Agreement ends Kenya Crisis

The agreement arrived at by Koffi Annan and the mediators between ODM and PNU - the creation of an executive Prime minister - promises to end the crisis in Kenya. In the following video, Kofi Annan announces the details.

The agreement took two days of intense diplomacy by chief mediator Kofi Annan and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete. It is reported that President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga ignored the views of hard-liners in their camps to arrive at this coalition agreement in which the Opposition shares power with the government.

The whole region will be greatly pleased by this outcome. Kenya’s crisis has caused shortages in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Sudan, DRC Congo and some parts of northern Tanzania.

The BBC World News also has a YouTube video on the Kenya power share deal.

And here is a positive story of Kenya broadcast on CNN. Documentary filmmaker Carol Pineau gives us a peak at her new documentary on Kenya, filmed during the troubles. She talked to CNN's Isha Sesay:

More on Kenya.


Understanding information literacy

Understanding information literacy: a primer

Just published by IFAP, this easy-to-read, non-technical overview explains what "information literacy" means. It is designed for busy public policy-makers, business executives, civil society administrators and practicing professionals.

Understanding information literacy: a primer

Through this publication, UNESCO’s Information for All Programme (IFAP) explains in an easy-to-understand and non-technical fashion what “information literacy” means. The publication targets a very diverse audience, from government officials, intergovernmental civil servants, information professionals and teachers to human resources managers in both profit or not-profit organizations.

“Over the course of your life, the more you learn and thereby come to know, but especially the sooner you master and adopt proficient learning skills, habits and attitudes - finding out how, from where, from whom and when to search for and retrieve the information that you need to know, but have not yet learned - the more information literate you thereby become. Your competency in applying and utilizing those skills, habits and attitudes will enable you to make sounder and timelier decisions to cope with your personal and family health and welfare, educational, job-related, citizenship and other challenges”.

Document details here.

Download PDF file 752 KB:
English: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001570/157020e.pdf
French: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001570/157020f.pdf


5th Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning

The Pan-Commonwealth Forum (PCF) on Open Learning has grown to become one of the world's leading conferences on learning and global development. The Forum seeks to address open and distance learning through widening educational access, bridging the digital divide and by advancing the social and economic development of communities and nations at large.

July 13-17, 2008 the University of London will host the 5th Pan-Commonwealth Forum, making it Europe's first hosting of the widely acclaimed event.

The Fifth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning

PCF5 in London will explore how open and distance learning can help achieve international development goals and education for all. The conference theme is "Access to Learning for Development" with a focus on children and young people, health, livelihoods, social justice, conflict and governance.

Previous Forums:
First Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning, Brunei, 1999
Second Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning, Durban, 2002
Third Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning, New Zealand, 2004
Fourth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning, Jamaica, 2006.


Open Access - Harvard

In his blog "Carrollogos", Michael Carroll discusses how Harvard made history on Tuesday, February 12, 2008. The Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences came together as scholarly authors and collectively agreed that in the age of the Internet they have a responsibility to manage their copyrights differently than they have been to date.

Specifically they unanimously voted in favor of this motion:
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: Each Faculty member grants to the President and Fellows of Harvard College permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. In legal terms, the permission granted by each Faculty member is a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Dean or the Dean's designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written request by a Faculty member explaining the need.

To assist the University in distributing the articles, each Faculty member will provide an electronic copy of the final version of the article at no charge to the appropriate representative of the Provost's Office in an appropriate format (such as PDF) specified by the Provost's Office. The Provost's Office may make the article available to the public in an open-access repository.

The Office of the Dean will be responsible for interpreting this policy, resolving disputes concerning its interpretation and application, and recommending changes to the Faculty from time to time. The policy will be reviewed after three years and a report presented to the Faculty.

For a discussion of this policy, read The Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog.

More about Open Educational Resources.


Technology and Social Change

I came across details of an interesting site the other day whilst browsing the site "Intellectual Property Watch".

Tom Taylor, a business consultant on social software, had an idea of how to encourage people to make behavioural changes and think innovatively about living greener lives. Taylor said that the same techniques used in consumer marketing and the same activities espoused by social networking sites could be harnessed to encourage green living.

He said that the site “Green Thing” was created to do just that: a place where positive reinforcement from peers and the ability to be creative by submitting audio files and new ideas for green actions would engage people with environmental issues. The eventual goal is to integrate “all of Web 2.0” into the Green Thing, so that users could blog about their activities or link to the group from their profiles on social networks like Facebook.

Green Thing is a community that's here to help as many people as possible in as many countries as possible to do the Green Thing. A community of Green Things across the world will not only make a sizeable CO2 saving, it will encourage governments and businesses to do the Green Thing too.

To help achieve all of that, Green Thing is a number of things:

Green Thing is an easy thing. Because lots of small things can add up to more than a few big things, Green Thing suggests one easy thing a month to tempt as many people as possible to do it. Green Thing is also free which makes it easier to be part of.

Green Thing is a creative thing. Because entertainment is very inspiring and lectures a bit less so, the monthly Green Things are suggested with brilliant content from brilliant writers, musicians, designers, directors and artists - pro and am, young and old.

Green Thing is a not-for-profit thing. Because people are cynical about commercial or political agendas, Green Thing is an independent, not-for-profit thing powered by grants from foundations and individual contributions.

Green Thing is a credible thing. Because people want to know that their action is making a difference, Green Thing is endorsed by some of the planet's leading environmental thinkers and reports back every month on the collective difference the whole community is making.

Green Thing is a principled thing. There are certain things Green Thing will and won't do.

More about technology and social change.


ICT and Education in Africa

From InfoDev http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.354.html
Survey of ICT and Education in Africa (Volume 2): 53 Country Reports

You may also be interested in:
Survey of ICT and Education in Africa: A Summary Report, Based on 53 Country Surveys

These short reports provide general overviews of current activities and issues related to ICT use in education in individual African countries. The preliminary data presented here, drawn from a quick survey process conducted in 2007, should be regarded as illustrative rather than exhaustive.

ICT use in education is at a particularly dynamic stage in Africa; new developments and announcements are happening on a daily basis somewhere on the continent. Therefore, these reports, which are of variable length and quality, should be seen as best-effort “snapshots” that were current at the time they were taken; it is expected that certain facts and figures presented may become dated very quickly.

Each short report provides a general overview of current activities and developments related to ICT use in education in the country, using the following format:

  • Overview
  • Country profile
  • The Education System
  • ICT Policies
  • Infrastructure
  • Current ICT Initiatives and Projects
  • Implementing ICT in Education

More on Africa.


ICT for development

In a video clip edited by Anja Barth, Chris Addison uses the concept of the Two Hands to explain the building blocks of Web 2 for development at the Web2forDev Conference held in Rome, Italy on September 25-27, 2007.

In this Web2fordev Conference interview with Mark Davies, presents his view on the importance of the mobile phone as appropriate technology for development in West Africa. He also emphasises that simply pushing out information will not work - it has to be connected with on-the-ground development work and with the informal networks that local people know and trust.

More about ICT for development.


Aussie farmer gives low-cost laptop a proper field test

I found this to be an interesting story published by the Sydney Morning Herald in my adopted country Australia:

Outback research … James Cameron's farm near Coonabarabran was seen as an ideal testing ground for the special laptop because the conditions were similar to those in some Third World countries.

From his hot, dusty, locust-plagued property in the NSW outback, a software engineer who goes by the name Quozl is doing his bit to help educate 1.5 billion of the world's poorest children. James Cameron has spent the past two years testing prototypes of a low-cost robust laptop called XO designed especially for children in developing countries. He devotes up to five hours a day to his volunteer work for the US charity One Laptop Per Child, which began mass producing the "green machines" in November.

Mr Cameron likens his efforts to missionary work - without the travel he so fears.

"I don't like flying. I'm just frightened of all the possible risks of visiting other countries. But I can do something from here."

Mr Cameron's farm near Tooraweenah - population 76, about 60 kilometres from Coonabarabran - was seen as an ideal testing ground because the conditions were similar to those in some Third World countries. Among the teething problems he identified in early XO versions was a battery that failed to charge when the temperature reached 45 degrees. He has also helped develop the free software used on the XOs. But his greatest contribution has been testing the range of the wireless connection between laptops on the long dirt roads and across the hills of Warrumbungle National Park, near his home. The XOs use a wireless mesh network that connects all laptops within range - without the need for infrastructure such as routers or cables - so children can collaborate on any computer activity.

The charity's vice-president of software engineering, Jim Gettys, was in Australia this month to give an update on the project to a conference of free-software developers. In recent weeks the first batch of 250,000 XOs has been sent to Peru, and charity staff have visited Mongolia to show teachers and students how to use the computers. Mr Gettys described some of the hurdles they had had to overcome - children's homes without electricity, low literacy rates, no knowledge of the internet in some communities and languages in which computer terminology has yet to be created.

The laptops have a hand-crank or a solar panel to power them, a screen that can be read in bright sunlight, sturdy handles and dust-resistant keyboards sized for children's fingers, and all the features of normal laptops - a camera and microphone, USB ports and game pad keys.


Global e-schools and communities

The Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI), founded in 2004, provides strategic advice to Ministries of Education in developing countries on the effective use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for education and community development. Adopting a demand driven, collaborative and comprehensive approach, GeSCI aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning through the strategic and effective use of ICTs, thereby transforming education, empowering communities and promoting development.

Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative

One of the most important principles guiding GeSCI’s work is that of ownership and sustainability. GeSCI believes that it assists its country partners best when working in an advisory and supportive capacity. Country ownership of end-to-end initiatives is the only means of ensuring long-term sustainability of ICT for Education initiatives. GeSCI guides its country partners through each stage of the ICT4E process, as they determine how best to develop and implement their own country policies. GeSCI believes that the fundamental principle of a successful initiative is country ownership.

One useful document is its recently published report - "ICT4E Policies by Country". This document is a compilation of available worldwide ICT4E policies and plans, at both a national and Ministry of Education level (where available). This is a draft version containing 192 countries of which 139 have information. Download the document ICT4E policies by country1.

More on e-schools and on ICT for education policies.


Building a web of knowledge with social tagging

Yesterday's blog was on the “semantic web.” Here is an interesting semantic web application - Radar Networks' Twine - an "intelligent" bookmarking/tagging tool. Twine uses the Semantic Web, natural language processing, and machine learning to make your information and relationships smarter. It enables web users to share information and knowledge, and collaborate around common interests, activities and goals.

Click here for an hour-long video in which Nova Spivak, CEO of the semantic collaboration services Twine, gives the first in-depth public demo of the technology. Or click here for a short version of the interview/demo.

In the following video, SciVestor asks Nova Spivack three questions about the future of his company.

And the following video gives an introduction to The Workings of Twine

More on the semantic web.


Semantic Web (Web 3.0?)

Remember my post Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us? If not, check out the video there again. Before we had really started getting used to the idea of Web 2.0, researchers were talking about Web 3.0 - though actually it is usually now referred to as the "Semantic Web". And this concept of the web really does start to sound more like the "birth of the Matrix" - could that be a prequel to that wonderful series?

Humans can use the web to find specific information that they want because they understand what is written on each web page. Thus, whilst a search engine can find all the web pages with "matrix" written on them, only humans can easily distinguish those pages that are about the film "The Matrix" rather than about mathematics. The semantic web is a vision in which webpages are "understood" by computers, so that they can perform more of the tedious work involved in finding, sharing and combining information on the web.

Here is Tim Berners Lee (father of the World Wide Web) talking about the Semantic Web:

And here is another short introduction to the semantic web. All source material is on the Digital Bazaar wiki

More on the semantic web.


Social bookmarking for academics

A few days ago I blogged about social networks for the professions - in particular for scientists. In her comment, Kimberly added some social networks for business professionals. Today's blog article is about social bookmarking for the professions - in particular for academics.

CiteULike is a free service to help you to store, organise and share the scholarly papers you are reading. When you see a paper on the web that interests you, you can click one button and have it added to your personal library. As long as the paper is from a supported website, CiteULike automatically extracts the citation details. But you can also post an article from any non-supported site on the web - you'll just have to type the citation details in yourself. Because your library is stored on the server, you can access it from any computer with an Internet connection. You can also share your library with others, and in turn, discover from others the literature which is relevant to your field but you may not have known about. You can import your existing references into CiteULike and you can export your library in either BibTeX or RIS format then use BibTeX or EndNote (or whichever reference manager you prefer) to build it in to your bibliography.

Richard Cameron wrote CiteULike in November 2004 and ran the service privately. In December 2006 Richard teamed up with Chris Hall, Kevin Emamy and James Caddy to set up Oversity Ltd. to further develop and support CiteULike. In a recent interview Richard said:

"The reason I wrote the site was, after recently coming back to academia, I was slightly shocked by the quality of some of the tools available to help academics do their job. I found it preferable to start writing proper tools for my own use than to use existing software.

Collecting material for a bibliography is something which appeared to require an amazing amount of drudgery ... I'd need amazing amounts of self discipline to consistently bookmark everything I ever read on the off-chance that I might want it again. Unless, of course, it just involved clicking a button on the browser and having it all magically happen.

So, the obvious idea was that if I use a web browser to read articles, the most convenient way of storing them is by using a web browser too. This becomes even more interesting when you consider the process of jointly authoring a paper. There is a point where all the authors need to get together and get all the articles they wish to cite into the one place. If you do this process collaboratively on a web site, then it's easier.

The next obvious leap is that if all the references are available via a web interface on a central server, it would be really nice to see what your colleagues are reading and be able to show them what you're reading. It cuts down on the number of emails saying "have you seen this article?"

In fact, if enough users register on the system, you'll probably find people reading the same articles as you. That provides a great way of keeping on top of the literature - you simply share it with people who have common interests ...

So, I wrote CiteULike. It's grown a little bit since then, and the plan is to keep developing it and making it better."

More on social bookmarking.


Impact of emerging technology on higher education

The 2008 Horizon Report, the fifth in this annual series, is a collaboration between the New Media Consortium (NMC) (an international not-for-profit consortium of nearly 250 learning-focused organizations dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and new technologies) and EDUCAUSE (a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology).

The Horizon Report describes six areas of emerging technology that will have significant impact on higher education within three adoption horizons over the next one to five years. The 2008 report focuses on the following topics;

  • Grassroots Video
  • Collaboration Webs
  • Mobile Broadband
  • Data Mashups
  • Collective Intelligence
  • Social Operating Systems

The two technologies placed on the first adoption horizon in this edition, grassroots video and collaboration webs, are already in use on many campuses. Examples of these are not difficult to find. Applications of mobile broadband and data mashups, both on the mid-term horizon, are evident in organizations at the leading edge of technology adoption, and are beginning to appear at many institutions. Educational uses of the two topics on the far-term horizon, collective intelligence and social operating systems, are understandably rarer; however, there are examples in the worlds of commerce, industry and entertainment that hint at coming use in academia within four to five years.

Each profiled technology is described in detail in the body of the report, including a discussion of what it is and why it is relevant to teaching, learning, and creative expression. Specific examples are listed for each of the six topics.

Download the Horizon Report (PDF)

More on emerging technologies in higher education.