United States of Learning Networks

Laugh, Scoff, We have no need for these.

In 2007, I started my work career in a context completely resistant to Drupal for non-technical reasons. I’ve written about how we changed that and will receive my M.S. in December as a result of defending research surrounding it. It is a better solution, but as we’ve too often seen in the world of politics. The best ideas don’t often win. It’s the loudest, or those with the best marketing, or because “we’ve always done it this way” (Normalcy Bias).

One of the uniting pieces of media created early on in the movement, was an image depicting the groups using Drupal and those using other technologies (there were many, including Sitecore, Adobe CQ, Sharepoint, Plone, home grown, etc). I took this map, and then laid out Drupal-icons in spots I felt we could start to spread to, and those we already had. This was the simple battle plan of how we’d unify the community around a common platform. The critique is, largely, that I’m some kind of sociopath. That it’s some kind of strange obsession to win, and it’s fine if you feel that way. I don’t fault alternate interpretations of events.

It’s just, your camp. It’s your way, your click, if they just do what you say, oh I get it. It’s just so you can win

No.. It was never about me, it’s never been about how I can win. It’s about how we can win, by banding together. Speaking a common technical language, we can collaborate and build on each other’s efforts instead of working in silos of micro-innovation, imagine the macro-innovations we can all produce if we unify.

Change your community and you can change the world I’ve heard it said. And so we went, we started to unify our own community. Because we aren’t just people who show up to work. We love this place. We have a seemingly unbreakable bond and love of this place. It’s people, our friends, our neighbors and neighborhoods. How best to improve these connections and extend them beyond where they are other then community? How can we improve educational outcomes through uniting not based on products, but based on ideas.

And wow the amazing things we have been able to build. The excitement in the eyes of coworkers, colleagues, friends, when they actually bring to life ecosystems for learning. It’s grand, but it’s only the beginning..

A more ridiculous map was one written down in the notebook of a motivated, crazed, 20 something. A map that would be an unspoken, driving vision to prepare me for my 30s. Plots of land with dense forests of trees. Treating these trees each as beautiful, sharing the same general make up, but still being uniquely their own, was key to the visual. Distributed, dense, diverse, and beautiful each in their own way.

I get asked often what drives me.. It can largely boil down to a few “ridiculous” notions, those that cause visuals like the one in this post. We’re not just here to solve one or two problems. We’re here to set in motion a revolution of amazing ideas that are not cost prohibitive. Every day, we’re making things easier to use, easy to setup, better documented, more powerful. And most importantly, doing it all as FOSS, as donated effort. Others are going and starting to do the same; and while these network effects are currently small, they will continue to spiral.

Because Products are Ephemeral, and Movements are Eternal.

Why is OER so powerful? Because it’s more then just a phrase, it is a way of being. So too are we interested in helping bring about a revolution in open systems and the notion of what people have to pay for and what is “too technical” to use. We are a movement of Makers. We believe not only we can do these things, but that you can too. We know you can, and we want your awesome ideas to shine our community ever brighter.

Who do you want to be?

The idea that we’re asking the wrong question of our coworkers comes to me at an appropriate time; Halloween. At Halloween we never ask “What do you want to do?” We ask “Who do you want to be?” “Who are you going as?” “What are you going to be?”.

Probing questions of the self and the remaking of ones self. In our daily lives if only we framed it this way. Too often we might ask someone “What they want to do?”. This puts the work in the driver seat and who they are constant, illustrating no personal growth. Instead, we need to get at who someone wants to be and where they want to go. In this framing, the work is the vehicle as opposed to the driver.

Who do you want to be as a result of the work you do? You would say something like Doctor, not, someone that knows how to operate small, sharp implements. In technology, focus less on what you want to do (full stack developer for example) and more on who you want to be (a change agent).

Anyone can go work at a company, woohoo there’s a million. But not everyone can enter an organization and be a force of change and optimism. Special people don’t just happen, they are all of us making a series of intentional interpersonal design decisions every day, over several years. Some call this growth, a plan, a career.

I call it who I want to be. The person that I’d be proud of 10 years from now. Would 41 year old me look back and be proud of who I was. How do I achieve that.. The skill-sets and chips will fall where they may to get you there. Just always remember, it’s just getting you where you want to go, and who you want to be.