Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Open source software and open content for education

Together with several colleagues, I recently worked on a project to develop CD-ROMs for schools in Asia-Pacific, full of open source software and open content specifically geared at schools. John T. Denny, Hartfried Schmid and I co-wrote an article for the UNESCO Bangkok newsletter explaining the aims, process and results of this project. Please download the whole newsletter here.

More info available here too.

UNESCO SchoolNet: school collaboration in SE Asia

Early this year I made a move from European Schoolnet to UNESCO SchoolNet in SE Asia. My new project involves managing a network of eight countries: Cambodia, Myanmar, Lao, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. The network has been developing ICT-based materials by and for teachers, giving ICT training (both basic skills and ICT pedagogies), encouraging telecollaboration and more. I wrote a full article about it in last month's Digital Learning magazine, and you can download a copy here.

Image copyright: Tinsiri Siribodhi

Friday, May 26, 2006

ICT in education in SE Asia

I recently attended a three day workshop for the launch of the Next Gen project, run by UNESCO in partnership with Microsoft and Cisco. It was an intriguing meeting for many reasons, not only because the project itself is very interesting in that it supports the variety of different needs for improving pre-service teacher training for ICT-based pedagogy, but also because of the common problems faced by many countries. 10 countries took part from Asia-Pacific: India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Lao, Thailand, China, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam; they each sent a representative from the Ministry of Education, plus a few representatives of teacher training institutions.

So many countries came back to the problem of infrastructure, being stuck at this basic step before reaching the next level. Lack of understanding of technology, and low capacity in Ministries of Education means that it's very hard for countries to 'leapfrog' technologies, and tend to follow old routes rather than innovating and using newer more effective models.

It really made me wonder why more countries aren't involved in the 100 $ laptop project being run by MIT. The laptops are low powered, and have many limitations, but as an alternative to having no technology at all in schools, surely this is an interesting approach? I noticed only Thailand and India have joined the project so far.

A key problem in ICT for many countries is the lack of electricity supply in many rural areas. So I'm particularly intrigued by the project's wind-up laptops. I also think it's a great way to promote open source technologies, as the laptops run Linux and are likely to include open educational content too. I think this can really be the 'Trojan horse' that so many of us talk about in educational reform - David Cavallo (MIT) has written a great paper on education reform.

A final word on the Next Gen launch workshop: the ladies from the Philippines were extremely impressive. Dr. Vilma Labrador from the MoE particularly so. She was the first person I had seen reminding us of the need to have a heartfelt mission for education, and not just be thinking technically or politically. Not only that, but she did parts of her speech in song. Amazing!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Virtual Online Communities

Still the hottest topic on the web, virtual online communities are developing and changing at a rapid rate. I wrote a paper to describe and discuss them, including best practices and emerging trends.
Download my paper

I previously worked together with the webteam implementing online community tools at one of the world-leading school collaboration organisations, European Schoolnet.

Photo by Under Volcano of an artwork from Footprints Community Art Project, Vancouver, Canada.