Archive for August, 2007

Bold (and creative) children as a source of innovation

Friday, August 31st, 2007

180px PekkaHimanen Bold (and creative) children as a source of innovation I went this week to see two lectures by the philosopher Pekka Himanen. Himanen is giving a lecture series for our new students. He talks about creative community.

Himanen is internationally one of the most well known Finnish academics – from big part because of his pretty clever book called The Hacker Ethics – On the Spirit of the Information Age. In Finland people have very strong opinions about Himanen.

Lately, Pekka has been writing and talking about creativity and creative society. Some people with a longer career of doing research on creativity have present hard criticism against him. I understand the criticism, but also see Himanen’s contribution. He is not a psychologist or social scientist doing research on creativity. He never claimed to be one. He is a philosopher, a brilliant thinker with extensive understanding of classical and popular culture as well as world politics and economy. Naturally he is well read in classical and contemporary philosophy, and social science. Furthermore Pekka even knows something about digitalization and Internet. These people are rare.

On Monday Pekka was talking about people’s boldness and it’s role in creativity. Boldness is crucial in creativity. Children are bold. They are not afraid to say what do they think. This brings in my mind two things that are related to Pekka’s lectures and the themes discussed in this blog.

To come-up with good products for online learning we should collaborate much more with children. Actually when designing whatever digital tool or software we should work closely with children. Not with the “big children” (hackers, designers, experts) but with small, real children. I know that Alan Kay, Adele Goldberg and Seymour Papert use to work with children and that work partly resulted as such things as graphical user interface, mouse pad etc. Why people are not anymore doing this? Or some clever people are, but not that many at all. We should.

Wikipedians have the be bold! rule. Being bold in Wikipedia means that when you see something that can be improved, you should not hesitate to do so. This is simply because Wikis develop faster when everybody helps to fix problems, correct grammar, add facts, make links etc. Does this have anything to do with creativity? Maybe. I think Wikipedian’s creativity and the boldness to show it right when it is flourishing is pretty much what is behind the success of Wikipedia. In Wikipedia, if you have an idea you just change the wiki-page according to that. No committees, nor delays or overheads.

My three-year-old daughter told me yesterday that “playing is children’s work” (This is actually some kind of modern Finnish proverb). Then she continued: “work must then be like adult’s playing”. She is not totally wrong, but we should have a bit more playfulness in our work to really make the sentence accurate. I am working on it.

New LeMill version (1.13) released

Monday, August 20th, 2007

We have a new version of LeMill. LeMill is a service (http://lemill.net) and a platform (http://lemill.org) for finding, authoring and sharing open and free learning resources.

There are three major visible changes.

lemill package pieni New LeMill version (1.13) released Downloading collection. You can now download collections as either zips of web pages (static HTML) or as SCORM-packages. SCORM is a format recognized by many learning platform, so you can easily import things you’ve found or made in LeMill to your local environment. The static HTML-package you can browse locally or add it in your local web server, e.g. in your homepage. We are still working on to have a PDF-download feature next to these options. When you view a collection, there is a ‘Download’-link at left side. Now we just need more quality collections. I hope this new feature will make it more rewarding to create them.

lemill browse pieni New LeMill version (1.13) released Browse by many categories. You can now browse content by limiting the “results” by many different categories. For instance at first you choose “language”, then you can choose subject area, or target group (grade), or tag, or type, or all of them. You may start browsing from any of the categories and then limit the results with the others. It is difficult to explain – you should try it out yourself. It is also an easy way to get an overview of the all 777 learning resources we have at the moment in the LeMill.net.

lemill discussion pieni New LeMill version (1.13) released Discussion pages for learning resources. Now there is a discussion page related to each learning resource. To the discussion page you can write your comments or suggestions how to improve the resource. If some group is already working with the resource this discussion is visible also in the group’s page.

Something else? I am sure many bugs were also fixed and some new user interface languages were added.

Now the user interface is available in 12 languages (cz, en, es, et, fi, fr, hu, ka, lt, pl, ru, se). In the LeMill.net there are content in 21 languages (some are just “test” content) and in the community there are 731 people from 28 countries, speaking about 30 different languages. Sounds like Europe in 21 century.

Random notes on OER, Wikipedia in schools, OLPC, languages

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

This blog has end-up to be also one of my sketchbooks. I have many of them. Some are traditional paper-based notebooks. My mobile phone is one and almost any piece of paper in any place can serve the task. Two weeks a go we finally got a whiteboard in our office – still learning to use it.

Here are some sketches.

OER. People are again talking about OERs (Open Educational Resources) and what license one should use with them. I am tired. The question seems to be should it be “Open Education Resources” or “Free Cultural Works” (for learning). I vote for the later. All resources in the world are potential educational resources – we should use them and not to think that there is some mysterious “edu-add-value” one is adding in them. Most of the time the “mysterious” thing is simply “dogmatism” – someone want to tell you how things are, or an attempt to simplify complex issues – it’s enough to understand the things in this level. This is not to say that there isn’t need for good text and study books. There is, and they should be free cultural works.

Wikipedia in schools. Wikipedia is probably the world most used single collection of content in schools. The use of it will only grow in a coming years. My feeling is that most students and teachers are using it without knowing how it really works. There is a huge job to inform and educate educators on what Wikipedia is and how it works, how one can and should use it critically, how one can validate the articles (references, history, discussion, etc.). Teacher trainers, educators – it’s time to wake-up. Wikipedia is not going to disappear.

OLPC. I wrote a small article to the OLPC news site about Participation Design. It’s a great site if you are interested in to follow the OLPC project from an independent point of view. Last week in Wikimania in Taipei I also got a chance to play a bit with the OLPC’s XO prototype. It really is an innovative laptop. Still, I do not see that it will do revolution in the developing world. A problem is that time spend playing with the laptop will probably be out from real constructivist and creative activities taking place everywhere where there are children: playing, telling stories, singing, dancing. The good news is that whatever there will be OLPC or not, children will do these.

Languages. In Wikimania I also end-up to discuss about language policies. Right to study in your mother tongue should be a human right. This seems to be a strange idea for people who themselves represent some major languages, such as English or French. People may seriously say that they are providing learning materials for northern and western Africa in French because there are French speaking countries. This is simply wrong. People of these countries are not French speaking. They are French speaking only because they do not have a right to study in their mother tongue. The demand to always operate in a foreign language makes you handicapped. It is wrong.