Education

WolfWheels

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgmkW86Kq1g&fs=1&hl=en_US]

On the theme of bike sharing, I thought I would share the news of a program developed by the students of North Carolina State University.  It's called Wolfwheels, and it was rolled out in the Spring of 2010 for students, faculty, and staff of the university.

 
It's like many other bike sharing schemes we've seen, however it is tailored specifically to meet the needs of the unique university setting: bikes are rented for a day ($3), weekend ($6), week ($18), or entire semester ($150); they are maintenanced on campus with the students' help (providing for some practical education); and, they can be rented in groups by dorms, clubs, or other campus groups to coordinate group rides, social events, or field trips. 
 
When I spoke with Timur Ender, one of the program's student founders, he told me that only one bike and one wheel had been stolen since the program's inception in late March of this year.  As he says, "pretty small hiccup if you look at the grand picture."  In order insure against theft, the check out of bikes is linked with your campus ID card, so if it is not returned, you can be held (financially) responsible.  However, due to this security feature, bikes are currently unavailable to guests of the university -- a clear opportunity for improvement in my view, especially seeing as though universities are home to incredible amounts of guests every year.
 
Though this program is not yet engaging with social media or other technological facets of bike sharing, I wanted to share it as inspiration to other university students or small communities where a similar program could work.  As Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has."
 
-Terra Curtis

Learning a Language on the Web

A couple newspaper articles over the last six months have featured innovative online language learning websites and platforms. I thought I'd give you a round up of the seemingly best or most intriguing models out there. On the most basic end of services is , an online market for digital recordings. Individuals can post passages that they are interested in hearing spoken aloud and any interested respondent can post a recording of the passage read aloud.

A more formal language learning networking tool is MyLanguageExchange.com. There are other models for this service out there but this site seems to have gained the most traction, making it especially easy to connect with a diverse group of foreigners that speak the language that you would like to learn. The service is extremely straightforward---the site simply maintains a database of people who know certain languages but would like to learn others. The website claims that it has 1.5 million users that speak some 115 languages. Not too shabby.

Probably the most engaging website out there is livemocha.com, a website which facilitates language learning by connecting language learning buddies from around the world and then providing them with a platform to exchange messages, vide-chat and correct each other. A friend of mine has been using the platform to brush up on her russian---she took it for seven years in elementary school and secondary school but hasn't needed to speak it in years. Though her language learning buddy can be a bit hard on her at times, scowling or laughing when she makes a pretty big mistake, she's much preferred the online exercise to book learning or other interactive alternative like Rosetta Stone.

Though some of the services cost money for the gold-standard version of their platform, the price is arguably a bargain when compared to language classes taught in person or high-priced software packages.

I will continue to keep my eyes peeled for any new and innovative services that come my way.

I've found that language professors too are trying to incorporate these platforms into their curriculum.

Mobilizing Education, Africa

mobileed_AFRICA In anticipation of the upcoming 5th annual conference on ICT for Development, Education and Training in Zambia at the end of the month, the online news portal eLearning AFria published an insightful interview with John Traxler, a leading thinker and proponent of mobile learning globally.

For the purpose of this post, I have included the most compelling sections of the interview below:

eLa: How far has mLearning actually come? John Traxler: Mobile learning across the world is facing challenges of breaking through from short-term pilots and trials to deployment that is large-scale, sustained, and sustainable, and is equitable, accessible, and inclusive. It has been possible to achieve some of these goals individually, but has proven far more difficult to achieve them in combination. Further progress will depend on rigorous and appropriate evaluation that talks to different stakeholders, for example, education ministry officials, commercial technologists, donors and teachers, and maybe learners in terms of the language, values, and priorities that are specific to them.

Of course, every country is different, and so mobile learning in South Africa is different from mobile learning in Kenya - two countries where I'm familiar with mobile projects. Each situation is different, so – for example - degree students at the University of Pretoria, primary teachers in Kenya and small-scale organic farmers in Kenya will all have some similarities, but, of course, differences also exist. Perhaps in these examples we should look at how we make links with agricultural extension workers, teacher trainers, or university lecturers globally and look for a matrix of mobile learning across countries and specialisms.

eLa: What are your findings so far? John Traxler: The project in Kenya using SMS to support in-service teacher training is now undergoing large-scale trials with thousands of primary teachers in districts across the country. I am now also involved in the early stages of another project, also in Kenya, but this time with BioVision and Avallain, to explore using mobile phones alongside web-based resources to support sustainable organic farming. I have had the chance to reflect on some of the possible lessons learnt. My experiences, however, have not led to lessons but to questions. Let me name some of them:

How do we strike a balance between short-term outcomes and benefits on the one hand and sustainability and maintainability on the other; and how do we define realistic and achievable exit strategies for our projects?

How do we transfer and generalise what we learn; how do we decide what to scale up and what to throw away?

How do we devise effective and appropriate evaluation and monitoring procedures; how do we uncover ‘soft outcomes’ and ‘distance travelled’ in unfamiliar cultures and classrooms?

How do we strike a balance between development, implementation, and delivery on the one hand and disseminating and networking on the other; and how do we strike a balance between informal or local practice and attempts at influencing policy at a higher level?

How do we reduce one ‘digital divide’ without creating or increasing others?

How do we know what to try to change and what to try to preserve when working with local, official, or traditional systems and institutions?

These issues may be generic and probably not limited to eLearning, and so further contact with the growing ICT4DEV may help us reach sensible, sensitive and robust systems for using technology to support, enhance, and deliver learning in Africa.

Interested readers may find a transcript from the complete interview here

Study on Mobile Phones in Education

Last month the World Bank launched an international initiative to study the use and the potential application of mobile phones in education in the developing world. The study, titled "The Use of Mobile Phones in Education in Developing Countries", plans to fill gaps in research that has until now focused on: (1) advocacy pieces about how phones *could* be used in education; (2) 'studies' of how phones have been used in a small pilot by one teacher somewhere; or (3) conceptual (often academic) discussions of the potential utility of mobile phones within various learning environments (often drawing on rich existing research into the use of PDAs for learning). (*As reported by the World Bank Development Blog) [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFWk6I2Huvw&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0] [Reader's note: The above YouTube clip showcases the Text2Teach program implemented in the Phillipines and is part of the larger BridgeIT program]

Through this initiative the World Bank plans to play a similar role in mobile education initiatives as it has in other mobile initiatives, namely mobile banking, using its institutional presence to make sense of existing, discreet initiatives and create opportunities for scalability, commercialization and gains in efficiency.

According to the World Bank's Edutech blog, the study intends to accomplish the following:

This study proposes to:

1. Map the existing universe of projects and initiatives exploring the use of mobile phones in education, with a specific attention to developing countries. 2. Map the existing and potential uses of mobile phones in this regard, comparing and contrasting such uses with other ICT devices, relevant to specific education challenges, needs and contexts found in a number of developing countries 3. Document lessons learned so far from key initiatives in this area, proposing tentative guidance for policymakers and various stakeholder groups in this fast moving area. 4. Propose a conceptual framework and way forward for further analytical work to aid in the documentation and rigorous impact cost and impact assessment of the use of mobile phones in education.

The study will run through December of 2010. For now, I hope the folks at the World Bank make an effort to explore mobile applications specifically in continued education courses.

Study on Mobile Phones in Education

Last month the World Bank launched an international initiative to study the use and the potential application of mobile phones in education in the developing world. The study, titled "The Use of Mobile Phones in Education in Developing Countries", plans to fill gaps in research that has until now focused on: (1) advocacy pieces about how phones *could* be used in education; (2) 'studies' of how phones have been used in a small pilot by one teacher somewhere; or (3) conceptual (often academic) discussions of the potential utility of mobile phones within various learning environments (often drawing on rich existing research into the use of PDAs for learning). (*As reported by the World Bank Development Blog) [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFWk6I2Huvw&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0] [Reader's note: The above YouTube clip showcases the Text2Teach program implemented in the Phillipines and is part of the larger BridgeIT program]

Through this initiative the World Bank plans to play a similar role in mobile education initiatives as it has in other mobile initiatives, namely mobile banking, using its institutional presence to make sense of existing, discreet initiatives and create opportunities for scalability, commercialization and gains in efficiency.

According to the World Bank's Edutech blog, the study intends to accomplish the following:

This study proposes to:

1. Map the existing universe of projects and initiatives exploring the use of mobile phones in education, with a specific attention to developing countries. 2. Map the existing and potential uses of mobile phones in this regard, comparing and contrasting such uses with other ICT devices, relevant to specific education challenges, needs and contexts found in a number of developing countries 3. Document lessons learned so far from key initiatives in this area, proposing tentative guidance for policymakers and various stakeholder groups in this fast moving area. 4. Propose a conceptual framework and way forward for further analytical work to aid in the documentation and rigorous impact cost and impact assessment of the use of mobile phones in education.

The study will run through December of 2010. For now, I hope the folks at the World Bank make an effort to explore mobile applications specifically in continued education courses.

Recap: Thoughts on Mobility from Dominique Laousse, INTA33, Koahsiung, Taiwan

Dominique Laousse held court at during his master class on perspectives in sustainable transport on the first day of INTA's 4 day conference in Taiwan, unleashing a spirited 90 minute monologue on emotional mobility and intelligent transportation that remains a highpoint of the conference:  an admittedly unscientific poll showed that for many INTA33 attendees, Laousse's ode to transport was among their top three favorite seminars.

With over 15 years under his belt at RATP, Laousse currently serves as one of the chief ideas man for a company that hosts some 75,000 employees globally, 45,000 in France-In the Paris area alone, RATP operates one of the world’s largest multi-nodal systems, which carries 10 million people per day--As such, his whims and considerations become fodder for future initiatives that can affect millions.

In Laousse's company, I think we all felt a little compelled to reconsider the way in which we understand transportation and commuting.  Raised in Chicago riding the old L trains in the loop, public transport for me is about bracing or holding one's breath, getting from point A to point B, and never about the in between.

Laousse, quite convincingly, argues that in order for us to live sustainably, our experience taking public transportation must change.  Taking trains must become tantamount to going to the grocery or sitting down at your desk, it must be comfortable and easy and the time must be spent in an accessibly productive manner.  In some ways, this is nothing new.  We've heard about chronic commuters before.  And, the 21st century is an era of multi-tasking.

Laousse distinguishes his position by lobbying for simple solutions and ubiquitous technologies, fundamentally advocating for affordable modifications and additions that change our everyday experiences.

These solutions can be as simple as signage, or making maps more accessible, conducting mobility workshops for the community and awarding diplomas for graduates.  To the latter, Laousse points out, in a world in which 30% of people in the developed countries are functionally illiterate, it is important to use multiple channels to communicate how transportation systems work.  A commuter that can get to point A, B, and C utilizes multiple nodes in the transportation system and interchanging these nodes, is empowered.  An empowered commuter is probably a happier commuter.

Reader's Note: This is one in a series that looks at more emotional, more intuitively intelligent approaches to public transportation.  Stay tuned for future reports about transportation with the ideas man Dominique Laousse.

Shifting Economies and New Commercial Models in Education

Cengage Learning, one of the largest textbook publisher in the U.S. announced two weeks ago that it would begin renting textbooks to students at discounted rates, Here’s an informative article from the New York Times.   And, here are a number of responses from NY Times’ readers. I anticipate this is the first of many adjustments that publishers and distributors of educational materials will need to make in order to deliver a valuable service to students. Indeed, this modification addresses student’s temporal, calendar-driven, demand for text books and their increasingly strained budgets. But it fails to individualize the content for students and teachers alike. Different classes, different disciplines, different schools, different students ultimately warrant different content and materials---and while I think that this is less prohibitive at the university level as it is easy for professors to supplement class readings with articles and journals and online essays---I believe every student, kindergartners to graduate level, would benefit from a more thoughtful curriculum.

Here are some examples of localized American initiatives:

1) In Arizona, teachers are encouraged to create lesson plans from mixes of online resources, via the New York Times.

2) At last year’s Ted Talks, Richard Baraniuk of Rice University talked about his vision for open sourced learning content----I think this is where we are going, hopefully.  Take a moment to watch a clip from that talk.