The Longest Now


Hacking Education with Hewlett’s OER Grantees
Wednesday April 18th 2012, 11:32 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,international,meta,popular demand

A few months ago, Colin Maclay got me thinking about how to make this year’s Hewlett Foundation OER grantees meeting different in good ways. Last week I spend three days at the event, and was honored to meet the many remarkable people and projects there. I have been to one of the past grantee meetings, and it is a warm family of practice — I knew many of the groups and people in the room through my own work in open education. Two newcomers worth special note:

The organization I was happiest to meet was the Saylor Foundation — I have been a fan of theirs since discovering them last year; their work addresses the heart of a core problem in the world of educational resources: a free comprehensive collection of texts drawn from all manner of sources — whatever is useful and to hand. Aside from the typical modern-charity peccadillo of feeling organizational ownership of what is a universal mission, and articulating a vision in which they accomplish it through sweat and brand, I find their approach humble and excellent.

My favorite invitee was CoolCatTeacher Vicki Davis, who shared some pointed advice and wit, contributed in most of the sessions I attended, and shared my penchant for live transcription. (We commiserated about how funny it was to be at an event highlighting collaborative creation, where most attendees had computers but were shy of using etherpads or shared docs.) She was not a grantee; Berkman, in their take on this rotating annual event, invited about a quarter of the total guests from a variety of backgrounds, for pursuing in their own way more universal access to education. Her prolific writing and multitasking online, has inspired me to spend much more time writing. But more on that in a future post.

I also met the pedagogy lead for Intel’s global education program – a teacher full of good ideas and strong support for making OER the norm in primary school – and part of the Metalab team working on narrative tools.

I spoke to the grantees about the needs of content Builders, along with Hal Abelson and Ahrash Bissell, and took part in a variety of brainstorming sessions. My favorite moment was a debate about whether free knowledge and educational resources are (as I maintain) civic infrastructure, worth investment by cities and locales the way roads and libraries and wiring are. An unresolved question there: how a local government would identify what part of that global problem is theirs to locally provide or fund.

On Friday I helped plan and run a Hack Day after the traditional meeting ended, something new for this sort of gathering. It was great fun, and refreshing after a few days of simply talking to move one or two ideas closer to realization. I wish most of every conference were like this, since we still managed to get in our share of discussion, presentation, show & tell, and otherwise sharing inspiration. Thanks to the Berkman team for their creativity in the organization, and to the organizers for inviting me to take part. Open education is an idea ready for global adoption, and one we should pursue mindfully, in norm and nuance, as a society.



Ruby for Kids
Monday March 19th 2012, 7:53 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,popular demand

Richly red, complementing the joys of tryruby and the like.



Blikstein auf stein: constructionist brilliance
Wednesday June 15th 2011, 6:13 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,indescribable

Brows the syllabus and photos from the amazing course Human-Computer Interaction +Rapid Prototyping +Learning Sciences + Constructionism + Critical Pedagogy which is given by Paulo Blikstein at Stanford’s beyond bits and atoms group.  Does that sound like something you’d be interested in doing in a town near you?

It something in between the Media Lab’s lifelong kindergarden group, fablabs, and an peruvian olpc robotics lab, for grad students.

three students hacking on the inside of small box on the ground, at the same time

Working inside the box



Introducing Afghan families to Wikipedia

OLPC Afghanistan currently works with school in Kabul, Jalalabad, Herat, and Kandahar.   This is one of our most politically complex and interesting deployments.  The initial schools involved tend to be on the wealthy side, but are still often in areas with poor power and connectivity.

Jalalabad also houses Afghanistan’s only FabLab – which set up the first “FabFi” mesh network to serve the surrounding community.  After the deployment of OLPC laptops to a local school there, families began to have access to the Internet, and to Wikipedia, for the first time.  Here are three generations of one family, outside on their roof, browsing Wikipedia together:

Afghan family browsing Wikipedia together outside

An Afghan family browses Wikipedia together outside

(As it happens, one of the university students who helped localize the software into Dari and Pashto is also a Wikipedian.)

Over a year after that deployment finished, I am working with FabLab folk to figure out what a similar lab and community wifi setup might look like in Herat, where we also have an OLPC school and may add another.  They’re refreshingly fun and competent people to work with, and full of great stories about young Afghans taking interesting ideas and running with them, turning them into amazing art projects or montages or startups.   Any city trying out cool new technical innovations should have a fablab to amplify the joys of being on the cutting edge.

Today we have 4,000 families connected to eachother and to the Internet in Afghanistan through OLPC; we hope to have thousands more by the end of the year.  And now I’m wondering if we can get fablabs started in the US cities where there are significant OLPC projects.



Mozilla’s Drummers: Drumbeat Barcelona, November 3-5
Thursday August 12th 2010, 2:31 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,international,Uncategorized,wikipedia

Drumbeat is a new Mozilla umbrella project, consolidating its efforts to support and enhance the open web — the free and transparent elements of the Web that we love and rely on.   It combines earlier work on One Web Day, educational outreach, and direct grants to developers improving the free tools needed to expand the web.

The first global Drumbeat Festival will be held in Barcelona on November 3-5, and creators everywhere are invited.   I have been part of local Drumbeat events in New England this summer (run by Ben and Dharmishta), where the pervasive interest in learning was wonderful and fascinating.   I can’t wait to see a larger festival come together.

This year’s theme is Learning, Freedom and the Web. The open nature of the internet is revolutionizing how we learn, and Drumbeat welcomes teachers, learners and technologists from around the world who are at the heart of this revolution.

Join us in Barcelona for three days of making, teaching, hacking, inventing and shaping the future of education and the web.

Drumbeat Festival 2010: Barcelona Nov 3-5

Drumbeat Festival 2010: Barcelona Nov 3-5

Who will be there?

The festival is designed for makers, writers, hackers — on creation more than discussion.   There are currently over 100 confirmed participants, including:

Mitchell Baker, Mozilla’s Chief Lizard Wrangler
Manuel Castells, Open University of Catalonia
Joi Ito, Creative Commons
Anya Kamenetz, author, DIY U
Gever Tulley, Tinkering School
Mary Lou Forward, OpenCourseWare Consortium
Brian Behlendorf, Apache Foundation
Connie Yowell, MacArthur Foundation
Johannes Grenzfurthner, monochrom / metalab

A Festival!  Should I bring my best hat?

Hat, HUD, musical instrument… Drumbeat is not your typical conference festival.  Imagine a folk festival combined with a teach-in with a dash of outstanding oratory for good measure. That’s the plan.

You’ll have a chance to propose and invent activities throughout the festival. You can read a small sample of planned activities to get your creative essences flowing.

How do I sign up?

Registration opens on August 25.  You will also be able to apply for a travel scholarship, propose activities, or offer to volunteer.  If you are not already on our email list, you can sign up now.  Reminders will be sent out when registration opens.

Meanwhile, please spread the word – encourage your friends and colleagues to sign up for announcements, start discussing what you’d like to invent or create while there and what you might show off!



Long-term challenges in education
Wednesday September 02nd 2009, 6:56 am
Filed under: chain-gang,international,metrics,Uncategorized

Mitchell Charity recently quoted to me from Lant Pritchett‘s essay, “Long-Term Global Challenges in education: Are There Feasible Steps Today?” – Ch.3 of RAND’s Shaping Tomorrow Today: Near-Term Steps Towards Long-Term Goals.

A fun quote:

So, a key question is, “Is each annual 100 million–strong cohort emerging from completion of basic education adequately equipped for its lifelong participation in the relevant society, polity, and economy?” The answer is, “No one has the slightest idea.” Really. Not the slightest idea[…]

I wonder how RAND chooses the areas it tackles for long-term global planning.  How does one go about finding ‘documents like this’ (e.g., long-term plans for educational purpose) in a meaningful way?  Tony Pryor, call your office.




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