The First Thread.

Education — December 3, 2006

I honestly don’t have this planned out…I just have a simple idea to get started. Think of this place as a somewhat controlled environment. A comment starts a single thread. The topic of another thread will then be started from a comment within an existing thread. It’s the idea of collecting a group consciousness on a given topic. An attempt to create an endless well of inspiration — based on ideas, principles, philosophies, and even anomalies.

Here’s the first comment. From one of my heros, Peter Drucker:

Technology, however important and however visible, will not be the most important feature of the transformation in education. Most important will be rethinking the role and function of schooling. It’s focus, its purpose, its values. The technology will still be significant, but primarily because it should force us to do new things rather than because it will enable us to do old things better.

I’ve started a project called Openmoko. I like to describe Openmoko as a movement to create a open platform that empowers people to personalize their phone, much like a computer, in any way they see fit.

One of my long term dreams is to help provide tools that will transform the way people learn. I am a self-proclaimed technologist. Since the mobile phone is the single piece of technology that I will carry whenever I go, naturally, this seemed to be the best place for me to start.

We chose to make the entire software stack open. From a control standpoint — the things corporations love — this borders on insanity. But I think by pushing these borders, we will let loose the possibility for immense innovation.

Innovation, in my opinion, is seldom found within the endless cubicles of a large corporation. Most commonly it manifests itself within the intense focus and concentration, that all individuals seem to have access to, when they stare at a single problem long enough.

Staying with a problem long after most would quit, is a luxury few companies can afford. Instead, I want to focus on the fundamentals — the framework — to use a more specific term. The include the following parts:

  • UI — Common look & feel for end users
  • Data — Common storage model for applications
  • Libraries — Common platform for developers

We believe that these are some of the key areas to solidify for innovation to form. And that this will benefit not just my company (FIC), but everyone who uses a mobile phone.

So here’s my question for you all. What can do we do — as a corporation and as a community — to help build better tools for learning? Or to use Drucker’s words again, how will an open source mobile phone, “force us to do new things”?. How can it help us all rethink “the role and function of schooling”?


  1. I think the answer is obliquely presented on the splash-page: “Computers like a client-server relationship. Humans do not.”

    With human-human communication, it still operates on the client-server model, but the distinctions are:

    1) There are fewer instances where converstations are expected to consist of entirely self-contained references. Compare “How was your day at work?” with an HTTP Request.

    2) The mapping of the client-server relationship with human-human interactions changes dynamicly and unpredictably throught the lifespan of the peers.

    Yet the HTTP Request as a primitive form of communication has already transformed learning – instead of remembering facts, I remember how to reference those facts.

    It follows then, that conceptual and development (UI, Data, Libraries) commonality leading to more p2p (human-conceptual) communications, turns the Personal Digital Assistant closer to filling the role of Personal Assistant.

    Whether this benefits intellectual development, and should be encouraged in schooling, is another question!

    Comment by Richard Franks — December 3, 2006 @ 12:29 pm
  2. Have you seen ? Schooling is designed to not educate. Things like Free Software, like Wikipedia and a Free Software phone, are going to make schools irrelevant because what you can learn with an internet connection is going to relate to schools like a firehose relates to a dripping tap 🙂

    Comment by dave crossland — December 3, 2006 @ 6:19 pm
  3. As you are writing about new ways of learning, I wonder if you know about the “Hole in the Wall” experiment: a computer made accessible to India’s poor.

    To me it gave a lot of new insights about the natural process of learning.


    Comment by Marcus Bauer — December 4, 2006 @ 3:56 am
  4. The key to learning is enabling better communication. Whether one is talking about learning in a classroom or learning about one’s peers, communication is the tool by which learning happens. OpenMoko is a great step forward, because it will allow us all to cooperate on building a better communications platform, making us all better teachers and students.

    In terms of practical features to work towards, the number one thing that OpenMoko could do that is missing from Linux distros in general is good sync with PIM (personal information manager / management) on phones. I would LOVE to have a phone that syncs with either Ubuntu (preferable) or MacOS. GPE seems to have a good start on this, if only the N800 was a phone.

    RIM and the Blackberry are so amazingly popular for one reason: they make PIM and mobile data access easy. If my phone has internet access, and my computer has internet access, why should I ever have to sync them? They should just talk to each other over the internet. Obviously, creating an entire PIM desktop environment is beyond the scope of this project. However, the ability to sync with Thuderbird (on any platform), and (on the mac), evolution, korganize and kontact, google calendar and gmail, and (shudder) Outlook would let FIC leapfrog RIM. Why should open source lag behind proprietary software?

    Comment by jonas — January 8, 2007 @ 3:00 pm
  5. Hi Sean,

    Please improve the colors/contrast scheme of your website, I can hardly read anything on a laptop screen.


    Comment by Cartex — January 26, 2007 @ 3:30 pm
  6. Oh Sean,

    Still so brilliant. You’re on to something; but ultimately, it’s the people who make it go. Just like something as simple as Craigslist.

    There will always be people like me, who can crash great technology; without meaning to. 🙂

    Take care. Stay well.

    Comment by Bonnie Russell — February 5, 2007 @ 8:53 pm
  7. Sean, dude!! Check this out!

    I can’t find your email, so let me know if you get this. Look at the picture. Tha tlooks like the orange neo1973 the announcer is holding in his hand.

    Comment by Bishop — May 9, 2007 @ 10:59 am
  8. It’s a credit to how hard you’re working that you’re unable to keep this blog updated. What you are creating I think is really very noble. It’s about I.T. discipline and fundamental understanding rather than going for the “digital candy” straight away. I’m really enjoying playing with my openmoko (although have currently lent it to some developers in my home town to play with.

    I hope you continue to enjoy the project, both from a philosophical and a physical standpoint.

    Comment by andylockran — October 30, 2007 @ 2:50 pm
  9. It is the coolest site,keep so!

    Comment by mark — April 15, 2009 @ 5:41 pm
  10. I rarely comment on blogs but yours I had to stop and say Great Blog!!

    Comment by mark — April 16, 2009 @ 9:26 am

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