Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nanotechnology in the classroom

Students in Europe often complain that they are learning about the science and technology of yesterday, rather than cutting edge issues, which they find more exciting.
I’m working on a new, major EU project, Nanoyou, which aims to help teachers get support in bringing the latest nanotechnology R&D in energy, environment and medicine as well the surrounding ethical and social issues to their students. It’s a huge project involving Spanish, French, Belgian, Austrian and British partners, led by ORT Israel.

Nanoyou kicked off on Monday 27 April in Tel Aviv, Israel, and over the next 27 months, the project will create and test new toolkits for teachers at lower and upper secondary level, an online game on the topic, exhibitions in science centres and much more.
Teachers who are interested to get involved, should contact me at European Schoolnet at alexa.joyce@eun.org.

Image credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Open education: the US got there first!

Publicly-funded institutions "that expend more than $10,000,000 in a fiscal year on scientific education and outreach shall use at least 2 percent of such funds for the collaboration on the development and implementation of open source materials as an educational outreach effort" reports David Wiley (via Stephen Downes).

This is really fantastic news: in fact, it was one of the recommendations resulting from the run of the UNESCO/OECD Open Educational Resources discussion that I moderated some time ago.

So why doesn't the EU do the same? It would be so easy to make that part of the 7th Framework Programme research funding or the Lifelong Learning Programme, by including it in the contractual requirements, or at the very least in the award criteria for selecting projects for funding. It's unfortunate that the EU research programme - although funding research in this area - doesn't grab the issue by the horns.

On the other hand, they have recognised that the web is an equivalent 'right' to schooling, which is quite a victory.

Image credit: mag3737

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Censorship begets creativity: Aqua teen hunger force and communist China

Does censorship stimulate creativity? A few recent examples suggest a strong link. Whether in China or in the classroom, web filters are stimulating some entertaining, yet thought-provoking trends to occur.

1) In China, a very funny video has been circulating (thanks to my friend Zhuohua for sending me the link), and even remade in an animated hiphop version. On one hand, it's a protest against censorship (the grass mud horses are fighting against the repressive river crabs), it's also a funny demonstration of how futile censorship for 'moral behaviour' can be. Grass mud horse, translated into Chinese, sounds almost exactly like obscene words which are vilified by the censors. More on the phenomenon via the NY times. It's spawned lots of spin offs including stuffed animals and T-shirts.

2) School kids are also finding funny ways to swear. Many filters ban specific swear words, resulting in massive growth of the phrase 'Sofa King' (say it fast, out loud..), originally used in Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Coincidentally, it has also made the leap into hiphop... Perhaps less politically engaged than the Grass-Mud Horse, it just illustrates how we cannot stop kids from using language in ways they want, and that they'll just find creative ways to bend the rules.

It reminds me of the days of the Criminal Justice Bill in the UK, which banned the public playing of "sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats," to prevent the organisation of raves. Warp records' Autechre then released the "Anti EP" including a track called 'Flutter',"programmed in such a way that no bars contain identical beats and can therefore be played under the proposed new law." Ironically, it was arguably one of the most creative times for UK electronic music, stimulated by the sense of rebellion.

While writing this post, I also came across an old, but interesting post comparing access to the web in China vs. a school in Oklahoma, US by Wesley Fryer, which is really revealing!

Is China really more repressed than Western counterparts? And are we inadvertently stimulating the development of more creativity by censorship?