Posts Tagged ‘creative commons’
1. To what extent to you believe soft skills can be trained online?
“Believe” is probably the right verb for this question. Learning technology is still too often driven by opinions. Having said so, I definitely believe in it. First: a lot of soft skills have become online skills: how you behave in an online community, how you share knowledge through microblogging, or how you can be a good team member in an international virtual team. Additionally, it’s perfectly possible to practice all sorts of soft skills online. I see a natural increase of the “fidelity” of the practice process: from practicing in simple webchats, to practice in teleconferences, to practice with webcams or maybe even telepresence spaces. Finally, I think good design enables training of all sorts of skills.
2. What developments in the field of online training of soft skills do you find most promising? Can you name an example?
The biggest “opportunity space” is gaming. Recently I have been investigating two examples of games that try to train soft skills online:
- X-Team is a 3D game in which you have to visit as many pagodes as possible, before getting to the finish line in time. These pagodes are at islands that can only be reached through bridges. Each bridge can only be crossed a limited number of times (you are with 12, but only 6 people can cross the bridge, wat do you do?). Everything is measured, making it easy to guide a teambuilding process through facilitation and adjusting the game’s parameters.
- Code 4 from Hubbub and Demovides is a game that is played in runs of three weeks. This video explains the game (Dutch):
3. What do you think is the biggest challenge in training soft skills online?
Practice is key in developing skills, so that’s the biggest challenge: How do you get people to do what they find really difficult? How do you get them beyond their fear of trying new behavior? Well developed games might just be the solution to this.
4. In the evolution of learning, are there things you hope/desire and/or you’re afraid of? Alan Kay has a famous definition of technology: “Technology is everything that didn’t exist when you were born”. His pal Danny Hillis has an even better definition: “Technology is everything that doesn’t work yet”. We no longer call an elevator, technology. So I’m looking forward to seeing things we still call technology, actually work. For a nice example of how that could look like for smartphones with apps, read this (under “Why Mobile Apps Must Die”).
Being afraid is not something that fits in with how I look at life. I think we, as people, will always figure out our relationship with technology. But if I have to name something, I worry about the integrity of the Internet with the web as a platform for innovation on top of it. The five ”stacks” (as Bruce Sterling calls them): Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook are all working hard to build closed ecosystems. We are going to suffer from this in the coming years and it will probably really have to hurt before these silos will be opened up.
5. What weblogs, people or organisations inspire you?
The person I learn a lot from is Stephen Downes. He writes a daily newsletter about this things he, as a philosopher, technologist and education theorist, finds interesting. His newsletter is published under a Creative Commons license and you can freely subscribe. Additionally, I keep a close eye on George Siemens and the Internet Time Alliance and I try to make time to read Audrey Watters: a learning technology journalist with a punk attitude. I keep on top of internet technology in general by listening to Guardian Tech Weekly and the shows of Leo Laporte (especially This Week in Tech). Thinkers such as Clay Shirky, Yochai Benkler, Lawrence Lessig and Douglas Rushkoff guide me.
One of my personal heroes is Martin Dougiamas, inventor of Moodle. It’s his natural leadership and personal character that have made Moodle as succesful as it is today, making even a giant such as Blackboard take notice.
Other organisations that inspire me are those that democratize education and technology in a non-commercial way. Think of Mozilla architects of the open internet (they also have a learning outfit and work hard at an Open Badges infrastructure), or the Peer 2 Peer University, Tactical Technology Collective and Ushahidi. It is no coincidence that all these projects are open-source. I believe in the value of open-source a lot, from a practical and a moral standpoint.
About one and half years ago I wrote two Dutch articles for Van twaalf tot achttien, a magazine catering for teachers in secondary education. These articles were the first in this magazine to be published under a Creative Commons licence. This means that I can publish them on this blog and that you will be able to reuse what I have written (as long as you comply to the license agreement).
The first article is titled Vrije software in het onderwijs is een must (Free software in education is a must). It tries to explain not only the benefits of free software (yes, free as in speech, not free as in beer) but also touches on open standards and open educational resources. The article has a companion webpage which is still available here.
I have always believed that is very strange that our government subsidises many schools and teachers to create learning materials, but that these organisations and people are not required to share these materials under a free license. This has mainly to do with a lack of awareness of this problem and I am hoping that this article increases knowledge about the importance of free licensing of software and content.
Note how the designer who laid out the page wasn’t very interested in the contents of the article. His or her thought process must have gone something like: “Ah an article about software… let me find an image of a CD… yes, great Adobe Creative Suite CS2″. Really fitting for an article that talks about the Gimp!
The second article was co-written with Leen van Kaam (at the point of writing a colleague at Stoas Learning). It is titled Scenario’s voor de implementatie van een Elektronische Leeromgeving (ELO) (Scenarios for the implementation of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)) and describes a maturity model for implementing virtual learning environments in secondary education. It can be used to set goals and manage expectations in schools and should make it easier to understand why certain parts of a VLE implementation are successful and other are not.
Hope you enjoy the read!
A former colleague of mine recently read a Dutch article about Martijn Aslander and the new economy. Whenever Aslander does a presentation or talk, he lets the members of the audience decide what the value of the talk was and pay him accordingly. My ex-colleague was fascinated with the concept and is now wondering whether he should do something similar. He especially likes the idea of having a more direct way of getting feedback about what he does. He has asked me what I think of it as a business model. I will try and outline my thoughts in this post.
Aslander is inspired by Radiohead’s In Rainbows album and probably by authors like Cory Doctorow who gives away electronic versions of his book under a Creative Commons license. The reason why this can work as a business model for music and literature is twofold:
- The costs for the production and delivery of digital goods is so marginal that it can be considered as being zero. Once the CD is finished there are no real costs to Radiohead for delivering an extra copy to someone.
- The problem of content creators is not that everybody pirates their content, it is that nobody knows about their content. Giving away your content can help build an audience, who then might be willing to pay for others things that you do or have (e.g. go to your speech or concert). Currently this is an usual model, which by itself also generates interest (this is why it can work for Aslander). Usually the money isn’t made with the content that is given away on a voluntary donation basis, it is made with the other opportunities that become available when you have a larger audience.
I personally have reached a stage where I expect digital information to be free. If there is no marginal costs to something, then I don’t really see why I would have to pay for it. This is why I like free software so much: it enables me to use software freely and legally. It is my belief that this is the future of music too, as more and more people find it absurd to pay about a dollar for something that costs absolutely nothing to deliver.
This begs the question of how content creators can make a living for themselves. Kevin Kelly (who has been thinking about the new economy for over a decade now) has written an fascinating manifesto about the things that people will always be willing to pay for, even in a digital economy with abundant and free copies: Better Than Free. One of those things is embodiment. People will pay to see you in person.
Back to my former colleague. Should he try a business model in which he asks the participants of a workshop to pay him what they think it was worth? I don’t think he should, unless he wants to use it as a marketing gimmick. What he does has a very real value. When he does a workshop he needs to be physically present to make it a success. His time is worth something. Also, there is an optimum amount of participants for a workshop. If you get any more participants, you negatively impact the quality of the workshop: an extra space has a real and tangible cost. You cannot say the same for a song download…
This leaves open the question about how to get more direct feedback. I will have to address that in another post.