A Vision for the Use of WikiEducator for Education in the Developing World
In developing countries there are millions of young people looking for education as precondition for better chances in life. A certain percentage of them go to school, schools of more or less quality, striving for exams of more or less value. Primary education for all is tried to be granted in many countries, but secondary education is available only to an extent that is by far not covering the urgent need. And tertiary education even is mostly accessible only to a small privileged group.
Here comes in the potential of the Computer as instructional device. Given a quick technical development with cheaper and better machines, higher connectivity and more bandwidth, given political and economic processes that create new ICT facilities (Information and Communication Technologies) for the populations, there will raise numerous public and private initiatives to bridge the digital divide. The creation of telecenters, information access points and cybercafés will multiply. The technological development will continue to be seen as a driving force of development in general.
But there are well known barriers to instruction using the Internet such as information overflow and inadequate materials. Schools have possibilities to overcome them by employing trained teachers that know to navigate well, but even this is not always given. As result, teachers simply do not use the computer for tuition.
Not being in school and being exposed to the Internet without guidance, youngsters will use the computer for leisure only or even get addicted to games or pornography.
To cover the overwhelming need for education, distance education will continue to gain importance, not only in the tertiary but increasingly in the secondary and primary sector. Providers of distance education as well as school educators need adequate information sources to design their courses, given the background of low budgets that do not allow buying or even producing modern textbooks. These sources will finally have to cover the whole curriculum in order to meet a great variety of learner needs.
New forms of more learner centred pedagogies will be applied and contribute to a paradigm shift in education:
- 1) Away from conventional show-and-tell methods that see the student as receiver of instruction towards more constructivist methods that enable groups of learners to take over responsibility for their learning processes and help them to actively broaden their subject knowledge by offering the right information in the right form at the right moment.
- 2) Away from the use of educational materials produced for the needs of learners in the industrialized world towards locally produced materials respecting native languages and cultures of various peoples in the developing world.
Requirements for learning materials
The resources should be
- free of charge, as in developing countries neither schools nor out of school learners in general can afford to buy commercial learning materials;
- free to use, modify and adapt, to enable educators to re-contextualise and re-purpose content for local needs;
- independent of ideology and commercial interest
- accessible, using a technology and language that is understood by learners;
- on a scientific basis
- coherent to a certain extent. That means it must be easy to navigate through it and not get lost. Especially in subjects with strong inherent structure like mathematics or physics is has to be in a way linear, in order to allow learners to build on previous learning experiences.
- open and flexible, as knowledge production today is quick and users have to and want to contribute, and as learners are varied and educators have to always adapt the information to their needs and preconditions, for example their cultural, social and educational background;
- reliable, that means content should be well researched and free of mistakes so that learners can have confidence in the truth of the given facts. This excludes, for example, interpretations that are not marked as being an interpretation;
- appealing, in order to facilitate learning. The audience will be mainly young folk that is already used to a certain degree of entertainment. If the content is presented in a dry and stiff way, they will lose their interest;
- with relation to everyday life experiences of the learners. In order to gain well founded constructions, learners have to build on experiences that are already made and continue to deepen, amplify or abstract them;
- able to develop into a multimedia environment on the longer run as there are different types of learners, such as visual, audio or tactile, and as the medium of transport of information should be able to vary according to content (text, voice, diagram, picture, audio slide show, video, simulation, quizzes etc.). Limitations of bandwidth will be overcome in the near future;
- interoperable, to be used in various systems or learning environments, like learning management systems;
- ready for print: It should be easy to draw classroom handouts and lessons in print format, especially for pupils in the developing world who neither have textbooks nor access to computers or even the Internet.
Ideas for learner support
Yet a young person exposed to an even well organized information source will quickly get lost, bored ore disappointed if there is no personal guidance.
These forms of guidance could be useful:
- Inherent guidance by a local learner group: People should be encouraged to form homogeneous local learner groups that take the same course at the same time together and support each other. For example, in a school class, the teacher can easily induce the forming of such groups.
- Local learner groups can raise personal motivation immensely as group members stabilize as well as challenge each other.
- Tele-guidance through a provider of distance education: With open source learning management systems like for example, Moodle, tele-schools and private distance education enterprises will be able to offer courses at relatively low cost. The better organized the information source, the easier, cheaper and thus more frequent the delivery. Here takes place the main adoption to the needs of the learners. Example: A group of out-of-school learners wants to prepare for an external exam in junior secondary education still needs more training in algebra.
- Networking: Learner groups should network with other learning groups, for, example, through already existing school networks.
- Collaborative authoring: Learners who have already achieved a certain level of understanding of their subject can take part in the collaborative authoring of knowledge. They can add personal examples or new problems and tasks, illustrate and comment on the already existing material, or even add new features.
Through all these methods of learning, a high identification and motivation for the subject matter is achieved, as well as a permanent challenge to get active and even creative, and in this way bring life into the just assimilated knowledge. The learning of pure facts should thus remain only a small part in a broad educational process.