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a g i l e l e a r n i n g


Conversations about Learning

Featuring interviews with

Dougald Hine Annie Weekes David Jennings Tony Hall Fred Garnett Ollie Nørsterud Gardener
Co-founder of the School Home educator Consultant in online Photographer, learning London Knowledge Lab & Enterprise learning
of Everything Page 6 learning and discovery evangelist and reluctant Learner-Generated entrepreneur
Page 3 Page 4 teacher Contexts Research Group Page 9
Page 5 Page 10
David Gauntlett Dick Moore

Professor of Media & Communications, author of Making is Connecting Consultant & former Director of Technology, Ufi/learndirect
Page 7 Page 8

January 2011
A new three Rs for education?

The rough plan I originally line for relatively little or no cost: ferent starting points. Sometimes
Improvisation sketched for seeding a ‘lightweight they’ve put a name and a dis-
• collaboration environments,
and learning’ community of practice from build-your-own social course to what they’re doing —
imagination included a fancy Semantic Me- networks to wikis and even like ‘Edupunk’ in US higher edu-
diaWiki implementation rather old-fashioned email lists, and cation — while others are just feel-
The interviews in this newspaper were than a newspaper. But let’s wind ing their way towards solutions to
• free learning resources, from
conducted by David Jennings and back a little bit further still. their immediate problems.
Khan Academy and iTunes U to
originally published on his blog
In 2009, my friend and regular the Open University’s Open-
between June and December 2010 —
associate Seb Schmoller suggested Learn initiative and what’s
Many are coming to simi-
see for the full online lar conclusions from dif-
we start to think about what we available on the open web.
should do in the event that the cli- Using lightweight, low-cost ferent starting points…
ents for our consulting work — tools, we felt, should also free up these actions are starting
When I did the first of these inter-
predominantly public sector edu- organisations and groups to proto-
views, I didn’t see it becoming part
cation organisations — were to
to knit together
of a newspaper. The journey from type and experiment with alterna-
have their budgets savagely cut or tive approaches — and also put We’re at a moment where these
here to there has been a story not
abolished. The first instinct, rather learners more genuinely in control actions are starting to knit to-
so much of Eureka moments but of
than to rethink our own business of their own learning, tapping into gether. I decided to interview some
a gradual series of small, impro-
model, was to treat this budg- their deeper motivations at the people who were doing interesting
vised steps. Producing the news-
etlessness as just another problem same time as giving them scope to things in disparate areas, as my
paper has been just one more of
for which we could provide solu- be more playful and creative. contribution to doing the knitting.
those steps, a staging point to help
tions. Hmmm. There’s no unique insight here, Dick Moore was my first inter-
reflect on the direction of travel
and decide where to go next. So began an effort to research and many have been making these viewee. At that stage, I expected
I’m incredibly grateful to the what had hitherto been an unex- points for years. The interviews most of the interviews to focus on
interviewees for their time and in- amined intuition: that a lot of highlights ideas and experiences the combination of methods and
sights, and especially to the mem- learning technology developments with roots going back several dec- technologies that Dick talks about.
bers of the School of Everything’s were throwing money at heavy- ades. The last of the interviews, with Ol-
‘Unplugged’ group who have fur- weight infrastructure and over- But usable examples and guid- lie Nørsterud Gardener, returns to
ther distilled the original versions complicated content-development ance in areas such as adult, work- similar territory, but along the way
and helped present them in an al- that did more to constrain learning based learning (where I do much I relearned that lesson that we all
ternative format that makes new than to liberate it. When money is of my work) are still hard to find. pay lipservice to, but too often for-
connections and strengthens grow- tight, we reasoned, much can still There’s a sense that many are com- get in practice: it’s not about the
ing ones. be done using what’s available on- ing to similar conclusions from dif- technology.

2 Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011

Knitting people and ideas to- what he calls ‘agile core skills’ and institutions as she doesn’t believe Overall Agile Learning provides
gether takes time. It’s all about re- iterative learning, he is cautious you can ‘develop’ employees, they a deconstruction of education into
lationships. At around the same about whether agile actually need to understand their needs its miscellaneous parts, such that it
time that Seb Schmoller and I be- brings about deep learning. and drive their own learning. offers the possibility that learners
gan our discussions, I started at- David Jennings takes this view could re-aggregate the relevant
Agile: the basket case for learning
tending the Unplugged meetups in of agile core skills deeper by look- small pieces to meet their self-
the Royal Festival Hall. Those two ing at how we might change the So Agile Learning might best be identified learning goals or inter-
strands and the series of inter- relationship with the authority of seen as a basket of techniques, ests. At the present time, one of so-
views in this paper gradually the teacher, offering a vision of tools, processes and attitudes — all cial and economic collapse, Agile
twined together. Dougald Hine learners contracting in to learning, of which are discussed here — offers fresh ways of thinking about
and Tony Hall are founder mem- using the basket of techniques that which, when used responsibly and learning that might enable new
bers of the meetups. David Gaunt- Agile might offer to self-organise sensitively, might enable better and socially useful modes of learn-
lett was first a guest and then a their learning. self-organisation of learning. ing to emerge.
member, while Fred Garnett has Agile seems to offer a ‘small
become a member and Ollie Gar- pieces loosely joined approach’,
dener an overseas visitor since I exemplified by David Gauntlett,
interviewed each of them. So, for who is a serious advocate of the
me anyway, these interviews are convivial use of Lego as part of his
short clips from a broader, more Making is Connecting work. David
far-reaching conversation. is concerned to create a social
process of learning that promotes
Context and active engagement with the envi-
ronment and he uses tools to en-
conversation able collaborative learning to oc-
Fred Garnett gives an overview of this cur. He also sees consequences be-
series of interviews and what they say yond the classroom, by engaging
about the state of learning. with the Transition Towns move-
ment, for example.
Fred Garnett focuses on how
Prescience, collapse and reflection
that ability to craft learning col-
This newspaper presents some laboratively requires a set of bro-
conversations about learning kering skills in teachers, which are
which promote the generic idea of not commonly part of their profes-
being agile in the face of new con- sional skillset. He sees this as part
straints. The origins for these re- of their responsibility to enable
flections lie within David Jen- learners to generate their own con-
nings’s and Seb Schmoller’s earlier texts for learning.
discussions about the impact of
School? That’s a weird idea!
austerity on learning provision,
whilst, back in 2006, Dougald Hine Tony Hall, on the other hand,
and Paul Miller were wondering doesn’t see teaching as a craft; he
what might become useful after a sees craft as learning. Tony is in-
major global economic crisis. terested in how you enable learn-
Out of these concerns the School ing in extra-institutional contexts
of Everything emerged and then through conversations around
School of Everything Unplugged people’s interests. As Tony is a
allowed the conversations in this photographer, he works with peo-
and getting very into Illich gener-
paper to occur.
Some of the original thoughts,
ple’s pictures. He is interested in
the person who takes the picture,
To learn, ally. I’d met Paul Miller (now
rooted in creating new ways of us- and the image is a way into con- to teach School of Everything CEO), who
had heard of Illich via his work on
ing technology, were that light- versations about their reality.
Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society Dougald Hine brought a wide range of a pamphlet called the Pro-Am
weight tools might enable an agile
ideas are another thread running interests and experiences to his role as Revolution.
approach to learning to emerge; an
iterative learning process linking through these Agile conversations, co-founder of the School of There was a sense that a number
learners to their goals dynamically. reaching an apotheosis with home- Everything, an internet startup of us were rediscovering these
Agile might also allow a scaling- educators Annie and Guy who launched in 2008 with the aim of older ideas about the possibility
down of learning to match the don’t distinguish between learning connecting people who can teach to and the desirability of meeting
human experience rather than the and not-learning. They see that people who want to learn. more of our needs outside of pre-
scaling up of institutions attempt- learning is always improvised scriptive institutions.
In 2009, Dougald and Tony Hall
ing to engage with financial oppor- around interests as they occur at Paul and I and the other School
started the series of weekly meetings
tunities that globalisation seemed any time of day; so much so that of Everything founders originally
about learning from which a few of
to offer. Annie now thinks that it is school crossed paths through our in-
these interviews grew. And this
that seem like a weird idea. volvement in a weekly email
Small pieces loosely joined discussion took place in our usual spot
Ollie Nørsterud Gardener has newsletter called Pick Me Up.
looking out over the River Thames
Dick Moore takes his under- applied social networking tools to Pick Me Up was a recipe for fun.
from the Royal Festival Hall.
standing of the Agile Learning project and knowledge manage- To write a story for it, you had to
process from the Agile Manifesto ment within organisations to try to be actively involved in making
(2001), focusing on the notion of enable organisational learning, es- David Jennings: What ambitions something happen. You told the
‘the ability to change specific pecially peer-to-peer learning as did you have in creating School story of what you’d done in a way
learning goals as issues arise’. part of using her company’s Nod- of Everything? that might encourage others to use
However, whilst he values agile as dlePod service. Ollie is applying Dougald Hine : I’d been reading what you had shared to help them
a contextualising process based on emergent learning techniques to Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society do something.

Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011 3

That’s how we stumbled into signs up has both a teaching and a Are you just switching from scaling up to the global supply of
this idea that it was more fun to learning profile. one institutional footing to an- high-quality content are missing
use the internet to make stuff hap- That gets you part of the way other — from the state-guided the fact that there is also this scal-
pen in the real world than to spend there. But there is definitely a models of Higher Education and ing down to something that is
more and more of your life in front space in the middle, which it was Further Education to a new model more satisfying on a human scale
of a screen. harder to structure. Maybe there is that runs on Google apps in the than people’s experiences of uni-
In 2004, people were still think- something that happens quite cloud and resources from iTunes versities as institutions tend to be.
ing about the internet as some- naturally and informally if you get U?
thing which virtualised more and a group of people together face-to- I think it goes both ways. Last
more areas of our lives. So the face — a fluid shifting of roles — year I was part of a discussion
internet changed the world by which is harder to emulate online. with senior Higher Education fig-
enabling you to shop and bank on- The direction we’re moving in ures for Demos’s The Edgeless Uni-
line, instead of going to shops and now, where School of Everything versity project. At the end of it I
banks. supports people getting together said to the guy from Demos who
School of Everything was using in groups, might be one way to was running the project, ‘That felt
the internet to change things in a find that heart of really informal, like being in a room with a bunch
different direction. We felt we self-organised learning. of record company executives in
could put into practice, on a grand What connections do you see 1999.’
scale, the kind of ideas that maybe between School of Everything The HE people were being quite
sounded utopian when Illich was and your work outside? complacent because they said,
writing about ‘learning webs’ in One way that it connects is ‘You enthusiasts for technology see
the early Seventies. through ‘asset-based’ approaches. education as a transactional proc-
We drew firstly from ideas from Asset-Based Community Devel- ess of pushing units of knowledge
the Sixties and Seventies of de- opment offers an alternative to to learners, whereas actually much
schooling society and the Free conventional development, with of the value of education is in the
University at Stanford — all these its tendency to define people in relationships with the people
experiments in self-organised terms of their needs, their deficit. teaching them and with the institu- Agile alchemy
learning that had flourished a gen- You can see these same patterns in tions they belong to.’ After David Jennings interviewed
eration earlier — and secondly on regeneration, in international de- What they were ignoring was David Gauntlett last summer (see
a model of using the internet to velopment, and in the marketing that you can also achieve a rich- Page 7), a curious Gauntlett decided
make stuff happen in the real culture which defines us as con- ness of relationship through the to turn the tables on his interviewer,
world. sumers, as a source of demand. scaling down that technology starting by trying to pin down what
Against that, the asset-based ap- makes possible. Universities sit at Jennings meant by Agile Learning.
proach says, ‘Let’s start the other a scale which might have been op- Here are the answers he got.
way round, by looking what is al- timal to where the world was at 30
ready present in a situation — the or 50 years ago, when the costs of Rather than being tightly defined I
skills, the possibility, the re- organising and finding other peo- see Agile Learning as a family of
sources, the experience — and ple were quite high. approaches, in which self-
treating that as something that As networks make those costs organising by learners looks prom-
At the centre of the School of might be being undervalued’. Ac- ising, that offer a response to the
lower, not only is it true that you
Everything model, there is still a tually, there is already an abun- unprecedented circumstances we
can get a better lecture from iTunes
teacher-and-learner couple — dance there. find ourselves in now.
U than if you went to the lecture
how are your ambitions reflected School of Everything was ap- Firstly, a lot of money has been
theatre (the scaling up side of it).
in that? proaching education from that pumped into grandiose internet-
But you can also find a richer and
We started out with a motto perspective. more engaged environment in based learning initiatives. Al-
which was ‘Everyone has some- On the first day that we sat which to learn closely with others though the small-pieces-loosely-
thing to learn, everyone has some- down to work properly on School and build relationships through joined ethos and Web 2.0 ap-
thing to teach.’ The traditional of Everything in September 2006, I coming to a meetup like those we proaches have been with us for
model of education creates an arti- remember saying two things. One organise in the Royal Festival Hall years, the interventionist public
ficial scarcity of people who can was that I thought that by the time than you might find going to a sector tendency to Think Big vastly
teach us, by only looking to pro- we had got this working there was university seminar. overestimated what top-down ini-
fessional teachers who have the every chance that there would be a tiatives can attain.
Maybe that is a slightly utopian
skills to stand up in front of a class major global economic crisis (you Secondly, ‘agile’ is about look-
account. But I think that there is a
of people who don’t want to be only remember the predictions ing at emergent, adaptive learning
risk that institutions which only
there and keep them under con- that come true!). But I added that in the commons of the internet. If
see the threat from technology as a
trol. Our alternative is to recognise what we were building would be
the abundance of skills and more and not less useful in a world
knowledge and experience that is which had been changed by that.
out there in every neighbourhood, Because universities and schools
in every workplace. and colleges are very expensive
So the starting point for the and inefficient ways to organise
School of Everything site was how learning. And because, while I talk
you index the wealth of knowl- about living in a time of abun-
edge and experience that is around dance, actually, the culture we are
you. First we built profiles where living in is characterised by artifi-
you could list the things that you cial scarcity as well. While we feel
would be willing to teach or to there is an abundance of knowl-
share. We got stuck working out edge and skills, that abundance is
how to present that profile without somehow not visible to main-
falling back into the teacher/ stream policy-making and the way
learner model. The first solution learning happens in the education People Learning Something: a ‘wordle’ representation of the most commonly
we had was that everybody who system. used words across the eight interviews

4 Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011

we chart these flexible, low- chart. For example, before Web 2.0 Tony sees learning as a social
overhead behaviours and under- services like, when I activity: ‘It's to do with relation-
stand the contexts where each is was on the board of an independ- ships. Learning for me is not some-
effective, we can start to map out ent cinema, I advocated the idea of thing you do by yourself — not in
more bottom-up learning experi- extending our educational activi- the way I do it, anyway. I’ve al-
ences. As they work with the grain ties to include curated web re- ways felt I need to learn with other
of learners’ habits, and are rooted sources about our specialist film people. I never wanted to use the
in people's intuitive approaches to seasons. The educator might be- word “teaching” or being a
using the net for discovery and come a curator, a facilitator, help- “teacher”. I have to use it to work
problem-solving, they’re more ing to select the right tools, identi- in institutional spaces, but it’s not
likely to ‘stick’. Enabling people to fying when creating a wiki might a word that sits comfortably with
self-organise the goals, methods be useful, or suggesting ‘you me.
and the degree and timing of their might like to try…’ ‘Learning for me is never about
collaboration with other learners being stuck in a classroom and
Contracting in
enables agile learning. someone telling you how to do
Learners might ‘contract in’ the something. It's always to do with a
Consulting with authority

Agile Learning potentially

teaching, support and authorita-
tive guidance when they want,
Creating process. Various characters get in-
volved in that process. Some are
changes the power relationships in rather than it being planned for informality better at explaining things or pre-
learning. We're used to contexts them. In this respect School of Eve- senting something, offering up bits
Tony Hall is a photographer who
where the agenda, environment rything looks promising as they’re of knowledge, or finding some-
became interested in learning through
and the methods are managed and introducing features to support thing we can use — but it's never
community photography projects with
predetermined; why? Learners groups of learners. Originally in- just one person.’
young adults. He created informal
now have access to a massive dividual learners found and hired Learning is a pragmatic, experi-
learning environments and allowed
range of tools and resources for individual teachers, a market led ential process for Tony. ‘It’s that
learners the freedom to set their own
learning and can build new by what teachers offer; generic, make-do, but also making some-
agenda. With the increased
knowledge and skills as it suits. popular stuff: learn French, learn thing out of that make-do. It’s not
accessibility of technology, he
Learners won’t always be the bass guitar. With self-organising learning something for the sake of
describes his interests as ‘thinking
best judges. But when they’ve got groups there’s scope for offerings learning; it’s trying to make some-
about sustainable learning
something they want help or ad- to become demand-led. thing. And then the conversations
communities, shared learning in
vice with, it might become more Let’s say I want to be able to that came out of the practice,
public spaces, using social media’.
like consulting a doctor, taking appreciate French literature and whereby you're involved in doing
such professional advice and films. I’m unlikely to be able to Tony doesn’t see himself as a something together. Somehow
follow-up seriously. They might persuade a teacher to provide a teacher. ‘I got into teaching what we were doing in terms of
say, ‘We’ve got as far as we can specially-tailored course unless I through not wanting to teach,’ he this thing called “photography”
with what we're trying to do, now pay. With a group sharing my in- says. ‘A few people in a youth cen- wasn’t photography. It’s more a
we’d like some direction, or help.’ terests we're well-placed to com- tre were interested in something I case of us getting involved with
So let’s recognise these emerging mission some bespoke support. was interested in: photography. each other and trying something
online learning behaviours but ac- The fact the teacher’s contracted in They felt that I could probably out, having a bit of fun doing it.’
cept we'll only get so far with doesn’t stop them exercising help them. And being outside Tony’s experience with informal
those alone. A bit of timely coach- authority where it’s needed; like a school was important. Some of and community learning projects
ing can significantly improve on licensed counsellor. them were unbelievably bright. has made him wary of formal
what people pick up on their own. I’m not sure how these prescrip- Some may have been failed by learning environments. ‘Institu-
tions might apply to schools’ pow- school, but there was a real mix of tionalised education isn’t a place I
Reframing teaching
erful apparatus of discipline and kids. They weren't much younger want to be. I tried many times to
Teaching remains a matter of orderliness designed to keep kids than me: I was 21 or 22; they were be involved inside the space, creat-
judgement, and often of on-the- off the street and make them work- 16 to 19. Because I was seen as the ing groups and projects inside
spot improvisation, about when to force fodder. But I am interested in photographer, I was the key char- these organisations. But I found
exercise authority. But the framing opening up the space around the acter in that group. I could get that I spent huge amounts of time
and boundaries of that authority periphery of institutions, which stuff as well: enlargers from up in dealing with the administrators
can be tamed to ensure that teach- might retain an anchoring role. town; I could get film cheap in rather than doing the learning
ers would bend to public interest, Soho. That was part of the deal.’ stuff. The first learning project,
Basket of techniques
as Illich suggests, rather than per-
petuating their professional inter- Agile Learning is broader than
ests. Howard Jacobson said re- these prescriptions; a bundle of
cently that ‘authority is intrinsic to loosely connected methods that
education, and the fact that author- work to differing degrees in differ-
ity is fallible doesn't change this,’ ent contexts. What ties them to-
but we can frame that authority to gether is the intent of being a low-
lead us into a different space. cost, learner-driven, flexible basket
of techniques.
Let them eat Google
But there’s no manifesto, no
If an internet-connected com- tight definition, no trademark. It’s
puter is the basic infrastructure — an open enquiry and enterprise,
as in Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall which through a community of
model — do we just leave learners practice could be taken to school,
to figure out the rest? We need to perhaps initially through Free
reframe what teaching is about, to Schools. Bringing together this
provide the optimum further sup- basket of agile techniques could
port to enhance self-organised make them look more ‘serious’ Tony Hall (centre) with the young people participating in photography at his
learning. That’s the space that Ag- than when seen as scattered and local youth club, London, 1969
ile Learning needs to explore and small-scale.

Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011 5

building the darkroom, was about changing yourself. It’s not just ested in sharing experiences. The plicitly their idea of what’s
being let loose in a space with a thinking, it’s changing your think- first time I went to HESFES [the worthwhile and educational.
bunch of people who had a shared ing a bit. That’s the great thing annual week-long summer gather- Many might say, ‘Oh, yeah, but
interest. Out of that came a lot of about pictures, because you can ing of home educators], it was they’re only making a film — lots
other stuff — lots of conversations, negotiate through the picture such a relief. Just being in a field of people could just do that — why
around music and culture. As long without being provoked. So you’re full of people I didn't have to ex- aren't they doing a real project?’
as we could get a photograph out always displacing the activity and plain myself to felt liberating and Loads of parents have a very nar-
first of all, then something else you're talking about this thing relaxing. Again, HESFES has ex- row definition of what’s educa-
comes from that. You don’t know here, but you know you’re talking panded massively in the time tional and what's not. Even with
what’s going to come out of it until with each other, really. You don’t we’ve been going to it. [Wikipedia babies, if they’re picking up stones
somebody comes along and says, have to do eye contact all the time, says it has grown from around 50 and putting them down, they’ll
“I want to take this kind of photo- so the picture becomes a little re- families in 1998 to around 1,500 whisk those away and replace
graph”. And then you can talk to flecting device.’ families in 2006.] them with specially-designed toys.
them in depth. What I liked about
photography was that anyone The kids don't see the dif-
could do it, at least in terms of get-
ference between learning
ting started.’
Tony worked with people in
and not learning any
day centres throughout the Eight- more than most adults do
ies. ‘A lot of time, I felt as though I
was walking into their world, their You made a bold decision, in-
environment, and I always felt that cluding a change of career path —
I needed to just be there, as a pho- so what have been the pluses and
tographer, and that somehow the minuses of that for you?
conversations would start. In one It’s really quite hard to say. For
environment, for example, I set up the first few years I was quite
a dark room for people with men- evangelical about it, naturally.
tal and physical disabilities. It be- You’ve only known me in my later,
came their own space within the more jaded years! In a way, I don’t
institutional space. They made it in even think of myself as a home
a way: they made it their space educator any more. I don’t identify
with me. And it happened because myself as one. School seems like a
people allowed themselves to get weird idea now: I can’t imagine
involved with me in a day centre, why people do it.
and because I was different from How far ahead do you plan?
what was going on there. It be- How about your boys — how Do you know what you’ll be do-
comes something we did together, Learning all the do they keep in touch with their ing with your boys when they
making this dark room… accessi- time, everywhere peers? start again, after a holiday, say?
ble in a way. The same way everyone else of No. They don’t ‘stop’ at any
‘There were 11 or 12 people their age does: mobile phones, point. Some people organise things
David spoke to his friend Annie, who,
floating around who got involved. Facebook, MSN Messenger. with holidays, but we don't.
with her partner Guy, decided to
It’s always the same: one or two educate their two sons at home. Annie This is actually one of the clas-
people get interested, and then and Guy didn't set out to be home sic objections to home education
they know somebody else, who educators. Annie had read Illich's that people always come up with,
they bring in, who sits on the side Deschooling Society at school, out of ‘What about socialisation?’ I’ve
of the group, but they then get in- academic, rather than a personal, never quite worked out what they
volved, and once you’ve got a ba- interest. But it was a series of practical mean by that.
sic interest amongst those few considerations and social connections Often people dress it up as,
people, then you can begin to get that led them to go down this route ‘How do they ever get to meet
something out of it. themselves. people?’ Which has this kind of
‘When you actually begin a se- subtext of, ‘How do you manage
ries of conversations with them, David Jennings: How did your to act like a normal human being
and continue over a period of time, ‘induction’ as a home educator in the world?’ Well, we live in the
they just want you to understand work? world, and we probably see more
them a little bit. And because Annie Weekes: Initially it was of it than most schoolchildren. It’s
you're this person who takes pho- based on local contacts, such as always framed in terms of meet-
tographs, they also want to do this with a nearby Sydenham home ed ing other kids, rather than sociali-
thing called photography. Obvi- group. This was in 1999, when the sation as citizens and workers.
ously, I go in there with a sort of examples of home education that Is there scope in home educa-
vaguely framed way of thinking you could find online were mostly tion for you to let a group of kids
around it, in terms of a project I in the US, and those were mostly define their own goals?
would like to do… but sometimes faith-based, so they didn’t feel Sometimes that happens. One
it never works out!’ relevant to us. In the UK, there was of my boys has made films with
By being seen as a photographer an email list that I joined. Over the other people. But that’s com-
rather than a teacher, Tony feels he years that has grown, as more pletely off their own bat. Both
can accomplish more. ‘Because people came online, and it’s splin- animated and live action shorts.
then you begin to look at what tered into lots of smaller, specialist He and two of his mates make a
thinking is and what learning is. It lists. film and edit it. They make the
is a social thing that's going on. It’s When I started it felt like, after props and find the costumes.
us negotiating something to do only a relatively short time, I knew Educationally that’s a tricky or
with an activity together… For me most of the people who were ac- contentious area, because a lot
learning’s about change as well: tive in home education and inter- depends on someone stating ex-

6 Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011

So it’s heavily improvised?
Entirely improvised. It’s driven Joining up
by what they’re interested in. As I thinking
say, that’s what can make it hard.
Someone will appear downstairs at David Gauntlett is a fellow
11pm and say, ‘So, the Italians participant in the School of
were invading Abyssinia in when- Everything Unplugged meetups in
ever, and…?’ You think, ‘Oh my London — when his lecturing
god! Isn't Google working this commitments at University of
evening?’ They don't really see the Westminster allow. Perhaps unusually
difference between learning and for someone on the editorial board of a
not learning any more than most journal called Foucault Studies,
adults do. David makes his ideas accessible by
Most people say that messing expressing himself in very
around on the internet to find stuff straightforward everyday terms.
out is not learning. To which I say,
This is very much of a piece with the
‘Why not?’ And they say, ‘I sup-
agenda that David is advancing, one
pose… but it’s not really the same.’
that sets a lot of store by giving people
Because the correspondence
the means to influence and remake the
they’ve made is to pre-structured
worlds they live in through creative
blocks of activity that lead to a
engagement with their environment
qualification. Working with Lego at the Connection Factory with David Gauntlett (left),
and each other. This echoes one of the
A) you can’t get a qualification Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Westminster
influences he cites: Ivan Illich, whose
for it, and B) almost the definition
books such as Disabling Professions
of learning seems to be that you it. If you’re actually going to en- There’s a sense in your work —
and Tools for Conviviality look
don't enjoy doing it. Those are the gage with something, then a crea- when you refer to William Mor-
towards a gently radical
two things that make it learning. tive process of thinking and mak- ris, for example, or cite Richard
empowerment of citizens.
Or that someone other than ing will not only help you learn Sennett’s The Craftsman — of
you defines the outcome you're David’s book, Making is about that thing, but also help you rolling back the industrialisation
supposed to aim for. Connecting, is published by Polity in create new ideas about that thing. and mass media models of the
Exactly, and that seems to be the spring. In what way is sharing impor- last 150 years. I haven’t read The
what makes it real learning. There tant to your prescription? Craftsman — why is that book
was a nice quote someone sent me David Jennings: Can you describe important to you?
It’s hard to separate out the im-
by John Holt — the educator, not some of the themes you develop
portance of sharing because it’s all What I think Richard Sennett’s
the reggae singer — ‘The difficulty in Making is Connecting?
part of one process. Obviously, you book boils down to — amid lots of
with learning to trust our children Well, the title gives the starting can be creative on your own, interesting examples — is an at-
is that first we have to learn to point. I mean ‘making is connect- locked away in a room writing a tempt to prove that thinking and
trust ourselves’ in terms of defin- ing’ in three main ways: novel or a symphony, but I think making are part of the same proc-
ing their learning. And that’s the • First, making is connecting be- basically creativity is a social proc- ess. It’s not that you have thoughts
same with adults. cause you have to connect ess where much of the value or and make plans, and then you
things together (materials and reward that we get from doing it make something, but the process
ideas) to make something new; comes from sharing and getting of making things is also a deeply
• Second, making is connecting feedback, and being inspired by intellectual process.
because acts of creativity usu- other people. So I think at its heart In terms of ‘rolling back 150
ally involve, at some point, a it’s a social process. That’s why years’, it’s not really about that,
social dimension and connect you need sharing, otherwise but maybe it is about reconnecting
us with other people; you’re losing something. Even with the kind of everyday creativ-
• And making is connecting be- creative people who work alone ity which may have flourished
cause through making things ultimately want to share their more in the past, and which
and sharing them in the world, work — so sharing is part of crea- doesn’t flourish in a consumerist,
we increase our engagement tivity. TV-watching society. Today we
and connection with our social You use Lego a lot, and refer to have tools to share the fruits of
and physical environments. it as a ‘tool for thinking’ — why? that creativity, easily and widely,
Ivan Illich, At first I thought it would be Building on the principles of which they didn’t have before, so
like a description of changes that Lego Serious Play, it’s encouraging that’s bound to help.
who argued are happening, but now it’s more people to think about questions You mention the Transition
that many of a prescription as well. Creative and problems, build responses in Towns movement as an example
opportunities: people turning off Lego (or any creative material) and of Making is Connecting — could
institutions end their televisions and doing some- discuss and talk and share. you explain why?
up exacerbating thing more interesting instead. Everyone gets to express some Transition Towns are an oppor-
the problems they So how does that improve of their thoughts or feelings, and tunity for people to come together
people’s lives as citizens and share them, exploring different as- and make something new — make
were created to learners? pects of the problem. You can get their town anew — which creates
solve, was the most Sitting back and consuming everyone to collaborate by putting social connections through shared
media for entertainment or infor- the things they’ve built into one concerns. It also means that people
frequently cited writer mation is fine, but one of the shared model through negotiation. are actively taking an interest in
in the interviews things we know about learning is That gets your brain firing on all the way their town does business
that you learn through doing cylinders while you’re doing it, and transport and services. So it’s
things, and being active — putting instead of a more conservative about having that active connec-
information together in new ways model where you just absorb what tion with your environment.
yourself, rather than just receiving a teacher or a book tells you.

Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011 7

Agile Learning and Agile Software

Dick Moore believes that you can

build agile learning experiences in
an evolutionary fashion. You set
out with a clear goal, and iterate as
you go to make sure that you’re
still on track. In the process you
learn something; perhaps that this
is the wrong way to do it, or that
you're asking the wrong question!
Having clear goals, which are eas-
ily tested so you know when
you’ve reached them, does not Google Goggles recognises real world objects and displays relevant
mean that you can’t change the information about them on your phone. The scope for project-based, mobile
goals, with the consent of the in- learning is enormous
Agile skills, terested parties.

agile methods Dick’s analysis of the parallels

between agile software develop-
the internet, promotes self-directed So having these core skills and
learning — be it formal, informal an understanding of learning itera-
Dick Moore was Director of ment and agile learning is laid out or recreational; access to how-to tions are key for agile learning.
Technology at Ufi/learndirect and has in the table below. videos via YouTube, and the previ-
a deep understanding of technology Assessing Agile Learning
Shallow versus deep learning & core ous set of how-to documentation
infrastructure and development
agile skills that underpinned the open source The assessment challenges with
methodologies. As well as speaking to
Linux development platform have Agile Learning are much the same
David Jennings, he provided some The need to acquire new skills shown that recipes, plus a learning as with any other form of learning.
original material, included here. and knowledge rapidly, combined goal, can form the basis of signifi- If certification is required, then
with the knowledge engine that is cant learning and development there has to be some sort of rigor-
Agile Development Agile Learning programmes, especially if under- ous assessment that underpins the
taken through a series of learning knowledge and practical skills be-
Customer satisfaction by rapid, con- Learner satisfaction by rapid attainment of iterations. ing taught.
tinuous delivery of useful software and learning concepts that can be applied There is a view that says that
systems Every Google query is a
every Google query is a piece of
shallow Agile Learning; there is a piece of shallow Agile
Working software and systems deliv- Attainment of new models of understand- goal (a question requiring an an-
ered frequently (weeks rather than ing and assessment building upon each Learning; there is a
months and years) other in short durations (months) swer), a tool (search engine) and a
need for some analysis of content
goal, a tool and a need
Working software and client satisfaction The ability to apply and contextualise (the results returned by the en- Concerns such as impersona-
are the measure of progress learning with clear signs of progress and gine). However you need to be ca- tion, plagiarism, weak testing re-
development pable of discriminating on the reli- gimes, and corruption all apply.
ability of sources, so effective use However, in Agile Learning we
Late changes are welcomed rather than The ability to change particular learning of search engines may require a have some advantages in that clear
rejected out of hand goals as understanding or issues arise range of core agile skills, which goals are set, intervals are defined
could be: and are typically short and there
Close, daily cooperation between clients Close relationship between educators and
and developers learners (often with blurred roles) a) formulation of queries, may be an end result delivered via
b) how to judge the providence a group, allowing the group to
Face-to-face conversation is the best Regular communication (daily/weekly) and veracity of what is re- self-assess (something that should
form of communication requiring co- mixing synchronous and asynchronous turned be encouraged). Moderation may
location communication as a key feature, and
augmented via technology c) basic technology skills that are of course be needed.
not yet universal. For more formal qualifications
The degree to which these core then formal assessment might be
Projects are built around motivated indi- There has to be shared vision and com-
viduals who are trusted mon goal for the learning activity agile skills are similar to the litera- considered. The UK Driving Test
cies of self-organised learners is with its theory and practical test
Continuous attention to technical excel- Having well defined goals and structure more about your degree of compe- might be considered a good exam-
lence and good design and of ‘high quality’ tence than whether or not you ple of Agile Learning. There’s the
have these skills. Anyone who uses theory test that's now part of the
Simplicity Clear objectives, though still open to Google will have them to some ex- Driving Test: you pick these things
change up not just through the British
tent. Having a clear goal that one
or more people can focus around School of Motoring, but through
Self-organising teams of 5-9 to facilitate As per Bloom's ‘two sigma problem’, talking to your friends, going on a
development mastery learning can be applied in small
in short iterations and a way of
groups, with strong communication measuring this provides an end simulator, buying a book, and so
point; clear criteria that define the on. This is an example of Agile
Regular adaption to changing circum- OK to change learning goal or aim mid- end of a learning iteration can only Learning blending into accredita-
stances session providing its agreed be a good thing. tion. There is also ‘tacit knowl-
These might be: edge’ that you can’t pick up from
There is no single tool set rather a col- No one method or way of being an agile just talking and reading. Agile
• after this iteration I will be able
lection of tools and processes that sup- learner or supporting Agile Learning, but Learning won’t help you learn to
port agile development they require a goal and some organisation to…
ride a bike.
• after this iteration I can demon-
In my experience in Agile
Learning, you define the pace, you
Dick Moore’s comparison of ‘agile’ approaches in software development and • after this iteration I can explain
decide which elements you want
in learning and show the relationships be-
to do when, you decide who you

8 Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011

learn with as a group. It is agile to get the ball rolling. But at the start,
me when you have a suite of tools Organisational it can be a heavy process. There are
and a suite of communication
practices allowing a real blend of
originals a lot of culture issues, like, ‘Why
should I give away my knowledge
formal and informal learning. Ag- Can social networks be environments that is making me valuable in a
ile Learning doesn't have to be as- for real learning? What would happen company?’
sessed, but if you want it to be, if you tried to mash up social So I thought it would be better
you can put in place methods that networking and knowledge to enable more everyday learning,
will work. management with a human-centred to allow the individual to organise
approach to how people learn and the material the way they want to.
Agile Learning and the roll-out of the
develop in organisations? Because, in a wiki, someone has to
mobile internet
set a structure and that doesn’t
Mobile internet, especially with Ollie is co-founder of the Oslo-based necessarily reflect our individual
things such as Android phones, is NoddleSoft. Its first offering, as a mental models of how things are
the most exciting new platform startup company, is a platform called linked and what’s relevant to me.
since the Sinclair spectrum and I NoddlePod,. What interested me was That was the first thing: I wanted
expect it to have a greater impact NoddlePod’s emphasis on employees individuals to be able to create a different for each individual
than the PC or laptops. Adding a driving their own social learning in an structure that reflected how they learner. So it’s a matter of connect-
whole range of sensory devices emergent process. As Ollie put it in thought and what they actually ing the content with the context
(light sensor — camera; directional her blog, ‘I simply don't believe that needed of content or information. that’s valuable to the individual,
— compass; sonic — microphone; people can “be developed”.’ They have The idea of NoddlePod sprung based on their own need and pre-
RFID), combined with Global Posi- to be active, not passive, to develop. from there… You could make the ferred way of learning. As you
tioning System and internet con- platform social, in that I can actu-
David Jennings: How did you elaborate on the structure, you're
nection, will open up significant ally share what information is
come to found NoddleSoft and creating your own world and your
new learning opportunities. We relevant to me now.
where have you got to with it? own learning.
can in effect carry a learning de-
It's not like a project manage- We believe that individuals will
vice that will increasingly under- Ollie Gardener: I founded Nod-
ment, delegation type of thing… benefit from having a ‘hanger’ to
stand its physical context and al- dleSoft out of frustration — frus-
But we can work towards individ- make sense out of their content,
low us to integrate our world. tration that I was in a role where
ual things and still benefit from whether that content is a training
my role was to enable learning, yet
each others’ learning along the programme or a website they’ve
The world will contain I came to feel that what I was do-
ing was more about managing and found, or discussions with col-
a data layer from which So how does NoddlePod help? leagues, or to-do items for their
controlling learning. I felt more of
meaning can be a bottleneck than an enabler. It’s a marriage between a project own work.
accessed and I was in charge of implementing management tool and a social What areas of enterprise activ-
knowledge inferred wikis and forums to enable network like Facebook. ity do you think NoddlePod is
knowledge-sharing across compa- Content-focused tools like blogs best suited for?
With applications like Google nies and within companies. I loved and wikis leave out additional When we built it, we referred a
Goggles, we already have the abil- the idea of it, but I also came cues, like ‘When do I need this in- lot to graduate programme,
ity to analyse photographs, ex- across all of the obstacles to mak- formation? In what context is this knowledge programmes, talent
tracting semantic information and ing it work. It’s fabulous once you relevant?’ And that’s going to be programmes.
other data from them, linking
through to secondary sources. In-
creasingly the world through
which we navigate will contain a
data layer from which meaning
can be accessed and knowledge
We can readily expect informa-
tion and knowledge to remain in
the cloud rather than on personal
or corporate servers. My feeling is
that the mobile internet will accel-
erate this, providing even larger
layers of data that will be mined
for meaning.
Outside what we call the First
World there is a demand for edu-
cation, and a thirst for knowledge
at a low unit cost, which mobile
technologies may be able to pro-
vide, so the emerging economies
might adopt Agile Learning solu-
tions quickly due to the low entry
cost. Closer to home, we may see
mobile internet blur the boundary
between formal and informal
learning, access to knowledge and
offering information that is always
on, encouraging agile learning

NoddlePod screenshot showing project outline (left pane) and item view (right pane)

Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011 9

However, we’ve actually found structively’, designing ‘Brokering is using your knowl-
that NoddlePod is just as valuable Architectures of Partici- edge of the educational system to
for an enterprise that deploys it as pation (AoP) in learning. negotiate with learners about what
part of an organisational develop- A big music fan, he they want to do, a form of andra-
ment process. They use it to con- used these ideas to ana- gogy. Brokering is the craft skill of
nect change agents across the or- lyse The Beatles’ career teaching, and takes time to de-
ganisation who have different on the 9 after 909 blog. In velop. The key aspect in making
roles in implementing an organisa- their early years, they brokering work are the assess-
tional strategy. So these agents, were taught the craft of ments, and what is assessed. If you
working on different bits of the studio recording by can let the learner select syllabus
process, connect and discuss to see producer George Martin areas that interest them, or negoti-
if people are experiencing the — their pedagogic ate the form or the timing of ex-
same kind of resistance or issues. phase. In their andra- ams, you can motivate them a lot.
Are there particular kinds of gogic period in the mid- ‘Teachers need to be confident
companies that welcome the Sixties, Martin made a to move from delivery to negotia-
NoddlePod approach? What resis- tactical withdrawal, be- tion and brokering, instead of hid-
tance have you met? coming more facilitator ing behind knowledge or learning
than teacher. This materials. Learners come to under-
I’ve targeted employee-
shifted to heutagogy as stand the education process and
engagement-aware companies. I
The Beatles mastered the how learning is assessed. They be-
think that’s a growing sector, and
disciplines and tech- come capable of seeing how their
people are starting to value the in-
niques until they could work will be marked and can de-
dividual in all of this. They’re rec-
play the studio as though it were velop their own assessment crite-
ognising that we shouldn’t being
trying to create copies; we should
Brokering itself an instrument. In 1967 they ria.’
be creating originals and encour- learning made records such as Strawberry
Fields Forever and I Am The Walrus
Teachers need to be con-
aging individuals to make a fident to move to nego-
Fred Garnett has been invlved in all that used the studio in ways that
unique contribution to the com- forms of learning from prisons to cut it free from its function of tiation and brokering,
pany. government, and from US universities documenting musical perform-
If companies treat recruits as
instead of hiding behind
to the now-defunct BECTA, and is ances.
interchangeable according to the now interested in fresh ways of knowledge
Fred believes that learners using
role they’re given, it’s as if they’re generating learning contexts. online technologies, can co-create Currently learners do not have
just a jigsaw puzzle piece. People
their learning. In doing so, the AoP the enterprise and know-how to
aren’t like that. You will get a lot Fred explores how learners deal with
requires an examination of the generate their own learning con-
more value from each individual the unknown and reframe problems in
principles in institutional redesign. texts: we need assessment to prove
employee, if you connect with an unpredictable world: how they
If Learner Generated Contexts that learning has occurred, a bar-
their reason for being. If you can create context out of ambiguity. He is
(LGCs) are ‘a coincidence of moti- rier to learners developing the
connect with what drives them — particularly interested in how learners
vations leading to agile configura- confidence to take control. ‘It isn’t
as an employee and as a human — create the conditions to manage their
tions’, then institutions need to be possible to allow learners to gen-
it makes for a more healthy organ- own learning, and interact with
capable of adapting to post-Web erate their own contexts without
isational culture, with more inno- authority and power in learning. The
2.0 multi-context learning. An AoP pedagogic, institutional and as-
vation, much more initiative and challenge this represents to teacher-led
is about enabling ‘adaptive institu- sessment redesign’, says Fred. ‘The
engagement and productivity. learning can be anathema to
tions’ to work across collaborative current system requires learners to
A lot of the barriers are to do traditional models.
networks. adapt to pedagogically-driven as-
with there being so many organisa- sessment as it has the power to al-
In traditional pedagogy, the There are many practical exam-
tional structures that are there to locate the rewards to that model.
teacher decides what the learner ples on a small scale, often where
control and to moderate and to The existing power structures for
needs to know, and how the teachers factor in new tech tools
steer the organisation. Those struc- education are loaded against
knowledge and skills should be and collaboration, treating learn-
tures are there because of tradition, learner enterprise.’
taught. Fred uses new terms to de- ing as a holistic process. Most insti-
because of status, or because of Fred and his team developed an
scribe alternatives to this: ‘andra- tutions, limited by funding and
fear. I think it’s probably harder for E-maturity Framework for Further
gogy’, a shift from taught to self- their need to track their learners,
bigger companies, because of ad- Education (EMFFE) with 15 col-
directed education, typical of adult do this only on short-term projects:
ministration challenges of scale. leges which appreciated its devel-
and community learning contexts, they don’t go on to become fully
We don’t trust our employees where learners are involved in adaptive. The tools and processes opmental qualities. ‘In the EMFFE
and, really, if that is the honest an- planning their learning activities, to support this adaptive process and the AoP we use quality im-
swer when you dig deep enough, facilitated by teachers and centred are available, but the mindset of IT provement indicators and inspec-
you’ve got a problem. You’re not on experiences and problem- Service departments in education tion processes and design them
going to succeed as an organisa- solving; and ‘heutagogy’, a further institutions has yet to embrace into the everyday processes used
tion if you can’t trust the people development where learners have them. by teachers. Staff record activities
that you've hired. If those people enough confidence in and mastery Fred describes his own teaching which create dynamic systems
know that you don't trust them, of their own learning that they can practice as ‘brokering learning’: which are also inspection reports
then what commitment will they reframe problems. interpreting what the education and the basis of future planning
have? How will they engage? Will system would accredit as learning reviews.’
Fred suggests that heutagogy
they contribute their best ideas to and enabling students ‘to do stuff Fred has two underpinning
can be seen as ‘the ability to play
the organisation, or will they keep they were interested in. Brokering principles. “Everyone wants to
with form and create new ones’.
them to themselves and do their is about taking learners’ interests learn, which is not the basis of our
Learners generate their own con-
own thing? and mapping them to formal designed-to-fail education system.
texts to help them understand
In the past we focused too nar- complex situations, and learning learning outcomes’, he says. In the Secondly, post-Web-2.0 tools en-
rowly on productivity and control. comes close to improvisation as a USA, ‘you write the syllabus of able participatory learning proc-
I think productivity is kind of a means of dealing with these situa- every course you teach’, enabling esses to be supported by technol-
side effect of doing all the other tions. Fred is interested in ‘how teachers to rebuild the syllabus for ogy. The opportunity to support
things right. you deal with the unknown con- learning. LGCs is what is new.

10 Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011

‘Plato’s original Academy did Sometimes it is tempting in les- use separate books for work, per- under an open source licence. It
not set up the Academic model sons to introduce concepts that the sonal development, and so on? seems to be best known in the
that we think of. The Academia students have not heard of and so Keeping a digital record makes it developer/geek community, and
was the building where Socrates ‘stretch’ their learning, but if the easier to edit and rearrange notes it’s eminently adaptable and hack-
sat and debated subjects, a nearby students cannot contextualise this post hoc, and the process of link- able. However, I’ve managed to
orchard allowed learner discus- it can be frustrating for them. I like ing between disparate ideas fur- use nearly all its features, and do
sions and a gymnasium provided being able to set a stage for learn- ther enriches learning and creativ- basic adaptations, without needing
physical exercise. Learning was ing which is in effect the classroom ity. In Where Do Good Ideas Come to do any coding.
seen as instruction, conversation and the task set, and then using a From? Steven Johnson reports how Meanwhile TiddlyWiki isn’t so
and activity in formal, informal platform such as Blogger to create enlightenment-era thinkers kept good if you like to jot drawings in
and non-formal contexts, but we a collage of images, links and con- what they called a ‘commonplace’ the margin — so you can keep
only retain the formal part, call it cepts which pupils can dip into as book, to transcribe favourite quo- your moleskine notebooks for that.
Academic and ascribe it to Plato to they wish, set against the back- tations and ideas. These books But they’re a lot more expensive.
validate it. Even our notion of ground of this overarching task were sometimes laboriously in-
“Academic” is misunderstood and
used to support a false position of
that sets the direction and ‘tone’ of
the lesson.
dexed to allow different concepts
to bleed into each other. But how
DIY social
power, whereas LGCs were de-
Use a platform to cre-
often do we actually make the ef- networks for
signed as complementary proc- fort to go to these lengths?
esses into the original model. In a ate a collage of images, For nearly three years now I’ve
way, LGCs have always been links and concepts been using something called Tid- Lucy Johnson outlines the benefits —
around.’ dlyWiki to make my notes more and hazards — of using social
which pupils can dip
flexible, integrated and link-aware. networks for student engagement in
into as they like TiddlyWiki is like a single-user her school
So there are hints and signposts wiki site, except that it’s not a site,
it’s a single HTML file with some Social media can be a great tool for
Tools for
towards extending the work we
are doing but it is down to the javascript that manages the indi- enabling ‘student voice’ in school.
learners whether or not to follow vidual pages (known as ‘tiddlers’). Which is why we started using the

Agile these suggestions.

The internet is in some way a
I keep all my notes on TiddlyWiki
from meetings, to-do lists, observa-
Ning social network platform a
few years ago. Ning enables you to

Learning ‘lucky dip’, where, as Sugatra Mi- tions from lectures or videos, web- create your own network by con-
tra has suggested, there are a site clippings, even the tortuous figuring whatever social features
plethora of answers. But it is up to history of my complaints to my you want: blogs, forums, profiles,
This section gives brief accounts of bank. If I enter either the name of activity streams, photos and vid-
me as the students’ guide to give
instances where low-cost tools can another tiddler or a URL, it’s eos.
the questions and hint at the rich-
enable self-organised learning by automatically hyperlinked. And Our test case was the school Eco
ness of responses that may be pos-
individuals and groups. every tiddler can be given as many Committee. Initially, we were be-
sible with a suitably creative atti-
tude. This is what, in my experi- tags as you like to help cross- devilled by privacy issues — that
referencing, navigation and brows- is to say, policy restrictions on how
Towards ence, Blogger is ideal for.
This approach would work with ing for reflection. pictures of schoolchildren may be
lightweight other blogging platforms — any- used on the internet. However, as-
Enlightenment-era sisted by Rhiannon Scutt, Head of
learning where where links and text and
images can be gathered and the thinkers kept a Sustainability, our Ning has be-
learner and teacher can relate to come a useful tool for enabling
Teacher Lucy Johnson describes her commonplace book to staff to keep in touch over a site
use of a blogging platform for enabling each other in real time.
record favourite that covers two postcodes, about a
emergent learning.
quotations and ideas subject area that is not curriculum-
Blogger — who would have Commonplace based.
thought this technology could
make for such a dynamic light-
books 2.0 There are other proprietary
services, like Evernote and DE-
The topic is now under threat of
becoming sidelined owing to gov-
weight learning tool? But what a David Jennings vaingloriously VONnote that offer similar func- ernment cuts in the sustainability
difference this has made to my compares his use of an open source tionality, possibly with more so- agenda, so it is no longer compul-
GCSE group. The students love wiki tool to the methods of phistication. However, having sory for schools to deliver. Yet the
using the platform, they can cus- enlightenment-era thinkers. previously kept my notes on Psion headteacher’s support (feeling that
tomise it, which gives them a real and Palm PDAs, and on the it reflects the Catholic ethos of our
sense of ‘ownership’ of their work, Taking notes helps us digest our Ma.gnolia social bookmarking site, school) combined with the low
they can link with their classmates experience. The act of distilling I know the aggravation caused overheads of running our Ning
through the ‘follow’ device, thus and refining what we see and hear when these businesses stop sup- network means that it has sur-
enabling peer-to-peer learning, does more than just produce a re- porting old formats. TiddlyWiki vived.
they can link with me, and, as the cord or aide memoire; it lodges will keep working as long as there We began paying for the service
lessons unfold, I can update my each thought more deeply in mind. are browsers that can read HTML a year ago, to avoid having adverts
blog in real time to respond to Notes of meetings, lectures, vid- and javascript. on the site, which we felt was in-
their learning needs — for exam- eos, ideas that visit us when star- The fact that TiddlyWiki is just appropriate for schoolchildren.
ple a lesson on advertising threw ing out of the train window, key one file makes it easily portable: I This kind of low-cost, flexible
up some brilliant ideas and I could passages of books and websites… carry mine round on a keychain network infrastructure has tre-
see the students were inching to- How to keep and manage all these USB stick, which I use on my desk- mendous potential to forge con-
wards the idea of ‘role models’ and scribblings to make them more top and notebook computers. If nections at a time when links and
‘aspiration’ — they had the ideas useful for learning and problem you spend a lot of your life in the communication are increasingly
but not the vocabulary. solving? cloud, there’s a hosted option — necessary to support an ever more
I saw that this was happening I guess I’m not alone in having with a different set of security con- complex and fractured society.
and so posted this vocabulary and experimented with various shapes siderations. Though even these connections
definitions and the students re- and sizes of notebook — do you TiddlyWiki was developed by come with further complexities at-
sponded enthusiastically. keep everything in one book, or Jeremy Ruston, and is published tached. The issue of intergenera-

Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011 11

tional relationships is fraught with ganisation development in a cor-
difficulties as teachers and stu- porate environment — what used
dents reach out online in ways not to be known as ‘training’ — and 14
easily governed by institutional months spent working on a change
procedures. programme developing a new
We have struggled with the lack school curriculum in Scotland.
of policy and strategy in dealing I approach the weekly informal
with these thorny areas. Simply discussions from a different per-
declaring that these platforms, spective to others; but then so do
once classified as ‘social networks’, they — one of the great things is
have to be gated from the school that everyone comes from a differ-
experience does nothing to address ent place and is willing to explore
the very important issues that are and challenge others’ views.
arising around young people and Sometimes we have open, wide-
their experiences of the public do- ranging discussions; sometimes
main online. These tools are too there is a set topic or subject — at
important and too potentially least for a while (before we stroll
Conversation flows on Level 5 of the Royal Festival Hall
powerful to ignore. off topic…). There are occasional
speakers, too, usually organised by
Newspaper on Join us at the Un- I’ve been going to the School of
Everything ‘Unplugged’ meetups
David Jennings — despite being a
self-organising group, it still takes
the web plugged Meet-ups for several months; I don’t make
some organising, and David and
every week, but I am there fairly
Most of the conversations reported in Lucy Johnson seem to do most of
For links to all the original, full- often. The main thing I get out of
this paper are connected in some way that.
length interviews in this paper, the meetup is the opportunity to
plus links to the resources and ini- to an open, self-organised group that The energy of this group stems
meet like-minded people for chal-
tiatives mentioned in them, please meets weekly in London’s Royal from our different interests —
lenging conversation — a real
visit Festival Hall. This group was started enough commonality to want to
as a spin-off from the School of hear what the others have to say,
Or use this QR code to go there I sometimes feel a bit of a fraud
Everything. Here, Patrick Hadfield, enough difference to generate real
being there: most of the people
consultant in organisation change debate. It is also a very open group
there have more experience in
management, gives a personal account — anyone can turn up and take
education than I do, and more
of why he participates in the group. part. And, apparently, we are a
formal understanding of peda-
friendly, welcoming bunch! One of
gogical theories and ideas. My in-
The meetings take place from 10:30 to the rewarding things is how new-
terest in learning — aside from a
12:30 each Wednesday. Everyone is comers to the group always seem
passion for learning itself — stems
welcome. See the web page on the left to react in a very positive fashion.
from my experience working in
for full details.
learning and development and or-
This newspaper was written, ed-
ited and designed between 8 De-
cember 2010 and 3 January 2011 by
the team of David Jennings, Fred
Garnett, Ian McCleave, Lucy John-
son, Patrick Hadfield and Tony

Portraits of Dougald Hine, Ollie
Gardener, Annie Weekes, Tony
Hall by David Jennings. Portrait of
David Jennings by Lucy Vickery, of
Fred Garnett by Nigel Ecclesfield,
and of Dick Moore believed to be
by Gill Moore.

Meetup photo (this page) by David


Google goggles (page 8)

Constipated face (this page)

All others by Tony Hall.

We are grateful to DJ Alchemi Ltd,
Fred Garnett and Lucy Johnson for
contributing to printing costs, and
to Lucy Vickery for layout assis-
Is your learning constipated by over-complex tools and over-specified processes?

12 Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011