A Free and Open Society – with openness in education and learning

This is my response to Jenny’s post on the meaning of openness in education and learning.

“What would happen if everybody gave away everything for free with no expectation of anything in return? Would it work? What would we gain by living in such a society? What would we lose?”

From Fickr

This is an utopian state where Confucius once envisaged: In such society, we will love each other – love not only our family & relatives, but also others’ family & relatives, love not only our children, but others’ children; so the elderly could be taken care of by the young ones, and the young ones would be looked after by the elderly and adults. That is the community or society created based on love and harmony, where social responsibility as a citizen and community is emphasised. That is altruism in spirit, in an ideal society.

This is also embedded in the Catholic & Christian faith and values, to love God, to love others as thyself, to serve others and not to be served, to give away our wealth to the needed (i.e. to help the poor) and follow Jesus Christ, and not to ask for rewards.

This may also be relating to the capitalist (individualist) and socialist (collectivist) values and mindset, in that accumulation of wealth is justified with capitalism and sharing of wealth is justified with socialism. 

So would it be a shift from an individualist attitude about “knowledge possession” towards a “collectivist” or socialist attitudes about “knowledge sharing” in education?

So, how graceful would it be if everybody could give away everything for free with no expectation of anything in return!

Would it work?

Yes, it would, if people in the community and society share such values and practise it in education and at work. That’s the ideal.

No, as most people are still living in a capitalist society.  That’s reality.

What would we gain?

A society with people who care and love others, bringing out the highest values of human.  People who help each others in education, and support others in liberating their potentials, and model the spirit of altruism in their daily life.

Instead of merely focusing on the development of experts, would the focus be shifted towards the development of expertise amongst community to create more social capital?

What would we lose? 

Greed, wealth (money), fame, pride, rewards, and may be personal identity, especially in a society where money and wealth could be praised as the pinnacle of ones’ fame and success. 

In a commercial world where  customers (clients, stakeholders) always come first, with severe competition in the business and education world, it is far too difficult to give everything for free, and this is undesirable from a business point of view (where profit is the focus of the business).  

Can we have everything free?

This may happen if we have more philanthropists. 

Would it still be a long journey for mankind to educate ourselves in philanthropy? 

We need more Stephen Downes and George Siemens!

Who is Data? King or Servant?

Stephen Downes The saying should be, “data is king”. Not content, not objects, not things. Because those are macro, data is micro, and hence can be remixed (Stephen’s posting on Facebook)

Here is my response:
Data is micro, and can be remixed. Agreed.

How about you (the networker & actor) as the “king”, as a “human”, as a “customer” when you are served or connected by others, as a prominent cyber citizen (for Stephen) or “node” to connect or to be connected to the other nodes (networkers, actors), artifacts or networks. You use the data as the “servant”, “remix or add value to the servant” and post them via your posts in OLDaily. Others post data/content (servants) onto their blogs, FB, or twitters, YouTube, websites, or newspapers etc. Others are connected to you via your “servants”.

Data are resided on the nodes, and could be transmitted through the connections. That’s why we have the “server” in the internet, as a connector and servant.  The server transmits and receives the data (servant) to serve you (the king).

So will data be servant, and will you (as a networker) be the king?

Judy posted here: Content used to be King – The Semantic Web in Education.

Content used to be the King, but not now.  It’s you who become the King.  You decide on the content (& data) – what you want, when you want it, how you want it, where you want it, who you want it from or with, and why you want it, when constructing and traversing the networks (internet, mobile networks, or networks of communities) in digital learning. And knowledge is distributed throughout these networks, as explained under ConnectivismData and content included in posts, news, artifacts are servants (media) that we all use.

Thanks Stephen for your thought-provoking post.


What should we do as Ning is no longer available for free?

Dear Members,

You might have noticed that Ning will no longer be providing free Ning network. See details here. As this Community has been set up on a free network basis, we would not be able to continue with the running of this Network without any further financial support. What should we do when Ning is formally closing down this free Ning likely by May 2010?

If some of you would like to continue using Ning with a premium service, then we need to get the financial support from sponsors on this Ning. I am unsure if such switching to a sponsored Ning would be beneficial to our Community as there are risks involved: (1) a loss of control over the Network as the sponsors might have conditions over how the Community needs to be run, (2) what happens if the sponsors withdraw from the financing of the Community at any time in the future, (3) what happens if the premium services provided could not meet the needs and expectations of the members, and (4) what happens if there is a requirement of payment for retaining or continuing membership with the Community.

My view is that our Network(s) need to be provided to all members for free – that means free of any entry and continuing membership charge, and that under no circumstances would members be required to pay for participating in any events, sessions or discussion offered by the Network(s).

There are many options for us as a Community to move on, and to continue our sharing and discussion using other networks. Here are a few options for us to consider:

(a) posterous

(b) webs

(c) pbworks

(d) wordpress

 (e) blogspot

 (f) edublogs

(g) facebook

(h) any other options (please state them)

We have already got this pbworks set up, so please consider joining it if you haven’t done so. Please state your option(s), and suggestions on the features that you would like to include within a particular network.

Should we retain our Community title: ConnectivismEducationLearning?

Would all members please share your views in this forum so we could make a Community decision on what we should do? I hope the decision we are going to make could satisfy all your needs and expectations.

Once we have made a decision, I would need to export the information from this Ning to the New Network.


Social Learning and Properties of Networks Part I

How could social learning be implemented successfully in an organisation or network?

Stephen Downes has identified four major dimensions distinguishing the role of the individual in collaboration from the role of the individual in cooperation in Collaboration and Cooperation .

These dimensions are – Autonomy, Diversity, Openness and Interactivity.

I like his analysis and would like to apply such concepts in social learning. 

Jane explains that:

for social learning to be successfully implemented in an organisation it is not just about adding in the new tools or platforms but also about acquiring a new mindset and new skillset for both learning professionals and individuals.

Jane Hart  shows in this Table; Social Learning = New Toolset + New Mindset + New Skillset

Harold argues the need for the New Mindset: Agility, New Skillset: Autonomy and Social Networking in his post on social learning.

I am wondering if a fifth “element” or property or ability would need to be added to networks – agility

Though it has only been considered in the business enterprise, I think it could equally be considered in the context of networks. With a few changes in words (replacing business by networks) as shown in wikipedia, I found it make sense. 

Here is an adapted version of agility

Network agility is the ability of a network to adapt rapidly and efficiently in response to changes in the network environment (ecology). Network agility can be maintained by maintaining and adapting information, knowledge, tools, and services to meet networker demands, adjusting to the changes in a network environment and taking advantage of human interaction, relationships and resources. Agility is a concept that incorporates the ideas of flexibility, balance, adaptability, and coordination under one umbrella. In a network context, agility typically refers to the ability of a network to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes in productive and cost-effective ways. The agile network is an extension of this concept, referring to network that utilizes key principles of complex adaptive systems and complexity science to achieve success.

Here is another business agile enterprise, which further explains the importance of agility in business enterprises.

Another important concept that may be relevant to networks is the lean principle typical in organisation.

In essence, it relates to the elimination of wastes of all kinds. Currently, one of the major challenges is whether the network could act as filter of information, and whether it could lead to the creation of ’emergent knowledge’ based on interaction amongst the actors (or human agents). A lean network would then be an effective and efficient one that might likely be sustainable in social learning. It could be a useful property of network. See below an explanation on lean as a set of tools in wikipedia:

“For many, Lean is the set of “tools” that assist in the identification and steady elimination of waste (muda). As waste is eliminated quality improves while production time and cost are reduced. Examples of such “tools” are Value Stream Mapping, Five S, Kanban (pull systems), and poka-yoke (error-proofing). There is a second approach to Lean Manufacturing, which is promoted by Toyota, in which the focus is upon improving the “flow” or smoothness of work, thereby steadily eliminating mura (“unevenness”) through the system and not upon ‘waste reduction’ per se. Techniques to improve flow include production leveling, “pull” production (by means of kanban) and the Heijunka box. This is a fundamentally different approach to most improvement methodologies which may partially account for its lack of popularity. The difference between these two approaches is not the goal itself, but rather the prime approach to achieving it. The implementation of smooth flow exposes quality problems that already existed, and thus waste reduction naturally happens as a consequence. The advantage claimed for this approach is that it naturally takes a system-wide perspective, whereas a waste focus sometimes wrongly assumes this perspective. Both Lean and TPS can be seen as a loosely connected set of potentially competing principles whose goal is cost reduction by the elimination of waste.[6] These principles include: Pull processing, Perfect first-time quality, Waste minimization, Continuous improvement, Flexibility, Building and maintaining a long term relationship with suppliers, automation, Load leveling and Production flow and Visual control. The disconnected nature of some of these principles perhaps springs from the fact that the TPS has grown pragmatically since 1948 as it responded to the problems it saw within its own production facilities. Thus what one sees today is the result of a ‘need’ driven learning to improve where each step has built on previous ideas and not something based upon a theoretical framework.”

Hence this 6th property or elementlean that I am proposing could be seen as the tool (social media, virtual reality, cloud computing) that Roy mentioned with Web 3.0 (under Semantic Web) also inherent in the network. It aims to eliminate waste (by filtering information and providing meaningful information, and facilitating the exchange of information flow etc).

This is also the basis of pull of information as described by John Seely Brown.

I have yet to look at the ecological and cross disciplinary approach that Roy mentioned. However, if I were to summarise, it could be IODAAL meaning:

I- Interactivity




A- Agility

L- Lean

in Networks.

Here, I am trying to apply the supply chain concepts in this networking phenomena. I have an interest in thinking about these in terms of co-makership and logistics partnership too in networking. This means the co-making or creating “knowledge, learning & its networks” and partnership and co-operation amongst the networkers.

Another important concept in networking is alignment – i.e. all networks need to be aligned towards the vision/mission say of the networks or community formed, in order to be valuable for an organisation, but this relates more to networking in the corporate world, and I have to think about how it could be used as bridges and a way to integrate all networks and communities.

In Japan, they have networks called keiretsu 

A keiretsu (系列?, lit. system, series, grouping of enterprises, order of succession) is a set of companies with interlocking business relationships and shareholdings. It is a type of business group.

There are three types of keiretsu:

  1. Kigyō shūdan (企業集団, “horizontally diversified business groups”?)
  2. Seisan keiretsu (生産系列, “vertical manufacturing networks”?)
  3. Ryūtsū keiretsu (流通系列, “vertical distribution networks”?)

As social networks are linked into organisations – business groups, manufacturing networks, and distribution networks, I am just wondering how such networks would be developed within institutional and business chains?

1. What do you think are essential in social learning?

2. How do you see the additional 2 properties of Networks – Agility and Lean?

More ideas forthcoming in Part 2.

Postscript: How could we validate those additional properties of networks?  By Safe-fail probes, and the running of experiments, especially in the case of Complex System or Complex Adaptive Systems, as discussed in this post by Dave Snowden


Adults can learn from kids, sure!

Enjoy this.


Isn’t it amazing?  A 12 year old girl Adora who presented in front of a huge crowd of adults at this TED talk, speaking with great confidence and articulation.  Her message was compelling – that adults should learn from kids.

Our future will depend on our next generation – our kids, and it’s time to invest into their education, so they could contribute and lead in the society when they grow up as adults.  That’s why we as educators, parents and adults need to listen to our kids, understand their needs and support their learning through education, mentoring, and guidance.  That’s also how adults could learn from kids, preparing their kids for future challenges. 

All these learning could be enhanced with the use of Web 2.0 and social media tools and platforms, games and mobiles, where adults and kids are connected more readily and closer together, with more intimate relationships formed, and in making a better world of tomorrow.

We are the future – the kids and us!