Sunday, 30 August 2015

#Quiz tool with variable grading for profiling


 Shaf Cangil, an educational consultant (and Open University alumni: hooray!), who has a strong experience in SCRUM mailed me last week with a challenge: find a quiz (preferably for free) that allows multiple grading, so you can use those grades to visualize or distill a profile. Shaf wanted to set up a survey that will immediately provide feedback to the user of that feedback and tell him or her which type of scrum-person they are.
She mailed me based on a previous blog in which I describe the use of google forms and flubaroo to set up mobile quizzes. So I returned to that option, but couldn't get the forms+flubaroo to provide different grades to different answers for the same question (admittedly I went through it quickly, so maybe there is an answer - if you know it, feel free to share).

In a second attempt I looked around for other options, and this got me to the OnlineQuizCreator which has an option to build profiles based on the answer one gets from MCQ.
Small remark: you can try out the test options for free and without registering, but as soon as you have filled in the questions and built a test the software does ask you to register in order to get access to the full quiz you have built (I went for the free option: quizzes up to 15 questions).

In order to build multiple choice questions, and build a profile based on multiple profiles (categories):

  • select the 'assessment' option,
  • select the 'multiple categories' option
  • create the categories (in this case your profiles: I used 3 categories: learner, facilitator, course organiser - crude categories, but simple for the sake of testing the tool). You must fill in titles (only example titles are given, but they do not count as 'real', so you have to change them in order to build your trial test. Also add a description to each category. You can choose to add a category URL (for instance if you want to provide some background information on that category). But you can also leave it blank.
  • After you have created the categories, you need to create questions.
  • Create questions: at least 3
  • Then fill in the answers (and here it becomes exciting): you can link the answers to a category (profile) AND you can even add a grading scale to it, for instance if you are a participant in a course you are linked to the profile of the learner. But if you are a facilitator, and you consider yourself a learner: you can add full grades or profiling to you as a facilitator, but you can also add a small grade for you as a learner. Nice in case the profiles overlap at times!
  • once you filled in all the questions, save your test.
  • If you have not registered by now, you must do so in this step, as this will allow you to really see your test in action.

You do have an assessment dashboard, where you can change settings, colors, shuffle questions, etcetera.
And the results are shown to the testee immediately (by default, you can change it). I choose the simple option, as that allows mobile use as well. Nice tool with options, and really easy to use.

There is also an option to embed your test:

Loading effe rap


Saturday, 22 August 2015

Free 7 week online course for social change solutions @hj_dewaard #elearning

Helen J. de Waard - who picked up the link via @russdev got me onto this fabulous free online course "design kit". It's a 7 week curriculum course that looks at human-centered design and looks for sustainable solutions for social change and it requires no prior experience to get started. The course is offered through NovoEd, which also features other courses.
Another bonus is that you will get to work with a small group of people, and they suggest you link with group members from the same region (making face-to-face options possible as well). I like this mash-up of virtual and real life. And with an estimated workload of 5 hours per week.

Course link: https://novoed.com/design-kit-q3-2015


What is Human-centered Design? from IDEO.org on Vimeo.

a bit of information on the course from their website:

This seven-week course will:

  • Equip you with the mindsets and methods of human-centered design so that you can be more intentional about facing and solving your current challenges
  • Let you experiment with the power of human-centered design
  • Teach you to identify patterns and opportunities for concept development
  • Inspire you to approach challenges differently and experience how human-centered design can add new perspectives to your own work tackling poverty-related challenges
  • Give you hands-on experience speaking to, prototyping for, and testing solutions with the people you're designing for

How the Course Works:

You will work through the course with a group of 2-6 people we will refer to as your “design team". It's strongly recommended you form a team with people located in your city before starting the course but you will also have the opportunity to find a team using the course platform once the course starts.

You will learn the human-centered design process by applying it to one of three pre-crafted real world design challenges (provided in the course). You will also have a choice to craft your own challenge. Each week you will explore the main human-centered design concepts through readings, case studies, and short videos. Then you'll be expected to meet in-person with your design team to get your hands dirty practicing the relevant human-centered design methods.

Throughout the course you'll have the opportunity to interact and gain inspiration from design teams around the world taking the course with you and ask questions of experienced human-centered designers when you feel stuck.

Building Your Design Team:

Many of the workshop activities will work best if your group has at least four members. Too small and you lose the benefits of a multidisciplinary team, but too large and it may be difficult to coordinate schedules and make decisions. Select people from different backgrounds or of different skill sets, and you'll have a better chance of coming up with unexpected, innovative solutions.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Module on open education: policy, accreditation by George Siemens #openEd

This is a course I saw passing by, that I just cannot keep in my mail box, as it might be of interest to many. It is however a paid for course organised by Athabasca University (yeah!). But if you are interested in a short cut to know all about open education through great content, shares, as well as direction and guidance by a great researcher: consider registering. From the mail:

This Fall 2015, the Centre for Distance Education will be offering the course MDDE 622: Openness in Education taught by CDE Faculty member Dr. George Siemens.  

Dr. Siemens is best known for his pioneering work on Connectivism, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and Learning Analytics.  He acts as the Associate Director of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute (TEKRI) at Athabasca University, has authored many books and articles including Knowing Knowledge and the Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning, and is the founding member of the Society for Learning Analytics Research.  More recently, Dr. Siemens was invited to the White House to share his research on Innovation and Quality in Higher Education.  

More information about this exciting course can be found below.

MDDE 622: Openness in Education
Openness in content, data, government, and access is influencing organizations of all types. Education is influenced heavily: open educational resources and open teaching hold potential to disrupt the full spectrum of education: policy, learning development, delivery, and accreditation.

This course will offer a detailed overview of the history of openness in education, current trends including legal and technological developments, as well as future directions. Educators in all sectors (primary, secondary, and higher education), as well as administrators, will benefit from being well informed of trends and the organizational impact of open education.

Through review of literature, participation in group discussions, online lectures, and related open education resources, students will be able to:
  1. Define openness in an educational context and describe its various instantiations in different educational sectors
  2. Identify the potential of openness to contribute to systemic change in higher education and policy
  3. Plan, search, deploy, and integrate open educational resources (OERs) from design to delivery phases of learning
  4. Analyze current research views on how openness influences higher education enrolment, course design costs, and the distinctions between peer-developed resources (“crowd sourcing”) and centrally curated resources (expert).
  5. Describe the history of openness in education (including early literature on open universities in the 1960’s) and detail the impact of technological developments on openness
  6. Evaluate prominent intellectual property and copyright systems, detailing the influence of each on scholarship.
Students can register for this course online or by contacting the CDE office at mde@athabascau.ca . 

Have a great day!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Ideas on methods or instruments for CLIL and MOOC learning?

Help and thoughts welcomed. While planning a small research which combines Content and Language Integrated Learning or CLIL, MOOC and lifelong learning options, I am calling out for any help that you might be able to offer in terms of suggesting methods, pointing towards useful research instruments (either as they stand or to build on) or simply helping with the project (either this one, or setting up parallel project and that we share experiences).

An abstract and overview of the theoretical ideas behind this project can be read here:

This call for help comes after some work has been done, so feel free to read up where I and my colleagues from the secondary school GUSCO school in Kortrijk, Belgium are at.

Challenge and brainstorm to plan research and build research instrument(s) to be used by 15 – 16 year old secondary students to measure whether or not their language and online learning skills (in terms of self-esteem and motivation) have increased by using a teacher/classroom supported step-by-step approach where the teachers gradually step back to increase the students autonomous learning skills and competencies.

This is a small, exploratory study and as such I expect to have between 10 - 15 students volunteering (with informed consent of all parties: school, parents, students) for this research.

Potential central research question:
How does the CLIL MOOC project influence the learning readiness of secondary students voluntarily engaged in online learning courses which are delivered in a non-native language.
Or in  more hypothesis kind of formulation:
The participation of students in a CLIL MOOC project increases their language and online learning skills.

The CLIL MOOC project has three potential learning pillars:
1.       Language skills: learning or enhancing communication skills in a foreign language
2.       Increasing digital literacy: critical thinking, conscious use of educational technology and increased interaction in a foreign language (good paper on multiple literacies https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Maria_Pinto12/publication/249750716_Thirty_years_of_information_literacy_%281977--2007%29_A_terminological_conceptual_and_statistical_analysis/links/0f31753a074649c07e000000.pdf and a critical note on literacies http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fss/organisations/netlc/past/nlc2012/abstracts/pdf/gourlay.pdf )
3.       Lifelong learning skills: learning to learn more autonomously in view of personal learning interests

There are several challenges:
  • Whether or not these three pillars can be measured amidst other learning advances (to keep out indirect influences, e.g. learning skills coming from other courses)
  • The meta-cognitive level of the students: whether any instrument can be made that uses the right language for the processes the students can identify (any instrument used must be transparent in terms of concepts and vocabulary used)
  • Keeping the surveys limited while having all these areas to monitor
  • 10 – 15 students hardly make up a representative quantitative target population, it can be enough for a study with a main focus on qualitative methods (this means combining quantitative with qualitative, where the qualitative elements clarify the potential indicators provided by the quantitative results)
  • Building on previous learn-to-learn instruments that focus on self-regulated or/and self-directed learning (this is a new combination of factors, but still any research instrument used might be linked to previous research projects)

 Existing instruments related to self-directed/regulated learning. Four options:
  1. Use the self-directed readiness test pre- and post-course to see whether this has changed over the academic year (key researcher Guglielmino, see background here http://www.lpasdlrs.com/ and nursing training example implementation here https://www.researchgate.net/publication/11788963_Development_of_self-directed_learning_readiness_scale_for_nursing_education )
  2. Use the self-regulated learning opportunities questionnaire: to see whether the students can identify learning, and how it fits their own self-esteem and motivation. The Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (key researcher Pintrich, see here for overview and manual http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED338122.pdf )
  3. Use a mix of the self-directed readiness test and the self-regulated learning opportunities questionnaire (with focus of the latter on self-esteem and motivation, as these are key lifelong learning skills), add language-related indicators - at the moment this is my favorite
  4. Build a new instrument from scratch, combining both language and MOOC skills, as well as learning to learn options.


It might of course also be a mix of self-regulated and self-directed instruments, provided to the students on different moments during the academic year. The SDL test pre and post, the SRL on 3 occasions, after each term but without meddling with the exam periods.

Question: which methodology would be best?
Attention for: limited class time, not to be too intrusive.
In view of the size of the target population, and the fact that this is a new combination of fields, I am thinking of using a mixed methodology, where attention is paid to choosing methods that are not too intrusive (as this might be difficult to combine with teachers as well as students).
Option in consideration:
Action research: The basic action research procedural routine involves four stages: (1) identifying the research question(s), (2) gathering the information to answer the question(s), (3) analyzing and interpreting the information, and (4) sharing the results with the participants. Action research follows a kind of spiralling progression, rather than the more traditional linear one (see p. 180 https://mthoyibi.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/qualitative-research-methods-for-the-social-sciences__bruce-l-berg-2001.pdf )


So any ideas are welcomed, you can either mail me or tweet (@ignatia) or connect through comments... 
We will go live with this project on the 1 September, so a nice solid deadline for the actual project and I hope by then I will have my instruments and documents ready (I will). 

Monday, 17 August 2015

Blogphilosophy: a #Blideo and our learning frequency

Steve Wheeler threw his new blideo challenge out into the open and with a twist towards me as well. So grabbing this new challenge with both hands, juggling it, and sending it on its way again after some additional words. For a full list of blideo's, look here (growing as I type).

Blideo steps
The #blideo challenge follows the blimage challenge which I answered to a couple of weeks ago. The blideo challenge similarly can be as easy as you want it to be, but no matter how simple or complex it might be in content, it requires some reflection which inevitably makes it an action which drives the author towards meaning. The three-phase set-up is easy: 1 - select a video (preferably one that is open to the public); 2 - reflect upon it through a learning lens via a blogpost; 3 - invite others to do the same while using the hashtag blideo (#blideo).

Normally one builds upon a suggested video from the person sending you the challenge... but luckily there is room for freedom, as I read Sue Beckingham's, David Hopkin's, and Pascale Colonna's posts, which were all great I thought it would be better to come up with a new video.
First thought: did I come across any video that immediately made me think about learning/teaching/anything Ed-related? And yes, there is. One video keeps returning in my minds eye, emerging frequently when pondering about learning, society, groups... and hence my #blideo challenge took shape.

The tendency to sync
This 4 minute video is fairly well known, and shows a set of metronomes that start off ticking asynchronously, and at the end they all move at a synchronized rhythm.


This spontaneous synchronization also occurs with living creatures (swarms of birds, fish, insects...) which was nicely summed up in a TEDtalk by Steven Strogatz which can be seen here (btw can we see TEDtalks as synchronized video format depicting what presentation quality should look like?).

But if inanimate as well as animate objects are susceptible to synchronicity, then humans must be too... and they are. Group behavior is fascinating, but upsetting at the same time, at least for some of us, myself included. If we all tend towards synchronized action, then we can never become truly free as we are all directed by the others. And similar, if synchronicity is inevitable, then why (or when?) do we shift towards a revolution or - to put it in weak contemporary terms - change management? And related to education: is it then possible to have such a thing as disrupted education (a much discussed shift due to new online learning and connecting opportunities such as the dawn of MOOCs)? Or is it simply a new frequency that shall be followed as nature does and which makes perfect, group sense? If such changes always end up to make sense for the group, and given the fact that humans have not attain peace, equity, global balance... any new seeming opportunity within educational technology will end up being assimilated by the group dynamic, or the sync-dogma... or sync-utopia.

Global peace through education: tendency towards spontaneous order versus the urge towards entropy
Let's be optimistic. Maybe we will at some point manage to get the human population to sync on societal laws and views that will be beneficial to all, despite our more or less violent past history. And of course learning/education will be a central actor in this shift, as only by transmitting new information can the group take a new direction (look at the TEDtalk from Steven Strogatz). In that case of course we must first install those beneficial guidelines or laws, and in order to do this we must experiment to find what results in peace, solidarity or any of those balanced concepts. Small efforts of asynchronous learning projects might deliver, but then it might be that those small, successful lab experiments won't survive the group dynamics once launched in society? Indeed, it might be that we need to first install a global full stop before installing the new ideas at a multitude of locations around the world, as that would enable those new group ideas to be picked up.
The question is of course: who's frequency wins, or put mildly: who's frequency do we want to follow? Is it the ideas that find most resonance in the existing group? In that case, the size of a group that supports those ideas will matter (well, open door there, colonialism and its dynamics shows it again and again), or is it possible that tiny changes are indeed able to turn the full frequency of ideas around? If that is the case, we must all be critical learners. Each one of us will have to make a non-propaganda-driven choice on what they want and whether they agree upon new rules to achieve a stable society in which we all have the opportunity to reach our full potential and happiness.

Or are we already on our way to a global sync enabling cooperative living no matter where?
Ah... time to pass the baton to the next thinkers... which movie gets your grey cells in a state of thrill? You can either use the video above, find a new one, or reflect on the one below as a starting point:

Supporting Outstanding Young Persons by voting #jcinews

It is difficult to turn life around. We all know this in some form or another, either through big challenges that we need to overcome, or small changes that seem huge. 
Some of us come from humble beginnings, some of us face hardship in all sorts of ways but learn to overcome them, others pave their way towards a self-set dream with such energy that it inspires others.  And depending on the region you grew up in, or the supporting (or not) family background you got, opportunities are either vast or limited and opportunities to turn one’s life around are multiple or rare.
My friend Ronda Zelezny-Green took her fate in her own hands and turned it into something bigger (thanks to the support of just a few people, including inspirational teachers). Now, she – among twenty other inspirational young people – just got nominated for the International TenOutstanding Young People Awards, an award organised by the United StatesJunior Chamber (JCs or more commonly Jaycees) nominating people between the ages of 18 and 40 in areas of business development, management skills, individual training, community service, and international connections.

Every nation has its heroes. Inspirational men and women directing their own lives towards new horizons, helping themselves AND others while they are at it. So, vote for those people whose work you find inspirational, and give them an additional boost through your online vote.

Ronda Zelezny-Green is my favorite and I voted for her by clicking on the like button on her page (facebook membership is needed). But I admit to voting for some others too, as support is good energy to share. So please take a look at all of these 20 wonderfully inspirational people that are nominated here.

Ronda inspires me, simply because I know the work she does (combining educational technology and gender) and above all because of the person she is. She is one of those persons who take people as they are, no matter what age, schooling, background, connections … if you talk to her a dialogue develops that fills you up with energy and motivation. She inspires, listens and supports. She grew up in a tough region of Tampa, Florida and is now traveling the world improving education for all.
As a young professional she was a teacher guiding kids who faced rough conditions, now she researches and propagates educational opportunities to young girls (she started in Kenya) who’s educational journey faces regular interruptions and challenges.  She uses mobile learning options to create durable educational support among young female peers. To achieve this, she does not push those solutions onto anyone, no, she looks at how people develop their own solutions and then Ronda investigates whether these solutions can be used in other contexts, to help more youngsters… and it works.

She also created the Gender and Mobiles newsletter, which combines the latest international news on using mobile devices in gender contexts. Each issue provides me with new information that is useful, critical … in short food for thought. It is easy to subscribe via email here.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

#aha_project discovering the Grit Scale #plog

Give Jay Cross some time and surely he will come up with something new and exciting, e.g. informal learning, and now an ebook on DIY-learning. It is a mental joy to read! The book offers an array of actions (evidence-based) that a knowledge worker - or any power learner - can undertake in order to improve their own learning. Later on these actions offer a great set of tools to implement in your own corporate learning environment.

As Jay sent out a twitter a couple of days ago, I could not keep myself from asking for a copy of his new book. In beta-release of course (version 0.8 when I got it). The book offers insight into learning, and more specifically increasing learning efficiency to a point of a long-lasting AHA-moment, hence the title: "AHA! 75 ways to work smarter". 

The book only costs 2.99 dollars and you get your moneys worth. I am only 75 pages in and I already marked several passages to reflect, act upon, and use later on in my own contexts. One of the actions Jay refers to is writing daily. Short passages (15 min is enough), reflecting on your day, but on a daily basis (something my mom has been doing for over 20 years or more, talking about a role model!). A proven action to increase your mental health, while also adding to your focus, patience, planning and personal growth (research by Teresa Amabile , nice name). Jay calls it: writing a Plog - or progress blog. Plog will be my label or meta-tag for those posts.  I will add them to my 'I am going to figure out where to go next' set of writings as well, making them easy to retrieve later on. But for now, my first plog is on: discovering my Grit. 

My Grit Scale: 4.13
This research study into Grit consists of only 12 questions you can take voluntarily to calculate your true 'grit'. Grit (paper here) is defined as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina". 
And apparently your own Gritty nature relates to evolution's in your future income, but also - and to me important - all-round happiness. It seems I am part of the happy one's and that in it's own makes me ... happy. To be honest, my score was higher then I had expected, as I can be lazy at times... just plain lazy. But apparently setting your teeth into something counts for a lot. (conversation with mom: "I really filled in the survey according to the truth - honestly mom!", "then why aren't you making more money?", "...Because I am more the happy gritty person, then the money greedy person", she looks at me and pats me on the back "well, that's alright then, well done"). 

So upward and onward! Now that I learned this bit about myself, I will go back to proceed with my thesis... hey, I have a grit score... I can and will do it, now I am sure!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Inkle making multiple interactive narrations simple #storyboard

Since the dawn of eLearning, interactivity was a key concept. With interaction defining an action undertaken by the learner, as well as feedback provided by either humans or/and machines. No learning without going out into the real world, and experience feedback ... which is how we learn from our first days on this beautiful blue planet

Gamification and multiple story lines
But with the onset of new digital options, like gamification (wikipedia, academic definition and history), the need for new types of interaction became apparent... and it was a challenge in most cases. One of the big challenges in gamification is the fact that the learner is in charge of the path they are taking (if you use complex gamification, less true for simple: who is first, got the most points.. type of learning games). As such, you cannot simply add one gaming/learning path, you need to offer a more complex set of options, providing at least the illusion of autonomous actions.
In gamification it feels natural to have multiple stories from which a learner can choose, but of course writing it is much more complex as Heather Jackson explained in a wonderfully short and consize blogpost for the writeonsisters blog: screenplays versus game scripts: 5 differences. The writeonsisters blog turned out to be the find of the day, as it is packed with nice writing tips and resulting knowledge.
Thanks to Robin Rivera's blog on 8 tips for interactive storytelling, I was directed to Inkle, a free cloud software (in beta) which enables multiple stories to be written AND to follow-up easily thanks to the software. A really nice and useful learning software find, which I gladly share.

Inkle (@inklestudios) software to write multiple stories
The Inklewriter is free (might be due to beta version, but still free for now, you only have to pay a small fee when you want to get your writings out of the cloud), and the first steps were taken in 2011 by two Cambridge people. Inkle is an award winning software, and it feels easy to use (always a bonus!). You just provide your email, and a password, and ... you are in. The tutorial they offer is also just an option, and you can choose to either go through the full tutorial, or choose and pick one of the topics (nice to be able to choose). You can also decide to just dive in... and write/learn as you do it.
The software is made to write interactive books or stories, but because of the importance in using narration in eLearning or let's say online learning, this can be useful to set up the narration for an upcoming tutorial where you want a more playful story to be used. And the bonus of this software is that it allows you to keep track of all the stories or paths you have been creating. A nice feature, as keeping an eye on all loose ends can at times proof to be difficult.
Writing with Inkle is easy: you write a paragraph, then add options, and these options are kept together enabling you to write the full story with all loose ends neatly organized until each of there own endings is written... if that makes any sense. A real treat!

My plan of action with Inkle
Exploring a new software for online learning implementation always gets me into a space between dream and reality. For this software I am trying to build a multiple learning path through available open educational resource options... a bit like continued professional development but with multiple iterations as option. Ideally, setting up a generic structure that might - might - be used to combine your own curriculum or bigger learning goal. Just trying out if it works... seems plausible at this point.  

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Taking up #blimage challenge: airports, legal papers, cultures and art

Two people full of creative inspiration, namely Amy Burvall (@amyburvall) and Simon Ensor (@sensor63), pushed Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) reflective capacities while sending him the #blimage challenge. From Steve Wheeler the challenge leaped over to the inspirational David Hopkins who wrote up a bloppost and sent the #blimage challenge my way, and right about the same time an additional picture came for the same challenge, sent by Whitney Kilgore (@whitneykilgore)... action was needed!
Multiple people have taken up this new challenge and Simon Ensor has made a wonderful Pinterest Blimage board, providing an overview of most #blimage messages and posts. It is now turning into an informal relay challenge connecting educators from everywhere... nice.

To all: I gladly take up the #blimage challenge! And will send it on, up up up into connected space. Warning: I will go beyond rational, right into utopia.

What is the #blimage challenge?
“You send an image or photograph to a colleague with the challenge that they have to write a learning related blog post based on it. Just make sure the images aren’t too rude. The permutations are blimmin’ endless.” Steve Wheeler, 2015 and adding a remark from Amy Burvall: "push one’s metaphorical thinking". 

David Hopkins sent the following picture (taken at flight terminal and enhanced with his iPhone) to inspire me to write. At first informal, mobile learning arose as an idea, but then I read Whitney Kilgore's blogpost and it was so well written I decided to look at the picture from another angle.

Airports and Education: the money, the legal papers
I love learning on the move, whether it is on a train, a plane... anything that moves and allows me to reflect. It feels like staring into the abyss of my own mind, in search for wells of knowledge that seep up. Airports are strange places. It might look like a mixed set of people, but it isn't, a bit like education. People with enough money and legal papers and are able to travel gather in airports. Schools and universities are fairly similar.
Passengers check in (if all papers are in order; cfr diploma's, degrees, grades...), next they follow a route of their choosing, or chosen by their company (cfr school, sometimes chosen by parents), and finally head for a destination that might be within their country or right at the other side of any hemisphere (depending on the money and papers available).

Airports, like education are not inclusive. And I wished they would be. But maybe I am a utopian, a believer if you will. In my wildest dreams I fantasize about a world that is nomadic like the Crow. Every 20 to 30 years they need to search for new ground. In a wonderful book written by Jonathan Lear, called Radical Hope - and please buy it if you can, it was such a pleasure to go through - this quest for new ground is seen as a way to keep an open mind, to find new challenges that can be overcome and at the same time inspire us. There is something to be said about new challenges, both in life and in (lifelong) learning in particular. New challenges awaken new capacities, new insights, new meaning. And by creating new meaning, we - as a human race - might come closer together. As I said, I am a utopian.

Setting out new challenges also ignites the autotelic mind, as described in the Flow by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi (a superb book on learning by means of goal setting to achieve a state of happiness), in which we can adapt our mind to find more meaning, and as such more happiness by learning in gradually more complex yet pleasurable ways.

Where was I? Ah yes, airports and the fantasized nomadic world. In my most positive minds eye, all of us are able to relocate ourselves to a different part of the world every let's say 20 years. All of us, entire families. In my minds eye we move and then we learn in that new environment, achieving a new understanding of all the different cultures - or residues of cultures, as a mix and blend is bound to happen. This results in global adaptations: no matter where we go, primary living conditions must be achievable for all at all locations: water, food, work or meaningful play, education. This means money or more specifically wealth is limited by a global rule that indicates that non of us need more money that what we need to fulfill out basic needs, plus achieve a personal objective of comfort (which is a democratically chosen definition).
  At that point education will be inclusive, airports will comprise of all types of people, and traveling will be the pursuit of meaningful change and illumination... but what becomes of culture then?

Culture to inspire us, to reflect and to find common meaning or opposition
Inspired by the picture sent by Whitney of Finding the Big Red Ball, my mind started wondering about what this global nomadic life would mean culture wise?

Anyone into research or management or seemingly serious other professions knows that any white paper, thesis, dissertation, speech... blog only comes to life if some kind of cultural pearl is added to it. In fact adding a cultural token provides whatever you write with an extra dimension, almost a self-chosen stamp of approval. Quite amazing, as culture is at the same time seen as something less important, or should I say something less serious then many serious profession?

Learning is value laden, just like culture. Therefor cultural artifacts are one of the most symbolic and easiest objects to use to make distinctions of any kind: what is good and what is bad, what is man and what is woman, what is North and what is South, what is advanced and what is past... endless dichotomies. Even the simple act of adding a Big Red Ball to a city, gets discussions going on art ("Is this Art?" <=> "This is a great metaphor!"), culture ("Should we spend money on this?!" <=> "I would love this in my city, I know just the right spot and it will inspire people!")... and at the same time the Big Red Ball emphasizes the fact that the city (in this case Mons, Belgium in 2015) is a cultural city, triggering reflection, hence happening.

Learning is culture, it moves use, starts discussions, pushes us forward to limits we might imagine for ourselves, or by others (like this challenge). And by learning we alter culture, we add to it, or in lesser times we subtract from it (censorship)... but it always moves us towards meaning, build upon ideas, information, propaganda, facts...

Passing the #Blimage baton to the next, with this picture, a drawing of the inspirational artist Yslaire .

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Blogphilosophy: age and learning, my son and I

Learning comes natural, and happens on a daily basis.As soon as the learning gene is put inside of us, we learn. We have to. We learn on our own, from non-living objects, in collaboration with all there is in the world, with all that interests our senses. And at every moment, it is the change that we feel or think we feel which we call learning. As such it is never the content which makes the difference, but the change that is taking place due to stimuli from within and/or from the outside. At times we think we must teach others those things we have learned, in the ways we learned them ... because it worked for us. My 4 year old son showed me yesterday that the person makes the journey, not the skills of others, not his parents learning paths, not the same approaches, ... but he himself with all that is inside of him.

I turned 48 two days ago. It was a simple, wonderful day, which made me realize once more what happiness is and how lucky I am. Just getting sung at in the morning 'lang zal ze leven...' by my beloved one's, talking over breakfast, the three of us watching an animated movie about a bee (Maya) who will at the end solve chaos by making two opposite parties work together, and during the evening (thanks to a wonderful MitMit) going out for dinner, just Ciska and me. You know that you are lucky if simplicity equals happiness and a regular day is filled with conversations and occasional laughter. Each of those moments is precious, and I value them dearly. I value all the people I know, and I am grateful for all those I encounter.

As a mother that only just started to understand a tiny bit of what it means to be wise, I set myself one goal when my (our) son was born: to - hopefully - let him grow up to be happy. To be in tune with himself wherever he chooses to go. Keeping this motto in mind, I make choices, or I react to circumstances if I think his happiness might be under thread.
Yesterday, Isaak and I went to visit family. After a while I got uncomfortable with what one of the kids did, he (2 years older then my son) kept teasing Isaak, throwing things at him, thumping him, although Isaak asked him to stop a couple of times. I signaled my son to come inside of the house for a moment, and I told him: "pick up some plants too and throw that to the other child. He will most likely stop with throwing things at you then". My son did it, but the other kid kept on throwing things, now with more energy.
I am not much of a talker under such circumstances. I am more of a mother hen: my eyes get tiny and I become more focused in a peculiar way. So, I step outside to get closer to my son. The playing continues, and my son gets pushed, once, twice ... I make a remark not to push my son anymore. Nothing threatening, just a verbal, clear sentence. And as he is pushed a third time, the Change-that-I-try-to-Avoid happens. I step forward to the kid, blasting out loud, being the fury that I can be, telling him never to push my son ever again, not now, and not even when I am not looking for I would track him down no matter where he would be. The space where we stood froze.
I always had this trait, it comes natural to me. Every single cell is activated, and from my inner core the anger starts to twirl until it comes out in a roar... a bit like a gargoyle warning off evil. I have used this physically born energy on multiple occasions, for both physical and mental purposes, as such I feel it is at times a helpful trait. For me, pushing back, claiming my place loudly, and being prepared to back it up with more is the right thing to do... for me.

My son turns to me and says: "Mom, I am sorry. I did try to throw things at him, but it looks like I did not do it right." and he looks at me with his big eyes, feeling sorry that I got mad because of him. All the energy turns to flatness, as I realized I tried to 'solve' something of his life, my way. And my way is not who he is. He is not a person that throws back whatever is thrown at him. He does not have the anger, and he does not need to have it. What he does, is turn things around. He comes from a different background, a different time, even from different genes... him, my beautiful son. He is his own beautiful self and he knows - intuitively - how to work with his knowledge and his environment and solve things his way. The way he acts is even described in the earliest tale related to his name. My son is the wisest, I am only one of his gargoyles.

Plato said that knowledge is innate, and that learning is the development of ideas buried deep in the soul ... It seems my son's soul is much more in tune with peace and wisdom than mine. So today, I write some more, asking questions, in a quest for knowledge and especially wisdom. My teachers have many faces, and one is very kind.