Plans and changes for 2014

I know it is not exactly the start of the year anymore but it about time that I publicly state my intentions for 2014.

Short story, I’ve started a new company and enrolled to do my PhD.


The longer story is that the company is the natural evolution of the work that I’ve doing at ideasLAB and on my own for the last five years. It has become increasingly apparent that the major stumbling block for the successful re-imagining learning and teaching is our lack of pedagogical understanding. This has been proved to me over and over as I’ve been working on and presenting about the Principles of Modern Learning over the last year. This doesn’t mean that I’m dropping the Principles though, far from it, for those waiting the book will be out soon!

The company that I’ve founded is called Validated Learning, whose first, and flagship, product is the Modern Learning Canvas. The Modern Learning Canvas builds on the best ideas from the business and entrepreneurial world. Basically the idea is that if entrepreneurs can have a business model to describe, understanding and design innovative businesses way can’t and don’t educator have a learning model to describe learning and teaching? Why don’t we have a framework for understanding, describing and designing for innovative learning and teaching? Well now we do!

It enables teachers to more beyond a pedagogical understanding based around the lesson plan and the how and what of learning and teaching, to pedagogical language and understanding of the why of learning and teaching. In doing so it enables teachers even with completely different practice to engage in meaningful pedagogical conversations.

The Modern Learning Canvas is still in closed beta but it will be launched in a matter of weeks, so stay tuned! In the meantime check out the canvas on the site and download the free creative commons printable version.

The second big change is my decision to pursue a PhD, something that I was certain that I would never do. In September, the Modern Learning Canvas started working really well and I began writing a (soon to be released) white paper on it. At that time I began considering whether academic research would be beneficial for the development of the Modern Learning Canvas. In speaking to universities about it, I became more and more convinced that it was a natural and sensible decision. So just a few weeks ago I enrolled at Monash University, initially I’ve signed up to do a Masters of Research but the plan is to switch over to the PhD program later in the year.I couldn’t enrol directly in the PhD program as I didn’t have a research component in the original Master of Education!

My supervisors are Dr Phillip Dawson and Professor Marilyn Fleer. So a big thank you to them for seeing merit in the idea!

Yes, a big year is on the cards…. stay tuned!

Melbourne teachers – beta testers wanted

My (sort of) secret project, The Modern Learning Canvas, is ready for beta testing. In a nutshell the canvas provides context that enables teachers to understand and discuss  their learning and teaching approach, and design for learning.

I’m looking for teachers who would be willing to act as beta testers. Ideally, a professional learning team from a Melbourne school, where the whole team would work on the canvas together.

If you’re interested, I’d love to speak to you about this. I would be happy to give a demonstration to you before you commit, and the time commitment for the team would be a single session for about 45 minutes. Email me at or contact me via twitter @richardolsen

Plans and projects for 2013

If it is not too indulgent I thought I’d share my plans for 2013.


For those who don’t know this year marks a big change for ideasLAB. After four years of strong association with Victoria’s Department of Education and Early Childhood we are seeking to establish a more autonomous structure. At the moment we’re exploring our options, with moving to a not for profit structure being the most likely outcome  at this stage.


For me this meant resigning from the Department, after 11 years both as a teacher and with ideasLAB I finished in December. I’ve had a great time these last 11 years and have learnt a lot. I’ve updated the home page of my website to showcase some of the major projects I’ve been working on over the last year. It is still a work in progress but if you’re interested please check it out.


As we sort out the structure of the lab and our ongoing structure, I will undertaking additional personal work. I have a number of things already in the pipeline, some of which I have detailed below. Therefore, if you have a project that you’d like to work with me on please get in touch, big or small.


So what do I hope to achieve this year? Here a few of the more interesting projects that are in the works.


The End of Offline Learning: How the Modern Learner is Leading the Learning Revolution

The book I’ve been promising for the last year is still not finished. It is sort of close. I’m really happy with both the content and the flow, I just need to finish it. Hopefully soon I’ll be making an appeal for beta readers. When it is done it will be self-published and available as an ebook or print on demand. Stay tuned.


ideasLAB – The Modern Learner Project

This year ideasLAB is looking for schools to participate in our Modern Learner Project. Ideally these schools would have a strong history in using modern technology and have a one to one program in place.

The project has three streams:
1. Social Learning
2. Inquiry-Based / Project-Based Learning.
3. Self-Directed Learning

For each stream we’re looking to run four projects, resulting in twelve projects across the year. We’ll have more information out soon but in the meantime there is more information on my projects page.


Browser-based ARG

I’ve had an idea for a browser based ARG for a couple of years now. Maybe with a bit more time this year will be the year? Most of the game mechanics are fleshed out and I think they’re pretty solid, the story needs a bit of work however. If you want to collaborate with me on this please get in touch.



Years ago I created a Flickr clone when I was at Concord. By the end of the project over  100,000 photos had been uploaded to it. I’d love to get this project to the release stage so schools could have their own private Flickr or Instagram. Maybe this is the year?


Collective Writing

Student blogging is so individual and teacher directed, I’m sure we can do much better. I believe the issue is the technology, I’d like to do something about this. Maybe the answer is close to what we did at Concord? Or maybe it is closer to branch or medium?