Posts Tagged ‘Conferences’

Fractal learning

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

One day I asked myself the question, what would learning look like if it could be visualized?

322px Mandel zoom 00 mandelbrot set Fractal learning

A fractal. Latin fractus, meaning fractured. It is recursive by definition.

What comes to my mind is the Mandelbrot set. In 1975, Benoît Mandelbrot first coined the term fractal. Mandelbrot emphasized the use of fractals as realistic and useful models of many “rough” phenomena in the real world. In The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1982) he writes:

Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.

If something is rough, that’s learning. As you approach a new topic, you start from a fuzzy idea of what it could be. As it comes into focus, new details expose themselves on the fringes, enabling you to discover even more interesting perspectives you were not aware beforehand.

Fractals are seen in many parts of nature. Even fractal cosmology exists as an area of study. In a New Scientist article (2007) Labini & Pietronero asked the question, “Is the universe a fractal?“. Their study of nearly a million galaxies suggests that the matter in the universe is arranged in a fractal pattern up to a scale of about 100 million light years.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the total entropy in the universe increases over time, as change happens. In layman terms that would be analogous to a room getting messed up over time as people live in it. In thermodynamics, entropy is a measure of the amount of energy in the system that is no longer available. As entropy increases in the universe, at the same time incredibly intricate and detailed order emerges from the details. Think of the human brain on planet earth for example.

250px Fibonacci spiral 34.svg Fractal learning

Fibonacci spirals also depict the fractal pattern of beauty in nature. Golden ratio is a very well known principle in mathematics and art, first originating in the Liber Abaci (Book of Calculation) in the 13th century. Good examples of forms with Fibonacci spirals include the spirals of shells, various flowerings, the branching of trees and arrangement of leaves on a stem.

The internet looks like a fractal.

So what do fractals have to do with learning?

When considering learning, we are pattern recognizers. Just like fractals, our neural networks evolve over time and extend outside of us. As our environment changes, so do we.  As we process information, in addition to entropy, new patterns emerge. By increasing the ammount of information, you increase the possibility of new patterns to be recognized by people.

In the digital world, entropy is information overload and order is the pattern that emerges from the interconnection of such information.

Knowledge is like a hologram. In holograms, even smaller pieces of it include the picture of the whole object. Knowledge is like a hologram. The experience changes as your point of view towards the object changes. The knowledge is not in a single image, but distributed on a network.

This is pattern recognition. And it’s the culmination of fractal learning. It’s a Mandelbrot set that zooms into the details indefinitely. Universe is fractal by nature. So is learning fractal by nature. It’s rough, it’s self-similar, it’s recursive and increasing the likelihood for serendipity is key for building higher structures.

Here is a recent Finnish presentation recording of my talk on the subject at a conference (Verkkoja kokemassa):

Warning: video ID not specified!

Here are my slides from the Distance Education & Teaching conference in Madison, USA (still waiting for the presentation recording to be published):

Library services for the future

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Today I delivered an opening keynote at Developing Public Library Services for the Future at Ministry of Education, Finland. The audience consisted of library directors and specialists from all around Europe.

Here are the slides, a nice remix of some new, recent and past work:

Some of my advice for libraries:

  • Focus on the end-user and customer experience, not just the information.
  • Look beyond first hand metadata, to second party recommendations and third-party metadata.
  • Utilize open data more, build interfaces for people to do mashups with.
  • Transform the library facility to something that encourages participation or new reasons to go to a library.
  • Build mobile applications to locate books and get instant social navigation to library books on-location and online.
  • Understand the changing framework, not just the the (changing) content.
  • Don’t do the mistake of replicating libraries online as it is. They already did the mistake of replicating the classroom online.
  • The web is not a destination, but a network of decentralized components. Harness the network properties.
  • Look at QR-codes or similar cheap technologies and stamp them into every book for contextual information.
  • Look into mass-customization: how to customize the library experience to each individual regarding recommendations etc.
  • Understand the technological, social and economical drivers for future developments.
  • Rethink the virtual visit to complement physical visits.
  • Look into user-generated taxonomies (folksonomies), information visualization and new ways for “putting the same book in multiple shelves”.
  • Understand contextuality provided by the web and how to tap into it from the library perspective.
  • Stop watching TV and work on (the next) wikipedia.
  • What augmented reality applications could libraries develop/use?
  • Involve the net generation or experts from outside your own field for rethinking the justification for your existence.

Google’s mission is the same as libraries have had for centuries. It’s time to understand digital convergence in new ways.

Horizon Report (+finnish presentation)

Monday, May 11th, 2009

New Media Consortium (NMC) supports around 300 learning-focused organizations dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and emerging technologies. Operating mainly in North America but also internationally, NMC releases every year their flagship analysis of the future of technology in education called the Horizon Report. Last round (2009 edition) I was part of the expert board consisting of around 45 people from all around the world who have something to say about the role of technology in education in the next few years.

I did a presentation about the Horizon Report findings at the International Technology in Education (ITK) conference in Hämeenlinna, Finland. NMC Director Larry Johnson was kind enough to participate virtually on stage with me. In the presentation I go through six main trends and give my own take on these:

  • Within a year: Mobiles and Cloud Computing
  • 2-3 years: Personal Web and Geo-Everything
  • 4-5 years: Semantic-aware Appliations and Smart Objects

The slides and the video recording are available below. For english speaking readers some of the slides are in english.

View more presentations from Teemu Arina.

Using social technologies to run better events

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Today I had an online presentation to a group of people enthusiastic about re-imagining the role of events and how to improve the traditional format, perhaps even with social technologies. I gave my own opening presentation entitled “Using Social Technologies to Run Better Events”.Here is the abstract:

Most conferences are organized and provided from the top down. Social technologies, peer-production and open innovation models provide new opportunities for people to organize events from the bottom up. Social media applications can support event planners and participants before, during and after the event. Many alternative approaches exist, but most of them still demand a lot of technical skills, vision and labor from the part of organizers. There are also a lot of interesting concepts for running more participative events physically and how things might connect to virtual environments, but the information is scattered around the web. In my presentation I will go through some of the most interesting concepts, ideas and tools for running better, digitally mediated events. I have applied some of these principles for a project called Bantora, that I’ve been working on lately. Early on in the development we paid attention to what happens before an event: how people find each other online and turn their passion and ideas into great events. Everything starts and ends as digital. In this presentation I will go through lessons learned about the role of social media at events and how to make the best out of it. Finally, I would like to present a vision of how better events could fundamentally change the way we interact and do our work.

Thanks to everyone for participating. Here are the slides and the recording is already available here (57min), recorded with Adobe Connect. Please provide feedback below.

In the presentation I also point at one of my projects called Bantora, that we opened last week for public beta. Bantora is about events++, making better events, time/space extended events, events that utilize social technologies and just get more of the good stuff out there. Keep in mind that we are just starting there, a lot of corners might be a bit rough, things are evolving in the next few months but we definitely would like to hear your feedback on how it could be improved.

This event (Spaces for Interaction) comes obviously at the right time regarding my personal interests. Maybe it’s about time for x-events to become a reality?

I would be interested in if someone knows about some other cool non-traditional face-to-face methods or some creative uses of social technologies at events that I have missed. Anything interesting coming to mind?

Organisaatio 2.0 (finnish)

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Recently I gave a presentation at a conference on Web 2.0 organized by The Finnish Information Processing Association, FIPA (Tietotekniikan Liitto ry) about organization 2.0. I made the slides available on slideshare translated to english and it was features as a presentation of the day (!).

The original finnish presentation video (40 minutes) is available below, thanks to Saija Remes for pro editing:

The seminar itself also got some online media converage at IT-Viikko and Digitoday.