Natural Technological Social

Ripples@Work: Learning through Active Discovery

Ripples@Work (R@W) is a system for multimodal teaching and learning developed by Dr Lena Redman.

We’re excited to announce the start of a project in which the members of our enthusiastic online community – parents, teachers, education researchers, and students – will explore and test the model.

R@W is about what learning is; how it works; why it is important to know about what it is; and how we can use our knowledge about learning to design a model of meaningful interactions with the natural, social, and technological aspects of life to benefit the R@W learner most successfully in our rapidly changing world.

Ripples@Work is the name of our journey.

This is a journey into the uncharted waters of our contemporary conditions of life.

The ‘inter-rippling’ of the natural, social, and technological aspects of our living environment has never been more complex, changeable and highly competitive than the ‘ripplework’ we live in today.

These are the waters of vigorous dynamics and unpredictable volatility but also a domain rich in discovered and undiscovered knowledge.

The environment continuously challenges us with problems, but it is also magnificently abundant in things we can use to solve those problems.

We need to discover, decipher, identify, recombine and use in new ways what is already known or what has been lying unnoticed or undiscovered.
Three centuries ago, Isaac Newton described himself as a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting himself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before him.

In our case, due to a technological revolution that has caused rapid globalization, and a transformation of society unimaginable in Newton’s time, we can’t describe ourselves as ‘playing quietly on the seashore’ anymore. The ‘great ocean’ of information, the vigorous ‘ripplework’ of new social relations, is bubbling all around us. We are in the midst of it, and if we want our children or students not only to survive but also succeed, we need to respond to the turbulent zeitgeist in the most effective way possible.

So our quest is to design a system of adaptive behavior based on responses to the churning ripplework of our natural/digital environment. In cybernetics, such a system is called a system of feedback loops. As described by Norbert Wiener, the circularity of the recurring feedback loops has ‘the property of being able to adjust future conduct by past performance.’[1]

Following the example of Newton’s mind exercise of seeing himself as a boy playing on the seashore, we imagine our R@W learners riding a life-savvy raft. Finding themselves in the midst of the whitewater ripplework, they have to develop their intuition and natural knack to respond to the changeability of the water’s rapid movements and other varying circumstances. The R@W life-savvy raft is a steady platform consisting of individual knowing, strong awareness of personal tendencies, and uniquely developed techniques that provide the learner with the confidence to embrace novel experiences and therefore learn new things.

How do we translate this abstract concept into a learning project from which we can formulate a model for learning?

First of all, we have to know what learning is, how people generate knowledge,
and how skills are developed through the activities of learners.

And here we have a snag, as stated by Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon:

In most traditional schools, no consistent, articulated answer to the question of how children learn most powerfully and deeply exists. In our research, the vast majority of school communities rarely (if ever) spend time discussing what learning is, what conditions are required for learning that sticks beyond the test, and the disconnects between learning in the real world and learning in the classroom. [2]

So, R@W starts from exactly here—that is, understanding what learning is and what we have to look at to coordinate learning with new patterns of social relations, continuously emerging new technological tools, and the totality of the digital environment the modern learner lives in.

In this light, R@W relocates its learners from the Newtonian boy playing on the seashore and deciphering the codes of nature inscribed on the shells and pebbles to the boys and girls navigating the whitewater ripplework of information and decoding the meaning of their surroundings with the technological tools that are either their own or owned by their learning group or the school they are students of. By having access to the computer, internet, mobile devices and other digital tools, the modern student owns the means of collecting, analysing, deciphering and producing knowledge. This means that digital students have the opportunity to prioritise their personal interests in gaining deep knowledge in the most effective way over the learning of prescribed material.

‘Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann has asserted that the mind most at a premium in the twenty-first century will be the mind that can synthesize well,’ wrote Howard Gardner, professor of cognition and education, in his book Five Minds for the Future. To synthesize, he explains, is not the ability to accumulate facts and skills but ‘the ability to knit together information from disparate sources into a coherent whole.’[3] In other words, it is not the expansion of an individual memory bank that constitutes the growth of cognitive abilities, but the expertise of making meaningful and effective gradual progression from what the student already knows towards new learning.

For the R@W model, the cultivation of synthesizing skills means active discovery. This includes the discovery of the student’s own potential. Not what their family or teachers told them about who they are and what they are expected to become, but what they, as students who have their personal digital tools in their pockets or school bags, can do to satisfy their personal interest in solving a problem their group is working on. What can they do best to contribute to a collective knowledge project and by doing so trigger and affect their individual cognitive growth? How do they know they are on the right path of learning and not wasting time?

In this respect, R@W is committed to developing a systemic approach for students to discover their best potential and cultivate skills by using their personal technology tools and applying such savvy to a group project which benefits themselves and others.

If you are interested in becoming part of our community and benefiting from working together with us, visit our Ripplesatwork Facebook page, join us in our discussions, and jump on board our Miro-platform raft.

The participation in our journey is free until October 31.

We will be organizing new learning groups in the period from September 15 to October 21, 2022.
Register yourself for the participation:

See you soon onboard our Ripples@Work life-savvy raft to take an inspiring and fascinating journey to discover how learning works and to design a model that helps young people take full advantage of their individual potential and apply it to the changing world we live in.



[1] Wiener, N. (1988). The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society [Kindle version, p. 32]. Do Capro Press

[2] Richardson, W. & Dixon, B. (2017). 10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning [Website]. Retrieved from: https://s3-us-west

[3] Gardner, Howard, E. (2006). Five Minds For The Future [loc. 698]. Harvard Business School Press.


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