Prospective View: Creating Ragged Universities

With a view of scaling the activities of the Ragged project and successful informal projects in general, this document serves as a discussion and exploration of propagating learning hubs using what is available and accessible in the underfinanced landscape particularly.



Over experimenting with many different event formats and finding growing success with attendance, discussion  and learning about education has gone on. From practical experience a reading of educational materials and thinkers is being used to illustrate some of the principles which have been viewed in practice.


Situated Learning

A view to informal learning and building digital communities of practice: “The model of learning a skill through technology mimics how individuals learned in the past from a professional in that skill. In the past when individuals learned about a particular topic it was done in person, in a hands-on environment”


production based curriculum

The Production Centred Curriculum

This document thinks through how to bring together a model of an open digital learning facility which has small financial resources available, but high potential to facilitate autodidactic and group learning using technology developments which are relatively accessible. The aim is to draw on various elements of thinking in a syncretic (synthetic-eclectic) process to innovate a design which aligns with modern infrastructure and can reach out into areas which do not have great financial resources.


Utilising available infrastructure and common technology it is possible to create an environment ideally suited to hosting individual, group and focused learning/production activities. Within the ‘Ragged’ frame of reference, production serves as ‘curriculum structure’ for learning thus held in the making of a book can be a matched set of skills which broach a study which engages literacy, analytical thinking, planning, practical organisation, digital engagement, self discipline, all combined in the production of an economic good.


Around a social process, the Madras peer led teaching method and person centred planning methodologies, the ‘Production Centred Curriculum’ utilises the match between environment, method, people and aim to manifest as reified possibilities.


Games playing


Examination of the motives and means that exist surrounding situations of learning: “Digital games have the potential to create active and engaging environments for learning, supporting problem-solving, communication and group activities, as well as providing a forum for practice and learning through failure”


In thinking about how to incentivise digital engagement and knowledge production a central focus is in identifying and harnessing natural motives and behaviours which naturally drive educational/creative attainment.  Understanding the by proxy of gaming situations, the benefits and myths of gamification principles and the power of fun in a productive scenario, this can be used to increase digital engagement as well as a number of skills from multitasking to assessing opportunity exists to problem solving.


Digital and fun environments also offer safe environments in which explore and develop ideas without the negative reinforcement of failure and exclusion which often manifests in formal learning schemes.  Games have the property of being able to provide a ‘scaffolding’ to arrive at through learning a compound goal.  There is a long history of the use of traditional games in education.




Share activities to confer insights in social circumstances: “Digital games have the potential to create active and engaging environments for learning, supporting problem-solving, communication and group activities, as well as providing a forum for practice and learning through failure”


According to Vygotsky, learning has its roots in social enterprise where the collective nature of learning helps inform the individual – ‘through others we become ourselves’. Here utility and pleasure become functions of each other where production of a good creates socio cultural links and interactions, and where these sociocultural relations formed facilitate the attainment of goals.


The work of Vygotsky compliments the discussions surrounding social capital, networks and supportive community.  Drawing on Dr Andrew Bells Madras peer led teaching methods speaks directly to the constructivist perspective and traditional learning practices far and wise; and the Vygotskyan perspective can inform the Madras method, (for the purpose of the Ragged model) by illustrating the principle ‘cognitive development is a sociocultural activity’




Social premises supports social relations within which learning is a natural feature: “The social nature of Montessori’s system becomes apparent in these idealized forms: the children are treated as individuals, their individuality is allowed to flourish, they feel connected to one another and feel concern about each other’s welfare”


The educational work of Maria Montessori was in part to deinstitutionalise the institutional setting risen around learning, in part to relate familial circumstances into learning perspectives and also in part to create a ‘scaffolding’ which would lead people through developmental stages into an enfranchised position in life informed with the relevant skills.  She conceives of the learning spaces as “homes” which are innately social.


Again, informality features in the educational landscape as a conducive setting for learning relationships.  Belonging, friendship, community, family and business; Maria Montessori incorporated these into various ideas where informal relations were used to create a supportive environment for developing life skills and knowledge bases. The Rural Children’s Hotel is a rich model which will be drawn on for the Ragged model.

homemade book


The production of artefacts incentivises and provides a scaffolding for learning: “The emergence of student writing and publishing has been one of the most interesting developments of adult basic education in Britain and is another way in which commitment to learner participation has been taken beyond words to practice”


Adult Basic Education is a challenging area which aims to build the knowledge and skills essential for other learning and self sufficiency.  Open access and ‘learners rights to define their own learning needs’ are central to this area of work.  Skills and knowledge acquisition are distinct problem areas for linguistic and cultural minorities in particular.


Adult literacy and numeracy learning must be closely tied to uses in day to day life; contextualising learning has been a long standing problem linking literacy and numeracy through ‘learning by doing’  or ‘situated learning’ has been one strategy. Incorporating these skills to activities or production processes is a method which the Ragged project aims to do.


A participative learning programme takes a pedagogical approach which is different from that of transmition and a distinct teleology.  It takes a view that personal development is emergent rather than predefined. Social environments collaboration, peer led learning and co-construction or all elements of this model which differs from traditional formal educational schemes.


The publishing of student writing as a process which involves many diverse activities is the production of an artefact precisely describes the core of the methodology which Ragged is developing. Incorporating learner aims with this will produce variants placing the real life value of the artefact at the centre. This has proven to be an extremely powerful way to ‘cement learning’.




Addressing what needs must be met before other goals can be achieved: “The emergence of student writing and publishing has been one of the most interesting developments of adult basic education in Britain and is another way in which commitment to learner participation has been taken beyond words to practice”


Creating a context and environment which is reflective of needs, and tailoring a learning trajectory must being with looking at sufficiency.  With this in mind the work of Maslow in his Hierarchy of Needs is being drawn upon to inform the Ragged project.   Maslow suggested a scheme in which the needs of human beings can be arranged in a dependent hierarchy.


People need to satisfy one need before a reliant need can be addressed.  The most basic level of needs to be met is that of our physiological survival.  The highest level is that of self actualisation; education is arguably reliant or involved in all levels. ‘People will be less inclined to study if they are hungry’ is a simple way to contextualise how social elements need to be addressed before being able to effectively reach people distant from education.


Becoming valued through contributing and participating in a cultural activity: “The members accumulated facts more quickly, and were able to combine existing facts into new experiments and new insights.  By insisting on accuracy and transparency, and by sharing their assumptions and working methods with one another, the collegians had access to the group’s collective knowledge and constituted a collaborative cycle“


A perceived need is to provide what is missing and annex what is already there. Using joined up thinking to build a culture of ‘invisible colleges’.  As Clay Skirkey describes in his book Cognitive Surplus “their members had no permanent location; they held themselves together as a group via letters and meetings”.  Develop a landscape virtual infrastructure which simply enables people to opt into their chosen need.   People create their own private space and co-create public spaces and networks.  Key here is to create privacy and avoid ‘lock in’ situations.


From observation a lot of people don’t engage because they are being observed.  Heidegger’s Mouse.  Richard Stallman has a lot to say about privacy and digital liberty. Tricky when analytics are useful tools.  Situated in a space with 10 basic computers, say Pentium 4, speakers and screen, Mozilla Firefox; this enables us to tap into talks like TED.


You only need 2 machines with a different arrangement to tap into knowledge.  Build sessions around making something useful (like an owned website) on the internet.  Research and write, build… One computer and a projector maketh a cinema.  A series of lectures from the likes of Yale and any screen becomes course material for a learning group.


Print on demand publishing enables people to both realise their interests in an economic good with ‘Long Tail’ economies described by Chris Anderson.  Freelance online work becomes available via free hotdesking.  An attractive and simple learning arrangement is to be had combining a supported environment with expertise, Stack Exchange and freelance work websites.  The infosphere has generated much in work in the chain of production.


Through Madras peer led teaching method, RTFM (Read The F****** Manual) culture and proximal personal expertise, important personal communities can be developed with simple technology training.  This technology training must be free and open from the constraints of formal environments, whilst embedding some of the functions of the successful teaching practice to generate spaces capable of drawing and holding individuals who avoid formal environments.