Allowing More Colors In How We Do Education

I'm a big fan of the project based learning approach used by the EdVisions and Big Picture schools.

I believe OPuS, through the innovative use of Web 2.0 tools and an open-source structure, can play a big role in extending this approach to a much larger group of schools.

If you are a teacher, and have a passionate interest in a subject (it does not need to be the subject you teach), please consider starting a Community of Practice on OPuS.

By doing this you will not only feed your own interest, but you will help create a learning environment where students can find their element. Ken Robinson, in this TED talk, beautifully articulates why this is so important.

Latest Work on Curved-Roof Design

One of the challenges I'll be working on next year is a curved roofing system for small sustainable houses. I believe this approach will create a new design vocabulary for architects to build delightful, beautiful, and sustainable small homes.

I'll be taking classes at Yestermorrow and hope to focus a lot of my time and effort on developing this system.

The clay model in the pictures below give a sense of the shape of the houses I'd like to design and build. The triangular grid design is something I've been working on for a long time and next year I may finally be able to scale it up to full size.

 

A brief video showing a prototype model of the hub system I'm developing for curved roofing structures.

Setting Off On New Adventures

I've given notice at my school. After twenty six years I'm giving up old responsibilities and taking up new challenges. Still working out what all this means, and I suspect I will be doing so for years to come. I hope to build something interesting in my new adventures.

Building the Social Neocortex, or Why Twitter Matters ... A Lot

This image illustrates the people I'm following on Twitter. Each line represents the inputs coming in from one of the 191 people whose tweets I read.

In your minds eye, imagine each of the people I'm following with a similar graph. Then stretch your imagination a little more and envsion hundreds of millions of these relationships being created in just a few years.

Now, take fifteen minutes and watch this talk by Henry Markram; especially the part that starts around 4 minutes and 30 seconds in.

 

With Twitter we are beginning to build out a social neocortex. The implications -as we've seen in the Middle East- are mind boggling.

Next Steps for OPuS

In a discussion about implementing OPuS, on the ISED listserve, Richard Kassissieh made the following suggestion.

The OPuS technology platform should match the overall OPuS concept in terms of how centrally organized it is. If OPuS is an unschool, then the central site should be simple, low-cost, generic, and easy to manage.

This makes a lot of sense to me... and it is really the only viable option available at present.

I'm going to be creating a WikiSpaces wiki over the next week that will provide some of the functionality discussed in these three previous posts.

Designing the Community of Practice Icon

Designing the Community of Practice Icon - 2

The Community of Practice Information Window

I plan on using a ning as the virtual gathering place for OPuS1. I'll be working on developing this site as well over the next week and welcome collaboration with anyone interested.

If you have an idea for a Community of Practice please add it to the OPuS CoP brainstorming board.

Help Build OPuS, CoP by CoP

Great ideas for Communities of Practice have been put up on the OPuS brainstorming board by Bill Ivey, Alex Ragone, Linda Vasu, Anne Hamel & Debbie Abilock, Laurie Bartels, Matt Montaigne, Norman Maynard, Chris Pryor, Stephen Hurley, Susan Carter Morgan, Pat Hough, Al Doyle, and Reshan Richards.

OPuS is a vision of an open-source augmentation to our schools.

To turn that vision into reality we need:

•many of you to share your passion by creating a CoP idea on the OPuS brainstorming board

•help with the design, building and funding of a hosting platform

•help organizing the CoP open-space brainstorming board as the number of CoPs grows

•help with spreading the word about OPuS within the education community

-help with refining and improving the OPuS concept (see this recent piece by Douglas Thomas http://tinyurl.com/4rnte7w)

-help with the organizational details

-help with thinking about the obstacles to successful development of OPuS, and what can done to overcome them

Thanks for considering,

Building A Digital Social Brain with Analog Parts

I've been thinking about how we may be building a sort of social brain.

When we are sitting in front of our computer screens we are connecting ourselves virtually in ways that seem similar to how neurons connect with other neurons.

When participating in conferences with a strong twitter back channel the sense of social brain is almost palpable. One can get the feeling -accurate or not- of the singularity being near.

Watch this TED talk by brain researcher Henry Markram. When he talks about the human neo-cortex evolving at an enormous speed I think to myself ... "you ain't seen nothing".

Yet when we step away from our computers we play other roles. Our analog selves come to the fore.

Is this just the paradox of being human? Of being the unit that nature is using to build the next level of consciousness?

Laboring Under a Delusion

In the 1980's, as economic inequality started to increase rapidly again, a curious delusion of neoconservative thought also started to grow in popularity.

Margaret Thatcher expressed this delusion with extreme clarity in a 1987 interview.

They're casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first.

There is no such thing as society, or community. There are just individuals and families. All those things that are communally constructed; from street systems, to sewage systems, to languages, to laws, to schools, to religion, to government ... apparently none of these things are real?

Individual liberty is all that counts according to this delusion. If I make a billion dollars it is all because of little me and my own individual efforts. Therefore, any attempt to tax my billions, by and for the fictional community, is nothing less than robbery.

We seem, as animals which evolved in a state of nature, to have brains that are quite susceptable to this delusion. Part of us wants to believe that we are brave neanderthals, in our nuclear families, carving out lives for ourselves on the African savanna. My billion dollar hoard is really just like a wildebeest brought down by my own skill, determination and effort. It is mine and my family's! Stay away all of you too shiftless and lazy to hunt down your own ungulate.

Neoconservative thinkers are like magicians. They use quirks in how our brain processes and interprets information to fool us into believing things that clearly can't be true. Part of us knows we are being fooled, but the illusion is so powerful and/or pleasant that we suppress our critical thinking skills.

When we are thinking clearly we know it takes a community to raise a child.

Language, science, math, art, music, history, medicine. These all come from the community -directly or indirectly- and without them a child would be no more than a lone neanderthal scratching out a living on the veldt.

People are able to accumulate great wealth only because they live in communities.

Take the smartest entrepreneur, put her or him naked and alone on a desert island, and they will be lucky to just survive. You know, it would actually be relatively easy to try this experiment. Maybe one of the Koch brothers would volunteer, or perhaps Rush Limbaugh?

We know, from the 20th century's misadventures with fascism and communism, that overemphasizing the community at the expense of the individual is disastrous. This was Ayn Rand's great insight. However, Rand, in her genuine horror at totalitarianism, went too far in the defense of individual liberty.

As in so much in life, the trick is finding the right balance.

Until we remove the delusion that there is no such thing as society -that the community is not central to our being homo sapiens- we will find ourselves increasingly exploited by those all to willing to push this false ideology to maintain and grow their ill-gotten gains.

Visualizing Social Neural Network Traffic

I've been thinking about the neural networks we are creating. They are fractal of course. We are rewiring our brains -changing our internal neural nets- while at the same time, at a different scale, we are building social neural nets with our social networking tools.

Robert Wright wrote a delightful piece about the social brain called Building One Big Brain in the Times last summer.

Vernor Vinge writes beautifully about the singularity in a number of his novels.

Intelligence is a network phenomenon. We are growing and complexifying our social neural network at an astonishing pace. Maybe, linked together, we will become homo sapiens.

Pearls of Wisdom from John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas

For me, the final two paragraphs of A New Culture of Learning were the most compelling.

The moment of fusion between unlimited resources and a bounded environment creates a space that does not simply allow for imagination, it requires it. Only when we care about experimentation, play and questions more than efficiency, outcomes, and answers do we have a space that is truly open to the imagination.

And where imaginations play, learning happens.

John Hagel has an excellent review of the book here.