Archive for June, 2007

Mobiles for social change – community generated OERs

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

I am sure you have heard the stories of fishermen in Africa with mobile phones.

With their mobile phones they are today able to ask daily market prices from market places while still in the sea. This way they are able to bypass greedy middlemen transporting the fish from a harbour to the market or choose a harbour giving the best price.

These kinds of stories are now gathered at the http://www.shareideas.org

Shareideas.org is an online community and a wiki for sharing ideas on how to use mobile communications for social and environmental benefits.

It is quite well known that in many parts of the world mobile phones are a catalyst for social change. Shareideas.org tries to get the best practices around the world in one place online.

The site covers such areas as civic engagement, economic empowerment, education, environment, health and safety and humanitarian relief. The site is primary targeted for NGOs but anyone interested in social movements are welcome to join.

With the aim of being useful for NGO’s the site has also How to -section covering guidelines on how mobiles can be used in NGO work. You‘ll find stories how to collect field data, distribute information, manage finances, manage your organization, respond to emergencies, track people/products etc.

Shareideas.org is actually a wiki site. If you want to edit the stories or add your own story in there you may create account and will immediately get rights to edit the pages.

I think you got it already: shareideas.org is a collection of open educational resources and a community-based content creation initiative.

ShareIdeas.org was created with support from Nokia and Vodafone, but the idea is that the global network of individuals and organizations will make it their place to share their best practices. So, we need you. Join the site and share your story!

Disclaimer: I have been consulting Nokia and Vodafone in the Shareideas.org project.

Microcontent for microlearning

Monday, June 25th, 2007

I was last week in the Microlearning conference in Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria. There were many clever and nice people talking about mobile web 2.0, micro content and micro-media, corporate competence development, classrooms without walls, and QR codes. I talked about learning, knowledge building and learning environments.

I learned that microlearning is learning that is enhanced with microcontent (e.g. Nielsen) and micro-media (e.g. Manovich). It’s a bit silly concept, because learning (the process) is never micro, even if you use “small pieces loosely joined” in it.

In my talk I was presenting number of quotations from different sources, people and eras. They were obviously micro content remixed by me. I thought that the quotations I used are probably interesting just like that, too – without my words between them. So, here they are – without any explanations:

“Any true understanding is dialogic in nature.”

- Mikhail Bakhtin 1930s

“All higher [mental] functions originate as actual relations between human individuals.”

- Lev Vygotsky 1930s

“The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing and caring.”

“A good education system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and finally furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known.”

- Ivan Illich 1971

“Image a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.”

“We make the Internet not suck”.

- Jimmy Wales 2005

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

- Alan Kay 1971

“Learning environment is a psychological, social, cultural, physical and technological state that favours learning. What kind of physical and technological state you are designing for you and your community?

- Teemu Leinonen 2007 icon smile Microcontent for microlearning

Wikimedia Foundation’s Board election

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

Wikimedia Wikimedia Foundation’s Board election I am fascinated about the Wikimedia community: the people behind the Wikipedias (in 249 languages), Wiktionaries, Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikimedia Commons, Wikiversity and more….

All these projects are facilitated by the Wikimedia Foundation, where the Board of Trustees is in charge. This way the Wikimedia Foundation is like any other non-governmental organization (NGO). However, because it works on Internet (and because there are a so many clever people involved in it) it is rather different, too. If compared to many other NGO’s I think Wikimedia is extremely community driven, very democratic and very transparent. Everything is online: in a wiki or in the publicly archived mailing lists, from discussions, to votes to resolutions and policies.

I think the Wikimedia community has designed its own democratic system. In many ways it seems to work much better than many other democratic systems. In the Wikimedia community they emphasize discourse, argumentation and search of consensus. Voting is used only if the community do not find consensus in a discussion. Even when voting on something you may give reasons for your vote. For instance, in the case of approving the Wikiversity project in 2005 I voted “yes” with the following comment:

Teemul 20:44, 19 October 2005 (UTC). Uhh… I am very skeptical about this. Still in the description there are more good words – such as: “progressive educative community”, “collaborative learning” and “students will take charge of the activity”, than bad words – such as “electronic testing”. I hope this will give a new life for the old great idea of academia and does not become another “university”.

The votes on Wikiversity proposal were: 203 yes and 88 no. Based on this the Board of Trustees approved the proposal and the Wikiversity project was launched.

I assume that educators and researchers of education technology may consider the Wikiversity to be the project they should follow. On the other hand, the recently defined mission of the Wikimedia foundation is:

“To empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop neutral educational content under a free content license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally. In collaboration with a network of chapters, the Foundation provides the essential infrastructure and an organizational framework for the support and development of multilingual wiki projects and other endeavors which serve this mission. The Foundation will make and keep the educational content from its projects available on the Internet free of charge, in perpetuity.” (http://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mission&oldid=573270)

Think about it:

To empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop neutral education content under free content license…

and

..will make and keep the educational content from its projects available on the Internet free of charge, in perpetuity”.

I think I love these people! icon smile Wikimedia Foundation’s Board election

Wikimedia projects are driving probably the most constructive revolution in the history of humankind.

So, if your work is in one of the following fields: educational politics, educational research, educational technology, I propose that you’ll educate yourself about the Wikimedia community and their impact on your work.

If you are developing Open Educational Resources or looking for educational solutions for the Majority World, I propose that you’ll join the Wikimedia community.

If you are already an active member in the Wikimedia community, you should go and use your right to vote.

Here are some useful links:

Wikimedia Foundation website:
http://wikimediafoundation.org/

The page about the Board of Trustees:
http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Board_of_Trustees

Board of Trustees elections 2007:
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Board_elections/2007

Candidates Statements:
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Board_elections/2007/Candidates

The Edu-Mobile: GSM/GPRS, radio, e-book/wiki/blog reader/writer, USB

Monday, June 18th, 2007

Edu Mobile audio small The Edu Mobile: GSM/GPRS, radio, e book/wiki/blog reader/writer, USB In this article I am presenting the Edu-Mobile – An idea and concept to have a mobile phone designed for learning in the Majority World. This is all fantasy – my dream.

At first, some background.

I am closely following the One Laptop Per Child, also known as the $100, $130, $140, $150, $ 176 laptop, project. The OLPC news is a great independent media for this.

I have been critical about the OLPC / $100 laptop design process and also about the (lack of) implementation /sustainability / business models. The design of the OLPC laptop has not been contextual and/or human centred. If something, in this kind of initiative one should have a human-centered computing approach. I also have claimed that for the Ministries of Education, the investment made to OLPC program is not necessary very good one. It does not pay off, if the bottom line is improvement in learning and education (as it should be).

In the OLPC news there is right now a lot of discussion and worries on how the Ministries of Education may finance the purchase. Also OLPC news are pointing out the lack of implementation plan and some earlier failures of similar initiatives (even from the same people).

There is competition, too. There is the Intel’s Classmate PC and Quanta Computer is planning to produce a retail version of the OLPC laptop that will cost $200 and be for sale in the emerging markets.

This is all good and important, as the computer technology is getting more affordable. However, I think one should not think about PC when designing educational technology for the rest of the world. PCs are far too complicate technology for most people. We, who are sitting 6 to 20 hours a day in front of one, may feel that PCs are simple and very empowering. They are, but they are that only for us. So, I think the edu tool for the rest of us should be something else than a PC.

In several occasions I have said that the Apple i-phone and the Nokia N800 Internet tablet are the most interesting new devices for school, education and learning. Both are, first at all, Internet clients with WLAN, web browser, RSS-reader, media player etc. These all are important features for learning and with web 2.0 services one could pretty much survive only with these. However, the prices – i-Phone 499USD and Nokia N800 399USD – will, exclude them from the emerging markets.

So, finally, here is my concept phone:

The Edu-Mobile

The Edu-Mobile is a basic mobile phone with some additions. It could be based on the Nokia 1100, which is sold over 200 million units. It is a design classic.

The following additions to the basic mobile phone would make it a Edu-Mobile:

  • GPRS (for faster data)
  • FM radio
  • e-book reader application
  • wiki reader/writer application
  • blog reader/writer application
  • USB sockets (in and out) that are also used to charge battery
  • 3.5 mm audio socket

The Governmental bodies and NGO’s working in the field of education could then utilize the Edu-Mobile features in many ways. Here are examples:

  • Educational and community FM radio could reach millions of listeners. In most parts of the world there is already a lot of radio “know-how” and infrastructure. This would make the implementation economical.
  • e-books could be distributed with the USB, from one phone to another – in schools from teacher’s Edu-Mobile to the students Edu-Mobiles: School books, novels, manuals, news.
  • With the USB one could also print stuff from the Edu-Mobile in a corner shop or to attach a keyboard in to the phone when writing some longer story.
  • The wiki and blog reader/writer applications would bring the basic mobile phone users to the read and write world – to the world where we are the media. This of course requires that someone will be hosting wiki and blog sites for the Edu-Mobiles.

I know that there isn’t e-book reader, or blog/wiki reader/writer for basic mobile phones. Here are some bullets how these applications should be:

  • The e-book reader should be very simple and light. This means plain text – maybe some simple graphics.
  • The blog/wiki reader/writer should be able to interpret the standard installations of MediaWiki and WordPress. In MediaWiki site it should show you the “discussion”, “edit this page”, and “history” commands. In WordPress the “write” command should be easy to reach.

At the moment the consumer price of the basic mobile phone models is something like 30-40 USD. With the add-ons for education the price should be close to 50€ USD. The sustainability / business model is simple: People will see the value of the Edu-Mobile and will purchase them (someone should make some market studies on this).

In the Majority World the Edu-Mobile should be “marketed” as the mobile phone that will help its owner to educate herself and to become successful. If the “edu-features” of the phone do not finally help in this, there are still the mobile phone features, which every person in the world have found useful in their daily life.

Where the Edu-Mobile idea comes from?

It comes mostly from the MobilED project. In it we have made contextual inquiry, participatory design, product design, and software prototype exercises to find out how learning environments could be enhanced with mobile technologies and services.

Artefacts and knowledge interests in learning

Monday, June 11th, 2007

Lately in several presentations I have (again) made the point, that we should see and think learning as a “knowledge creation”. I have also defined that:

Learning is a socio-cultural process with an intention to produce artefacts.

One selection of slides with audio is online in LeMill (see slide: 9).

People have asked me what do I mean with the “artefact”. The word artefact naturally comes from the Latin words: ars and factum. Ars means skill or method, and factum means deed or achievement.

Wikitionary give the following definition (third meaning) for the word artefact:

Something viewed as a product of human conception or agency rather than an inherent element.

When we learn we produce new artefacts. They are new artefacts for us. They are products of human conception, which we did not have before starting to learn.

When rethinking the idea of knowledge creation and intention to produce artefacts I have thought how does it fit to Jurgen Habermas’ theory of knowledge interests? He has present three forms of knowledge interests. These are:

1) Technological interest is related to work in modern societies. In the technological interest the aim is to produce technical knowledge to manipulate nature. The technological interest is closely related to the philosophical approach of positivism.

2) Practical interest is related to the language. The interest is to transfer the earlier generations’ knowledge for the new generation. The aim is to understand tradition. The practical interest is closely related to the philosophical approach of hermeneutics.

3) Emancipatory or liberating interest is related to power. The interest is to liberate people from social oppression and forms of domination caused by tradition and social structures. The emancipatory interest is related to the critical social theory.

The third interest is able to operate only through the first and the second interests which are producing objects (tools, documents, books, etc), but the emancipatory interest is guiding us when we choose what kind of technological knowledge and practical knowledge we will produce. (Reference)

Back to the issue of learning: Let’s agree that learning is a socio-cultural process of producing artefacts. Let’s also agree that artefacts are conceptualizations and representations of knowledge.

Now we may ask:

  • What kind of artefacts people should produce while learning?
  • Should learning focus only to (1) manipulation of nature and (2) transfer of tradition from one generation to another?

What do you think?