Knitting people and ideas to-gether takes time. It’s all about re-lationships. At around the sametime that Seb Schmoller and I be-gan our discussions, I started at-tending the Unplugged meetups inthe Royal Festival Hall. Those twostrands and the series of inter-views in this paper graduallytwined together. Dougald Hineand Tony Hall are founder mem- bers of the meetups. David Gaunt-lett was ﬁrst a guest and then amember, while Fred Garnett has become a member and Ollie Gar-dener an overseas visitor since Iinterviewed each of them. So, forme anyway, these interviews areshort clips from a broader, morefar-reaching conversation.
Fred Garnett gives an overview of thisseries of interviews and what they sayabout the state of learning.
Prescience, collapse and reﬂection
This newspaper presents someconversations about learningwhich promote the generic idea of being agile in the face of new con-straints. The origins for these re-ﬂections lie within David Jen-nings’s and Seb Schmoller’s earlierdiscussions about the impact of austerity on learning provision,whilst, back in 2006, Dougald Hineand Paul Miller were wonderingwhat might become useful after amajor global economic crisis.Out of these concerns the Schoolof Everything emerged and thenSchool of Everything Unpluggedallowed the conversations in thispaper to occur.Some of the original thoughts,rooted in creating new ways of us-ing technology, were that light-weight tools might enable an agileapproach to learning to emerge; aniterative learning process linkinglearners to their goals dynamically.Agile might also allow a scaling-down of learning to match thehuman experience rather than thescaling up of institutions attempt-ing to engage with ﬁnancial oppor-tunities that globalisation seemedto offer.
Small pieces loosely joined
Dick Moore takes his under-standing of the Agile Learningprocess from the
(2001), focusing on the notion of ‘the ability to change speciﬁclearning goals as issues arise’.However, whilst he values agile asa contextualising process based onwhat he calls ‘agile core skills’ anditerative learning, he is cautiousabout whether agile actually brings about deep learning.David Jennings takes this viewof agile core skills deeper by look-ing at how we might change therelationship with the authority of the teacher, offering a vision of learners contracting in to learning,using the basket of techniques thatAgile might offer to self-organisetheir learning.Agile seems to offer a ‘smallpieces loosely joined approach’,exempliﬁed by David Gauntlett,who is a serious advocate of theconvivial use of Lego as part of his
Making is Connectin
g work. Davidis concerned to create a socialprocess of learning that promotesactive engagement with the envi-ronment and he uses tools to en-able collaborative learning to oc-cur. He also sees consequences be-yond the classroom, by engagingwith the Transition Towns move-ment, for example.Fred Garnett focuses on howthat ability to craft learning col-laboratively requires a set of bro-kering skills in teachers, which arenot commonly part of their profes-sional skillset. He sees this as partof their responsibility to enablelearners to generate their own con-texts for learning.
School? That’s a weird idea!
Tony Hall, on the other hand,doesn’t see teaching as a craft; hesees craft as learning. Tony is in-terested in how you enable learn-ing in extra-institutional contextsthrough conversations aroundpeople’s interests. As Tony is aphotographer, he works with peo-ple’s pictures. He is interested inthe person who takes the picture,and the image is a way into con-versations about their reality.Ivan Illich’s
ideas are another thread runningthrough these Agile conversations,reaching an apotheosis with home-educators Annie and Guy whodon’t distinguish between learningand not-learning. They see thatlearning is always improvisedaround interests as they occur atany time of day; so much so thatAnnie now thinks that it is schoolthat seem like a weird idea.Ollie Nørsterud Gardener hasapplied social networking tools toproject and knowledge manage-ment within organisations to try toenable organisational learning, es-pecially peer-to-peer learning aspart of using her company’s Nod-dlePod service. Ollie is applyingemergent learning techniques toinstitutions as she doesn’t believeyou can ‘develop’ employees, theyneed to understand their needsand drive their own learning.
Agile: the basket case for learning
So Agile Learning might best beseen as a basket of techniques,tools, processes and attitudes — allof which are discussed here —which, when used responsibly andsensitively, might enable betterself-organisation of learning.
To learn,to teach
Dougald Hine brought a wide range of interests and experiences to his role asco-founder of the School of Everything, an internet startuplaunched in 2008 with the aim of connecting people who can teach topeople who want to learn.In 2009, Dougald and Tony Hallstarted the series of weekly meetingsabout learning from which a few of these interviews grew. And thisdiscussion took place in our usual spotlooking out over the River Thames from the Royal Festival Hall.
David Jennings: What ambitionsdid you have in creating Schoolof Everything?
Dougald Hine : I’d been readingIvan Illich’s
Overall Agile Learning providesa deconstruction of education intoits miscellaneous parts, such that itoffers the possibility that learnerscould re-aggregate the relevantsmall pieces to meet their self-identiﬁed learning goals or inter-ests. At the present time, one of so-cial and economic collapse, Agileoffers fresh ways of thinking aboutlearning that might enable newand socially useful modes of learn-ing to emerge.and getting very into Illich gener-ally. I’d met Paul Miller (nowSchool of Everything CEO), whohad heard of Illich via his work ona pamphlet called the
.There was a sense that a numberof us were rediscovering theseolder ideas about the possibilityand the desirability of meetingmore of our needs outside of pre-scriptive institutions.Paul and I and the other Schoolof Everything founders originallycrossed paths through our in-volvement in a weekly emailnewsletter called
Pick Me Up
Pick Me Up
was a recipe for fun.To write a story for it, you had to be actively involved in makingsomething happen. You told thestory of what you’d done in a waythat might encourage others to usewhat you had shared to help themdo something.
Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011