In last days I have been thinking several things that at first looked very unconnected. Now I realized that they are all connected. Here we go.
Localized digital content is NOT core educational infrastructure. “Wiki” is core educational infrastructure. I didn’t go to the Open Education 2007 conference. However, they nicely distribute audio and slides from all the conference sessions. Thank you!
I checked some of the presentations and did listen to David Wiley’s “Few Framing Thoughts – About Localization and Learning” in his opening remarks. He claimed that content is educational infrastructure and for this reason localizing open educational resources is important when we try to expand global access to education. I disagree.
Content is infrastructure only when it is made locally. The key is not localizing some existing content but doing unique local content. To produce local content you need access to other resources starting from local oral tradition to written documents and other recorded media – maybe even in foreign languages. But, when doing local content one should USE resources, not localize them. This means that people in marginal – in terms of language, wealth or power – should at first focus on to create their own content. In this process, if they wish, they may USE content provided by someone else.
This leads to the conclusion that core, primary educational infrastructure is some kind of National Information Creation and Distribution System (huh, what a term!) – let’s call it now NICDS. The simplest possible NICDS is a Wiki or even just Wikipedia in your own language.
So, my advice for people speaking Swahili, Finnish, Sami or some other marginal languages is to forget localizing content available in the MIT Open Courseware (or other open courseware sites) and focus on to write to Wikpedia in their own language. When you have a nice online encyclopaedia in your own language you may start another Wiki (or some other software such as LeMill) and expand your NICDS to have also educational resources. To build the resources you may use open educational resources online, but just USE them as references. Do not localize – make your own!
Learning to read by learning to write (with a computer). This week there was a small news in Finland about research project at the University of Helsinki looking for new methods of teaching children to read by letting them to write with a computer. According to the news paper there is already research evidence of the benefits of letting children at first to learn to write with a computer and not to start by practicing reading. Children will basically learn to read after they have learned to write. Writing with a keyboard asks for much less fine motor coordination than handwriting. I see this from my 3-year old daughter, too. She is able to write with a computer some words – like her name, my name and mama – but not with her hand. Learning to write with a computer has happen for her simply while playing with my laptop. I have of course set her a full screen “Sticky Notes” to write with a large font and show her how the keyboard works. She is not able to read yet, but I am sure it will happen very soon without us doing anything more.
I made a search to find more about the topic. Didn’t find much, but something anyway. Norwegian Arne Trageton seems to be the one behind the idea of teaching children to write with a computer. You may have a look of the Google Book Search results with his name. If you do not read Norwegian but you read Finnish you are maybe interested in this new book (Lukemaan oppiminen kirjoittamalla). I also found a short article about the topic in plain English.
You may ask what is the connection between the NICDS (National Information Creation and Distribution System) and a method of learning to write? Think about it! It is pretty obvious. I think the primary skill is to create information – to write. A secondary skill, that follows writing, is reading. This is the order of things in the NICDS, too. You must write first! Then you may use some resources here and there (read) and use them in your further writings. Do not localize – make your own!
Wikimedia needs us. The humankind needs more people who are willing to “imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge”. For all us – the daydreamers – there is the Wikimedia community making the dream come true.
More and more people are starting to understand how significant the Wikimedia projects actually are. People are starting to see that it is not only Wikipedia, but things like Wikimedia Commons with more than 1 800 000 free media files and more than 190 000 registered users or Wikinews which has become one of the world most important independent news agencies (with the Indymedia).
We should also support the Wikiversity, the brave new Wikimedia project of building free learning communities. These communities need us.
Did you already make a connections between the Wikimedia projects, NICDS and learning to write? I am sure you did. Notice the Wikimedia Foundation’s vision: “… every single human being can freely share …”.
The question is: how do we get for every single human being something they may share? Simple. If you can write and you have NICDS infrastructure supporting you, you can create something to share. Your life. Do not localize – make your own!