Chide Groenouwe (left) and Jan
Visser (right) meeting at a conference in Strasbourg, France,
At elementary school, the teacher
said: "1+1= 2". I responded: "why?" I wouldn't
learn it before I understood why that was the case.
At secondary school I decided
that I wanted to be a "homo universalis", as soon as
I came in contact with that term. I didn't understand precisely
why people would restrict themselves to particular categories.
I've always learned with devotion
and have had a natural interest in the context and origin of
the things I learnt. For me, learning is a journey. Just reading
a book, or acquiring a skill, can bring you into contact with
a borderless and beautiful world of insights and experiences,
in which you soon find out that everything is somehow connected.
I could never understand why reflective and contextual elements
were left out of the course material of many subjects taught
at school, and even at university.
I studied mathematics at the
University of Twente in the Netherlands, and graduated within
the field of mathematical logic (with distinction). While doing
so, I followed my own path, and composed my curriculum of subjects
from several universities. For me, studying mathematics was never
separated from the discovery of life itself, so studying and
discovering theorems were also an emotional experience. A central
theorem in mathematical logic - Gödel's incompleteness theorem
- was an almost spiritual turning point in my thinking about
mathematics and intuition in general. Although I was already
philosophically convinced of the relativity of science, it "proved"
to me that the world cannot be reduced to one way of looking
at things, not even from the perspective of one of the most fundamental
sciences. Mathematics cannot be founded within itself. Every
way of looking at the world, exists in something that is greater
than that way of looking itself. But the magic is, that the borders
can be discovered within the perspective itself. Most of the
time they are hidden and easily overlooked, but if you look closely,
you'll find them. From the day I made that discovery, I've been
asking myself: when will the perspective, that I'm now living
in, break down? When will I find the borders of the way of looking
in which there exists a "Chide" and the "world"?
In 2001 I accepted a position
as a lecturer in computer technology at a college in Utrecht.
One of my main motives was to refine insights in learning processes
through real experience, so that I could later apply them in
the realization and design of generic environments for learning
and creating. Another reason was that I liked to be socially
engaged with people, to be in an inspiring environment where
people stimulate each other to learn and create the things they
want to learn, to enjoy the outcomes, and to refine the process
while it is taking place.
The process of being educated
and being an educator myself, gave rise to many inspiring and
critical questions, e.g.:
How can we devise a learning
environment that stimulates people to fine-tune their learning
How can we adapt learning environments
fluently to the specific ways individuals learn?
How can we make education a
personal process in which the learning individuals are seen as
persons, and not as numbers within a mass production process?
How can we apply and combine
insights in learning (and creation) processes from different
disciplines in one learning environment?
How can we devise a learning
environment that stimulates people to contribute to the human
collective knowledge about learning while going through their
own learning processes?
How can we connect the process
of learning to the context of the society?
How can we pass on our own learning
experiences to others, especially the next generation, without
forgetting what we have learnt and thus becoming ignorant?
Why is the field of education
so fragmented? Can this be solved?
I found out that many educational
institutions have a strong practical and short-term approach.
They are primarily, and sometimes exclusively, focused on keeping
things up and running. Subtle dimensions and insights to be discovered
when going through a learning or creation process are left unexplored.
To my surprise it has been very
difficult to find an institute that is trying to develop insights
in learning processes (and environments) from an integral and
multi-disciplinary perspective. I saw a world that was fragmented
in many respects. This feeling changed when I found the Learning
Development Institute, which is developing insights from a perspective
that even transcends the notion of multidisciplinarity: transdisciplinarity.
This was a new term for me, but an immediate recognition occurred.
I decided to attend a symposium in Strasbourg, France, where
I met Jan Visser, the director of the institute, for the first
My current focus is on the development
of reflective self-similar learning communities that are not
designed, but grow through an evolutionary process. For this
purpose, the organisation Network Universalis (http://www.network-universalis.org)
was founded .