Technology Blogs by Members
Explore a vibrant mix of technical expertise, industry insights, and tech buzz in member blogs covering SAP products, technology, and events. Get in the mix!
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Former Member
0 Kudos

There is almost unanimous agreement that the domain of education is vast and complex.  However, it is not boundless.  There are patterns across  educational systems that will persist and will remain relatively timeless (for at least another generation).

In this blog, I outline the very basic set of elements (actors, constructs) in k-lifelong education.  Breaking it down into a basic framework will help us better understand what is happening in education past, present, and future, and to make sense of the complexity.   It’s my hope that this basic framework will contribute to a common language that facilitates the discussion of the risks and the opportunities that exist for technology companies such as SAP when it comes to enablement.  When we need to refer to this framework throughout the Future of Education initiative, we’ll do so as the Basic Elements Framework. (This is an ontology oriented framework.)

In their book, Disrupting Class, Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn, and Curtis Johnson also lay down a very useful, well developed, and comprehensive innovation based framework for understanding what is happening in education, and identifying where the opportunities lie.   I’ll write more about their framework here.  We’ll also use their framework as one of our primary tools to triangulate and discuss where the opportunities lie for companies such as SAP.  When we need to refer to their framework throughout the Future of Education initiative, we’ll do so as the Disruptive Innovation Framework. (This second framework is more of a system dynamics oriented framework.)

I attempt to illustrate the Basic Elements Framework in the following prezi, and I include a few examples of tools, technologies, and players in same:

For the Basic Elements Framework, we focus on actors and constructs engaged.  For those of you who get sea sick (or just like reading), I’ll summarize the framework described in the Prezi in text form.

The Actors

As Sebastian Wieczorek, pointed out in his series on Intent, the first step is to consider the actors in the system.    The actors in the education include both individuals and formal institutions:


    1. Learners
    2. Peers
    3. Facilitators
    4. Teachers4
    5. Administrators4
    6. Content Producers
    7. Experts
    8. Parents
    9. Citizens (within a state entity, or a network)
    10. Taxpayers
    11. Hiring Managers4
    12. Philanthropists
    13. Reformers
    14. Networks of all the above
      • There is an argument for making networks, a separate category of ‘actor’.  Then again, networks are becoming such a natural part of the fabric, that they may be assumed to run throughout both categories.
      • Education, like many other domains, is being transformed due to networks of all kinds coming online.
      • This talk by Clay Shirky is an interesting aside on institutions versus collaboration 

Formal Institutions

    1. Governmental entities (federal, state, city, district)
    2. Schools1 – Physical
    3. Schools - Virtual
    4. Industry
    5. Unions
    6. Traditional Commercial Vendors
    7. Social Enterprises
    8. NGOs
    9. Networks of the above

As time goes by, the relevance, influence, and even the very nature of many of the above actors will clearly change significantly2.

Persistent Constructs

The major constructs of the educational system fall into one of the following areas:

  1. Educational Resources (a.k.a. Content)

    • Development Tools
      • These includes any tool used to develop and package learning materials in a variety of different content formats for various distribution channels. 
      • Examples include GameSalad, Aris, iBooks Author, iTunesU Course Manager, iMovie, ShowMeTED ED.
      • Intelligence Types:  In the best cases, these tools enable customization for, or at least awareness of, different intelligence types and the best practices in teaching for the associated learning styles.

    • Discovery
      • This refers to tools or services that enable discovery of learning resources. 
      • They include cross domain granular services like Google which provide discovery in a broadly distributed base of content.
      • Other examples with significant bundled discovery capabilities include  iTunesU, Merlot, Curriki, OER Commons , but these are primarily for their own repositories of educational resources.
      • This category also increasingly includes social search capabilities of any learning network.
      • Your local librarian.

    • Artifacts
      • This is the content itself.  Each book, article, audio, video, app, game, activity, etc.
      • See Education Unleashed
      • See Disrupting Class for an interesting discussion of the text book value chain and selection process  (Kindle location 2333)

  1. Curriculum

    • Standards
      • These are goals mandated for, or selected by, the learner.
      • They include both statutory and industry formal standards such the US national common core ,state standards
      • They include school or classroom adopted curricula.
      • They include family, personal, company, or team goals
      • Although not necessarily atomized like some of the above-mentioned standards, we’ll include guidelines such as UNESCO standards and norms, and ISTE Nets here as well.

    • Management
      • This refers to the management of goals (definition, selection, grouping, prioritization, mapping prerequisites, progress tracking).
      • Examples of tools include Khan Academy, Success Factors LMS, Moodle, and quite a few others.

  1. Delivery

    • Learning Networks
      • Examples include LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, Twitter, the TED Community, and industry associations.
      • See also Personal Learning Networks, Will Richardson

    • Physical spaces
      • Examples include schools, training centers, museums, community centers, forests, playing fields, back yards, and libraries.

    • Virtual Systems

  1. Assessment

  1. Certification

  1. Intent

    • Each of the above actors has their own interests, intent, and motivations.  
    • Each extracts different outputs from the system.

  1. Auditing / Accreditation / Rating

The Basic Elements Framework outlined above is kept simple so that it can provide a useful lens through which to parse the complex past, present, and distant future of education (and hopefully minimize bias in the process).    A good relevant description of how many of the above elements inter-operate can be found in Disrupting Class .   

We’ll deal with the long-term trends in future blogs.


  1. School: “any institution at which instruction is given in a particular discipline” – Websters
  2. For example, one hopeful future trend is the increasing priority put on the needs of each individual student, with a shift to learner centric systems that adapt to a student’s unique learning style.   We’ll talk about this in a future blog. 
  3. More readings discussing various aspect of each of the above constructions can be found here.  Use the filter tab to filter article for the relevant article.
  4. When acting based on individual interests, and not that of the institution with which they may be engaged.
  5. Any one individual can assume one or more role at any time.
  6. Thank you to Alex Zhu, Futurist @ SAP, and Rod Massey, SVP of our Education Industry Business Unit for their contributions to this post.
1 Comment
Labels in this area