Open-Source Ed goes GLOBAL

Meet The Danish NGO That’s Taking Open-Source Education Global

Shelves of the Main Library of Tampere, Finland.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Imagine getting an Ivy League level education in UX, product design or human-computer interaction from the comfort of your home – anywhere in the world. What sounds like the offer from a spam email is actually the open-source education reality that Denmark’s Interaction Design Foundation has devoted the last decade to promoting.

“Education is the single most powerful way to lift people out of poverty and change lives. Our vision is to create a sustainable model for equal opportunities to education and to improve the design of technology. It is our vision to give everybody absolutely free access to educational materials in the highest quality possible – whether they live in New York or New Delhi, “ says co-founder Rikke Dam.

Built over the foundation’s 10-year history, IDF’s library of design-focused courseware and textbooks includes contributions from faculty at the likes of Stanford, Harvard and MIT and researchers from IBM, Google and Apple and boasts over 16M readers to date. Based in Denmark, IDF’s mandate draws heavily on the Danish perspective on access to education, according to Dam.

“We are strongly inspired by the Danish educational system where everybody are offered free, high-quality education from the earliest years in school until we graduate from university. Universities in Denmark are tuition-free and students are even offered a monthly paycheck from the government to go there. It makes perfect business sense from a socioeconomic perspective.”

Recently, IDF inked a deal with SAP to underwrite a 35 000 mile global “Share the Knowledge” bike tour to increase awareness about open source education, particularly in North America, where the idea of free post-secondary education is far from mainstream.  Biker Max Peer is currently pedaling to college campus throughout the US and Canada to spread IDF’s message.

“The reaction has been great from day one. The fact that IDF is not just saying that education should be free, but actually doing something about it, offers a win-win situation for students, professors, and industry and that has been applauded by everybody I have met so far. And then people usually always get quite shocked when they start to think about the physical effort behind biking 35 000 miles across mountains and continents,” he says.

Nick Hækkerup, Denmark’s Minister for Trade and European Affairs knows that the Danish – or more broadly, the Scandinavian – model of education isn’t necessarily an easy sell in countries where colleges and universities are encouraged to function like business units, access to the post-secondary system is predicated in large part on financial means and where getting a degree is an investment, not a social right.

“It will be no easy task to export the Danish model of free education globally, but I wish more children and more young people had the opportunity to experience the great value of free education,” he says, making a link between Denmark’s high level of social mobility and its robust welfare state.

His wish is one that IDF is working to grant, starting with the field of design.

“Open-source education has the potential to diminish the social skew – nationally and globally – as open-source education helps enhance equal rights to education. There is of course still a very, very long way to go. Millions of children and young people do not have time to go to school because they have to work. And teachers have only just started to include open-source resources in schools and universities. We are only seeing the dawn of open-source education,” says Dam.


source: Forbes/Leardership



1. Mix paint (tempera, watercolor, food coloring) with a little water, and a squirt of washing-up liquid

2. Stir up

3. Blow with a straw to create lots and lots of bubbles.

4. Gently place the paper over the bubbles to take a print from them, remove, and allow to dry.

You can use a large tray of bubbles to cover a big sheet of paper, or use the same paper and repeat the motion to get overlaying prints, Alternatively, you can use several small pots of different coloured bubbles, as in the example below, and print them one at a time on the same page, (or cluster them together and do them all at once) to create multi-colour bubble circles.  Another variation is to try layering one colour print with another using bubbles of a different colour.



MARIABELEN’s Bubble prints
2 years old- Art project

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How did she do it?

Mix of food coloring-blues

circular to define shape

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Bubbles will pop and make a mess!

MariaBelén realized that she was blowing bubbles to hard so bubbles were popping. She then adjust, and did it “softly” and got two prints out of each batch by laying the paper carefully over the bubbles.


Why it is important to reflect on process in a digital environment:
1. Students can replicate the process if successful
2. Students can make adjustments to process by identifying gaps, mishaps, errors, in process
3. By documenting on a digital Learning Portfolio, students carry a form of digital notebook that
– is easily shareable
– can be access by peers and teachers as it is developed
– students don’t forget at home
– is multi-modal; students can post images, video, sound bites, writing
– teachers can give feedback, and classmates too (peer-to-peer learning)!


 Potentiality of documentation; what things can become…

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This art craft/exercise can be a good introduction to a formal class; the level of complexity determined by the students’ level.


Frucht-soap  Soap-bubbles, their colours and the forces which mould them Geodesic_dome_patent_fuller_1954 US5015432-3



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