Friday, May 11, 2007

Internet awareness campaign advert

At the EU Media seminar, one of the speakers showed this amusing video to raise awareness of children's web-use among parents.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Protecting children vs. free speech

Over the years I’ve attended a lot of EU events focusing on children’s use of and behaviour on the internet. One issue that is rarely raised in these EU events is the unfortunate tension between child protection and free speech. Many experts in the EU advise using filtering and blocking tools in particular with young children, who might be exposed to ‘harmful’ content on the web.

Although I understand their concerns, I worry about the EU funding development of such tools, mainly because research in this area is easily repurposed by governments to restrict freedom of speech and access. For instance, these technologies are used by China for it’s ‘Great Firewall’ (euphemistically termed the ‘Golden Shield’) and Burma to block access to controversial or critical websites. Indeed, Thailand recently blocked YouTube across the country, due to the posting of some rather silly but obviously critical videos about the King of Thailand.

At the same time, many free speech activists are constantly developing tools that allow users to subvert controls and filters; any smart kid could search for them on Google and thus subvert parental controls. Reminds me of the famous Star Wars quote: “the more you tighten your grip, […] the more […] will slip through your fingers.”

It’s a difficult issue, which I hope to raise today during the working group being chaired by Sonia Livingstone at the EU expert media seminar.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Google Earth: Crisis in Darfur

I've been following the development of Google Earth with a lot of interest, as it's a great tool for supporting teaching and learning of Earth sciences, biology and geography. Recently Riina Vuorikari pointed out this impressive application, developed by the United States Holocaust Museum and Google. It mashes up data from Google Earth, personal testimonies and maps of settlements from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It's unbelievably striking in conveying the impact of conflict, in a way that we can't grasp via TV news. Take a look.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Tim O'Reilly on Education 2.0

"Tim O'Reilly is the founder of O'Reilly Media, and one of the originators of the phrase 'web 2.0" writes Steve Hargadon, to introduce his audio interview with Reilly himself.

He talks a great deal about exploratory learning, small class sizes and 'free data'.

Listen to the the Interview in MP3 format
Picture: from the O'Reilly website.

Setting up a new school in Cambodia

A previous colleague and now friend John Denny is setting up a new school in Cambodia. I asked him a few questions about what he's up to.

What kind innovative uses of ICT are you putting in place?
"To be honest from my perspective none! But from a Cambodian perspective we are modern as I am pushing all aspects towards digital communications, such as a computer in each classroom. Instead of typical cassette tape listening methods we will use computers to play CD or MP3 versions. Students can then compile listening lessons in MP3 format to play back as they please or cut a CD for home use. I do hope to get some some basic recording equipment so we can upload digital lectures, yet at present stage Internet costliness is a major block in Cambodia as they tend to charge by the MB downloaded. Our school is one of the first to use an unlimited broadband line! We have a satellite connection beamed in from one of [Thaksin - ex-PM of Thailand] Shinawatra's floating beasts. Thus I will encourage massive downloading - something new for Cambodians."

What's been the biggest challenge in setting up the school?
"First I thought it was to create a unique identity as language schools are a dime a dozen here. Thus it has taken considerable thought coming up with a doable plan that will attract students while giving them the security they need. We intend to offer a quality program second to none."

"On second thought offering a quality program is a struggle. Getting highly motivated teachers, school staff and connected issue of creating a ""culture of quality" institution-wide is not an easy task. It is a major struggle dealing with my developed world sensibilities versus the reality that in a post-conflict country things simply do not and cannot work the way one knows they should."

What would be the dream 'killer app' for helping the school, whether pedagogical, admin or something else?

"That's an easy one. I am dying to get a web-based open source school management app installed and configured. My target is OpenAdmin, if that fails Focus/SIS or CLaSS. Whatever it is, I am desperate to consolidate all school management function in one web app. Yet the bigger struggle is to get largely non computer literate staff members to understand the importance and buy-in after it is installed."

What's the local reaction like?
"So far we have distributed about 10,000 brochures. I was instrumental in totally reconfiguring the marketing strategy set by our school director. Instead of paying media corporations to advertise our school I convinced the team to advertise for commission-based sales representatives. These sales reps are given brief training on school selling points then set afoot to broadcast the message. Any student enrollment generated by the sales rep then brings them a 10% sales commission. After bringing in 6 students a sales rep is awarded an extra bonus or the chance to enroll for free in any of our course offerings."

"As per several of the highly motivated sales reps the reception is excited and enthusiastic as they can see via our brochure that this school strives to be different, is going to be a value added experience -- the type of place where students come to develop a lifelong experience in learning and sharing ( i.e. 3 NGO's on premises; special workshops, lectures and seminars, free overseas study advise, free software distribution, etc...)"

The website is still under construction, but visit:

Teaching the machine

Short and sweet video on web 2.0, by Mike Wesch, a researcher who is currently working on an ethnography of YouTube.

Update (10 May 2007): I'm now at the EU Media Expert seminar in Leipzig, and the AOL speaker is showing this video in the plenary session!