All posts by djohuber

It was so much better before… people talked to each other… Did they? Must we?

“No Wifi here, we want our customers to talk to each other.” “Look, everybody is looking at their smartphones on public transport instead of …“. Instead of what exactly? Should they rather read the paper, or look at the drab urban scenery instead?

Twenty years ago I would have gone to a cafe and everyone would have their coffee and read their newspaper. They would rarely speak to the other people at their table. It was quiet … and pleasant. And nobody would have thought of putting up a poster saying “No newspapers available, we want our customers to be together and to talk to each other.” Talking to each other is only one way of being together.

We live in a crazy world where schools are seemingly proud to ban mobile phone use and compete with each other (partial or full bans), instead of integrating the use of mobile technology in the learning process as some successfully have shown and by that manner also allow young people to develop a reasonable way of using mobile technology.

The latest craze seems to be “Limit screen time” and mobile phone companies even develop software that allows you to monitor your screen time. How much screen time is “good” screen time? When is the cut-off point? There is as little evidence for the right amount of screen time as there is for the right amount of daily steps to take. The 10.000 daily step rule apparently comes out of nowhere or at least not as an evidence-based measure for continued health (why not 8000 or 12.000).

I sat down and put pen to paper, actually electronic pen to tablet, and wrote down all the things I use my smartphone for and what type of things it replaces. I was surprised!

What I use my smartphone for

Mobile phones and tablets are very useful and they make a large number of things easier for us to do. What we need to learn is how to avoid the pitfalls such as data tracking at all times. However, this is not learnt through banning the use of such devices in education.

I propose you that you do this exercise yourself first and then, if you are a teacher, with your pupils. It opens the way into discussing the pros and the cons, into exploring today’s culture and, why not, you might discover some great and useful applications on the way.

I would be interested in your thought about the topic and I invite you to leave a comment below.


Wherever you come from…

… it is what you DO that defines you and makes a difference.


messyI have been following a debate about post-truth and what is true and what not and how we can assert the truth of something and the non-truth of something else. Different ideas, ideologies, beliefs came up with different approaches I will not go into now.

What is more important for me today is that while listening I was reminded of the imperative of learning formulated by Heinz von Förster*, cybernetician, as part of his three imperatives: “If you desire to see, learn to act”. I also read it as “If you want to understand, look at the actions”.

For me it encapsulates in a few words the fundamental realisation that it is after all the acts, it is what we – or others – do that really count. They create the reality, whatever thoughts and ideas might have led to it or might serve as explanation or justification for it. When in the name of a peaceful system of beliefs – and by the representative of that system of belief – weapons of war and their agents are blessed before they pull out into the battle field a very real reality is created and reinforced. A reality which is not peaceful and harmonious.

So whenever people talk to me about their convictions, visions and aims, when they talk about their world views  and principles, when they analyse situations and conditions as well as people… I always wait. I wait until they propose an action, I wait until they act. It is at that moment that I can understand (perhaps) what they really mean and what they stand for. This is the moment I can get a glimpse and a feeling of what their world is like and what our world would be like if they are allowed to structure it.

And I am often surprised, also by myself, that where I could feel closeness in thought and analysis I feel distance in action and the other way round, where I feel a big distance in thought I can feel closeness and acceptance in action.

Look at what people do, look at what you do yourself, … this is my litmus test.

I keep working on it.))

*) More on Heinz von Förster














Education in three dimensions… or more

I want to start these reflections on education with three three-dimensional images which all play a major role in my thinking about education.


Hand – Heart – Head

A04D61E8-EBBC-42CD-8CCD-0EF916436E2DThanks to Johann-Heinrich Pestalozzi these three dimensions have left already an imprint in the minds of those who theorise and those who practice education. Ideally the theorisers and the practitioners are one and the same. What is learning for the head without understanding with the heart and without shaping things, shaping reality, with your hands? The whole person is the subject of learning and making sense of the world. Only this way we can hope to find real solutions to the challenges around us and ahead of us, solutions that work and solutions that are humane.


Purpose – Practice – Policy

cropped-cropped-untitled_artwork.pngThe purpose of education, why and what for we organise the education of the young (and older ones too), must be reflected in the everyday practice of education as well as in education policy. Too often there is contradiction between them, one pulling this way and the other pulling that way while the third doesn’t care… What we need is that the purpose of education we agree upon determines education policy and the day-to-day practice of education. What we need is a purpose that is the driving force behind our movement towards an aim. The aim is up to us to define. For me it is the vision of a sustainable society based on the universal values of human rights and dedicated to the well-being of all its individuals.


Understand – Live together – Sustain our well-being

There are many ways to understand and to describe the purpose of education. Some see the purpose of education in a) the reproduction of the existing, b) the critique of the existing and c) in pushing the boundaries of our understanding of the existing. Some others, such as the Council of Europe, see it as a) the preparation for a life of democratic citizens, b) the preparation for the labour market, c) the maintenance and development of a broad knowledge base and d) personal development.

While I find a lot of interest in these descriptions personally I prefer the following three:

  • To understand myself and the world in which I live
  • To be able to live with others and to contribute to a sustainable way of living together
  • To sustain my own material and otherwise well-being and to contribute to the well-being of society

When speaking of society here I would not reduce this to the society of this or that country, region or town but I would include the society of all of us living on this planet.