All about OLI

Open Learning Ireland is a volunteer run group working to create an alternative educational model in Ireland. Research in motivation and learning has shown that self directed ‘doing’ is much more effective at instilling real understanding, and kindling a fire of curiosity, than our current top down education system. We want to create a new all ages education space in Dublin, where anyone can come to learn or teach anything that ‘takes their fancy’.

To spread the idea, we’ve been running a series of PopUp learning days. The first was run as part of the Office Of Non-Compliance at the Dublin Contemporary 2011 Exhibition, the second as part of the DIY Skillshare Festival, and the most recent at Exchange Dublin.

Our next event is a weeklong pop-up, planned for February 2013.


Our Plan

Open Learning Ireland is an initiative to explore the need and opportunities in Dublin for an alternative learning institution. We believe the potential exists in the city to create an autonomous consensus-driven space for social learning; an all age ‘reference service to educational objects’ which would provide a venue for experiential and academic learning. This non-profit, volunteer-run centre would be a physical nexus for learning across a variety of user determined domains, and in addition facilitate a ‘web of education’ within the city.

Our key pedagogic focuses are – self determination theory, and the importance of autonomy in learning; the potential of experiential learning and play for the development of self-efficacy and agency; scaffolding learners ‘zones of proximal development’ through voluntary peer & social learning; and the importance of non-commercial adult social spaces in developing service users social intelligence and positive social engagement.

Our theoretical influences are the work of learning researchers John Dewey, John Holt, Ivan Illich, John Taylor Gatto and Paulo Freire, and we desire to instantiate an active response to the contradictions of the contemporary context.

Following from our experience participating in initiatives like Exchange Dublin, Knowledge Exchange & Seomra Spraoi, and our research into democratic schooling institutions like Waldorf Education, Sudbury Valley Schools, Summerhill School and collectives involved in the American ‘Unskooling’ movement (Houston Real School, Ithaca Free School etc); we are compelled by the vision of a voluntary learning institution where individuals of all ages, ethnicities, socio-economic status, genders and sexualities can pursue their own learning passions at a pace of their own choosing. Where learners can access resources not ordinarily available outside of academic and commercial institutions. Where groups can dynamically form to enhance peer learning and produce projects, entrepreneurial and charitable endeavours. Where experts and talented amateurs with no formal relationship to pedagogy can offer free talks and seminars. And where those alienated from traditional education by negative experiences of schooling, by age or by financial & cultural barriers to participation can regain a love of lifelong learning.

What We Will Do

Stage 1

Conceptual and organisational development.

Stage 2

Occupy a space in Dublin on a temporary ‘pop up’ basis, to explore potential interest and functioning of the project.

Stage 3

Finding suitable multi-use space locations, through initiatives like Transcolonia.

Soliciting involvement of a variety of non-traditional & traditional learning institutions – e.g.: TOG, Fumbally Exchange, Seomra Cycles, Saor Ollscoir Na H’eirin, 091 Labs, Knowledge Exchange, Block T, Joinery & similar creative spaces, Mutantspace, Gluaiseacht, Dublin Skill Share

Acquire loans of non-conventional learning objects – e.g: 3D printers, computers with design and multimedia editing software, gameboys with LSDJ music software + amps etc, soldering equipment, welding tools, power tools, laboratory tools (spirit lamps etc)
Built a ‘temporary library’ of books owned by project facilitators
Create physical & web methodologies for peering – linking learners with learners
Develop commercial models for supporting the development of project – e.g.: sponsorship, paid classes, Dave Eggars 826 Valencia  (ie: cryotozoological shop)
Borrow computer / printer & fill with educational resource library

Stage 4

Develop a permanent or periodic Open Learning Institution in the city.

Right now our photos are stored in a number of places.

Sebastian Dooris has an album on Facebook.

There’s also our flickr.

Who are Open Learning Ireland?

Open Learning Ireland is a horizontal institution, run by its members. Our workshops are facilitated and attended by a huge range of people generously donating their time, resources and energy. Individuals currently actively involved in organising OLI include…

Gareth Stack, co-founder of Open Learning Ireland. Gareth is a writer, comedian and activist, the founder of Exchange Words and a member of the board of directors of Exchange Dublin.

Sebastian Dooris, co-founder of Open Learning Ireland, is an artist, DJ and photographer, and a long term Exchange Dublin volunteer.

Shane Connelly, co-founder of Open Learning Ireland, is an active member of Exchange Focus, the Dublin photography collective.

Daniel Costigan is a long time Exchange Dublin volunteer. His interests include History, law, psychoanalysis, mythology, oneirology. He is also interested in non-directive forms of education and art.

David Collins is a start up founder and trainee electronic engineer.

Emily Gallagher is an aerobics instructor and researches and advocates for adult play.

Richard Ryan is founder of Knowledge Exchange, and an active member of TOG, the Dublin hacker collective.

Andrew Edgar is a circuit-bender, audio experimentalist, self-taught electronic tinkerer, irrepressible hoarder and fixer, and a member of the A4Sounds arts collective.

Julian Fitzsimons is a long time Exchange Dublin volunteer, co-founder of ‘Language Exchange‘ and and active member of TOG, the Dublin hacker collective.

Naomi Elster is a writer and scientist. She is researching new ways to treat cancer at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and regularly participates in science outreach activities. She co-She set up and facilitates a free, open-to-all scriptwriting group – Exchange Words.  She has led workshops and given talks on science, scriptwriting, drama and debating. She is a volunteer at Exchange Dublin.


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