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The interviews in this newspaper were conducted by David Jennings and originally published on his blog between June and December 2010 – see
for the online versions. Here David explains how the interviews came about.
When I did the first of these interviews, I didn’t see it becoming part of a newspaper. The journey from here to there has been a story, not so much of Eureka moments but of a gradual series of small, improvised steps. Producing the newspaper has been just one more of those steps, a staging point to help reflect on the direction of travel and decide where to go next.
I’m incredibly grateful to the interviewees for their time and insights, and especially to the members of the School of Everything’s “Unplugged” group who have further distilled the original versions and helped present them in an alternative format that makes new connections and strengthens growing ones.
The rough plan I sketched earlier for building a “lightweight learning” community included a Semantic MediaWiki implementation rather than a newspaper. But let’s wind back a little bit further still. In 2009, my friend and regular associate Seb Schmoller suggested we start to think about what we should do in the event that the clients for our consulting work – predominantly public sector education organisations – should have their budgets savagely cut or abolished. The first instinct, rather than to re-think our own business model, was to treat this budgetlessness as just another problem that we could help with as consultants. Hmmm.
So began an effort to research what had hitherto been an unexamined intuition: that a lot of learning technology developments were throwing money at heavyweight infrastructure and over-complicated content-development that did more to constrain learning than to liberate it. When money is tight, we reasoned, much can still be done using what’s available for relatively little or no cost online:
collaboration environments, from build-your-own social networks to wikis and even old-fashioned email lists, and
free learning resources, from [[#_msocom_1|[SS1]]] initiative and what’s available on the open web.
Using lightweight, low-cost tools, we felt, should also free up organisations and groups to prototype and experiment with alternative approaches – also to put learners more genuinely in control of their own learning, tapping into their deeper motivations at the same time as giving them scope to be more playful and creative.
There’s no unique insight here, and many have been making these points for years.
But usable examples and guidance in the areas I work are still hard to find. There’s a sense that lots of people are starting to come to similar conclusions from different starting points. Sometimes they’ve put a name and a discourse to what they’re doing – like “Edupunk” in US higher education – while others are just feeling their way towards solutions to their immediate problems.
We’re at a moment where these actions are starting to knit together. I decided to interview some people who were doing interesting things in disparate areas, as my contribution to doing the knitting.
Dick Moore was my first interviewee. At that stage, I expected most of the interviews to focus on the combination of methods and technologies that Dick talks about. The last of the interviews, with Ollie Nørsterud Gardener, returns to similar territory, but along the way I relearned that lesson that we all pay lipservice to, but too often forget in practice:
it’s not about the technology
Knitting people and ideas together takes time. It’s all about relationships. Around the same time Seb Schmoller and I began our discussions, I started attending the Unplugged meetups in the Royal Festival Hall. Those two strands and the series of interviews in this paper gradually twined together. Dougald Hine and Tony Hall are founder members of the meetups. David Gauntlett was first a guest and then a member, while Fred Garnett has become a member and Ollie Gardener an overseas visitor since I interviewed each of them. So, for me anyway, these interviews are short clips from a broader, more far-reaching conversational process.
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