When Drumbeat met the School of Everything

[originally on the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival blog]

There can’t be many start-ups out there who have a mission more in tune with the aims of the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival than School of Everything.

Launched in the summer of 2008 it was built around the belief that ‘everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach’ and was at least as inspired by the ideas that led to the Free U in 1960s California as it was by the start-up culture in the same State decades later.

The site acts as a marketplace allowing anyone with something to teach (and it can be anything – from Morris Dancing to Mandarin) to connect with anyone looking to learn – a kind of Match.com for learning :).

Like Cory Doctorow said of the service on BoingBoing;

“It’s one of those great, simple, smart ideas that make you want to smack your head and say, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?'”

Back in the summer a blogpost from Paul Miller, who is the CEO and one of the founders of SoE, outlined the beliefs that underpin what they are trying to achieve and I think they will ring true to many people attending the Festival or following the work of Drumbeat in general. I think it is worth reproducing them here;

* Everyone has something to teach. Everyone, yes everyone, has something they can teach someone else.
* Everyone has their own way of learning. It’s better to learn in the way you want to. You know what suits you best.
* Learning is better with friends. People are brilliant, inspiring, generous and smart. Being with others makes it easier and enjoyable to learn more.
* You should never stop learning. You can keep learning whatever your age, far beyond your school days.
* Education shouldn’t be expensive. With a bit of ingenuity you can learn new things without spending lots of money.
* All subjects are important. Learning is learning, and learning is good. Knowing how to rewire a plug is just as valuable as understanding inverse trigonometric functions.
* Qualifications are overrated. A good education is about the things you learn along the way, not a fancy bit of paper.
* The real world is better than the internet. Step away from your computer please. Getting out and trying new things is better than being sat at a desk all day.

(Although I’m guessing some people in the community might have a problem with the final belief!)

One of the ways they have been trying to live up to these beliefs beyond the website is the School of Everything: Unplugged meetups that bring people together in central London to ‘talk about the ideas and attitudes to education which inspired the site’. It is fast becoming breeding ground for new ideas around informal learning.

I’ll leave the final say to Paul himself to explain why he thinks School of Everything and Mozilla Drumbeat are a good fit;

“One of the things we’ve learned through running School of Everything is that there’s an untapped demand for peer learning. When we first created the site we focused on one-to-one teaching but over time we’ve shifted to understand that small groups are an incredibly effective way of learning new things. My feeling is that the combination of tools to organise peer learning, open resources and a hacker mentality could well be the future of education.”

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