Friday, 21 November 2014

Ideas on #bigdata and #education? Share your help

If you have firm thoughts on Big Data and how it affects education at present or in the future ... then HELP ME! I would be thankful to hear your thoughts! I will face two GIANTS in Learning Analytics and Big Data: George Siemens (visionair and educational explorer) and the formidable Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, an established top notch Big Data researcher (Harvard, Oxford, Guru on Network Economy). Now there is no doubt in my mind that these guys are the best in their (and our, my) field. So it is going to be a hell of a job to come up against them with firm arguments in a "Big Data corrupts Education" debate. My argument: yes, data is corrupting education. Luckily, I will be joined by the fantastically intelligent and erudite Ellen Wagner (chief research officer for Predictive Analytics, and allround educause genius)

A bit of background on the upcoming event: in just under two weeks from now Online Educa Berlin starts. A conference bringing together eLearning academics, corporate trainers, mLearning ngo visionairs... all kinds of people with great insights and knowledge related to technology driven education and training. On Thursday 4 December 2014 the heat will be on! Ellen and I will go head to head with George Siemens and Viktor Mayer-Schonberger in a debate on whether or not Big Data is corrupting Education.

The location and timing of the debate can be found in the OEB2014 program here.

The stakes are high, and as the wild card in this bunch, I am totally aware of my need for help, from you the in-crowd. You: those who know, those who can pull a creative argument out of their sleeves in a moments notice, or after deep and thorough reflection ... each option welcomed as I am the only one in this bunch outside of the educational establishment.

As a means of saying thank you, I will post the names (if you provide them) of all of you who sent me ideas, trains of thought, insights... Your names will be posted on a slide projected during the live stream (and recorded) debate.

To recap: Ellen Wagner's and my stand: "Big Data corrupts Education", Viktor and George's stand: Big Data rocks and will save education (or something along those lines).

Some thoughts I am working on, so new arguments or strengthening arguments welcomed:

  • Big Data as it is now will exponentially enhance the faults as occurring in small data
  • Utopian visions are easy with each new invention, practical implementation and real-world facts are much harder to cope with.
  • Formal learning does not give a full picture of the real (informal and formal) learning that occurs inside of each one of us.
  • A norm translated into algorithms, reproduces that same norm multiple times. 
  • Big data can only be stored and filtered by big companies (private sector), where education and its tools should stay public good (transparent, personal). Big data is in the hands of little data elite.
  • Privacy issues: what if a persons data is sold and infinitely stored? (data trail from kindergarden onward) 
  • Jobs are diminishing at a vast rate, new jobs are being set up. Which algorithms can anticipate the skills for these new jobs. Or broader: is finding a job the ultimate goal of education?
  • Correlation is no replacement for causality. Causality is the basis of all strong research.
  • Even for those areas were research has been providing conclusions and guidelines for centuries, these conclusions are not necessarily being put to real use (the return and money conundrum). 
  • And at the moment my central idea is: the philosophy behind education as it is lived at this moment in time is flawed, as such reproducing Big data algorithms to reach the current educational trends will be reinforcing flawed educational actions.  

Thursday, 20 November 2014

#Flipped classroom overview and options for #teachers

The flipped classroom approach is quickly gaining momentum. Nevertheless, it has its advantages and challenges depending on which learner group you have under your wings.
In this presentation I am giving an introduction to the Flipped classroom approach, while focusing on what is proven, the pro's and con's, the options you have as a teacher, and some related links. The presentation was part of a set of pedagogical sessions for the GuldenSporenCollege in Kortrijk, Belgium.

There are two versions of the presentation, one in English (also shown below) and one in Dutch (with more Dutch links and sources) the Dutch presentation is also uploaded and can be found through this link here



Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Free report on #innovative #pedagogy, practices and use

The Open University of the UK has just published a new report on innovative pedagogy (37 pages). This is a yearly report (compare it to NMC Horizon report, but with a pure pedagogical focus). In this report they look at ten innovations in teaching, learning and assessment that are gaining influence.

I find the focus on social learning of interest, as the report states that "Education can be dramatically enhanced by social networks, a report from The Open University claims. Massive open social learning brings the power of social networks to people taking online courses, by recommending, liking and following the best content created by other learners. The so-called 'network effect' comes from many thousands of people learning from each other, but it needs careful management to reach its full potential. " In a way this is supporting the Utopian vision of the web when it first reached a multitude of people. So an old idea is now grounded, and I must say I like this idea of social learning. 

The report focuses on each topic and elaborates on it briefly (approx 3 pages), giving a description, some important issues related to the topic and resources. Nice.

Which innovations are described in the report:

  • Massive Open Social Learning (a social learning view on mooc)
  • Learning design informed by analytics (a productive cycle linking learning analytics to effective learning - Yeah Bart!)
  • The Flipped classroom (inside and outside classroom learning, flipping homework and class interactions)
  • Bring Your Own Devices (learners bring their own devices - smartphones, cameras - into the classroom)
  • Learning to learn (a good focus on learning how to become an effective learner)
  • Dynamic assessment (I like this one as it offers ideas on personalized assessment for learners)
  • Event based learning (time-bounded learning moments)
  • Learning through storytelling (ancient, and very effective learning format, now with new options)
  • Bricolage (tinkering with all kinds of resources, kind of a mash-up for learning)


The lead author of this report is Mike Sharples, and he sees the social learning shift that is happening now as an educational parallel of the art shift that happened when file sharing became more prevalent. But if you look at the co-authors (Anne Adams, Rebecca Ferguson, Mark Gaved, Patrick McAndrew, Bart Rienties, Martin Weller, Denise Whitelock), you can see how all these great researchers ensure a good and well researched read.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

#PhD awakening: life at the #OU and in UK



After a chaotic month, where I seem to have hibernated (well, autumnated?) immersed in data collecting, my mind suddenly switched back on again. There still seems to be a lot of PhD work that needs to be done (plan interviews, analyse first data batch, dance to get my body moving), but it is time to reflect and share again.

At the end of this blog I have added a presentation for all who want to become a post-graduate student at the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK. But first a brief insight in Life as a PhD student at the OU.

Switching identities 
In the past year and a half I switched from a well paid full-time, international job to a scholarship at the OU where I started as a student again. In order to study, I moved to the UK (Stony Stratford). This switch resulted in changes, some anticipated, some quite surprising. One of the surprising one's was the fact that I felt my identity was no longer straight forward. It had shifted from 'someone who knows' to 'a starting student who has a lot to learn', evidently there is a saying which I believe in (and paraphrasing heavily): the more we know the less we know... but although I knew this saying, actually experiencing a change in external and internal image resulted in profound reflections on importance, work as an identity provider, and the need to be seen as 'someone who knows' (for me that is). This realisation made me humble again, and more understanding for people who experience these shifts due to life's sudden realities: pensioners, immigrants, ... people that need to pick up a new life, away from what they felt was 'normal' and part of them.

Me, the foreigner
The fact that I moved to another country where I would be seen as a 'foreigner' as soon as I spoke in my Flemish English voice, also resulted in some new experiences. For some people it never matters where you are from, you are just you. Luckily, in the past I have encountered many of those people, mostly because they are also part of the world, and have had multiple continent experiences. For others a foreign accent tend to rouse suspicion, most of the time that suspicion would diminish as soon as I mentioned I would be a 'Belgian'. Which is also strange, as one is never as much a Belgian as in another country. The culture and social do's and don't's are of course different (like all countries these 'normal behavior guidelines' are never outspoken, yet explicitly present) and it takes a while to get used to the differences. How come the interpretation of normal is so different for all of us? And why is different so threatening to some people? We are all constantly changing, our bodies and minds are seldom similar from one day to another, yet difference is such a manipulated concept.

Family under the microscope
When you move to another country with your family, you can bet on it that your relationship will come under additional pressure. Suddenly the social security of family, friends, and even acquaintances is no longer ready and available. You need to survive in the new environment relying on your partner and child/ren. In my case that means tackling extra discussions, because all of our joint personal characteristics got gigantic! There was no way we could voice our personal complaints to others while drinking coffee/tea/beer/wine... it was just us. Frustration became a recurrent feeling, until we accepted once again what each of us stood for. We realized why we were partners, why at some point we choose for each other: "with all our qualities and defaults". This was a crucial step in our mutual family relationship: suddenly - and more then ever - we accepted who we were. We saw each other under a microscope, yelled, complained, and made up with the realization that we were indeed stronger then before.

Stagnate or go for change?
As all these experiences still boggle my mind from time to time, and life's certainties seem to be broken down on a daily basis, I often wonder: is it worth it? The change in life? Becoming a student once again? Because the future is uncertain, my age is quickly approaching 50 (WHAT!) and that gives me an additional strange feeling of doubt.

Yes, it is. Oh yes! It is so worth all the tension, the adaptations, the new reflections, the uncertainties, the feeling of doubt and the realization of the really important things in life. But, I have to add that I am in a rather luxurious position: I do have someone to come home to, I know people that I can depend on, and I have a home somewhere on this planet that I can call my own. So, I can actually make this choice, and the choice is not thrust upon me.

Get your proposal in and become a PhD student yourself



Friday, 26 September 2014

#PhD: importance of personalisation in #qualitative research

Although I know and understand the concept of trust in online communities, up until yesterday I underestimated the effect of being among participants to allow them to connect.

In my current main study, I am investigating online learning as it is done by experienced online learners. I look at how they learn inside of the course. I ask them to fill in and share learning logs to get an idea of their informal learning as well. The learning logs also try to capture who learners talk to, or reach out to, either to find additional answers, or simply to share learning experiences. And as the first learning logs are coming in, I read them with the utmost interest and enthusiasm. The learning logs capture the learning in self-reported descriptions coming from participants taking part in three different FutureLearn courses. Although my research is qualitative, I was not fully part of the courses, not as much as I wanted to at first. But then the importance of personalisation kicked in and now I adjusted my way of research a bit.

Increasing personalisation
The first steps I took to increase a personalized approach for each of the research participants was:

  • building different documents, research instruments and communications for each course. Practically this means 14 different communications, 7 different research instruments, 6 different reference documents. Not taken into account the small adaptations I made to the documents (e.g. for those participants joining the research later on in the course, requiring a different research timing).
  • ensure each document, communication, or research instrument was written in a personalized way (this is not always easy, but it turned out to be definitely worthwhile)
  • providing a course recognizable unique identifier for each participant, creating a visible link between a number  and the course (the unique identifier is a number used to anonymise participant data)
  • address each participant with the first name they provided in the informed consent. This I do for each communication going out from me to them.
  • add the unique identifier to each outgoing communication, making sure it is connected to that participant

As you can imagine, all the above measures increase the mistakes that can be made. I have been mailing about 900 communications at this point in time, all personalized - or trying to. And indeed I have been making mistakes (e.g. forgetting attachments, referring to wrong online links that are actually from other courses under investigation). Rectifying these mistakes is necessary of course, but it means sometimes participants get multiple mails, which is tough on their time schedules.

How far can you go with personalisation?
Though the learning logs are coming in, I kept feeling I was not reaching out to my research participants in a way that I could reach out to them. I felt I was missing a step. As such I strolled through the three courses of which I had participants. After having taken a look at the courses, I took another look at my research instruments (the provided learning logs in particular). Then I realized that my instruments were not personal enough. Not personal as referencing to the participants, but personal in connection with the FutureLearn courses to which the learning logs were referring too. I suddenly realized I could make them fit each course more carefully, hence making them more meaningful, more trustworthy (or that was what I was thinking).

So I went back to the drawing board, and before the last of the three FutureLearn courses started, I made sure that I personalized some of the research instruments (mainly the learning log) to make it more recognisable to the participants of that specific course. This was really necessary, as the third FutureLearn course (Basic Science: Understanding Experiments), was a hands-on course, while the other two courses I am investigating were more classic study courses (no hands-on experimenting, just understanding): one on Decision making in a complex and uncertain world, and one on the Science of Medicines.

More time, better realisations, becoming more involved
While having adjusted the documents and instruments, and beginning to get more familiar with the communications that need to go out, I was beginning to breath again. Gaining time once again. So, I had a look at the courses once again. 
This is where I realized I had not engaged with the courses the way I intended. Granted, for the course on Science of Medicines, I had planned to follow the course week on Diabetes only, as I have diabetes type 1 and I feel that all knowledge can help by keeping in tune with my illness. 
The 

So I started to engage with the courses, and suddenly I realized that this extra layer of engagement provided me with a triple return! 
  • First of all I participated in the same courses as my participants, I could understand some of their remarks in more detail. 
  • Second I connected with some participants, hence becoming more of a 'real' person to them. Not the distant researcher, but the human sharing experiences.
  • Thirdly I learned the content of the courses, and got motivated to learn more. 
Wondering what the limit is of this type of personalization?

Did this result in an extra return for my research? 
It seems so, as people seem to respond more on my requests to share their experiences. So now I have a potential paper taking shape in my mind on the importance of being their as a researcher, also for online phenomenological research (which is what I am doing), and pointing towards possible effects of being part of the learning environment in a non-formal role, simply as a participant but for no other reason then simply taking part in the course. A bit of ethnographic research presence, but with less impact on the proceedings in the learning environment. 

Well, just sharing so I can remember once I write my thesis. Research is such a learning journey!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Whistly Bird? Flappy bird with a whistle, procrastination

A friend of mine told me about his gaming project a couple of weeks ago. He was all excited, and almost could not wait for his game to be full proof in order to shout it out from the rooftops: Whistly Bird!!!! So I told him, just give me a hands-up when you finish testing it, and I will gladly try it out.

And finally he let me know - proud as a peacock - yesterday evening. And indeed it is fun (read: solid procrastination!). So I gladly send it out to the world, as that is what friends do, and the more we procrastinate, the more peace we all have :-)

Whistly bird is build around the concept of Flappy Bird, but with an audio twist. You need to whistle to direct the bird in between the pipes.

The game information and download options can be found here at OceanshipGames.

So find your microphone set, get a glass of water (to use in between whistles ... I needed it) and get whistling. As a bonus: it practices the mouth movements, so it must have a linguistic or speech specialist benefit as well. But I must confess I found it hard, and I wished it had an adjusted speed for whistling responses. I simply do not seem to have a steady whistle in me (yet).

The short trailer gives the idea behind the game.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

#PhD qualitative versus quantitative #research: trials and tribulations

Why did not I simply stick to quantitative data, the beauty of numbers in simple, straight forward formulas ?!! That scream of despair kept me awake at night for weeks. Weeks filled with hopes and doubts on getting enough data for my PhD study, eagerly looking at mails and learning logs.

Up close and personal
Qualitative research brings along much more discussions with all stakeholders, for everyone needs to be willing to share. Due to the fickle nature of language, everyone also needs to understand what is meant by the researcher when ideas are investigated. A difficult endeavour.
Quantitative research is like watching ants. You track the colony, and you get a fairly good idea of what they are doing. In a way this is what happens with learning analytics or Big Data derived from watching humans as well. You get the facts of the human colony when studying learning analytics or quantitative research, but you do not get it’s spirit, it’s drive or reasons why.
I want to know more. I want to get into the minds of people, into the minds of online learners, and understand why they are doing what they are doing, and how they do it. But this means I need to get into a conversation with them. And as we all know not everyone wants to start a conversation with just anyone.

Finding what no wo/man has found before
The setting of my research is simple enough: finding out how experience online learners learn. To see whether the assumption of us ‘grand experienced learners’ is indeed filled with online connections (personal learning network), finding what no wo/man has found before (surfing the Web), and sharing (blogging our learned reflections, ideas and thoughts). But my chosen approach could not be anything else but qualitative. It had to be laboriously gathering written data from good, willing research volunteers who’s lives are already cramped with time staking demands. Why? Because there are no quantitative holistic tools available that will capture all learning (formal and informal), and offer insights into why these data emerge.

No holistic research tools, due to no learning blueprint
The research tools of today do not (yet) permit me to simply trace or track what a learner does while studying an online course. The course related resources can be tracked of course, but there is so much more that some of us do: connect with others (partners, face-to-face colleagues) to find solutions related to the course, gather extra information connected to the content of the course as well as our own contexts for the topic. Granted, xAPI provides some self-reported informal learning diaries. Twitter and blogs offer idea and diary options so personal learning reflections can be shared. But there is no holistic learning tool available yet. This is due to the fact that at this point we can only assume how people learn in such online environments (especially regarding informal/formal learning actions). So as long as we do not know what learners actually do to get to a full understanding of an online course in relation to their personal learning needs, no tool will grasp all that is needed. This of course provides a solid rationale for my research: getting a blueprint of how people learn in an online teaching environment.

Time is of the essence
Which brings me back to the tension between qualitative versus quantitative research. Up until now, and for this type of exploratory research the qualitative research options seem to be the best option to get an idea of how experienced online learners learn.
However, I do get the impression that all of us are losing out on time. Our time is under pressure. We work, have hobbies, care for our families, … and now with MOOCs rising, we learn as part of our lifelong learning or leisure learning realities. And this is where my research comes in, with yet another demand on precious time of learners that simply want to get on with life. This lack of time, manifests itself in people willing to engage in research, but finding they simply cannot do it (if they want to stay sane and on top of their lives). Some volunteers get slightly cross due to questions that they find irrelevant, others interpret the words I write in a different way than they were intended… and all of them have a point, as language is fluid, as is any meaning making. So, as a researcher I listen and try to find adaptations that can make life easier for my willing research volunteers. This is not always an easy task, but I owe it to them to try and make it work, or to make participation in my research easier.

Big Data or Big Emotions?
So now, with questions and discussions rising (on questions and instruments used), inevitably emotions come into the research and into the hearts of all volunteers. Inevitably people discuss ideas, have an opinion on what is asked and they feel positively or negatively inclined towards what is asked from them.
Sometimes this gets to me. I really want people to get a positive feeling from sharing their experiences, and in turn use their experience to provide guidelines to new learners, as well as insights to course facilitators and teachers. That way we all grow, and – hopefully – make learning a more intuitive, natural act. The way it is supposed to be.

Luckily most volunteers know this, they put their efforts in, knowing it will help others. And I am deeply indebted to all of them. The data keep pouring in … I am grateful.
(Another great cartoon by Nick D Kim: http://www.lab-initio.com/)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

presentation on eLearning and #mobile influences for #ICT4D

Sharing a presentation I gave for the Deutsche Welle Akademie in Bonn, Germany. It was a wonderful talk thanks to all the input and questions the attendees shared, and the wonderful facilitation provided by Holger Hank and his team.

The questions were multiple, and gladly sharing those that are posed frequently.
One of the reoccurring challenges in every type of online learning (elearning, mooc, mobile...) is:
  • motivating learners to take and keep up with the training (possible answers: use an 'earn as you learn' approach where you provide extra incentives for those who participate, only develop learning that answers a real need indicated by the trainees, build a learning community, enable offline or at least asynchronous learning - synchronous can demotivate for those learners living in unstable connected regions)
  • how to attract your intended learner audience: that is difficult an in many cases (as Holger mentioned) also the case with MOOCs, attracting the right learners is part of providing a very clear course description, sharing the learning outcomes and the prior knowledge needed. The more specific the course description is, the higher the success rate for attracting the right learner profiles. And of course let your own network promote your course, they know who you are, they know your excellence. 
  • the connected learner as superlearner: is it a myth or a reality? This is of course a difficult assumption to test, but there is a very natural way in which most of us connect to like minded, or professionally interested colleagues (connecting through old school face-to-face meet-ups). This natural flair to connect (if you are such a type of person) is reflected in the virtual environment as well. But this does not mean that the 'best learner' is indeed a networked, connected learner. It could well be that you only need to have very specific connections (limited) or even that you can be really good without having connections, but ... that remains to be proven (and yes, I intend to proof it with some of my research).  And when you live in a developing region, it can be quite tough to be a fully connected learner as well (infrastructure, life and reality), which would mean an additional digital dividing factor turns up. For me, the connected learner is a good thing to be, but then I do have specific personal traits that would set me up with favorable inclinations towards being virtually connected to attain my knowledge goals. Big Five personality traits makes up good reading for this. 
  • what is a good way to plan and test new online or mobile trainings? Planning means: working on a need before anything else, get all stakeholders around the table (participation and knowing what everyone REALLY wants), define the learning goals and learning outcomes needed with everyone, involve strong, experienced instructional designers that know with which learner/teacher dynamics these learning outcomes can be reached (and still be creative and engaging), and test it in a similar, yet safe environment (e.g. in a flipped classroom approach prior to a workshop moment, enabling you to test what you have by people you know, and get feedback in real life enabling to see their expression as they give feedback). 

These were my shared slides:



Sunday, 24 August 2014

Free course on teaching connected #online courses

Thanks to the wonderful Maha Bali, I was pointed towards a really nice initiative that allows everyone with an interest to learn how to set up, facilitate and experience an online, connected course (cfr connected-MOOCs). This initiative is called the Connected Courses Initiative, and will introduce active co-learning in higher ed. There is a wonderful bunch of intelligent, kind and creative people at the helm (look at that awesome list of online learning gurus! - I mean the list is simply mind baffling!), all with loads of experience and insight in the matter, so this looks like an exceptional chance to deepen, strengthen or simply explore the idea and the actions related to connected learning. 

There is an introduction on the 2nd of September, and the first (online and free) unit starts on 15 September 2014... it looks like fun. 

The course runs from September to December 2014 and has 6 units all focusing on another - very well tested - online connected learning feature.  

Some words of the organisers (with useful links):
We invite you to participate in a free open online learning experience designed to get you ready to teach open, connected courses no matter what kind of institution you’re working in. We’ll explore how openness and collaboration can improve your practice and help you develop new, open approaches.
You can mix and match — take one unit or take them all, and go at your own pace. You’ll be joined by other participants from around the world who are looking to:
  • get hands-on with the tools of openness;
  • create open educational resources, curriculum and teaching activities and get feedback from a community of your peers; and
  • connect with and learn alongside other faculty, educators and technologists.
Sign up and receive updates from the organizers. Everyone is welcome, and no experience is required. We will all learn together in this free and fun opportunity to start planning your own connected course. The instructors, award-winning university professors from around the globe, are the innovative educators behind successful connected courses such as FemTechNetds106phonar, and the National Writing Project CLMOOC.
An orientation starts Sept. 2 and the first unit starts Sept. 15, 2014 and you can sign up and find more details about the topics we’ll be exploring at connectedcourses.net.
When I read this options, I immediately looked at all the units and though: I must register at once!
Blatantly copying from the core website for immediate reading:

9/2-9/14 Pre-Course: Move in, Registration, Orientation

12/1-12/14 Unit 6: Putting it all into practice. Planning the connected course

Facilitators: Jim Groom, Lisa M. Lane, Jaime Hannans, Jaimie Hoffman, Mikhail Gershovich, Alan Levine

Monday, 4 August 2014

Serendipitous, #informal learning through some ages


Informal learning has been an important self-constructing force throughout the ages. At present it gains interest with the increase of online learning options (eg. MOOCs in all forms and formats), and it also becomes more visible through the concept of learner-centered learning, personal learning environment... So I picked up a mail from years ago, and revisited it with some of which I learned now. For I wonder how much of informal learning is actually new, in the face of technology I mean.

Informal learning - a (very) quick serendipitous tour:
Leonardo da Vinci is a great example of a human that was instructed as a painter, but through his ideal location (a city filled with artists and knowledge) and the need for travel (sometimes voluntary, sometimes political need), the exchange with other artists (peers) from other regions and the fact that he was able to talk with people from different trades molded him into a genius (cfr. a personal learning network, but possibly with less sustainable connections through travel realities). Da Vinci became interested in different fields which he than explored pushed by his own curiosity and sometimes political circumstances. Looking at his interests, it is clear the man absorbed whatever he found of interest. Chances are he would be a prolific Internet surfer and producer.

Learning from peers and looking up specialists in different fields to learn from them is a natural human learning trade from every era, and current technologies just link more of us together. Plato traveled to peers (School of Pythagoras) that were working on different topics to be able to learn (or exchange ideas) with them. There were more people learning their trade by themselves or with peers and thus the idea of autodidactic learning became a term. This term fascinated artists and scholars and the idea that a human being could become more by learning became a theme in the arts.

The child in the wild or the whole in the wall
A human being raised without external influence and becoming a better human being has been a theme in many cultures. One of the ground breaking novels that cornered this type of self-learning is 'Hayy ibn Yaqdhan' written by Ibn Tufail (known as Abubacer) in the early 12th century al-Andalus. It was later on referred to by Kant, Locke a.o. It later became a theme in Western literature (Mowgli from Kipling, Nel from Jodie Foster a.o.). So we have always known that this approach added a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to every type of new knowledge. For in a way expert learning is always a result of informal learning, for there is no other way new knowledge can be produced... the frontiers of what exist need to be surpassed, and only informal learning can fit exploring minds. And it is all to easy to leap to what Sugata Mitra and colleagues of that train of thought propose in the whole in the wall project.

Grand tour or Google view
Let’s move closer to our era. I see informal learning also as the further democratization of the Grand Tour that started in the late 17th century and which wanted to instruct (mostly British) noblemen in order to become more in touch with the most important features of their times: classic arts, becoming a worldly person. This Grand Tour could be seen as the next step from the early autodidacts. Although the Grand Tour only provided the possibility to learn, a lot depended on the person on whether or not and particularly what they would learn. I like the political awareness linked with literature that was mixed in the writings of George Sand after and during her travelling. So in a way the world became smaller thanks to technology, and principles that worked (or at least that worked for specifically hungry minds) then worked in another era as well, and become more common place. The more I think of it, the less important technology becomes, as we only embed it to fit human action anyway. What do we do with Google view?

Tech results from informal learning
The autodidactic, or self-taught approach to learning has always been crucial to IT (yes, we all know the biggies like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson - euh... missing recent women here). Even at the beginning of the computer age self-instruction was crucial, the mythical Ada Lovelace (image in this post) for example who developed the first computer program for the Babbage machine. Where would the computer age be if self-taught learning or informal learning would not have been an option? Where would anybody be?

To come to heutagogy
Throughout history the concept of autodidact learning has been spoken about on many occasions, but at this time in history this term becomes pivotal again (or with extra focus) to being an efficient knowledge worker. Self-taught learning is now (in part?) encapsulated in a new concept: heutagogy, where it is called self-determined learning, for indeed you need to have determination to really achieve deep learning.
Informal learning is now key to effective corporate, academic, personal learning and I feel that if I could only master this skill with zest, it will bring us closer to the geniuses of all times.... thrilling!

If I could only have more time to learn!