The wikiLeaks saga is not yet finished. When being busy I have relied strongly to the news provided by the traditional mass media — in practice established Finnish newspapers and TV news.
Now I took some time to study the WikiLeaks -case a bit deeper. I didn’t do any “academic study”, but rather just read various editorials, blogs, commentary, watched and listen to some podcasts/videos about the case. In practice, I spent something like 10 hours to do it – not a big deal, but I did spend some time with the topic.
To save other (new) media educators time, I summarize here the sources which I found most neutral, accurate and useful.
1. WikiRebels by Sweden’s Television SVT
The documentary, WikiRebels by the Sweden’s Television SVT, the national television broadcaster, is a good introduction to the topic. It summarizes what are the ideas behind the WikiLeaks and also present the people. It also gives a voice for the opponents of the WikiLeaks. I also consider the Sweden’s Television to be a media company with highest journalistic standards. It is interesting to see if the other broadcasters — like the Finnish YLE — will broadcast this. The documentary is available online until January 16 and it comes with English sub-titles. I wouldn’t watch it with children, but it is good material for adults studying media.
2. Wikileaks cable FAQ by Jonathan Zittrain
Professor Jonathan Zittrain of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University / Harvard Law School is maintaining Wikileaks cable FAQ. It covers the event much better than most of the mass media. Also the FAQ format works with this kind of events very well. To start discussion and debate on the topic it is good to have some facts in place.
3. Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy by Aaron Badyn
In a couple of weeks I am also going to post chapters of the book to this blog.
In the Finnish tradition there are several steps to complete doctoral dissertation. At first, the manuscript is examined by two, so called, pre-examiners selected by the Research Board of the School. After this the Research Board sends your work to an opponent of their choice.
Finally there is a public defense of the thesis. The even starts with the candidate’s presentation of the work and the opponents general notes. Then starts the discussion based on the opponents questioning.
The main point of the paper is that — as Erik Duval has pointed out several times — design is difficult, but with a proper design process, working with all stakeholders, prototypes, thinking, freedom to think and do things differently, courage to do decisions and ability fail fast you may get it right or at least close to right.
In the paper we do not discuss about the hidden curriculum embedded to LeMill. The idea is that when teachers will see the benefits of collaborative authoring of open resources it will have an effect on their daily practice. Experiences are powerful teachers.
We just released a new version of the LeMill service — web community for finding, authoring and sharing open educational resources (OER). I think our design with LeMill is finally getting the right shape.
I think it is better if I do not explain the design, as the service is just a click away. Feel free to try it. I am, however, pretty convinced that the interaction and usability design of LeMill is better than in any other OER repository today. It is also worth to mention that LeMill is not only OER repository, but a wiki — a collection of content that anyone can edit. LeMill’s user interface is clear, fast, minimalistic and beautiful.
LeMill community is still relatively small; close to 15 000 teachers. The small size of the community causes challenges, especially as it is divided to 14 language communities.
The good news is that we now have friends in Brazil and the user interface is translated to Brazilian Portuguese. With the fast growth of Internet connections, commitment to Open Source and investments to education we may expect some growth in Brazil. That is good.
What I would like to see in LeMill would be more teachers from the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and other English speaking countries. I think the low numbers from these countries have an effect on the growth of LeMill in other locations, too. People everywhere read English online media and today LeMill does not make the headlines.
What is the role of education, open education and online communities in sustainable development?
The classical definition of sustainable development is that we should use the global resources only so that the generation coming after us will inherit the planet in as good shape as it was when we were born. We got something from the earlier generations and should past it forward for our children and grant children.
Sustainable development is often divided to (1) ecological, (2) economical, (3) social, and (4) cultural sustainability. The different elements of sustainable development are in a close interaction, having an effect on each other.
The ecological sustainability means that the ecosystem, the global system as a whole (climate etc.) and all local ecosystems, are protected. For instance, as long as there are species disappearing cause by human behavior and reckless usage of non-renewable natural resources, there isn’t sustainable development in the ecological sense.
In economical sustainable development the growth should be stable and balanced. We should not be in depth and consume only according to the sustainability of the ecological system. For instance, it is reasonable to ask is the climate change is a result of unsustainable economical development?
Social sustainability would mean that all people of the world would have basic living conditions: health, well-being, education, dignity and freedom to do sustainable choices. If you follow any world news you know that we are far from this.
Reaching cultural sustainability we are not doing much better than with the social sustainability. Cultural sustainable development would mean that we protect the cultural diversity of the world. All cultures should have a right to persist and develop. With the fact, that humankind is loosing language every two week we are far from a cultural sustainability.
As said before the ecological, economical, social and cultural sustainable development are interlinked: they have an effect to each other. In the Global North, in the wealthy world, we easily put a lot of attention to the questions of ecological and economical sustainability. Engineers and economics often see that this is something they can solve: we simply develop clean technology and build economical system that is sustainable. Unfortunately the actual problem is far more complex: there is the complexity caused by the social and cultural aspects, the complexity of a human and mankind.
In the Global North we largely have — though not for all (that is a huge shame) — socially and culturally sustainable life. We all get maternity package, basic health care and education. Because of this we are able to focus on ecological and economical sustainability. This is also behind the illusion of seeing the question of sustainable development trivial; technological and economical challenge.
Majority of the world is not like Finland, Europe, Australia or North America and the causes of unsustainable development do not respect national boarders. Because the sustainable development is a global phenomena, we in the Global North must pay attention to social and cultural sustainability, too. Without doing it our investment on ecological and economical sustainability will be lost.
A simple example. You may have the perfect technology and logistics to collect and recycle domestic waste, but if you do not have incentives for all the ordinary people to “feed” the system it will be useless. You must understand what is the cultural-historical practices of waste management in homes to design experiences and new practices that will have the incentives in them.
What is the role of education in sustainable development?
Educational system (schools, colleges and universities) should primary contribute to social and cultural sustainability, and from that angle provide skills and knowledge to solve the problems of ecological and economical challenges.
Understanding human behavior, social structures, culture and cultural differences is critical when we aim to reach sustainable development. Having solid knowledge on science, technology and economics is needed, too, but it is not enough.
Educational system should guarantee, that all the people of the world will have critical thinking skills and a set of basic skills and knowledge that will empower them to choose sustainable lifestyle. Education should provide people with ability to balance with the different aspects of sustainable development.
Paradoxically the real problem lays in the point when people move from absolute poverty to have more material resources. In absolute poverty people often have ecologically and culturally sustainable life. The unbalance is in the social and economical sustainability; unstable economical situation, no health, no well-being, no education, no dignity, nor freedom of choice.
When people get more material resources they also get more social good. Same time their effects on ecological and cultural sustainability often gets unbalanced. Suddenly the things that use to be good from the sustainable development point of view becomes problems: people start to have a greater impact on issues related to ecological and cultural sustainability: They start to consume more, ask for cheaper products, produce more waste and same time loose connection to their original cultural heritage.
To provide people with skills and knowledge that will help people to keep the balance in sustainable development is a task of the educational system. People should be “educated” enough to recognize how the achievements in social and economical development will effect on ecological and cultural development.
What about open education and online communities?
A huge challenge for the “official” educational system is that more and more of learning takes place outside the “system”. We learn online with others: sometimes in more or less structured manner (like in Open Education) but mainly informally in our social network. We read and watch what our friends in the network are recommending for us and share our discoveries with them. The big question is: what is the quality and value of this kind of learning?
I am afraid that the quality of learning in online social networking, if measured with classical factors — such as deep understanding, assimilation, proportion and seeing the big picture — stays relatively low. The use value, the exchange value, of knowing the latest buzz can still be very high.
To have quality we need schools, colleges and universities. We need people who are committed to guide new generations to explore and discover the big picture, to have critical thinking and problem solving skills. Having these requires years of hard work, often called studying.
Schools, colleges and universities are there also to bootstrap the open education and other communities in social media to achieve discourse that is constructive and progressive.