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The Future of Learning Manifesto (version 1)

“How big is my classroom? 4 walls or the horizon line?”


“The Future of Learning Manifesto”

by Christian Long



The manifesto was originally published by Hugh McLeod’s “gapingvoid” blog (a top-100 blog in the world, with a specific focus on marketing and design). The idea for this manifesto grew out of his invitation to various professionals to challenge existing ideas in a given area of expertise or passion. He asked for provocative statements under 500 words that would raise eyebrows and spark conversation. As with all manifestos, they are meant as calls-to-arms, rather than final answers. Additionally, I blended multiple voices into this piece rather than writing from my vantage point alone. Again, there are no answers in the manifesto. Perhaps a few new voices and perspectives. But there are plenty of opportunities for others to create their own manifestos even with the same title to help them explore where the future of learning, technology, and collaboration is headed.

In fact, the original idea was to offer an early ‘draft’ of this which others would add-to, mash-up, or take in entirely new directions. Several educators and designers have asked to use this at conferences, or with clients and colleagues as a way to ask big questions about where they see education going. My only request to them was that they add to it, rather than take it as a ‘final’ piece of expertise. It is offered here as an extension of that spirit.

An excerpt:

“How big is my classroom? 4 walls or the horizon line?…

I need friends. And fast.

Don’t get sucka-punched by all the ‘flat’ earth hype. You’re excited because someone in a foreign country leaves a comment on your blog. Really? Really? Seriously? Sure, it’s sexy to suddenly be in cahoots with someone in Tokyo and Texas at one time, but I was born in that world 2.0 so I’m kinda used to it. Yeah, I get that you were born before things got interesting, but your digital immigrant accent is making it hard for me to understand you, and harder for me to remain relevant.

And I’m kind of selfish when it comes to my future vs. your past. “

“The Future of Learning Manifesto” - the abridged version (scroll below for background and the full version):

1. “Playing Small Does Not Serve the World.”
2. What Would Socrates Do?
3. Nobody Cares if You Walked Up Hill Both Ways Barefoot in the Snow.
4. Got Passion? If Not, I’ll Tell You What To Care About.
5. My Memory Is Only As Big As My Heart. Otherwise, I’ll Stick with Google.
6. Look it Up or Die.
7. Collaboration Ain’t About Holding Hands. It’s about Going Cool Places Fast.
8. This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record.
9. It Ain’t About the Technology. It’s About Being Inside the Story.
10. Nobody Knows the Answer. Get Comfy with the Questions.


"The Future of Learning" Manifesto (draft #1 — 1.4.07) — The long version:

1.  "Playing Small  Does Not Serve the World."– Your Brain is Your Brand.

Marianne Williamson wasn’t being cheap with words [when she said that].  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  Or that we’re simply being measured by small dreams. 

You’ve got one choice.  Play big or stay home.  Serve the world or be forgotten. 

Ultimately, you’ve got your heart and your brain.  Both can serve. One will do so when nobody is watching.  The other is your brain.  It needs attention.  Give it fuel.  Make it stand out.  Be the brand that makes a difference.

2.  What Would Socrates Do?

If Socrates could Google, what questions would he have asked?

Am I being rhetorical?

Does it matter?

Ask Jeeves.

3.  Nobody Cares if You Walked Up Hill Both Ways Barefoot in the Snow and Could Diagram a Sentence.

I get it.

You were a noble student of the highest caliber ‘back in the day’ before text messaging and cell phones and this wacky Internet business.  You were a fine speller, you kept your notebook neatly on your desk, and you always answered something "above average" with your hand politely raised in the air.  You memorized the multiplication tables all the way to 12, you studied Latin (and its sus scrofa domesticus-Latin brother), and you believed Sputnik was the cat’s meow.  You had neat penmanship, you knew all the dates of all the battles and all the dead people, and you kept a glorious stash of index cards with obscure library resources neatly bound by a rubber band. 

And if you’re dead set on helping me master ‘your past’, please realize I’m going to need a nap.  And something to fidget with.  And a bus token to get to my job down at the buggy whip factory where I’ll be standing at the front of the line. 

Or, you can help me prepare for my future. Your choice.

4.  Got Passion?  If Not, I’ll Tell You What To Care About.

I have a right to [complain] about this class only if I have a dream I can articulate and am willing to put my life on the line for it. Otherwise, I might as well color between the lines, sit up straight, and take great notes.

And get out to recess on time.

Keep in mind, I may be young so I may have a hard time with that "r-tickle-a-shun" thing.  That’s your job.  Give me the words.  Give me the tools.  Give me the examples.  And then get out of my way. 

But the second you see my passion start to go from curious lit match to smoke-jumper forest fire,  stop giving me handouts and worksheets and become my Jerry McGuire.

5.  My Memory Is Only As Big As My Heart.  Otherwise, I’ll Stick with Google.

I could memorize your facts, but I got Google for that. 

Yeah, completely outsourced my entire "traditional fact memorization" protocol to this  upstart  search engine.   Yeah, like a library, ‘cept that there ain’t no dust and much, much bigger.  Yeah, it’s not perfect, but I’m not going on Jeopardy, either.  Yeah, there isn’t a librarian holding my hand, but then again I need answers now. Not after a lecture on the Dewey Decimal thinga-ma-bob.

Sure, I’ll do that memorize thing for you.  Just one catch.  Tell me a story.

Seriously.  Put away the chalk.  Get out from behind the podium. Look me in the eyes.  Reach deep into my gut.  Massage my heart.   Get the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up.  Get me to tell the flavor of clouds.  Tell me to close my eyes and go somewhere bold.

I’ll remember anything you tell me.  Swear it.

6.  Look it Up or Die.

It’s old skool but sometimes remind me to look it up.  Or die.

But don’t stop there.  Don’t pat yourself on the back quite yet.  I may be pretty quick on the Google or the Wikipedia, but I have no idea how to make sense of what I’m finding.  That’s your job. 

Back in the day, if it was in a book, you taught me how to write down some copyright details on a note card.  But things got funny on the way to the Internet forum.  Facts don’t just come in books anymore, and I need more than copyright details to help me make sense.

Are you teaching me to think?  Or just to take notes?

And one day when you’re nowhere to be found and I got a kid with a fever and he’s vomiting and its 3am and I got 15 minutes to figure this crazy thing out, I got Google.  And I need to know NOW what will keep my kid alive and what will instead send us over the edge.

Can you do that?  ‘Cause that’s one part of my future and I won’t have time for index cards.

7.  Collaboration Ain’t About Holding Hands.  It’s about Going Cool Places Fast.

How big is my classroom?  4 walls or the horizon line?

I need friends.  And fast. 

Don’t get sucka-punched by all the ‘flat’ earth hype.  You’reexcited because someone in a foreign country leaves a comment on your blog.  Really?  Really?  Seriously?  Sure, it’s sexy to suddenly be in cahoots with someone in Tokyo and Texas at one time, but I was born in that world 2.0 so I’m kinda used to it.  Yeah, I get that you were born before things got interesting, but your digital immigrant accent is making it hard for me to understand you, and harder for me to remain relevant.

And I’m kind of selfish when it comes to my future vs. your past. 

So, please stop making this so Friedman-esque and suggesting I need more math so my job isn’t outsourced to Calcutta one day.  And I ain’t got time for your geek blog-penpal moment, either.

What I need is a network.  And yesterday-fast. 

Are you helping me get networked?  Are you helping me become one talented hombre when it comes to partnerships and brainstorming with a team and finding talent when I need it and learning how to step up big as a leader and then slide seamlessly into the role of teammate and be the go-to guy on 20 projects at one time?   Are you helping me build and position my brand?  Are you helping me be relevant?  At all?

Are you making sure I’m going cool places?  And fast?

8.  This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record.

You used to worry about the manilla folder.  Then things really got interesting.

Today you worry about filters and predators and firewalls and the MySpace boogeymen. 

Okay, I want to be safe. And I appreciate you wanting me to be safe. I just don’t want to live in a locked box in the process.

So, maybe it’s time we had a sit-down and talked about the ‘how-to’ strategy for social networking.  What?  Oh, I mean blogging.  What? Yeah, like a diary. Sort of.

Instead of shutting off every virtual connection I have with the world once I step onto campus, why don’t you teach me how to ‘blog smart’?  Why don’t you bring in some CEO’s into the classroom to talk about the really ‘great’ kid they almost hired, until they Googled her and found those clever spring break shots from Padre Island?  Why don’t you get a MySpace account and come see what I’m writing, even if it p***es me off at the moment?  Why don’t you make me agile, rather than weak?

Oh, and why are you asking my teachers to deliver a world class education for the 21st century knowledge economy but you’ve censored every virtual tool they have at their disposal?  Frankly, I’m not sure why they give a damn.  I wouldn’t if I were them. 

But then I’d be blogging my brains out at home after I punched out at the end of the school day. And then become a consultant and get 10x the pay from the same superintendent who hired me to come in and do a professional development day when "blogging" was trendy for 5 minutes.

9.  It Ain’t About the Technology.  It’s About the Story.

  • Laptops?  (Yawn)
  • Blogging? (Yawn)
  • PowerPoint? (Snore)
  • Multi-Media Center with a Starbucks ‘coffee house’ espresso shot in the backside? (Daring?  21st century school?  Yawn.)

How about we stop talking all giddy-like about the technology.  For us, it’s not about the box.  Not even about the iPod in pink or black. And it’s definitely not about the email (psst:  we don’t email ‘cept when old people need help).

It’s about the conversation.   The ricochet of words.  The energy. The fact that its happening right here right now and it ain’t coming back.

You tell me to turn off the game.  Because you’re staring at the box.  I can’t turn off the game.  Because the game ain’t in the box.

So, stop making technology such a big deal.  You want laptops. I got a cell phone.  And you still don’t get it.

’cause no matter what you spend your money and professional development time on, for us it’s about being inside the game, inside the story, in real-time

Everything else is over-priced and ready for recycling.

10.  Nobody Knows the Answer.  Get Comfy with the Questions.

If you’re so smart, why are you asking me to give you the answers?

More importantly, are you teaching me how to ask great questions? 

How to be Socrates?  And the guys who actually code Google by asking the questions nobody else dreamed of?

I can tell you an answer.  But my future isn’t going to care for what I memorized.  It’s only going to care if I can adapt.

Are you ready to help me?

And can I trust you to help me get there?


Again, “The Future of Learning Manifesto” is NOT meant to be a coherent and/or final set of answers. Just questions. And a bit of provocation.

Better yet, it’s supposed to be a hand-off. A hand-off that leads to something better which you create. Alone. With colleagues or your classmates. Or even with a client and a bigger community than any one of us can be on our own.

As Nike says, “Just Do It.” Or as Cingular billboards say, “Go Places. Google Things.” Either way, the ‘future of learning’ is calling your name. But what will your answer be?

Definition of a Manifesto:

According to Wikipedia, a manifesto is “a public declaration of principles and intentions” that is meant to spark debate and action. Harkening back to the work of Marx and Engels, running through William F. Buckley’s own manifesto in 1960, and extending to the best selling exploration of the evolution of the Internet, business, and communication entitled The Cluetrain Manifesto (which can be read for free in it entirety on the Web, manifestos have become a live-wire part of modern culture.

Background on “The Future of Learning Manifesto”:

Over the last year or so, Hugh McLeod — one of the planets most respected bloggers and marketing evangelists — put out a call through his “gapingvoid” blog (currently one of the 100-most-read blogs in the world) to leaders in every industry to construct provocative manifestos that would serve as jumping-off points for discussions throughout the Internet and Blogosphere. To that end, I wanted to know what the ‘future of learning’ could sound like through the lens of a manifesto. A few days later, I loosely penned an early draft through my own education-related blog (“think:lab”) to explore the ideas. “The Future of Learning Manifesto” was re-published on Hugh McLeod’s site in early 2007.

My only caveat when I originally published it was that the ideas in my manifesto were not meant to read as final answers or ‘truths’.

Instead, they were meant to be conversational sparks and questions only. Value and action would occur when far brighter minds than mine began to explore ‘next steps’ in depth and in new ways. Even more, the value in my ideas/questions only emerges through what others end up writig, or in what others eventually create as a mash-up.

Since first being co-presented by Hugh McLeod on the “Gaping Void” blog, the early draft of my manifesto has been re-published on multiple education/technology-based blogs, has been used in a series of conferences presentations by others, and has even led to students/teachers writing their own manifestos of learning. In other words, it’s taken on a life of its own. Best of all, others have created some wonderful pieces that go far beyond anything I originally wrote.

The Manifesto’s Narrative Voice:

To any English teachers out there, you’ll immediately see that the piece lacks a single ‘voice’ or ‘narrator’. Certainly a weakness any editor would jump on.

What I can tell you is that it is not actually ‘my voice’ that gives the piece ideas. Instead, it is a composite of multiple voices in the present staring at a shape-shifting future. Young students, wise-cracking rebels, techno-phobes, futurists, wise sages, and all those who sense that the game of learning is radically changing without apology for those who did it well in the past.

I will take responsibility for the words, but I do not claim that the voice is singular or all mine. For better or worse. One voice might make it more coherent, but it’d be easier to dismiss also.

BTW, the choice to use the word “ain’t” (at least 2x) was intentional. For better or worse.

Your Ideas Will Be the Best “Next Steps”:

The manifesto is offered here as an invitation for others to write a “Future of School Design” manifesto of their own. Hopefully one day sooner than later. Especially if kids and teachers get involved in co-writing with designers and architects using them as inspiration for the creation of new campus and learning environment concepts.

It is not meant to be the ‘truth’ or to be ‘correct’. instead, it is meant to live up to the ideals of learning in the future where questions and curiosity will be far more valued than simply providing linear answers that are easily predicted. Or as Daniel Pink offers in his best-selling book, A Whole New Mind, it becomes a design-oriented ’symphony’ of ideas that require a higher-level of the right side of our brain as we move forward into the Conceptual Age (from the linear Information Age).

Finally, as I’ve said to many others who have asked to re-publish or use the manifesto in conference presentations or with clients, it is yours. It is meant to be mashed-up and challenged. Ideally, it leads to something even better once you put ideas to paper of your own! Give it proper attribution, but otherwise in the spirit of alternatives to traditional copyrights sponsored by the good folks at Creative Commons, use it as you see fit…and take it somewhere I never dreamed when I first answered Hugh’s invitation.

All comments, questions, criticism, & ideas can be sent to


Author Info:

Christian Long is the author of the “think:lab” blog which focuses on the evolution of the learning process, emerging Web 2.0 technologies, and the creation of new learning environments centered on how learning will actually take place in the future.

Additionally, he is the President & CEO of DesignShare, speaks at school design and education conferences nationally and internationally, and is a Senior Educational Planner with Fielding/Nair International.

Prior to entering the world of school design, he was a high school teacher, coach and experiential education leader for more than a decade at a variety of public, independent, and charter schools. He received his M.Ed. from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education with a focus on school design.


You can check out the “think:lab” blog and leave comments on anything that catches your eye. Additionally, Christian can be reached at

March 14th, 2007

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