Thursday, December 21, 2006

My Journey to Moodle and Beyond

I knew this day would come. I am beginning the build up of my Moodle Server. I have been watching the LMS / CMS space for a number of years now and I knew I would be taking the leap into an FOSS solution. I’ve always been partial to Moodle for it seemed the purest FOSS available and it has always grounded itself in constructivist pedagogy. What really pushed me to commit to Moodle was this report from Idaho State University. So follow along if you like, I’m starting with the build up of a LAMP server, then I will follow up with the Moodle install… from there who knows. I do know that I have been forming some strong opinions regarding where the VLE should be going.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Memorial Workshops

I added a summary page of the workshops I facilitated while working with the Instructional Development Office of Memorial University. These workshops focused on the pedagogy of Web 2.0 (blogs, podcasts, wikis, tagging and social software).

Thursday, December 07, 2006


I've got through my first draft of this CKMS4D paper. But after getting some feedback it seems I need to focus for another while or so to have it be a stronger offering. I still figured I should get this first release out and see what, if any, feedback I may get.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Web 2.0 is very significant

I stumbled across this document "The Disruptive Force of Web 2.0: how the new generation will define the future". It certainly captures a view into the youthful future. When you add to this the projections of youth global population we have a very interesting and exciting road ahead. I've included here my thoughts regarding this speech;
Much of the current technology innovation was developed by people in their early 20's (Google, Linux, Skype, Microsoft, many others). It is clear that the young will continue to build the future.

The current wave of the Web 2.0 is very disruptive; online social networking is not neutral, content proliferation is un-monitored and therefore stresses the importance of media literacy, VOIP is turning telecom sideways or even upside down, IP and copyright is being questioned at many turns. All of this, of course, has two sides. A global social network with an easy flow of un-monitored content accompanied by cheap telecom and an ability to mash-up new works is exciting, and potentially very democratizing.

It is the growth of mobile services that are having the greatest impact. This 'speech' talks about what the Web 3.0 will look like. And with the growth of mobile devices I believe it will fall within this mobile space. And the globalization and 'hopefully' democratization that will occur could be a big step in the right direction.
In my mind all this builds toward a global education system. That will be very social and very self-directed. The idea of socio-constructivism at a global level.

Monday, December 04, 2006

UNESCO Podcasts

I am really looking forward to the results of this UNESCO project. The idea of participatory video (PV) is quickly growing and a highly successful form of activism and community development. As the price of ICT countinues to drop and the developing world has increased access it is only a matter of time that the transparency of the developing world issues will be impossible to deny or ignore. I hope that these PV efforts will increase the dialogue among all planetary inhabitants. Or even if it only creates a dialogue within the community to make things healthier, that is good.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Odeo Setup

I’ve created a document describing the odeo ( set up process. I believe it to be a good read. If you want to read this document just follow the link.

A book by the same name

I've run across a book by the name 'Critical Technology'. It seems to be in the same subject area as this blog so I felt it was a good idea to make reference.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Resources can also be free

Another approach to having storage capacity is to use free Web 2.0 capacity. To do this I will use odeo to host the sound files and bloglines to aggretate all the RSS feeds set up by odeo. This setup process is described in this one page document.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Indigenous Knowledge is paramount

I've been a Canadian for over 40 years, and I have often heard, via the popular news services, of the strife and horrors occuring in Haiti. This 53 second video from YouTube is the first time I've had an insight into why Haiti suffers as it does... It certainly gets me thinking about the value of YouTube and similar services. It also makes me realize that these type of services are breaking down the intermediary of the news networks.

This video also provides a sample of indigenous knowledge. I'm assuming Louis-Henri is Haitian, and that he is working with his internal indigenous knowledge to work toward solutions.

Circles of Change

This is an example of what I would see in a CKMS. It captures a community level activity and provides a learning activity. It is grassroots and driven by the members of the community. Think of the possibilities of having a CKMS within this communtity. Those so inclined would use digital technology to create videos, capture stories, record community events and store them on the CKMS. These stories would be availabe over the communities wireless network.
Where is the computer hardware going to come from? see Computer Aid International
Where is the wireless network going to come from? see Wireless Network in the Developing World
Where is the software going to come from? see Free and Open Source Software at the United Nations

Monday, October 30, 2006

Nelson Mandela is a wise man

I came across this thread of information. It comes from the The World Congress on Communication for Development. It was a conference that just concluded on October 27th. It would seem that Nelson Mandela was a participant and he left with a quote used in a summary document from the conference.
It is people that make the difference. Communication is about people. Communication for development is essential to make the difference happen.

Resources need thought

We are in the process of setting up a virtual classroom for high school music. And the question has come up regarding storage and bandwidth. The variables we need to think about are disk space, number of students, frequency of uploading and downloading, number and size of music files created during the course. For example; lets say each student created 40 minutes of music files per week, and lets consider the school year is 44 weeks. Given each minute of music is 1 megabyte (MB) that would mean each student would create 1,760 MB or 1.7 Gigabytes (GB) of music during the school year or approximately 200 MB per month. Now consider we have 50 students, that means we will require 88 GB of disk space by the end of the year. And if all students are expected to be listening to half of the students work we will need 5 GB of monthly bandwidth. Now 5 GB is a low number for monthly bandwidth and we shouldn’t expect extra bandwidth fees for this low level of traffic. But what happens if the site becomes popular and its popularity spreads like wildfire (which happens within the social web 2.0). We get hit with 10,000 visitors (a potentially low number) downloading a full months worth of music, that would be 100,000,000 MB of bandwidth or a 100 Terrabytes. Now our bandwidth fees shoot off the scale. I think we should limit access to just the students…

Friday, October 27, 2006

iLearn 2.0

I’ve been put back into a focus upon technology and education. I’ve been so busy blogging about my critical technology that I haven’t had much time to blog on the subject of technology and education. I have been asked to be a reseach associate for a project where we are looking at teaching music (the fiddle to be precise) online. A very interesting project where we have a very active and innovative high school teacher who loves to use technology to teach. He really doesn’t have much choice as his students are spread all around the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I’ll be watching what he does and make suggestions to the lead researchers and they will make the call if they introduce my ideas to him, as they don’t wan’t to disrupt his processes. So here are my thoughts after leaving his talk from Wednesday 25th of November;
  • It really is about community building - how do we take a group of students and turn them into a community of learners who support one another in their learning?
  • ePortfolios really are under utilized. I look forward to the day where ePortfolios become a significant part of assessment.
  • Building something
    together is really a great way to learn. When you play misic it is a collaborative effort, learning should be the same.
  • To what extent do we use rich media as a learning tool? is it under utilized?
  • Community Learning Centers (CLC) are going to be a way station for learners. Soon the business model for the CLC will be sustainable.
  • I’ve heard a lot these days that students
    don’t like to read, particularly males. What I like about what I am hearing is that it isn’t that they should be expected to read. We need to change our methods to not be so dependent on reading. It should be more balanced; reading, video, audio, play, creation, painting, physical, etc, etc, etc…
  • What really is participatory video? Is there such a thing as participatory audio?
  • Does groove fit here? Groove networks has always been an interesting tool. Though, It’s not Open Source. And this needs to be Open Source. For many reasons, to many for this single post.
  • I definately think we need a bliki. We need to build a community wiki and have all the participants blog on how they got the the completed wiki entry.
  • It’s time for me to get back into working on the Mac platform. What participatory features does garage band have? Could the students collaborate on a piece of music online?
  • I need to revisit the features of drupal. Could you create a mySpaces for a learning community?
  • Funny thing is all this leads back to a Community Knowledge Management System (CKMS)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Community Knowledge Management

I've created a concept map for my latest research topic of; Community Knowledge Management Systems for Development (CKMS4D).

ABSTRACT: This article describes the resources and approach required to build a Community Knowledge Management System (CKMS) in rural developing communities. The increased availability of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) through telecentres, cellular telephones, rural wireless networks and community schools have increased the likelihood of partnerships successfully creating community repositories of indigenous knowledge. Through the use of free open source software (FOSS), access to the multimedia of video recorders, audio recorders and digital photography combined with the increasing knowledge of how to use these technologies makes a CKMS within reach for many developing communities. Having the methods to gather, store, retrieve and distribute community knowledge through local partnerships and emerging ICT further reduces the knowledge divide. This article reviews development efforts in India, Uganda and ?? to provide further insight into the creation of a CKMS through community partnerships and the utilization of digital resources.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Muhammad Yunus & Grameen Bank win Nobel prize

This is a great choice for the Nobel Peace Prize of 2006. I like it most because it is giving a very public view into microfinance and how every citizen can help toward the plight of poverty. As we decrease the inequity in the world, I believe, the world we become more peaceful. This is the message this choice for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize is sending.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

We need gapminder!

In my previous post I was being critical of the way some of the data was being presented in gapminders' World Income Distribution animation. I was even so bold to email my post to gapminder, and to my pleasant surprise I received a comment back from Hans Rosling. The comment spoke of how the animation used a purchasing power dollar. So, using google scholar, I went in seach of papers or some kind of reference that provided me insight how a purchasing power dollar worked. There is a lot to read, the concept goes back to the 1600's and in my quick read I would say the jury isn't out on the concept of purchasing power parity (PPP). So I didn't get the answer I was looking for but I've learned more about the world and how things are "measured". I found a really good quote from 1988 that sums it all up;
...Because of these sensitivities, one must carefully consider summary statements and policy implications derived from cross-national comparisons of poverty and/or inequality.
I am still struggling with the idea that a dollar in 1970 had the same purchasing power as a dollar in 2003 even if in the long-run the products and services have the same purchase price.
So what does this post have to do with needing gapminder? Being a flash programmer, I wanted to create my own animated graph which included two things; inflation and the dollar a day scale not presented as a logarithmic scale. Then I started to think about where would I get the data to base my animated graph upon and gathering the data would be a huge enormous hill to climb! If not impossible. So, this is why we need gapminder. Gapminder wants to make global data available, to everyone, so they can do their reseach and they can create views of the data in new and solid ways. These new views would add to the dialogue and that would make the world a better place.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Dollar a day ???

A couple of weeks ago I was watching Hans Roslings' TED talk about the gapminder technology. A very interesting talk about global data; the work they are doing is awesome! After thinking about how they presented wealth distribution and poverty I have started to have my doubts. Hans showed an amazing dynamic graphic of financial distribution since 1970. In the graphic they included the dollar a day as a measure of poverty since 1970. As years passed everything in the graphic moved to the right showing a positive progress in the fight against poverty. One thing didn't move, that was the dollar a day line. The way I calculate it (based on Canadian inflation rates) a dollar in 1970 would be five dollars in 2003. Even though the presentation is impressive, I believe it is flawed. After some reading it would also seem the whole dollar a day calculation could be flawed...
How to not measure the poor.
Poor but pedicured.
How not to measure the poor - a reply.
Don't get me wrong, I think all the work in measuring global poverty is great. I'm just being critical of how progress is being claimed and how is is measured.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Royal Holloway ICT4D Reflection

It's been over a week since the ICT4D Symposium and I have had some time to reflect on what I learned. All the learning has added to my understanding of critical technology, these are my thoughts of what I learned; (it will help if you refer to the critical technology as a graphic from a previous post)

PEDAGOGY - is very much a key to successful development initiatives. Learning needs to be built into the initiative and the learning needs to be localized.

DEVELOPMENT - is a very very important global activity ;) Development needs to be grass roots and fair, collaborative at the community level and have ways to be measured.

TECHNOLOGY - is often misunderstood in the rural developing communities. The closer the community is to large city centres or available connectivity the more technology literacy they have. They still don't understand the why of technology, or maybe it is us who don't understand why have technology? Either way, as we go down the ICT4D path it is important to have a strategic introduction of technology aligned with community initiatives (health, agriculture and education). This will encourage understandability.

CRITICAL PEDAGOGY - was confirmed; as a good number of the ICT4D presentations were critical of technology, particularly how it was implemented. A couple of comments made after my presentation got me thinking about Paulo Freire, see these two previous posts;
  1. Friere's view of differential diagnosis
  2. Millennium Village
It also became very apparent that a tool is required by the critical technologist (and others) to assess the readiness of a communities readiness.

CONSTRUCTIVISM - surprisingly I wasn't the only one talking about constructivist methods, meta-cognition and active learning was mentioned during the conference. It was stressed that active learning methods need to be culturally sensitive regarding learning styles.

ICT4D - ICT requires a community context for it to be successful at the community level (ie. community readiness). ICT is having a lot of success when supporting health information workers.

CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY - I felt the idea was very well received by all in attendance. This was also supported by all the critical content in other presentations. I will continue the development of Critical Technology for I feel it could provide a useful reference for those working in the field.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Transparency and Microfinance

Due to the current UN general assembly there seems to be increased talk about the effectiveness of the UN. As I reflect on all I am reading I began to think about the role of the UN from a very critical perspective. If you consider the UN to have been ineffective in helping developing countries over the last three decades. And if you consider that the UN agenda seems to be "exclusively" directed by the group of eight countries (particularly the US and UK). I begin to wonder if the UN has become a costly intermediary that is no longer required. Now this thinking isn't new.
Currently, there is a huge movement afoot to decentralize and empower the developing world at the community level, and many believe that a decentralized approach would be the most effective. So why do we have such huge amounts of our tax dollars going to support an ineffective global infrastructure?
Think even further about the changes that the internet is bringing. In particular, the concept of disintermediary and the technology tools to bring greater transparency. Why not just allow donors to target thier donations how they see best. Even have an infrastructure that allows everyone to track their donation to the recipient, and see where administrative costs are consumed.
The simple and effective microfinance site of kiva may be leading the way toward people being able to assist as they see best without the added costs of infrastructure.

Millennium Village

Sachs does not only espouse the differential diagnosis at the country level, he also utilizes it at the community level. The Millennium Village project which Sachs is the director is very inclusive of the community in decision making.
Community empowerment through participation and leadership in design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Freire's view of differential diagnosis

During the feedback session after presenting my paper at the ICT4D symposium someone made the comment that a Freirian approach to "differential diagnosis" would be a very community based activity. I though about this and have done some reading and I would have to agree. I'll provide two quotes and then provide my rationale.
Sachs (2005) states, A Differentail Diagnosis, which identifies the policies and investments that the country needs to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Freire (1972) states, it is absolutely essential that the oppressed participate in the revolutionary process with an increasingly critical awareness of their role as Subjects of the transformation.
I believe that what Sachs is espousing is a national diagnosis for what "ills" a country. And what Freire is espousing is individual and / or community involvement in the process of finding a remedy for the "ills". Sachs approach is too macro, communities within any given country differ to greatly to have a country level differential diagnosis. A Freirian approach would be a community diagnosis.

Sachs, J. (2005). The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. (The Penguin Press)
Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Harmondsworth : Penguin.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lenin's famous statement

I'm doing some reading today about a comment made during the ICT4D symposium and I ran across this Lenin quote, "Without a revolutionary theory there cannot be any revolutionary movement". I agree with this; without a theory behind a movement the movement will falter. It is the same spirit why I believe the theory of critical technology is so important for the success of the critical technologist.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Royal Holloway ICT4D

I'm just back from Royal Holloway University of London where I presented my paper on the Critical Technologist. The paper hit the mark from the critical theory perspective as many people who presented brought up the importance of the right technology at the right time in the right place within the right context. To view all the papers visit the following link;

Monday, August 07, 2006

Learner Centered Approach in Ghana

I came across this brief paper on Learning in the Digital World. What stood out for me were the authors experiences in the USA and their applying them to a teaching term in Ghana. In my mind the author is acting as a critical technologist in applying a constructivist learning approach and adjusting to the realities of working in a developing country. The paper also provides a good description of a learner centered approach. In particular the graphic that shows the student at the center of learning...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Critical Technologist planning papers

It would seem that most of my coursework is now focusing on Critical Technology and the role of the Critical Technologist. During my EDU539 (Technology Planning for Educational Environments) course at Cape Breton University I used this focus as the drivers for all three course papers. Here are the three papers;
  1. Learning, Curriculum, Infrastructure and Support
  2. Professional Development Plan
  3. The Critical Technologists role in the Community Learning Center
I am in the process of rewriting them for a more general audience and will post them to this blogs academic companion blog when each rewrite is complete.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Critical Technologist as a Concept Map

The role of a Critical Technologist is comprehensive when it comes to working within a developing country. To bring greater understanding to the role I created a concept map of the critical technologists skills and knowledge base. Click the image if you want to see the full graphic.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Critical Technology as a Graphic

Last month I created a graphic of what critical technology is based upon. To date this is the best I have; I do like the way it brings the three sources of pedagogy, development and technology together. Click on the image if you want to see a bigger version.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The first step up the ladder

This video puts it in simple terms. Literacy and education should lead to a better life.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Clinical Economics (pdf)

This article by Jeffrey Sachs brought tears to my eyes. It is providing a positive way forward with the issue of poverty. He includes what he calls the big five development interventions;
Boosting agriculture
Improving basic health
Investing in education
Bringing power
Providing clean water and sanitation
Keep in mind that these interventions could change from place to place. I feel the prescriptive nature of his work is great. He is promoting a new economics, that he calls, "clinical economics";
Development economics needs an overhaul in order to be much more like modern medicine, a profession of rigor, insight and practicality. The sources of poverty are multidimensional. So are the solutions.
The section of Jeffrey Sachs' article that brought tears to my eyes was in regard to the education of children;
Despite disease, orphanhood and hunger, all 33 of last year's eighth-grade class passed the Kenyan national secondary-school exams. On a Sunday last July, we saw why. On their "day off" from school, this year's class of eighth-graders sat at their desks from 6:30 a.m. until 6 p.m.
If there is ever any doubt to the commitment they are making; this sunday display should put an end to such doubt. You may ask, "how does all this fit within critical technology?" I see the idea of being clinical and creating interventions that are directly targeted at the local situation is in alignment with the creation of learning and curriculum that is also "clinical". Every situation is going to be multidimensional; therefore, the learning needs to also be targeted to the situation.

Monday, May 15, 2006

One person can always make a difference

This is a good video for many reasons; I like the positive content and presenation, I like its alignment with empowering women, I like its focus on engaging the american population. Christina Chan said it very well;
Ask questions, ask probing questions.

We can overcome poverty;
We have the resources;
We have the knowledge;
We have the experience;
We have the technology;
We just need to do it;

Yes, very lofty statements. Do not discard them because they seem too lofty, embrace them. Make a difference. There is nothing more important to humanity than this.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Critical technology has two perspectives

  1. The internal classroom perspective where both student and teacher must be critical of the use of all technology. They must always be asking is technology the best approach to meeting the learning outcomes and curriculum?
  2. The external perspective of being critical of where the technology is coming from. Is oppression, alienation, and subordination intrinsic to the provided technology. Every technology comes with ideology, values, an agenda. The technology usage must be localized and fit within the local needs. The need must come before the technology.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Critical Pedagogy by Barry Kanpol

In my journey to deepen my understanding of Critical Pedagogy I have read the book Critical Pedagogy by Barry Kanpol. An excellent book with many on the ground examples of Critical Pedagogy implemented. When it comes to the development of critical technology I believe the following references really stand-out from this book; This first quote provides a description of the role of the teacher as critical pedagogue.
...then critical of the multiple forms of teaching methodologies; and the reproduction of values that oppress, alienate, and subordinate people (especially, for our concerns, students and teachers as related to race, class and gender configurations). Within this reskilling mode, critical pedagogy teachers challenge stereotyping, find ways to subvert tracking through alternative teaching methodologies, build curriculum with open and critical spirits, become involved in the policy-oriented decisions of the state and local school district, and form group solidarity over issues of value-laden importance.
This second quote provides a description of the dialectic of the Me and the I with how a child exists within their community. This section of the book was powerful for it referes to the work of Herbert Mead.
Within this personal dialectic, the critical pedagogy self seeks to understand the self construction in an ongoing dialectic with oppressive social structures. How I, me and other can work dialectically both to oppress and emancipate us becomes of increasing importance to critical pedagogists.
Kanpol continues with a description of a classroom environment where a teacher has a special ability to teach about differences and build upon these lessons with empathy for these differences. The book progresses through a number of schools and Kanpols descriptions of the teachers within these schools. Kanpol focuses his observations on teachers who, at differing levels, are critical pedagogists. Closer to the end of the book I find the third quote where Kanpol formalizes his description of the teacher as critical pedagogist;
Critical pedagogy is about teachers struggling for some semblance of control in their lives - control that has to do with achieving a qualitatively better life for students and teachers; control that has to do with finding a democratic path that begins to alleviate forms of oppression, alienation, and subordination.
What is most important from this book is how Kanpols' writings fit within what I am calling Critical Technology. Its about the balance of challenging the existing structures of oppression, alienation, and subordination with teaching to the required curriculum. This also fits within the work of Friere where action should occur within the existing structures or the history and politics of the structures. There are two final quotes that I would like as the spirit of Critical Technology;
But the kind of criticality you will find in critical pedagogy is really different from this in that it's really about what I call critical consciousness. It is about focusing our critical capacities, our questioning capacity, on the everyday world in which we find ourselves with a purpose. And that purpose is rooted in a moral vision. It has to do with looking at the world, questioning the world as to whether, in fact, it treats people with dignity and respect; whether the world is one in which certain groups of people or individuals are limited or dominated, or whether the world that we live in, in fact, lives up to its democratic and humanistic promises.
Part of creating a critical pedagogy in teacher education is to move beyond mere cyitique or cynicism to a position where action can occur, where students can joyfully respond to structural constraints in a timely manner and in ways that create opportunities for democratic hope and critical citizenry.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Critical technology being implemented (pdf)

My reading of things related to what I am calling "Critical Technology" continues. My interest in the $100 laptop also continues. So in my internet searches for readings related to Critical Pedagogy and Paulo Friere these two interests came together. This paper describes the "educational content" and how the approach to developing the educational content for the $100 laptop will be very Frieriean and modeled after the succesful projects in Brasil where technology and learning were brought together. The paper confirmed that the approach toward educational content will be very grassroots and driven by the learners. Of course this is an oversimplication of what the paper said. Just the fact that they are leaning toward a Frieriean approach bodes well in the laptops success. This paper also confirmed the importance of the critical technologist, a mentor or facilitator of critical approaches to learning within a technology rich environment.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Pedagogy of Curiosity

A discussion between Paulo Freire and Seymour Papert regarding the future of school. So much good stuff within this discussion between these two great thinkers. I believe it is best if you read the whole transcript yourself and/or watch the videos. What I have included here are what I consider the highlights of this discussion;
The pedagogy of the question, not the answer.
His (Papert) analysis seems to be metaphysical and mine (Freire) is politico-historical.
In general, the discussion is centered around three simple stages of learning;
  1. learning through exploration (baby to toddler)
  2. learning by being told (k12 schooling)
  3. back to exploration (later university and beyond)
Both Freire and Papert agree to these three stages to learning. And they agree that the second stage needs to change, they differ in how they see it changing. Interestingly, the second stage was developed due to the other two stages. According to Freire, the perpetuation of the second stage is due to politics not ontological reasons. And Papert believes that with all the current and future enabling technology future generation will revolt against the second stage. Freire would see the change happening within the existing structures and having a critical approach to change the surrounding politics, Papert would see a change initiated by the coming generations of learners. Both agreed education should empower the learner with the "raison d'etre" -- reason for having.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Critical Technologists

In my previous post I spoke to the idea of teachers well versed in the critical technology approach. It would seem that the GIIP has already begun the development of these Critical Technologists.

Critical Technology Defined

After some reflection I am going to create my first statement defining Critical Technology as I believe it to be.
Fundamentally it will be based upon Critical Pedagogy. I believe the use of technology within education should be from the grass roots (meaning; those who are using the technology, the "students"). How the technology should be used is defined by the students and the teachers well versed with the critical technology approach.
More on all this after I have completed my research. Currently, I'm reading some books, papers and watching some videos. When significant pieces of information form I will write a post in this stream of conciousness blog.

Friday, April 07, 2006


This podcast summarizes the previous 18 posts. To view the transcript of this podcast visit this sites academic companion blog.

$100 laptop, microfinance, constructivism and critical pedagogy

Offer $100.00 laptops to economically resiliant microfinanced families with children available for education and combine that with constructivist learning methods and teachers well versed in critical pedogogy. Once you have all the pieces in place you can work with the local community and identify a group of cohorts (Gow, 2001) that meet the optimal laptop profile and build on the success already within these families.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

UN Millenium Goals

Two of the UN Millenium Goals have good alignment with the introduction of the $100 laptops goal of a laptop for every child in the next five to seven years. The two millenium goals are;
Goal 2. Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3. Promote gender equality and empower women

Over 30 million served

Since its inception the microfinance approach to helping people out of poverty has served between 30 and 50 million people. All these small loans amount to a total 2.5 billion dollars being loaned out by thousands of these "banks for the poor".

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A closer look at the $100 laptop

Microfinance programs are available

All the places targeted to pilot the $100 laptop already have established microfinance programs. These locations would have the required financial infrastructure and families to utilize these laptops in their families education.

Community Source

How will all the software and curriculum get built? To begin with the operating system is based upon the open source offering of Linux, therefore all the open source software currently being built is freely available for the $100 laptop. A number of open source courseware (MIT & Educational Commons) initiatives have started up. The $100 laptop could take advantage of these or begin to create its own open courseware initiative. The courseware would be built by community source where groups of development teams come together and share the costs and efforts of building new curriculum and then share this curriculum back into the open courseware community...

$100 laptop isn't without critics

The $100 laptop initiative doesn't come without its critics. The criticism falls into four main areas;
1) People need to eat first
2) How are you going to dispose of them once they are done
3) Where is the curriculum going to come from
4) Wouldn't the billions of dollars to build these things be better spent on (low-tech) educational initiatives.
I believe the content of this blog answers 3 of the 4;
1) I'm proposing that Laptop recipients are engaged in some asset stabalization (like microfinance) and are already reading their family to send one of their children to school.
3) Leverage the ideas of Critical Pedagogy; where cohort programs are set up to create groups of teachers within each community. Constructivist learning methods are used.
4) Yes, maybe the Billions of dollars would be better spent somewhere else. But there not going to be, so better to engage and help it be a success and join in with helping the UN Millennium Development Goals be a success.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Microfinance works

The most passionate claims always lead back to educating their children. Fortunately, education is seen as one of the keys to ending poverty.

Ending poverty has become pop culture

With all the media exposure and all the pop stars getting involved the attainment of ending poverty may be more real now than ever before.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Based upon constructivist methods

The MIT labs have stressed the importance of using constructivist (Bender, 2006) methods when building cirriculum for the $100 laptops. Its about the world teaching its children... And it will be built from the bottom up. The recipients of the laptops will determine how they use them to learn.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Enter the $100 laptop

When MIT introducted the $100 laptop and said they were going to be giving them away to the third world, I was skeptical. I believed they would be sold for food on ebay days after their arrival. basic needs become more important than a laptop when you have no food. Having basic needs already met should be a requirement for receiving a 100 dollar laptop. Programs like microfinance should be included as a part of the collaborative effort in introducing these laptops.

Technology and Critical Pedagogy

The connection of technology and the emerging pedagogy is a mute point, they are interrelated (Travers, 1999). One cannot discuss one without the other. Within the current and emerging pedagogies are contructivism and critical pedagogy. It should be noted that critical pedagogy and social constructivism are similar and the terms are sometimes used to describe the same thing (Travers, 1999). Both these pedogogical theories stress the important of the social context of the learning and that knowledge should be constructed from this social, political, cultural, ideological place. When it comes to the use of technology within learning both constructivism and critical pedagogy should be referred to when building curriculum.

My greatest joy is I can educate my children

Microfinance is focused on providing small loans to families stuck in the cycle of poverty. These loans have been hugely successful in bringing families out of poverty. Once out of poverty the families priorities often shift to educating thier children. The common expression from two women is surprising;
"My children give me great joy because they have this opportunity to study." - Woman in Nigeria
"My greatest joy is I can educate my children." - Woman in Mexico

A coordinated combination

The elimination of poverty includes focus on many fronts. The ability to have self reliance, food, water and shelter are the first steps. Building upon the self-determination afforded by microfinance includes many services.

A coordinated combination of microfinance and other development services to improve business, income and assets, health, nutrition, family planning, education of children, social support networks, and so on. (Dunford, 2002)

Education can be a great help to eliminating poverty only it needs to be introduced with the correct combination of services and family health.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Microfinance works, and is a place to start

The idea of Microfinance is simple. If we loan people small sums of money to make the first step and become self reliant. They do become self reliant and the success builds upon itself. Once their basic needs are met, then they can consider education.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Basic necessities before education

The basic necessities of life need to be met before education can even be considered. This is twofold; do they have the resources (Appleton, 2001) and assets to allow the child to leave the home, do they have the health, wellbeing and access to learn. The biggest issue for child education is the need for the childs labor (Cockburn, 2001). If they can be freed from labor and the family has the assets; the child can persue education.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Poverty is a complicated issue

The more you read the less you know. The purpose of this blog is to be critical of applying educational technology in impoverished countries. There is no doubt that poverty shames and diminishes us all (Lewis, 2005). The main question being, could educational technology help people out of the poverty cycle? Before we apply technology to education to meet this end, it is important to know that education (without technology) can assist in bringing people out of poverty. Given the complexity of poverty (Appleton, 2001; Cockburn, 2001; Christiaensen, 2003) and the plethora of factors which perpetuate poverty it is not so simple to say, if those who live in poverty were more educated they would no longer live in poverty.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Critical Pedagogy

This blog looks at the 3rd world educational technology initiatives from a critical pedagogical perspective. Why critical pedagogy? It is a very empowering approach to pedagogy. For educational technology initiatives to be successful they need to be driven and highly influenced by the students. Critical pedagogy provides an approach to learning that is aligned with constructivist learning theory and the institutional structures of the school, and the social and material relations of the wider community, society, and nation-state (McLaren, 1998). This alignment creates an environment where students will be empowered to leverage the technology in the hopes for social change and a better lot in life.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Appleton, S. (2001). Education, Incomes and Poverty in Uganda in the 1990s. CREDIT Research Paper No. 01/22, University of Nottingham.

Cockburn, John. (2000). Child labour versus education: Poverty constraints or income opportunities?, Paper presented at a Conference on Opportunities in Africa: Micro-evidence on firms and households, April.

Christiansen, L., Demery L., and Paternostro, S. (2003). Macro and Micro Perspectives of Growth and Poverty in Africa. World Bank Economic Review, 17, 317-47.

Dunford, C. (2002). Microfinance as a vehicle for educating the poor. Retrieved on April 4, 2006 from

Gow. K.M. (2001). How access to microfinance and education through technology can alleviate poverty in third world coutnreis. International Journal of Economic Development, 3(1), pp.1-20.

Kanpol, B. (1999). Critical pedagogy: An introduction (2nd Ed.). Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.

Lewis, S. (2005). Race Against Time. House of Anansi Press. Toronto, Canada.

McLaren, P. (1998). Revolutionary pedagogy in post-revolutionary times: Rethinking the political economy of critical education. Educational Theory, Fall98, Vol. 48 Issue 4, p431, 32p;

Ryder, M. (2006). Critical Pedagogy. Retrieved on March 31, 2006 from

Travers, A., Decker, E. (1999). New Technology and Critical Pedagogy. Retrieved on April 3, 2006 from

Williams, L. (2004). Rage and Hope. Retrieved on march 31, 2006 from

Monday, January 30, 2006

Where do I start with Agile?

So you want to bring Agile into your software development process. And you are wondering where to start. That’s a tough question for each team does different things well. I always like to start anything new with teams by getting a baseline, that way we can show improvement and we can celebrate. We can also more easily identify the low hanging fruit.  Just the process of getting the baseline creates some interesting dialogue amongst the team. Anyhow, I like to keep it simple, so I took the 27 rules and practices of extreme programming, put them in a spreadsheet and made a wag of the percentage of time I actually saw the rule or practice being implemented. For one of the companies I worked with they implemented three of the rules and practices over 90% of the time. These three were; they measured project velocity (in their own way, but they measured it), their unit testing was awesome and they had really good collective code ownership. The other rules and practices implementation varied from less than 90% all the way to non-existent. That’s ok, gives room for improvement

Monday, January 16, 2006

Adventures in CSS

So everytime I build a new site I start coding in straight html. And inevitably I come to the point where I am becoming frustrated with the lack of flexibility html has to build nice looking sites. So, I start using CSS to get the good looking stuff done. So if your finding that you just can’t get the look you need, start your readings / learnings in Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). In the long run a good understanding of CSS will go a long way for you. And while your at it review some material on good design, I’ve always found Robin William's books to be right on!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Is educational blogging upon us

I think so… When I review a number of articles and sites on the subject of educational blogging, I believe it is now become the cognitive framework tool du-jour. I recently set up a blog for my daughters grade five newsletter, there are free blog servers now dedicated to K12 school students, University students and Educators in general. Two of my courses want blogs. One asks for it directly, the other wants a learning journal. So here we go, EduBlogging. This shift makes total sense. We are moving toward tools for Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) and Personal Learning Tools. A blog provides one place to store our thoughts as we learn. Obviously, a blog is single layered, thinks will change…

Agile Learner Design

Last term I submitted a paper called Agile Instructional Design. I believe this subject needs a more thorough investigation and supporting research. I have added a category to my blog which will reference all my work, musings, references toward this subject. If you have an interest in this subject may I suggest you read the paper and subscribe to this blogs RSS feed.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Friday, January 06, 2006

UNESCO Virtual U

Just needed to post a link to this site. As many of you know my fascination with Open Source and Education.  Here is more evidence of the traction it is gaining.  This UNESCO site has a very rich international list of links to other open initiatives and a great amount of reference material toward the inevitable goal of global openness to education.  May we all have access to education. Get’s me thinking were is the overlap with any of the end poverty initiatives…