The Future State of Capability Building in Organizations: Inspirations

CC-licenced photo by Flickr user kevindooley
CC-licenced photo by Flickr user kevindooley

I have been involved in organizing a workshop on capability building in organizations hosted on my employer‘s premises (to be held on October 20th). We have tried to get together an interesting group of professionals who will think about the future state of capability building and how to get there. All participants have done a little bit of pre-work by using a single page to answer the following question:

What/who inspires you in your vision/ideas for the future state of capability building in organizations?

Unfortunately I cannot publish the one-pagers (I haven’t asked their permission yet), but I have disaggregated all their input into a list of Delicious links, a YouTube playlist and a GoodReads list (for which your votes are welcome). My input was as follows:

Humanistic design
We don’t understand ourselves well enough. If we did, the world would not be populated with bad design (and everything might look like Disney World). The principles that we use for designing our learning interventions are not derived from a deep understanding of the humand mind and its behavioural tendencies, instead it is often based on simplistic and unscientific methodologies. How can we change this? First, everybody should read Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language. Next, we can look at Hans Monderman (accessible through the book Traffic) to understand the influence of our surroundings on our behaviour. Then we have to try and understand ourselves better by reading Medina’s Brain Rules (or check out the excellent site) and books on evolutionary psychology (maybe start with Pinker’s How the Mind Works). Finally we must never underestimate what we are capable of. Mitra’s Hole in the Wall experiment is a great reminder of this fact.

Learning theory
The mental model that 99% of the people in this world have for how people learn is still informed by an implied behaviourist learning theory. I like contrasting this with George Siemens’ connectivism and Papert’s constructionism (I love this definition). These theories are actually put into practice (the proof of the pudding is in the eating): Siemens and Stephen Downes (prime sense-maker and a must-read in the educational technology world) have been running multiple massive online distributed courses with fascinating results, whereas Papert’s thinking has inspired the work on Sugarlabs (a spinoff of the One Laptop per Child project).

Open and transparent
Through my work for Moodle I have come to deeply appreciate the free software philosophy. Richard Stallman‘s four freedoms are still relevant in this world of tethered appliances. Closely aligned to this thinking is the hacker mentality currently defended by organizations like the Free Software Foundation, the EFF, Xs4all and Bits of Freedom. Some of the open source work is truly inspirational. My favourite example is the Linux based operating system Ubuntu, which was started by Mark Shuttleworth and built on top of the giant Debian project. “Open” thinking is now spilling over into other domains (e.g. open content and open access). One of the core values in this thinking is transparency. I actually see huge potential for this concept as a business strategy.

Working smarter
Jay Cross knows how to adapt his personal business models on the basis of what technology can deliver. I love his concept of the unbook and think the way that the Internet Time Alliance is set up should enable him to have a sustainable portfolio lifestyle (see The Age of Unreason by the visionary Charles Handy). The people in the Internet Time Alliance keep amplifying each other and keep on tightening their thinking on Informal Learning, now mainly through their work on The Working Smarter Fieldbook.

Games for learning
We are starting to use games to change our lives. “Game mechanics” are showing up in Silicon Valley startups and will enter mainstream soon too. World Without Oil made me understand that playing a game can truly be a transformational experience and Metal Gear Solid showed me that you can be more engaged with a game than with any other medium. If you are interested to know more I would start by reading Jesse Schell’s wonderful The Art of Game Design, I would keep following Nintendo to be amazed by their creative take on the world and I would follow the work that Jane McConigal is doing.

The web as a driver of change
Yes, I am believer. I see that the web is fundamentally changing the way that people work and live together. Clay Shirky‘s Here Comes Everybody is the best introduction to this new world that I have found so far. Benkler says that “technology creates feasibility spaces for social practice“. Projects like Wikipedia and Kiva would not be feasible without the current technology. Wired magazine is a great way to keep up with these developments and Kevin Kelly (incidentally one of Wired’s cofounders) is my go-to technology philosopher: Out of Control was an amazingly prescient book and I can’t wait for What Technology Wants to appear in my mailbox.

I would of course be interested in the things that I (we?) have missed. Your thoughts?

Free Software in Education and Implementation Scenarios for VLE’s (in Dutch)

Van twaalf tot achttien
Van twaalf tot achttien

About one and half years ago I wrote two Dutch articles for Van twaalf tot achttien, a magazine catering for teachers in secondary education. These articles were the first in this magazine to be published under a Creative Commons licence. This means that I can publish them on this blog and that you will be able to reuse what I have written (as long as you comply to the license agreement).

The first article is titled Vrije software in het onderwijs is een must (Free software in education is a must). It tries to explain not only the benefits of free software (yes, free as in speech, not free as in beer) but also touches on open standards and open educational resources. The article has a companion webpage which is still available here.

I have always believed that is very strange that our government subsidises many schools and teachers to create learning materials, but that these organisations and people are not required to share these materials under a free license. This has mainly to do with a lack of awareness of this problem and I am hoping that this article increases knowledge about the importance of free licensing of software and content.

Note how the designer who laid out the page wasn’t very interested in the contents of the article. His or her thought process must have gone something like: “Ah an article about software… let me find an image of a CD… yes, great Adobe Creative Suite CS2”. Really fitting for an article that talks about the Gimp!

The second article was co-written with Leen van Kaam (at the point of writing a colleague at Stoas Learning). It is titled Scenario’s voor de implementatie van een Elektronische Leeromgeving (ELO) (Scenarios for the implementation of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)) and describes a maturity model for implementing virtual learning environments in secondary education. It can be used to set goals and manage expectations in schools and should make it easier to understand why certain parts of a VLE implementation are successful and other are not.

Hope you enjoy the read!

Moodle Presentation at the Institute of Social Studies

Last week I had the pleasure of giving a talk at one of the Institute of Social Studies‘ educational lunch sessions. In one and a half hours I talked about free software in general, about the things that make Moodle a great project (in this case mainly its philosophy and its license) and about how Moodle can be utilised best in tertiary education.

The slides and audio are available on SlideShare (or as a 4.8MB PDF file) and embedded below:

[slideshare id=1469310&doc=090520moodleisspresentation-090521070937-phpapp02]

If you already know about free software and Moodle and are only interested in practical ways of using Moodle in your courses, start at slide 52.

Feedback is more than welcome as always!