Archive for January, 2010

iPad – “non-distractive technology” for schools

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

I assume everybody have already read about the Apple’s iPad launch. What kind of devices it is, to be used in schools?

Apple iPad Event03 iPad   non distractive technology for schools

I have been Mac user for more than 15 years. I am not a “fan” but very satisfied customer – even relatively big customer. I do not like the close ecosystem approach of the Apple, but highly appreciate their design thinking behind the products.

In the demo yesterday Steve Job explained that iPad tablet should do a better job than a smart phone or laptop computer in some specific areas. This is definitely a right way to design a product like this: to think some important things and make a product that is really good at doing them. This sounds simple.

Job’s list of important things in which iPad is really good at was:

  • web browsing,
  • email,
  • photos,
  • watching video,
  • listening to music,
  • playing games and
  • reading ebooks.

Now we may ask: what students need from their ICT device at school?

In 90% of cases this is it: web browsing with the ability to submit things online (including longer texts, such as blog posts), email, photos, watching videos, listening audio, playing games and reading books. In addition to this, students need a simple real-time communication channel with their peers, teachers and parents: a chat or phone. I assume, in the iPad there soon will be an application for audio/video call with add-on video camera. This is definitely something needed. On the other hand, I think students will anyway have their mobile phones, too for chating and calling.

Firefox interface iPad   non distractive technology for schools

I see in the iPad some similarities to the “ultimate network connectivity school device” I wrote about some time ago: a touch screen and “limited features”. That’s what we need in schools – well designed, simple and elegant tools that are non-distractive.

Why the simplicity is so important in school? Learning is a cognitive process. All extra cognitive load put on the use of tools is out from the learning. The technology used should never take the main role from the actual learning situation.

In a way this is the case with all human activity. That is also why Apple have took over smart phone market and have made internet mobile.

Often Apple is considered to be a “high-end” technology, but actually their competence is in their ability to design for the “masses”, the people. This is why they should have at least 50% of the school ICT-device market (actually I think this is already the case in some parts of the world, like in UK).

Some one just sent me a link to another example of simplicity and respect of human cognition. Do not make me think – I just want to “consume” my magazine!

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

Should Wikimedia grow? Yes, because of its value for education

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

The Wikimedia Foundation just announced successful fundraiser. In two months over 230 000 people donated money for the Foundation, resulting $US 8 million. This is a great result. With a simple math, the average giving was something like 30-40 dollars.

I find it amazing, that almost a quarter million people are committed to the mission of the Foundation, in a level that they were willing to give money for it. Interesting thing with the Foundation is also that there isn’t memberships, like in most NGOs, but an annual fundraiser. Because of this the Foundation has to deserve its existence every year in the eyes of the public.

This puts a lot of pressure on everyone working with the Foundation: from the paid staff to the hundreds of thousands of volunteers (I am a volunteer). We should all be aware about our mission and to think hard how we can achieve it.

“The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free 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 useful information from its projects available on the Internet free of charge, in perpetuity.” (Mission statement from the Wikimedia Foundation)

For me the key words in the mission are “empower and engage people”, “around the world”, “educational content”, “globally”, “multilingual”, “free of charge” and “in perpetuity”. Huh!

The people involved in the Wikimedia movement must be self-critical. The fact that Wikipedia is today relatively good source of education content in 20 European languages, Japanese, Chinese and Korean does not mean that it would be already “around the world” or “global” (if you want to know more about the Wikimedia’s global reach you may check the statistics yourself from the brilliant stat.wikimedia.org –site at: http://stats.wikimedia.org).

It is reasonable to say that we are not even close to achieve the mission. The mater is, however, well recognized by the Foundation and actually it is right now developing a five-year (2010-2015) strategic plan for the Wikimedia movement. You may participate to the process in here: http://strategy.wikimedia.org/

I think that the Wikimedia movement, and the Foundation supporting it, should aim to have exponential growth. Only with a strong growth it may reach its mission: be truly global movement.

Why Wikimedia then should be a global movement?

I think that the world greatest challenges of the next hundred years — from poverty to climate change and humanitarian disasters — can be solved only with education. We know that the current educational system(s), the formal school education, is not the solution. It simply do not scale. In a global scale, systems based on schools will not produce “educated people”. We need systems that are better in scaling.

Is Wikimedia able to scale? I think it holds the potential to scale.

Still, it would mean that next coming years the number of people donating for the Foundation, should be in millions and the Governments’ should include Wikimedia in their multilateral development cooperation “payroll”. I think it would payoff.

In the Wikimania 2009 Erik Möller, the Deputy Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, gave a talk promoting the objective “to make Wikimedia a 300 Million People Movement By 2020“. In the presentation there are many great and practical ideas for scaling. Check out the great presentation (video) and the slides.