Sharing, not just planning to share – Crowdsourcing OER Search for Africa

I am hoping that Dave Cormier will write this up fully, as it was his idea for which he deserves full credit, but the eleganceand simplicity of it, coupled with the real need it hopes to serve, compelled me to post something right away in hopes of helping it get going.

As I understand it, after Catherine Ngugi’s powerful opening keynote at Open Education ’09, Dave spent some time chatting with Catherine, in which he came to learn that there was a person tasked with locating useful open resources for faculty but that this was an overwhelming task. Dave, being Dave, immediately saw the potential for our existing networks to pitch in, sharing as we already do, and set about creating a twitter account, findanoerafrica to send out requests to the community for help finding appropriate resources. The idea was hatched on Wednesday and announced this Friday morning.

Only time will tell if it works and how effect it is. You can help, really easily. If you use twitter, then follow findanoerafrica and basically respond in the helpful way you already do. The difference being you’ll be helping someone who is in turn supporting hundreds of educators. The beauty – it isn’t asking you to do anything you’re not already doing, and the cost was essentially zero. Obviously, this is not going to solve all the worlds ills, but it’s one of those little steps to maybe make it better than it was. Dave – your energy and enthusiasm are both infectious and inspiring. Getting to hang with you this week in Vancouver has definitely been one of the highlights for me. – SWL

Ulises Ali Mejias on “The Tyranny of Nodes”

The only reason I don’t recommend reading Ulises Ali Mejias’s Ideant is that you may never get back to work, so deep and thought provoking do I find his essays (calling them posts would seem a slight). But if you have the heart, head and time to have followed some of Stephen’s longer posts essays, then you must read these as well. These represent for me the two intellectual views on networks between which I currently vascillate (though careen would likely be the better word).

When Ulises writes in conclusion that while “self-interest might be a functional principle to organize networks … it might not be sustainable as the basis for a social ethics, which requires a degree of selfless engagement” he gives word to a fear that has been nagging me since I first heard Stephen disparage “networks of proximity” and have myself tried to give feeble voice to in posts like this one on Canada day and in conversation with other edubloggers. What I appreciate so much about Ulises’ piece as I read it was that it was not demonizing networks nor underplaying their power, but instead questioning what we lose in adopting them as a governing metaphor (and more, an actual organizing principle).

What I’m left with, though, is the same question I feel in the face of my children’s over-mediatized future, which is not how to make it go away, as I don’t think it ever will, but instead if there are ways in which we can adopt the technologies (and ways of being that we can adopt that aren’t on the network) to help us, if not evade, at least amend, this ‘tyrrany.’ Like I said, careening!!! – SWL

“A House Half Built” – Happy Canada Day

If you’ve never read it before, I highly recommend The Walrus as one of the best Canadian “general interest” print mags out there (they post back issues online). In the June issue they published a piece by former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow titled “A House Half Built” on the shaky future of Canadian federalism that I thought to point to, in part because of our national holiday tomorrow, and in part because I was reminded of it again by this recent discussion on Ulises Mejias blog Ideant about “Socialist Software”.

The part of Romanov’s piece that stuck in my mind was actually not by him, but a quote by former Saskatchewan deputy Attorney General, John Whyte:

“A nation is built when the communities that comprise it make commitments to it, when they forego choices and opportunities on behalf of a nation…when the communities that comprise it make compromises, when they offer each other guarantees, when they make transfers, and perhaps most pointedly, when they receive from others the benefits of national solidarity. The threads of a thousand acts of accommodation are the fabric of a nation….”

Now if I was really smart I would somehow connect this back to the great discussion that unfolded on Ideant, but I’m not, and I have to go enjoy my July long weekend (plus our washer just exploded and we’ve water all over the basement, oy vey!). But I am left with a nagging feeling that the social interactions fostered by ‘social software’ are all too solipsistic, or at best are an “echo chamber,” and that the way in which we interface with them, sitting in front of screens typing away, allows us a safety that one does not get when there is real territory, real resources, real people involved, staring you in the face. But then I’m also someone who always thought Samuel Johnson’s refutation of Berkely was pretty good too.SWL

Worth Reading – The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism and its Discussions

Apologies if you’ve seen this too many times now, but it is really worth the read. Actually, the important bit is not just the initial article by Jaron Lanier (“DIGITAL MAOISM:
The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism
“, though you do have to read it for the rest to make sense) but more the ensuing discussion by the likes of Yochai Benkler, Clay Shirky, Esther Dyson, Jimmy Wales, George Dyson, and Howard Rheingold.

I especially liked Benkler’s, Shirky’s and Dyson’s responses. Lanier’s piece seems shaky, and, as a number of commentators point out, over-generalizes and actually mis-characterizes Wikipedia’s processes. And yet his piece still resonates with many of the commentators because it picks up on both over-hyped terms (the “hive mind”) and some real phenomenom of both the web and user generated content and challenges us to think about them. What emerges is some really interesting commentary on the individual in the networked world, collective action, collectivism, voting versus persuasion and bottom up versus top-down systems that is incredibly pertinent to those of us trying to envision and build new technologies for learning, thinking and collaborating. – SWL

Moodle Forum – Blogs, Forums and the nature of discussion

One of the things I love about the Moodle community is that, far more than almost any of the other open source CMS, they seem to have really rich discussions about the pedagogical uses of the tools they are building, not just their functionality utility or technical challenges (AND, you can even view them as a Guest if you are adverse to new accounts). And this particular one is no different – starting with a post from Moodle’s founder, Martin Dougiamas, this thread (55 posts long in 2 weeks!) discusses some of the ins and outs of blogs versus discussion forums, and starts to tackle the issue in light of the secured environment that CMS like Moodle provide, and that in many contexts (read K-12) likely cannot be dispensed with. The Blog feature itself is promised in an upcoming (1.6) release, but a demo can already be seen. – SWL