We're turning the digital divide into digital dividends using free content and open networks. We hope you can help us.
What is WikiEducator?
WikiEducator is a website (www.wikieducator.org) that provides free eLearning content that anyone can edit and use. Hosted by COL, WikiEducator was launched earlier this year. After being introduced at the Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC) meeting in Mauritius in August 2006, WikiEducator is now being used extensively for the development of educational resources.
What is the role of WikiEducator?
WikiEducator is an evolving community focused on collaboration in:
- planning of education projects linked with the development of free content
- development of free content on WikiEducator for eLearning
- working on building open education resources (OERs) on how to create OERs
- networking on funding proposals developed as free content
Who can use WikiEducator?
Anyone can edit content and make contributions. Use of WikiEducator is free, and users don't need a high level of technical skills.
How does one use WikiEducator?
Users must create an account, which allows you to log in to WikiEducator. You are free to read content, re-distribute it and make improvements or adaptations. WikiEducator tracks changes, so you can see how materials have been edited and by whom.
WikiEducator uses Mediawiki the same open source software platform as Wikipedia -- the free online encyclopedia that is among the top 20 most visited websites in the world. WikiEducator is hosted by COL but shares the "wiki" philosophy of openness, inclusion and sharing of knowledge. WikiEducator is based on several beliefs:
- social inclusion and the participation of all people in our networked society
- the freedom of all educators to teach with the technologies and contents of their choice (seen in WikiEducator's commitment to free/libre and Open Source technology tools and free content)
- educational content is unique. By working together we can improve the technologies we use as well as the reusability of digital learning resources
- with a forward-looking disposition we can work together to find appropriate and sustainable solutions for eLearning futures.
Who's behind WikiEducator?
The hosting of WikiEducator is financed by COL. While some community nodes like the VUSSC have a strong Commonwealth focus, WikiEducator is open to anyone who shares the vision of open content. Wayne Mackintosh of COL, an educator and founding project leader of the eXe project (http:\\exelearning.org), initiated WikiEducator in response to the need to find innovative yet practical solutions to evolving eLearning practice.
Why is WikiEducator important?
Social software is changing how we record, access, share and use knowledge. COL believes WikiEducator will radically expand free learning content and vastly improve access to education in countries of the Commonwealth. The advantages of WikiEducator lie in its accessibility and simplicity. Users can collaborate without consideration for travel, communicating across different time zones or dealing with differences in technology.
How is WikiEducator being used now?
WikiEducator is being used mainly for two projects:
- Developing learning content for Virtual University for Small State of the Commonwealth (VUSSC). A "bootcamp" in Mauritius in August 2006 introduced educators from 13 small states of the Commonwealth to WikiEducator. The meeting participants began collaborating on learning materials for courses in tourism and entrepreneurship at the meeting and have continued upon their return home. These courses are suitable for use in small states; users can adapt them to make them relevant for their environment.
- Resources to support the professional development of educators. WikiEducator provides users with free access to eLearning resources. COL is releasing materials such as its comprehensive eLearning Guide under a free content license. This means people use the guide and add to it.
But WikiEducator certainly isn't limited to these two uses. Anyone who wants to create, edit or use learning content is welcome to become part of WikiEducator. Use of WikiEducator will grow exponentially taking into account the current growth rate of page visits to the site.
Sidebar: The Principles of Free Content
Education needs to be in the commons - it's about the good of society. We all benefit when essential learning materials are used freely. WikiEducator is comitted to the principles of the free content and expression definition (http://freedomdefined.org/), which is:
- the freedom to study the work and to apply knowledge acquired from it
- the freedom to redistribute copies, in whole or in part, of the information or expression
- the fredom to make improvements or other changes, and to release modified copies
Free/Libre and Open Source Software for Education in Africa (FLOSS4Edu) is an example of an initiative that is moving forward on WikiEducator. FLOSS4Edu is aimed at addressing several challenges:
- the absence of free content in African schools
- the lack of skills and knowledge to use Free/Libre Open Source Software technologies
- access to FLOSS resources given the high cost of bandwidth and shortage of FLOSS distribution channels
FLOSS4Edu is still in the early phase and will benefit from participation from members of the community. WikiEducator has issued an open invitation for the community to become involved in FLOSS4Edu and provides a forum for interested parties to contribute to this important initiative.