Open Source

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

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.

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