Our next brief project will develop from sensibilities developed in Project Titan while expanding the complexity of learning opportunities that will begin to shape the vision for the Open Source Learning Academy.  While concepts for Project Titan were focused on a very specific problem, I hope it opened up a wider repertoire of spatial cues to support a range  of collaborative environments.  Rather than perceive walls as our only tool to define space – a binary condition of either “in” or “out” – we can begin to imagine a range of spatial experiences that support and interact with each other.  As we expand this thinking beyond a single room to an entire school, a particularly messy problem must be addressed which Dewey expressed in Democracy and Education:

One of the weightiest problems with which the philosophy of education has to cope is the method of keeping a proper balance between the informal and the formal, the incidental and the intentional, modes of education.

What determines this “proper balance” between informal and formal? How has the open access to information via the internet shifted this balance?  While we understand the internet as a network and our physical environment may have the internet within it, but can we conceive the learning environment as a physical network itself?  To start with, how many people can a physical network support?

Dunbar Number

Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist studying the pattern of social connection, has suggested the number of about 150 as the human cognitive capacity for meaningful relationships.   While first developed as a working theory over 10 years ago, his theory has been picked up by technology companies, such as Facebook, looking at social networks.  Please take a quick read on the Dunbar number here.   As we begin to look at learning as a network, we will use 150 people as the basis of a micro-learning network.

Learning Networks

Conventional approaches to programming a school start with a clear presumption of what school is.  We will take our cue from our reading of Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society.   In the chapter “Learning Webs” (you can read on your own as well as review the summary here) he begins with a profound starting point:

The planning of new educational institutions ought not to begin with the administrative goals of a principal or president, or with the teaching goals of a professional educator, or with the learning goals of any hypothetical  class of people.  It must not start with the question, ‘What should someone learn?’ but with the question, ‘What kinds of things and people might learners want to be in contact with in order to learn?‘”

You are to answers this question while using your understanding of the Dunbar number through a single artifact.  While Project Titan was a very specific place from which we developed very tangible proposals, what we are after here can be more free, more loose, more abstract – a conceptual diagram.   However, what we are after is also a very real answer to this profound question: “what kinds of things and people might learners want to be in contact with in order to learn?”  So it is not so much about form, as the the forms of interaction, and specifically what learners are interacting with.  I suggest this should be a 2d hybrid graphic.  Can you develop this artifact with the same sensibility of formal and informal that Dewey suggests; such as a combination vector and digital collage?

This is not a brief sketch, but a highly considered, conceptual development of open source learning.  This graphic/collage should be printed on 12×18, as well as a blog post.  In the blog post you can describe more at length, but the graphic/collage itself should be the primary vehicle to answer Illich’s question.

This is also an opportunity to test, flex, stretch, and develop your skills.  I suggest you work together on “skill exchanges” just at Illich suggests in Learning Networks.   Rhino, Grasshopper, Illustrator, Photoshop, watercolor, as well as anything from laser-cutting to string to ??? can be used.   But please don’t jump to 3d form – without your explanation, does this conceptual diagram best answer Illich’s question.

DUE at 1:10pm on Tuesday


Is this a fancy bubble diagram? 

#@$% NO!!!  A bubble diagram first presumes you know what the spaces are, then the very technique assumes that spaces are enclosed, and finally it assumes they are “linked” by adjacency.  If these spaces truly interact, there is not need to “link” them.  Furthermore, adjacency alone does not make for social interaction, and Dewey speaks directly to this in the opening pages of Democracy and Education (specifically pgs 4-5):

Persons do not become a society by living in physical proximity…If, however, they were all cognizant of the common end and all interested in it so that they regulated their specific activity in view of it, then they would form a community…Each would have to know what the other was about and would have to have some way of keeping the other informed as to his own purpose and progress.

Rather than separation and then linking through adjacency, how can you develop an environment that is about continuity.  This includes not just boundary, but the interaction of individuals and activities within the environment.  More from Dewey:

The words “environment,” “medium” denote something more than surroundings which encompass an individual.  They denote the specific continuity of the surroundings with his own active tendencies.