Thursday, 23 July 2015

Amplification of Learning Productivity

Continuous fluid learning is now an economic imperative in the context of today’s supra-accelerating technological innovation, and the ensuing exponential increase in related data and know-how. Economies that refuse to accept this reality, are doomed to fiscal and social plight. To compete, let alone get ahead, nations-states must enable faster, smarter, state-of-art human capital.

This is one of the biggest economic deals today, because the education paradigms and models that have hardly changed for millennia, now thwarts economic progress. Go back to ancient Greece and you would witness students sitting in classes, facing a backboard, instructed by teachers and assisted  by tutors. Go to any modern school today, and you would see a similar model. A model that has moved on little more than a shackled 19th century factory.

But now go out of the classroom and you will find that learning is global. The pace hustled, social, custom, and often esoteric. The content ever novel, surprising, discontinuous, disruptive and multidimensional. Application half-life decaying faster, recoiling earlier. Productivity intense, augmented, smart and real-time. The focus futures, opportunities and possibilities. And the activity itself fun, intriguing, curious and absorbing. And all this outside the classroom. What on earth is going on?

If adolescents and not so young adults are not engaged in learning science based futures orientated skills, and acquiring knowledge that enables them to open the door and build and earn a living in the future; large numbers are going to continue be dead in the water!
As I write, United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that close to 75 million 15 to 24 year-olds (12.6 percent) around the world are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET). High youth unemployment is one of the principal long-term problems threatening stable societies around the planet.

Only, this situation may be worse. Because these NEET numbers are not only estimated as percentages of people of working age that are able to work and not in education; but also do not include people carrying out any kind of subsistence work (an hour a day delivering newspapers in a Kentish town; sweeping a cow shed in Kansas; or scavenging and reselling from landfill sites in Kenya).

In the coming years, the ILO annual report warns that the world's advanced economies will suffer a lost decade of jobs growth, with more people unemployed for longer. The World of Work predicts that employment rates in advanced economies will not return to pre-crisis (c.2008) levels until after 2017, 10 years after the start of the global financial meltdown.

To add to this, a kind of high frequency cyclic unemployment-reemployment pattern is causing a longer-term difficulty with people dropping out and in, and then out of work again. This has adverse consequences on opportunities to advance in a good job or career, and improve standards of living. For elders, the idea of obtaining a mortgage to buy a home may be seen as a risk; for the younger home buyer, naivety about the long-term repayment of a mortgage and housing bubbles could lead them into debt.
It gets grimmer. In the UK, 9 percent of the 230,000 graduates from 2011-12 are unemployed. Coupled to almost 10 thousand graduates underemployed in elementary occupations, including roles such as office junior, hospital porter, waiter and shelf-stacker. All that academic effort to little avail.

This luminously highlights that unemployment and underemployment is a devastating phenomena in the lives of graduates, and a definite indicators that incumbent employers demand a different employment dynamic. But more, emerging innovative firms require skills that are just not there in sufficient numbers. Again, innovation requires new roles, thus new skills.
From Inert Education to 
Multidimensional Interconnected Learning

Education, in the traditional sense, means formal teaching from experts via sanctioned syllabus. Literally, to instruct the pupil in specific prescribed topics. This means education is a structured process, denoting a formal body of knowledge that is done to the would-be scholar, where a course is tightly manifested in a top town approach.

But here is the snag. Such a top down method limits student enquiry to the boundaries of that subject matter. And that is precisely way business as usual education is not enough anymore. For sure, it is needed as a foundation at early grade levels. But today’s world demands much more. The world is interconnecting not just on the digital stage, nor merely through mass international trade, transit and travel. It is our ideas, our memes, that are crossing boundaries faster and more pervasive than ever. Tangible and tacit knowledge, concentrated information, and even what would have been in the recent past provincial events, criss-cross to form unprecedented and extraordinary archetypes, hybrid situations, and challenging geopolitical affairs.

Hard science too, is grossly affected. The kernels of physics, chemistry and biology used to be strict distinct disciplines in their own right. Then came a watered down version we know as integrated science. And that was the beginning of the end of discrete science. Now, by way of examples, biotechnology, genomics and molecular chemistry tips all that up. Ecology, zoology, and geology, where do these branches of learning begin and end. Much of significant cultural history has always been where boundaries cross intellectually, politically or geographically. But the history of the future will be far more interlinked than we have been used to, and for many, ready to accept. And then comes commerce, design and technology! Hyperinnovation any one?

For the time-honoured teacher, this derives peculiar ambiguities for both educational content and the way it is delivered. ‘Teacher,’ has some influence here, but only if the role is extended and broken from for the chains of restricted educational frameworks. Because the ‘out-there’ real-world is a country mile away from a provincial academic subject and end of semester exam papers (teachers, I here you scorn).

The multidimensional learning model, however, is more than different from the formal education and teaching mould. It is an altogether different paradigm. It is far from waiting for a expert teacher to step up in front of marker board, or these days, a multimedia screen. It is about learning spontaneously about whatever is of interest, or whatever is relevant, or whatever interrelated issues, topics and narratives one chooses, under one’s own initiative, curiosity and life goals? Teacherless education systems are the shape of things to come. However, tutors, coaches and mentors will be abound in conjunction with ubiquitous computing and networks, natural language search engines and databases, immersive virtual holographic hypermedia, and super smart/expert applications.

Hyperlearning is about doing real things in real context. Interconnected learning that is self-driven that leads to a portfolio of authentic outcomes. A track record of tangible projects, products, designs, books, articles, artworks, musical compositions, dance, gadgets, trophies, and assorted DIYinnovations that can be measured in authentic value (e.g.; win a music contract that goes platinum; build a zero-defect healthcare system; sell 100-billion ‘penny’ biodegradable plastic bags).

And this is no idiosyncratic perspective, because this is how the world and its blog is set to rollout from now on. Without this kind of authentic value outcome; that eleven year of school education and three-to-five year of university education will be wasted and vain effort. And one the day that will leave the graduate with financial dept before he sets off in the big blue and green and now red world.

As set out below, one of the most significant affects the world-wide-web as had, is the democratisation and access to knowledge and information that was extremely difficult, and in many cases, almost impossible to get hold of a mere 20 years ago. In fact, internet tools and applications facilitating instant access to universally distributed databases, is where much of learning takes place today.

But the future of the internet’s learning tools and toys, will make today’s education sites more than jaded. From now on, a hurricane of innovative learning tools, highly novel and more effective learning strategies, and even learning concepts that are so profound in their architecture, that they can be compared to the 13th century enlightenment.

Hence, education as we have known it, is unquestionably re-tooling from exclusion and scarcity to the prospect of learning abundance. Just as Gutenberg press freed the transcribed word, the Internet is liberating knowledge and information. There is a revolution going on in and from education to multidimensional. Creating a brand new multiple GigaIndustries that are about to take off.

Developing ‘Fluid’ Intelligence.

Schooling of old, at least to my mind, leaves out a number of essential topics and disciplines (more later below). One of them is the mediated development and improvement of basic intelligence. In figurative terms, this is about getting the mind into the gymnasium; to get those 100 rep intellectual bench presses.

Incumbent lessons, exercises and project tasks do that to an extent; but far from vigorously engaging pupils in learning processes and supporting tools that essentially stimulates the brain, cultivating a smarter mind.

But there is more to this. Today, individual and teams need to develop particular types of reasoning. As the gait of technological innovation hastens, new and often special kinds of problems and knowledge are being created.

Even in the very recent past, when technological evolution was a great deal more measured and disconnected, a good classic education got you a fair way. Knowledge and experience was a great deal more crystalline. Skills, knowledge, and experience where mostly based on long-term serial education and thinking. This so-called crystallized intellect is, however, experience intel. Your data-base in fact. The ability to access facts from long-term memory. Rules of thumb and general knowledge, largely established through vocabulary, thus improving through experience with age.

Fluid intelligence, on the other hand, is the capacity to solve problems in novel situations, independent of acquired knowledge. This includes pattern recognition and abstract reasoning. Connecting the unconnected. Seeing the funny side of things, and the insight and foresight that comes with this. People with a spontaneous wit, are often great original problem solvers who can see over the horizon.

The problem is that most examinations, tests and work project are measured against quantitative crystalline metrics. Fluid measure, to a large extent, are left out. And this in a time when fluid intelligence is at a premium. Increasingly, everyday situations are made of novel puzzles and questionable riddles. Just think of the stuff you need to continuously learn anew on the internet and its ever growing number of applications, gadgets, and tools. There is not a day goes by that I personally do not have to figure out and learn something new. This is the state of play everywhere and it is not going to bottom out.
What’s Academia Got to Do With It?

Academic acronyms are abound. On the order of 35 million EU students have graduated in the last decade. Similarly, 25 million degree level diplomas were handed out in the United States. Around South Asia, Africa, and the BRICS nations, it is difficult to track down academic attainment; but 1 hundred million alumni would not be far off. There are more BSc, BAs, MSc, MAs, MBAs, and PhDs in the world than at any other time. But, once again, there is something up. From Thomas Frey’s de Vinci Institute site,

‘Yet, despite having all the cards aligned in their favour, and being presented with one huge opportunity after another, many of these people [graduates] fail. They fail at their jobs, fail in their businesses, and fail to live up to their full potential… A student that enters a classroom will typically find themselves immersed in a academic competition, a competition that pits students against each other to produce results that best match the teacher’s expectations. Only rarely will the work product of a student in a classroom rise to any notable level of significance Reading a book is far different than writing a book, and simply writing a book is far different than writing a book that sells over 10,000 copies…

In much the same way a gamer can become very adept at fighting a simulated battle, it can only partially compare to a real-life battle. Even in a closely comparable situation where a gamer shifts from flying a simulated drone to a real-life drone in the military, many changes will occur. Suddenly the consequences of their action become something real and tangible, and what used to be simulated pain and suffering instantly becomes real pain and suffering. The emotional context is something they begin to feel throughout their entire body.’

Indeed, back in the day, a good fist of academic quals would get you into a career. Only today, the whole notion of a career is in transformation. Reality has hit home. Most know the stories of the school/college dropouts that left school with hardly any academic qualification, yet had a brain full of streetwise know-how, can-do shrewd market sense, that has lead them to GigaAire status (lots more in part 4).

The differential here, tangible, transferable value. Whether currency or true social equitable gain. As Frey declares, accomplishment is a loosely defined term describing everything from a 4th grader’s piano recital to achieving peace between warring nations. For this reason it is important to draw a distinction between a vague accomplishment and a real one. He makes clear that there is a dichotomy between real-life accomplishment and mere symbols of achievements. Hence, an accomplishment-based education is one where the output of every student has concrete, self-evident worth in the marketplace or social system (e.g.; a fifthteen year old lunching a web-based video game getting a million hits a day; versus a nicely framed degree certificate on Grandma’s wall). Harsh? So is one-hundred symbolically educated youths and 50 somethings applying for the same menial job!

Education GigaMarkets

In the face of this, education – from schooling to post graduate university to government and professional training to private sector and self driven courses  – is estimated to be on the order of $7 trillion per annum worldwide. And given the rate of technological innovation against the backdrop of breakthroughs of basic discovery and applied scientific invention, this GigaIndustry is about to take off.

The global market for public (tax payer paid) education is $4.4 trillion from the $7 trillion total, and poised to grow significantly over the next five years, according to an analysis IBIS Capital, a London-based investment bank.

The online learning sector is projected to grow significantly by 23 percent between 2012 and 2017, making it the fastest-growing market in education worldwide (counting K-12, higher education, and corporate and government training programs). There are more than 3,000 online learning firms in Europe alone. This offers a glimpse of the market for online learning, serving 1.4 billion students and 62.5 million educators. Today, just over half of this $4.4 trillion expenditure goes on schools (K-12 or equivalent), 1.8 trillion on post secondary, and the rest on corporate and government. Which means the privet learning sector – personal refreshers, hobbies and interests, new skills, vocational qualifications - operates at around $2.6 trillion worldwide.

Go forward to 2030, it expected that over 90 percent of the world's schooling age will finish primary education, and 55 percent will have completed secondary education; in turn, almost a third of collage age individuals will be in further or higher education. In the OECD countries alone, by 2030, there will be ~ 65 million new students every year.

But as you might expect by now, the biggest strides in literacy and wider education to 2030 will be achieved in the emerging nations. Today, there are still around 3 billion (42 percent) people that lack a thorough elementary education, but that may fall to 2 billion out of 8.3 billion population by 2030 (24 percent). And that is a sea change. The internet, by the trends, will have 6 billion users by 2030, about 3.9 billion more than today. Again, most of the growth in the Internet will come from developing countries over the next 15 years. And this is significant, because most education, or more precisely, learning, will take place over the world-wide-web.

Market value wise, this is difficult to speculate. But, a half a billion new students from emerging nations and 65 million from the OECD nations, will quite probably double the total education marketplace to $14 trillion by 2030. Much of which will be outside formal education systems. So there is a lot to discuss and learn here.
Developing Fluid, Creative, 
and Constructive Thinking Skills

John Locke, the English philosopher, regarded considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Sir Francis Bacon, explained that learning was primarily understood through experience only, and that we were born without knowledge. Where knowledge is assembled through experience.

An essential discipline absent from schooling and further education, are fluid, creative and constructive thinking skills. It is simply not true that we born with the innate ability to optimise these thinking strategies. Yes, some are naturally better than others. But across the pool, most never get to realise their full potential. And that is another indictment upon education considering the new challenge graduates and school leavers face.

This absence stunts the fluid thinking skills of deduction, induction, inference, incubation and forensics. Deductive reasoning, for example, is a skill that needs to be both honed and supported with thinking strategies.

Creative and constructive thinking skills also need to be formally developed through practice with technique and tools. Synergism, lateralism, synetics, connectics, counterintuition, contradigms, cause and effect, and poke-yoke (Japanese for fool proofing)  are thinking skills that are just not on the table in most schools and colleges in the west. And ask any youngster, what deductive reasoning or creativity skills and tool do you know? You might well deduce the answer.

Certainly, there are training courses and many books on these fluid thinking disciplines. But that often happens when school’s out. And that, after all, is after the fact. It is by no means too late. But it is much behind schedule when young students could do with such thinking skills from the start.

Edward de Bono, is a prime advocate of these kind of thinking skills. de Bono is one of the very few people in modern history who can be said to have had a major impact on the way we think resourcefully. His special contribution has been to take the mystical subject of creativity and, for the first time in history, to put the subject on a solid basis. The term lateral thinking was introduced by de Bono and is now so much part of language that it is used equally in a physics lecture.

In Venezuela, by law, all school children must spend an hour a week on de Bono programmes. In Singapore 102 secondary schools use his work. In Malaysia the senior science schools have been using Dr de Bono's programmes for the teaching of thinking. Siemens (370,000 employees) is teaching his work across the whole corporation. His work spans from teaching 7 years olds in primary schools to working with senior executives in the world's largest corporations.

He says that traditional (crystalline) thinking is to do with analysis, judgment and argument. In a stable world this was sufficient because it was enough to identify standard situations and to apply standard crystalline thinking and solutions. This is no longer so in a changing world where the standard solutions may not work.

There is a huge need worldwide for thinking that is creative and constructive and can design the way forward. Many of the major problems in the world cannot be solved by identifying and removing the cause. There is a need to design a way forward even if the cause (problem) remains in place.

de Bono has provided the methods and tools for this new thinking. His message: ‘thinking can and should be taught if we are to meet the needs of today's fast-paced and changing world… The earlier that children can be taught to think the greater advantage they will have to understand and assimilate other subjects.’

It is assumed that a person with a high IQ would necessarily be an effective thinker. This does not seem to be the case. Some people with high IQs turn out to be relatively ineffective thinkers and others with much more humble IQs are more effective. If IQ is the innate horsepower of a car then thinking skill is the equivalent to driving skill.

de Bono’s CoRT Thinking is a deliberate attempt to avoid the intelligence trap which occurs when a high IQ is not accompanied by effective thinking skills. To be effective, thinking does require an information base. But it is absurd to suppose that if we have enough information it will do our thinking for us. Only in very rare instances can we ever have such complete information that thinking is superfluous.

And this is where the education to learning paradigm shift begins. But there is much more here, particularly now we are building the systems and tools that are enabling the democratisation of learning.