Friday, December 5, 2014

Final Comments: Open Knowledge - Changing the Global Course of Learning


This is primarily aimed at the people I coach and mentor

I am now at the end of this course.  What am I taking away from it?

Before I commit to that, it is pertinent to repeat that I am not in the business of ‘scholarly research and publishing’.  I am a coach and mentor working with people who live and work in Zimbabwe.  My work is to help people to learn how to do their jobs better and how to build their personal capacities. 
So some of what I learned is relevant, but certainly not all.  What is relevant is “open access” and the growing body of people and organisations committed to providing that access.

What is also very obvious – and very relevant – is that scholarly people and scholarly institutions in Zimbabwe are way behind the curve on these developments.  While there may be some limited understanding of the principles, there is no evidence at all that it is being applied.

Should I care about this?   Yes.   Should I try to do something about changing it?  Perhaps.  But as I am outside this field of academic learning, I can do little of substance and if I try to do so, I will deflect myself from my purpose.   So let me stay with my purpose.


One of the early learning notes I have is that the concept of ‘openness’ does not mean simply freedom from payment.  It has a larger meaning – free to collaborate, discuss, explore, create.  It is this ‘freedom’ that is being made available by scholarly institutions and the Internet.

Another significant piece of learning is that the ‘digital divide’ is not a division of data ownership; it is a division of who can put the digital data to work.


Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today

Open Access

From David Wiley I learned that Open Access is about the ‘4 R’s’ – the openness to Re-use, Revise, Remix and Redistribute

Digital Ethics

Latterly I have learned that the growing privacy concern – identity theft, fraud, genetic testing, cellphone tracking, credit and card fraud and internet privacy and security.  These concerns have the capacity to destroy the internet.

Coincidently I learned from outside this course about Digital Ethics which has a direct relationship to the privacy concern.  Gerd Leonhard who describes himself amongst other things as a ‘futurist’ taught me something about the future of humans in a connected world.  Technology does not have (or not have) ethics.  It is people who behave ethically or not.  Ethics are moral principles which govern a person or a group’s behaviour.  Value systems, dictates of conscience, virtues, moral code.  The future of the Internet depends on ethics.  And as I followed Leonhard’s views, it dawned on me that the Internet – and the country in which I live – is filled with immoral behaviour.  I reflected on how to change this behaviour.  Clearly Leonhard is trying to do so.  What can I do to help?  The future of the good that the Internet provides depends on it.

Some interesting statistics: -

1.       We don’t have a choice on social media – the choice is how well we do it
2.       Worlds Populations – 1. China, 2. India, 3. Facebook, 4. Tencent 5. WhatsApp.  6. USA, 7.Google
3.       More people own a mobile device than a toothbrush
4.       1 in 5 couples meet online
5.       The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is grandparents
6.       Two new people register on Linked-In every second

Amazing Learning

Alec Couros was an introduction – for me – into how some people are using the internet for the most amazing learning projects. 

Personal Knowledge Mastery

Suggests that we learn more if we ‘learn out loud’.  Share your learning and you will increase the depth of mental processing.

Paradoxes (Inconsistencies, Ironies, Contradictions)

Andrew Feenberg gave a boring presentation that many people did not like.  But he is an intellectual who needs to learn how to present himself.  Perhaps there are many intellectuals who need to develop this skill.  He taught me about some paradoxes –
a.      The paradox of the obvious says that what is most obvious is most hidden. 
b.      The paradox of Origin tells us that behind everything rational there lies a forgotten history. 
c.       The paradox of the frame says that efficiency does not explain success.  Success explains efficiency. 
d.      The paradox of the means – the means are the end.  I am what I drive. 
e.      The paradox of complexity – simplification complicates. 
f.        The paradox of Value and Fact – Values are the Facts of the future. 
g.       Finally the paradox of Conquest – the Victor belongs to the Spoils.  (Something we know in Zimbabwe where the victors enjoy enormous ill-gotten wealth at the expense of the ordinary people).

Anyone can Make a Difference

Chandra Clarke told us that anyone and everyone can get involved in bringing about a difference.

With Empowerment comes Responsibility

Brian Conly’s parents taught him that he could do anything but with it (whatever he does) comes responsibility.  We need more of that understanding in Zimbabwe.  ‘Empowerment’ does not mean the freedom to do anything.  With empowerment comes responsibility to do ‘the right thing’ (ethics)

The Internet will bring Freedom

Evgeny Morozov thinks that the Internet will bring democracy and through it, we will never have another Rwandan genocide.  Nice thoughts.  I don’t agree. There are far too many places in this world that are still ruled by fear and it is likely to continue.  (I keep asking myself how we can change the behaviour of unethical people and governments within the boundaries of ethical behaviour change.  The Christian Church has been trying to do it, without success, for 2000 years)

The “Prosumer”

Vincent Manzerole was somewhat oblique but I understood the overall message – consumers are being led by the nose by the ‘capitalists’ who market and sell their products and services. Consumers want what everyone else is perceived to already have, so the smartphone has been developed to create an audience for advertising and marketing products.  We can see this in the release of the iPhone 6. Once one person buys one, everybody on the globe must have one too. Do we really need one? Probably not, but the perception that we must have one is generated through social media. So the rich become richer and the rest of us go back to work to earn more money to buy the next version of whatever it is we already have.  We are now described as ‘prosumers’ – people who produce and consume all at the same time.  Are we on this free MOOC at Stanford prosumers? I guess we are. We are consuming knowledge and at the same time producing it in some small way, as well providing Stanford with a multiplicity of data analytics, which is why are getting a ‘free lunch’ perhaps?

Citizen Journalism

Henry Jenkins told us that the Internet brings hidden challenges to ethics.  “If it’s on the Internet it must be true”.  Citizen journalists are at risk of telling untruths to get attention.  (In my experience it is also ‘professional’ journalists.  A look at what The Herald publishes almost daily will tell you that. We need to help young people learn ethics (hear, hear!) and to have enquiring, research oriented minds.  We need to teach children to play, to simulate, to perform, to appropriate, to multitask, to distribute cognition, to work at collective intelligence.  We also need to teach them judgement to network and to negotiate across diverse communities.

Copyright and Fair Use

We learned about copyright and fair use.  How the Internet is changing the face of scholarly publishing.

Social production is a real fact, not a fad. It is the critical long-term shift caused by the Internet. Social relations and exchange become significantly more important than they ever were as an economic phenomenon. In some contexts, it's even more efficient because of the quality of the information, the ability to find the best person, the lower transaction costs. It's sustainable and growing fast. But it is threatened by the incumbent industrial systems in the same way that everything new is threatened by the status quo.

Intellectual Property Rights and the History of Publishing

Richard Stallman told us that ‘intellectual property rights’ are nothing more than monopolistic policy rights introduced by the rich against the poor.  Hmm!  I wonder if that idea will take hold.

John Willinsky gave us insight into the history of publishing.  The most interesting learning for me was that in the 17th Century, John Locke created the concept of ‘common property rights’ – and the first time in history property did not belong to the King, but to everyone for his labour.  What a pity that John Locke’s principles do not apply in Zimbabwe where property still belong to “The King” and he has the right to distribute it to whomsoever he sees fit.

The Polymath Problem

From Michael Nielsen we learned of the ‘polymath’ problem – a successful collective solution was enabled through collaboration online.  This project gives rise to the idea that collective learning  and ‘crowd science’ will solve more and more problems in less and less time than hitherto and we are on the threshold of a massive spike in global knowledge.

The Khan Academy

Khan is changing the rules of education.  Others – opponents to the status quo – are calling the Khan Academy ‘hacked education’.  What matters is does it help people to find and/or create opportunities.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

In October we were asked to engage in an activity – to access an OER (Open Educational Resource) and evaluate it.  I looked at an OER on Emotional Intelligence.  I rated it highly, albeit that I found some parts of it that I did not like at all.

Later I found myself in conversation with two of my colleagues.  This was a huge step forward in my educational progress on this course – the opportunity to collaborate!  Professor Peter Johnston suggested that in the past and present people have been and are judged on pieces of paper but in the very near future people will be judged by continuous assessment – on what they can do – rather than on whether their parents were rich enough to send them to a particular college.  Thus the people who are willing to adopt a policy of ‘lifelong learning’ will rise to the top.

The three rules to spark learning: -

1.       Inspire curiosity
2.       Sort out the mess (by trial and error)
3.       Encourage reflection

Open Journal Publishing

The last month of the course was devoted largely to the progress being made in Open Journal Publishing as it relates to scholarly publications.  While this had its points of interest, it is largely outside my personal frame of reference.

But some gems: -

Predatory publishers

Predatory Publishers are, just like e-mail spammers, corrupting Open Access.  These predators exist mainly in Nigeria, India and Pakistan.  Scholars must be wary of them for they seek to seduce research scientists to publish in exchange for tenure at a university.


Publishers do much more than publish.  If you want to know anything and everything about publishing look no further than

Information Overload

In Week 10 we learned of ‘Information Overload’ and its cause – ‘Filter Failure’.  Clay Shirky tells us we need to learn how to filter.  Easier said than done but a worthwhile lesson.  Howard Rheingold told us how to detect ‘crap’ information through ‘critical consumption’.  Simply put:  Don’t believe everything you read/hear.  Be critical in your consumption of knowledge.

During my research on Information Overload I came across an article from one of my student colleagues.  One Dave Pollard told us that he believes we are in the early stages of collapse: -

1.    Corporations have given up the pretence of being ethical
2.    Politicians have given up the pretence of being representative
3.    Lying has becoming rampant, overt and even socially acceptable.
4.    Widespread use and acceptance of “ends justify the means” 
5.    Human activity (litigation, security, financial “products” etc.) is focused on defending the status quo rather than producing anything of value. 
6.    The illusion of growth has become totally dependent on increases in oil and in debt
7.    Acceptance of obscene inequality
8.    Denial of reality, across the political spectrum
9.    Widespread cynicism and acceptance of conspiracy theories
10.  Search for and willingness to believe in charismatic people and magical solutions
11.  Ubiquitous spying and corporatist surveillance
12.  Self-colonization and the emergence of “apologism” and mandatory optimism
13.  Widespread anomie and the trivialization and co-opting of dissent by professional activists

I had to look up the term ‘anomie’.  It means a disconnection between one’s personal values and one’s community’s values. 

In winding up Pollard tells us: -

“Today, after several centuries of adversarial strife, we are left with several classes of professionals who practice politics for profit, and who are bent upon revenge. They seem to measure their success exclusively by the failure of their opponents, and their only interest is in gaining some kind of advantage, regardless of its effect on the country as a whole. They do not fear the voter because history has taught them that the U.S. voter has a very short attention span and can easily be misled, bamboozled and confused.”

This is not pleasant reading.  It enters the realms of ‘state of fear’.  Pollard is talking about America, not Zimbabwe!  Apply the 13 reasons to our own system of governance.  What do you come up with?  What can we do – all of us – to change this?   Do we have to change the system?  Perhaps we do.

Adults are like Children (and vice-versa)

I sent Pollard’s URL to my son in the UK.  He didn’t like its pessimism but he sent me another URL titled ‘The Printing Press, Literacy and the Rise and Fall of the Secret Society of Adults’.  A fascinating look at how the Internet and television have made children more like adults and adults more like children  If you have the time and the inclination: -

Information Literacy

Through the Internet we also learned how ‘critical information literacy’ enables students to believe that they have the ability to change the world.   The Information Literacy Users Guide: -
1.       Identify:                               Understanding Your Information Need
2.       Scope:                                 Knowing What Is Available
3.       Plan:                                      Developing Research Strategies
4.       Gather:                                Finding What You Need
5.       Evaluate:                             Assessing Your Research Process and Findings
6.       Manage:                              Organizing Information Effectively and Ethically
7.       Present:                               Sharing What You’ve Learned
8.       Visual Literacy:                  Applying Information Literacy to Visual Materials
9.       Science Literacy:               Information Literacy in the Sciences

The Intentional Learner

And then – “The Intentional Learner”.  INTENTIONAL LEARNERS can adapt to new environments, integrate knowledge from different sources, and continue learning throughout their lives

Are YOU an Intentional Learner?  Learner Centred Education places the STUDENT at the centre of learning, and the teacher (trainer/mentor/coach) takes second place.

Information Literacy

Michael B. Eisenberg told us that “Information Literacy” is the set of skills and knowledge that allows us to find, evaluate and use the information we need, as well as to filter out the information that we do not need.  And Jagtar Singh told us that people may have different viewpoints of Information Literacy but it is a hard fact that only the info-literate’s can stay ahead in this era of discontinuous change and fierce competition.

The Social Progress Index (SPI)

From Michael Green we learned of the “Social Progress Index” (SPI) which he suggests is a more relevant index for judging the state of a nation’s progress than the GDP.  I Googled the SPI and found hundreds of countries with a measure.  But Zimbabwe is not one of them.  We are not on the list!


Dr Maria Martin from South America writes an open article suggesting that the MOOC would soon become the norm for Higher and Vocational education.   Maria Konnikova disagreed.

Closing Remarks

If I am to practice what I preach I must now ‘Learn Out Loud’ and share what I have learned by passing this on to you so that you can learn. 

There are some learning gems here.  On what we should be doing as learners.  On Intentional Learning, on learning so that we can take care of the future (which is more important than what we know today), on being critically competent.    On putting the learner at the centre of learning and letting the ‘teacher’ take second place.  This means taking our own responsibility for learning and not asking or waiting for others to do it for us.

If you want to change the world or perhaps just change yourself and help your business to grow – you know now what you have to do.