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#OpportunityValley – and what we haven’t learned from 30 years of digital counterculture

This week, Hugo Pardo Kuklinski released Opportunity Valley. Lecciones <aún> no aprendidas de treinta años de contracultura digital, a text (in Spanish) that asks the question: What lessons have the previous three decades of digital counterculture taught us?

#OpportunityValley es el territorio de opciones que tienen empresas, instituciones y personas si toman las lecciones apropiadas de lo que ha enseñado treinta años de desarrollo y consolidación de la contracultura digital a nivel mundial. Muchos entornos y ciudades de Iberoamérica utilizan el xValley para posicionarse como ciudades o entornos innovadores a través del diseño de polos tecnológicos o emprendimientos digitales. Más que aprender de la consolidada cultura digital y emular algún aspecto del paradigma del Valle del Silicio californiano, estos entornos bajo la denominación xValley o sin ella, resultan más en inversión o especulación inmobiliaria, marketing político de ciudad, organización de eventos, comunidades de geeks y poco más.

The book tracks the birth of digital (counter)culture in California, but extends the “so what” social implications to global contexts – particularly Latin America. Pardo discusses perspectives from the lenses of labor (esp. knowmadic workers), professional networks, new learning architectures, DIY culture, and collaborative consumption, among others.

If you do not yet understand where and how to move in the digital world – or – if your company is repeating old practices from the previous century – or – if you have a thousand ideas in your head that you cannot sort out how to implement, you may find this text useful, with guidelines on how to learn from the experiences of others. We can find pathways to transform ourselves and the environments in which we live. Change yourself before you are forced to do so by others: Welcome to #OpportunityValley.

Opportunity Valley is available on the iTunes AppStore, Android, and as a PDF at the official website: http://opportunityvalley.net

The future of education, open accreditation, and DIY U: An interview with Anya Kamenetz

Note: An mp3 of this interview is available for download.

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Anya Kamenetz, a senior writer at Fast Company Magazine, and the author of several thought-provoking books on education, including Generation debt and DIY U: Edupunks, edupreneurs, and the coming transformation of higher education.

Anya’s most recent projects — two free ebooks Learning, freedom and the Web (Mozilla Foundation) and The Edupunks’ Guide (Gates Foundations) build on her previous work investigating issues of self-directed learning, peer-networks, and access.

Our discussion focused on the future, purposes, and meaning of formal education, as well as alternative accreditation models, Knowmad Society, and academic and institutional change.

Here is a summary of our conversation:

On the purpose of college:
“As I get deeper into the topic of higher education it strikes me all the time that there really is a blind man and the elephant quality to it. That people appear to be discussing the same thing and yet you find that their internal models of what higher education means are very, very different.”

On the mission of educational institutions in our modern economy defined by being post-industrial, highly globalized, and subject to accelerating change:
“We are living in a time of bottomless scrutiny of all of our institutions and education foremost among them and that’s because they are subject to so many structural pressures and the weakest points in their creation are really exposed by the winds of the new society and the world that we are living in…”

On the value of a college degree:
“…at its best, a college degree is a unique kind of currency that was created by human societies to show that someone has been through a process of personal development, of cultural development, that they are a ‘citizen’ in the truest sense of the word. They are able to participate in society intelligently. Ideally they are able to contribute to society…”

On compulsory high school in America:
“The whole idea of compulsory education is a little bit of a strange one in the United States. We’ve never had more, than what we have today which is a three-fourths high school graduation rate. Even though we compel people to attend, we are not that great at getting them to graduate. And for those that do graduate, in many districts, over half need some type of remedial courses to repeat when they get to college, if they get to college.”

On our projection of the demise of formal schooling by 2037:
“I’m not sure that I share the bluntness of a projection like that. It’s very easy to envision a world in which formal education is far demoted down the list in terms of choices that individuals have…”

On how alternative accreditation can benefit Knowmads:
“We are seeing all kinds of exciting developments in alternative accreditation. There are two major trends and they sort of work in complimentary directions. The first one is, this more atomized, very specific skills based orientated kind of accreditation which is best encapsulated by the badge. … On the opposite end of the spectrum, I think in a very intriguing way, you have sort of the person, the whole life, life as certification. The idea of a portfolio based assessment, things that allow you to document your learning that has taken place in various stages and aspects on your life, create a narrative around that learning, reflect on that learning, and develop metacognitive skills and document the learning you’ve done as well.”

On sociotechnical practices that are shaping the future of learning:
“The availability of social networks and peer based social networking is really enabling people to make visible the peer roles in learning that have sort been faded into the background by the last 150 years of formal education which sort of, and really in some sense the last 1000 years which considered of a person at the front of the room talking and the rest of the people are sitting down. And the assumption is that the people who are sitting down are very passive listeners and are not actively involved which each other; and, in fact, we have the phrase “classmates” but necessarily give you the idea that you have something valuable to learn from the person sitting next to you or behind you as much as you do from the person at the front of the room.”

On creating a more accessible and equitable education system:
“I think what is clearly being revealed at the moment is that the structures that we are building don’t necessarily allow for increased social equity or access over an above what we have in the brick and mortar system because merely making things available for free doesn’t necessarily lower the barriers to access and in fact we are actually we are in danger of recreating many of the same privileges that exists in the Ivory Tower world online simplify because people online tend to work through more informal networks that goes back to sort of an idea of an old boys network, it can be more meritocratic in some ways, it can be more open in some ways, but in the bottom line you need to have more onramps, ways to make these structures visible to people who wouldn’t necessarily know how to use them.”

On rising costs in higher education:
“Basic disruption theory tells us disruptive choices rarely come from the inside institutions, they have too much to lose. It’s the new institutions that are finding the ability offer things at radically lower costs. and sort of reframe and question what we mean by higher education.”

On evolution and revolution in education:
“I think that education is a peculiarly resistant to change of any institution because the whole purpose of formalized education is to preserve the past. … I guess I would vote on the side of very radical change happening but it may not take the take the form we expect.”

I also suggest watching two of Anya’s recent talks at Harvard’s Berkman Center and the American Enterprise Institute.

Do it yourself – do it together

A couple weeks ago, I had an opportunity to visit the Waag Society in Amsterdam. I met with Keimpe de Heer, director of the Creative Learning Lab, and he is focused on innovating in human potential development and education. Paired with a Fab Lab, they aim to develop the community they serve into prosumers of imaginative, creative and innovative outputs — not just consumers.

Watch the interview with Keimpe. The first ten minutes discuss the Waag and the Creative Learning Lab. The real fun starts at 10:48 into the video, where Keimpe challenges the “do it yourself” movement with “do it together” collaboration. Using open source concepts, Keimpe explains how “we” can be better than “me.” At 14:45, he shares some products bring developed at the Fab Lab, including a $100 $50 prosthetic leg and tank tread upgrades for wheel chairs.

This was my second visit to the Fab Lab in Amsterdam. For a summary of my previous visit, and comparisons to the Fab Lab at Century College in Minnesota, click here.

July 20 update: Keimpe wrote to correct that the Fab Lab is working on a $50 prosthesis, not a $100 prosthesis. Even better!

Perspectives on Invisible Learning

By popular demand, here are the slides from my Invisible Learning “stump lecture” from the past month:

In an era of globalization and “flattening” of our relatiohships around the Earth, how can we learn better? What happened to learning as we moved from the stable structures of the 20th century to fluid and amorphic structures of the 21st century? What roles do schools and colleges play when you can learn in any context and at any time? Do we continue with formal learning or do we formalize informal learning?

This is an open invitation to explore some of the best ideas emerging around the planet that are contributing to a new ecology of learning.

More info: www.invisiblelearning.com