Facilitating “DIY” (Do-It-Yourself) Learning at Elliott Masie’s Learning 2012

In late October I will be attending Elliott Masie’s Learning 2012.

Elliott Masie's Learning 2012
Elliott Masie’s Learning 2012

This year Marcel de Leeuwe and I will be hosting a learning lab session which is described as follows:

Facilitating “DIY” (Do-It-Yourself) Learning

Only knowledge workers themselves really know what their jobs entail, which makes providing learning for them increasingly difficult. The level of connectedness in our world and the abundance of suitable technical tools now allow these workers to organize many parts of their own learning. So, what is our role as learning professionals in this new world of “DIY” learning? We can empower our employees to create those tailored learning experiences!

  • Examples of self-organized learning from surprising places, like MOOCs, Edupunk, the world of juggling and social media in corporations
  • The principles behind facilitating self-organized learning
  • Create your own high-level design for a self-organized learning event

It would be great if you could make it to the session. You are more than welcome! Also, I am always interested to meet new people in the world of learning and (open) technology, so do reach out to me if you would like to have a chat in Orlando. I am especially interested in truly innovative uses of learning analytics and networked learning (i.e. a Connectivist pedagogy).

Digital Civil Rights: a Guest Lecture

Today I had the pleasure of doing a guest lecture for Bits of Freedom at the University of Leiden in a course titled Anthropology of Information Society. I used many examples to try and drive home two points:

  1. Technology is not just a tool, it is not “neutral”
  2. You can help change technology for the better

One thing the students did, was write their own personal data policies (kind of like a reverse terms of service for using a webservice). This is something that I intend to explore further in this blog pretty soon.

[slideshare id=9790836&doc=111020digitalcivilrights-111020081332-phpapp02]

You can also download the presentation as a 12MB PDF file.

Looking forward to any comments that you might have.

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?

Beautiful Functional Design: The Strida Folding Bike

The Strida unfolded
The Strida unfolded

As regular readers of this blog might have noticed: I love great technology. When I talk about technology, I push the concept slightly further than most web aficionados might do. It is not just gadgets that I like, but any well designed tool that can make my life easier is much appreciated. A great blog to see examples of what I am talking about is Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools blog.

I have a many pieces of technology that I really like and use often. Some examples: a Leatherman Juice Cs4 multitool, a Brabantia bin ,a Samsung NC-10 netbook running Ubuntu, a Solis Citrus Press, a Victorinox Trevi 17 briefcase or a Microplane Grater). All of these products have one thing in common: they have been extremely carefully designed for the task at hand. Every element has been consciously put in place and considered. This is refreshing in a world of more and more crap. One of my favourite books on the topic of design is Donald Norman’s classic The Design of Everyday Things. He outlines some design principles that many products violate which consequently makes them hard to use. What he does not address is the creative inspiration that is needed for truly great products.

The Strida folded
The Strida folded

My latest technology acquisition does have this creative inspiration. It is a Strida folding bike. This brilliant piece of engineering will help me get to and from the train station every day. The Strida was featured on Cool tools a little while ago and I completely agree with everything the reviewer writes there.

The bike is very low maintenance. It uses a Kevlar belt instead of a chain, so no grease to get on your clothes. It rides a bit like a sports car drives: the handling is very direct. You sit up straight while riding the bike, giving you a good overview of traffic. As you can see on the Youtube video below, the (un)folding process is incredibly fast:


The joy is in the details: little loops allow you to lock the brakes, so that the bike can’t roll away when standing up and the carrier on the back doubles as a stand when lying down. Even the marketing people did a good job (in general I am not fond of marketeers). They know that people will ask you about the bike in wonderment, so they have provided a case of Strida business cards underneath the saddle that you can hand out.