Archive for the ‘Sharing economy’ Category

The Principles of a Free and Open Source School

Monday, March 18th, 2013

800px Ruetli3 Schule Neukoelln 300x166 The Principles of a Free and Open Source School Photo by Lienhard Schulz / WIkimedia Commons. Read about the Rütli School in Berlin.

A couple of days ago Esko Kilpi wrote about emergence and self-organization with references to the Wired’s article The GitHub Generation: We’re All in Open Source Now and Sugata Mitra’s latest TED talk Build a School in the Cloud.

I started to think how would be a school that is primary operating according to the principles of free and open source software development communities. I didn’t think about online schools or even the possibility to extend some of the school operations to the “cloud”. I was thinking more school as we know it today: a place, most often a building, where people come to learn. I made a list.

(1) Free project spaces. The free and open source school must have a lot of free project space for anyone to take in use for any project they are interested in to work on. The space should have basic materials (pens, colors, paper, cardboard, partition walls, whiteboards, laptops etc.) for people to define spaces, to write, to draw, to hang up things, to save things etc. (You may compare this to all the online services we have to host open source code, mailing lists to communicate, GitHub etc.)

(2) Freedom to start and join projects. In these spaces any member of the school is free to start a study project and invite in it who ever they want to invite. The spaces are open so that people can see what other people are doing and anyone may join them for a short or a longer period of time. This is the case with visitors, too. Doors are open for people to come and see what’s going on and to join a project if they wish. Joining a project is the only way to become a member of the school.

(3) The school is a copyright / IP free zone. Anything seen in the project spaces can be copied to another project. In the school people may show whatever media for each other for whatever purpose without any copyright restrictions.

(4) Progressive inquiry. The purpose of the school is to help people to learn on things they are interested in to study and learn about. The progressive inquiry, relying on scientific method and critical thinking method, is the primary approach in the study work. The aim is to deepen everyone’s understanding on the things under study and also contribute to the commons.

(5) Flat organization. Students are free to study whatever they want, but because we know that sometime students may need advice to find topics that are truly meaningful, interesting and important there are two roles in the school: students and mentors. To become a mentor is a matter of merits. Mentors select mentors.

(6) Civic virtue, transparency and leadership. Civic virtue is expected from all the members of the school. The primary decisions making method is consensus. Decisions are expected to be based on on sense making after having all possible data in hand and listening of different point-of-views. If some people do not agree with the decisions they are free to forge the School by starting their own School. There is a leader.

Simple. Why we are not doing this? Or are we?

How (online) learning could be knowledge building?

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

In the technology-enhanced learning field the year 2012 has been the year of MOOCs (massive open online courses). I definitely support the idea of opening possibilities for self-driven and self-motivated students to study and learn online. The high-profile projects and endeavors in the MOOCs-business are also looking for smart ways to initiate peer-to-peer activities, such as peer-support and peer-evaluation. This will make the MOOCs more collaborative and participatory than classical distance learning courses or courses using automated checking of exercises (e.g. in programming courses in computer sciences or math). When the MOOCs are moving more to the direction of collaborative learning it is possible that they will also include activities that could be called knowledge building. It doesn’t, however, happen automatically. To make it right it asks for some serious thinking and design.

In the following I’ll try to illustrate my thoughts on the matter with some late examples from my practice as a teacher.

Earlier this year I wrote an article to the Towards peer production 
in public services: cases from Finland book about p2p learning, media used in it and on the question who should we consider to be our peer. In it I define different kind of media for peer-to-peer learning and discuss their potential, different implication for learning. Different media enables different practices.

Online media, when used to distribute learning materials, to exchange ideas and links with blogs, micro-blogs, discussion forums, social bookmaking and social network services are powerful tools for learning. In the MOOC implementations I haven’t so far seen that students would have been guided to do research together in a small group with an aim to present their results for their peers. I am sure that with smart design one could implement this with the existing tools. However, it would require a lot of planning and coordination. The tools and services (blogs, wikis, microblogs) simply do not support very well small group collaboration.

In a university classroom I have tried to get students to do their own research. This autumn term, in the Media Lab Helsinki, I have been teaching the Introduction to Media Art and Culture course with Marita Liulia. It is an annual introductory course for all the students of the department. Our objective is to engage students to do self-driven collaborative knowledge building. The course is an introductory course, 3 study credits (3 x 27 hours study workload), three weeks of intensive studying. The time dedicated for this is scarce. This means that it is not possible to present or discuss all important media art and media culture phenomena in the course. Only lecturing on the themes of the course would actually be silly and would only give a poor overview of the topics.

Because of this we have organized the course a bit differently. In the course we have three sections and two major assignments. During the first week I concentrated on media culture and communication studies while in the second week, led by Marita, the focus is on Media Art. We aim to provide students with tips on where to grab on and to study interesting things independently more. Therefore, during the course students also study in small groups some media culture concepts and media artists. The results of the teams are presented in the third week. The aim is to guide students to find and evaluate information from existing sources.

When students are doing their assignments, the idea is to have activities that are close to those introduced as self-organizing learning environment (SOLE) by Sugata Mitra. The first assignment is to study a concept; theory or phenomena related to media studies. It can be something like transmedia storytelling, Jürgen Habermas public sphere or Google’e PageRank. In their research students may use whatever sources: web sites, Wikipedia, on- and offline libraries, articles, books etc. They are expected to find the sources themselves. The results of research are then presented for all.

Even though our students are highly motivated and interested in the topics of the course, it is difficult to design assignments so that there would be meaningful knowledge building. In groups there are always students who take the assignments more seriously and those who simply try to do as little as possible. I understand very well those students who do as little as possible when the assignment is not something he or she is internally interested in to study. Still I do not believe in extrinsic motivation. I believe, however, that we may help people to find their intrinsic motivation. To guide students to really deepen their understanding on the topics under study we give them the following guidelines:

(1) Make the assignment challenging for you
Set yourself and the group research question.
Ask what you want to know more about the concept.
Start from your own level.

(2) Make it personal
Think how do you feel about the topics you are studying.
Think are there any connections to your own work or life.

(3) Be critical
Check your sources: two sources are better than one. Primary is better than later.
Pay extra attention to criticism made by other.

(4) Make connections and references
Try to find connections to other concepts, disciplines, traditions and people.
Remember references.

Someone should do an experiment: an online course that would include in it some real study assignments, peer-to-peer learning and peer evaluation. It probably would not be massive but it would be interesting. I would like to see what kind of groupware / social software student groups would like to use in their study work? How would the groups preset their finding for others? How would they evaluate each other.

Maybe I’ll do the experiment. Let’s see.

Towards Peer-production in Public Services: cases from Finland

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Picture 50 300x212 Towards Peer production in Public Services: cases from Finland

I wrote an article to a book about peer-production in public services.

The title of my article is Towards p2p learning: what media and whose peer?. In the introduction the editor describe the article as follows:

Meanwhile, Teemu Leinonen, in his article, inquires on the qualities of different media when it comes to providing peer-to-peer learning opportunities, and how we might conceptualize who are our peers when doing so. To ilustrate his point, three different examples are used, ranging from the assemblies devised by students occupying a high school in Santiago de Chile, the online computers used to create self organized class rooms in India, and finally the different social media services used to create complex massive open online courses. The three cases highlight important possibilitites of peer-to-peer learning and related media, to develop opportunities which challenge current assumptions of how teaching and learning should happen. At the same time, the examples also illuminate an important concern: If our peers are understood to be only those with whom we share an interest, the possibilities of transcendence seems ultimately very limited.

The book, edited by researchers from Aalto University, is a collection of articles that deal broadly with the relationships between peer-to-peer dynamics, and public services. Most of the cases presented are illustrative of recent developments and discussions in Finnish society, however, also included are broader international perspectives, giving historical reflection and future-oriented speculation on how peer production might affect the structures of our society. Of particular interest is the role of Internet and new media in making these developments visible and scalable.

For more information and to download the PDF:
http://co-p2p.mlog.taik.fi/

Join the Facebook online launch event:
https://www.facebook.com/events/338776586194732/

This publication has been made with the support of Aalto Service Factory

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

Is there anything between self-directed learning in MOOCs and universities’ curriculum driven instruction?

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Our North American colleagues (one, two, three, four) are having somehow heated discussion on “massive open online courses” (MOOC). The idea of MOOCs is simple — from Wikipedia:

“More like an online event, MOOCs invite open online participation around a schedule or agenda, facilitated by people with reputation or expertise in the topics, relying on successful formations of learning networks to assist people studying the topics.”

Like often in online discussions, in this one too, there are very few shades. You either support MOOCs or are against them. You are with us or against us. I am not willing to choose any side, because I think there are more and better options than MOOCs and self-directed learning or classical campus universities and curriculum-driven instruction.

I personally think that if a university or college course can be replaced with a MOOC (or something similar) it should be.

What I don’t like in the MOOC is the “M”, the massive. Why an online learning should be massive? Why couldn’t we have small, middle-size, pretty large and large open online courses. I think aiming to be massive is a sign of some kind of large-number syndrome.

I think we need different kind of online courses — more diversity. More courses using different pedagogical approaches with different terms. There could be courses with different quality and we could have different quality assurance mechanisms, from governmental accreditation to peer-to-peer recommendations.

What is important is the “openness”, the transparency of operation that will make many kind of quality assurance possible.

Different kind of online courses could be funded by governments, universities, foundations, companies and who ever have social responsibility. On some courses people themselves or their employer could pay.

I have an example. Last autumn I hired a new researcher to my research group. For the beginning I asked her to take part in the Howard Rheingold’s Introduction to Mind Amplifiers online course. Before doing this I checked the Syllabus and found it good. By knowing that Howard is a great educator mastering Socratic method (and asking a lot from his students) and that there are only 35 “seats”, I found the price reasonable.

So is it an open course if I one must pay for it? I think it is open, and even more than open – they are free. I think these are free same way as free is defined in free software movement. Let me explain.

Howard’s syllabus is free. If I want to use it, I am free to use it and all the other freely available resources linked in to it. I can study with them and learn – no problem. In addition to that I may find it reasonable to pay for a service, in this case Howard’s time. The monetary investment will guarantee that the syllabus and the resources are used well.

Between the MOOCs vs. universities there is at least some alternative approaches: small and intensive open online courses. Let’s have more of these. Is there anything else that could be located somewhere between the MOOCs and the universities on-campus lectures?

I think labeling all university education bad is wrong. A lot of universities are able to provide courses that are truly inspiring and engaging experiences for students with projects and classes in seminar style. The point is that the teaching is encouraging (and asking for) class discussions. Why all universities are not doing this?