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Educational Partnership with SELF

Why this document of partnership?


As the SELF platform rises from the conceptual phase, the implementation phase becomes actual. The aim of this phase is an organization where the SELF platform is driven by an autonomous self-feeding mechanism. Self-feeding is the abstract force behind the quality circle: planning of learning objects-production-consumption/validating of the learning objects-review Some appealing and challenging problems in this circle are:

- How should production be organized for the long term to become self-feeding?

- What is a valuable contribution and how should validating be organized?

- In what way contributions should be legalized?

As the free knowledge should become available to students of educational institutions these students are on forehand good validation candidates. However these students are the educational responsibility of the institutions. That means that we need these institutions to become partner in the process of self-feeding. And... do they really need the SELF platform? Why would these operational institutions become partner in a SELF-platform? What can they gain at what costs? What does that mean for allocation of personnel? What kind of expertise is required? What does that mean for their possible drop-outs? What does that mean for the number of students leaving the institute with a certificate? What does that mean for institutes who are academy for companies like Cisco? How shall a platform be of help for gaining a certificate? The answers on these questions are fundamental for the continuity of the platform and should be clarified on forehand in a reasonable way. Arguments like sharing knowledge rather than claiming knowledge do well and did well on a very high level of abstraction. This phase has been passed. We should make very clear what the effects are for the working floor to avoid that the SELF platform is for the happy few. Many institutions don’t have that much tradition in management of innovation and management of sharing knowledge. Universities transform themselves in the direction where the organization undertakes initiatives for sharing free knowledge and are going in that direction. The lower level education in the same vertical column in general has far less tradition with innovation. We should take this into account in our arguments for partnership and certainly we still have to find out the best approach to setup a pilot project with them. This document tries to make the first attempt to set the arguments right for the management of the operational educational institutes to be partner in the SELF platform. It’s very important to define these arguments in the SELF community in order to avoid inventing the wheel again and again and therefore losing much time and acceptance. Note that the SELF platform will be officially announced with partners in The Netherlands and in parallel in other countries around the world somewhere in September 2007. So, arguments in relation to the primary responsibility of management close to the work floor are extremely important in this phase. Looking forward to all contributions that might be of help. 

Operational management of sharing knowledge

in order to achieve a natural educational biotope for professional education of ICT. Roles of the SELF platform for the working floor in a productive and transparent network


1. Natural biotope for our students

The driving force behind innovations comes from new combinations. For innovations, networks are required. So-called n:n relation ships. Our students are very well aware of the above mentioned statement of Schumpeter, an Austrian economist at the beginning of the 20th century. These youngsters use Wikipedia, search machines, chat machines. They share knowledge about their games, programs, html code, blogs, content management systems. Very often without intervention of a teacher!!! Without knowing anything about Schumpeter, these youngsters practice his statement. They search for free knowledge, apply their combinations and have their own forums or other networks like HYVES.

They experience how to become independent from their daily teachers and choose their own experts. Independence is a very natural drive indeed for these youngsters. That’s why Schumpeter’s statement is true: his statement points to a natural way of learning to optimize their motivation. That’s why we need free knowledge and a platform for our students to grant a natural learning biotope in our schools or institutions and share responsibilities in a community. Perhaps we should talk about an organic organization; hence, there are very few formal structures.


2. A view on financial means

What is natural about classrooms as social context with its 1:n relationships? Commercial organizations claim conceptual knowledge incorporated in their products. What is natural about claiming and protecting knowledge? What is natural about aiming for certificates? It just stimulates individualism; the opposite of sharing responsibilities and being an organic organization.

Why do these constructs exist while they work against the natural way of learning? Basically, because the financial model is quite dominant for making decisions. Think in this context about discussions like the number of dropouts and the number of students leaving school with a certificate. There is an extensive organization build up around this model. These organizations do very much effort to make the learning process on paper transparent. So, quite a lot of the financial means are spent for an administration process; a process similar to the ISO9000 standards.

So, what happens to the financial models of today if the learning biotope is natural? Natural in this context means: the learning process is based on free knowledge with a community based commitment. The process becomes transparent by its seeding nature so it makes reallocation of financial resources to this type of learning process a next logical step.


3. Efficiency and effectiveness

 The quality model for a natural learning biotope, sharing free knowledge, is still in its infancy. This model will of course completely differ from the present control models in use nowadays on schools. Schools in the free knowledge context have the opportunity to be involved in the quality circle of a natural learning biotope. So, operational educating institutions can have a very important practical role in validating this learning model.

Indeed, universities do publish courses as free knowledge however do not comply to learning standards. Besides the complexities in these courses have not been broken down for lower level education in the same vertical profession column. Hence, the lower level education parties can not benefit from these courses.

This is where the SELF platform comes in. Now it becomes more clear why a complete vertical column is desirable for this type of platform. This platform becomes the drive for cooperation in the same vertical column and will help improving the efficiency in the construction of free knowledge and helps using Free Software (as well known as Open Source) and free learning materials. There is an additional argument for cooperation in the same vertical column. That will be addressed in point 9.


4. The motivation and recognition of teachers, coaches

Teachers and coaches in the same vertical column cooperate to keep the platform in the air. We should be very conscious about the value of this organization model. The challence for those operating as a coach lies in the synchronization of mental- and language constructs of an expert with those of the student at a particular moment. Who knows his/her students better than s/he does? Therefore, quite a lot of educational material is being developed by them. Struggling to find out how to transform content into mental transfers. However, they don’t have any reference about the quality of their material. In the best situation research of people like Feuersteyn are being studied. By far most of the time on individual basis. So they keep the material for themselves. The effect is a lack on recognition of their creative, may be innovating work. Their skills are hidden for the outer world. With a platform of free knowledge and free learning material they build up peer-to-peer networks. They participate in a Learning Materials Expert Group in, if they prefer so, a proactive role like an author or a reactive role like a supervisor or moderator. In a role like an author there is a supervisor/moderator who supports him/her for improving the quality of the learning materials and therefore is of help for improve his/her professionalism. They become involved in testing these free knowledge materials on their working floor. As students are involved, students and coaches become peers!!! They feel the recognition that their work is important for a large group of students. In a role like a moderator, a leader in an organic network, they have the recognition to be an expert and therefore can grow in a leading position. Especially this is important when a leading position is not available in an institutional organization. So, everybody can exploit natural leadership. And no one is going to stop him or her. Yes....the community is around the world. True, there is plenty space for everyone, in the proactive as well as the reactive roles. Whatever the role, this way of operating gives the teacher/coach a position beyond the borders of the institution to stimulate interaction between professionals. It alters his quality reference. For human resource management it means a natural way of developing their personnel. The institute or school can be proud having these key role players in their organization. Will this effect the publicity of a school in a positive way?


5. Learning a lifetime long

It’s very important to give our attention to those people working already in the field. Many experienced employees in companies feel the permanent need for updating their conceptual, abstract knowledge to employ themselves. A high qualified platform gives the institutes the challenge to hold communication with this group of people and their needs. Therefore, the platform shall be an aid by combining learning objects, such that an employee can make his own learning trajectory. As Schumpeter stated, innovations are driven by combinations. Yes, the combination of learning objects. This of course helps teachers and coaches to fine grain their educational material. Therefore, this way of working has a self-cleaning component.


6. From consumption to production and vice versa

With an open platform in mind, students are not only consumers of knowledge. Youngsters are very proud when they have an added value for other people. They are longing for presenting their work to others in order to obtain a position in the community. We should be very serious about that. As the learning context is about professional education, the students learn how to be productive; the student converts himself into a manufacturer. So, the platform will enable them to post or publish their products which have been based on the free knowledge. In this way they can present themselves to the market. New students can gain profit out of these free products by looking for new combinations for their products. Yes, with Schumpeter in mind... The same counts for teachers/coaches. Teachers/coaches feel quite often that they are reactive on what happens in the market. Not proactive. As their contributions in this model become recognized and legalized (by using something like a Creative Commons license), a significant stimulus is given to be proactive.


7. About diplomas or certificates

A very important issue for legalization of the work of an educational institution is the furnish of proof of competence of a student. The student requires evidences to exchange these evidences for a certificate. The evidences prove competences with respect to transfer of the problem of the customer in the market to a solution in ICT technology. The platform helps him in the furnish of proof. Students publish or post their products or parts of them on the platform. Experts around the world, companies and institutions, validate the product. The reviews are done not only by his coach but by external experts as well. This is a very important condition for the acceptance of a proof. Please note, due to its nature, the platform helps the student to prove his social and organizational competence as well. Of course, the institutes who legalize the educational process, have quality standards for this learning environment. These organizations should be involved in this concept.


8. Knowledge friction

Economists have introduced the expression “friction unemployment” in case of revival of trade. Friction refers to the knowledge not being adequate for the market at that time. Yes, for very different reasons it’s hard for all institutions to work at any time with the latest technologies. It’s very important for students to work with the latest ICT technology for motivation reasons. One of the chances to come close to that situation are projects where market customers/companies, are involved. The role of educational institutions versus the market can be further fine grained with the mission of an educational institute: the education helps the student in the development of his professional career by guiding him to ICT knowledge with high transfer value. This type of knowledge is not only valuable at study time but for years after that period. Therefore, the core business of education is selecting models with high transfer value. To be short: the core business of educational institutions is modeling. This is where the platform again comes in. The knowledge available on the platform can be characterized as high transferable. Due to the seeding nature of the platform, this high transferable knowledge is self-cleaning. Hence actual. For the market parties who establish the friction, the knowledge is transparent so they can be involved, yes, strongly invited, to add and modify the free learning material. This will help the self-cleaning mechanism from this side as well. And a better control on friction unemployment.


9. A natural learning biotope for any type of student

Now, with the picture of the previous statements in mind, it’s very reasonable to raise the question: is the learning biotope as meant in this context, suitable for all kinds of students. Is a platform for this biotope suitable for students who still lack social and intellectual skills? Imagine a student who is very well capable of repairing systems (hardware) or installation of cable work for a network. The intellectual transfers are triggered in a very practical learning environment. A student of a university is triggered by a model on a piece of paper. That makes quite a difference, ok? Is the SELF platform meant for an extensive student type spectrum? Or basically meant for the students at universities? So, should the complete vertical column be involved? There are arguments to say: YES! The SELF platform needs partnerships of all schools in the professional vertical column. One reason is, that these types of students need a social context and peer-to-peer networks as well. They should not be excluded. But there is really a very interesting view. What if the academic world verifies and validates the learning content on the floor of the column? OK, why should they? Now, if a student gets twisted idea’s or idea’s which are not proper in other contexts, the coaches/ teachers on the academic floor have to do quite a lot of investments to change the picture of the student after all. But what really matters are our students. The student gets the right ideas or concepts from the start, valuable in other context’s as well. It IS the academic world who has the overview, haven’t they? Let’s consider UML. Used to describe the solutions or ideas in the customers’ domain. This description takes the lead in structuring programs. Many lower level schools start with encoding. Because UML sounds academic. Hmm? It keeps the young starting student away from a real customer. That’s why we need another approach. It's called: the organic organization for a natural learning biotope, supported by the SELF platform.

Most public educational institutes in the world are financed and therefore organized in so-called educational levels. These levels together are an educational column. The SELF platform stimulates an organic network for the very necessary glue with self-cleaning mechanisms between these levels. May be, somewhere in time, this process leads to a system without financial driven levels. An educational system where the student starts at the bottom at any time in freedom using the free knowledge at any time to become productive, feels free to exit the educational system when he wishes to do so with a set of proofs and enters the system again for further education (lifelong learning). And beyond that, there are buildings only for administration and reviews. Global free knowledge. It’s on the SELF platform, isn’t it? Talking about efficiency and effectiveness….


10. Help to become a SELF partner

The question arises in what practical way we can help the institutes to become partner of the SELF platform. First of all we should clarify the above proposed items to the key management of key institutes to help them making a decision about partnership. So the SELF community is invited to revise and edge sharpening the arguments for becoming a SELF partner in the production cycle of learning materials. Wouter Tebbens came with a possible idea. Some of our students offer the minister of education their document of a small project in book form to show how far we are and the effects on our students. In addition to that I suggest that these students are present on the planned meeting in September 2007 and upload this document to the SELF platform to show the consumption-production cycle. In this meeting, a public activity, all the partners will be presented. Let us have a great show in the interest of our students!

Consulted reviewers for this document: David Jacovkis and Wouter Tebbens

Moderator of this document: Gerard Leenders April 2007

SELF - Science Education and Learning in Freedom