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Thinking Strategically About Education and Technology: Making Learning Happen Today for Tomorrow's World.

  • Ecole des Ponts Business School; University of New Brunswick; University of Stavanger
  • European Institute of Education and Social Policy


Promethean Thinking Deeper Research Papers provide sponsorship for global experts to conduct and report on cutting-edge thinking and state-of-the-art global academic/policy knowledge with respect to the role of new technologies (innovative tools and organization) in meeting the challenges of learning in the 21st Century.
!inking Strategically About Education and
Technology: Making Learning Happen Today
for Tomorrows World
Authors: Riel Miller!, Janet Looney" and Jim Wynn3
Date: December, "#!#
Sponsored by: Promethean Education Strategy Group
Promethean !inking Deeper Research Papers provide sponsorship for global
experts to conduct and report on cutting-edge thinking and state-of-the-art global
academic/policy knowledge with respect to the role of new technologies (innovative
tools and organization) in meeting the challenges of learning in the 21st Century.
!inking Deeper Research Paper No." - Parts " & #
21st Century
Around the world education and learning in school
and throughout society are on the cusp of a major
leap in productivity. We are in the midst of a game
changing reduction in the cost and equally signicant
increases in the speed, quality and universality of
all kinds of learning. Promethean $inking Deeper
Research papers will report on this transformation
by presenting the latest results from cutting-edge
researchers and practitioners.
$is first paper of the series is divided into three parts:
!. Part ! is a thought experiment, a story about an
imaginary future – a strategic foresight scenario,
to provoke new thinking about the learning
transformation happening all around us.
". Part " is an introduction and overview of the
Promethean $inking Deeper Research paper series
a roadmap to what we will be exploring in this series.
%. Part %, takes a deeper dive into one of the specic
topics, looking at the changes taking place in the
eld of assessment and making the link to changing
educational productivity.
Part ":2025 Imagining the Future: A Story About a
Leap in Learning Productivity, by Riel Miller
Part #:A Strategic Perspective: Outline for a
Research Series on the Transformation of Learning in
the 21st Century, by Riel Miller and Jim Wynn
Part $:Making it Happen: Formative Assessment
and Educational Technologies, by Janet Looney
Authors: Riel Miller, Janet Looney and Jim Wynn
Date: December, "#!#
Sponsored by: Promethean Education Strategy Group
Executive Summary
Table of Contents
To learn is to be human and to be human is to learn.
This is not new.
What does change is the what, how, when, where and
why of learning. It is the context for learning that changes.
So in the world today, unlike the past, what we learn
extends well beyond limited sets of already dened know-
how, as in how to till the soil, mend torn clothes or recite
the times tables.
Equally changed is how we learn, transmission of
knowledge now covers a wider range than the traditional
conduits of parent to child, older sibling to younger sibling
or master to apprentice.
When we learn is dierent too, the skills we
need for a lifetime can no longer be condensed into a few
years, or even a decade or two, at the start of a lifespan.
And where we learn has diversied away from one special
place such as a school or university or workplace, to
become ambient, happening all around us.
Even the reasons why we learn have changed it is
not only to survive or get a job but to enjoy, to better
know ones self and the world of freedom and diversity
encountered anew everyday.
21st Century
Imagining the Future - Paper !, Part !"
falling into place. Obviously the Internet, but also how
we use education, the way we understand interactive
learning processes and cognition, brain science and
evolution, assessment systems and work organisation, each
of these elements are important.6 Taken together we can
imagine a leap in education productivity as transformative
as the turning point moment of Fords Model T.
Learning in #%#&, imagine
Imagine the coming together of a whole set of new
ways to: organise learning, share information, produce
knowledge, assess achievement, provide feedback,
design learning voyages. What if all of these factors
allowed the average number of months spent by a
young person in school to be reduced from the current
average of !"# months to !## months?7 $is is a major
leap in productivity. In "#"& to reach the same level of
achievement (quality), as measured for instance by a high
school diploma, the average student only needs to spend
!# years instead of !" in school.8
What is a scenario?
A scenario is a story illustrating visions of possible
futures or imaginary futures. It is perhaps the most
emblematic Foresight or future studies method.
Scenarios are not predictions about the future but are
similar to simulations of future situations or contexts.
Scenarios are used both as an exploratory method and
as a tool for decision-making, mainly to help reveal and
invent aspects of the present that would otherwise be
obscured by existing images of the future.
$e scenario method is probably one of the main
concepts and most widely used methods in Foresight.
$e term scenario was introduced by Herman Kahn
in the !'&#s in connection with military and strategic
studies conducted by the Rand Corporation. Kahn used
the term to refer to issues related to US public policy,
international development and defence.
21st Century
Transformation it has happened before
When Henry Ford started selling the Model T no one
believed that it could be a mass-market product. Cars
were exotic, dicult to use, luxury goods that few could
aord. At the time of its rst sale in !'#* it cost $*&# the
equivalent of over $"#,+## in "##' prices. However by
!'"& the price had dropped to $"'#, the equivalent in cur-
rent prices of around $%,&&#, roughly four months wages
for the average worker in one of Fords factories.4 Perhaps
even more striking is the fact that Fords assembly line
reduced the time required to construct a car by a factor
of eight, from !".% hours per car to '% minutes. A nished
Model T came o the assembly line every three minutes!
We all know what happened next commuters and shop-
ping malls, sub-divisions and highways. $e way people
lived and worked changed. $e leap in productivity
that occurred with the introduction of the assembly line
opened up new choices new ways of looking and acting.
Higher productivity also brought higher wages, and not
just in automobile assembly, but in many industries that
adopted the new methods and tools.
However the conditions that made this leap in
productivity doable did not happen all of a sudden.
Standard parts, sequencing the production processes
for speed, time-motion studies of work, and a workforce
ready to take this approach, all took decades to develop.5
Only then, with all of the dierent elements in place,
could Henry Ford seize the moment. Like Steve Jobs and
the iPhone. And only after the Model T breakthrough,
an aordable mass-market car and higher wages for
factory workers, did it make sense to build suburbs and
Today a similar breakthrough is in the making only this
time it is about a leap in the productivity of learning. For
decades now dierent pieces of the puzzle have been
Author: Riel Miller
Date: December, "#!#
Sponsored by: Promethean Education Strategy Group
Paper No." - Part ": "#"$ Imagining the Future:
A Story About a Leap in Learning Productivity
Imagining the Future - Paper !, Part !
21st Century
Learning Author: Riel Miller
Date: December, "#!#
Sponsored by: Promethean Education Strategy Group
Imagining the Future - Paper !, Part !+
Scenarios were rst used by corporations. $ey started
to be used at corporate level as planning became more
complex and sophisticated. $e oil company Shell was
a pioneer in the eld and became the benchmark for
corporate scenario planning. Shells scenario planning
enabled it to anticipate the rise and subsequent fall of
oil processing in !',%. Scenarios have since been used
by the nancial services industry, banks and insurance
companies, given their value as a tool for analysing and
understanding key competitive decisions.
Both public and private sector organisations have
implemented scenarios for a wide array of functions.
$e public sector relies mainly on scenario
methodologies when it has to dene planning activities
(e.g. it was used in the past for defence planning) and to
delineate alternatives for policies. Almost all industries
(especially multinational companies) use scenarios to
develop their business strategies.
#%#&, What is it like? How does it work?
First of all, in "#"& teachers are paid more but the overall
cost to taxpayers is less. $at is what happens when
productivity increases. Given the investment in new
tools and new production methods schools now need
fewer teachers. But just like in Henry Fords factory each
teacher adds more value and so they can be paid more
while the reduction in the total number of teachers allows
overall salary costs to be reduced.
Savings have been further reinforced by the fact that
school facilities, buildings and equipment, are distributed
across a smaller student population. $is has allowed
capital budgets to shift focus from the maintenance of
crumbling old buildings, which can now be sold o, to
investing in new, fully interactive learning spaces. And
that is why interactive technology in the classroom and
elsewhere leapt from under !#% coverage to over '#%. 10
Another important change is that teachers are now,
on average, more qualied. With higher wages came a
greater willingness by both prospective teachers and
school management to invest in skill development. And
with higher productivity, higher skills and higher wages, it
is no wonder that the teaching profession has recovered
its social prestige. Here again the leap in productivity of
the education process as a whole not only reduced the
number of years students are in school, but also made
it easier to accelerate the retirement of older teachers.
$is in turn played a role in the unusually quick jump in
the quantity of input to quality of output ratio of the
educational system, a leap from one era to the next.
A society wide change
Maybe the most surprising impact of the breakthrough to
higher productivity in education was how it created new
sources of value added in the world outside the school
system. Again, as with the Model T and the advent of
the automotive eras suburbs, super-highways and mass-
consumption, most of these related eects were unan-
ticipated. In particular no one expected the magnitude
of the economic and social changes that accompanied
reducing compulsory schooling by two years. Indeed,
initially expectations were just the opposite. Many people
were concerned that there would be a lot of trouble. $ey
expected that youngsters would either sit around doing
nothing useful, too young to even be classied as unem-
ployed, or end up in university before they were ready,
wasting everyones time and money.
Expectations were wrong, once again. Similar to the
introduction of the Model T, it was not the leap in
learning productivity alone that made massive social and
economic change happen. What mattered even more
were the changes in the way people worked and played,
created both economic value and the social fabric. Here
the breakthroughs were legion and the most important
impact was that learning in everyday life the learning
that occurs with friends, family, and in all kinds of
communities became much easier. $is was because
learning processes were much more productive. In other
words, reducing the cost of this critical input learning
had a similar impact as the advent of the Model Ts
assembly line - the organization of everything from the
where and how of work to the what and why of family
life - all changed.
21st Century
Learning Author: Riel Miller
Date: December, "#!#
Sponsored by: Promethean Education Strategy Group
&Imagining the Future - Paper !, Part !
!e Learning Intensive Society
$is leap in the productivity of learning processes enabled
what we now call the Learning Intensive Society. $e
Diagram below is one way of illustrating what this means.
Not only is know-who (social networking), know-how
(do-it-yourself), and know-what (search, mobile net access)
much greater than in the past but most critical of all know-
why has skyrocketed. At rst it looked like there would be
a terrible crisis. People were being confronted with such
an overload of choices and there was so much ambiguity,
uncertainty and fear. But gradually, through trial and error,
using virtual reality and much more uid and dense social
networking over a lifetime, peoples capacity to learn to
gain insight from experiments, from experience became
part of a virtuous circle. Faced with more choices, with
more practice at learning-by-doing, people are now much
more ecient learners and decision makers.
Of course the newly out-of-school youngsters, charged
up with the energy and dissidence of adolescence, are
leading the way. We call them the you-do generation.
$ey are the pioneers of a uid, project-based organisa-
tion of economic and social life. $is activity is at one and
the same time much more local, rooted in the narrow
specicity of places, groups and tasks, but also highly
global, linked to worldwide communities that are deeply
engaging. Projects cover everything from the ridiculous
to the sublime, but the vast majority of these activities are
about creating value in one way or another. Indeed it is
the diversity of such value creation, going far beyond the
sectors and supply/demand relationships of the industrial
era that helps to sustain engagement and learning.
!e murmuration swirling clouds of
networked communities
What amazes older generations is the uidity, openness,
veriability and responsibility of these often short-lived
communities of action. And they are also surprised at
how implicated they have become this is not just for
young people. Somehow almost overnight a whole new
set of digital native and digital immigrant capabilities
appeared. $is jump in the general capacity to create new
networks reects a combination of the more interactive
and more productive ways that learning is taking place in
schools, at home and across a wide range of productive
communities. It is now commonplace across generations
to engage with the reality of intensive (serious) play, in
many dierent virtual worlds. But it is not just that higher
learning productivity has big knock-on eects. A critical
aspect is how the learning takes place.
Initial fears that constant interactivity and so-called
multi-tasking would seriously undermine the capacity to
concentrate, pay attention and get things done, particu-
larly amongst young people, turned out to be all wrong.
Certainly on the surface the gaming and texting and video
surng seem frivolous, distracting and inimical to focusing
on serious tasks. But beneath the surface deeper things
were happening. People have learned how to better man-
age their attention so that they are able to balance intense
bouts of focus with short breaks where they engage in
lower-eort tasks. In this way, they constantly renew their
energy and stay engaged.
Advances in understanding the interaction between
learning and the environment through research into
physiological brain and cognitive functioning helped in
the development of new approaches to gaining mastery
over concentration and relaxation, focused learning and
ambient appreciation of the world around us. Now, start-
ing at an early age everyone learns through experience to
appreciate the role of contemplation, natural beauty and
the advantages for thinking and well-being of physical
activities. Back in "#!! it seemed far fetched that the zap-
ping and so called multi-tasking could become part of a
more powerful learning environment. Of course this was
hard to anticipate, just as it is dicult for someone who is
intensity of
intensity of
intensity of
Average intensity of
know-why (decision-
making capability
Agricultural Society Industrial Societ y Learning Society
Source: Riel Miller, XperidoX Futures Consulting;
Average Learning Intensity of Daily Life
21st Century
Learning Author: Riel Miller
Date: December, "#!#
Sponsored by: Promethean Education Strategy Group
Imagining the Future - Paper !, Part !-
illiterate to fully understand in advance what it means to
be able to explore the worlds opened up by being able to
read and write.
Using learning tools – motivation matters
What matters when we use tools is the motivation. So it
is true that if the goal is to escape boredom, rebel against
what is being imposed, and test the waters of human
socialising, then regardless of the time or tool (think of
Huckleberry Finn) a restless person will zap from one
channel to the next. But this is not what we experience
now. Expectations of mental decay and frivolity did not
take into account how the use of the tool, the motivation
for playing might change. Todays wired cybercitizens
yoke learning tools to the tasks of building their identities,
families, communities, knowledge and habitat. $ey are
motivated and engaged by an immense variety of econom-
ic and social activities intergenerational and internation-
al. Todays you-do generations have transformed tools
for zapping across a million information feeds into highly
productive means to concentrate on what they want to
do, when and where they want to do it. From grandmas
to eco-nomads, everyone is learning all the time.
$ree primary sets of activities dominate the projects of
young and old, and everyone in between:
{Identity-based projects. $is type of project is mostly
about nding answers to the questions: who am I? and
“with whom do I identify? But these are not individual-
istic quests. On the contrary, what is striking is that such
eorts are about shared meaning. Strange as it may seem
to older generations, it is the easy familiarity of "#"&s
digital natives with multiple avatars and virtual worlds
that has allowed them to be both easy visitors in many
dierent communities, as they continuously seek to sus-
tain a meaningful identity, and to dig deeper roots once
they became more invested in a identity relevant project.
{Learning-based projects. Learing through inquiry-based
projects take up a large share of economic and social life.
$ey are driven by the desire to satisfy curiosity and a
taste for adventure. Here again, one of the critical factors
in making this work is the change in the way schooling
is conducted now. $e drill and test way of teaching is
gone, replaced by the approach pioneered at the end of
the "#th Century that makes interactive project-driven
inquiry, with intensive feedback and assessment, the
framework for learning. Since school is about exploratory
learning it is only natural to continue once school is over
at the end of the day or after graduation!
{Eco-habitat projects. Environmental projects moved
steadily to the forefront throughout the twenty teens,
driven by the growing desire expressed through
personal choices but also governmental policies to
reduce, reuse and recycle. Moving to diversied, largely
local co-generation electrical systems required signicant
investments in the skills and work needed to install,
manage and maintain sophisticated and cost eective
power. Similar priority was given to projects that altered
the design and lifecycle of other products, from housing
to digital equipment, to achieve a much lower ecological
footprint. Learning is integral and continuous for the
projects that are creating todays green society.
Learning and societal transformation
who would have guessed?
Perhaps from the point of view of "#!# it seems strange
that learning has become such a critical part of what
people do and the creation of economic and social value.
In the past there was a tendency to view education as
using up rather than creating wealth. $e truth is that
every time there has been a big leap in productivity there
has been a lot of anxiety and incomprehension. When
industry started to replace agriculture as the main source
of wealth people also wondered how all of the people
going to the city were going to nd a way to live without
vegetable gardens and chickens in the yard. Now that
there has been a leap in the productivity of learning, it
seems obvious that there is still plenty to do indeed
each persons quest for identity and community, a sense
of meaning in family and friends, near and far, seems to
provide an inexhaustible source of learning activity. $at
is why we call it the Learning Intensive Society.
21st Century
Learning Authors: Riel Miller and Jim Wynn
Date: December, "#!#
Sponsored by: Promethean Education Strategy Group
,Research Outline for !"st Century Learning - Paper ", Part !
Why this matters
,##,###,### children are estimated to be attending pri-
mary school around the world this year ("#!#). Almost
,",###,### below the target set by the Millennium
Development Goals. Meeting the target
by "#!& will require, by very conservative estimates,
an additional !.' million teachers.11 Adding to the
more than $!,###,###,###,### (one trillion dollars)
that is already being spent on all ocial education activi-
ties worldwide, including secondary, post-secondary and
$ere is no doubt, investment in education is big
and it pays huge rewards for individuals and
society.12 Yet today most people think we need even
more education. $ere is a strong consensus around
the world, amongst politicians, academics and citizens:
investing in education is one of best ways to create a
better future everywhere. $e question is how to
make this happen?
Making learning happen today for tomorrows
world is one of the biggest challenges of our time!
Increasing the productivity of learning processes is
the solution.
The current context
Simply adding more money and time to educations
share of economic and social activity is the obvious
answer. However, the competition for resources is very
intense and even if the rates of return from investment
in education are very high, there are many other pressing
and legitimate needs that also must be addressed. $is
leaves only one alternative, to signicantly increase the
productivity of learning processes in order to meet our
needs even with limited resources.
Paper No." - Part #:
A Strategic Perspective: Outline for a Research Series on the
Transfo rm ation of Learning in the "%st Century
But knowing the general direction to go in, unleashing
a massive increase in the productivity of learning
processes, does not mean that we know exactly how
to get there. Which approaches make the most sense?
What are the best ways to implement productivity-
enhancing policies in dierent places? How best to
t the solution to the context? Practical and credible
answers to these questions call for careful and innovative
research and analysis. $at is the aim of Promethean
$inking Deeper Papers.
Our goal is to explore the many dimensions of the
emergent breakthrough in learning productivity
including new tools and how they are used, but also
what they are used for and how economic and social
reorganisation changes the capacity enhancing power of
both existing and innovative tools. Much research has
already been conducted on the relationship between
learning and technology, and not just inspired by recent
advances in information processing and communications.
Writing and the printing press, textbooks and
televisions, just to name a few obviously seminal
innovations, all interacted with what and how we learn.
What the research shows
From a research perspective the verdict is clear, there is
powerful evidence that technology can make a dif-
ference for both the eectiveness and eciency of all
facets of learning. Yet it is important to underscore
that a society-wide leap in productivity, like the leaps
in productivity related to the introduction of Model T
described in Part ! of this paper, are not exclusively, not
even predominantly due to the narrow changes caused
by one technological breakthrough or new production
method. What really makes the dierence is a much
broader, much more pervasive transformation of what
and how we create.
21st Century
Learning Authors: Riel Miller and Jim Wynn
Date: December, "#!#
Sponsored by: Promethean Education Strategy Group
Research Outline for "!st Century Learning - Paper !, Part "*
!e research focus learning tools: eectiveness,
eciency and ease of implementation
As we look at the processes of transformation, the focus
will be on a context sensitive understanding of eective-
ness, eciency and ease of implementation of these new
techniques and methods of engag