Feb 21, 2007

So.. so many things

Hi all,

This is the second blog post in my life, and although I don't think I have a large audience, I would like to excuse myself for being not interesting enough. I might be one day, but I think I need to upgrade my writing skills, know what to write, and when. Since I don't have an audience anyhow, these apologies are not very valuable, so please don't take them too seriously. Assume them as introductory decoration of this post, nothing more...

Reasons for blogging

Much research has been done on why I would invest time in sharing thoughts with an audience I do not have. Well, without referring to any of those sources, I will name the ones that address my motives most. Before I do that, I would like to specify  this a bit more: I want to keep record of the progress around my thesis, and I do that online. It does not take me more than writing it online, so I will continue with the reasons why I do it online.
  • I am a special, unique person, with new ideas and interesting thoughts (which do not, of course, necessarily have to be mine). It would be a waste if they all stay within my skull. Sounds arrogant right? But what would then be the reason for any blogger? Telling someone things that are known?
The first argument might sound arrogant, but still quite altruistic. I give away knowledge, ideas, thoughts, etc... Spending time to interest readers, why? Well, because it is not altruistic. I do not believe in altruism, which is nothing more, and always is, a derivation of someone's own happiness. I give my girlfriend flowers, I feel good for 5 minutes. I wave away a handicapped bum in the streets asking me for some money, I feel bad for 10, so I don't do it again.
  • So nothing altruistic about my blogging activities. I expect some return, and it ain't money. I want an audience, I want recognition, I want confirmation about my uniqueness, my specialness, and most of all, about my endeavour. I cannot do this alone, and I don't want to. To be part of it is enough, that will make me happy.
  • I want opportunities, yes, I want a network of opportunities. People who know me after a while, or at least are aware of this project, my dream. So I might get the possibility to increase the chance on realizing it (in any form), seriously.
Besides the fact that I like writing, or at least, I liked it, the argument of having an online reputation is a strong one. I even want to apply this one to the concept I will investigate, and say that online reputation is the most important professional asset in the future. I do not want to make a distinction between professional learning and working, so consider them one. I want exams and diplomas out. I want the universities to be different, to look at their core assets, which surely will not be information. No, much more tangible: most probably ranging from money, to people, to buildings and facilities. People wanting to use these, have to pay for them, but in a much more flexible manner. The university system is rotten, is my point of view. I don't want to go on too long about this for the moment, because this post already is quite lengthy and I have another cazillion weblogs to read, eleven books to finish, and 17 mindmaps to make about books I read, meet with friends, play hockey..

So.. so many things

The title of this post. I have so many things to do, to see, to read. But just so little time. And the Web is guilty in this. I get overloaded with interesting new blogposts to read, which in turn send me to others to read, where people say this is a great book, and then I look it up on Amazon and indeed... it is a great book, and I add it to my Wish List, which at the time of speaking, holds nearly as many books as I have read in my whole life. That's why I like George Siemens' Connectivism so much. I need a network to work. I need a network to filter. I am not alone. I want to connect. Pavlov's DogHis ideas are contrary to the general practice at my university, which can be very negative if it stays like this. Most of my fellow students follow the same track, do the same courses, make the same exams, learn the same 'skills', listen to the same sound. I start calling them Pavlov's students. They listen to the university's bell and start to bark out the 'knowledge' they learnt there. The same counts for the way they try to approach employment, bleh, disgusting (more on that in some future post). This practice has been the same for ages, and its industrial efficiency has come to a maximum. But Siemens offers the university a new perspective: outside! Connect, embrace technology as you have never done! The world is a rich place, there is a beautiful mind in all of us. 

So many things. So many things can be done by others with the same interests. Where are they? Why don't I know them? Why do I know some and can't I write my thesis with them? Because it is an individualistic culture. Assessment is personal. Assignments are personal. My thesis is personal. Because they want to put me in a box, they want to know what I am worth in industrial capitalistic terms. Where I fit best. Division of labour (Smith, Marx) has brought a lot of efficiency indeed, but I think the end is near for the top-down division of education. What is more efficient than letting the market (so students as well) choose, create, connect, learn, educate themselves? Why some institutional force to let me learn things I don't want to do. To force me in a direction, whilst I want to try out another direction? Because it is the only way to assess, and thus the only way to give out some documents, which earns the university money! Yes, money. The same with researchers and publications (I don't want to go into detail in this, but I think this system somewhat passé as well). What I would like to see, is an educational system representing nature, witout boundaries, and with people behaving naturally, flexible, and innovative. Because nature is the most innovative system to be found. The more I think about our education system, the more opportunities I see to make it better. Much better. And that's it for now. It was highly unstructured, ill-founded, arrogant, and sometimes even shallow... but hell: I don't have an audience anyway!

Feb 8, 2007


This blog post introduces the concept on which I will be working on the coming period. Please join my project if you believe in it. Leave a comment, and I will contact you by the time the research website is ready.

Educational traditions, professional development, sociopolitical changes, and technological innovations do not match today and create a gap between graduated engineer and dynamic corporation. The Read/Write Web and numerous online initiatives, such as the Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative, have created endless possibilities for connecting to resources, sharing knowledge, and learning. Traditional learning structures are under great pressure because of these new opportunities. Besides, old-fashioned degrees do not match anymore with the needed competencies of the modern dynamic service companies. A shift is occurring from university as authority towards the network as an authority for learning. The Internet also provides numerous new ways for employment, through online marketplaces, and innovation, happening in open communities.

By combining these technologies and trends an environment can be created where people learn by increasing the value of their environment, by sharing resources and knowledge. By doing this they increase their value in the network, their online identity, which leads to job opportunities (a sort of personal ROI). Employers can connect to people using specific search terms, and judge a person’s reliability with its online identity, which in turn is the result of his/her online activities evaluated by others. Innovation in such an environment happens distributed and in an open way, partly shifting the subject of competitiveness from organization to person.

Although the information will be available for different competing organizations, and so cannot be the source of competition, the costs of innovation are distributed in the innovation network as well, creating possibilities for competing on other issues. Innovation happening within a certain closed environment as a company (or research on a university), is less advantageous because of the intrinsic advantages of innovation happening in a network, such as faster dissemination of knowledge, lower investments in innovation, and ‘more eyeballs' (making all bugs shallow). In such an environment, people will be the subject of competition, and sharing resources, helping other people, and enhancing the value of your network will be the activity. Organizations will compete by managing these people as effective and efficient as possible, and by being able to find and apply the information created in these networks as fast as possible. An example of this can be found within IBM, which is making billions of dollars from the innovation happening within Open Source Software communities.

An essential note regards the focus of the research. I am personally involved in the OpenER project of Delft University of Technology (DUT). This project, just like many of its fellow (OER) initiatives globally, lacks a model for sustainability. Almost all of OpenER projects around the world depend heavily on funding for setup, and this does not seem to subside after implementation (they still need significant funds to keep these projects running). Now here is the gap, and at the same time the research focus. By applying the above mentioned concept, but focusing on DUT, or maybe the whole IDEA league, a sustainable model for this specific OpenER can be created. More elaborate: an environment will be investigated/designed where students can interact with teachers and each other. They can also learn from the available resources, which they can alter the way they like, and improve. Of course, the question: why would I put effort in improving a certain course, in providing feedback on a student’s question, write an extensive review on a book, initiate a research, or make any other effort? Well, here economical mechanisms of the concept step in: organizations should be involved, creating financial incentives, employment, and ideas for research. Students, free in sharing knowledge, wanting to demonstrate and improve their skills, can do this by being active in one or more a communities. Companies want students to link up with students, have them do projects, investigate issues, and more. This provides for them a perfect environment to do that because it involves an online marketplace for flexible employment. All mentioned issues and assumptions need thorough investigation during the thesis research.