You really cannot make this stuff up, but someone out there actually does…

Take a look at that imagery- is that a bicycle anyone wants to ride? Is that an education anyone wants? Can you find any problems with the symbolism? Maybe not.

Me, because I just cannot get enough chasing down the internet, I want to know where the heck the image came from. The internet provides a lot of media, but more and more, no vestige of a credit, no prospect of an attribution (and yes, for anyone keeping metaphor score, that’s the second time in a month I’ve used a James Hutton reference).,

So I start with a search in google images for “bicycle of education” (quotes to get the full phrase) and bingo, first result gets me a match in the data is ugly subreddit. Enjoy the thrashing in the comments.

187 upvotes in a data is ugly subreddit. Fame.

But the link that was posted here merely points to an image uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. Here it is once more so you can relish the infographiness of it.

The "bicycle of education"

The “bicycle of education”

This is all we know about it now, a URL

But Wikimedia Commons is unlike other places on the internet, every image there has information associated with it- if you can find the entry. But a search Wikimedia Commons on “Bicycle of Education” comes up empty.

Back up again. Look at the file name 21st_Century_Trilling.jpg – it does not identify itself as “bicycle of education” thats what the yucksters in reddit did. What does “trilling” mean in this context?

I don’t know, but searching Wikimedia Commons for “21st Century Trilling” gets me more info, the Wikimedia Commons meta data for this image.

The image is licensed Creative Commons Share Alike (I like it that even bad infographics are doing well to be shared under Creative Commons). The information on the image is sparse:


But we have a name. Charles Faden uploaded this, and it is his own work. Blame Chuckie.

Let’s go back to Google, and search there on the same keywords “21st Century Trilling”— BINGO!

trilling search

Trilling is a name, a co-author of Charlie Faden, and their book is 21st Century Skills (featuring a glowing review by Dr Grit).

I’m not going to buy the book, but I would bet a beer that the Bicycle of Education is in it.

Who cares?

Something always emerges in these hunts. Someone else in the reddit thread suggests this as a more worthy bicycle diagram


but I’ll be damned if I’m going to go look for the source of that (well not tonight).

UPDATE: Feb 8, 2017 Thanks to Jamie’s comments we can attribute the Krebs bicycle image to Andrew Twist (@_atwist) who created it for in The Krebs (Bi)Cycle post on the Sheffield University Deconstructing the Tour web site.

And MediaWiki Commons has a boat load of bicycle diagram images, thankfully, most of them represent bicycles.

I’d love to teach some lesson of critical thinking starting with that “bicycle of education” but instead I’m going to hop on my teacher set, click through my learning gears, and get my student wheel spinning…

Top / Featured Image: flickr photo by katerha shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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An early 90s builder of web stuff 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. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. This would be cool not only to teach critical thinking (your digging does that more than just the image, right?) but also to teach about bad visualization – that you don’t necessarily make it good just coz u made it visual (gosh lots of graphs are like that). I often start such discussions with “what’s wrong with….?” to avoid anyone thinking I want them to actually like it (could get embarrassing)

    1. I might not start the discussion with “what’s wrong with” because you are already tipping off to students that you think there is something wrong, and they will follow their lead rather than learn to develop their own analytical skills. I’d like to see them figure out of there is a problem at all, and thus start with a mix of good and bad examples.

      That’s one part of this- the other is the issue in a world of retweeting/reblogging/link passing that the context of the original is detached from the media, there is no caption (I go back to Errol Morris on the importance of image captions Maybe the authors that used this image were highly critical of it? We do not know, because we live in this economy where context is lost from shared media.

  2. Well, hello Still True Friend Alan!

    It should be a special assignment in the DS 106 assignment bank called “Bad Infographic: The Bicycle of MOOCs.” And in it, you get to make a bad info graphic out of the bicycle but with MOOCs parts.

    That would be a fun time.

    Well, bye!

  3. Hey Alan,
    I don’t respond to your work enough so let me try to redeem myself. When I first saw that infographic years back, I kinda liked it. Having a bike connected to learning–as simplisticly crappy as it is–was really exciting to me. I’m sometimes easily entertained, truly. Here’s what I always wanted to create but never found the time to remix. This info-graphic-y (pronounced “infograph-icky”) message suggests only one rider with learning. One person who pedals yet the wheels signify two different audiences–the teacher and the student. Wait. What? I’m so confused! The bike is nothing without the rider. The charm of seeing a bike inthe infographic suddenly wears off. Had I had the time, I wanted to create a tandem bike and remix this whole idea. Maybe someday. Maybe learning is a tandem bike where there is the stoker and a driver within a peloton. Trust between two people or more. I kinda see it like this:
    Anyways, I love the rusty bike photo FWIW. At some point in time, somebody was really happy to ride that bike now rusting away. Interesting post, and thank you for walking the interwebs.

  4. PS. The Krebs Cycle image was created by @-atwist from Sheffield University who doesn’t ask for attribution (and he’s also updated the WordPress version, killing the hack).

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