfortunately, most of these types of activities are seen by our learners as tasks of drudgery instead of opportunities to polish their learning and demonstrate their skills. There are some “maker faire” type activities in education, but they are more the exception rather than the rule: Science Fairs, engineering competitions to build the best cement canoe or a solar-powered car, the “Egg Drop” or bridge-building competitions in science classes, putting together a class yearbook, use of lego robots to understand computer programming.

In order to see more of these types of maker activities in education, I think we would need to take back 20% of classroom time (either by increasing the time spent in school or cutting the curriculum). Project-based activities (take a look at the Learning in Depthprogram) require freedom to explore ideas and learn skills that are not scheduled into a lesson plans.We need to find a way to create the “Google 20%” time for students at all levels of our education system, but I don’t optimistically see a way to do this inside educationandfocus on high-stakes testing too. We need a nationwide shift back to valuing learning (not education) as one of our fundamental core values, and I’ll talk more about how I think we can do this at Maker Faire on Saturday.


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Future of eLearning

Here is today’s talk from the World Future Conference. I’ve been thinking about the future of eLearning for almost a year now (in preparation for this talk). It’s always amazing to me how my unorganized thoughts crystalize into visions in the last few days before a talk. In this talk I propose a new direction (vision) for educational eLearning – one in which the learning platform is chosen and customized by the student instead of the instructor and institution.

Links related to today’s presentation:

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Learn This Button World Future 2011

Yesterday I spoke at the Education Summit of the World Future Society 2011 Conference about the idea for SOCRAIT (a vision for an education future where learning is personal).  Thanks to an audience member from the front row for volunteering to record the talk.

Here are some related links:

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EOL: The 90% Resolution

New post on Edge of Learning about New Year’s Resolutions.

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EOL: Where does learning happen?

New post on Edge of Learning: Where does learning happen?

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