Quotes on the Role of Openness, P2P and Commons in Education and Learning

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List of Quotations

I am against education that is only available to the top 1% of all students. I am against tens of thousands of dollars of tuition expenses. I am against the imbalance that the present system brings to the world. I want to empower the 99%. I want to democratize education. Education should be free. Accessible for all, everywhere, and any time. Help me spread the word. I can't do this alone.

- Sebastian Thrun [1]


and a warning from Robert Cringely:

we've reached the point in our (disparate) cultural adaptation to computing and communication technology that the younger technical generations are so empowered they are impatient and ready to jettison institutions most of the rest of us tend to think of as essential, central, even immortal. They are ready to dump our schools. [2]

Short Citations

"digital technologies are now providing educators and students with tools of study, as opposed to tools of instruction" [3]


"when everyone has free and open access to the means of instruction, we can expect to see large scale experimentation and innovation." - David Wiley [4]


"Data, and the tools to access and analyze large data sets across professions/industries is already having a huge impact and changing the way decisions are made and industries are developing. I see this increasing tenfold over the next few years particularly as deep learning and advancements in AI continue to progress." - Michelle Robbins [5]


Long Citations

"...work in piecemeal ways to decentralize the process of learning and enrich it through contact with many places and people all over the city: workshops, teachers at home or walking through the city, professionals willing to take on the young as helpers, older children teaching younger children, museums, youth groups travelling, scholarly seminars, industrial workshops, old people, and so on. Conceive of all these situations as forming the backbone of the learning process; survey all these situations, describe them, and publish them as the city's "curriculum"; then let students, children, their families and neighborhoods weave together for themselves the situations that comprise their "school" paying as they go with standard vouchers, raised by community tax. Build new educational facilities in a way which extends and enriches this network."

- Christopher Alexander [6]


Value lies in what cannot scale

"Content is no longer a value point. Teaching and accreditation still are, but to a lessor degree than only a decade ago. Individual assessment, teaching, one-on-one consultation and mentorship – those factors that can’t be scaled – serve as the foundation and premise of tomorrow’s education model. Learning analytics serve to give educators information on what’s working and what’s not working. For this reason, analytics tools must be open, embodying the principles of open source movements or the hacker way: iterative, hands on, democratic, open, and transformative." [7]


The “Emergent, Cyclical, Double-Helix Model of Adult BioPsychoSocial Systems Development”.

“I am not saying in this conception of adult behaviour that one style of being, one form of human existence is inevitably and in all circumstances superior to or better than another form of human existence, another style of being.

What I am saying is that when one form of being is more congruent with the realities of existence, then it is the better form of living, for those realities. And what I am saying is that when one form of existence ceases to be functional for the realities of existence then some other form, either higher or lower in the hierarchy, is the better style of living.

I do suggest, however, and this I deeply believe is so, that for the overall welfare of total man’s existence in the world, over the long run of time, higher levels are better than lower levels, and that the prime good of any society’s governing figures should be to promote human movement up the levels of human existence.”

- Dr Clare W Graves [8]

Education is a reciprocal process

"There is nothing inherently wrong with paying someone for a service they provide to you. Indeed, one of the absurdities of the present educational set up is precisely that students have so little say in the educational services they pay for. There was a time when some universities were operated as student-run educational co-operatives in which students subjected the professors that they were going to hire to scrupulous cross examination before approving their positions as educational service providers to the student body. This was the case at the University of Bologna until quite recently.

So, one angle of approach is for students to have far more control over the selection of faculty, over the design and evaluation of courses, and of the running of the university itself – in partnership with the teachers themselves and other community stakeholders.

Education is a classic relational good, that is, a good that is co-produced by the provider and the recipient of the service together. Education doesn't happen unless both parties are fully engaged in the exchange of knowledge relations, and it is optimally produced when the educational relationship is one of reciprocity and equality. This is the reason why authentic education is not a commodity – it is an exchange of human relations and revolves around the question of the nature of knowledge production.

The creation of equality, of reciprocal educational relationships, and the provision of control rights to students is the heart of how educational institutions need to be reformed. Unless this happens, everything else is a sideshow and a distraction."

- John Restakis (email, December 2013)


The Erosion of the Educational Commons

"The erosion of the education commons is creating a frightening political erosion. Since the ancient Greeks, education has been an integral part of leisure (schole); it is a public good, and its primary objective historically has been the forging of character and the ability to be a good citizen. Again, Jefferson captured that best, along with John Stuart Mill and Cardinal Newman. But that perspective is anathema for neo-liberals, for whom schooling is for preparing people for the job market, for developing ‘human capital’. In their framework, all education that does not increase employability, competitiveness and economic advantage is dispensable. Consequently, there has been an erosion of the arts, civics, philosophy, ethics and history. Music teaching in state schools is disappearing. The education commons as the teaching and preservation of vernacular and non-standard thinking has shrunk. This has weakened the ability of citizens to participate in and comprehend political discourse, leading to seduction by simplistic platitudes and appeals to emotion, rather than reason and evidence.. Commentators have paid insufficient attention to loss of the education commons as a cause of the growth of populism and thinly-veiled neo-fascism stalking modern politics, epitomised by Donald Trump and Boris Johnson."

- Guy Standing [9]


Schools need to open up to peer-based learning models

"When you look at children's learning outside school, it is driven by what they are interested in, which is the direct opposite of school-based learning. For example, in the United States a group of students were interested in Manga, the Japanese animated cartoons. In order to get hold of them before they were due to arrive on the market, this group got together, taught themselves Japanese, subtitling and web streaming, because they were motivated to.


What is the relationship with this idea that education is handing down a general base of knowledge? I think that is one of the tensions.


When you look at learning in the home you see knowledge-building communities. Children can act as teachers, they are allowed to adopt different identities and they are not just learners. They have control over the time of their learning and how long it will take. The school system needs to know a lot more about what is happening outside school in terms of children's passions, interests and abilities than it does at the moment.


We need a shift towards an education system that is about listening to what the learners are bringing into the school situation, as well as thinking about an education system that is pushing things out." (http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2006/07/smart_learning_.html)


The Learning 2.0 approach

"The traditional approach to e-learning has been to employ the use of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), software that is often cumbersome and expensive - and which tends to be structured around courses, timetables, and testing. That is an approach that is too often driven by the needs of the institution rather than the individual learner. In contrast, e-learning 2.0 (as coined by Stephen Downes) takes a 'small pieces, loosely joined' approach that combines the use of discrete but complementary tools and web services - such as blogs, wikis, and other social software - to support the creation of ad-hoc learning communities." (http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/e-learning_20.php)


Education is diverging from schooling

"Education, the means by which young people learn the skills necessary to succeed in their place and time, is diverging from schooling.

Media-literacy-wise, education is happening now after school and on weekends and when the teacher isn't looking, in the SMS messages, MySpace pages, blog posts, podcasts, videoblogs that technology-equipped digital natives exchange among themselves.

This population is both self-guided and in need of guidance, and although a willingness to learn new media by point-and-click exploration might come naturally to today's student cohort, there's nothing innate about knowing how to apply their skills to the processes of democracy." (http://www.masternewmedia.org/news/2006/11/14/participatory_media_and_the_pedagogy.htm)


Theresa Williamson on The power of peer teaching

"Everybody knows the proverb about how it's better to teach a man to fish than just to give him a fish, but there's a step beyond that: it's better that a man's neighbor is the one teaching him to fish, his peer. If some expert swoops in from afar you miss half the value of the interaction because of the inequality in that relationship. But if it's his peer teaching him? Then the man is much more likely to offer something in return. You are much more likely to create a real sustainable relationship rather than just a new dependency."

Theresa Williamson, Founder, Catalytic Communities (http://www.nextbillion.net/node/1723)


John Maloney on the new knowledge leaders

From http://www.kmcluster.com/ (newsletter, 2004)


"The silent killers of effective knowledge leadership are the pervasive 20th-century traditions of linear, mechanical and reductionist thinking paired with their obsolete managerial behaviours of control, dominance and technocracy.

Top knowledge leaders routinely 'suspend their disbelief' to unlearn their harmful industrial-era habits and models. They learn from the emerging future through authentic conversation. 21st-century knowledge leaders actively pursue external interactions and continuously use genuine action/research networks to their strategic and collaborative advantage."


From learning "just in case" to "learning on demand"

Paul D. Fernhout:

"Ultimately, educational technology's greatest value is in supporting "learning on demand" based on interest or need which is at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to "learning just in case" based on someone else's demand. Compulsory schools don't usually traffic in "learning on demand", for the most part leaving that kind of activity to libraries or museums or the home or business or the "real world". In order for compulsory schools to make use of the best of educational technology and what is has to offer, schools themselves must change." (http://patapata.sourceforge.net/WhyEducationalTechnologyHasFailedSchools.html)


Teachers as world-changers

Clay Burrell:

"Putting "what it is about" in positive terms is more difficult, but here are a few stabs. It's about not being "a Nobody doing anything" when my students are looking for "Somebody doing something" about what they care about. It's about inviting them to discover that they have the power to do something too. It's about being a community leader more, and a teacher less. It's about extending my relationship with these young adults beyond the nine-month term (if church youth group leaders can do it, so can teachers). It's about re-conceptualizing schools as community action centers instead of walled gardens (or day-care centers, or juvenile detention centers). It's about designing relevant experiences and projects in which any metaphors or synecdoches that, god help us, they learn, will have a purpose and meaning beyond an alphanumeric grade." (http://burell.blogspot.com/2007/07/im-nobody-goodbye-to-all-of-that.html)


The individual mind is overrated

"The power of the unaided, individual mind is highly overrated: the Renaissance scholar no longer exists. Although creative individuals are often thought of as working in isolation, the role of interaction and collaboration with other individuals is critical. Creative activity grows out of the relationship between an individual and the world of his or her work, and from the ties between an individual and other human beings. The predominant activity in designing complex systems is that participants teach and instruct each other. Because complex problems require more knowledge than any single person possesses, it is necessary that all involved stakeholders participate, communicate, and collaborate with each other."

- Transcending the individual human mind [10]


Learning is Remixing

"America's children are become media-makers: they are blogging, designing their own websites, podcasting, modding games, making digital movies, creating soundfiles, constructing digital images, and writing fan fiction, to cite just a few examples. As they do so, they are discovering what previous generations of artists knew: art doesn't emerge whole cloth from individual imaginations. Rather, art emerges through the artist's engagement with previous cultural materials. Artists build on, take inspiration from, appropriate and transform other artist's work: they do so by tapping into a cultural tradition or deploying the conventions of a particular genre."

- Henry Jenkins [11]


Openness in Education should be Systemic

"The OER and OCW movement(s) are fundamentally flawed in where they assign openness. Openness is being treated as separate from curriculum development and delivery. Openness is viewed as an after market feature. And most universities aren’t too eager to pay for the extras.

Openness should be built into the process of curriculum design – it should be systematized just like so-called options of air conditioning and power windows in vehicles. As long as openness is separated from the rest of education, it will be seen as a cost-cutting option."

- George Siemens [12]


The new multi-literate society

“The internet generation is being exposed to text and media in unprecedented quantities, and more, is not just consuming this media, but producing it as well. Practice tells. The improvement will be especially dramatic and apparent because new readers will be compared primarily with the previous generation, the television generation, which for the most part did not read at all. Unfortunately, this improvement will be apparent only to the newly literate generation; the older generation will continue to complain that young people cannot read, despite evidence to the contrary. Moreover, it will be apparent by 2020 that a multi‐literate society has developed, one that can communicate with ease through a variety of media, including art and photography, animation, video, games and simulations, as well as text and code.”

– Stephen Downes, National Research Council, Canada [13]


The master's (educational) tools can't liberate us

“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” This phrase from Audre Lorde http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audre_Lorde has haunted me ever since I first hear it. The develop of, and provision of, tools for the higher education sector, the corporate e-learning sector, or even for the school system, parents, priests or non-profit agencies to use, will never provide the degree of conviviality envisioned by Illich. In these tools there is, and will always be, embedded a dependence back to the originator of the tool, back to the system of mass that makes it both possible and necessary."

- Stephen Downes