Skills for the 21st Century

Cognitive and Literacy Skills for Success in a Fast-Paced Technological Age

Archive for the ‘Pace of Change’ Category

Engineering Design Enters the 4th Dimension

Posted by Duren_Thompson on October 23, 2013

3D chemical model - stick and ball  imageOK, this is really revolutionary!

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a polymer and a process which allows the production of an object fixed in one shape that can later be changed to take on a new shape given thermal, chemical or mechanical forces.  And these shapes are determined at the design stage – essentially adding a “time” component to the 3D printing/production process.

Their real life example:

“…a solar panel or similar product could be produced in a flat configuration onto which functional devices can be easily installed. It could then be changed to a compact shape for packing and shipping. After arriving at its destination, the product could be activated to form a different shape that optimizes its function.”
H.  Jerry Qi, associate professor of mechanical engineering at CU-Boulder

Read more  4-D Printing Technology for Composite Materials Developed

WOW!  So, consider the effects of this kind of production on the jobs of the future:

  • What kinds of skills would you need in order to be a designer? (4-dimensional visualization skills?)
  • What jobs would be changed or lost (fewer truck drivers needed, because boxes would be smaller?)
  • How would this affect consumers/users?  (What would you make with an in-home 4D printer? How about a tent or table that sets itself up?)
  • What are the effects on the environment – can these things be put in a landfill? Can this be recycled?

And, of course,

  • What implications does this have for education?  How do you assist students to think in 4 dimensions?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!


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LAPCAE Materials

Posted by wrmcnutt on June 5, 2012

I’d like to thank everyone who came to my session, Emerging Technologies in the Adult Education Classroom. You were a fun group to talk to and I hope that everyone got something to take away from the session.  As promised, I’ve linked my slide set and handout below.  While you’re here, I hope you’ll take the time to look around and some of the articles we’ve shared in the past.  If you have any questions about the topic, or anything about technology in education, really, feel free to ask.  If we don’t know the answer, we probably should, so we’ll find out for you.

Posted in Changing the AE field, Job Skills, Meta-Skills, Pace of Change, Technology In the Classroom, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Re-Making Humanity

Posted by durencls on June 2, 2010

In 1997, I was intrigued by the ideas presented in the film Gattaca.*   Set in a non-specific future earth, where genetic enhancement is the norm, the film tries to answer the question – is genetics everything? In this vision of the future, good, responsible parents consult with a geneticist before conception and work to give their child every genetic advantage possible.  Even simple dating decisions are made based on DNA comparisons – readily available from streetside kiosks.  In this future world, if you are not genetically perfect, it is assumed you cannot compete with those who are, and you are automatically relegated to lesser, more menial jobs. This science fiction idea could have significant implications for education – how do you teach in a genetically modified world?  Are those without genetic enhancement excluded from some educational opportunities?  What is fair?

Well, that future vision is now one step closer to reality:

ROCKVILLE, MD and San Diego, CA (May 20, 2010)— Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a not-for-profit genomic research organization, published results today describing the successful construction of the first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell. [Read the entire Press Release]

Yes, there you have it, we can now manipulate genetic code to create artifical life. How soon until we are trying to teach genetically engineered children?

While our ability to manipulate genetic code is growing by leaps and bounds, neuroscience is experimenting with cognitive enhancement through chemical enhancement and neural feedback devices.  Off-label use of Adderall and other chemical neuroenhancers used to ‘strengthen’ ordinary cognition is already having an effect on how students ‘gain an edge’ at higher institutions.  Research and marketing companies are leaping to join the emerging  “Brain fitness” market.

At the same time, research is progressing on technological enhancements to human functioning – with implications not only for education, but also bio-mechanical engineering.  In one experiment by the School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading, Dr. Mark Gasson has had a high-end Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip was implanted in his left hand for over a year for the purpose of experimentation. This chip allowed him secure access to his University building and his mobile phone, as well as tracking his movements.  When he allowed his chip to be infected with a computer virus last month, he says that he, “…found it a surprisingly violating experience because the implant is so intimately connected to me but the situation is potentially out of my control.”  Further, Dr Gasson states:

“I believe it is necessary to acknowledge that our next evolutionary step may well mean that we all become part machine as we look to enhance ourselves. Indeed we may find that there are significant social pressures to have implantable technologies, either because it becomes as much of a social norm as say mobile phones, or because we’ll be disadvantaged if we do not.” 

If genetic engineering, neurological enhancement, and/or technological improvements to our cognitive abilities are clearly a furture trend, what are the implications for finding success in the 21st Century Workplace?  What skills and/or training will be needed by enhanced individuals for success?  And what of the likely “enhancement gap”?  What kinds of supports or preparation will this ‘disadvantaged’ group need to find success? To compete in this not-to-distant future?

This is an example of how the technologies themselves may affect not only how we educate, but also who and why.  And as teachers – will we ourselves have to be enhanced in order to serve an enhanced population or to qualify for our jobs?  [Oooo, creepy!]

Let us know what you think!  First person to comment on this post wins a free cognitive enhancement of their choice – performed in a hidden laboratory, during a thunderstorn, by your hosts! BwAH, ha, ha!**   

*The field of futurism is, of course, rife with references to science fiction films and writings, and as blog hosts we are certainly not immune.

**Just kidding! But Bill was sure ‘bwAH, ha, ha’ had to go in this post SOMEwhere!

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Trends: Change in Phone Service

Posted by durencls on May 25, 2010

 Pew Research brought this to our attention:

Wireless Substitution: Preliminary results from the July-December 2009 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that one of every four American homes (24.5%) had only wireless telephones during the last half of 2009. In addition, one of every seven American homes (14.9%) had a landline yet received all or almost all calls on wireless telephones.

WOW – that’s almost 40% of households that are no longer depending on ‘landline’ or ‘wired’ telephone service!  Further details show demographic differences meaningful to the adult literacy education community:

  • Nearly half of adults aged 25-29 years (48.6%) lived in households with only wireless telephones.
  • More than one-third of adults aged 18-24 or 30-34 (37.8% and 37.2%, respectively) lived in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Adults living in poverty (36.3%) and adults living near poverty (29.0%) were more likely than higher income adults (19.6%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Hispanic adults (30.4%) were more likely than non-Hispanic white adults (21.0%) or non-Hispanic black adults (25.0%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.

And this trend is in sharp increase! (see below)

So – why is this so important (and why is the National Center for Health Statistics involved in a cell phone survey)?

Many health surveys, political polls, and other research are conducted using random-digit-dial telephone surveys. Until recently, these surveys did not include wireless telephone numbers in their samples. Now, despite operational challenges, most major survey research organizations are including wireless telephone numbers when conducting random-digit-dial telephone surveys. If they did not, the exclusion of households with only wireless telephones (along with the small proportion of households that have no telephone service) could bias results.

Ahhhh, so this could greatly affect phone survey research results – especially amongst many folks considered part of the adult literacy education population.  We need to start asking, when we read research, if this was a landline only survey.

BUT this ALSO tells us that cell phones are likely MORE prevalent in adult education classrooms than in the typical population!  This survey also tells us, “Approximately 2.0% of households had no telephone service (neither wireless nor landline). ”  Wow – that’s low – so how many is that? “Nearly 4 million adults…”

Hmmm – OK, so now I want to know how that correlates to education level.  Our luck, most of them would be adult literacy education candidates….which means that the odds are your AE student has either no phone, or a cell phone.  Neither of which can be looked up in the phone book.  😉

Cell phone photo: CCC permission 2.0 photocapy

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Pace of Change, Technology In the Classroom | Leave a Comment »

More Changes – Although This One Came Slow

Posted by wrmcnutt on April 28, 2010

Just the other day, Sony announced that they would be ending domestic (Japanese) sales of 3.5 inch “floppy” disks.  The latest and most efficient versions of this medium, the High Density disk, would hold 1.44 megabytes of data.  And they’re very, very slow to transfer data.  Now, Sony holds 70% of the market share for 1.44 MB floppies in Japan, so this is pretty much the death knell for this ancient and venerable storage medium.  It will take a little longer for this to roll out into the United States, as we hang on to our computer hardware longer than the Japanese, but the writing has been on the wall for a while.  Apple abandoned this medium several years ago, and as of last fiscal year, Dell no longer provided them as standard options on it’s commercial-grade computers. (Source: CNET – Sony delivers floppy disk’s last rites )

Introduced in 1987, the 3.5″ floppy had a twenty three year lifespan as a standard.  And that’s a pretty darn good run.  The 5.25 floppy, it’s immediate predecessor wwas introduced by Apple around 1978, and only lasted nine years.  The 8″ floppy, used before that, only lasted seven years. 

Today’s preferred portable media is the “memory stick.”  Also called a “thumb drive” or “jump drive,” 512 MB versions can be had for under a dollar, for the careful shopper.  For a dollar, you can buy a media stick that will hold three hundred and fifty five floppy disks.  Or, if you’ve got a little more money to spend, you can get an 8 GIGAbit drive for about $24.00.  It will hold the same amount of data as FIVE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED and FIFTY FIVE floppies.  For $24.00.  I remember being shocked when the price of floppies dropped below a $20.00 for a pack of ten.

SO – teaching learners to use floppy disks or even CDs/DVDs is probably not a good way to spend the tiny amount of time we have for technology training.  I would be very surprised to discover a computer in use with a floppy drive in another five years.

Posted in Futurism, Job Skills, Pace of Change, Teaching Tech Skills, Technology in the Workplace | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Skinput – Using Your Own Hide as Both Projection Screen and Keyboard

Posted by wrmcnutt on April 8, 2010

I constantly run across innovative ideas that never seem to get past the prototype stage, and I’m not sure if this one’s any different, but I think it might be.  Today’s Science Daily web site has an article on a prototype device developed by a Ph.D. candidate at Carnegie Mellon that has great potential.  And if not potential, at least a big coolness factor.

Today’s smart phones, MP3 players (iPods), smart phones,  and assorted media devices have massive amounts of computing power.  The biggest limitation on their utility is the ability to put data into them, get data out of them, and manipulate the data while it’s in there.  Our fingers are large and the screens are small.  If the designers make the screens and keypads big enough to be really useful, the device becomes bulky and hard to carry around.

Skinput proposes to resolve the input and control part of this problem.  The prototype devices projects a control menu onto the skin of the user and uses commercially available acoustic sensors to listen to the sound of your fingers tapping on your arm.  The sound does not travel through the air, but through your skin and through your bones.

The prototype is, naturally enough, large and bulky, but if the concept were exploited commercially it would be easy enough to shrink it down to the size of a wristwatch.  It would be trivial to use this interface to control simple devices like MP3 players (iPods) and cell phones.

Like most concept devices, this one has a long road ahead of it before it becomes commercially available, so it’s very hard to imagine what the impact of it may have on Adult Education.  I’ve seen many cool concepts stop at the prototype stage because the inventor found it impossible to sell the idea to someone with enough capital to develop it.  Will we be asking our students to please deactivate their skinput devices when they enter the classroom so that they can stay focused? Or will this become so ubiquitous that we can count on using it as an educational resource?  One of the trends that I think I have spotted over my career as a technologist is that simple devices tend to become successful. For example, the first “first person shooter” game, Doom, could be played with four basic controls: turn left, turn right, go forward/backward, and shoot.  The runaway technological success story of the 00’s, the iPod, had very few controls as well.

So this, like many others, is a concept to watch.  It’s hard to tell if this sort of thing will make it to market, or the impact it will have.

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Shift Happens – Revisited

Posted by durencls on March 31, 2010

At the very end of the Shift happens video, there is a web site address –

So I went exploring there – and I found:

◊  Two additional versions of the video – one mostly like the 2007 version with kickier music & graphics (version 3.0 from Sony BMG Music Entertainment) and one with a strong focus on digital media and social networking (version 4.0 advertising a digital media conference). Interestingly, I felt that neither of these really spoke to education as well as the 2007 version.  Sort of like the focus was ONLY on change – not so much on what to do about it.

◊   A list of ideas for what to do with the video – how to inspire others, use it for instructional purposes, etc.

◊   A list of other videos to “further the conversation.” (I’m still working my way through these – some I know we’ve seen before.)

◊   A discussion of the video and how folks have used it. (Reading these is on my to do list…man, keeping up with a community of practitioners can be hard!)

◊   And way down on the bottom, a link to a blog post named “Shift happens – Now What?”  And in that post they have the folowing quote:

“Too often, the initial response [to Shift Happens] is to look for money to buy more computers. Some educational leaders may say “Let’s make sure we have laptops in the hands of EVERY student!… SmartBoards in EVERY classroom!” While it is nice to have administrative support for new technology purchases, a “technology purchasing frenzy” is simply NOT the correct response to the realization that our schools are not doing enough to prepare students for their futures. This is really about changing adult perspectives and adult behaviors to create student-centered classrooms that exemplify research-based best practices around learning. It’s not about buying the latest, greatest, and most expensive tech toys on the market. Expensive tech in the hands of educators who haven’t made changes to their behaviors and instructional practice are no better than the good old chalk board, pencil, and paper. Even worse, expensive tech that the teachers see no use for will end up just collecting dust in a storage room. [Emphasis added]

Which confirms our assumption  “Planning for Technology” really means ‘making a paradigm shift’ – which is about training and professional development – not necessarily about investing in new/cool tech. 

How do we create pradigm shift in adult education? Ideas?  Our first suggestion is to read the entire “”Shift happens – Now What?”” post – within the post the author has some (strong) opinions about how educational organizations and educators need to change to make this paradigm shift. And at the end they have a list of suggested other blog posts with ideas for creating 21st Century learning environments.

Posted in Changing the AE field, Pace of Change, Teaching Ideas | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Nothing’s Untouched

Posted by wrmcnutt on March 29, 2010

This weekend I went to see a friend of mine in a community theater production of “Peter Pan.” “Peter Pan”is an old story, originally published in 1904, and updated to a musical in 1954, most people have been exposed to it, either in childhood or as the parent of children.  And while it remains true the the author would easily recognize his play produced today, I think he would have been taken somewhat aback at appearance of Tinkerbell.

Back at the turn of the twentieth century, Tinkerbell was “played” by a stagehand holding a round mirror, reflecting the light from a powerful kerosene lantern.  In my own childhood, Tink was portrayed by a focused flashlight or a leco. This weekend I got a little shock when Peter flew into the Darling’s nursery accompanied by  . . .

. . . an emerald green laser pointer.  Later, when Tinkerbell is poisoned, the laser pointer turned red, and faded.

When I saw the show, I couldn’t help but think of how technological change touches all the parts of our lives, no matter how small and out-of-the way.  Can ya’ll share with us in the comments, other areas where technological change has caught you by surprise?

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Futurism – Shift Happens

Posted by durencls on March 25, 2010

The web is a fascinating place – connections and ideas linked in an almost infinite variety. Take yesterday – I was composing the post on the AALPD digital literacy discussion and chanced upon a note about the new AALPD Communities of Practice Wiki – which was new to me. Rooting around in there I found this great YouTube video from 2006/7:  

 Shift Happens

Now while this was created in 2006 for a High School staff of 150, and was updated in 2007, it certainly still speaks to the issue of preparing learners (child, youth or adult) for the 21st century workplace.  I was, in particular, struck by two statements made. The first I’ve paraphrased:

In 2007, the amount of technical information was estimated to be doubling every 2 YEARS. It was predicted THEN that in 2010 it will be doubling every 72 HOURS. 

Wow – that is NOW. What will it be in another 2 years? How can I/we/the planet ever keep up?

The second statement is verbatim below:

“We are currently preparing students for jobs and technologies that don’t yet exist…in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

Talk about underscoring our point!  Flexibility and the ability to not only learn quickly, but problem solve and “wing it” just seems to be an absolute MUST!

Also, these two points really speak to the idea that as a population, we will simply HAVE to rely on each other as a community for information. Web 2.0 indeed.


Posted in Futurism, Job Skills, Pace of Change | 2 Comments »