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 the nineteenth.

  • 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

The critical mission is to recognize and break the mindsets that limit systemic, global thinking about the latent learning potential of the planet.

  • 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

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 other categories.
  • 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

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 of learning.
  • 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.

    The major 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.