FreeRange Learning and the Digital Hedge Schools #62 #cong16

By Gar Mac Críosta.

Digital Hedge Schools

Scoil Chois Chlaí

In a post jobs world, will learning become an end in itself. Can we take a leaf from the past? What can a chapter in Irish history characterised by repression & control teach us about life in an (possibly) abundant future.

How can we create a system that builds a culture of learning & sharing that drove the original hedge schools? What does that look like in a post jobs world.


First some background on MindRising. We started MindRising a little over 1 year ago, 2 lads working on something entirely different sitting in a freezing cold room in an industrial estate in Finglas.

Gar: Al can I show you something

Gar: Al, Al, Al seriously can I show you something, I have an idea…. (many of our conversations start like this)

Al: We have a lot on Gar…

Gar: This will only take 5 minutes…..

2 Days later

Al: OK I get it, now what..

We launched the MindRising’s MVP (a little big but) in January 2016 with support from DCU Institute of Education, Microsoft, Ireland 2016 and mostly with the trust and belief of an amazing group of educators who made it all happen. It started out as a story telling competition for children using digital technologies (Minecraft, Video, Sway etc.). Teams had to tell stories about 200 years of Ireland — Ireland’s past, present or future. Teams were tasked with telling a story about a person, place, theme or event in the past or a place, theme or idea from the future. They had to tell a story, make a movie and build something in Minecraft, the rest was up to them. Check out the winners here.

June 2016, the schools were off and we finally have a chance to figure out the whats and the whys of MindRising. The vision if turned out was much bigger and scarier than we could have believed.

How do we create the conditions for Humans 2.0 to emerge & grow?

What does a 2.0 Human look like something like this.

Human 2.0

When the machines come (you know they will :) there can be only 1 winner. She who learns fastest & adapts will prevail.

What ever we created we wanted it to be inclusive, fun, engaging, everywhere and effortless. The last characteristic we struggled with; as with all things of value the struggle brings the joy, we use the word effortless to signify that the act of learning is not full of friction but feels light. Learning happens in moments of flow.

We are focussed on helping children develop 21st Century Learning skills (21CLD collaboration, skilled communication, knowledge construction, self-regulation, real-world problem-solving and innovation and use of tech for learning). We want to create open inclusive learning experiences for everyone everywhere. We want to create a space to allow children to become co-designers of their own learning.

Where the hell did this come from?

The following is a shortlist of things that influenced the development of MindRising and gave us the urgency to get going. I should point out at this point I have 4 young children (early teens to 5 years old). The pressing need to address these issues looks me in the eye every single day.

  1. My ‘real job’ Chief Adventurer in Business Model Adventures

In my grown up job I get to help (or try to help) lot’s of people and the organisations they work in make sense of the world as it changes hopefully leading them down a road towards success. The sad thing I find time and again is that many people are suffering from the results of a crayonectomy (removal of crayons), the trauma of this operation is long lasting resulting in lowered creativity, inability to innovate and difficulties with uncertainty.

Organisations are desperately asking these people to be more creative and innovative but the muscle memory associated with imagination has long atrophied.

  1. Different lanes, different speed

It’s as if the world is moving at completely different speeds each one stuck in it’s own lane with it’s own speed limit. Each following its own curve, sometimes intersecting with other curves sometimes not. Industries, Government policy, Education policy, Education in action, Jobs & Skills, Technology. Some slow and some fast, things more or less worked in an industrial age but now things seem to be moving faster and the impact of the speed differences is being amplified.

  1. The End of Jobs (not Steve), Longevity & Apathy

The end of jobs has been forecast for several decades now, I’ve been at the frontline of business process reengineering, business transformation, and now digital transformation. Each promising more with less and with an increasing ability to automate just about anything (except hairdressing, I think we will struggle to accept robotic hairdressers for a while). Automated vehicles will decimate driving as a job impacting 10’s of millions, additive manufacturing (3D printing) and robotics will eliminate manufacturing, distribution and production jobs, AI (specialised and generalised) will eliminate lawyers, and many professionals, nano-robots will eliminate the need for invasive surgery and all that goes with it. As we live longer the question of how we will fill our days becomes a problem we need to solve. The utopia that Keyne’s envisaged of a 15 hour working may happen but the pain in getting their could lead us down a very dark path.

  1. Discontinuities & disruptions — aggregation theory the end of sustainable competitive advantage, rise of the platform

Where the hell did AirBnB, Uber, Amazon, Facebook and Netflix come from? We have seen massive disruption happening, resulting in platforms that support and feed the ability of others to be massively disruptive. No one sees the disruption coming, even though for most the signals are visible. We simply choose not to notice and of course the incentives are usually such that noticing isn’t rewarded.

The landscape of labour economics is in upheaval. In the process, new platforms, algorithms, and attitudes are undermining many established institutions, regulatory regimes, and work practices, challenging some of the basic tenets of the social safety net established in the 20th century. But what of the workers? How can we ensure dignified and sustainable livelihoods for everyone? Positive Platform Design Jam 16th Dec — Institute for the Future.

  1. The Madness of the Monoliths 

The speed problems we have identified stem from one major source, size. The bigger an organization gets the less likely it is capable of changing. We face large fragile monoliths built on rigid rules and systems (to ensure consistency), slow to move, slow to adapt. As things accelerate the rate of change on the outside is greater that the rate of change on the inside. The organisation lurches ever deeper into trouble, trying to solve it’s own problems with precisely the wrong tools. The evolution of organization structures, (Reinventing Organizations) has got us to where we are, but won’t I feel get us to where we need to go.

  1. The Certainty of Uncertainty

The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained.

Daniel Kahneman — Thinking Fast & Slow.

We struggle to think about the future in anything other than a linear 1-day after the next way. We struggle to understand the impact of the future and fail to see the signals that are right in front of our eyes. The world feeds us information that reinforces our views of the world (Availability Bias, Confirmation Bias).

  1. Bright Spots — FreeRange Humans, Happy Startups, Teal & Experimentation

Much of what I’ve described may seem negative but they provide the backdrop. There are some wonderful bright spots, Jack & Marianne the FreeRange Humans (Jack & Marianne explain); free range humans design their lives, work on things that make them come alive and live life everyday (not just weekends).

Happy Startups — A movement of people that want to start businesses firstly as a lifestyle choice, and secondly to make money. Working with people you like on a business you believe in, means everyone can work together towards a common, meaningful goal. (Laurence & Carlos explain).

Teal Organizations — leaving the ego, living the journey, focused on wholeness. Teal organizations sound like a really cool place spend time and education learning spaces must learn from this (Frederic Laloux explains).

Experimentation — learn fast & learn often — Claudio Perrone, PopcornFlow. We want to apply the lessons learned in startups in schools, lean learning via experimentation. Try it, show it, play with it, share it.


MindRising is a design-based learning platform using creative digital technologies including Minecraft. We focus on creating open learning challenges across a range of topics including Smart Cities and Smart Living, Financial Literacy & Entrepreneurship, Health & Happiness. We give students the opportunity to developer 21st century skills (21CLD — collaboration, knowledge construction, self-regulation, real-world problem-solving and innovation, the use of ICT for learning and skilled communications) in an immersive, inclusive and imaginative environment.

CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie