Archive for March, 2008

Week 5: Wikipedia and Wikimedia

March 28, 2008

Jimmy Wales talking about Wikipedia.


I hadn’t been aware of the amount of work carried out by people in different roles that lies behind the Wikipedia. I still don’t have a grasp on how new material is produced and finds its way to the Wikipedia but it is becoming clearer. Unfortunately, when I start getting a grip on things a lot of technical stuff appears on the page and throws me off. As long as the conversation is about policy, regarding matters of quality assurance, that is accuracy and reliability of content, I can follow the reasoning. However, I haven’t got a clue when it comes to codes, tags and anything that has to do with the technical side of things.


I was fascinated by the number of Wiki projects that are going on…

  • 1 Wikipedia
  • 2 Wiktionary
  • 3 Wikiquote
  • 4 Wikibooks
  • 5 Wikisource
  • 6 Wikispecies
  • 7 Wikinews
  • 8 Wikiversity
  • 9 Wikimedia Commons
  • 10 Related projects
  • In The Hidden Order of Wikipedia by Viégas, Wattenber and McKeon the procedural side of Wikipedia is examined. Their conclusion is that “many aspects of wiki technology lend themselves to the collective creation of of formalized process and policy.


    What impact will free culture and Wikimedia movements have on educational resources and the future of education in general? It is hard to separate aspects of Wikimedia movements and free culture from ICT in general as some elements are integral to both. An interesting question is: What is culture’s role in society? However, answering that question does not fall within the scope of this blogpost ( thank goodness!). Free culture and Wikimedia movements make culture accessible, participatory and enable a greater rate of synthesis.  There is also the potential for increasing the quantity and quality of the resources as well as developing new resources.


    When it comes to the impact on the future of education there are several observations that can be made though there are three that I find particularly interesting.


    Students will be expected to become active both as learners and as producers. This will empower students but increase their responsibility for their own learning. The consequence of this will be the need for new systems for the validation of knowledge as more and more of what people “know” will be knowledge that they have acquired in their quest for knowledge outside of the formal education system.


    The role of the teacher will change as possibilities to exchange, borrow, adapt and produce materials becomes easier but also because students will approach learning in a differnet way. Elements of the movement such as process, democracy and self-regulation should have a spill over effect that can be useful in other areas.


    A fascinating aspect is the impact on developing countries.  Time won’t have to be wasted in reinventing the wheel. Tools are in place tthat can be used for producing and adapting resources to local needs and environments. Where the price of books may be prohibitive, wikimedia can help fill the void.  I could go on and draw some conclusions such as the wikimedia movement will lead to world peace but I think that I’d better stop here!



    Week 4: Copyright and Alternatives

    March 26, 2008

    The Idea of Copyright- History of copyright law from Wikipedia

    Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig

    Towards a Global Learning Comons: ccLearn, by Ahrash Bissell and Jamie Boyle.

    Swedish copyright law

    History of Copyright

    The Statute of Anne 1709, regarded as the first copyright law, gave for the first time the author rights for a fixed period (28 years). This was followed by the Berne Convention in 1887 that established the recognition of copyright amongst several sovereign nations setting out the scope of copyright protection which is still in force today. According to the Berne Convention an author does not have to actively register or otherwise apply for a copyright to be applied to the work. As soon as the work is written or recorded in some physical medium its author is automatically granted exclusive rights to the distribution of the the work and any derivative works unless the author explicitly disclaims them or until the copyright expires. In the beginning it was a legal concept covering books but now it has grown to having a significant effect on sound recordings, films, photographs, software and architectural works.


    Technology has produced the possibility for new controversies regarding copyright in areas such as software, databases, database rights, the internet and digitised works in general. Some commentators argue that digital copyright is fundamentally different and is difficult to enforce and others have argued that the Internet undermines the economic rationale for copyright. Since copyright is as it is primarily for historical reasons connected to the technology of yesterday it seems that it is high time to re-evaluate copyright law.

     Global Learning Commons

    Creative Commons (CC) licenses give creators a variety of licensing tools that allow them to make their work availble to the public on generous terms, while retaining the copyright. They are made to be easily understood with icons and metadata so that they can be searched not only for content but also for degree of legal openness. CC licenses are used on many OER with the advantage that they create a commons of material that can be used by anyone without permission or a fee, and they do so in a way that marks the content for computer searching. CC licenses that permit customization and adaption are particularly important in an educational context. They are international and have been translated into the languages and legal systems of over thirty countries.  An example of this use is the MIT OCW materials under a CC license. The materials can be translated and used by users who provide attribution of the materials they choose to adapt; and that the use of the materials be a non-commercial activity; and that the user shares the derivative work openly. Access to educational resources must be free because it is unwise, impractical and unjust to charge for access. There are, however, different levels of freedom.


    Technical unfamiliarity, workload, and standardized curricula make it difficult for teachers to experiment with open educational tools. There is wariness of letting students participate actively in the educational process. Privacy fears and copyright restrictions keep most experimentation hidden. There are issues of quality that may be solved by Web 2.0 tagging and tracking techniques that can imitate many of the market mechanisms. Investment in OER has to reach a critical mass to start becoming selfsustaining. In order to overcome certain barriers to use of OER there will have to be new initiatives that certify that groupings of OER are compliant with a state’s curriculum.


    Why do we need a free culture?

    The biggest argument for a free culture that I can find in Lessig’s presentation is that free culture is that it is natural. Prior to regulation by copyright laws people added to the common knowledge base freely. Lessig points out in his “refrain” that creativity is based on the past. In order to access and use this creativity it must be made free. Freedom is a tradition that encourages innovation and technology allows for new ways of accessing our common creativity. These two together have a potential for improving life for everyone.

     Copyright in Sweden  Much of the discussion of copyright in Sweden today is centered on the revised Swedish Copyright Law that came into force on July 1, 2005. The purpose of the revision was to enable copyright holders to stop the unlawful file-sharing of files, mainly music and movies, on the internet. There is still a question about whether this law achieves its purpose. Four men who run one of the most popular file-sharing sites in the world, The Pirate Bay, were charged with conspiracy to break copyright law in Sweden. Its servers do not store copyrighted material but offer links to the download location of films, TV programmes, albums and software. The website is said to have between 10 and 15 million users around the world and is supported by online advertising.  In both cases, the court found the evidence presented by the prosecution strong enough for a conviction and in both cases, the defendant was sentenced to pay a fine. Both advocates of the right to file-sharing and advocates of a strong, enforceable copyright law deemed the sentences a success for their side.John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive of global music body, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries, said: “The operators of The Pirate Bay have always been interested in making money, not music. “The Pirate Bay has managed to make Sweden, normally the most law abiding of EU countries, look like a piracy haven with intellectual property laws on a par with Russia.” In general I think that it can be said that Sweden is following the directives of the EU when it comes to copyright and more about this can be found in A Brief Overview of the Swedish Copyright System.    

    March 26, 2008
    Rock carvings at Tangste2

    Week 3: Philosophical Background

    March 21, 2008

    Access to informationIn the globalised world we live in information is becoming more accessible and more important. Technology is levelling the playing field allowing connections and participation that could not even have been dreamt of thirty years ago. But information is only the first step on the way to knowledge, as knowledge is only the first step towards an education. Education: a human right

    According to article 26 of the Declaration of Human Rights

    (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.Education is necessary for sustainable social and economic development and opens up possibilities for leading healthy and productive lives, participation in civic and political affairs and protecting rights. Education is an important tool for empowerment. Because of this, education is a basic human right and access to education is central. Who will benefit?If one subscribes to the thinking of the Enlightenment where freedom, democracy and reason were seen as the primary values of society, then one would expect that everyone would ultimately benefit from a world where there is free access to education and information. An essential part of having an educated population is to see that their needs for information are satisfied. The library movement, free adult education and the folk high school movement have all historically played a role. With information technology in general and free software in particular, the possibilities are even greater.Who is afraid of the access and why?In general, people who don’t trust the reasonableness of people to use the tools sensibly and not abuse them. People who find it hard to make a shift in thinking from a traditional economic type of thinking to other ways of working that produce new structures and possibly people involved in education who maybe have made investments in time and money and are wary of not getting a return on their investment could be afraid of access for all. The most obvious group, however, has to be people who for whatever reason want to deny the empowerment of others.Access for all allows for more giants with many more dwarfs on their shoulders! 

    Week 2: Introduction to LeMill and Wikiversity

    March 14, 2008

    Of course, registering at Wikiversity was a piece of cake; then the fun began! It was sort of thrilling adjusting some capitalisation and punctuation in a section about grammar, but then I got bogged down in trying to navigate around the site. I have to say that the navigation wasn’t exactly intuitive; however, I have promised to give myself another chance now the work week is over and I have several hours until midnight! Now I have succeeded and writing my profile.

    I haven’t succeeded in doing anything but the bare minimum and I am  not sure whether or not I’ll be able to locate it again but it’s there! The clock is ticking away and I don’t seem to be getting any closer to the goal of finding a project where people are working on some learning resource. Every now and then I find myself one a page that is full of technical terminology that throws me off. After wandering around I have found a group that I have decided to join. I am now a member of the The Deschooling of Society reading group and have put my name on their watch list. In fact, it’s a book that has been sitting on my bookshelf since it came out in 1971. I guess it’s time to read it! I am interested in seeing how the “watch list” works. And now I have discovered the user contribution page that I think will be very helpful in the future as I am having quite a bit of trouble keeping track of where I am.

    I have started a page which I hope to fill with interesting development projects supported by IT. I still feel mainly frustrated and have reached my limit for today. There is still lots to explore and I must say that having a time limit has helped.

    It is absolutely true that you have to “get your hands dirty”!

    Week 1: Blog Post 3 – Open Education Projects

    March 6, 2008

    Open University

    OER and courses with fees are available at this wonderful site. The interface is laid out in a way that can be navigated easily. The only problem with the site is that there are incredibly many interesting ER that are themselves linked to more resources. I wanted to drop everything and start studying Latin or why not Art History again. Other features that were very impressive were: video conferences, on-line chats and a mind-mapping tool as well as other links.  


    It was a little harder to navigate here but that is perhaps because of the language aspect. The translation part of the site looked really interesting although I’m not sure how it works.  


    After a huge disappoint when browsing through the music theory course (not a single sound file within hearing distance!) I found it difficult to appreciate this site. I don’t know how it compares to the Open University in quantity and to be fair I didn’t spend much time browsing but the impression I had wasn’t as good as the Open University. To be fair I have to admit that I didn’t have time to look more closely at the creating content section. 


    This seems to be a site without frills offered and very straight forward. What a great resource. 


    This is my first visit here and I am overwhelmed by the number of tools available. 

    Hmmm….Questions that arise are how can they be used? Actually, I don’t actually mean “how”, I mean under what conditions. Now I need to know more about the Creative Commons license. I also want to play a little with creating resources. What does GNU mean? I am experiencing a bit of frustration because I’d like to spend the rest of the night exploring all of these sites.

    Week 1: Blog Post 2 – On Open Educational Resources: What they are and why do they matter

    March 6, 2008

    Reading Ilkka Tuomi’s report Open Educational Resources: What they are and why do they matter made me adjust my thinking regarding what  OER actually are and aroused some thoughts about the importance of defining terms, the consequences of the movement when it comes to economic structures, and the construction of knowledge.

    In my context, upper secondary adult education, we have talked about “learning resources” and “learning objects” in reference to complete courses, to what we have called modules and to learning content in our bank of learning resources available non-exclusively on the web. Discussions have centred on types of digital media, accessibility and on content. Expanding the definition of OER to include the initiatives and projects presented in figure 5 created an important shift in my way of thinking which had previously been very narrow. One question that arose was whether or not it is important or relevant or even possible to make a distinction between “educational” and “learning”. The Internet community’s definition of resource mentioned in the report which defines the concept of “resource” as anything, – physical, digital or immaterial – that can be pointed to was useful. Resources do not have to be tangible. One reflection is that a lot has happened in the not so many years that have gone by since we discussed issues around our OER repository. The exciting possibilities to technically-challenged people, myself included, offered by web 2.0 tools is driving the movement forward at an even faster pace. The focus in the discourse about OER seems to be on “open”, which is where it should be.

    This brings me to the subject of the levels of openness described in the report. The distinctions made between the three levels: access and accessibility to a resource (read the code); right and capability to enjoy the services generated by the resource (use the code); and the right and capability to modify, repackage, and add value to the resource (modify the code); are useful. However, I find it hard to understand the reasoning behind the following:

    “If a learner has access to a resource that is open at this second level, one should get full benefits out of its use. For example, if an educational resource is used for acquiring formal educational degrees, if the resource is open at level II, the users should be able to gain formal degrees if they so choose.” (page 26)

    If the interpretation of “enjoying the services” talked about in level II is that which is presented in the report one should talk about categories of openness instead of a hierarchy as there seems to be a qualitative difference.  A textbook is given as an example of a level II resource that can be used to pass a course. There seems to be a problem with logic. No one requires that “users should be able to gain formal degrees if they so choose” if they are using a textbook. Why should that be considered a “service” when it comes to digitial resources.    On the other hand if one interprets service in another way then the model works. I can’t help thinking that these level distinctions refer primarily to the technology.

    The intimate relationship between the technology and content is another interesting issue and how these function in an economic world. It does indeed seem ironic that a proliferation of intellectual property rights is tending to inhibit access to information in areas where new knowledge has previously remained in the public domain. The larger issue of commercial and non-commercial products existing in the same market is also interesting.

    UNESCO OER Presentation

    Open Educational Resources: The Way Forward