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Liberal Skills in the 21st Century: Moving to Routine “Leapfrog� Knowledge Production and Innovation

By Arthur M. Harkins, Ph.D. & John Moravec, Ph.D.

Leapfrog means to jump over obstacles to achieve goals. It means to get ahead of the competition or the present state of the art through innovative, time-saving means.

One example of leapfrog is Finland’s jump to wireless phones, saving that country the cost of deploying an expensive copper wire system. Another example is present in the Kent, Washington, public school system, which now permits students to use wireless Web devices to help them access information to better pass tests. Leapfrog has also become a major strategy of developing countries wishing to avoid catch-up efforts that otherwise portend a high likelihood of continued followership. A similar approach to gaining the lead rather than assuming a persistent runner-up role has been adopted by many industries, colleges, and individuals.

As do many others, such as Friedman (2000; 2005), Pink (2005), and Florida (2004; 2005), we see a trend toward the expansion of applied knowledge production and innovation within burgeoning global trends, cultures and markets. Knowledge based work is now regularly conducted by design and innovation workers, some exemplars of which are creative teachers, designers, artists, storytellers, game developers, webmasters, and media content creators. These capabilities are expressions of the liberal skills, or applied derivations of the liberal arts and related disciplines and subject matter fields.

In our opinion, the most important social demographic served by this approach is the individual of any age, who for the first time in history is capable of “instantly� responding to trends and creating viable futures, for herself, for society, and for humankind.

Programs focused on knowledge production can provide students with a transdisciplinary context to develop the skills suited for new knowledge production and innovation. As such, the question becomes, How to best serve those students and the contexts in which they live and work, now and in the future? Furthermore, to support a diverse student body and increasingly diverse body of knowledge, how can curricula be reshaped to meet present and future demands, providing support to all students?

To support these needs, we offer the Leapfrog Liberal Skills, which consist of time manipulation, knowledge production, technology, communication, critical and multi-paradigmatic thinking, focused imagination, developed intuition, emotional intelligence, and systems design. These are among the core competencies which students will develop in mature programs designed for leadership in 21st Century education and society.

Successful innovators in commercial environments already are in need of the time manipulation, knowledge and innovation skills developed through interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and post-disciplinary (individualized) study. In this sense, we are making a case for catching-up to existing national and global needs as well as providing a pathway for the individualized development of every student.

We foresee a near future in which educators and their students of any age collaborate with and leapfrog beyond industry, business, government, and education leaders involved in the creation of the New. Please take a look at the Leapfrog Institutes brochure. We would be delighted to talk with you about bringing Leapfrog to your district or school under your terms.