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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

"Open" by David Price

This immensely readable book starts with the author having a heart attack!

In many ways it follows the 'industry standard'. Price has a vision of the future of education which he wants to share with us. It is an education transformed by the practices which have transformed (part of) the business world since the massive disruption to the ecosystem known as the internet revolution. He outlines this vision by giving examples (mostly from the business world because education hasn't really been transformed yet) in which visionaries have transformed their industries. Many of these examples have been mentioned in similar books: an example is the development of Post-It notes by 3M. Price then distils the lessons to be learned from these examples into general principles: Share, be Open, be Free, and Trust. The major difference between Price's book and others such as 'The World is Flat' is that Price then applies these rules to the world of education.

But this is a cracking good read which uses its evidence base to entertain whilst providing 'eureka moment' insights and making you think. Not bad!

Price begins with a compelling analysis of the post-internet world. The knowledge economy has rather blown up in our faces: more graduates means that the laws of supply and demand have driven the monetary value of knowledge down as evidenced by  freelance auction sites such as elance.com. He looks at 'open' systems such as the Philosophy in Pubs movement and ‘open source learning’.

He indicts formal learning in traditional education settings. He rehearses the dichotomy of transmissive learning versus constructive learning and suggests that apprenticeships and internships offer blends between the didactic and experiential. Bravely, he asserts that: "We should be in no doubt that businesses, schools and colleges that continue with ‘command and control’ as their dominant forms of leadership and intellectual property strategies are facing extinction, possibly within five to ten years." He wants to see collaborative learning as the dominant model in schools: "If collaboration is a headache for learning in the workplace, it’s hard to know where to start with schools. First, most schools don’t call it ‘sharing’ anyway – they call it ‘cheating’."

Price seeks a new model for education which he calls the Global Learning Commons whose characteristics are participation, passion, purpose.

The six imperatives of the Global Learning Commons are:

  • "Do it yourself [eg Linux, wikipedia]
  • Do it now [eg Just in time learning]
  • Do it with friends 
  • Do unto others
  • Do it for fun [eg foldit, a video game which helps scientists work out protein folding in viruses]
  • Do it for the world to see" [eg that food blog from the scottish kid]

He considers 'Just in time' learning: "learning is most powerful when the learner acquires a piece of
information to solve an immediate problem.... there’s a reason why you get the airline safety briefing when the engines are running, and you’re buckled-up, and not when you’re booking your ticket."

He has some great one-liners (some are above):

  • Over-testing is like "a gardener pulling up a plant by its roots so that he could see how well it was growing. If a love of learning were a human right (and I contend that it should be) our courts would be overflowing with abuse of rights claims from our young." [OK, that was a two-liner.]
  • "Learning doesn’t really work as a spectator sport, as any disengaged school kid will confirm."

I have one or two quibbles:

  • I would contend that the anti-authority revolution started long before the world wide web, perhaps beginning with the growth of universal state education (even if it is too formal). As Steven Pinker has suggested in The Better Angels of Our Nature, literacy enables people to read and therefore to become exposed to ideas and, especially in novels, to start to see the world through the point of view of someone else. 
  • Surely the example of the BRICs in Chapter One emphasise the need to develop a better knowledge economy even though an inevitable consequence is that the monetary value of knowledge will reduce as supply outstrips demand.
  • The 'Libert√©, Egalit√©, Fraternit√©' motto was coined before 1835.
I was a little disappointed that the evidence base was a little narrow and relied heavily on the old favourites such as wikipedia, Google and 3M.

But on the whole this is a brilliantly readable and thought-provoking book. September 2014; 152 pages

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