Edutopia: A Livewired World

When nature
meets nurture

Janne Baetsen: Humans are born to learn; it is a natural process. Our educational system’s aim is to nurture this birthright as an additional learning programme - a planned process to support knowledge development and personal growth - to make sure we learn the things that are essential to understand, interact with and contribute to the world.

However, within this ever-changing world where the only certainty seems to be uncertainty, it is strange to see how our life & work environments, business models, communication patterns and design processes have drastically changed, but the nurturing process of knowledge development and required outcomes of education still follow the traditional linear path, validation and system of transferring and hardwiring skills and information from 20 years ago.

Our world has/is evolving and changing rapidly - and the global dynamics of disruption seem to be only increasing in the near future - but the framework we use to understand and explore it is still (almost) the same…?

Use it or Lose it

Although we are only at the beginning of understanding what our brain can do and how it functions, research has shown that the natural process of learning is not so much about growing new (connections between) neurones, but more about losing connections that are not useful to us anymore (synaptic pruning). A 2-year-old has not only more neurones than an adult, but the number of (new) interneuron connections also decreases significantly towards adulthood as well as the ability to prune.

I can’t help but wonder, is the decreasing process of streamlining neural circuits and our brain’s plasticity when we grow older truly part of our nature or might it be the result of the (negative) influence of nurture? Is today’s adult brain at its performance peak, or is it down hill after adolesence? And, do our systems and structures - that use to enable us to understand, interact with and contribute to the world - now limit our possibilities, our potential in today’s fluid world?

Human Innovation

Might the secret to innovation and the next step in our evolution lie in the power, comfort and flexibility to unlearn (ability to prune/’livewire’) instead of only focussing on strengthening connections (ability to hardwire)? Many say that no computer programme can yet match human intelligence, but are we managing, updating and investing enough or in the right way in our own ‘technology’? Or are we limiting ourselves and still run MS-DOS on a 2G mind-network…?

Based on recent neuroscientific insights, foresighted principles of technology and social development, and the aim to be ‘Personally Productive’ and ‘Collectively Creat(iv)e’ I strongly believe we need to change, maybe even completely let go (or at least start pruning) of how we define, address, transfer and strengthen knowledge in today’s educational system to be able to cope, understand and interact with the new dynamic world(s) in the future. Preferable, before algorithms do or before we get stuck in our outdated, hardwired mind..

I am grateful for creative minds like Marcel and initiatives such as that explore and present a more holistic approach towards education while revealing and underlying the role that human nature and nurture (should) play within the process of creativity.


In line with my perspective on education and human innovation, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Marcel van Kan’s plan for - a sustainable, cross-cultural & holistic learning experience in the natural environment of Zanzibar - made me curious and gained my support from the start.

Marcel van Kan (Founder of Oasis & Lagoon) has been part of a diversity of learning experiences as an independent artist as well as working with artists and designers as an educator, coach and consultant. His practice aims to research and debate the contemporary meaning of well-being in relation to creative education through active-processing based curriculum, site-specific workshops and collaborative projects.

His latest co-creation is the, a unique experience-based educational concept that explores, enriches and is conscious of the role that human nature and nurture play within the creative learning process, while underlying the power of collaboration, culture and communication. Whether you are a visual artist, designer, writer or photographer, is all about your dialogue with the multi-layered local culture, crafts, environment and ecosystem, opening up a different world to enrich yours.

Read more on or support their crowdfunding!
To contribute to the realisation of the there will be an auction, presenting 19 items/objects by among others Sander Wassink, Maison the Faux, Ted Noten, Ju Walter, Crafts Council NL & many more on the 15th of December >>

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