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a g i l e

l e a r n i n g


Conversations about Learning
Featuring interviews with

Dougald Hine

Annie Weekes

David Jennings

Tony Hall

Fred Garnett London Knowledge Lab & Learner-Generated Contexts Research Group

Ollie Nørsterud Gardener

Co-founder of the School of Everything Page 3

Home educator Page 6

Consultant in online learning and discovery Page 4

David Gauntlett

Photographer, learning evangelist and reluctant teacher Page 5
Dick Moore

Page 10

Enterprise learning entrepreneur Page 9

Professor of Media & Communications, author of Making is Connecting
Page 7

Consultant & former Director of Technology, Ufi/learndirect
Page 8

January 2011

Representation, Reflection, Relationships
A new three Rs for education?

Improvisation and imagination
The interviews in this newspaper were conducted by David Jennings and originally published on his blog between June and December 2010 — see for the full online versions. 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 originally sketched for seeding a ‘lightweight learning’ community of practice included a fancy 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 — were to have their budgets savagely cut or abolished. The first instinct, rather than to rethink our own business model, was to treat this budgetlessness as just another problem for which we could provide solutions. 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 overcomplicated 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 on-

line for relatively little or no cost: • collaboration environments, from build-your-own social networks to wikis and even old-fashioned email lists, and • free learning resources, from Khan Academy and iTunes U to the Open University’s OpenLearn 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 — and also 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. The interviews highlights ideas and experiences with roots going back several decades. But usable examples and guidance in areas such as adult, workbased learning (where I do much of my work) are still hard to find. There’s a sense that many are coming to similar conclusions from dif

ferent 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.

Many are coming to similar conclusions from different starting points… these actions are starting to knit together
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.
Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011

Knitting people and ideas together takes time. It’s all about relationships. At around the same time that 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 conversation.

Context and conversation
Fred Garnett gives an overview of this series of interviews and what they say about the state of learning. Prescience, collapse and reflection This newspaper presents some conversations about learning which promote the generic idea of being agile in the face of new constraints. The origins for these reflections lie within David Jennings’s and Seb Schmoller’s earlier discussions about the impact of austerity on learning provision, whilst, back in 2006, Dougald Hine and Paul Miller were wondering what might become useful after a major global economic crisis. Out of these concerns the School of Everything emerged and then School of Everything Unplugged allowed the conversations in this paper to occur. Some of the original thoughts, rooted in creating new ways of using technology, were that lightweight tools might enable an agile approach to learning to emerge; an iterative learning process linking learners to their goals dynamically. Agile might also allow a scalingdown of learning to match the human experience rather than the scaling up of institutions attempting to engage with financial opportunities that globalisation seemed to offer. Small pieces loosely joined Dick Moore takes his understanding of the Agile Learning process from the Agile Manifesto (2001), focusing on the notion of ‘the ability to change specific learning goals as issues arise’. However, whilst he values agile as a contextualising process based on
Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011

what he calls ‘agile core skills’ and iterative learning, he is cautious about whether agile actually brings about deep learning. David Jennings takes this view of agile core skills deeper by looking at how we might change the relationship with the authority of the teacher, offering a vision of learners contracting in to learning, using the basket of techniques that Agile might offer to self-organise their learning. Agile seems to offer a ‘small pieces loosely joined approach’, exemplified by David Gauntlett, who is a serious advocate of the convivial use of Lego as part of his Making is Connecting work. David is concerned to create a social process of learning that promotes active engagement with the environment and he uses tools to enable collaborative learning to occur. He also sees consequences beyond the classroom, by engaging with the Transition Towns movement, for example. Fred Garnett focuses on how that ability to craft learning collaboratively requires a set of brokering skills in teachers, which are not commonly part of their professional skillset. He sees this as part of their responsibility to enable learners to generate their own contexts for learning. School? That’s a weird idea! Tony Hall, on the other hand, doesn’t see teaching as a craft; he sees craft as learning. Tony is interested in how you enable learning in extra-institutional contexts through conversations around people’s interests. As Tony is a photographer, he works with people’s pictures. He is interested in the person who takes the picture, and the image is a way into conversations about their reality. Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society ideas are another thread running through these Agile conversations, reaching an apotheosis with homeeducators Annie and Guy who don’t distinguish between learning and not-learning. They see that learning is always improvised around interests as they occur at any time of day; so much so that Annie now thinks that it is school that seem like a weird idea. Ollie Nørsterud Gardener has applied social networking tools to project and knowledge management within organisations to try to enable organisational learning, especially peer-to-peer learning as part of using her company’s NoddlePod service. Ollie is applying emergent learning techniques to

institutions as she doesn’t believe you can ‘develop’ employees, they need to understand their needs and drive their own learning. Agile: the basket case for learning So Agile Learning might best be seen as a basket of techniques, tools, processes and attitudes — all of which are discussed here — which, when used responsibly and sensitively, might enable better self-organisation of learning.

Overall Agile Learning provides a deconstruction of education into its miscellaneous parts, such that it offers the possibility that learners could re-aggregate the relevant small pieces to meet their selfidentified learning goals or interests. At the present time, one of social and economic collapse, Agile offers fresh ways of thinking about learning that might enable new and socially useful modes of learning to emerge.

To learn, to teach
Dougald Hine brought a wide range of interests and experiences to his role as co-founder of the School of Everything, an internet startup launched in 2008 with the aim of connecting people who can teach to people who want to learn. In 2009, Dougald and Tony Hall started the series of weekly meetings about learning from which a few of these interviews grew. And this discussion took place in our usual spot looking out over the River Thames from the Royal Festival Hall. David Jennings: What ambitions did you have in creating School of Everything? Dougald Hine : I’d been reading Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society

and getting very into Illich generally. I’d met Paul Miller (now School of Everything CEO), who had heard of Illich via his work on a pamphlet called the Pro-Am Revolution. There was a sense that a number of us were rediscovering these older ideas about the possibility and the desirability of meeting more of our needs outside of prescriptive institutions. Paul and I and the other School of Everything founders originally crossed paths through our involvement in a weekly email newsletter 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 making something happen. You told the story of what you’d done in a way that might encourage others to use what you had shared to help them do something.

That’s how we stumbled into this idea that it was more fun to use the internet to make stuff happen in the real world than to spend more and more of your life in front of a screen. In 2004, people were still thinking about the internet as something which virtualised more and more areas of our lives. So the internet changed the world by enabling you to shop and bank online, instead of going to shops and banks. School of Everything was using the internet to change things in a different direction. We felt we could put into practice, on a grand scale, the kind of ideas that maybe sounded utopian when Illich was writing about ‘learning webs’ in the early Seventies. We drew firstly from ideas from the Sixties and Seventies of deschooling society and the Free University at Stanford — all these experiments in self-organised learning that had flourished a generation earlier — and secondly on a model of using the internet to make stuff happen in the real world.

At the centre of the School of Everything model, there is still a teacher-and-learner couple — how are your ambitions reflected in that? We started out with a motto which was ‘Everyone has something to learn, everyone has something to teach.’ The traditional model of education creates an artificial scarcity of people who can teach us, by only looking to professional teachers who have the skills to stand up in front of a class of people who don’t want to be there and keep them under control. Our alternative is to recognise the abundance of skills and knowledge and experience that is out there in every neighbourhood, in every workplace. So the starting point for the School of Everything site was how you index the wealth of knowledge and experience that is around you. First we built profiles where you could list the things that you would be willing to teach or to share. We got stuck working out how to present that profile without falling back into the teacher/ learner model. The first solution we had was that everybody who

signs up has both a teaching and a learning profile. That gets you part of the way there. But there is definitely a space in the middle, which it was harder to structure. Maybe there is something that happens quite naturally and informally if you get a group of people together face-toface — a fluid shifting of roles — which is harder to emulate online. The direction we’re moving in now, where School of Everything supports people getting together in groups, might be one way to find that heart of really informal, self-organised learning. What connections do you see between School of Everything and your work outside? One way that it connects is through ‘asset-based’ approaches. Asset-Based Community Development offers an alternative to conventional development, with its tendency to define people in terms of their needs, their deficit. You can see these same patterns in regeneration, in international development, and in the marketing culture which defines us as consumers, as a source of demand. Against that, the asset-based approach says, ‘Let’s start the other way round, by looking what is already present in a situation — the skills, the possibility, the resources, the experience — and treating that as something that might be being undervalued’. Actually, there is already an abundance there. School of Everything was approaching education from that perspective. On the first day that we sat down to work properly on School of Everything in September 2006, I remember saying two things. One was that I thought that by the time we had got this working there was every chance that there would be a major global economic crisis (you only remember the predictions that come true!). But I added that what we were building would be more and not less useful in a world which had been changed by that. Because universities and schools and colleges are very expensive and inefficient ways to organise learning. And because, while I talk about living in a time of abundance, actually, the culture we are living in is characterised by artificial scarcity as well. While we feel there is an abundance of knowledge and skills, that abundance is somehow not visible to mainstream policy-making and the way learning happens in the education system.

Are you just switching from one institutional footing to another — from the state-guided models of Higher Education and Further Education to a new model that runs on Google apps in the cloud and resources from iTunes U? I think it goes both ways. Last year I was part of a discussion with senior Higher Education figures for Demos’s The Edgeless University project. At the end of it I said to the guy from Demos who was running the project, ‘That felt like being in a room with a bunch of record company executives in 1999.’ The HE people were being quite complacent because they said, ‘You enthusiasts for technology see education as a transactional process of pushing units of knowledge to learners, whereas actually much of the value of education is in the relationships with the people teaching them and with the institutions they belong to.’ What they were ignoring was that you can also achieve a richness of relationship through the scaling down that technology makes possible. Universities sit at a scale which might have been optimal to where the world was at 30 or 50 years ago, when the costs of organising and finding other people were quite high. As networks make those costs lower, not only is it true that you can get a better lecture from iTunes U than if you went to the lecture theatre (the scaling up side of it). But you can also find a richer and more engaged environment in which to learn closely with others and build relationships through coming to a meetup like those we organise in the Royal Festival Hall than you might find going to a university seminar. Maybe that is a slightly utopian account. But I think that there is a risk that institutions which only see the threat from technology as a

scaling up to the global supply of high-quality content are missing the fact that there is also this scaling down to something that is more satisfying on a human scale than people’s experiences of universities as institutions tend to be.

Agile alchemy
After David Jennings interviewed David Gauntlett last summer (see Page 7), a curious Gauntlett decided to turn the tables on his interviewer, starting by trying to pin down what Jennings meant by Agile Learning. Here are the answers he got. Rather than being tightly defined I see Agile Learning as a family of approaches, in which selforganising by learners looks promising, that offer a response to the unprecedented circumstances we find ourselves in now. Firstly, a lot of money has been pumped into grandiose internetbased learning initiatives. Although the small-pieces-looselyjoined ethos and Web 2.0 approaches have been with us for years, the interventionist public sector tendency to Think Big vastly overestimated what top-down initiatives can attain. Secondly, ‘agile’ is about looking at emergent, adaptive learning in the commons of the internet. If

People Learning Something: a ‘wordle’ representation of the most commonly used words across the eight interviews
Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011

we chart these flexible, lowoverhead behaviours and understand the contexts where each is effective, we can start to map out more bottom-up learning experiences. As they work with the grain of learners’ habits, and are rooted in people's intuitive approaches to using the net for discovery and problem-solving, they’re more likely to ‘stick’. Enabling people to self-organise the goals, methods and the degree and timing of their collaboration with other learners enables agile learning. Consulting with authority Agile Learning potentially changes the power relationships in learning. We're used to contexts where the agenda, environment and the methods are managed and predetermined; why? Learners now have access to a massive range of tools and resources for learning and can build new knowledge and skills as it suits. Learners won’t always be the best judges. But when they’ve got something they want help or advice with, it might become more like consulting a doctor, taking such professional advice and follow-up seriously. They might say, ‘We’ve got as far as we can with what we're trying to do, now we’d like some direction, or help.’ So let’s recognise these emerging online learning behaviours but accept we'll only get so far with those alone. A bit of timely coaching can significantly improve on what people pick up on their own. Reframing teaching Teaching remains a matter of judgement, and often of on-thespot improvisation, about when to exercise authority. But the framing and boundaries of that authority can be tamed to ensure that teachers would bend to public interest, as Illich suggests, rather than perpetuating their professional interests. Howard Jacobson said recently that ‘authority is intrinsic to education, and the fact that authority is fallible doesn't change this,’ but we can frame that authority to lead us into a different space. Let them eat Google If an internet-connected computer is the basic infrastructure — as in Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall model — do we just leave learners to figure out the rest? We need to reframe what teaching is about, to provide the optimum further support to enhance self-organised learning. That’s the space that Agile Learning needs to explore and
Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011

chart. For example, before Web 2.0 services like, when I was on the board of an independent cinema, I advocated the idea of extending our educational activities to include curated web resources about our specialist film seasons. The educator might become a curator, a facilitator, helping to select the right tools, identifying when creating a wiki might be useful, or suggesting ‘you might like to try…’ Contracting in Learners might ‘contract in’ the teaching, support and authoritative guidance when they want, rather than it being planned for them. In this respect School of Everything looks promising as they’re introducing features to support groups of learners. Originally individual learners found and hired individual teachers, a market led by what teachers offer; generic, popular stuff: learn French, learn bass guitar. With self-organising groups there’s scope for offerings to become demand-led. Let’s say I want to be able to appreciate French literature and films. I’m unlikely to be able to persuade a teacher to provide a specially-tailored course unless I pay. With a group sharing my interests we're well-placed to commission some bespoke support. The fact the teacher’s contracted in doesn’t stop them exercising authority where it’s needed; like a licensed counsellor. I’m not sure how these prescriptions might apply to schools’ powerful apparatus of discipline and orderliness designed to keep kids off the street and make them workforce fodder. But I am interested in opening up the space around the periphery of institutions, which might retain an anchoring role. Basket of techniques Agile Learning is broader than these prescriptions; a bundle of loosely connected methods that work to differing degrees in different contexts. What ties them together is the intent of being a lowcost, learner-driven, flexible basket of techniques. But there’s no manifesto, no tight definition, no trademark. It’s an open enquiry and enterprise, which through a community of practice could be taken to school, perhaps initially through Free Schools. Bringing together this basket of agile techniques could make them look more ‘serious’ than when seen as scattered and small-scale.

Creating informality
Tony Hall is a photographer who became interested in learning through community photography projects with young adults. He created informal learning environments and allowed learners the freedom to set their own agenda. With the increased accessibility of technology, he describes his interests as ‘thinking about sustainable learning communities, shared learning in public spaces, using social media’. Tony doesn’t see himself as a teacher. ‘I got into teaching through not wanting to teach,’ he says. ‘A few people in a youth centre were interested in something I was interested in: photography. They felt that I could probably help them. And being outside school was important. Some of them were unbelievably bright. Some may have been failed by school, but there was a real mix of kids. They weren't much younger than me: I was 21 or 22; they were 16 to 19. Because I was seen as the photographer, I was the key character in that group. I could get stuff as well: enlargers from up in town; I could get film cheap in Soho. That was part of the deal.’

Tony sees learning as a social activity: ‘It's to do with relationships. Learning for me is not something you do by yourself — not in the way I do it, anyway. I’ve always felt I need to learn with other people. I never wanted to use the word “teaching” or being a “teacher”. I have to use it to work in institutional spaces, but it’s not a word that sits comfortably with me. ‘Learning for me is never about being stuck in a classroom and someone telling you how to do something. It's always to do with a process. Various characters get involved in that process. Some are better at explaining things or presenting something, offering up bits of knowledge, or finding something we can use — but it's never just one person.’ Learning is a pragmatic, experiential process for Tony. ‘It’s that make-do, but also making something out of that make-do. It’s not learning something for the sake of learning; it’s trying to make something. And then the conversations that came out of the practice, whereby you're involved in doing something together. Somehow what we were doing in terms of this thing called “photography” wasn’t photography. It’s more a case of us getting involved with each other and trying something out, having a bit of fun doing it.’ Tony’s experience with informal and community learning projects has made him wary of formal learning environments. ‘Institutionalised education isn’t a place I want to be. I tried many times to be involved inside the space, creating groups and projects inside these organisations. But I found that I spent huge amounts of time dealing with the administrators rather than doing the learning stuff. The first learning project,

Tony Hall (centre) with the young people participating in photography at his local youth club, London, 1969


building the darkroom, was about being let loose in a space with a bunch of people who had a shared interest. Out of that came a lot of other stuff — lots of conversations, around music and culture. As long as we could get a photograph out first of all, then something else comes from that. You don’t know what’s going to come out of it until somebody comes along and says, “I want to take this kind of photograph”. And then you can talk to them in depth. What I liked about photography was that anyone could do it, at least in terms of getting started.’ Tony worked with people in day centres throughout the Eighties. ‘A lot of time, I felt as though I was walking into their world, their environment, and I always felt that I needed to just be there, as a photographer, and that somehow the conversations would start. In one environment, for example, I set up a dark room for people with mental and physical disabilities. It became their own space within the institutional space. They made it in a way: they made it their space with me. And it happened because people allowed themselves to get involved with me in a day centre, and because I was different from what was going on there. It becomes something we did together, making this dark room… accessible in a way. ‘There were 11 or 12 people floating around who got involved. It’s always the same: one or two people get interested, and then they know somebody else, who they bring in, who sits on the side of the group, but they then get involved, and once you’ve got a basic interest amongst those few people, then you can begin to get something out of it. ‘When you actually begin a series of conversations with them, and continue over a period of time, they just want you to understand them a little bit. And because you're this person who takes photographs, they also want to do this thing called photography. Obviously, I go in there with a sort of vaguely framed way of thinking around it, in terms of a project I would like to do… but sometimes it never works out!’ By being seen as a photographer rather than a teacher, Tony feels he can accomplish more. ‘Because then you begin to look at what thinking is and what learning is. It is a social thing that's going on. It’s us negotiating something to do with an activity together… For me learning’s about change as well:

changing yourself. It’s not just thinking, it’s changing your thinking a bit. That’s the great thing about pictures, because you can negotiate through the picture without being provoked. So you’re always displacing the activity and you're talking about this thing here, but you know you’re talking with each other, really. You don’t have to do eye contact all the time, so the picture becomes a little reflecting device.’

ested in sharing experiences. The first time I went to HESFES [the annual week-long summer gathering of home educators], it was such a relief. Just being in a field full of people I didn't have to explain myself to felt liberating and relaxing. Again, HESFES has expanded massively in the time we’ve been going to it. [Wikipedia says it has grown from around 50 families in 1998 to around 1,500 families in 2006.]

plicitly their idea of what’s worthwhile and educational. Many might say, ‘Oh, yeah, but they’re only making a film — lots of people could just do that — why aren't they doing a real project?’ Loads of parents have a very narrow definition of what’s educational and what's not. Even with babies, if they’re picking up stones and putting them down, they’ll whisk those away and replace them with specially-designed toys.

The kids don't see the difference between learning and not learning any more than most adults do
You made a bold decision, including a change of career path — so what have been the pluses and minuses of that for you? It’s really quite hard to say. For the first few years I was quite evangelical about it, naturally. You’ve only known me in my later, more jaded years! In a way, I don’t even think of myself as a home educator any more. I don’t identify myself as one. School seems like a weird idea now: I can’t imagine why people do it. How far ahead do you plan? Do you know what you’ll be doing with your boys when they start again, after a holiday, say? No. They don’t ‘stop’ at any point. Some people organise things with holidays, but we don't.

Learning all the time, everywhere
David spoke to his friend Annie, who, with her partner Guy, decided to educate their two sons at home. Annie and Guy didn't set out to be home educators. Annie had read Illich's Deschooling Society at school, out of academic, rather than a personal, interest. But it was a series of practical considerations and social connections that led them to go down this route themselves. David Jennings: How did your ‘induction’ as a home educator work? Annie Weekes: Initially it was based on local contacts, such as with a nearby Sydenham home ed group. This was in 1999, when the examples of home education that you could find online were mostly in the US, and those were mostly faith-based, so they didn’t feel relevant to us. In the UK, there was an email list that I joined. Over the years that has grown, as more people came online, and it’s splintered into lots of smaller, specialist lists. When I started it felt like, after only a relatively short time, I knew most of the people who were active in home education and inter-

How about your boys — how do they keep in touch with their peers? The same way everyone else of their age does: mobile phones, Facebook, MSN Messenger. This is actually one of the classic objections to home education that people always come up with, ‘What about socialisation?’ I’ve never quite worked out what they mean by that. Often people dress it up as, ‘How do they ever get to meet people?’ Which has this kind of subtext of, ‘How do you manage to act like a normal human being in the world?’ Well, we live in the world, and we probably see more of it than most schoolchildren. It’s always framed in terms of meeting other kids, rather than socialisation as citizens and workers. Is there scope in home education for you to let a group of kids define their own goals? Sometimes that happens. One of my boys has made films with other people. But that’s completely off their own bat. Both animated and live action shorts. He and two of his mates make a film and edit it. They make the props and find the costumes. Educationally that’s a tricky or contentious area, because a lot depends on someone stating ex

Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011

So it’s heavily improvised? Entirely improvised. It’s driven by what they’re interested in. As I say, that’s what can make it hard. Someone will appear downstairs at 11pm and say, ‘So, the Italians were invading Abyssinia in whenever, and…?’ You think, ‘Oh my god! Isn't Google working this evening?’ They don't really see the difference between learning and not learning any more than most adults do. Most people say that messing around on the internet to find stuff out is not learning. To which I say, ‘Why not?’ And they say, ‘I suppose… but it’s not really the same.’ Because the correspondence they’ve made is to pre-structured blocks of activity that lead to a qualification. A) you can’t get a qualification for it, and B) almost the definition of learning seems to be that you don't enjoy doing it. Those are the two things that make it learning. Or that someone other than you defines the outcome you're supposed to aim for. Exactly, and that seems to be what makes it real learning. There was a nice quote someone sent me by John Holt — the educator, not the reggae singer — ‘The difficulty with learning to trust our children is that first we have to learn to trust ourselves’ in terms of defining their learning. And that’s the same with adults.

Joining up thinking
David Gauntlett is a fellow participant in the School of Everything Unplugged meetups in London — when his lecturing commitments at University of Westminster allow. Perhaps unusually for someone on the editorial board of a journal called Foucault Studies, David makes his ideas accessible by expressing himself in very straightforward everyday terms. This is very much of a piece with the agenda that David is advancing, one that sets a lot of store by giving people the means to influence and remake the worlds they live in through creative engagement with their environment and each other. This echoes one of the influences he cites: Ivan Illich, whose books such as Disabling Professions and Tools for Conviviality look towards a gently radical empowerment of citizens. David’s book, Making is Connecting, is published by Polity in the spring. David Jennings: Can you describe some of the themes you develop in Making is Connecting? Well, the title gives the starting point. I mean ‘making is connecting’ in three main ways: • First, making is connecting because you have to connect things together (materials and ideas) to make something new; • Second, making is connecting because acts of creativity usually involve, at some point, a social dimension and connect us with other people; • And making is connecting because through making things and sharing them in the world, we increase our engagement and connection with our social and physical environments. At first I thought it would be like a description of changes that are happening, but now it’s more of a prescription as well. Creative opportunities: people turning off their televisions and doing something more interesting instead. So how does that improve people’s lives as citizens and learners? Sitting back and consuming media for entertainment or information is fine, but one of the things we know about learning is that you learn through doing things, and being active — putting information together in new ways yourself, rather than just receiving

Working with Lego at the Connection Factory with David Gauntlett (left), Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Westminster it. If you’re actually going to engage with something, then a creative process of thinking and making will not only help you learn about that thing, but also help you create new ideas about that thing. In what way is sharing important to your prescription? It’s hard to separate out the importance of sharing because it’s all part of one process. Obviously, you can be creative on your own, locked away in a room writing a novel or a symphony, but I think basically creativity is a social process where much of the value or reward that we get from doing it comes from sharing and getting feedback, and being inspired by other people. So I think at its heart it’s a social process. That’s why you need sharing, otherwise you’re losing something. Even creative people who work alone ultimately want to share their work — so sharing is part of creativity. You use Lego a lot, and refer to it as a ‘tool for thinking’ — why? Building on the principles of Lego Serious Play, it’s encouraging people to think about questions and problems, build responses in Lego (or any creative material) and discuss and talk and share. Everyone gets to express some of their thoughts or feelings, and share them, exploring different aspects of the problem. You can get everyone to collaborate by putting the things they’ve built into one shared model through negotiation. That gets your brain firing on all cylinders while you’re doing it, instead of a more conservative model where you just absorb what a teacher or a book tells you.

There’s a sense in your work — when you refer to William Morris, for example, or cite Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman — of rolling back the industrialisation and mass media models of the last 150 years. I haven’t read The Craftsman — why is that book important to you? What I think Richard Sennett’s book boils down to — amid lots of interesting examples — is an attempt to prove that thinking and making are part of the same process. It’s not that you have thoughts and make plans, and then you make something, but the process of making things is also a deeply intellectual process. In terms of ‘rolling back 150 years’, it’s not really about that, but maybe it is about reconnecting with the kind of everyday creativity which may have flourished more in the past, and which doesn’t flourish in a consumerist, TV-watching society. Today we have tools to share the fruits of that creativity, easily and widely, which they didn’t have before, so that’s bound to help. You mention the Transition Towns movement as an example of Making is Connecting — could you explain why? Transition Towns are an opportunity for people to come together and make something new — make their town anew — which creates social connections through shared concerns. It also means that people are actively taking an interest in the way their town does business and transport and services. So it’s about having that active connection with your environment.

Ivan Illich, who argued that many institutions end up exacerbating the problems they were created to solve, was the most frequently cited writer in the interviews

Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011


Agile Learning and Agile Software Development Dick Moore believes that you can build agile learning experiences in an evolutionary fashion. You set out with a clear goal, and iterate as you go to make sure that you’re still on track. In the process you learn something; perhaps that this is the wrong way to do it, or that you're asking the wrong question! Having clear goals, which are easily tested so you know when you’ve reached them, does not mean that you can’t change the goals, with the consent of the interested parties. Dick’s analysis of the parallels between agile software development and agile learning is laid out in the table below. Shallow versus deep learning & core agile skills The need to acquire new skills and knowledge rapidly, combined with the knowledge engine that is
Agile Learning Learner satisfaction by rapid attainment of learning concepts that can be applied

Agile skills, agile methods
Dick Moore was Director of Technology at Ufi/learndirect and has a deep understanding of technology infrastructure and development methodologies. As well as speaking to David Jennings, he provided some original material, included here.

Google Goggles recognises real world objects and displays relevant information about them on your phone. The scope for project-based, mobile learning is enormous the internet, promotes self-directed learning — be it formal, informal or recreational; access to how-to videos via YouTube, and the previous set of how-to documentation that underpinned the open source Linux development platform have shown that recipes, plus a learning goal, can form the basis of significant learning and development programmes, especially if undertaken through a series of learning iterations. There is a view that says that every Google query is a piece of shallow Agile Learning; there is a goal (a question requiring an answer), a tool (search engine) and a need for some analysis of content (the results returned by the engine). However you need to be capable of discriminating on the reliability of sources, so effective use of search engines may require a range of core agile skills, which could be: a) formulation of queries, b) how to judge the providence and veracity of what is returned c) basic technology skills that are not yet universal. The degree to which these core agile skills are similar to the literacies of self-organised learners is more about your degree of competence than whether or not you have these skills. Anyone who uses Google will have them to some extent. Having a clear goal that one or more people can focus around in short iterations and a way of measuring this provides an end point; clear criteria that define the end of a learning iteration can only be a good thing. These might be: • after this iteration I will be able to… • after this iteration I can demonstrate… • after this iteration I can explain and show the relationships between…

So having these core skills and an understanding of learning iterations are key for agile learning. Assessing Agile Learning The assessment challenges with Agile Learning are much the same as with any other form of learning. If certification is required, then there has to be some sort of rigorous assessment that underpins the knowledge and practical skills being taught.

Agile Development Customer satisfaction by rapid, continuous delivery of useful software and systems Working software and systems delivered frequently (weeks rather than months and years) Working software and client satisfaction are the measure of progress

Attainment of new models of understanding and assessment building upon each other in short durations (months) The ability to apply and contextualise learning with clear signs of progress and development The ability to change particular learning goals as understanding or issues arise

Every Google query is a piece of shallow Agile Learning; there is a goal, a tool and a need
Concerns such as impersonation, plagiarism, weak testing regimes, and corruption all apply. However, in Agile Learning we have some advantages in that clear goals are set, intervals are defined and are typically short and there may be an end result delivered via a group, allowing the group to self-assess (something that should be encouraged). Moderation may of course be needed. For more formal qualifications then formal assessment might be considered. The UK Driving Test with its theory and practical test might be considered a good example of Agile Learning. There’s the theory test that's now part of the Driving Test: you pick these things up not just through the British School of Motoring, but through talking to your friends, going on a simulator, buying a book, and so on. This is an example of Agile Learning blending into accreditation. There is also ‘tacit knowledge’ that you can’t pick up from just talking and reading. Agile Learning won’t help you learn to ride a bike. In my experience in Agile Learning, you define the pace, you decide which elements you want to do when, you decide who you
Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011

Late changes are welcomed rather than rejected out of hand

Close, daily cooperation between clients Close relationship between educators and and developers learners (often with blurred roles) Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication requiring colocation Regular communication (daily/weekly) mixing synchronous and asynchronous communication as a key feature, and augmented via technology There has to be shared vision and common goal for the learning activity Having well defined goals and structure and of ‘high quality’ Clear objectives, though still open to change As per Bloom's ‘two sigma problem’, mastery learning can be applied in small groups, with strong communication OK to change learning goal or aim midsession providing its agreed No one method or way of being an agile learner or supporting Agile Learning, but they require a goal and some organisation

Projects are built around motivated individuals who are trusted Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design Simplicity

Self-organising teams of 5-9 to facilitate development

Regular adaption to changing circumstances There is no single tool set rather a collection of tools and processes that support agile development

Dick Moore’s comparison of ‘agile’ approaches in software development and in learning

learn with as a group. It is agile to me when you have a suite of tools and a suite of communication practices allowing a real blend of formal and informal learning. Agile Learning doesn't have to be assessed, but if you want it to be, you can put in place methods that will work. Agile Learning and the roll-out of the mobile internet Mobile internet, especially with things such as Android phones, is the most exciting new platform since the Sinclair spectrum and I expect it to have a greater impact than the PC or laptops. Adding a whole range of sensory devices (light sensor — camera; directional — compass; sonic — microphone; RFID), combined with Global Positioning System and internet connection, will open up significant new learning opportunities. We can in effect carry a learning device that will increasingly understand its physical context and allow us to integrate our world.

Organisational originals
Can social networks be environments for real learning? What would happen if you tried to mash up social networking and knowledge management with a human-centred approach to how people learn and develop in organisations? Ollie is co-founder of the Oslo-based NoddleSoft. Its first offering, as a startup company, is a platform called NoddlePod,. What interested me was NoddlePod’s emphasis on employees driving their own social learning in an emergent process. As Ollie put it in her blog, ‘I simply don't believe that people can “be developed”.’ They have to be active, not passive, to develop. David Jennings: How did you come to found NoddleSoft and where have you got to with it? Ollie Gardener: I founded NoddleSoft out of frustration — frustration that I was in a role where my role was to enable learning, yet I came to feel that what I was doing was more about managing and controlling learning. I felt more of a bottleneck than an enabler. I was in charge of implementing wikis and forums to enable knowledge-sharing across companies and within companies. I loved the idea of it, but I also came across all of the obstacles to making it work. It’s fabulous once you

The world will contain a data layer from which meaning can be accessed and knowledge inferred
With applications like Google Goggles, we already have the ability to analyse photographs, extracting semantic information and other data from them, linking through to secondary sources. Increasingly the world through which we navigate will contain a data layer from which meaning can be accessed and knowledge inferred. We can readily expect information and knowledge to remain in the cloud rather than on personal or corporate servers. My feeling is that the mobile internet will accelerate this, providing even larger layers of data that will be mined for meaning. Outside what we call the First World there is a demand for education, and a thirst for knowledge at a low unit cost, which mobile technologies may be able to provide, so the emerging economies might adopt Agile Learning solutions quickly due to the low entry cost. Closer to home, we may see mobile internet blur the boundary between formal and informal learning, access to knowledge and offering information that is always on, encouraging agile learning practices.

get the ball rolling. But at the start, it can be a heavy process. There are a lot of culture issues, like, ‘Why should I give away my knowledge that is making me valuable in a company?’ So I thought it would be better to enable more everyday learning, to allow the individual to organise the material the way they want to. Because, in a wiki, someone has to set a structure and that doesn’t necessarily reflect our individual mental models of how things are linked and what’s relevant to me. That was the first thing: I wanted individuals to be able to create a structure that reflected how they thought and what they actually needed of content or information. The idea of NoddlePod sprung from there… You could make the platform social, in that I can actually share what information is relevant to me now. It's not like a project management, delegation type of thing… But we can work towards individual things and still benefit from each others’ learning along the way. So how does NoddlePod help? It’s a marriage between a project management tool and a social network like Facebook. Content-focused tools like blogs and wikis leave out additional cues, like ‘When do I need this information? In what context is this relevant?’ And that’s going to be

different for each individual learner. So it’s a matter of connecting the content with the context that’s valuable to the individual, based on their own need and preferred way of learning. As you elaborate on the structure, you're creating your own world and your own learning. We believe that individuals will benefit from having a ‘hanger’ to make sense out of their content, whether that content is a training programme or a website they’ve found, or discussions with colleagues, or to-do items for their own work. What areas of enterprise activity do you think NoddlePod is best suited for? When we built it, we referred a lot to graduate programme, knowledge programmes, talent programmes.

NoddlePod screenshot showing project outline (left pane) and item view (right pane)
Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011 9

However, we’ve actually found that NoddlePod is just as valuable for an enterprise that deploys it as part of an organisational development process. They use it to connect change agents across the organisation who have different roles in implementing an organisational strategy. So these agents, working on different bits of the process, connect and discuss to see if people are experiencing the same kind of resistance or issues. Are there particular kinds of companies that welcome the NoddlePod approach? What resistance have you met? I’ve targeted employeeengagement-aware companies. I think that’s a growing sector, and people are starting to value the individual in all of this. They’re recognising that we shouldn’t being trying to create copies; we should be creating originals and encouraging individuals to make a unique contribution to the company. If companies treat recruits as interchangeable according to the role they’re given, it’s as if they’re just a jigsaw puzzle piece. People aren’t like that. You will get a lot more value from each individual employee, if you connect with their reason for being. If you can connect with what drives them — as an employee and as a human — it makes for a more healthy organisational culture, with more innovation, much more initiative and engagement and productivity. A lot of the barriers are to do with there being so many organisational structures that are there to control and to moderate and to steer the organisation. Those structures are there because of tradition, because of status, or because of fear. I think it’s probably harder for bigger companies, because of administration challenges of scale. We don’t trust our employees and, really, if that is the honest answer when you dig deep enough, you’ve got a problem. You’re not going to succeed as an organisation if you can’t trust the people that you've hired. If those people know that you don't trust them, then what commitment will they have? How will they engage? Will they contribute their best ideas to the organisation, or will they keep them to themselves and do their own thing? In the past we focused too narrowly on productivity and control. I think productivity is kind of a side effect of doing all the other things right.

Brokering learning
Fred Garnett has been invlved in all forms of learning from prisons to government, and from US universities to the now-defunct BECTA, and is now interested in fresh ways of generating learning contexts. Fred explores how learners deal with the unknown and reframe problems in an unpredictable world: how they create context out of ambiguity. He is particularly interested in how learners create the conditions to manage their own learning, and interact with authority and power in learning. The challenge this represents to teacher-led learning can be anathema to traditional models. In traditional pedagogy, the teacher decides what the learner needs to know, and how the knowledge and skills should be taught. Fred uses new terms to describe alternatives to this: ‘andragogy’, a shift from taught to selfdirected education, typical of adult and community learning contexts, where learners are involved in planning their learning activities, facilitated by teachers and centred on experiences and problemsolving; and ‘heutagogy’, a further development where learners have enough confidence in and mastery of their own learning that they can reframe problems. Fred suggests that heutagogy can be seen as ‘the ability to play with form and create new ones’. Learners generate their own contexts to help them understand complex situations, and learning comes close to improvisation as a means of dealing with these situations. Fred is interested in ‘how you deal with the unknown con-

structively’, designing Architectures of Participation (AoP) in learning. A big music fan, he used these ideas to analyse The Beatles’ career on the 9 after 909 blog. In their early years, they were taught the craft of studio recording by producer George Martin — their pedagogic phase. In their andragogic period in the midSixties, Martin made a tactical withdrawal, becoming more facilitator than teacher. This shifted to heutagogy as The Beatles mastered the disciplines and techniques until they could play the studio as though it were itself an instrument. In 1967 they made records such as Strawberry Fields Forever and I Am The Walrus that used the studio in ways that cut it free from its function of documenting musical performances. Fred believes that learners using online technologies, can co-create their learning. In doing so, the AoP requires an examination of the principles in institutional redesign. If Learner Generated Contexts (LGCs) are ‘a coincidence of motivations leading to agile configurations’, then institutions need to be capable of adapting to post-Web 2.0 multi-context learning. An AoP is about enabling ‘adaptive institutions’ to work across collaborative networks. There are many practical examples on a small scale, often where teachers factor in new tech tools and collaboration, treating learning as a holistic process. Most institutions, limited by funding and their need to track their learners, do this only on short-term projects: they don’t go on to become fully adaptive. The tools and processes to support this adaptive process are available, but the mindset of IT Service departments in education institutions has yet to embrace them. Fred describes his own teaching practice as ‘brokering learning’: interpreting what the education system would accredit as learning and enabling students ‘to do stuff they were interested in. Brokering is about taking learners’ interests and mapping them to formal learning outcomes’, he says. In the USA, ‘you write the syllabus of every course you teach’, enabling teachers to rebuild the syllabus for learning.

‘Brokering is using your knowledge of the educational system to negotiate with learners about what they want to do, a form of andragogy. Brokering is the craft skill of teaching, and takes time to develop. The key aspect in making brokering work are the assessments, and what is assessed. If you can let the learner select syllabus areas that interest them, or negotiate the form or the timing of exams, you can motivate them a lot. ‘Teachers need to be confident to move from delivery to negotiation and brokering, instead of hiding behind knowledge or learning materials. Learners come to understand the education process and how learning is assessed. They become capable of seeing how their work will be marked and can develop their own assessment criteria.’

Teachers need to be confident to move to negotiation and brokering, instead of hiding behind knowledge
Currently learners do not have the enterprise and know-how to generate their own learning contexts: we need assessment to prove that learning has occurred, a barrier to learners developing the confidence to take control. ‘It isn’t possible to allow learners to generate their own contexts without pedagogic, institutional and assessment redesign’, says Fred. ‘The current system requires learners to adapt to pedagogically-driven assessment as it has the power to allocate the rewards to that model. The existing power structures for education are loaded against learner enterprise.’ Fred and his team developed an E-maturity Framework for Further Education (EMFFE) with 15 colleges which appreciated its developmental qualities. ‘In the EMFFE and the AoP we use quality improvement indicators and inspection processes and design them into the everyday processes used by teachers. Staff record activities which create dynamic systems which are also inspection reports and the basis of future planning reviews.’ Fred has two underpinning principles. “Everyone wants to learn, which is not the basis of our designed-to-fail education system. Secondly, post-Web-2.0 tools enable participatory learning processes to be supported by technology. The opportunity to support LGCs is what is new.
Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011

‘Plato’s original Academy did not set up the Academic model that we think of. The Academia was the building where Socrates sat and debated subjects, a nearby orchard allowed learner discussions and a gymnasium provided physical exercise. Learning was seen as instruction, conversation and activity in formal, informal and non-formal contexts, but we only retain the formal part, call it Academic and ascribe it to Plato to validate it. Even our notion of “Academic” is misunderstood and used to support a false position of power, whereas LGCs were designed as complementary processes into the original model. In a way, LGCs have always been around.’

Sometimes it is tempting in lessons to introduce concepts that the students have not heard of and so ‘stretch’ their learning, but if the students cannot contextualise this it can be frustrating for them. I like being able to set a stage for learning which is in effect the classroom and the task set, and then using a platform such as Blogger to create a collage of images, links and concepts which pupils can dip into as they wish, set against the background of this overarching task that sets the direction and ‘tone’ of the lesson.

Use a platform to create a collage of images, links and concepts which pupils can dip into as they like
So there are hints and signposts towards extending the work we are doing but it is down to the learners whether or not to follow these suggestions. The internet is in some way a ‘lucky dip’, where, as Sugatra Mitra has suggested, there are a plethora of answers. But it is up to me as the students’ guide to give the questions and hint at the richness of responses that may be possible with a suitably creative attitude. This is what, in my experience, Blogger is ideal for. This approach would work with other blogging platforms — anywhere where links and text and images can be gathered and the learner and teacher can relate to each other in real time.

Tools for Agile Learning
This section gives brief accounts of instances where low-cost tools can enable self-organised learning by individuals and groups.

Towards lightweight learning
Teacher Lucy Johnson describes her use of a blogging platform for enabling emergent learning. Blogger — who would have thought this technology could make for such a dynamic lightweight learning tool? But what a difference this has made to my GCSE group. The students love using the platform, they can customise it, which gives them a real sense of ‘ownership’ of their work, they can link with their classmates through the ‘follow’ device, thus enabling peer-to-peer learning, they can link with me, and, as the lessons unfold, I can update my blog in real time to respond to their learning needs — for example a lesson on advertising threw up some brilliant ideas and I could see the students were inching towards the idea of ‘role models’ and ‘aspiration’ — they had the ideas but not the vocabulary. I saw that this was happening and so posted this vocabulary and definitions and the students responded enthusiastically.
Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011

use separate books for work, personal development, and so on? Keeping a digital record makes it easier to edit and rearrange notes post hoc, and the process of linking between disparate ideas further enriches learning and creativity. In Where Do Good Ideas Come From? Steven Johnson reports how enlightenment-era thinkers kept what they called a ‘commonplace’ book, to transcribe favourite quotations and ideas. These books were sometimes laboriously indexed to allow different concepts to bleed into each other. But how often do we actually make the effort to go to these lengths? For nearly three years now I’ve been using something called TiddlyWiki to make my notes more flexible, integrated and link-aware. TiddlyWiki is like a single-user wiki site, except that it’s not a site, it’s a single HTML file with some javascript that manages the individual pages (known as ‘tiddlers’). I keep all my notes on TiddlyWiki from meetings, to-do lists, observations from lectures or videos, website clippings, even the tortuous history of my complaints to my bank. If I enter either the name of another tiddler or a URL, it’s automatically hyperlinked. And every tiddler can be given as many tags as you like to help crossreferencing, navigation and browsing for reflection.

under an open source licence. It seems to be best known in the developer/geek community, and it’s eminently adaptable and hackable. However, I’ve managed to use nearly all its features, and do basic adaptations, without needing to do any coding. Meanwhile TiddlyWiki isn’t so good if you like to jot drawings in the margin — so you can keep your moleskine notebooks for that. But they’re a lot more expensive.

DIY social networks for schools
Lucy Johnson outlines the benefits — and hazards — of using social networks for student engagement in her school Social media can be a great tool for enabling ‘student voice’ in school. Which is why we started using the Ning social network platform a few years ago. Ning enables you to create your own network by configuring whatever social features you want: blogs, forums, profiles, activity streams, photos and videos. Our test case was the school Eco Committee. Initially, we were bedevilled by privacy issues — that is to say, policy restrictions on how pictures of schoolchildren may be used on the internet. However, assisted by Rhiannon Scutt, Head of Sustainability, our Ning has become a useful tool for enabling staff to keep in touch over a site that covers two postcodes, about a subject area that is not curriculumbased. The topic is now under threat of becoming sidelined owing to government cuts in the sustainability agenda, so it is no longer compulsory for schools to deliver. Yet the headteacher’s support (feeling that it reflects the Catholic ethos of our school) combined with the low overheads of running our Ning network means that it has survived. We began paying for the service a year ago, to avoid having adverts on the site, which we felt was inappropriate for schoolchildren. This kind of low-cost, flexible network infrastructure has tremendous potential to forge connections at a time when links and communication are increasingly necessary to support an ever more complex and fractured society. Though even these connections come with further complexities attached. The issue of intergenera 11

Commonplace books 2.0
David Jennings vaingloriously compares his use of an open source wiki tool to the methods of enlightenment-era thinkers. Taking notes helps us digest our experience. The act of distilling and refining what we see and hear does more than just produce a record or aide memoire; it lodges each thought more deeply in mind. Notes of meetings, lectures, videos, ideas that visit us when staring out of the train window, key passages of books and websites… How to keep and manage all these scribblings to make them more useful for learning and problem solving? I guess I’m not alone in having experimented with various shapes and sizes of notebook — do you keep everything in one book, or

Enlightenment-era thinkers kept a commonplace book to record favourite quotations and ideas
There are other proprietary services, like Evernote and DEVONnote that offer similar functionality, possibly with more sophistication. However, having previously kept my notes on Psion and Palm PDAs, and on the Ma.gnolia social bookmarking site, I know the aggravation caused when these businesses stop supporting old formats. TiddlyWiki will keep working as long as there are browsers that can read HTML and javascript. The fact that TiddlyWiki is just one file makes it easily portable: I carry mine round on a keychain USB stick, which I use on my desktop and notebook computers. If you spend a lot of your life in the cloud, there’s a hosted option — with a different set of security considerations. TiddlyWiki was developed by Jeremy Ruston, and is published

tional relationships is fraught with difficulties as teachers and students reach out online in ways not easily governed by institutional procedures. We have struggled with the lack of policy and strategy in dealing with these thorny areas. Simply declaring that these platforms, once classified as ‘social networks’, have to be gated from the school experience does nothing to address the very important issues that are arising around young people and their experiences of the public domain online. These tools are too important and too potentially powerful to ignore.

Conversation flows on Level 5 of the Royal Festival Hall

Newspaper on the web
For links to all the original, fulllength interviews in this paper, plus links to the resources and initiatives mentioned in them, please visit Or use this QR code to go there

Join us at the Unplugged Meet-ups
Most of the conversations reported in this paper are connected in some way to an open, self-organised group that meets weekly in London’s Royal Festival Hall. This group was started as a spin-off from the School of Everything. Here, Patrick Hadfield, consultant in organisation change management, gives a personal account of why he participates in the group. The meetings take place from 10:30 to 12:30 each Wednesday. Everyone is welcome. See the web page on the left for full details.

I’ve been going to the School of Everything ‘Unplugged’ meetups for several months; I don’t make every week, but I am there fairly often. The main thing I get out of the meetup is the opportunity to meet like-minded people for challenging conversation — a real positive. I sometimes feel a bit of a fraud being there: most of the people there have more experience in education than I do, and more formal understanding of pedagogical theories and ideas. My interest in learning — aside from a passion for learning itself — stems from my experience working in learning and development and or-

ganisation development in a corporate environment — what used to be known as ‘training’ — and 14 months spent working on a change programme developing a new school curriculum in Scotland. I approach the weekly informal discussions from a different perspective to others; but then so do they — one of the great things is that everyone comes from a different place and is willing to explore and challenge others’ views. Sometimes we have open, wideranging discussions; sometimes there is a set topic or subject — at least for a while (before we stroll off topic…). There are occasional speakers, too, usually organised by David Jennings — despite being a self-organising group, it still takes some organising, and David and Lucy Johnson seem to do most of that. The energy of this group stems from our different interests — enough commonality to want to hear what the others have to say, enough difference to generate real debate. It is also a very open group — anyone can turn up and take part. And, apparently, we are a friendly, welcoming bunch! One of the rewarding things is how newcomers to the group always seem to react in a very positive fashion.

This newspaper was written, edited and designed between 8 December 2010 and 3 January 2011 by the team of David Jennings, Fred Garnett, Ian McCleave, Lucy Johnson, Patrick Hadfield and Tony Hall. Photographs Portraits of Dougald Hine, Ollie Gardener, Annie Weekes, Tony Hall by David Jennings. Portrait of David Jennings by Lucy Vickery, of Fred Garnett by Nigel Ecclesfield, and of Dick Moore believed to be by Gill Moore. Meetup photo (this page) by David Jennings. Google goggles (page 8) 0/4200068872/

Constipated face (this page) g/3586172160/

All others by Tony Hall. Acknowledgements We are grateful to DJ Alchemi Ltd, Fred Garnett and Lucy Johnson for contributing to printing costs, and to Lucy Vickery for layout assistance. Is your learning constipated by over-complex tools and over-specified processes?
12 Agile Learning: Unplugged issue, 2011