Tectonic shift think tank/Wayne's wishlist

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Kenya's request

Dr Esther Kakonge from the Ministry of Education in Kenya asked me to find ways in which free content could help the children in Kenya who will not have the privilege of a secondary school education.

I promised that I would find a way. This meeting is a step in honoring my promise.

The challenge

A Village school in the Sudan, This is not Kenya - but access challenges are not dissimilar
The children in this village school are privileged. They have access to primary school education. The majority of children in this picture will not see the "walls" of a secondary school classroom in their lives. I've made a promise to help these children with free content.
  • In Kenya next year - 52 percent of the children of secondary school going age will not have the privilege of attending school - not too mention all those before them that didn't have this opportunity
  • The cost of sending a child to secondary school is about 30% of the average per capita income - if you have three children like myself, you won't be able to live
  • The children do not have access to the Internet
  • The teacher may be able to visit an Internet cafe or a multipurpose community center - usually traveling considerable distances to do so
  • Kenya is a learning society and the children are yearning for opportunities to learn.

There is simply not enough money to build the schools required to tackle this deficit nor will we be able to train enough teachers. So we need to think about innovative approaches - even if that means the de-institutionalisation of education as we have come to know this in the industrialised world. Free content is the only viable alternative.

These figures would be true for most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Kenya is better off than most. If you're interested in some of the figures on the content you can peruse the ICT4Africa survey results.

What do we need

Content

We need:

  1. A free curriculum by 2015, in achieving this we must
    • Radically scale-up the rate of free content production - the only way to do this is by mass-collaboration
    • Build capacity among local teachers so that they become equal participants through projects like FLOSS4Edu and Learning4Content
    • Build solutions based on the research and experience of distance education with particular regards to the unique pedagogy of asynchronous learning - in practical terms the integration of "instructional devices" in our content
  2. Must increase the return on investment of existing free content for example converting Wikipedia articles into independent study materials incorporating iDevices. In achieving this we must:
    • Only focus on licenses that meet the requirements of the [Free Cultural Works Definition] because these are philosophically compatible with our aims;
    • Remove legal impediments to mixing-and-matching free content licenses

Teachers

For teachers we must:

  1. Lower the initial barriers of participation, specifically looking at rich text editing environments for the wiki
  2. We must lower the cost-benefit imbalances - that is the cost in terms of time to remix a resource must be less than the time to create a new one. This has implications for:
    • Finding relevant materials - namely enhanced search capabilities for MW building on what we have in the form of categories and possibly more sophisticated ontologies found in Omegawiki;
    • Improve communication tools required for the collaborative development of learning resources through structured communication like LiquidThreads
    • Understand the need for immediacy among teachers to generate digital mash-ups. They are pressed for time and want to easily incorporate rich media like the Youtubes model. We need server side conversion of proprietary media formats into Ogg Vorbis for later editing and immediate Web-based player technologies in MW
  3. We must provide off line editing capabilities using free software tools that use iDevices, for example:
    • Getting a seamless import/export between eXe and MW
    • More sophisticated versioning so that offline editing can be synced with online collaboration
    • Widen the range of client side tools that can be used for localistation of content, for example a MW export for Open Office.

Learners

We must:

  1. Widen access to free content materials especially for those children who do not have access to the Internet - this requires
    • A Media Wiki ==> pdf conversion tool which produce print-ready independent study guides
    • More sophisticated exports using XML - for example in the case of a print export, an CDROM image is produced for all multi-media contained in the materials with "intelligent" referencing of the media in the print version, for example: "Watch Video Clip 1.1 on your CD. Or in the case of Multi-Choice Questions the answers and feedback are printed as an Annexure in the pdf.

Education community

In a sense this refers to the (de)institutionalisation of education as we know it. I envisage children who do not have the priviledge of attending secondary school learning independently using free content materials. Community members assist in providing affective support and some structure to the learning. This would need:

  1. Development of free content guides on supporting free content learners;
  2. Mechanisms to link teaching philanthropists all over the world who are prepared to donate 2 hours a week to provide learning support for learning groups. Learners could meet once a week at a community centre and with the help of VOIP technologies we can offer learning support. So we need technologies to identify and link the philanthropists with the learners. We technologies that can support interactions.
  3. We need to work with national ministries to set up assessment and accreditation strategies for free content learners.
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