Archive for May, 2010

How to do the learning revolution?

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Not long time ago I wrote a post about a real learning revolution. I decided to elaborated it now a bit in light of Sir Ken Robinson’s latest TED talk Bring on the learning revolution!, even though, I actually agree with what Stephen Downes already said about the talk.

Anyway. Here is my advice for local and national decision makers to do the “learning revolution”, caused by the digital revolution. I am sure my “reforms” would payoff, exactly the way learning does: educated people are able to provide higher output, economically and culturally.

Public Libraries
Invest on public neighborhood libraries with (1) wide collection of different kind of reading materials (books, newspapers, magazines, electronic materials) and (2) public access to Internet: Wi-Fi and laptops. Do a marketing campaign about the libraries. Let people to know about the services of the libraries.

Basic Education
Guarantee universal (for all) high quality basic education: literacy, math, arts, music, civics, culture. Make sure you will have highly educated and motivated teachers, and seamless access to internet, Wi-Fi and laptops (in every classroom and in every space). Support the schools to have continues effort to develop their operations; pedagogy, school culture, workplace. Request all schools to publish their mission, vision and curriculum in their website and to have a blog with weekly updates about their work.

Higher Education
I think Universities are the liver of the society. Make sure that they will function. Research and higher education is there to renew things that should be renewed and protecting things that should be kept.

Network Connections
Guarantee that all the citizens will have inexpensive access (cheap and free) to Internet, network computers (mini laptops) and mobile phones. Make sure that there is competition that will work for the benefits of the consumer. The markets work only when there is true competition.

Media, Journalism and Free Speech
Guarantee public broadcasting media services (radio, TV, online) that are, as independent as possible, from the markets and the politics. Do not limit the public media to news. Politics, civics, culture, arts and music in a widest possible meaning — including cotemporary and independent pop culture — should be the core of the offering. A strong public media will help the commercial media to renew itself to meet the future challenges. This way the public media is a bit like a liver of the media field (compare to the Universities).

Online Content
Invest on free and reliable online reference and other educational content, like Open Educational Resources, Wikipedia and Wikimedia. Bring the content of museums and archives online (Wikimedia may help museums in this effort).

Online Learning
Support peer-to-peer online learning and teaching communities. The open education movement is fast moving to the direction where people are self-organizing themselves to learn together online. The P2PU is a good example of this. People learning new things is almost always good thing. Still, to avoid people to do “home chemistry”, it might be a good idea to provide people something a bit more “guided”.

Community Colleges
Support community colleges and open universities online and on campus. In addition to the online learning we also need the “traditional” community colleges. Still, one should help (and force) the community colleges to go online. In Finland, Otavan Opisto is a good example of a college that is strongly online (and on campus).

A long wish list? It is and it will cost a lot of money. A good thing is that it is not a risk investment. The economist know that these things have a high return of investment. It is true that to get the return for the investment may take some time — 10, 50 or 100 years — but it will come.

Design thinking and education

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

The Nordic Conference on Activity Theory and the Fourth Finnish Conference on Cultural and Activity Research (FISCAR10) started today. This time the conference takes place at the Aalto University School of Art and Design.

The keynotes are video streamed online. The recording will be available in the same site, too.

The original home of the activity theory is in psychology (cultural-historical psychology) but people in the community have always moved across different disciplines. The theory has also achieved interest especially among such areas as education, organizational studies, work research and human-computer interaction.

This year — because of the location where the conference is taking place, I think — there are more design thinking in the air than probably ever before. Also the concept of combining art and design, economics, science and technology in the Aalto University is interesting when analyzed in light of the activity theory.

During the conference, I hope, we will have many discussions about design thinking and education, with emphasis on product design, artifact creation, architecture — on things that have concrete impact to people’s life.

It’s not the first time that “design” is discussed in the context of education and learning. One branch of learning science have present the idea or design-based research (Barab & Squire, 2004; The Design-Based Research Collective, 2003). In design-based research the aim is to do research with designed interventions into real-world educational, teaching and learning situations. In design-based research design interventions are a research method.

I think design-based research is missing some important aspects of design thinking. In design field the designs — artifacts, products, “things” — are the main outcome of the activity. The design process is creative and intentional activity of composition: “brining parts, pieces, functions, structures, processes and forms together n a such a way that they have a presence and make an appearance, particularly of unity, in the world” (Nelson & Stolterman, 2003). The designs (the “things”) are the change agents. They are concrete things that are changing our way of doing things.

For someone coming from the field of new media design the impact of tools and artifacts in human life and culture is obvious. People playing with new media and internet know that these things are changing the way we live our lives, socialize, communicate, work, love, hate, and learn.

The sad thing with the new media is that we easily take the tools and artifacts for granted, as something that just comes like a natural force. This is of course not true. There are people “designing” these things. They are driven by values, ideals and intentions. They are humans.

Design is communication. Design thinking is a skill of moderating design communication, deliberating different intentions and interests. But this is not enough. Design thinking is also an issue of leadership. When there is a request to deliver the “thing”, the designer must be able to do decisions. To get the thing done.

Here is a video nicely explaining how design process can go wrong.

OERs for All — Wikipedia Starts Offering Books

Monday, May 10th, 2010

In the free encyclopedia — the Wikipedia — there is a new feature and a service that allows anyone to create custom printed books from the Wikipedia content.

Users can create their own customized books from over 3 million articles in English Wikipedia by adding in to the book whatever article on whatever topic. The feature will, at some point in a future, be available in all the Wikipedia’s in more than 250 language.

The service provided by PediaPress, a partner of Wikipedia, will create out of your collection of articles a printed book and send it to you. You may, also just create a PDF out of your book, distribute it as a such or print it on your own.

So, what you could do with the Books out of Wikipedia content?

I think this is a great addition to the Open Education Resources (OER) offering. From the Wikipedia one may combine a learning materials (books) with selected content. For instance, I would love to see a book about history of New Media, multimedia programming, 3D design, or typography design.

I am going to do some books but would also love to see “your book” about these topics! More books — the better.

Some press:

Wikipedia And PediaPress Now Allow You To Create Books From Content In English

Wikipedia Now Lets You Order Printed Books

No PLEs, but informal learning in Real World communities

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Pauliina Seppälä just published a great presentation telling the story of the Refugee Hospitality Club in Punavuori, Helsinki. It’s a nice example of using digital social networking service (basically Facebook) to organize people to change their own living environment, the Real World, to be a bit more human, pleasant and civic. Check the presentation:

My second example of informal learning in a Real World is a Master Thesis work from our MA in New Media program. Linda Kronman’s Killer Fashion Revolution is a project that uses fashion hacktivism to promote human rights. Check the video:

What is common with the two projects is a strong community aspect in them. Pauliina and Linda have not build Personal Learning Environment to benefit themselves, but have started a project to build and maintain platform for community interested in important and common interest. The communities also have clear missions, shared values and commitment. The operations are transparent.

The topic of role of informal learning has been a widely discussed among online learning people. The idea of Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and Do it yourself University (DIY U) are considered to be a real game-changers in learning and education in the digital era.

I agree with this but have found the PLE and the DIY U problematic, because they emphasize individuals over communities. In them the individuals are considered to be in the center, with all the rights and the responsibilities to choose whatever he or she wants to study, when, where and with whom.

The weak social ties in pure online communities easily results as opportunistic and no or only short-term commitments.

I see that the Real World does not work like this, or should I say, that the Real World requires different kind of approach. I see that the ultimate individualism and lack of commitment may cause a lot of trouble — actually some very serious problems.

It is —I admit — a strong claim, but I see connection between the PLE and some of the most shocking accidents in Finland, in recent years: a bombing in a shopping center in 2002 and in two school shootings that took place in 2007 and in 2008.

From the Wikipedia articles you can check how the perpetrators were active online “learners” in an anonymous “home chemistry” group and in online hate groups interested in school shootings. All the perpetrators were individual learners online.

To blame “Personal Learning Environment” about the incidents would of course be silly. So, I am not doing it. I am, however, either not one of those people who think that technology and tools are neutral and can be used for good and bad.

Guns kill people. Killing someone with hammer is possible, but there is a difference.