[IAEP] [support-gang] Stanford Online Education Course

Kevin Mark kevin.mark at verizon.net
Fri Sep 14 02:45:04 EDT 2012

--- On Fri, 9/14/12, Yama Ploskonka <yamaplos at gmail.com> wrote:

From: Yama Ploskonka <yamaplos at gmail.com>
Subject: [support-gang] Stanford Online Education Course
To: "Community Support Volunteers -- who help respond to "help AT laptop.org"" <support-gang at lists.laptop.org>, "iaep" <IAEP at lists.sugarlabs.org>, sur at lists.laptop.org
Date: Friday, September 14, 2012, 1:30 AM


    (Sur: este mensaje en inglés, en
      referencia a los cursos de Stanford - copio a esta lista ya que
      hubo interes allí, aparte de la discusión en IAEP y SG)


      On 09/11/2012 12:39 PM, Samuel Klein wrote:

    Yama - please tell us more about that class and your
      project and team!  And what did the teacher think of the class -
      is it going to be offered in the same way in the future?  Did you
      as participants help suggest changes?  SJ

    The main instructor (Chuck Eesley) 
      actually used a blog as one of the main communication routes

      I did have some interaction with the teaching team, but little -
      contrary to my nature :-) I tried to take as little of their time
      as possible, being very aware that they probably could not afford
      to communicate much with me directly, as they had to spread
      themselves around. 

      Actually, that brings us to the *medium*. This was no class with
      an instructor "teaching" (there were some videos at the core, but
      the learning didn't happen /there/). This was a /learning
      environment/, sort of the agricultural metaphor "give them good
      soil, water, and they will grow to amaze you" (my words). 

      "Experiential Education", Chuck calls it, and those of you that
      have suffered my pronunciamientos are probably familiar with my
      own repeated use of the term over the years - actually,
      Experiential Education is what I came to learn to the United
      States originally.
That is certainly an interesting experience in hand-on learning. I can see the education/learning divide that OLPC/Sugarlabs discusses. Learn by doing. But each person in this virtual classroom did not come with the same education -- equal opportunity is what the internet provides better than real-life but somethings still need to be in place like skills of drive, motivation, reflection, cooperation, etc. You seem to have those. 

      I do not know if signing up http://venture-lab.org/ allows you
      access the archives, you would see that the tools used were many,
      and all of them interactive. Highly impressed as I am, my deepest
      respects will go to Farnaz, who appears to have been our sysop. On
      the fly updates to the interface were done several times a week,
      and I only noticed one outage of less than 15 minutes during the
      several months. Now, it was evident that the organizers were
      learning as they went, there were several delays, changes in the
      schedule, and many, many complaints in the forums - followed by
      quick action and respectful response.

      I chose to see any inconvenience as reflecting reality of a
      startup progress.  This class was so real, so connected with what
      a tech startup feels like, that very soon there was a blur, many
      of us wondering, 'is this a class or is it an actual tech

      Fact is, were you to teach /anything/, it has to be /real/ to sink

      This was *REAL*. 

      Thus it was *learning*, not make-believe as in "education". 

      The final insult :-) was that we were told with less than 24 hours
      the appointed time to pitch to a real investor (one that had been
      in one of the little videos that fed the class). Talk about the
      rubber meeting the road...


      At the beginning of the course there were a couple little
      projects. My "take" from those was that, if I were to be
      successful, I had to "invest" of myself. Thus, when time came to
      set up the "real" teams, I was very proactive. My strategy was to
      go for a big team - it paid off, though some people complained

      My reasoning was that, as you know about volunteers, :-), they
      burn out, they are busy, etc. Having many assured some would be
      available at any time. The original idea was mine, reduced-wires
      home automation, but soon it took life of its own, and I truly can
      say that International Living Systems ( http://15ils.com ) has
      developed the concept to they point that it completely belongs to
      the team.

      It was my choice to do something that is probably /not/ a good
      startup concept: make the team very international. At our max we
      had 30 people, in 17 different countries, 11 time zones.  
The FLOSS world is full of such diverse teams, so you knew about how they worked.
It was a
      blast. Our listserv had a peak of several messages per minute when
      preparing one particular presentation, and even at the quietest
      moments, a good dozen per day.  Our Investor was not too impressed
      (probably his money needs the "stability" of an all-America team),
      but I, and the team, do love it that our main tech guy is in
      Lithuania, our main Joomla sysop in Iran, our "reflective
      integrators" in Canada and somewhere in the US East, and active
      participants in every continent. 

      My total cost, excluding time, came to about $30, and zero for
      most others.

      The team survived me dropping out for one month, as I was in
      Bolivia with no internet access. They did things by themselves.
      (Some say that's the mark of the best kind of leader - I prefer to
      think that's the mark of a team of capable people who get an
      opportunity to achieve on their own, away from the constraints of


      Are "smart" habitat management systems *the* coming Big Thing, and
      will 15ils be among those to take the lead? I don't know. 

      Yet, I went in with the idea to "learn" about how to position
      myself in tech startups, and by now I can at least see much better
      how to do it. I now know many buzzwords, and the mud feet they
      stand on. I have gained more confidence in myself. I'm sure this ties in with the ideas of Symore Papert. Mastery as the way to self-esteem and confidence.I have made
      great connections, not only with my team mates, but with other
      team leaders, professionals in similar fields, etc. My Linkedin
      looks almost like something
College used to be only about real-world connections, so you are just networking in the current mode. And both provide similar advantages.


      the downsides (¿?) 60,000+ began, less than 5,000 finished. Talk
      about a disastrous rate of attrition. Or think about it with clear
      eyes: the people that continued are the ones that could. Instead
      of the one-size-fits-all "education warehousing", here there was a
      free opportunity, freely taken. Of course it is sad to see that
      the have-less are the ones that got least - my international team
      was the exception, in giving a chance to some that no one would
      have given a chance. 

      If you are to do a real startup, as in many other fields
      socioeconomics does give you an edge, and you will choose
      "better", and might miss the best.

      Even then, it was better than what the have-less can get at home.
      Just like the XO and Sugar: they are something that, as available,
      can reach and benefit only a small proportion of those who receive
      the opportunity.



      On 09/11/2012 11:51 AM, Kevin Mark wrote:

          you have any summary of what skills or valuable  expierences
          that you gained from s-g that helped you finish this high
          profile class, I think folks would like to know! Or any
          insights for us to use.

      s-g is open to anyone. Many people have skills, and desire to
      help, and often all they need is a gentle hand to get them moving.
      I am no Adam, but I could sometimes think on how he has managed to
      deal with the utter unreliability of humans, how to appreciate,
      encourage, carefully pull someone's ears in a discrete private

      And how Adam guides us: when participating, *DO*. Do not expect
      direction, do your best.

      As from a long ago conversation with Bernie, when organizing
      something like this, see your leader role to be one of a

      Working in this kind of teams, reaching decisions is not easy, and
      the worst you can do is to try to build some complicated
      participation, organization process. Open source has it: operate
      with a Benevolent Dictator, and if you don't like it, fork, but
      keep moving!


      When OLPC made decisions among 3, 4 people shut in one room, they
      made a mess. When the community had buy in and took ownership,
      good things were happening. I guess there is a moral there. Yet, a
      *real* startup needs be a small team, 3, 4 people, shut inside a
      small apartment, and throw away the key. 
Well, if all your stakeholders are those 3-4 people, then that is what is important.

In that sense, this class
      was not real. Once we go past /that/, we can enjoy working with
      people of all stripes from all over. Ultimately, the real win is
      in being able to cooperate. The small, hungry team will get the
      bucks, but humanity as a whole will gain more from simple, open
      handed cooperation.  A choice to make. Maybe I did not learn to be
      a successful Tech Entrepreneur after all :-)

      But I got the better part, and it will not be taken away from me.

Thanks for your insights about this expierence.
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