First my possessions then they came for my ideas

Last Monday I had my van stolen – I was travelling across England and had stopped to deliver a workshop. The van was loaded with possessions, all my hi-fi, hard drives, software and furniture polishes gone. A particular loss was an Arezzo record deck – I’d suggested the name (after Guido Arezzo the Italian monk who invented the musical score) to a friend  who runs SRM Tech when he developed a  wonderful perspex vinyl record player a few years back. You will see why the name is significant in a moment :) After saving up and paying him in instalments I had  the third prototype S/N3 in the van. The other big loss was my inheritance,  Dad’s table saw an Elu flip over 171 no less, and lots of furniture thats probably part of a roadside pyre by now.

I had one of those jaw-dropping moments as I walked across the car park and realised I wouldn’t be driving to deliver my keynote. I won’t say where it happened – suffice to say it was mainland UK and I continued my journey home to Ireland as a foot passenger. It took a few days to recover and realise that all I had lost was stuff and you work – and recover.

Then Friday it got worse – I had my ideas stolen. Somebody dropped me an email suggesting I check out the Larnaca Declaration. A group of  academics  had gathered in Larnaca in autumn with  their leader publishing the rather grandly named “Declaration” in December 2012. Why didn’t they call it a “proposal” and carry out a little more research into what already existed in the field I wonder. Basically the big idea in the paper is a direct appropriation without attribution of my Learning choreography /  Learning Score idea – the idea of laying a lesson out in time and composing it as you might compose a piece of music. I developed it  in 2004/5 as a concept and piece of software in Flash – before the later Learning Score software and imminent Windows 8 app ( Even more troubling is that many of the delegates were personally familiar with my ideas and tools – I’d done presentations for them. I talk about the Musical Score for lesson planning idea here

The “Declaration” asks?

Can we apply the lesson of music notation to education? Could we develop a way to describe the activities of educators and learners in classrooms (and online) so that great teaching ideas could be conveyed from one educator to another? Can we help to make implicit, private teaching ideas into explicit, shared ideas?

How novel ! The answer of course is yes we could and I have already done it.

I wrote to the author James Dalziel and said I was concerned that the ideas contained are represented in my Learning Score idea and the software . So far – no answer. I would appreciate any colleagues familiar with the Learning Score (currently in use by 1500 teachers around the world) having a read of the Declaration and emailing me a short thought on whether they think it uses my prior and declared ideas.  I may need some support as these are large institutions. You can read the whole declaration here It also  gives a useful summary of current developments in Learning Design.

As luck would have it I’m on a short lecture tour to Australia in February/March 20013 – I think I’ll be popping into  Macquarie University to discuss this further. Email me if you fancy a PerkyLearning workshop looking at how we up the challenge, build struggle and broaden the bandwidth of learning opportunities.

I’ll also be having a chat with  Australian Government “Office for Learning and Teaching” (who part  funded the paper) to let them know that they are unwittingly funding conceptual land-grabbing with scant research.

Can some good come out of this? – I’m sure it can – I have learned afresh that our ideas are more important than our possessions.
I am also happy to work with all parties -to bring powerful tools to teachers and learners  -  The Learning Score and the Learning Event Generator are provided free to educators around the world – but not for much longer I’m afraid. At the moment I’m finding  it a little hard to keep confidence in the education world where ideas are not respected and attribution is rare .

Watch this space – I’ll keep you posted. If anyone has a contact for a good international IPR lawyer I’m in the market. I’m also in the market for a VW T4 Transporter van – old & cheap please:)




Both comments and pings are currently closed.

14 Responses to “First my possessions then they came for my ideas”

  1. Julian S Wood says:

    This theft of ideas has gone beyond a joke!

    It can’t be co-incidence that their proposal is exactly like your established practice.

    You’d think that these academics would have done their research!

    I hope a curt email from your good self would remind them of plagerism & your existing work. Persuading them to apologise
    and retract.

    All power to you & keep churning out those ideas!


  2. John, this is a very disturbing story. I hope there’s a way we can help you get the recognition that your ideas deserve. Michael

  3. Dave Garland says:

    Sorry to hear both misfortunes.

    I have shared on facebook and twitter let’s hope things get sorted out.

    More power to you John – you inspired us all at .net !

  4. Paul Horrell says:

    Mr Davitt, don’t give up on us yet. Your ideas are respected by many of us.

  5. Carol says:

    John, flabbergasted! David horrified by the loss of the table saw, myself by your ideas being re-assigned by others. Willing to help in whatever way.

  6. Geoff says:

    hi John. what a week of horrors!

    tho I am mostly horrified about the stolen van. so many memories.

    I think you can be massively proud of the Larnaca declaration. All these big academic voices working together to build a whole declaration on your vision and model. that’s awesome.

    I agree it is decidedly poor form not to credit you for it. and as the man who stood next to you on several occasions explaining your vision to several of the very same names on the declaration a few years earlier it is clear to me that you are correct.

    but nonetheless you have succeeded. the world is listening to your vision, and building on it.


    now if someone would only try to claim online ownership of your van too, we might get that back too!

    rock on Mr Davitt, inventor of the learning score.

    (by Geoff, funder and codeveloper of the software. with wolf.)

  7. Merlin John says:

    Sorry to hear this John. The van’s bad enough but there are people out there who would go after your livelihood, and all in the name of learning design :-(
    A US academic once lifted a story off my website and used it without any accreditation as if it were his own. I politely pointed it out and instead of responding with good grace he shiftily tried to get round the author (who I had paid). Leaves a bad taste. What part of “theft” don’t they understand?
    I’m sure that your positivity and creativity, which we all so appreciate so much in your work, will get you a proper solution. So it’s time for a Davitt Declaration, which has a far, far better ring to it.

  8. Alan Parkinson (GeoBlogs) says:

    Sorry to hear the news John.
    Reading the declaration it does seem there is a connection with the ideas behind Learning Score, which I’ve showed to many colleagues over the years since I saw you demonstrating it at BETT.
    A few geography colleagues have similarly had their ideas appropriated (in this case by an American website) without credit, but that was eventually altered. It may be that this will happen in your case too in time.
    Keep up the good work :)

  9. Vickie bacon says:

    I was so sorry to here about the thefts, you have been a catalyst for many hundreds of people to expand their thinking and look outside themselves to want to achieve more in education. You’re ideas make a difference. Thank you for opening up the possibilities for me with the digital pencil case. Vickie

  10. Doug Belshaw says:

    Hi John,

    As you know, I loved Learning Score when I was teaching. It’s great and I evangelised it as much as possible.

    However, two things:

    1) It is actually possible for two people to have the same idea. That does, however, look unlikely in this case. This is what patents are for.

    2) People don’t always remember where they get ideas from. It’s quite possible that the person who proposed this thought that they’d actually come up with it rather than just filched it from a presentation by you a few months/years ago.

    It’s difficult to know what to do here. You could raise a ruckus, but I’m not sure where that would get you. Isn’t it great that they’re using the idea? Couldn’t you propose that they fund an HTML5 version of Learning Score?

  11. Cheryl Reynolds says:

    Well, they’re trying to steal your idea but they can’t steal the intelligence that came up with it in the first place and that’s the most valuable thing of all. Good luck in gaining the acknowledgement you deserve.

  12. Tony Parkin says:

    Sorry to hear of your double misfortune … both making one feel cynical at human nature, and the exact opposite of what your own work and approach to life is usually about!

    I suspect we out here can do little about the van and its contents… but we can do something about the Larnaca Declaration. I have emailed them at their contact address pointing out your prior claim, and would urge others to do the same. The world of education technology is not that large, even internationally, and a few emails from those of us working in that world should suffice to get this ‘oversight’ corrected, and your role as the original thinker behind this idea acknowledged and lauded.

    Luckily the taint of plagiarism is still a powerful no-no in the world of academia. And a reputable university like Macquarie would be keen to avoid any such accusation, I am sure.


    Tony Parkin

  13. Wolf Luecker says:

    Since Geoff kindly name-checked me, I’d better add my voice to the discussion! ;-)

    We helped John and Geoff build the first prototype and the commercial release of the Learning Score software. Obviously John had been talking about the concept way before the software was even conceived, but if anyone had any doubts about the origins of the software tool, well, I can show them a few thousand lines of code and nearly as many lines of email correspondence to prove who first implemented the LS, let alone who thought it up. On second thoughts, I’ll only show them the emails – not sure I want close scrutiny of experimental AS2 code from 2006 or so…

    I say this just to lend support to John’s cause though. Nobody could possibly argue that he didn’t come up with (and published) the musical score idea for teaching. Of course there is plenty more evidence in correspondence and commercial agreements between the original parties, so really there should be no concern over whether John could prove his authorship of the concept and technological implementation either. As to whether it should have been patented, from my experience this sort of idea is nigh impossible to get a patent for. Copyright, trademark etc maybe, but not a patent.

    And I agree with Geoff: It’s all good news in terms of wider recognition. If people have finally seen the light and are so keen on YOUR concept, they could put their money where their mouths are and fund further development!


  14. Andy Black says:

    John big virtual hug first of all for the loss of the possessions and a huge rant at charlatan ( a lovely word I know you will appreciate) who has stolen your ideas . There is such a thing as karma and both culprits will get there just deserves.
    John Davitt as my eldest would say your a legend and you are to me and many of your friends . Power to you John an you and yours .

Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.