THNK School: MineCraft for Grown Ups.

What is THNK ? It’s a new postgraduate program in Amsterdam, called the School for Creative Leadership. It’s a school with an ambitious mission: to positively impact society at scale.

And Minecraft ? Minecraft is a sandbox game about placing blocks to build anything you can imagine. If you haven’t come across it yet you probably will soon via an 11-year-old in your network. It’s like Lego 2.0

So back to THNK, I have just finished my second, 10 day long, on-campus module, at THNK with a feeling of having been turned inside out, upside down, while on a roller coaster and all in a good way.

Some of the novel moments on this roller coaster included: meeting fab people such as Esther Wojcicki a new role model for me, the fiercely engaged Princess Maxima and the charming Ravi Naidoo; gaining deep insights into my accelerator project during a session of meditation, then hands-on creation; and best of all getting to know the fabulous group of people known as the THNK participants.

A typical day at THNK, if there is such a thing, is a feast for a Learn-o-holic like me. It starts with Andra’s ‘Body and Mind’ lesson, which is kind of like playing with magic, the magic of the invisible field of energy between people and how to influence and change it. After that – and it’s only 9 o’clock – we either work on our challenge project or the Quest team may have some other surprise in store for us. During the Challenge we work on one of two themes: ‘The Future of Education’ or Carbon Reduction using M2M technologies using tools, which are a mash-up of Design thinking and Socratic questioning. In the evening we have a ‘Forum’ where we get to meet wonderful people and question them in-depth.

VIsual concepting by one of the ‘Future of Education’ teams, photo by Jason Hsu

The 10 days were further sprinkled with ‘Quest’ activities, which included amongst others, a number of high energy improv sessions;  making a 1-minute video with another participant on your top three achievements; an active workshop on the art of storytelling and reflecting on your Accelerator Project. Personally I love the Quest parts the best. The total THNK program being largely directed towards facilitating the growth of each participants accelerator project, it is a fabulous platform of playful investigation which perfectly suits the stage I am at.

Not that everything is perfect in the program design, yet, I guess you could say that THNK is in beta, there are some hiccups in the program delivery and design, which we get to chance to give feedback on (or vent on as the case may be) via the daily feedback forms. And that’s something I really appreciate about THNK, the faculty want to learn and improve the program, so open discussion is ongoing.

So what’s this got to do with Minecraft? Well, both THNK and Minecraft have a number of building blocks, some instructions and an ‘Interesting Form of Freedom’ for you to create your own fantasy in. And grown-ups basically don’t play enough (at least this one). At Thnk we get to do this with a group of people who hail from every part of the world, bringing a wealth of cultures, experiences and curiosity with them.  I love for example watching Ellen joyously investigating, or Sharon pondering quietly before sharing her broad wisdom or Gunter throwing sand in the machine. I’ve already worked in Team Holland-Taiwan and Team Dodgy whose motto was ‘If’s it’s not Dodgy it’s not Real’ and had a singsong that would do the Irish proud.

Before this all sounds too cult like, I’ll stop here.
 Check out THNK here.
My next post will probably be on my Accelerator project.

Ravi Naidoo @ THNK Forum, Pockets of Excellence

Ravi Naidoo of Interactive Africa from Cape town, is our expert tonite. Usually we have our forum sessions at the THNK home at the Westergasfabriek only today everything is different.
A couple of the participants were at the Stedelijk Museum this afternoon which happens to be across the road from the hotel where Ravi is staying, one thing led to another and now we are all in the Ravi’s hotel, the Conservatorium hotel, on the third floor, with two cases of South African wine and Eric as the facilitator. We introduce ourselves, people invent a variety of new backgrounds and origins and it’s great to meet my transformed co-participants, many of whom are disaster mitigation experts from France.

Ravi kicks off with telling us that he thinks ideas are great but it all comes down to implementation. He says ‘I get up early and I pedal hard all day’

photo from

Ravi leads us through what he calls a whistle stop tour of a number of amazing conceptual and visionary projects across Africa, for example the Wimpy TV ad targeted at blind people, by writing with sesame seeds in braille on burgers, the advertisement is here. Check out these young new animators – the Black Heart gang from Cape Town who have been commissioned by United Airlines to make a new adadvertisement for them. And Die Antwoord who are a fake white trash band from South Africa. called Zef Ninja Rap Rave Crew.

Now we’re into the Questions and Answers

Menno is asking about South Africa as a country, which he finds most amazing, and he wonders why Ravi even feels the need to defend South Africa and remind us of the wonderful things there. Isn’t it obvious by now?
Ravi says good question, he says what I am presenting is pockets of excellence, there is no critical mass – yet – there is not yet a body of work. And that still needs to happen. And it’s been worked on. He refers to the recent Economist cover which asks the question why is South African growth numbers lagging behind those of other sub-saharan countries. So there are some questions there.

Gunter asks where Ravi thinks the future of design lies in the South African context. Ravi says, design is not to serve as brands or a handmaid for consumption, but design to improve the quality of life. To design services for the real needs of the bottom of pyramid. Ravi has a vision where people don’t design for B2B or B2C but for Business to Community.

Tim would love to know what the new titel of World Design Capital for Cape Town means, he asks especially because Taipei is bidding for this titel for 2016 and Tim and Jason are working on this.

Jesus would like to understand Ravi’s take on what the impact of the apartheid system still is now on parts of the South African population, he makes the connection with the context in his own country Mexico where indigenous people often underperform.
Ravi says that it’s hard to underestimate the importance of confidence and when you come from a family where no one has done well or expects to do well that that is an enormous obstacle to overcome. Now Jesus is wondering if then that the Truth and Reconciliation forum was a success. Ravi says that regardless if this process was perfectly delivered that for sure the genie is out of the bottle, the issues are on the table, they haven’t brushed it under the carpet to fester as many places.

Kaz wants to know, the details, like how to you really make it happen, as in Ravi has so much charisma, how key is that charisma, basically how does he do these amazing things. Ravi says he has – after 18 years of practice – being a commercial activist, as he calls himself, he has found a sweet spot, he is an activist at heart, knows the history of his country, and is equally at home in an executive boardroom, in fact none of his projects have been subsidized by government, they are subsidized by business and corporations, he says he has a gift of understanding the business side. Ravi sees that many social entrepreneurs never get past the struggle for financing, they never get to the flow situation where you really look at, how can we make impact. Get out of the rut!

Short interlude – Did i already say that Ravi brought us 3 boxes of fabulous wine to enjoy during this forum discussion.

Sofana ask about the role of creativity, that being someone who works on elevating the role of creative industry in Saudia Arabia. Ravi says leveraging your heritage, expressing yourself, telling stories, is so important and he says, the African story has yet to be told on the world stage. As a scientist and a business man one of his main aims is to get people to pay attention to the real estate in between the ears and not the real estate under our feet.

All the names of people asking questions refer to THNK participants, you can see them here, 

Ravi now presents us a pitch of his that he wants us to get excited about, Your Street
First, Screw GDP. The world is in a rough place at the moment, and this is not a recession it’s a fundamental reframe of how we do things. So Ravi has started a movement, a call to action, called Your Street and It’s gone gangbusters. From Capetown to Chile 10 cities are running Your Street competitions are being run. People are claiming back the power.

On the way are some flame throwers and game changers and my laptop battery is dying so the last round of the evening will be online 2moro. watchy this a space. 🙂

Esther Wojcicki @ THNK Forum, a woman after my own heart.

I started the Creative Leadership program at last September, which is all about social innovation, at scale and how to make it happen. This is the second 10 day module and we have already had an amazing day today, days here start at 8am and run till 10 am at least, full of activities, work groups, improv sessions and prototyping. We had guests this morning from the Dutch business, the advisory board of THNK and not least Princess Maxima! and I loved exchanging ideas this morning with Ravi Naidoo.

Esther Wojcicki has been with us for the last two days while we have been pitching our new ideas, practicing story telling and envisioning. I will probably add her to my list of role models, since she is one of the earliest promoters of taking children seriously in education (and in general) and the open use of technologies to support education.

Esther at an earlier interview

Esther opens by telling us that she has thoroughly enjoyed the last two days and that’s she’s really happy to be amongst ‘soul mates’ people who are committed to social innovation. Esther takes us through the advantages of Creative Commons and shows us how easy it is to use and apply Creative Commons licenses to your work. She’s a big proponent of Open everything, and tells us about the recently launched School of Open which is a initiative of Creative Commons and P2P together.

Business models in Open Educational Resources (OER) ?

So does OER, open educational resources mean that there is no more money being generated in the education sector to fund further work when you work with Open?
Esther names three models she knows of, she’s certainly not against folk making money.
1. Just as with open source software, you can give away the educational resources for free and sell the support services, this is being used in Curriki
. Freemium models
3. The foundation model, whereby a foundation is willing to pay for work involved in getting open education resources online.

A Forum at THNK, involves a version of a flipped classroom and then supported by Socratic method of questioning, so we have all watched Esther’s TEDxtalk and read some of her articles beforehand and are now geared up in groups to ask questions.

First up is the group who want to explore further the relationship between creative commons and scientific research. Main point I took away from this is to note for the scientific community there is no CC for patents, so only the IP of scientists which is publishable in text and word is covered potentially by a CC license.

Next up, Peter, Kaz and Niels are hacking the forum system with a schematic for saving the world with everyone everywhere and what they introduce as a good cop, bad cop style of questioning. It looks like a representation of the Do Gooder’s internet, and without a load of curation of contents wouldn’t necessarily be better than a portal. but hey they made it with Princess Maxima so it must be good. This conversation ends with the ‘Enforcement’ question, how do you police usage? Esther would love to see a data tracking method for CC licenses and is pushing for that from her position on the board, but it’s not the main focus of CC and as Kaz points out regular copyright is pretty hard to police for the regular author too.

Photo from forum Esther (left) Gunter (middel) Tim Wong (right)

Tim Wong asks if Esther knows of any GIS data licensing systems and
Gunter is wondering, now that we have just learned that all our DNA’s is patented if he could license himself? We all laugh, but it might not take so long before this comes into the realm of possibility

 Esther on Pedagogy

Esther tells us about the Tiger Mom and then a french follow up book, which are all about parenting techniques which are based on competition and if anything this trend will continue ramping up. How do you encourage collaborative learning? Esther says the only way is if the tests start testing it, because testing drives the system. Apparently 80% of learning happens in the breaks.
And a good point on white boards in the class, they are called interactive white boards yet they are seldom used in any interactive way in the classroom. In fact this being the only technology that has been successfully introduced in the classroom and that’s directly explainable by the fact that it uses the same pedagogy of old. So no change there.
Unusually teacher’s seem to be the most tech phobic types on the planet.

OER and the Education DotCom Bubble, curated contents, 

We talk about the huge number of educational startup in Silicon Valley, and the likelihood of them being successful as businesses. So questions like how much are they making now and how much are they going to make in the future. Esther is skeptical that they won’t make that much money. Esther looks to the ones which teachers or students likes the most or potential success. Also if they haven’t been picked up fairly quickly or if they have a bad interface they won’t make it.

And then we’re back to the OER’s and the university’s models and if any of them are making money, Esther adds to the three options above for making money from these courses, aka Coursera or Udacity.

Model 4.
Because we wish to know more about how people learn, and all the data is registered as to how people use the systems then a coursera or a Udacity can sell this data., mine the data, analyze it and then sell the analysis and the data.

Model 5.
There is a global shortage of computer scientists and many aspects of this is captured in online learning courses. So potentially the course builders can sell data to companies on how students perform in their online courses. In this case, they are selling the information about top students to companies, the same way that Educational Testing Services sells information about top students to universities.

Jason Hsu mentions Floating University, which is maybe the newest in the space  it’s from Harvard, Yale, and Bard College, they do have a business model,  you can get a university credit, you pay 39 to 199 dollars for various courses, and then profits get put back into the schools to cover the cost of tuition for first years.

to be continued!

My Manifesto

I’m working on my manifesto, in order to hone in on what is most important in my world view,
this in order to fuel my next adventure and social entreprise, let me know what u think!
It’s work in progress.

Core Values

1. Everyone is born to live, to learn, to create, to connect and to give back.

2. Creativity is essential. Everyone is essentially creative

3. Take young people as seriously as you take adults.

4. (Young) People who have suffered through conflicts or poverty deserve the best and most innovative education to leapfrog their accumulated disadvantage.

5. Inequality is unacceptable

6. OverEstimate people.

7. You can’t solve a problem for others. You can increase their agency.

8. It’s Urgent

On Education

All of the above plus:

1. Why educate people

  1. To give them tools for their natural creativity
  2. To believe in themselves and their dreams
  3. To give back to the world
  4. To give them tools to learn what they need to know, understand or be able to do.
  5. To alert them to what they don’t know exists.
  6. To manage their emotional self.

So they can live in harmony with themselves, their community, the planet and creatively contribute in their unique way to a better world.

2. It’s now possible for people (almost) anywhere to connect to quality learning materials on (almost) any topic.

3. Doing ‘real’ things is the best way to learn

4. Mentor supported learning is powerful, if just one person shows genuine interest in you and encourages you when you’re young you can make it.

5. Lifelong learning, we never stop learning and should consider reinventing ourselves every 7 years.

6. Students need structure.
Interest-powered Learning …Research has repeatedly shown that when a subject is personally interesting and relevant, learners achieve much higher-order learning outcomes.

4. Cognitive and social intelligences such as adaptability, divergent thinking, and collaboration are as important as Math and reading,

5. Education is a global religion, with many different sub sects.

6. Any learning system should recognise the Inherent value of every person

7. Teach people to make things and they’ll never go hungry.


Nurture your talent – Create your Life –  Share your fortune

mLearn 2102 – Mobile Learning and School transformation.

Mobile Learning and School transformation.

Brendan Tangney, professor at Trinity College Dublin, in his keynote, looked at three questions. First off, for me it’s great to be able to listen to Bernard from Trinity college Dublin, as he’s from the same city as I am.

The 1st  Question that Bernard researched is:
Can non-technies create interesting mobile AR learning apps using APP Inventor from MIT.

Their conclusion after trying, a number of fun experiments overlaying draughts (a simple form of chess) into a live game on a rugby pitch is the  answer is NO, not yet it’s too complicated.

Now Bernard is moving on to a theme closer to my heart
Designing the 21C ‘classroom’ learning experiences.

Bernard kicked off with a quote ‘Stationary desks and chairs are proof that the system at hand is propagating slavery’ Montessori. and goes on to say that that’s a pretty radical statement, but that you have to be pretty radical if you want school change.

He mentions the SAMR model for technology adoption, which they use in their work,
Transformation (redefinition and modification) vs. Enhancement

The project Bernard is doing is called Bridge 21, they get students from regular schools to come into the University, to work.  It started as an outreach project. They don’t beieve in one laptop per child model, they see laptops and technologies as shared devices. Collaborative working is central. They use a team model inspired by the scouting model, which is highly structured and from experience students adopt the team work approach very quickly but teachers find it endlessly difficult. For them it’s a revolutionary change.

Topics covered in the Bridge 21 program include multimedia making, programming and even core curriculum  maths teaching to each other. With quite some success. We see a video of students at the program and sharing their experiences on it, and students clearly report increased confidence, and good to mention that the students they are working with would be from ‘disadvantaged backgrounds’ so this is a great achievement.

So what about systemic change? in ireland.
that being Bernards real aim.

As Bernard points out you can’t have a discussion about education without talking about PISA. Luckily in Ireland the education minister is keen on an overhaul and is going what Bernard calls the “Finnish Route’ This is a great opportunity for 21st century skills to get foot on the ground in schools and eventually have 21st century schools across the country.

Key 21st Century skills that they are working on are ‘Being Creative’, Working with Others’ Managing information  thinking’ They have also come up with new ways of assessing these skills and their initial findings show some measurable positive changes.

Now the audience is asking questions and most people want to know about the potential in Ireland to transform the system and what parties are for and against.

You can find the slides Bernard used are here:

Future Schools, SIngapore,

Presented by Yu Wei and Hyo-Jeong So.
An Evaluation Framework on Contextual Mobile Learning: Deriving from a Systematic Review

In Singapore 5% of schools are flagged to be Future Schools, they receive a lot of funding for this, and their research work works with these Future Schools. The Future schools,  have for example,
1. Whole school ICT approach,
2.  1:20 teacher student approach,
3. students have own laptop and ipad for outdoor learning.
4. The school inside has a very open and flexible architecture.

Yu Wei and team have designed what they call Mobile Learning trails.

The evaluation levels they work with to know if this mobile learning and future schools are having desired results are:
1. Ministry’s goals
2. Institutional demands
3. Students experience.

They started with this question:
What consists of a good contextual mobile learning model, How do we evaluate?

I’m afraid I couldn’t quite follow, their process, which was aimed to evaluate students progress.
But this si the aim fo Future Schools
The FutureSchools@Singapore aims to equip our pupils holistically with the essential skills to be effective workers and citizens in the globalised and digital workplace of the future

John Traxler
Unpacking question around Digital Literacy.

I love listening to John unpack things, he seems to continually  search for the nuance and the intangible and the cultural and ethical consequences of ideas and movements.

While part of a definition would be, ‘They are essential to an individuals life chances’ John says it’s often reduced to just meaning IT skills, which leaves out the cultural, community, political aspects of digital literacy.

Digital Literacy is probably a pre requisite for  Digital Citizenship and Digital Scholarship and relates to the concepts: Digital Divides and Digital Inclusion. And is further confused by the terms and discussions round digital natives and digital immigrants.

From a ‘ready to graduate’ perspective the need for digital literacy relates the question / why and what for do we educate’ which has a number of changing dynamics currently. If we look at literacy, which usually means being able to read and write and manage numbers. Then digital literacy is being able to read and write with digital devices to express yourself.

And then how does this relate to mobile learning? Mobile digital literacy.
Yet Mobile technologies are socially pervasive and are transforming our society making the text all the more local, location based and transient. Making the idea of authority of the text all the less substantial. Which influences the variety of genres one would want to or need to ‘read’
Cyberspace vs. phone space. Technologies are breeding. What’s being read and what’s doing the reading is changing. And where does this leave literacy?

Here is John’s full paper on this: Identity and Context, The reader and the Read