Open Source

Campus Party Colombia: Learning with New Media

Last weekend I took part in at the Campus Party Colombia in Bogota. Campus Party is a combination of LAN-party, technology conference and a fair sponsored by Telefonica, the Spanish telecom.

Communication Hub in a School use
Picture by mario_nel2002

I gave a talk about how to use New Media tools (blogs, wikis, micro-blogs, mobile phones) in learning and capacity building in self-organized and formal learning contexts.

When preparing my talk I asked from the organizers who will be in the audience. I didn’t get very good demographic profile. For some reason I assumed that the audience will be more general public and maybe educators. During the talk – actually a few minutes before – I realized that most people coming to the sessions were bloggers, hackers and other “native digitals”. So I felt a bit stupid to explain these people what is Wikipedia (although I think many of them were not aware of the other projects of the Wikimedians). In my talk I could have been, however, more theoretical and spend less time on explaining what kind of tools there are for sharing links, websites (wikis), point of views (blogs), micro-content (micro-blogs), and learning environments.

The discussion following the talk and many discussions in the “campus” during the days were fruitful and interesting. Some observations.

Many people and cognitive tools in one place. The gatherings of people with their cognitive tools (computers) are really important. These are event, not only to share your (free) software, but also to strength social ties in a way that is never possible online. It is partly a matter of “bandwidth””– yes – but will we ever have the bandwidth existing in meetings in a real life? I doubt. The flexibility to formulate group saround some topic is also pretty unique in real-life events.

Role of media (and propaganda) in learning. The role of media in the development of Latin American societies has been discussed in many forums. I don’t want to get political with this topic, but can’t help to mention that if you want to watch news in English in Colombia it is very likely that the only free news channel offered with the satellite package is Fox New. E.g. they do not include BBC in the packages. I have lately spend a lot of time on thinking the role of mass media in education and coming up with a conclusion that more media, the better. If people can access all possible propaganda in the world, they will be confused about the contradictory messages and will find out about the topics themselves. So, if I would have a role in any national media policies, I would aim to provide one TV news channel that would rotate randomly all the different news channels. The channels in the rotation (with sub-titles) could be BBC World, CNN, Al Jazeera, CCTV, teleSUR, NDTV 24×7 and the local news channels in local languages. Actually, this kind of “world view news” could be an interesting website, one could use e.g. in TVs at schools and in media education. Who could write software that will take these satellite channels programming and make out of them a single stream?

Knowledge management in geographically distributed mega-organizations. In Campus Party I also met some people working for a huge organization with thousands of people around the world. These geographically distributed mega-organizations should be the once who will most benefit of the new media tools and applications. They will help people to share their work with their current colleagues, but also with their potential future colleagues. The matter is not only to have a cool “intranet”, but much more on designing and defining the social practices around it. Sharing documents is easy. Sharing knowledge is hard. Building knowledge is something we should aim to.

In our University back in Helsinki we have been building pretty neat tool, called Onni, for our organizational knowledge sharing and building. Onnis main building blocks are (1) people; (2) notes (with flat replies); (3) organizational taxonomy (schools, departments, projects, courses, etc); (4) interests (free folksonomy); and (5) groups (with notes and calendar). The official policy documents will be on a wiki so that anyone may edit them (and will hopefully also know who should and who should not edit them). Onni should be ready for public launch in September. Then we will have all the 2500 people in the system with their picture, profile, projects, interests and groups taking advantage of the system. Still the aim of Onni is not to replace all other tools used at the University. The research staff will still add their results to the official and public Research database, and e.g. study records, traveling and financial issues will be handled with other system. Important is that all the systems will work together. Information of the publications of each researchers will come with RSS to Onni, course information will come to Onni from the study record, etc.

Maybe in the Campus Party 2009 we could also have some kind of social networking site in the Onni way. All the participants could be in the system with their profiles, interests (folksonomy) and list of sessions they are planning to take part in. As the Campus Party is an event of several days some kind of “centralized news channel” could be useful, too – maybe a big screen with TV-kind of “latest Campus party news” every two hours (between the “official” news there could be the “world view news” rotation from satellite channels. 🙂

Thank you for all the people who made the Campus Party Colombia real: the Campuseros (people who were camping in the site), organizers, visitors, and sponsors. A special thanks from me goes to Carolina Botero, the boss of the blogs -track and Offray Luna, the coordinator of the Software Libre -track. Well done!

If you are interested in to see how it was in there, you may have a look of the Youtube channel or the Flickr -group.

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