Mark Surman on Democratizing Learning Innovation

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Interview conducted by Howard Rheingold

Video via


"Mark Surman is in the business of connecting things: people, ideas, everything. A community technology activist for almost 20 years, Mark is currently the executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, with a focus on inventing new ways to promote openness and opportunity on the Internet. He is on the conference committee for the 2012 Digital Media & Learning Conference in San Francisco, Calif., Mar. 1-3: “Beyond Educational Technology: Learning Innovations in a Connected World.” Surman is leading an important conference sub-theme, “Democratizing Learning Innovation.” Before joining Mozilla, he was an open philanthropy fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation in South Africa, where he invented new ways to apply open source thinking to social innovation. In a video interview (below), Surman says we've reached a historical moment where learning can be liberated from its industrial, factory-model roots." (


"Here are just a few highlights from the video, but the full interview with this global learning and freedom advocate will stir your thinking:

- People are self-organizing their learning and people are shaping the way they are learning...

Technology itself lets us create things, and creating things is a great way to learn...

We’ve been involved with an experiment with a number of other people who have come to DML around something called Hackasaurus, which has been a perfect example of democratizing learning. Hackasaurus is a set of learning activities, you might call them workshops or classes, for teenagers helping them learn how to remix the Web...

The idea where everybody is a participant but everybody is also a creator of the learning environment, and eventually, the learning innovations, that’s the kind of thing we want to model because it energizes us and helps us go forward...

One of the things that’s been really awesome is that MacArthur and others have taken leadership on something called Hive, which are networks of 25 or 50 different youth serving organizations in a particular city working on digital learning. I think if we build up more and more we can have a network of 2,000 or 5,000 or even 10,000 democratizing learning innovation labs..." (