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