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Education Futures & the Concept of Knowmads

Edufutures There is no shortage of thought leaders who will expound in papers and blogs about their particular perspective, approach and beliefs about the future of education. Then there are others who do that but add in a healthy dose of pragmatism that clearly demonstrates they're explorers of the topic and are eagerly seeking trends and the influences driving the exponentially accelerating shift toward a digital future for education.

As a huge fan of serendipity, I can't tell you how often I've been at a conference, trade show or event while in "seek mode" looking for answers to questions about some topic and by happenstance something occurred that changed the course of my seeking. Often my exploration is quite focused, but sometimes it is so vague that I simply point myself in the general direction of an answer and let myself be carried along by the flow of information being revealed. In either scenario, some person, piece of knowledge or technology demonstration appears and I smile as I let the "Aha!" unfold and the dots get connected in my mind.

I had that sort of experience as I was seeking stories and events around Minnesota innovation for a technology site I lead called Minnov8. Clicking on a link brought me to Education Futures, a site founded in Minnesota by a group of educators and theorists who view the rate of change like I do: "Founded on November 20, 2004, Education Futures explores a New Paradigm in human capital development, fueled by globalization, the rise of innovative knowledge societies, and driven by exponential, accelerating change.

Earlier today I reached out to the Education Futures founder by email asking if we could get together at some point and commiserate about accelerating change and my intention is to interview John Moravec, PhD and gain access to insights and bring that to you on this blog.

What I found with their site is yet another data point that validates what you've been reading here at Accelerating Change. Their point of view is something worth discussing as you continue to strive for an educational model that meets and exceeds today and tomorrow's student needs and the world they'll enter in the not-too-distant future. 

It was a specific piece written in November of last year that grabbed my attention and caused me to invest some time reading and poking around their site. 

The piece was entitled Knowmads in Society 3.0 and the concept is that "In the pre-industrial age, nomads were people that moved with their livelihood (usually animal herding) instead of settling at a single location. Industrialization forced the settlement of many nomadic peoples, but something new is emerging in the 21st century: Knowmads."

This post is an excellent positioning of the tenets, approach, and work that these thought leaders are delivering on in their teachings, consulting and on the Education Futures site and reinforces what I've been trying to get across in this blog: that there is an onrush of enabling technologies, applications and behavior changes that will fundamentally change the nature of the world our students will live and work in. 

My first serious introduction to this topic of this accelerating shift -- from a day of full employment at a single company or organization (and a single career) toward one where we as knowledge workers are becoming more like free agents -- was a book published in 2001 by author Daniel Pink called Free Agent Nation (good BusinessWeek synopsis and solid overview at this Fast Company article). 

For those of us embracing (more like bear hugging with grins on our faces) the collaborative, participative, self-publishing, mobile and other computing technologies that are enablers for this Knowmadic or free agent acceleration, it is an imperative that you understand just how quickly this is occurring.

I'll give you one example: the telephone system.

Think about your personal or office/classroom phone. It's wired in, making any changes to voicemail or listening to messages have to be modified at the phone itself.

Many of us have thrown out our landlines at home in favor of our mobile phones. Mainly because we're increasingly nomadic and use them as our primary telephony device.

There have also been many technologies that have been appearing from Skype to open source complete telephone systems like Asterisk.

For mainly personal or now free agent/Knowmad use comes highly functional, web browser management digital voice systems that make it extremely simple to have your own digital telephone assistant and a "big company or organization" presence. 

As one easy to understand example of that, Google recently acquired Grand Central, a company touting "Your One Phone Number for Life" and it has been re-launched as Google Voice. This service enables you to sign up, be assigned a phone number, and then set up all of your phone numbers "below" it, while also giving you tremendous flexibility on how that phone is answered. This 1 minute video describes it: 


Another example is a service I'm exploring for a small client called Toktumi, a $14.95 per month phone system. Think of it as almost an organization-like Private Branch Exchange (PBX) -- which is undoubtedly what's deployed at your district or school level -- but is hosted on the Web and geared for a small virtual team or organization with features that work just like the systems the big kids have installed.

While Toktumi wouldn't be appropriate for you to rollout at the organizational level (it only handles 9 people), it points the way toward a future when an organization might have staff spread out all over the country or world...but every one of them would be instantly accessible through ONE SINGLE PHONE NUMBER.

Someone calling that number on a service like Toktumi would get the usual "Thank you for calling Xxxxx. To talk to Jane Jone, please press 1. To talk with Hank Adams, please press 2." When the caller presses 1, they could be connected to Jane's cell phone, her Skype-In phone number, home phone, or on whatever voice system she chooses to take the call on (or not take any calls by having it roll directly to voicemail). If the caller presses 2, Hank might take the call at his cabin, while on sabbatical in Italy on Skype-In, or in his home office. It's that flexible.

This telephony technology shift is the sort of enabling technology that is exploding on to the scene and are ones that free agents and Knowmads are latching on to and using now. There are many other web applications like these telephony ones "in the cloud" which are laughingly inexpensive and powerful enablers for we Knowmads.

The implication for you is that when your students enter the workforce, they'll be able to perform knowledge work regardless of where they happen to be geographically and the number of enabling tools is accelerating and is why you need to get those students ready.


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I love this idea. If you apply this to schools, then a school is not something you go to, school is something that you carry around with you.

The first Knowmads Education school is here

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Accelerating Change are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.