The world resonates with rhetoric about learning - new
needs and new opportunities. But while the volume of the standard rhetoric
accurately reflects an urgently growing sense that learning in the
twenty-first century will be radically different, its content seldom
questions conceptual and organizational constraints inherited from
In the USA, talk about using digital technology to revolutionize
learning is coupled with the imposition of a standardized curriculum
which bears no trace of digital thinking.
Almost all developing countries have educational programs based
on replicating the "traditional" model of schooling
at a time when experience in the so-called developed countries
is showing that this model is inappropriate in a digital world.
The Future of Learning Program has been created in response to this
situation with a three-part mission: critical, conceptual and activist.
The critical mission is to recognize and break the mindsets that limit systemic,
global thinking about the latent learning potential of the
It is widely believed in developing countries that "under
qualified" teachers are unable to handle technological thinking.
However, our experience for the past 20 years working in Developing
Nations and more recently our work in Costa Rica and in Thailand
has shown that the number of years spent in teacher training institutions
has little positive (and perhaps some negative) correlation with
effectiveness as tutors for constructionist learning.
In American schools there is an epidemic of "learning disabilities."
The traditional treatment is to prescribe easier work. However
the adaptation of powerful technologies for use by children allows
many of these children to engage with highly challenging activities.
Success comes from work that is harder, not easier.
The conceptual mission is to elaborate the conceptual framework and the language
to support thinking on a more holistic, systemic level about what
being digital can mean for learning.
Elaborating and propagating a concept of learning environment
that will cut across the fragmentation of thinking about learning
into "education" + "parenting" + "industrial
training" + "rehabilitation (of criminals, substance
abusers etc)" + "effects of television" + many
With a shift of emphasis from teaching to learning a need is created
for more systematic thinking about the art of learning. We use
the word mathetics for an area of thinking which
is to learning what pedagogy is to teaching.
We then distinguish micro-mathetics and macro-mathetics: the former focuses on what
happens in a classroom, a home, and individual learning situation. The latter
focuses on such questions as how to think about the development of the learning
environment of a country or of the entire planet.
The activist mission has two parts based
on a distinction between micro-mathetics (actions directed at affecting
learning on a level of individuals or small groups) and macro-mathetics
(actions directed at affecting the way a country or, indeed, the
entire planet, deals with learning.)
Micromathetic principles (including such ideas as "constructionism"
and "technological fluency" rooted in our earlier, and
continuing work) inform the designs of effective learning sites.
Macromathetic considerations are to choosing a particular design
as part of a long term strategy to change the conception and practice
Traditional strategies for education reform are based either on
making small incremental changes in many schools or on establishing
pilots designed to be replicated. Our macromathetic perspective
suggests a different approach: the role of the most effective
learning site is not to be replicated but to open new ways of
thinking which may lead to quite different inventions.
thrust of the activist mission of the group in the coming year will
be developing The Learning Hub: an international
network of projects each of which: operates a learning site that
breaks radically from prevailing assumptions and uses its success
to leverage the adoption of new ideas by the general public, the
political leadership and the education establishment of their country.