Lucka 19: Unlearning

I came across the term unlearning and felt curious about its meaning. Especially because in Academia, where I work, everything has been about learning new things, learning to learn and learning through problems like in problem based-learning (PBL). Learning by constructing knowledge and not by mere knowledge transfer. Therefore, I wanted to know why we need to unlearn things after putting so much effort and taking so much pride? After all, when we know a lot of things for a long time we can call ourselves experts, right?

However, unlearning turned out to be an old concept with several definitions. It was formally defined as the ability to discard obsolete knowledge (1), as the process of reducing or eliminating preexisting knowledge or habits that would otherwise represent formidable barriers to new learning” (2) and the discovering of the inadequacies of old ideas to discard them (3).

Unlearning, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is defined as “ to make an effort to forget your usual way of doing something so that you can learn a new and sometimes better way” whereas Mark Bonchek put it this way: “Unlearning is not about forgetting. It’s about the ability to choose an alternative mental model or paradigm. When we learn, we add new skills or knowledge to what we already know. When we unlearn, we step outside the mental model in order to choose a different one”

It seems that unlearning is also about breaking dogmas or shifting paradigms.

For example, like when the central dogma of genetics stating that the flow of genetic information goes from DNA to RNA to proteins was broken with the discovery of non-coding RNAs that never translated into proteins or the double nature of light as a particle (photon) and as an electromagnetic wave was discovered. Also when the gravity law explained by Newton was refuted by Einstein and now again the scientist might find that Einstein’s theory has its limitations inside the black holes

It seems that when we unlearn, we might need to look at old things with new eyes, from a different perspective like children giving a piece of lego thousands of different applications.

So unlearning may be very important to quickly reevaluate our facts, like when assembling a puzzle or perceiving the upper part of an iceberg. Is having the notion that everything we know can be provisional until new facts come to light and make us change our insights (4)

Unlearning things might be good to find better and more rewarding, innovative solutions, to improve our lives, to feel happier, to find a better job, to make better decisions in life.

Yet we refuse to unlearn because leaving our comfort zone, the place where we have been for a long time, the routine work that we can do with close eyes, the easy and quick and effortless, can cause frustration and stress.

Deviating from habit and security is not easy. It demands more attention and more energy to do things in unusual ways. It makes us less efficient at what we were doing. It can be disorientating if we change professional roles, duties, and are forced to make reforms. We fear the unknown and in many cases feel a sort of reform fatigue (5) when things are changing a lot and fast. Like with the Corona situation that makes people confused and tired.

Also because many times we don’t know how to unlearn things, we are only told that to obtain a better job or receive money from a prestigious grant office we need to stand out, think outside the box but no one tells us how to do that.

We went to school and collected facts, some we have revised now but some not, we may have learned how to learn but never learned how to unlearn. We found a job that we did well until we realize that the old knowledge we took for granted was incomplete in the light of the rapid changes taking place in society.

Paradoxically enough school didn’t prepare us for that, didn’t prepare us to cope with how we were going to unlearn about the reality or ourselves in order to make us suitable for what is happening now with the pandemia or the climate issues. No academic program include yet all literacies that we need in order to acquire the 21st century skills

-Disruptive innovation
-Daring to argument, to provoke without being conflictive
-Dealing with the unknown and uncomfortable?
-Non violent communication and netiquette
-Critical and divergent thinking
-Adaptation to rapid changing circumstances?
-Anticipation of future problems
-Successful intelligence
And of course unlearning things

Some good ways to unlearn things are by observing and learning facts from unknown areas and trying to apply them to known areas. For example Biomimicry where clever designs have been produced borrowing adaptations from plants and animals. By confronting and debating our beliefs with other people with different backgrounds and experiences we might see things differently. By problem solving and experimenting like in the NuVu schools and especially trying from an early age.

However, the dark side of unlearning is of course that the one deviating from a norm may need this “high tolerance for feeling inadequate, embarrassed, or humiliated; and to face a potential loss of status and credibility” (5). However, the thing with unlearning is that sometimes it hurts to get away from old ideas, habits. For a period of time we might feel disoriented, frustrated, lost. Like the ones trying to lose weight while building muscles. The weight indicates no difference in weight if not an increment no matter how food deprived they have been. Just for a while. The body needs to unlearn. With this notion in mind everything will feel better.

Finally, this blogpost helped me to start thinking about how I might commence my unlearning journey. I asked my family if we could un-celebrate Xmas. I asked my husband to prepare Jansson’s temptation without fish inside and asked my daughter to make other kinds of saffron bunnies with chocolate but they thought these ideas were too risky, too strange. I guess this will take time and some more blogging 🙂

Happy Xmas no matter if in a conventional or un-conventional way


1-Hedberg, B. (1981). How organizations Learn and Unlearn. In P. Nystrom & W.H. Starbuck (Eds,) Handbook of Organizational Design (Vol1.) London: Cambridge University Press.

2-Newstrom, J.W. (1983) The Management of Unlearning: Exploding the “Clean Slate” Fallacy. Training and Development Journal, 37(8), 36-39.

3-Nystrom, P.C. & Starbuck, W.H. (1984) To Avoid Organizational Crises, Unlearn.
Organizational Dynamics, 12(4) 53-65.

4-R Rushmer, H T O Davies. Unlearning in Health Care, Qual Saf Health Care 2004;13(Suppl II):ii10–ii15. doi: 10.1136/qshc.2003.009506



Lucka 16: The square peg in a round hole

During university I got tired of the curriculum. I only recovered my interest when I joined a research group in Oncology and worked on a real research project. There we were allowed to design our own experiments, to fail and to reflect about our mistakes. We didn’t get bad grades for that. In fact, we felt trusted and important. We learned as students and taught our peers about other things we were good at.

During postgraduate years, the preferred course was taught in a “chaotic” lab where the teacher said: here you have all reagents, decide for yourself what is the most suitable for your experiment. Improvise and be creative!

The best pedagogic course was an international MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) where we learned from and during the interaction between each other in multidisciplinary and multicultural groups. At the end we produced a blog where we reflected on what we’ve learnt.

But I’ve never reflected on why I liked these experiences so much until now after passing the edx course “Leaders of Learning”. Here, Dr. Richard Elmore presents a frame that helps to organize different points of views about learning, leading, organizing and even designing different learning spaces. It was then he made me think about where did I learn best? Which learning environments did I enjoy the most? Who were my best teachers? Why?
In this video that we co-produced with Filip Levälahti from Arcada, I explain Elmore’s frames more in detail and in this picture produced for the ONL course 2021 we illustrated with examples the way different learners might think about their learning situation.

So, as teachers we are facing an heterogeneous group of students where some will learn best from a structured and teacher-centered approach (Hierarchical Individual), some will enjoy some structure but also group work and interaction with the community (Hierarchical Collective), some will appreciate more a self-pace course they found in the internet where they don’t need to pass an exam (Distributed Individual), some will bloom in personal learning networks (Distributed Collective) and some will go over boundaries in this frame.

Therefore, as a teacher I started to think about what kind of students I wanted to form and how would I do that? If my duty is to make sure the students reach all learning goals, how should I formulate such? Which learning goals and outcomes should I strive for? Should I allow the students to formulate their own learning goals in line with certain topics? What possible ingredients should I incorporate in my courses to engage and motivate the majority of my students?

Now, dissecting the elements that made my experiences so appealing I could identify some factors that resonate somehow in the way we intend to teach at LiU: real world-inspired problems, design, experimentation, allowance to fail and time for reflection, trust, group discussions, multicultural and interprofessional environments, teacher and students interchangeable roles… I am just missing more of improvisation, transdisciplinary projects, creation/production where the students leave the class with something they’ve accomplished and can use sort of more of skillshares or makerspaces.

After revising this model, I also started to think about my son who said to me that he learns more from the internet than in school. I remembered my friend who dropped out from school because “he was bored”, the one student that jumped from engineering to medicine and was taking philosophy courses on the side, the ones learning through Domestika, Coursera, Khan Academy or Edx and tailoring their own curriculum…Logan LaPlante being happy in finding something fulfilling to do for a living…All of these people might not fit in just one learning type, in just one frame and might not thrive in one prearranged educational path, not because they’re are failures but because there must be other opportunities for them to fit in. Maybe we can start designing learning experiences that also accommodate those students who learn best in the collective distributed frame?

If we play with the idea of the future being about active choices, a place where knowledge is everywhere, content is everywhere as well as the teacher, where we learn in networks and in a personalized way maybe we discover that we won’t need to feel like a square peg in a round hole anymore.

Open Educational Resources are for us!

How many times do we find ourselves trying to engage our students with a nice video, some quiz or even a nice cartoon? Then we realise that we have to do it by ourselves and that the time is not enough.  We then go back to the worn out ppt presentation or pdf and use that picture from the same review that we have always used. Well…good news is that there are a lot of free available resources for us.

These are called in the pedagogical language, open educational resources (OER). The first time I came across this term was during the Open Networked Learning course

The term OER, was coined in 2002 by UNESCO and it encloses “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions”.According to Lumen’s 5Rs of OER, “The term “open content” describes any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like “open source”) that is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities”

Where these 5R’s stands for:

1-Retain – is the right to download own copies of the content and store and manage.

2-Reuse – is the right to use the content in your lecture, video, course site, student group, etc

3-Revise -is the right to change, modify, adapt the content to your specific class situation 

4-Remix-is the right to combine the original or modified content with some other material, OER in order to create something new.

5-Redistribute -is the right to give a copy of the original, revised or remixed material to other colleagues, students or friends.

So I happily realised that I too could find these OERs and reuse them. Generally I will also need to revise them and even remix the material in order to adapt it to my students’ needs. Some materials are too simple while others too broad.  After that I could also redistribute my new material with my colleagues, students, friends so they can take advantage of my work. However, I would also like to be properly attributed when my colleagues and friends redistribute my material. I might even have some requirements: for example, the people using my material can proceed according to the 5Rs but I don’t want them to get commercial profit! 

Although the open licences are open they might include certain requirements that makes the content less open in practice. For example, Wikipedia, with a very good will, attributes a CC BY SA licence to all the derivative content while MIT (see below) requires a CC BY NC SA licence (SA stands for share-alike and NC for non-commercial). Additionally the open content publishers can make choices that limit the engagement in the 5Rs, for example, by making the published content difficult to remix using free tools, difficult to download from the open content site, when advanced technical skills are needed to remix the content, or when the content simply is not there anymore.

Finding OERs can be a little bit of a challenge: is the content right? Can I trust it? Therefore it is good to know a few curated sites, for example, if I am a teacher I will trust other teacher/educator communities that join efforts in order to create hubs OERs hubs. Here are some of them

The wikiEducator is a community of educators who believe the educational resources should be shared and be free. Moreover, OER commons is a public digital library of OERs and also OER world map is an interesting site to visualise the ongoing efforts. Another site that you might want to visit in your ONL hunting is Merlot  and a huge collection of OERs put together thanks to the tiny earth initiative is also worth visiting! Here you can also add and collaborate! I particularly found it super useful during the past locked down when we had to launch all the labs online in no time. 

Even Though I might be very happy with the existence of OERs, because they are free,  save my money, time and are accessible! I might also consider that OERs

  • Need to be found 
  • Need to be customised for particular situation/students
  • Need to be critically reviewed
  • Need to be easily accessible and user-friendly to the students (including to students with disabilities or functional variations)
  • Need to be translated from a foreign language

So therefore I wanted to write this blog to help you save a little bit of your time. Here you can find  some useful examples of OERs their Links follow below


mOOCs (micro online open courses) OERu
Coursera (watch out! Not always free!)



Khan Academy (One of my favourites!)

For creation of lectures

Mini lectures that can be adapted to your course



Repository of free textbooks at University of British Columbia


Laboratories, demonstrations, lab manuals

Virtual Labs 

Jove videojournal/lab manuals

Anatomy playlist 

Open access journals


Ready-made quizes (you can also check kahoot)


 Images, animated images 


Animated images for education 


Audio and videorecording


And many many more.  Isn’t it amazing? So, if you happens to know some good OERs please, comment below so we can start sharing!

Hope you enjoy my blogpost/Gizeh

Pictures: #1 “Open Educational Resources” taken from Wikimedia CC BY Jonathasmello
Picture # 2 “Not found” taken from Pixabay Image by Draguth Leon

Universell design av kurser

Didacticum är med i flera olika nätverk för att få inspiration till vår verksamhet. Ett nätverk är ett resultat av en högskolepedagogisk konferens som vi anordnade tillsammans med Örebro Universitet och Mälardalens högskola, NU2018. I veckan utnyttjade jag den resursen för att vidareutveckla mig själv kring hur vi ska bemöta alla slags studenter. Örebro Universitets motsvarighet till Didacticum, Högskolepedagogiskt Centrum, anordnar en kurs i universell design. Kursens ambition är att lärare ska tänka tillgänglighet från början vid utformningen av en kurs, så att även studenter med olika slags funktionsvariationer ska kunna ta del av högre utbildning. På kursen var vi ett gäng lärare från alla möjliga discipliner, och vi drillades i olika juridiska och praktiska aspekter av tillgänglighet. En stor skillnad från ungdomsskolan är att högskolan kräver en diagnos för att få särskilt stöd. Studenthälsan har ansvar för detta på LiU och deras hemsida är en god hjälp även för lärare.

Hur tillgänglig är din kurs? Kan en person med synnedsättning hänga med i din undervisning? Hur använder du rubriknivåer? Vet du att LiU har campuslicens på hjälpmedlet Tortalk, en talsyntes?

Många av oss tänker nog fysisk tillgänglighet, som platta salar eller ramper, när vi tänker tillgänglighet. Men hur många av oss kommer ihåg att använda mikrofon när vi undervisar? Den klassiska frågan “hör alla i salen mig” är ju rätt korkad egentligen, med tanke på att personer med hörselskador troligen inte hör den. Den minsta anpassning vi som undervisande personal kan göra är att använda mikrofon i de salar de finns.

Många funktionsnedsättningar är osynliga, och viljan att vara öppen med sina svårigheter varierar självklart mellan individer. Ett annat stalltips, vid sidan av mikrofonen, är att vara noga med pauser. De flesta av oss har nog fått frågan av studenter som vill komprimera tiden och strunta i pauserna, men jag tror inte att de som verkligen behöver pausen vågar protestera. Det blir därför vårt ansvar att hålla tider och hålla kvar rasterna.

Didacticum har ännu ingen kurs i universell design, men vi har en seminarieserie kring att möta en heterogen studentgrupp, läs mer och anmäl dig. Jag passar på att slå ett slag för en unik gästworkshop den 12 mars, som hålls av en teckenspråkande kollega.

Varmt välkomna till Didacticum!