Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The Vision For An Educational Web

"What are needed are new networks, readily available to the public and designed to spread equal opportunity for learning and teaching.

Not having found such a term, I will try to redeem the one which is available, using it as a synonym of "educational web".

You can tell that a man had true insight into what he saw, wrote or created, when his work can easily sustain the stand of time.


Over 33 years ago one man had a vision for an approach to education and learning that is still yet to be fully comprehended, read and understood by many.

If you read the unedited passages from one of his chapters below, you will be surprised at how precisely the words and the concepts he used were accurate depictions of the learning and social networking systems we are building just now.

My only additions are a few associations with present-day "realities" which have fully confirmed the fact that this man had indeed a far reaching time telescope in place of his brain.

Read what was written in 1969:

"A good educational system should have three purposes:

a) it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives

b) empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them

c) furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known.



Schools are designed on the assumption that:

a) there is a secret to everything in life

b) the quality of life depends on knowing that secret

c) secrets can only be known in orderly successions

d) only teachers can properly reveal these secrets

An individual with a schooled mind conceives of the world as a pyramid of classified packages accessible only to those who carry the proper tags.

New educational institutions would break apart this pyramid.

Their purpose must be to facilitate access for the learner: to allow him to look into windows of the control room or parliament, if he cannot get in by the door.
Moreover, such new institutions should be channels through which the learner would have access without credentials or pedigree - public spaces in which peers and elders outside his immediate horizon would become available.

We must conceive of new relational structures which are deliberately setup to facilitate access to these resources for the use of anybody who is motivated to see them for his education. Administrative, technological, and especially legal arrangements are required to set up such web-like structures.

Educational resources are usually labeled according to the educators' curricular goals. I propose to do the contrary, to label four different approaches which enable the student to gain access to any educational resource which may help him to define and achieve his own goals:

1. Reference Services to Educational Objects (Learning Objects) - which facilitate access to things or processes used for formal learning. Some of these "things" can be reserved for this purpose, stored in libraries, rental agencies, laboratories, and showrooms (Web sites) like museums and theaters.

2. Skill Exchanges (Online expert exchanges, online tutors and mentors) - which permits persons to list their skills, the conditions under which they are willing to serve as models for others who want to learn these skills, and the addresses at which they can be reached.

3. Peer Matching (Advanced social networks, P2P networks) - a communication network which permits to describe the learning activity in which they wish to engage, in the hope of finding a partner for the inquiry.

4. Reference Services To Educators At Large (Communities of practice, online directories) - who can be listed in a directory giving the addresses and self-descriptions of professionals, and free-lancers, along with conditions of access to their services. Such educators, as we will see, could be chosen by polling or consulting their former clients (reputation systems).

From Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society"
1970, Harper & Row, New York

More resources on Ivan Illich:

  1. The Ivan Illich Archive

  2. Ivan Illich

  3. Ivan Illich, deschooling, conviviality and the possibilities for informal education and lifelong learning

  4. Guardian Unlimited | Ivan Illich

  5. Ivan Illich

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posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, October 29 2003, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.




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