awarm.spacenewsletter | fast | slow

Tools and Schools

Hello! Welcome to the second issue a small newsletter where I talk about learning and technology.

I spent much of this week trying to extract my mind from the world of Fancynote, my holiday project building a note taking and get back to work on Fathom (see last weeks letter for more on what's happening there).

I did find out that I wasn't the only one spending their holidays hacking on a notetaking side project though!

Amy's thoughts in that thread are going in a different direction from mine, but it's a super exciting direction. This feels like an especially vital time to be working on tools for thought, with projects like roam and quantum.country out there.

All of that is what makes it so hard to shift my thoughts back to fathom, and starting to run some peer-to-peer learning courses. Wouldn't it be easier if I could just convince myself that working on Fancynote was working on fathom?

Well, what makes making a tool for thinking, different from designing tools for learning? Working on the two definitely feels very different, but what are the fundamental distinctions?

In a classic model of education the two are tightly coupled. Think of all the infrastructure for individual learning that's tied to your school. Your records, your writing, all move through technology controlled by the school. In some cases even the tools you use to create (think GSuite, or Office 365) are owned by the institution. This allows the institution to make distinctions between the two. Some technology is pedagogical, like curricula, and grading, but others are just technology.

When you explode the school into it's composite parts, this all gets a bit fuzzier. A tool for managing your personal calendar doesn't look too different from a course calendar. A syllabus doesn't look much different from my reading list.

In fact, like Tiago is saying, new versions of these systems become neccessary. There isn't a good calendar system out there that isn't tied to an outdated view of an institution. There isn't a model of a workspace that embraces the fluid contexts one person can move between.

But those tools aren't the learning structure, they're enabling it.

The distinction, for me, ultimately comes down to one of generality. A notetaking tool can (and should) be used for learning. But it can just as easily be used for tracking finances, or recipes, or business decisions, or anything. Learning infrastructure should have learning in it's bones, facilitating that individual process through it's fundamental.

This is why things like agile and scrum seem so bizarre to me when applied to an educational context. Sure they can be used for learning, but they don't make learning happen

So alas, I can't just keep working on fancynote. Anyways, here's what it looks like now:

It's gotten a little fancier! I'm going to be reducing the amount of time I'm spending on it, but there's still lots to do.

I'm thinking on how to make this newsletter more valuable to those reading it. If there's something I can do for you, let me know. If you disagreed with something I said in here, or it sparked some thoughts, please reply! I'd love to talk with you :)

warm regards, jared