Definitions of “purpose” center on reaching a goal, terminal end, desired result, perhaps a mythical castle in the sky. That does not seem right education, we should want always to go farther. And I wonder if we’re trapped too much, especially in citing what’s wrong, in too easily framing education as school. Maybe it was schooled into us.

I am intrigued/encouraged by tradition-bucking advocates of a DIY approach to education. It injects a sense of looking at education in a non-19th century view. An ethos of people learning on their own is an Over All Good Thing. We need more of that, in and outside of formal education.

Yet, I grapple with this.

A DIY approach works perfectly when Y knows exactly what I is to D.

When you need to fix a flat bike tire or a stop leaky toilet tank, a wealth of free, open, and useful resources exist. The web delivered when I needed to learn how to make mashed potatoes.

But that is only part of an education, learning what you know you want/need to learn Left to my own inclinations as an undergraduate, I would have never taken a course in Art History, Logic, or even what turned out to be a seminal generative, serendipitous moment, my last elective in photography.

Go out in a public place not filled by academics of technogeeks, and ask yourself how many in that place are going to be able to ratchet themselves up as described as the focus of the follow-up to DIY U. The successes we highlight as DIY learning successes are wonderful, heroic, but also anomalies.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Were it not for an almost accidental entre, I would be missing what is the most rewarding creative thing I do now.

While school, a curriculum, a set of requirements are not the only possible things to guide learners into new realms, I wonder, in a land of DIY learning, what will motivate people to seek something they do not come with the built in desire to learn about? That they don’t know now is worth learning? Dean Groom suggests (and I agree) that the space of gaming succeeds in spawning high degrees of motivation. Parents like Lou McGill, motivation is a parental imperative to go where schools have came up short.

The need for motivation for everyone to become more learned, to step from the known into the unknown, is to me, a critically under-addressed aspect in the future of education.

I envision society as a system of energy, one working against natural tendencies of entropy that drive it to the un-organized state, as we are seeing now between earthquakes and political revolutions. The purpose of education, to me, is as a force that counters what would destroy society,

DIYs and OERs and other TLAs are not nearly enough on their own. It’s our imperative to have create (not just job reaching) reasons to virally spread a motivation to learn, because our future hinges on its potential energy.

In agreement with Tom Barrett, we need not only “cradled happiness” but unbridled passion and joy in learning, as unabashedly stated by my friend Gardner Campbell as simple but pure as “love”.

I see predominantly pessimism, doom, and overt focus on what is wrong in education. Call me a hippie, moon-eyed dreamer, but we do not rise up that curve of energy on a wave of negativity.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by *vlad*

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Wonderful, Alan – really love the upbeat tone, the reference to previous contributions, and (most of all) this quotation:

    “The purpose of education, to me, is as a force that counters what would destroy society.”

    Spot. On. 🙂

  2. Haters gonna hate.

    I say “screw ’em” – let’s make some art, dammit. It’d be soooo easy to wallow in the negativity. But that won’t get anyone anywhere (except some folks will make a killing writing/selling books on the negativity).

    I totally agree with you – let’s own our hippie-ness and follow the love.

  3. Pingback: Behind DIY |
  4. As you say, “The purpose of education, to me, is as a force that counters what would destroy society”

    Whoa, while being a heavy responsibility for educators, I agree and wonder if this could be expanded to include how Kevin Kelly puts it.
    ( )

    While the universe’s natural inclination is toward entropy and inert uniformity, humanity is thing countering that and it would only make sense that education is the method for this to happen.

    1. @Kern- yes, I was inspired by and pretty much lifted Kevin Kelly’s use of the concept (his “extropy”) as the force that moves against natural entropy- I lapsed and ought to have at list linked or given a nod of credit. I’m also a lapsed scientist (geology) so I lean on a lot of concepts of the natural world (e.g. deep time, and punctuated evolution)

  5. Fantastic.

    Like Doug I also flipped for “The purpose of education, to me, is as a force that counters what would destroy society”

    Simon Bolivar said “A people without education and culture is a blind instrument of its own destruction.”

    And re DIY, my Dad said “Always remember that you can learn anything you want, by yourself”…

    Cheers, Pascale

  6. A really great post Alan, thank you!

    You are so right that it is difficult to take a DIY approach to something you have no experience or understanding of. That is why, as I wrote in my #500words, I think a big part of the purpos/ed is giving people rich experiences that they might use to imagine possibilities.

  7. Jim Groom breaks-up with edupunk and Alan Levine finds renewed edu-hippie love in the same week.

    Wow, earthquakes and revolution man.

    I’m forty years old and my whole life has been immersed in an education conversation with two central claims 1)education as the best hope for improved humanity makes johnny a lazy illiterate dreamer and 2) The purpose of a proper education is to make good job doers.

    Well, after reading the Dog’s post I quit listening to the man and had a conversation with Johnny. Turns out he did quite well for himself by thinking deeply, sharing broadly, making music and art and loving his fellow humans. How did we miss this?

    Some will claim the dog is just howlin’ at the moon. Perhaps he is, but he makes the meaning for his work, not the man.


  8. “Yes, Pinky!” says Brain.

    Superb post, Alan.

    So let me hazard a concept. If we’re going to back DiY for the Rumsfeldian “known knowns”, and also love serendipity’s “unknown unknowns”, we should spread the love for both. If we want everyone to make art, like D’Arcy says, we need to make sure we expose as many people as possible to as much art-making possibility as we can.

    It’s a different kind of evangelism. Not just the love for tools, but the whole field of stumbling into new tools in the field of all possible toolboxes.

    1. exactly. that’s why I’m loving DS106 so fracking much – it’s not about a Course or an Education, but a way to expose (and be exposed) to lots of interesting and creative ideas. How do we spread that kind of enthusiasm for fracking around and trying stuff without worrying about getting it wrong? I don’t know, but that’s part of the DS106 magic…

  9. @Bryan says it like epic poetry, I shall borrow that. And I am 1000% agreement with @D’Arcy what has might ve the perfect unreplicable storm- the right people, the network, the loose boundaries.

    It works because it does not walkand quack like a course- it does not assert it’s course centric sense of self like all the others. It is a course and a lot more– in jim’s words it is an Event- it has that wild open feel of a concert, a performance.

  10. Hey Jude, (nice post)
    dont make it bad, (just talk)
    take a sad song (education)
    and make it better (learning)
    Remember to let it into your heart (craft)
    and then we can start to make it better (#purposed)
    ‘Lets learn different things’

    Visceral indeed! In which case you might like 63/68 A Visceral History my novelisation of the Open Context Model of Learning;
    Or my description of the PAH Continuum using the Beatles career as an exemplar;
    Academic Version on 9 after 909;
    Video edition on A Beatles YouTube Album;
    Let me know if it works for you
    fred garnett gmail
    Lovely to find a kindred spirit

    This comment was originally posted on HeyJude

  11. I totally endorse the idea that nurturing the imagination of young people should be at the centre of the education process but I wonder if the ‘eureka’ moment is a bit of a myth. I’m reading Steven Johnson’s ‘Where good ideas come from’ at the moment and I really like his notion of the “slow hunch”. I’m also really interested in the social aspect of learning and the important role that collaboration can play in generating creative ideas. I love your phrase “digital dementia”. Great post!

    This comment was originally posted on HeyJude

  12. Jon, I like the sound of ‘a slow hunch’! That just might describe a collaborative learning experience perfectly, or researching a topic carefully and deeply. I still think a slow hunch can lead to ‘eureka’ moments of personal joy, or personal achievement, as well as new knowledge discovery. Either way, it’s wonderful that so many are realizing that creativity is core to learning of any kind.

    This comment was originally posted on HeyJude

  13. Have you seen Steven Johnson’s video?

    Thanks for writing this great post…I love witnessing a “Eureka” moment in science classes when a student realises that she/he can apply their knowledge to solve a new problem.

    This comment was originally posted on HeyJude

  14. Yep – I do believe that ‘the slow hunch’ shows us how to nurture learning. Eventually, a slow hunch can become a ‘eureka’ moment or point of achievement. Aren’t these videos great!!

    This comment was originally posted on HeyJude

  15. “The need for motivation for everyone to become more learned, to step from the known into the unknown, is to me, a critically under-addressed aspect in the future of education.”

    Up until this point I was reading the most sensible contribution to this debate I had yet seen. Then you have to go and say something which suggests that you are completely oblivious to the extent to which motivation has already squeezed out education as an aim in many of our schools. All we hear about as teachers is motivating our students. Most dumbing-down is done in the name of making learning easier, relevant or fun in order to motivate them. We were better off when teachers taught, rather than acted as motivational spekers or life coaches.

    1. @oldandrew I guess I blew it? It is very likely I am oblivious.

      What you describe, the candy-ass attempt to create motivation, is not the variety I was trying to talk about- I am taling about the real internal drive that should exist in all of us, that great teachers are able to tap into. I can only remember my high school Calculus teacher, Mr Witts, through his energy, drive, passion, challenged us, and made me hungry to learn. He did not motivate me (like a carny show), he kindled and fanned the flames of my own fire, to make my fire up my own motivation.

      Okay, I do not know how to do this, but what I am most skeptical of is what people will be driven to do on their own course of learning outside the walls.

      1. Actually I blew it by not picking up on the fact that we are working in different education systems.

        I think great teachers do motivate, but they do so by being great teachers and causing us to learn which is motivating in itself. I think it is dangerous to separate motivation from learning.

        Thanks for putting up with my grumpy comment.

        1. Stop apologizing- it was valuable to think about being too glib about motivation.

          The curious thing is, no matter what system we are in, we can think back to someone who was a Great Teacher to us, yet in all this time, we have not made a lot of progress in figuring out what is the “secret sauce” that makes them great. I dont expect it to be a recipe, but it seems elusive.

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