Spaces for learning

On Thursday I attended the Open Hardware Summit and listened to presentations that underlined the importance of different frameworks and approaches to allow innovation to happen. Here I also went to the Open Hardware in Education breakout session.

Mitch loves his job

Live Feeds FeedForward Fieldwork 7: Migrations and Immigrations—Mapping Movements and Power by spurse

On Friday I returned to the Guggenheim Lab and joined Spurse and a group of strangers in co-constructing a tour of the local area in an attempt to answer a set of research questions linked to migration/agents of change.

I was in a group of 5 investigating the identity of the honey bee. I learned a lot as we first pooled our knowledge and then presented our contribution to a tour with the other groups.

The tour makes a stop at the Wholefoods Market aisle selling honey and jam.

On Saturday and Sunday I was at the World Maker Faire. Apart from being surrounded by exhibits and hands-on workshops that exemplified the sort of discipline-linking, world-shifting creativity that we’d talked about elsewhere earlier in the week, I also went to several presentations.

Two in particular addressed this common thread of spaces for learning: Hackerspaces: Schools of the Future and DIY U: Designing Self Organized Education.

These, along with your own testimonials, are helping me to put into context what we achieved with fizzPOP (and to some extent BARG too) in terms of making alternative spaces for learning and the importance of that.

Hackerspaces: Schools of the Future

Hacker and Maker spaces provide passion-based education that many of us missed in traditional education systems. The learning which takes place in these spaces is intergenerational, transdisciplinary, and multi-intelligent. A panel of hackerspace founders will ask how these alternative education venues can be recognized as a legitimate route to certification, how they propagate knowledge across the culture, and how they avoid becoming dull and co-opted. With Mitch Altman (TV-B-Gone), Willow Brugh (Space Federation), Jimmie Rodgers (Bucketworks and The School Factory), James Carlson (, and Jon Santiago (NYC Resistor)


The first thing to note was how chair James Carlson positioned his spaces as school factories (as in things that new models of schools would eventually come out of) and as ‘healthclubs for the brain’.

The panel talked in detail about their responses to mainstream education and how hackspaces were providing learning spaces that didn’t silo people according to age or discipline, but instead provided opportunities for people to learn about the things they wanted to learn about and opportunities for people to discover things they didn’t know they wanted to learn about.

We talked about meritocracies, do-ocracies and being able to share the joy of achievement. We talked about how sometimes the best teachers are those that have only just learned, not those that have been competent for 20 years. We talked about the importance of high tables and being able to ping around between different workspaces. We talked about the process of learning being important, not so much the content which is only a small part of the story. We talked about the inspiration that comes from being around other people who are doing. We talked about measuring growth and how we automatically know how we’re doing anyway – no need to add grades on top of that. We talked about how to teach failure. We talked about how many schools are stuck and how hackspaces can provide alternative spaces free from baggages of the roles people have fallen into within their usual learning environments.

DIY U: Designing Self Organized Education

How do we teach, learn, and credential each other outside the logic of traditional educational institutions?

We talked about universities as unyielding structures of education based on the concept of knowledge being scarce. We talked about communities of practice and how legitimate, peripheral participation can lead to being a master of a skill. We talked about how in this system, as soon as you have taken the first step in, you automatically have a responsibility to help those that come behind you. We talked again about content as a framework. We talked about education being the sum of content (what we learn) + socialisation (how we learn) + accreditation (which for many has become the why we learn). We talked about how “how to” searches are amongst the most popular on Google and YouTube – and how people are sharing their knowledge. We talked about tradeschool and investing some of your time and talent to get someone else’s. We talked about the social nature and value of exchange. We talked about how bartering for skills (rather than paying for them with money) also led to forming ongoing relationships with peers. We talked about how people are finding ways to make knowledge gained in the do-ocracy realm count towards credit in the traditional realm. We talked about different macro and micro scales of education. We talked about the risks of network-based learning. We talked about being committed to each other.


As I get more of the bigger picture that accompanies my own small experiences and experiments, I’m increasingly thinking I’d like to see a hackspace – and all that it entails and all that it might entail – being supported by something like the NESTA Digital R&D Fund. These are spaces that get people involved, that make innovation happen and that need to be explored and made sustainable. Can we make that happen?