Saturday, December 17, 2011

What is a Teacherpreneur?

Open Online Learning and the teacherpreneur

A new age rushes towards us like an unstoppable tsunami. A global information age, rising from the combined effect of the prior tectonic plate shift inventions of the microchip and internet. It is an age that will usher in the 'Neo-Renaissance Man' capable of human capital output many times greater than that of their singularly specialized industrial-age predecessor. This new-age person will come into being by a paradigm shift in education – the full exploitation by teacherpreneurs of Open Online Learning.

Changing Role of Teachers in Open Online Learning - The raise of the Teacherpreneur

While the paradigm shift brings dramatic changes for teacher and education institution alike, it is the teachers I am most concerned about at this point. Teachers that have read my blog may have become a little worried about their future with the changes brought about by this paradigm shift.
The reality is actually quite the reverse, for I believe that open online learning will be the fastest growth industry in the early part of the 21st century and teachers are the best placed individuals on the planet to exploit and benefit from this change.

It is you the teacher, not the administrators, certifiers, auditors and education policy makers that the world really wants. The knowledge hungry people of the planet need your help to turn the exponential growth in information into learning that they can absorb and apply to their need, suituation and problem. So break free from the shackles that may have restricted your passion and take your place in the emerging open-online revolution - so become a teacherpreneur.

Here are a few things you might want to consider when preparing yourself for the change:
  • Admit to yourself and the world right now that you are not the expert but rather the facilitator of learning. Lose forever that fraudulent feeling. Redirect, rediscover and revitalize once more that passion you had for teaching. You have the power. The future is yours. It is you the world wants. 
  • Learn a foreign langauge in an emerging zone that is likely to want your resources. For sheer number of people then Mandarin is a great option or for the most countries and most people then maybe Spanish. Arabic would be an equally good option. 
  • Go read some (or all) of the handouts of the educationalist Ian Jukes in relation to digital age learning. 
  • Go and put a learning module on Richard Baraniuk's (Rice University Texas Connexions educational website on something you know lots about. Or start a course at
  • Rediscover your love of learning and use the internet to become a world expert on subjects deep within your passion. No one owns you. You are a learning companion for the global community. You are a teacher - what an honor! 
  • Leave your current courseware resources and Intellectual Property (IP) with the rightful owners. Remember - "Render to Ceasar the things that are Ceasars" .. but the rest of the IP is yours. Use your creativity to make new and different IP products that the information/global age really wants. Don't have your thoughts clouded by the constraint of certification and out dated courseware structures. Just help students become competent in their areas of interest and concern. 
  • Write! Write! Write! – Write because you feel compelled to express and post it to the web for the world to see. Try it now – write an article then link it to the course you have created on or where you can establish a passive income for yourself whilst you add value to the lives of the world's hungry learners. 
  • Create digital products and sell them to the world – Powerpoints, e-topics, e-books, worksheets, workbooks, simulation games, ask the expert audio series, create a diagnostics test, make a multimedia CD, make up a game, get on the speakers circuit. Create new digital educational products and sell them on eBay or through online affilliate networks. 
  • Free your mind from the shackles of audit, administration and compliance. Seize the day! Spend time to think through and find answers to those areas that have bugged you for so long. Seek out original thought and then tell the world about it – on the web. Write it here in Blogger. 
  • Teach your students how to learn. Teach them how to discern ‘fact from fiction’. Expose them to the world of multi-media information and misinformation and show them how to master it, how to discover the gems and to discard the rubbish. Promote censorship in learning no more. You have suffered enough and you should take it no more. Free the people! 
  • Become a guide, a coach, a mentor. Facilitate learning – Say you don’t know and then go together with the student to find the answer. Partner with your students. Be the hungriest student in the room. No one should want to know the truth more than you. 
  • Collaborate with your peers across the globe. Form social online networks. Enrich you life and your craft. Join some social teacher networks and look for like minded people to help create teaching & learning products with you. 
  • You know that the only real learner is a self motivate one, so when you see the spark, light the fire instantly with online searchers. Forget timetables, capture that moment of interest – foster the love of learning. 
  • Realize that you are creating renaissance people – people pursuing their full potential in a variety of multi-dimensional interests. Teach them about legacy, the life of significance and their contribution for the common good. Tell them they are going to ‘make a difference’ and then help them make it so. 
  • Turn what you know into online courseware, whether it be maths, growing roses or just how to be a good friend. Charge $10 for the course and the 4.8 billion that are yet to log on to the internet and may pay it will be eternally grateful. Make money by adding value not ripping off -maintain your integrity. 
  • Help others you know from industry or life with intellectual capital to create courseware or other IP products for their knowledge, know-how or expertise. Make money from the service or % of the sales. Put it online. Make money while you sleep. 
  • Learn how to publish a blog, how to create courseware for free on Start your own online university today on your area of interest. It can be done! 
  • Forget memorization. All necessary information will soon be available instantly on computers & mobile phones. Better to teach problem solving abilities, critical thinking ability that can discern 'fact from fiction', teach adaptability (un-learn & re-learn), encourage creative and innovative abilities. 
  • Learn how to make a video and post it to YouTube. Share what you know with the world. Create a world-wide class of students who await your online posts. Try to find ways to turn learning into gaming. Teach by active participation in games. Incorporate simulation, virtual reality and role play in all learning engagements. 
  • Put on workshops, facilitate discussion groups, create you own learning camp to re-engineer the social side of learning. Create a space where learners can come together and share their learning and experiences.

Learning in the 'Industrial Age' Vs 'Global Age'

Here is my summative comparison of the two paradigms. It highlights the different and possibility irreconcilable mindsets of the two paradigms whilst also incorporating the usually overlooked, business/entrepreneurial commercial facets of education.

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." —Alvin Toffler

Open Online Learning - entrepreneurial opportunities

It may be prudent for me to declare at this point as both entrepreneur and vocational educator, that my interest in this topic has less to do with an academic research into the history, philosophy, anthropology, education or cultural studies relating to this phenomenon but rather the great drivers of entrepreneurialism being: Making a significant societal contribution in combination with value-adding commercialization.

 When a paradigm shift is in play, it is typically the ‘new entrant’ entrepreneurs that are most likely to see and exploit the opportunities that are inevitably created. This is because the custodians of the old paradigm believe they have too much to lose and will use their energies to erroneously try to 'command the tides' as the Viking King Canute vainly attempted in times past.

Seasoned entrepreneurs like myself have also become less interested in pushing new inventions on unsuspecting target markets and are more likely to take Ralph Waldo Emerson advice and “Hitch your wagon to a star”. For every person on the planet with intellectual capital (know-how, unique experience, specialist expertise, uncommon knowledge) online learning is that star. When sufficient momentum is established, online learning will create a vast amount of new commercial opportunities for individuals currently excluded by the old educational paradigm.

Open-online learning is the idea whose time has come, not because I or others declare it so or because we believe it can be marketed as such, but because the global community is embracing it at such breakneck speed that they will eventually declare it by overwhelming affirmation and application – The New Paradigm. 

Anyone who has studied entrepreneurship or economics will be familiar with the work of the 20th century economist Joseph Schumpeter who identified that some innovations bring about a form of "creative destruction" in the world in which they are introduced. Schumpeter used this term, borrowed from Marx, to describe a process in which the old ways of doing things are destroyed by the previous beneficiaries who choose enthusiastically to replace it with a better way. The traditional way is discarded not as a close competitive loser but because it becomes irrelevant.

It is my belief that the emerging Open Online Learning is a new Paradigm that will ultimately ‘creatively destroy' much of the current traditional educational Paradigms. Many educational institution are making valliant efforts to accomodate the new Open Online Learning paradigm, but it just doesn’t fit comfortably into the old mould for reasons that I have outlined above and below, together with their fixation on qualifications over competency, their top down rather than bottom up learning resource creation and their continuance with a failed commercial model (offering uncompetitively priced products to a diminishing market - Think IBM).

 The single greatest barrier inhibiting the old paradigm from embracing the new is the price of learning. The new open – online learning can be produced for a fraction of the cost, maintained 'on the shelf' for a cost approaching zero and has an inherent scalability that delivers a commercially sustainable enterprise at a fraction of the sell price currently offered by the old paradigm.

Think about the price drop in software from custom-built to the online genetic download and you get a picture of the price change that is about to hit custom-built educational product. The genetic version of the $50,000 custom built program of the past can be downloaded today for less than $500 in the same way that the $5,000 knowledge transfer required for a degree under the current paradigm will soon sell for $50. The new price is more than enough to support a virtual educational enterprise selling data products to a global market but it will 'creatively destroy' the financial viability of the old paradigm with its overheads of extensive infrastructure maintenance, administration and compliance costs and academic payroll not to mention the complete income annihilation of the current 'on-campus' product if they adopt the new.

 To a large extent these two Paradigms are incommensurable because they each live in different worlds and imbibe different and possibility irreconcilable mindsets. Recent entrepreneurial history is peppered with examples of industry leaders (like the traditional educational institutions) who were hidebound and fixated on traditional ideas yet watched helplessly as their markets were destroyed for failing to identify, embrace or change to the new Paradigm.

These institutions are further inhibited by their dependance on government hand-outs rather than market forces, to underpin their financial viability. So a few hundred ‘purse string holding’ government policy makers, largely detached from market realities are setting agendas heavily politicised and appear to control the educational institutions like puppets on a string and may well be leading them like the mythical Pied Piper of old.

Educational systems today must develop, if they can, new capabilities to effectively respond in the face of this continual and fast-paced change. An educational system thrives only while it mirrors the community that it serves. Traditional educational products only lead while they satisfy new consumer demands better than other available options. The educational process only serves while it delivers new and improved performance outcomes as demanded by the learners.

If the current educational system does not fulfil these criteria then the global community of learners will declare the traditional educational paradigm as irrelevant as they embrace with enthusiasm the new Open Online Learning one. It is not the messengers but rather the technological, commercial and social agents of change that are driving the new paradigm shift in education. The signs are everywhere to be seen. In fact, the shift is already well underway with a global move from a mechanistic, manufacturing, industrial based society to a more organic, service based and information centred one.

If educational institutions ignore these agents for change then the gap in the market that they create by their inactivity will be filled by ever willing and ever ready entrepreneurs, with the help of passionate teachers and knowledgeable industry experts, keen to exploit possibility one of the greatest global opportunities ever presented to individuals or entrepreneurial firms.

The single largest untapped gold mine in the world is the human intellectual capital buried deep in the minds of individuals with know-how, specific expertise, broad based inter-disciplined education, unique experience, intuition, original thoughts and uncommon knowledge. In the past, only the immediate geographic zone or employer organization could benefit from this value and to a large extent was lost with the passing of that person’s life.

Furthermore, there was no easy medium for the person possessing human intellectual capital to turn it into both learning for the planet and intellectual property (tangible products) that they own for themselves. This is because their lack of academic station may have excluded them from contributing to learning in the old paradigm or the previous publishing paths were block by either the nessessary endorsements of the academic elite or were thwarted by the commercial constraints of book based publishing.

The internet, together with projects like Blooger, eBooks and courseware programs like &, have to a large extent eliminated these barriers. The one final barrier is the process needed to turn intellectual capital into learning resources and materials that others can easily understand and apply. Enter the teacherpreneur. This is a core competency of teaching and one that the new paradigm will call on with great urgency as it gains momentum, thereby ensuring significant income streams for teachers.
"Apples had been falling out of trees long before Newton came along. It’s just that no one before had thought about it quite like he did" PB

Paradigm Shifts & ‘Creative Destruction’ in computers

Tim O'Reilly
Tim O'Reilly, founder of O'Reilly Media and an internet guru since its inception with his publication of the highly acclaimed “The Whole Internet User's Guide & Catalog”, talks about recent examples of commercial Paradigm Shifts and the consequences for the organisations that failed to recognize and adapt:

  • The Swiss invented the quartz watch but failed to patent or market it leaving the Japanese to make all the money by doing just that. The Japanese didn't have the influences of the old paradigm, locking them into a way of thinking that believed in the pre-eminence of the mechanical mainspring watch. Consequently, the Swiss watchmakers have watched their market share slip from 80% in 1968 to less than 3% today. 
  • Whilst being instrumental in creating many inventions, Xerox failed to adapt to the Paradigm Shift and missed out when they did not pursue the graphical user interface, on which Windows and Apple are based, along with the mouse, the laser printer, computer networking, internet protocol, bitmapped graphics and e-mail. 
  • IBM created a Paradigm shift in 1981 with the introduction of the standardized architecture in their personal computer by building it from off-the-shelf components. They never pursued fully the opportunity of the personal computer PC market because of their belief in the pre-eminence of their minicomputers and mainframes. In less than two decades, their personal computer were replaced by clones and the markets for their minicomputers and mainframes had evaporated. IBM suffered the ‘double whammy’ when they failed to see the future Paradigm Shift in computing from hardware to software and so agreed to license their operation system from a small company called Microsoft, instead of purchasing it outright. Sadly for IBM, they could not make the shift from the hardware-dominated mindset and allowed software and Microsoft to became the new centre of the universe in the computing industry. 
  • Global hardware firms like Digital and Compaq failed to see the Paradigm Shift in personal computer hardware from enhanced proprietary models to the commodity stock that the outsider Michael Dell saw and exploited to become the largest PC vendor today. 
These few commercial examples demonstrate that when a Paradigm Shift is in play, as I believe it is with education and learning, it would be organisational suicide to simply rely for safety and security on the pre-eminence of old paradigms.
"A new opportunity can never be seized by someone whose hands hold too tightly their existing possessions" PB

The global age - The Specialist Vs Neo-Renaissance Entrepreneur

Now, given just a handful of years to bring about change in an education system, now highly centralized and heavily regulated, most of our educational institutions have struggled to adapt to the changes and still remain locked into the industrial age paradigm of the past.

 This past age is dominated by the thoughts of the Scottish social philosopher, Adam Smith, who in 1776 outlined in his article “Inquiry into nature and causes of the Wealth of Nations”, the concept that nation building is best performed by people, trained for and performing specialized tasks. (Accountants, Lawyers, Architects, Engineers, Teachers etc).

 Sadly, without a change in policy from the government elite, our educational institutions continue to prepare students for an industrialized specialist world now offering diminishing employment prospects and in doing so runs the risk of an angry backlash that they just won't see comming.

That corporate job that matched the student's qualification on entry will have been outsourced to an Neo-Renaissance entrepreneurial firm by the time of graduation, forcing the student to join the ranks of so many graduates that must take lower paid work in fields unrelated to their study.

 This generation of graduates, may eventually condemn us for making their path to accreditation, like ours (expensive, arduous and time-stealing) when a new, gap training, cost-effective and time efficient online learning option was so readily available to them. Others on the planet who have achieved their competency via the internet learning platform, have already established a head start in their careers that may take many years, if ever, for the 'industrial-aged' specialist to rectify.

Unlike the wealth creating industrialised mediums of the past, the internet (the new wealth creating medium) affords no currency to a 'piece of paper' without a similar level of applied skill and competency. The internet is blind to your credentials but is a wealth creating slave to your skills and abilities. Anyway, it is not your credentials that guarantees success in the global/information age but rather your problem solving abilities, critical thinking ability that can discern 'fact from fiction', your ability to adapt (un-learn & re-learn), your creative and innovative abilities and your life-long love of learning. If your 'piece of paper' failed to deliver these then whilst it may have successfully prepared you for the industrialized 20th century economy but it has certianly failed you in the globalized 21st.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the global media company News Corporation, spoke just recently of the fact that ‘we have a 21st century economy with a 19th century education system' and in this context called for a reform of our (Australian) education system. Now, we will still need to have these specialist jobs performed but the way we train people for them is more likely to reflect the on-the-job apprentice/intern model than the locked away in institutions one.

The irony is that it was the inefficiency of the apprentice/intern model that created the centralised institution in the first place (because the expert was on campus) and now it is the inefficiency of the centralised institution that is creating the need for the apprentice/intern approach once more (because the expert is in cyber space).

We can learn on-the-job because the world's best knowledge resource will be available at our fingertips ... literality ... with the mobile phone connected to the internet and conected to the 'best in the world'. This training may even concentrate on highly micro-specialised area but the big difference is that the student is not looking to the profession as a whole of life career - just one of the many they will perform in their working life.

Furthermore, the student mind-set is to learn the skills of the current profession and by applying knowledge from previously skilled areas, develop cross-discipline innovations that they may exploit for their benefit or share with their employer. Educational institutions will still play a part in the new paradigm but the mind-set, functions and place in the learning process will need to dramatically shift. Fundamentally, institutions need to get out of the role of being the only authority (or censor) that controls the dissemination and transfer of information and find new roles and relevance (of which there are many) in the new paradigm. They will also need to implement a business model with greatly reduced dependance on governments with their conditional funding so that they can once more realign their mantra to truly serve the common good of the community and current needs of industry.

 Whilst the current 'first-world' nations, that have to-date benefited greatly from Adam Smith's insights, debate and argue these educational paradigms, third world countries are embracing the new Open-online learning paradigm with obsessive enthusiasm. The economic growth and wealth creation abilities of countries like India and China should be a wake up call to Western Societies. The information/global age, with its online learning and skill sets, has created a level playing field that may well lift these nations to pre-eminence over those nations fixated on the old industrial age educational paradigm.

Education, in its own right, has the power to turn both third world countries into first and first world countries into third. The new learning mediums of the digital and now global age, will produce masses of Neo-Renaissance people unfettered by the outdated and restrictive dimensions of specialisation. It is these people who will become the new nation builders of the future.

Encyclopedia Britannica describes "Renaissance Man" as a person who "develops their capacities as fully as possible" and the Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines it as "a person with a wide range of talents or interests" or as the author Margaret Lobenstine defines “A person who thrives on a variety of interests and who redefines the accepted meaning of success.”

 With the learning source of the internet, these Neo-Renaissance people will have mastered the art of learning not just of specialist information. They will acquire new knowledge and gain comprehension in a fraction of the time previously required to master any field in the industrial age education system. In the time it takes for the industrial age learner to obtain their 'piece of paper', the Neo-Renaissance people will not only have mastered the learning in that field but will already be exploiting the applied benefits from the global internet community.

Neo-Renaissance people will not only learn from the best in the world but they will also collaborate with them in making the world a better place. Geographic constraints will no longer inhibit their learning and education. They will have mastered the skills necessary to cross-pollinate learning from one discipline to another, bringing extensive innovation and improvements to all fields of human endeavour. They will be whole of life learners motivated to living a life of significance. They will be the true entrepreneurs in the noblest meaning of that term Thomas L. Friedman in his book "The World Is Flat: Expanded Edition A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century" shows "how and why globalization has now shifted into warp drive".

He gives an account of "the great changes taking place in our time, as lightning-swift advances in technology and communications put people all over the globe in touch as never before - creating an explosion of wealth in India and China." These countries are acquiring the knowledge and skill necessary to succeed in the golbal/information age at breakneck speed, whilst 1st World economies continue to educate for an industrial age now past.
 "With or without you - history is going to happen" PB

Democratized learning Vs Elitist gate-keeping censorship

Democratization -
Steve Foreman from Myicourse, a free open courseware development site, states
 “We believe in personal knowledge and the wisdom of the ages. We do not believe all of life’s necessary knowledge and wisdom is contained within the walls of universities or between the binders of books.” 
He sees the power in the Web 2.0 internet platform allowing every person on the planet to not only have open unfettered access to learning on any topic but to have that learning provided by home/community schools, small businesses, clubs, specalist interest groups or individual members of the global community. 

For the past hundred years or so, the educational elite have assumed a position of power in regards to the process of accrediting and certifying (censoring) knowledge (books & published articles) fit for student consumption. They have become the gate-keepers of knowledge transfer. Now, while new information arrived at a pace commensurate with their capacity to accredit it, there was no problem. But what if Berkeley researches [12] are right, in that 800 megabytes per person of unique information is created each year. That’s the equivalent of 30ft of books per person per year piling up at the gate awaiting accreditation, and that’s just their 2003 estimate. I think the game is well and truly up on that activity.

To cope with the exponential growth in information, we are going to have to find an entirely new way of accrediting knowledge. Those countries without the 'benefit' of an educational elite will simply devour knowledge as it happens and through a process of ‘trial and error’ will have applied the gems to their great advantage long before we will have had the chance to even accredited it.

I suggest that we should do with knowledge as we have done with our governments – let the majority of stakeholders decide on what is best and by stakeholders I mean government policy makers, educational institutions, teachers, industry and the vast number of learners themselves.

Democratized learning should be incorporated in the same way that 'opinion' has been democratized with blogs, social networks and YouTube thereby limiting the power of the commercialised news media to 'manufacture concent'.

Many educational institutions across the world, in order to deliver education in a cost effective manner, have tended towards the model of delivering de-contextualized information to an auditorium of students. Whilst this serves the needs of the institution and their 'purse string' holding government élite, it hardly delivers effective learning for the student.

To a large extent we will need to re-contextualize information and learning but this can not be achieved without the input of the context experts scattered across the globe. To rebuild the contextualised information base we will need to provide an open online platform on which it can be built.

Richard Baraniuk from Rice University Texas has develop just such a platform with the Connexions educational website and it's located at . Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond in his latest book, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," , speaks of the important history lesson to be gleaned from the study of failed societies. He says,
“The ruling elite often insulated themselves from the problems affecting their societies, failing to solve them and contributing to the collapse of the society.” 
By sheer numbers, the most important stakeholders in the education society are our learners. Yet ask any of the 'coal face' workers (teachers) or beneficaries (industry) in this society, if they believe that the learners are having their problems solved and you will get a picture of a system 'past due', particularly when compared with the emergence of a highly desirable alternative - open online learning.

Maybe its time to apply the concept of democracy to our education system and trust the major stakeholders of learners, teachers and industry to set the learning agenda and information accreditation rather than the ruling elite of government policy makers with their conditionally funded educational institutions.
"I never let my schooling interfere with my education" - Mark Twain