I had the honor of visiting China with an Erasmus Mundus fellowship between the 25th of August and the 25th of September 2010. The host institution was the Communication University of China (CUC). Prof. Dr. Huang Yong of the CUC School of Distance and Continuing Education was my very kind host person.
My official report can be found here. Photos are coming soon.
eLearning Africa was a great conference, with 1778 delegates from 78 countries. The main theme was concentrating on the question how to improve education in Africa with technologies.
I was invited for the VLIR-UOS pre-conference workshop “ICT in education”. This workshop was set up as a Train the Trainer session for the African partner universities of the VLIR-UOS, similar to the session for the rest of the world in the Universidad 2010 conference in Cuba. It’s always great to have many VLIR-UOS partners brought together. We were happy to attract also many non-VLIR-UOS-partners in a fully booked room (peaks of 70 participants).
As Open Source was a major theme of eLearning Africa, I was also invited to talk about Strategies and Policies to implement Free & Open Source Software in Higher Education. African universities use already mainly Open Source Learning Environments, and they are stimulating the use of Open Educational Resources and Open Access journals, but their desktops are mainly running proprietary software. They would love to migrate everything to Open Source, but their entrenchment and lock-in into proprietary systems is already so deep that migrations or new deployments will need strategies and policies.
My first presentation was “New learning paradigms and educational technologies part II” (part I, focusing on the paradigms, was presented by Prof. Libotton):
My presentation “Strategies & Policies for the implementation of Free & and Open Source Software in Higher Education” was again a duo presentation with Paul Scott from the Western Cape University of South Africa.
I received great feedback on both presentations and have invitations for organizing related training and management workshops in different countries.
I was invited to give a guest lecture about Free Libre Open Source Software for the course Business Aspects of Software Industry of Prof. R. S’Jegers and M. Goldchstein, with students from management science and computer science.
Installing Ubuntu Linux is most often a piece of cake. Not so it seems on Sony latest laptop, the Vaio VPC-Z11-X9E. It’s a wonderful machine, with many new advanced features, but some of the design options seem to be made with only MS Windows in mind (e.g. advanced EFI Bios is crippled towards the end-user and the switch between the 2 GPU’s is badly designed or documented.) That made it a bit of an adventure to get Ubuntu installed. As I am one of the first ones that succeeded, I share my experiences. However I could never have finished this without inspiration from the brightest people, mainly active in the Sony Vaio Z-series Laptop group.
I hope installing Ubuntu will also be easy on this laptop in a few weeks or months. If you can’t wait and love a technical adventure, read on…
I was invited by the University of Cuenca in Ecuador to give a workshop in the framework of their VLIR-UOS project. I had nice discussions, mainly with the people from the ICT departement, about migration to Free Libre Open Source Software and the implementation and support of e-learning facilities. For the Vice-rector, ICT-managers and the Deans and two professors from each faculty I gave two days workshops about “Technologies For Higher Education” and “Freedom And Openness For Higher Education“. My pictures can be found here and my presentations hereunder:
Prof. dr. Černochová together with the ATEE Resource & Development Centres “ICT in education” and “primary education” organized a small but interesting and lovely ATEE Winter conference under the title “first class learning, first class teaching, and first class teacher education” There were great people and contributions.
Prof. dr. Diane Yendol-Hoppey (USA) elaborated on the idea of Professional Development Schools (PDS), where teachers and teacher educators work together. (American) schools often seem to miss “the collegial arrangement where teachers could collaborative reflect on the day’s activities and results, then discuss what would be improved tomorrow.” The physical space is one requirement; but teachers also need systematic, planned and scheduled time for collaborative reflection and learning. As teaching is increasingly complex, such needs are growing. Teacher educators should move their academic work closer to the schools. In school-universities partnerships teachers and teacher educators can work together. Teacher educators can help schools to find the right tools for the right learning needs, while schools can provide knowledge for / in / of practice.
Prof. dr. Arne Trageton from Norway elaborated on his ideas of “Writing to Read. Playful computer Writing.” He said: while we are convinced that we want creative humans, most of the ICT in education reports are about children as consumers instead of producers. Writing is easier than reading. And typing is easier than hand writing. So why are most schools starting with reading instead of writing? Prof. Trageton has set up programs where children are in pairs working on (old) laptops, standing up (who needs a chair?) They start writing random gibberish. And then they start counting the letters A. B, … Gradually they are writing and reading better and better, always about things that interest them (what happened last weekend? Keep it playful and keep it authentic! People like to write when they want somebody else to read it! The children write longer and longer texts and produce their own textbooks. IIRC, Prof. Trageton measured that children trained with computer writing score after 3 years one year in advance of hand writing trained children.
Also interesting were the country reports about ICT and innovations in schools.
It’s no coincidence this conference was in Prague. The Czech Republic has a long history of ICT in education. During the eighties they used their Czech produced 8bit-computers (IQ 151 and PMD) in schools. We visited a school in Prague which has invested a lot in technologies with the help of many research projects. Many interactive whiteboards and videocams, but also something I never seen before: A Czech produced box with some twenty usb sockets. I first thought it was filled with USB-sticks, but actually it were all transmitters for wireless mice. It means you can give each child a mouse to control the same computer in front of the classroom. I can imagine quite some interactive use with that.
Prof. Davide Parmigiani from Italy reported about a Cl@sses 2.0 project: how to improve the learning environment in the classroom with ICT? 156 schools from different regions received 30000 Euro to transform classrooms to 2.0 environments. The teachers can decide what to buy. I can imagine this could go wrong, but this case was well organized, with as one of the nicer results a shift from individual to team teaching.
I had also a nice time with Hans Pronk and Jan Folkert Deinum who reported about their projects in the Netherlands. They care a lot about Nearly Qualified Teachers (NQT) and Induction (the phase after initial teacher training) for novice teachers. Dutch schools are now demanding teachers with ICT skills!
Under the mastery of Glynn Kirkham from the UK we concluded the conference with the Nominal Group Technique. These are the resulting most important concepts of the conference and their votes:
12 Towards interactive teaching; Role of the child as knowledge producer; teacher:child and child:teacher
10 Early childhood importance
9 Innovation (ICT)
7 “Back Porch”; Professional development schools (PDS); Much to learn from each other; School learns if its members learn; Lesson planning
5 Recognition of the competent child
3 Digital citizenship
2 Induction for novice teacher
2 Co-operation among students
1 Contextualization; Own the wheel
1 Important to experience both digital and tactile/sensory activities
1 Recruitment of male teachers in the early years school
Personally I was member of the scientific committee of this conference and I had a keynote about “What can we learn from One Laptop Per Child Projects?”
I visited our joint-PhD students from the Distance Education Department of the UCLV University in Santa Clara. Their subjects are:
- Yoilán Fimia León: Strategy to integrate digital portfolios in the teaching-learning process
- Roberto Carlos Rodríguez Hidalgo: Teaching Strategy for supporting the collaborative activities in the teaching-learning process through the use of social software
- Didiosky Benitez Erice: A methodology for knowledge management using Open Educational Resources in teaching-learning processes: the case of Central University “Marta Abreu” of Las Villas.
- Wilder González Díaz: Quality indicators for e-learning
At the Universidad 2010 conference in Havana, I gave together with Prof. Arno Libotton a keynote titled: “New learning paradigms and educational technologies”
My part, focussing on the technologies is shown hereunder:
Together with Paul Scott I gave a keynote titled: “Strategies & Policies for the implementation of Free & and Open Source Software in Higher Education Institutions”. Paul Scott is head of the Free Software Unit in the University of Western Cape. He is also the lead developer from the (mainly African) e-learning environment Chisimba. We met each other before shortly, but now that Prof. Georges Eisendrath invited us to work together on this presentation, I had the real pleasure to spend a week with Paul. I consider Paul a highly skilled hacker (in the original sense ofcourse) with a heart for the “right” technologies.
Since the first of February I no longer work as the head of the (no longer existing) Educational Innovation Center of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. I still have my 30% professorship at the same university. I’m preparing an international project and I might start with a consultancy company if there proves to be enough demand for consultancy about learning technologies, free & open technologies, (educational) innovation, … In the meantime I’ll increase my contributions to University Development through VLIR-UOS and I’m open for any new projects. Contact me if interested
Today Chamilo, a new e-learning & collaboration software project, was announced. Chamilo is a fork from Dokeos. Over the last years, the Dokeos community seems to have grown much faster than the Dokeos company. Seen from the perspective from at least many community members, the community wanted more freedom, while the company took more control. Free Software protects the freedoms of both users and developers. These freedoms allowed the original Claroline author Thomas Depraetere in 2004 to fork Claroline into Dokeos, and these freedoms allow the community now to fork Dokeos into Chamilo. Maybe that’s more competition. But in the Free & Open Source Software universe competition most often leads to survival of the fittest and stronger projects! Still, with these 3 Open Source projects now sharing a common history and code base, I would hope for some collaboration opportunities!
Mainstream press keeps flooding us with a story which seems to have its origin in this 4 months old (!) article from Freakbits. Newspapers seem to copy the story from each other with increasingly absurd titles such as ‘Kamasutra most pirated e-book of 2009′. As this places an unfair criminal stigma on downloaders, it leaves me to wonder: does the mainstream press not understand copyright? Or do they have a hidden agenda with such propaganda?
The Kamasutra is almost two millennia old. Nobody talked about copyrights at that time, but even according to today’s draconian copyright laws this work is since long in the public domain. This means that everybody can download, share and adapt this work legally. The Kamasutra and its translations is one of the 30.000 public domain books you can download at the Project Gutenberg. I don’t know if the Kamasutra books circulating on BitTorrent are such free versions or copyrighted versions, and I found nobody writing about this difference. Civilized societies have the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ rule. And how fair is it if publishers mass produce copies of a public domain book, add a copyright because of the foreword or translation, and then complain about individuals that make one copy for private use?
The Kama Sutra is not the only public domain book people are searching for: also the works of Leonardo Da Vinci are in the top ten. So if newspapers would be less clueless or unfair, the tone and titles of their articles could be something like: ‘Downloaders most interested in public domain books’. Because that is the fact that pleases me, together with the fact that people seem to search for books that can better their lives. Please keep the word pirate for the real criminals.
I’m invited for the scientific committee and a keynote presentation at the ATEE (Association for Teacher Education in Europe) winter conference in Prague, February 2010. The conference theme is “Early Years, Primary Education and ICT”. This is the title and abstract of my keynote:
What can we learn from One Laptop Per Child Projects?
Five years ago, Prof. Nicholas Negroponte announced the “One Laptop Per Child” idea. The mission of the non-profit OLPC foundation is to give the children of developing countries better opportunities to explore and learn by means of a cheap Internet laptop (the XO). The laptop and software is specifically designed according to constructionist learning theories and aimed at primary education. Many critical voices dismissed these ideas as undesirable and impossible. Why laptops while there is a shortage of food, teachers and electricity? Why a laptop per child instead of a few computers per school or class? Isn’t this a form of neo-colonialism?
Whether today OLPC is a failure or a success remains in the eye of the beholder. The projected milestones proved too optimistic. The XO laptop still costs around $188 instead of the projected $100. Over the last two years, “only” one million XO laptops are rolled out in 40 countries. The impact on the computer industry is very visible: the XO gave inspiration to a dozen cheap netbook models, increasingly popular at least in the developed world. The impact on education and the developing world is less visible. Two years of pilot projects and national deployments is understandably short for long term research evidence. Establishing a deployment is hard, but the first results are promising. Teachers report that the children are more motivated to learn, read and write and that they do so more accurately. The children teach each other and their parents what they learned. The one laptop per child ratio, the children’s ownership and the fact that they can take the XO home seem to have indeed the desired benefits of equal access (no matter the gender, competencies or socio-economic status) and low incidences of theft or maintenance needs. The children are most positive about the Internet connection, which gives them a window on the world, not only for exploring, but also for expressing themselves. The laptops and the software seem indeed well designed to allow a lot of learning by self-exploration. Of course many things are hardly self-discoverable, and the quality of learning remains mainly influenced by the teacher’s design of learning scenarios. Teacher training plays a crucial role, not only about the laptop and the software, but mainly about learning methodologies that fit best with these technologies (and today’s society).
The OLPC foundation focuses on developing countries, where the need is highest. But the demand for similar projects in developed countries is rising. The challenges are smaller in countries with good education and good availability of ICT. This means however that the increase of learning efficiency can be expected to be smaller. Recently, the first small pilot projects in Europe have started. These projects deserve the attention of European teachers, teacher educators and researchers.
I’ve bookmarked the most relevant OLPC reports and evaluations in my Diigo library. I’m still preparing the presentation, so contact me if you want yours or other additional OLPC reports and evaluations shared with the European Teacher Educators community!
The 8th Ethical Forum of the University Foundation will be held in Brussels, November 19th 2009. The topic is “The University in the age of Google and Wikipedia.
New potentials, new threats, new duties.”
Since they ask short reactions to the question “Should we resist or should we expand the role of Google, Wikipedia and the like in the life of our universities? Why? How?” I prepared the following:
Let’s integrate our academic knowledge into the global brain!
Prof. dr. F. Questier, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Google, Wikipedia and the like have become cornerstones of our information society. Their disruptive innovations were impossible without flirting with the boundaries of privacy and copyright laws. We should remain very critical and teach that even ‘don’t be evil’ Google and non-profit Wikipedia have their limitations and related risks. We should teach what is good and what is bad scholar use of these tools. Wikipedia and Google have proven that mass collaboration and innovative use of web & user data can create services that tend towards collective intelligence. In a certain sense they have become complimentary to the academic knowledge and practices. More important than the question about the role of these internet services in universities is the question about the role of universities in this new collective intelligence. Let’s unlock the academic knowledge by embracing open innovation, open access, open learning materials, open standards and free & open software. Let’s teach our students to be not only knowledge consumers and producers, but also knowledge publishers. Today it’s not enough to publish single resources, such articles and books. We have to integrate our academic knowledge into the global brain.
My reaction is maybe a bit too general, but I found it difficult to go more specific, without loosing my general perspective, in the 5-15 lines asked.
Disclaimer: I have no affilitations with Google or Wikipedia. Yes, I’m a user of their services; I was contacted by Google for a job offer; and I contributed to Wikipedia and similar projects such as Wikibooks (Educational Technology course book).
Together with Frits Hoff from the Openwijs.nl foundation, I was invited to Aruba for consultancy around ‘One Laptop Per Child‘ projects. We discussed with the minister of education, parliament members, directors from educational networks, the University of Aruba, and the teachers & parents of two schools that want to start OLPC pilot projects. My focus was on the training & coaching for teachers, and monitoring & evaluation of such innovation projects. All stakeholders were very enthusiastic and we got nice press coverage (at least 3 news paper articles [1, 2, 3], 1 press website, 1 radio and 2 tv transmissions). Pilot projects should start in january, and scaling up to all childeren in primary school starts hopefully next school year. Thanks to Kiwanis Club of Palm Beach for sponsoring our travel and stay.
See my Aruba pictures.
We visited Marie-Anne during her postdoc at Harvard University. We combined the visit with a road trip across 5 states of the American East-Coast and Canada. A very nice 2000km along Cambridge, Greenfield, Bennington, Plattsburgh, Montreal, Quebec, Boischatel, Montmorency, Berthierville, Louiseville, Trois Rivieres, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, Beauceville, Parlin Pond, Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, Camden, Rockland, Portland, Ogunquit, Hampton, Boston, …
See our 288/198 USA/Canada photos.
The design of this so called $100 laptop for kids from the developing world dates from 2006. I played with it at FOSDEM 2007, while it was still in preview. Since then it has started the minilaptop ‘netbook ‘ revolution. And while it is 3 years old, it still has many innovative concepts which are not yet common in other laptops. Many laudatios have been written, but let me share two features which I still appreciate: When there is enough light (or too much light for other laptops), the screen is very readable with the back-light switched off. This is a big energy saver. And while you are only reading the screen, the operating system (Fedora Linux) powers down most of the laptop components. It’s really impressive to see the power led go on and off while the screen remains powered. Netto result: between 0.3 and 8W is enough for the OLPC, while my other laptop consumes often 40W. The day I forgot my OLPC power supply, I could use another one from a dead Sony walkman with power specs (5.4W) lower than any other reported usable power supplies (see my contributions at the OLPC wiki).
Frits Hoff suggested me two current OLPC issues (mainly in the developed world) to think about: Flash support and speed improvements. (continue reading…)
I gave a workshop about ‘FREE AND OPEN Source Software, Licenses, Technologies, Scientific Publications, Courseware, …’ (download PDF – 111 slides) in the framework of the International Training Program on INFORMATION.
I’m PhD jury member for Sofie Timmers from the University of Ghent.
Her thesis is entitled “Implementation of an innovative pharmaceutical curriculum: analysis of the impact on readiness for pharmacy profession”
We organize our ““eight day of educational innovation / 8ste dag van de onderwijsvernieuwing”. The central theme was lifelong learning.