New language of education: Knowmads on the infinite campus

Yesterday I attended the second annual EduTech conference at the University of Minnesota. It is cosponsored by TiE and College of Education and Human Development. The theme was “Defining the Frontier of Education, Research and Entrepreneurship.” Attendees included a mix of educators and entrepreneurs that met in the middle in a quest to harness technology to improve learning. A couple of themes stood out for me:

  1. the idea of using technology to personalize education
  2. the importance of arming teachers to facilitate education – to move from “sage on the stage to  guide on the side” (they need tools, not subject specialists – they are the specialists!)
  3. Society 3.0 will reward the knowmads, but they need education 3.0 to succeed

I was particularly inspired by the lunchtime keynote – Dr John Moravec, who was kind enough to share his presentation with me…

He introduced the idea of knowmads. They…

  • Are not restricted to a specific age.
  • Build their personal knowledge through explicit information gathering and tacit experiences, and leverage their personal knowledge to produce new ideas.
  • Are able to apply their ideas and expertise contextually in various social and organizational configurations.
  • Are highly motivated to collaborate, and are natural networkers, navigating new organizations, cultures, and societies.
  • Purposively use new technologies to help them solve problems and transcend geographical limitations.
  • Are open to sharing what they know, and invite the open access to information, knowledge and expertise from others.
  • Develop habits of mind and practice to learn continuously, and can unlearn as quickly as they learn, adopting new ideas and practices as necessary.
  • Thrive in non-hierarchical networks and organizations.
  • Are not afraid of failure.

These are the skills of the future. I think the big question is – are we preparing students to succeed in this world?  More immediately, are these skills we are cultivating in the US at any level? If not, why not?

Funny enough Dr Moravec mentioned one place where you tend to see Knowmads – in the coffee shops. In the workplace, that atmosphere is being replicated in coworking centers – but again where in school is this happening? An interesting quote from his presentation speaks like the ghost of Education Past – intending I suspect to inspire change, not predict the future…

“Education is particularly resistant to change because its whole purpose is to preserve the past.” –Anya Kamenetz

We also heard from some ghosts of Education present…

We heard from a few Minnesota schools and projects on the front lines; faculty from Byron ISD spoke about “Classroom Transformation with eee’s.” The three e’s being:

  1. E-curriculum (especially the flipped classroom
  2. E-learning (blended classes that meet sometimes)
  3. E-Portfolios (that highlight students’ work and reflection

A key component, I think, is creating students that are more active and more responsible for their own education. Students are responsible for doing their work – from watching videos to homework and to choosing work to highlight work in the portfolio. Kids who don’t do their work have privileges revoked. The teachers note that the eee’s have been effective. They have seen improvement in classwork and general understanding of subjects. Students and parents like the changes. Moving to a flipped model is saving the district money – no more textbooks. And teaching is not available 2/47, which seems to suit students.

There are some challenges. There is more upfront work for the teachers to create the content they need – and teachers talk about the need for more tools to create content easily that allows them to collaborate with students. They also wish that the department of education would help facilitate flipped model with tools that help teachers better collaborate – and maybe even a shared repository of content. Finally teachers need time and help learning how to teach online. Byron has a 6-week online e-certification program for teachers and a digital learning coach to help implement and evaluate classes. (You can learn more here:

And the ghost of Education future…

The morning keynote (Dr Charles Miller) introduced two projects happening at the University now:

  • Ave – a cool tool that facilitates video use in ASL classes. Teacher and students can create quick videos to share with each other. Allowing for more and better interaction and feedback for students. Feedback was emphasized by several presenters as key in online education – well any education really. Frequent and fast feedback was most helpful.
  • FlipGrid – a digital space where students respond to short teacher-created questions, enhancing community and social presence in online, hybrid, or face-to-face classrooms. Give your students a voice.

There was also a showcase of entrepreneurial ideas that aim to make teaching and education better. Some tools improved assessment, some scheduling, some methods for teaching. I’ll include my quick list of projects below – including the loose notes – and I’ll ask folks to forgive the shorthand. I’m at another conference today and tomorrow and I know if I don’t post this now the details will get lost with time:

  • eLumen – web-based tracking of student evaluation – of what they have actually learned, not just grades
  • Millennium 3 Education – helps to track reviews
  • Radiant Education – maps 21st century skills, which helps students figure what they are good at, where they should go to school, what careers make sense
  • LessonLogs – helps organize lessons, such a music or band. Allows teachers to give fast feedback and schedule quickly
  • ComputaColor   – system for learning colors
  • Whitewater Learning – online lessons for professional development for CEUs
  • Awear – neurocognitive feedback – glasses fog when the mind wanders
  • Investyr – financial literacy can improve lives
  • Invisible Campus – online student information system
This entry was posted in Conferences, economic development, education, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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