Jane Addams Conference on Social Entrepreneurship

I just learned, too late I’m afraid, about the Jane Addams Conference on Social Entrepreneurship to be held in Uppsala, November 18-19. It’s organized by the department of Sociology at Uppsala University in cooperation with the Nobel Museum, Stockholm.

You may like to look at the conference program, even if you can’t pop over to Sweden for a couple of days. It’s interesting to see the level of interest in Jane Addams (also John Dewey and WIlliam James) here in Sweden. In many other places in Europe, I’ve seen more interest in the more analytical approach represented by Charles Sanders Peirce (e.g., Kaiserlslautern, Germany) or the language focus represented by Richard Rorty (Cluj-Napoca, Romania), among those working in pragmatism.

Searching for trolls in Skurugata

It is generally understood that Trolls, when their territory is encroached upon by mankind, withdraw to some more secluded place. So when Eksjo was built, those that dwelt in that vicinity moved to Skurugata, a defile between two high mountains whose perpendicular sides rise so near to each other as to leave the bottom in continual semi-darkness and gloom (Hofberg, 1890).

It’s also generally understood that humans venture into the lair of trolls at their peril, and wise ones know not to walk defenseless into bottomlands of “continual semi-darkness and gloom.” But we knew of the troll ways and were not about to follow the path that the hunter Pelle Katt did in Hofberg’s fairy tale.

A Swedish friend asked why we were going to Småland, as if searching for relatives were the only thing to do there. We’ve learned there is much more, including visiting 12th century Romanesque churches and meeting local people over coffee afterwards, exploring lush forests with gorgeous lakes, taking walks in well-designed parklands, looking at quaint, red wooden farmhouses, and walking through villages with winding, cobblestone streets. But we were intrigued by the descriptions of Skurugata, which seemed of a different order of things.

Skurugata is about 13 km NE of Eksjö. To get there, we drove past lovely little farms with red houses and barns, cows, and piles of logs from the abundant woods.

The walk to Skurugata itself started off simply enough, a winding path through the woods, with moss-covered rocks and ferns. But it soon descended into a narrow ravine, with straight granite sides. At times, there was little more than 20 feet separating the sides, which rose to 50 feet and more. The walking was a bit tricky, since the rocks were moss-covered and slick from rain. There was also some climbing and descending that benefitted from the use of hands.

It was easy to imagine getting a foot caught in a crevice or losing one’s balance on an unstable stone. But the most dangerous part was neither the trolls nor the rocks, but the sheer beauty that made it hard to focus on walking carefully. The camera was shock-proof, but not my head.

Hofberg’s tale made me more sympathetic to trolls than I’d been before. Being forced out of one’s home is never good, even if it’s to a place as beautiful as Skurugata. He relates that every year a whole battalion of Småland grenadiers would march through Skurugata, beating drums and blowing horns, and occasionally firing volleys. Who knows how the poor trolls suffered through that! And Pelle Katt was no saint either.

We tried not to add to the troll’s’ misery, although we did intrude on what seems like a sacred space and took pictures that only hint at its beauty.

[Double-click on any photo to enlarge it.]


Hofberg, Herman (1890).  Swedish fairy tales. Chicago: Belford-Clarke.

A view on learning in Go:

My meetings here at Göteborg University have been held in the School of Pedagogy, which sits in three buildings, labeled, fittingly for an education school, as A-B-C.

But someone showed some imagination, and managed to start my brain spinning, by giving each hus a more lyrical name. I know the dictionary definitions, but I still can’t quite pull these names into a unified whole. Perhaps a Swedish colleague can help?

Hus A, the largest, is named Utsikten, which means “view.” That’s very appropriate, as its windows look out on the beautiful canal with its trees and walkways. The building is trilobite shaped. Its curves mean that each window has a different view. I think of the label as suggesting that we need to look out at the world.

Hus B is named Åsikten. This can also be translated as “view,” but here, I think it means point of view, or opinion. It reminds us that when we examine the world, we all see different things.

Finally, Hus C is named insikten, meaning “insight.” So, we have a view, a point of view, and an insight. Is it saying that as we consider our own view, then that of others, as in Peirce’s community of inquiry, that we develop insight? Or, does it mean that learning involves looking both outward and inward, then recognizing the fallibility of all knowledge? Does insight here really mean reflection, as we find in the water of the canal?

Or, is all of this just playing with the root sikt, and the untranslateablity in order to drive English speakers crazy? I suspect the latter, as I see Göteborg becoming Go:teborg on street signs, and then just Go:. But regardless of the deeper meanings I’m missing, this is just one of the many charming things I’m finding everywhere we look in Go:.

Persian night in Göteborg

We just had an amazing evening in an Iranian restaurant.

Vida La Vida (formerly Coffee Dance) at Fjärde Långgatan 48 Linnaeus, Göteborg, is a small, but imaginatively decorated place that plays an important role in the local art scene. The eponymous Vida is the multitalented owner and for us this evening, a very charming host.

We were invited to enjoy music and dinner at Vida La Vida by Bernardo Borgeson, an Ecuadorian/Swedish filmmaker, who has directed many critically acclaimed documentaries and short films. He’s also worked with marginalized youth to tell their own stories through film. These are often quite powerful and disturbing films.

We shared a small table with Bernardo’s friend. The only other table was a large one with Vida’s Iranian family and their friends, several of whom were visiting from the U.S.

Various individuals performed on the tar, daf, and other instruments, and sang songs such as Dele Divane and Soltane Ghalbha. The singing was beautiful, almost hypnotic. Many of the songs convey a sadness and sense of longing or loss, even if one doesn’t undertand the words.

There was also a lot of group singing, which we were invited to join, with song sheets showing the Farsi words in a Latin alphabet. All of this occurred as we enjoyed an excellent dinner of salmon, fresh vegetables, and good Persian bread.

The large group included a young couple about to be married. There was also a woman celebrating her birthday, so we sang happy birthday in Farsi (Tavalodet Mobarak), Swedish (Ja, må du leva), and English. They brought us into all parts of the evening, which went on for several hours, and included an excellent dinner plus birthday cake.

Need I add that this was not what we had expected in Göteborg? The evening was topped off by a walk home in which we saw ladybugs, witches, and skeletons. The intensity of the evening at Vida La Vida made us forget that it was Halloween here!

Train blogging

I’m typing this while riding on the X 2000, SJ´s electric train, travelling quietly at up to 200 km/h (125 mph). We just had a delicious meal, including “easy beer” and surprisingly good coffee.

Thanks to the SJ site for the photos, which represent very well what we’re seeing, both outside and inside the train, except that the train is full.

Our journey to Göteborg will take less than 3 hours for the 398 km, exactly on the schedule. It’s a beautiful, modern train, with comfortable seats, good leg room, sockets for radio and music, electric power outlets, and full access to fast wifi, which makes this post possible.

SJ stands for Statens järnvägars, as explained on the SJ website:

Soon it will have been 150 years since the first train from Statens järnvägars (SJ) departed from Gothenburg central station. On arrival ecstatic passengers could testify to how they had ”been thrown forward” at 30 kilometres an hour.

Our fellow passenger across the aisle explained that this is not the best time to visit Sweden, but I have to differ. The weather is great for walking, and on this train journey, we’re seeing quaint old farmhouses, interesting little towns, spruce forests, birch tree stands, and occasionally, glorious fall foliage.

Stopping in Stockholm

We’ve stopped in Stockholm for three nights on the way to Göteborg University and the University of Borås. The weather is very pleasant, with temperatures just above 0°C or 35°F. The sun sets shortly after 5 pm.

I’ve been working each morning, so I haven’t had much time to explore. But here’s a gallery of a few sights we’ve enjoyed.

We did have a good walk through the parks of Ladugårdsgärdet and Kungliga Djurgården. Several of the photos below are from that walk.

On the way, we visited the excellent Etnografiska museet (Museum of Ethnography). Their permanent exhibition, “Bringing the World Home,” presents Swedish explorers such as Carl Linné, A. E. Nordenskiöld, Sten Bergman, and Sven Hedin, who helped create the European image of the “other.”

Double click on any photo below to see a larger version:

Lycksele learning centers

On October 21, while I was in Sweden, I spent a day in Lycksele. There, I learned about an innovative organization called Akademi Norr from Regis Cabral, their EU coordinator. The organization emerged as the result of cooperation among 13 municipalities in four counties in northern Sweden. It initiates, coordinates, and implements higher education programs and courses for people in the north, in order to meet needs for both education and development.

Each of the 13 municipalities has its own learning center, typically housed with the community library. Akademi Norr works with the center, a local industry, community members, and a university to devise a specialized higher education program. The center offers meeting spaces, ICTs, local tutoring, and other services. Their program shares many similarities with the GSLIS Chicago program in LIS education.

For example, I visited one of these learning centers, Lycksele lärcentrum. Most of their website is in Swedish, but you can see a little bit more in English on education in Lycksele. They’ve set up several programs. One currently underway leads to a BS in Engineering, with a focus on GIS; another is for a BS in Nursing, with an emphasis on ICTs.

Students who have completed these programs have easily found jobs in their region, because the program is designed from the start to make that possible. This is especially important in a region with strong ties to the land and community. The program is also designed to meet the needs of local industries, which might otherwise have dfficulty finding qualified workers in such a sparsely-populated area (3.8 people/sq-mi in Lapland versus 223.4 people/sq-mi in Illinois)

The staff in the Lycksele lärcentrum as well as at Akademi Norr are very open to having people visit or study what they are doing. There are possibilities for funding through iorganizations such as the American-Scandinavian Foundation . We could learn a great deal about community work, meaningful learning, ICTs in education, and more, through a better understanding of the learning centers programs.

Fulbright trip to Umeå and Göteborg, Sweden

I’ve been selected for a Fulbright Senior Specialists award to Sweden, during the second half of October. My first week will be at the Department of Informatics at Umeå University. I’ll visit with Ulf Hedestig, who works in computer support for collaborative learning, and Victor Kaptelinin, who works in human computer interaction and activity theory. Victor is from Russia and had worked with A. N. Leont’ev at Vygotsky’s institute in Moscow, but he also has strong interests in John Dewey’s work. I’ll be giving a major talk on learning there, as well as leading a discussion on the Schools of Information movement in the US.

During the second week, I’ll go to the IT-University at Göteborg, where they’ve been using my situated evaluation approach. I’ll see Marisa Ponti, who works on in the area ICT and Learning, as well as others. There’s a half-day seminar, “Supporting Distributed Collaboration in Science: Reflections from Experiences”, which I’ll present along with Diane Sonnenwald, from the University College of Borås. Later that week, I’ll teach a two-day short course on Pragmatic Design of Information and Communication Technologies, and then on Friday give a lecture on inquiry-based learning.

On Tuesday of that week, I’ll go to the Swedish School of Library & Information Science in Borås to give talks on our distributed knowledge project and the information school movement. In addition to Diane Sonnenwald, I hope to meet with there with Olof Sundin, who has done recent work on pragmatism and sociocultural theory, and also with Louise Limberg, who work in information literacy. She and I are both involved with an information literacy project directed by Eero Sormunen in the Department of Information Studies at the University of Tampere, Finland.

Somewhere in there, I plan to teach my classes in Champaign using Flashmeeting (web-based, video conferencing). We may have links from the various Swedish universities in addition to the class in LIS 109 and me.