Advances in Education, Professional Development

I've been engaged in thinking about education and professional development since encountering the fantastic difficulties (most vividly displayed as a university lecturer and student advocate in an advanced graduate program in the mid-2000s). Since then, I have developed a fairly good idea of the exact, largely intractable nature of the difficulties specifically in higher education and professional development. These problems are largely institutional, economic, and political, and as such largely resistant to any actual change in terms of what needs to be changed (the nature of teaching and learning activities and how they are managed and funded).

Open Schools

And so, it is with this background that I was pleased to encounter discussion from a few years ago about the Saxifrage School Prototype and more recently what's next at the Saxifrage School.

This kind of minimum viable infrastructure and bureaucracy and open/collaborative model (that is, co-operative) is astoundingly promising. In particular, the three components of:

  • A platform for finding and credentialing local learning opportunities
  • A local community to learn with others and connect to experts
  • An expansive digital library with further opportunities and resources

These three elements support the core aspects of learning potential and the necessary elements including:

  • Comprehensive directory of all local learning opportunities (including traditional offerings like workshops and classes, as well as mentors and educational volunteer opportunities),
  • Support for the creation & operation of Learning Communities,
  • Registration for chosen opportunities,
  • Credentials (via the OpenBadge framework),
  • Visualization of past and future learning,
  • Learner profile and portfolio for archiving accomplishments and work.

By determining what kind of organization of learning could produce viable educational credentials from authentic learning experiences, this goes a long way toward how higher education and professional development can be instituted (that is, created, situated, promulgated, and reproduced).

The Problem with Open

There are a few issues here, one is the overuse of the already overdetermined term open and another is the radically constrained nature of the initial vision that an open company is open for what it doesn't do. That is, it doesn't pay employees (part of the very definition of an employee is in fact payment), and it charges as little as possible (that is, it doesn't create economic value for itself), which are both questionable at best. Creating capital for itself and/or economic value for employees do not necessarily produce less value for a community (that is zero-sum thinking).

The problem of course is not word open or the strange economic formulation that open is something non-economic (or non-capital/non-property). And so this problem goes away when the term open doesn't have to be used, but the nature of open as practiced by open companies in terms of the Open Company Initiative.

Open, Tally Ho

And so, we can envision, concretely, institutional change in education and professional development from a new kind of organizational framework (incomplete, but essential) that of a defined community, a defined objective (learning, expertise, and credentials), using open processes and an open invitation toward collaborative involvement by all interested stakeholders (as well as shareholders).

This would be non-governmental but would be flexible enough to complement and support government initiatives and goals which align with this purpose. While Saxifrage School is very much situated in the local Pittsburgh area and rightly so, it is possible to have a larger scope to work across, leveraging certain kinds of knowledge as well as distributed communication. In addition, a regional approach could participate in regional collaboration.

Indochina Education / Professional Development

The particular area of interest is that of Indochina, defined as the five nations of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Collectively these countries represent nearly 240 million residents and a range of educational and economic stages of development. Using PPP (purchasing power parity) rather than GDP in USD, it is possible to better represent (though as an average) the buying power of the various countries in Indochina


With the incipient AEC (Asean Economic Community) and the vast economic and education and training challenges, as well as opportunities, it is time for an open educational organization to participate in the creation of opportunity and development for the people of Indochina.

This project will be housed at