Item 4 of Manifesto 15

John Moravec is a world citizen, whose perspective on education is global and futuristic.  He’s founder of Education Futures LLC, author of a book called Knowmad Society, and co-director of the Invisible Learning project. I’ve met him on three occasions: Once in Germany, when we worked together on an advisory committee to help a new democratic school start up in Munich, and twice in the Netherlands in support of democratic education in Europe. 

On Jan. 1, 2015, when many were recovering from new year's eve, John sent out a document he titled, simply, “Manifesto 15.” We are at a time in history that is ripe for worldwide rethinking of, and rapid change in, education. Manifesto 15 can help promote that. 

The subtitle of the manifesto is “Evolving Learning.” Evolution, whether biological or cultural, can occur in two ways.  One is through gradual change in existing systems and the other is through the emergence of new systems that occupy the niches of, and thereby replace, the old ones.  As I’ve argued elsewhere, I think the latter is how education must change and is already changing.  Our current system of education is a dinosaur, unable to adapt. 

I agree, at least as it applies to education, with the commenter on Manifesto 15 who, quoting Buckminster Fuller, wrote: "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."  I think the change that this manifesto will help trigger will consist of thousands of little revolutions occurring locally, in different ways in different places, all over the world.  As you can see, below, John agrees.

I’ll reprint the entire manifesto, below, but first:

John Moravec’s Comments about Manifesto 15

I asked John for some comments to accompany the reprinting of Manifesto 15 on this post, and here is what he sent me:

“The manifesto is intended to serve as a ‘snapshot’ of what we’ve learned to date in regard to creating positive education futures. It’s not meant to pretend to have all the answers or the best ideas, but it’s an honest assessment of where we’ve been, and, through a statement of principles, illustrate where we would like to go.

“The view of the document is global. It is a statement of principles, and that’s why it is not prescriptive as to what we need to do. I believe we need to attend to a diverse ecology of options rather than one master metanarrative for the future of education. And, if we are to create a diverse ecology of options, we need to build a lot more trust between ourselves, our communities, parents, students, governments, etc…. Item #12 speaks to this, I believe, and I think this point is super-important to emphasize.

“I recognize that not everybody will agree with everything in the manifesto or others may view it as incomplete. It is important to inspire as much conversation as possible. So, the document is licensed under Creative Commons, which gives (and encourages!) people to remix what we’ve written and share with their own communities.

“I’m just shocked at the reach Manifesto 15 had in just a week. We’ve had readers from 84 countries. People—most of whom were strangers to me until now—are sending in completely unsolicited translations into local languages. As of this evening, it is available in seven languages, and at least another six are in progress.

“This morning, Rebeca Zuñiga, a Guatemalan, sent a beautiful illustration of the manifesto’s key points: here—this is just stunning. I would have never dreamed that we would receive such a phenomenal response... and unsolicited from complete strangers!

“I would have never guessed this project would have received such a reception. Again, this is just a statement of principles and not a plan for action. However, we might have just ignited a movement. It’s time to engage in a big conversation around our next steps.”

 And Now, Here’s the Manifesto

 Manifesto 15:  Evolving Learning

January 1, 2015

Many of the most inspiring documents are strongly associated with a date. The U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776; Charter 77 emerged in January 1977; Dogme 95 was crafted in 1995. Ideas transform and develop over time. This manifesto represents a snapshot of our ideas, visions for the future, and what we have learned to date about learning and education. This text serves as a reference point to help us understand how we’ve done so far, and what actions we need to take next.

In a world consumed with uncertainty and a growing sense of the obsolescence of our education systems, how can we ensure the success of ourselves as individuals, our communities, and the planet? We need to evolve education.

What we have learned so far

1.  The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed” (William Gibson, in Gladstone, 1999).  The field of education lags considerably behind most other industries largely from our tendency to look backward, but not forward. We teach the history of literature, for example, but not the future of writing. We teach historically important mathematical concepts, but do not engage in creating new maths needed to build the future. Moreover, everything “revolutionary” taking place in learning has already happened at different scales, in bits and pieces, at different places. The full impacts for ourselves and our organizations will be realized when we develop the courage to learn from each others’ experiences, and accept the risk and responsibility in applying a futures orientation in our praxiis.

2.  1.0 schools cannot teach 3.0 kids. We need to redefine and build a clear understanding of what we are educating for, why we do it, and for whom our educational systems serve. Mainstream compulsory schooling is based on an outdated, 18th century model for creating citizens with the potential to become loyal, productive factory workers and bureaucrats. In the post-industrial era, this should no longer be the end goal of education. We need to support learners to become innovators, capable of leveraging their own imagination and creativity to realize new outcomes for society. We do this because today’s challenges cannot be solved through old thinking. And, we are all co-responsible for creating futures with positive outcomes that benefit all people in the world. 

3. Kids are people, too. All students must be treated and respected as human beings with recognized, universal human rights and responsibilities. This means students must have an active say in the choices regarding their learning, including how their schools are run, how and when they learn, and all other areas of everyday life. This is inclusion in a real sense. Students of all ages must be afforded liberties to pursue educational opportunities and approaches for learning that are appropriate for them, as long as their decisions do not infringe on the liberties of others to do the same (adapted from EUDEC, 2005).

4. The thrill of jumping off a cliff by deciding to do so yourself is a high you will never have if someone else pushes you off of it.  In other words, the top-down, teacher-student model of learning does not maximize learning as it devours curiosity and eliminates intrinsic motivation. We need to embrace flat, horizontal, and distributed approaches to learning, including peer learning and peer teaching, and empower students to realize the authentic practice of these modes. Educators must create space to allow students to determine if, and when, to jump off the cliff. Failing is a natural part of learning where we can always try again. In a flat learning environment, the teacher’s role is to help make sure the learner makes a well-balanced decision. Failing is okay, but the creation of failures is not.

5. Don’t value what we measure, measure what we value.  In our obsession over testing, we have somehow allowed the OECD to become the “world’s ministry of education” through the PISA regime, and the cult of educational measurement is spreading throughout the world. At a national, state-to-state level, it is as if we are competing to be the best-looking kid in a humdrum family. Even worse, our schools are producing politicians and policy leaders that do not know how to interpret test scores. The best innovations are often killed the moment we start worrying about measurement. We need to put an end to compulsory testing and reinvest these resources into educational initiatives that create authentic value and opportunities for growth.

6. If “technology” is the answer, what was the question?  We seem to obsess over new technologies while having little understanding of what they’re for or how they can impact learning. Technologies are great for doing what we have been doing better, but using new technologies to do the same old stuff in the classroom is a lost opportunity. Black boards have been replaced by whiteboards and SMART Boards. Books have been replaced by iPads. This is like building a nuclear plant to power a horse cart. Yet, nothing has changed, and we still focus tremendous resources on these tools, and squander our opportunities to exploit their potential to transform what we learn and how we do it. By recreating practices of the past with technologies, schools focus more on managing hardware and software rather than developing students’ mindware and the purposive use of these tools.

7. Digital learning skills are invisible, and so should technologies be in schools. Invisible learning is a recognition that most of the learning we do is “invisible” – that is, it is through informal, non-formal, and serendipitous experiences rather than through formal instruction (Cobo & Moravec, 2011). It takes into account the impact of technological advances to really enable the invisible spaces to emerge – but, like the spaces, the use of technologies is likewise invisible and fluid. If the challenge for our schools and governments is to create students that stand out in creativity and innovation, and not students that mindlessly memorize and repeat old ideas, any use of technologies for learning must enable these creative and innovative directions. Schools should not use computers to “do work” around pre-assigned parameters with prescribed outcomes; they should be used to help design and create products and learning outcomes that extend beyond the imagination of the curriculum. Rather than putting technology in the forefront and obscuring learning, make it invisible yet ambient, enabling learners to discover their own pathways for development with these tools.

8. We cannot manage knowledge.  When we talk about knowledge and innovation, we frequently comingle or confuse the concepts with data and information. Too often, we fool ourselves into thinking that we give kids knowledge, when we are just testing them for what information they can repeat. To be clear: Data are bits and pieces here and there, from which we combine into informationKnowledge is about taking information and creating meaning at a personal level. We innovate when we take action with what we know to create new value. Understanding this difference exposes one of the greatest problems facing school management and teaching: While we are good at managing information, we simply cannot manage the knowledge in students’ heads without degrading it back to information.

9. “The network is the learning” (Siemens, 2007).  The emerging pedagogy of this century isn’t carefully planned.  Rather, it’s developed fluidly. Our traversals across networks are our pathways to learning, and as the network expands, so does our learning. In connectivist approaches to learning, we connect our individual knowledges together to create new understandings. We share our experiences, and create new (social) knowledge as a result. We must center on the ability of individuals to navigate this space and make connections on their own, discovering how their unique knowledge and talents can be contextualized to solve new problems.

10. The future belongs to nerds, geeks, makers, dreamers, and knowmads.  While not everybody will or should be an entrepreneur, those who do not develop entrepreneurial skills are at a great disadvantage. Our education systems should focus on the development of entreprenerds: individuals who leverage their specialized knowledge to dream, create, make, explore, learn and promote entrepreneurial, cultural, or social endeavors, taking risks and enjoying the process as much as the final outcome, without fearing the potential failures or mistakes that the journey includes.

11. Break the rules, but understand why, clearly, first.  Our school systems are built on cultures of obedience, enforced compliance, and complacency. The creativities of students, staff, and our institutions are inherently stultified. It is easier to be told what to think than to think ourselves. Openly asking questions, and building a metacognitive awareness of what we have created and what we would like to do about it, can best cure this institutionalized malaise. Only then can we engineer justified breaks from the system that challenge the status quo and have the potential to create real impact.

12. We must and can build cultures of trust in our schools and communities.  As long as our education systems continue to be based on fear, anxiety, and distrust, challenges to all of the above will continue. In the Minnevate! project (MASA, 2014), the researchers found that if educators are to build a collective capacity to transform education, we need engaged communities, and we also need to engage with the communities we serve. This requires a new theory of action, centered on trust, where students, schools, governments, businesses, parents, and communities may engage in collaborative initiatives to co-create new education futures.

Some say these principles require a revolution to be realized. Others say we need massive innovation to make positive education futures a reality. We believe we need both, or as Ronald van den Hoff (2013) says: “What we really need is an innovution!” (p. 236). And, this is our noble quest: To innovute with not only our ideas, but also the purposive applications of what we have learned through our individual efforts, and together, globally.

References and Recommended Reading Listed on the Manifesto

Cobo, C., & Moravec, J. W. (2011). Aprendizaje Invisible: Hacia una nueva ecología de la educación. Barcelona: Laboratori de Mitjans Interactius / Publicacions i Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona. http://www.aprendizajeinvisible.com (http://www.aprendizajeinvisible.com)

EUDEC. (2005). EUDEC guidance document. European Democratic Education Community. Retrieved January 1, 2015 from http://www.eudec.org/Guidance+Document#Article_1:20_Definitions (http://www.eudec.org/Guidance+Document#Article_1:20_Definitions)

Gladstone, B. (Producer). (1999, November 30). The science in science fiction [Radio broadcast episode]. In Talk of the Nation. Washington, DC: National Public Radio. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1067220 (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1067220)

Gray, P. (2013). Free to learn. New York: Basic Books.


van den Hoff, R. (2013). Society30: Knowmads and new value creation. In J. W. Moravec (Ed.), Knowmad Society (pp. 231–252).

Minneapolis: Education Futures. http://www.knowmadsociety.com (http://www.knowmadsociety.com)

MASA. (2014). Minnevate! 2013-2014 activity report. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Association of School Administrators. http://minnevate.mnasa.org (http://minnevate.mnasa.org)

Moravec, J. W. (Ed.) (2013). Knowmad Society. Minneapolis: Education Futures. ISBN (print edition): http://www.knowmadsociety.com (http://www.knowmadsociety.com)

Siemens, G. (2007). The network is the learning. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpbkdeyFxZw)

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What You Can Do

You don’t have to agree 100% with this manifesto.  Most thoughtful people will find something to quibble about concerning anything that anyone other than themselves writes.  But, if you agree with 90% of it and find the rest worth talking about, I urge you to sign it here, where you can also add your comments and send it on to others.  Also, please send this blog post on to others.

Whether or not you agree with this manifesto, I invite you to add your thoughts, criticisms, comments, and questions in the comments section below. This blog is a forum for discussion, and your thoughts are valued and treated with respect by me and other readers. As always, I prefer if you post your thoughts and questions here rather than send them to me by private email. By putting them here, you share with other readers, not just with me. I read all comments and try to respond to all serious questions, if I feel I have something useful to say. Of course, if you have something to say that truly applies only to you and me, then send me an email.

For more about the future of education that is already here, and how you can find that future, see AlternativesToSchool.comand Free to Learn.

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