Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Learning Environments research group is hiring

Monday, August 6th, 2012

The Learning Environments research group (LeGroup) at the Media Lab Helsinki of the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture is looking for doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers interested in to work in several new research projects starting in Autumn 2012.

For the doctoral students position(s) there is still a week to prepare your application materials. The applications should arrive no later than on August 14th 2012. You will find the official call text and instructions from the Aalto University web site. Please read it carefully and prepare your application.

If you are interested in to the postdoctoral researcher post(s) , please send an email to Teemu Leinonen with a (1) cover letter, (2) CV, (3) design portfolio and (4) a statement of your research interests.

Further information
Associate Professor Teemu Leinonen
tel. +358 50 351 6796

Open education needs free knowledge needs open data

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

“Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is the best…” – Frank Zappa

Open education can only happen with free knowledge. Free knowledge does not exist without open data (and information). Open education should focus on wisdom, truth, beauty, love and music (art).

The Wikimania, the annual Wikipedia conference, is taking place this week in Washington DC. A couple of days before the Wikimania, the World Bank is organizing an International Open Government Data Conference in the Banks headquarters in Washington DC. The same week in Brussels, the European Commission DG for Education and Culture, is having a round table meeting on Open Education with researchers and practitioners in the field of open technologies and open education.

The themes of the three events are related and partly overlapping. The Wikimania is focusing on Free Knowledge with the well-known vision: “Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That’s our commitment”. Open Data researchers and advocacy groups see that opening government data will increase transparency and help in the anti-corruption work. Open Education is seen by many as a vehicle to improve education and skills development. All three have an impact on economy and social good.

In the Wikimania there will be many sessions on how to use, and what is the impact of Wikipedia and its sister projects to education. Wikipedia plays a huge role in education today. Without doubt, Wikipedia is the largest and most used repository of “Open Educational Resources” in the world. What the Wikipedia community could work on more is creating free textbooks on various topics that are written for different age groups. Why we do no have ABC-book, basic algebra book, geography, biology, democracy, physics etc. books online, for free for all — let say at least in 200 major languages of the world at the begining?

The latest project of the Wikipedia community, the Wikidata, has many connections to the governments’ open data initiatives. Practically Wikidata is building a repository of open datasets, which will provide data to the Wikipedia. Without access to data and other sources of information Wikipedia would not exist. The more open data there will be, the better the Wikipedia will become and more widely it will be used in (open) education.

Open data and free knowledge are the basic infrastructure of open education. They are crucial parts of the system. Without them one can’t have quality education.

From the three interconnected things education is probably the hardest to arrange, even if you have the other pieces in place. Investments on curriculum and testing are a wrong medicine.

Quality education is only possible when we see that the primary building block of it is a knowledge community. Knowledge community is a deeply dialogical community where people do things together. They communicate. They contribute to the process of creating knowledge.

When teachers start to see themselves as knowledge community leaders there is hope.

In its simplest and most pure form, education is a human system for building communities with time and space to do things: to explore wisdom, truth, beauty, love and music (art). In education we must get beyond data, information and knowledge.

The Wisdom of Motivated Crowds

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Wikimania 2011 Group Picture flosse 1024x451 The Wisdom of Motivated Crowds

I have been lately thinking a lot the idea of motivated crowds and how the idea could be used in teaching and learning. Firstly, what is a motivated crowd?

In an interview published in the Wikipedia Signpost Umberto Eco makes a difference between wisdom of crowds and wisdom of motivated crowds:

“I don’t quite agree with this. I am a disciple of Peirce, who argues that scientific truths are, ultimately, approved by the community. The slow work of the community, through revisions and errors, as he put it in the nineteenth century, carries out “the torch of truth”. The problem is the definition of truth.

If I were forced to replace “truth” with “crowd”, I would not agree. If you make a statistical analysis of the 6 billion inhabitants of the globe, the majority believes that the Sun revolves around the Earth, there’s nothing you can do. The crowd would be prepared to endorse the wrong answer.”

Some research suggests (see a summary e.g. in the Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowicki) that crowds are good at choosing from a selection of predefined answers but bad in defining problems or to invent solutions. Later in the interview Eco describes the idea of motivated crowds are follows:

“We must therefore find another criterion, which I think is the motivated crowds. People who work on Wikipedia … are not the indiscriminate crowd [but] are the part of the crowd who feels motivated to work with Wikipedia. Here it is: I’d replace the theory of the “wisdom of the crowd” with the theory of the “wisdom of the motivated crowds.” The general crowd says we should not pay taxes; the motivated crowd says that it’s fair to pay them. In fact, it’s not the ditch diggers or illiterates who contribute to Wikipedia, but people who already belong to a cultural crowd for the very fact they’re using a computer.”

This leads us to the second issue: what constitutes motivation?

Steven Reiss has proposed a theory with basic desires that explain human behaviour. In the article Multifaceted Nature of Intrinsic Motivation: The Theory of 16 Basic Desires Reiss (2004) describe the motives behind the desires. These are:

  • Desire to influence (including leadership; related to mastery),
  • Desire for knowledge,
  • Desire to be autonomous,
  • Desire for social standing (including desire for attention),
  • Desire for peer companionship (desire to play),
  • Desire to get even (including desire to compete, to win),
  • Desire to obey a traditional moral code,
  • Desire to improve society (including altruism, justice),
  • Desire to exercise muscles,
  • Desire for sex (including courting),
  • Desire to raise own children,
  • Desire to organize (including desire for ritual),
  • Desire to eat,
  • Desire for approval,
  • Desire to avoid anxiety, fear,
  • Desire to collect, value of frugality

A motivated crowd is a crowd that provide possibilities to full fill these desires in a balanced way.

Nevertheless, when we approach the wisdom of crowds from the motivational point of view, the term crowd starts to loose its original dictionary meaning: “a large number of people gathered together, typically in a disorganized or unruly way” ( Apple OSX Dictionary). The motivated crowds are people gathered together, but as they are driven by motives (to fulfil their desires) they start to organize themselves.

I have been sceptical about the idea of massive open online course (MOOC). I have a theory: many courses (not only the MOOCs) are not motivating because they do not pay enough attention to the participant’s desires.

In a good course students should have the opportunity to practice leadership, gain knowledge, and be autonomous. Students should be provided ways to get social attention and opportunities to play and compete with each other. But this is not enough. Students should have the opportunity to make connections to deep philosophical issues, too: to obey moral codes, improve society and have connections to past and upcoming generations. Students should feel safe and secure and opportunities to take part in rituals, organize themselves, eat and express themselves as sexual beings. Finally, according to Reiss, we also have a desire to exercise muscles. Maybe the idea of school children gymnastics and the Bauhaus’ practice to began lessons with exercises is not that bad idea (I have tried the morning exercises, stretching, yoga, etc. in my lessons).

Education in Finland: smart, continuos development (a bit like agile software development)

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

New stories praising Finnish educational system are popping up almost weekly. Now CNN reports with focus on education in USA and how things are different in Finland.

I agree with most of the points made in the story: teachers are essential and standardized testing is doing more harm than good. These are also interlinked issues. We need highly educated teachers, appreciation of the profession, empower teachers, have decision making in classroom and school level etc. When these are in place we may focus on education, instead of training children to tests.

I think, however, that these stories are missing one important thing: smart, continuos development of the system. I consider this to be relatively well in place in the primary and secondary education in Finland. It’s not great but it’s not bad either. Most likely, it is better than in most systems. The in-build development of the system, I think, is behind good educational results in primary and secondary education. At least in Finland.

I also have a working theory. Because of lacking for a long time the spirit of smart and continuos development in higher education in Finland we are actually not doing very well in it. For a couple of years now things has changes in it too and I strongly believe that we are getting better. It just requires smart continues development.

So what is smart continuos development? It is a bit like agile software development.

484px Agile Software Development methodology Education in Finland: smart, continuos development (a bit like agile software development)

Agile Manifesto states the values, as follows:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

These principles, with minor modification. should be used in educational system development, too (and I am claiming we do it a bit in Finland) + it should be continuos. Here is my (agile( values for educational system development:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working class room / school / school district over comprehensive documentation
  • Stakeholder (administration, schools, teachers, researchers, parents etc.) collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Finally. There’s always room to be better.

We probably will discuss about this topics, too in a panel discussion taking place tomorrow, on Thursday October 13, 2011 in the Mobility Shifts – An International Future of Learning Summit in New York.

Back to school: new technologies, more advantage communities ?

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

A week ago I gave a “demonstration lecture” as part of a nomination and selection process in my university. The assignment was to prepare a “teaching / learning event” for MA students on a topic “new technologies, more advantage communities ?”.

I prepared the lecture as an introduction to the theme. In a real course the lecture could have been something done in a beginning of the course. The aim would be to familiarize student with some basic concepts, ideas and interpretation that could then guide student to do more inquiry on the topics. Here are the slides:

View more presentation slides from Teemu Leinonen