I have a couple of interesting gigs coming up in April.
First is a Wikipedia editing workshop at the Australian Computers in Education Conference. I gave a talk called ‘Safe wiki’ at the last such conference, in Canberra in 2008. Now it is rolling around to Melbourne and I am doing something a bit more hands-on.
Registrations for ACEC are now open. You can also buy a ticket just for Thursday (to catch the open source stream!) or even just a half-day if you like.
Second is something quite exciting, the National Library of Australia’s Innovative Ideas Forum. It is a national event they hold, one day long, free, but only about 300 attendees. This year they are encouraging the use of Twitter throughout, and will probably podcast it, if last year is any indication. One of the other speakers is Nicholas Gruen, who was head of the Government 2.0 Taskforce. Esteemed company indeed! My talk is called “Is Wikipedia a one-off?: Is mass collaboration all it’s cracked up to be?“
The NLA is a great host for such an event; it doesn’t surprise me that they are encouraging big-thinking and innovation in technology. Their Australian Newspapers site is not only a fine example of making dead-wood products machine readable and comfortably at home amongst the electrons, but it also integrates ‘crowdsourcing’ (OCR correction) in a very natural and, from what I understand, successful manner.
I hear places are filling up quickly so if you are in Canberra, register soon!
Some late breaking news. This Friday I’ll be speaking at an EDNA ICT Workshop at the State Library of Victoria. EDNA is “Australia’s free online network for educators”. Among other things, they run me.edu.au, which is pretty much Facebook for teachers, and a great calendar of educator events. I understand that they are an especially useful resource for casual teachers and others who fall through the cracks of the usual (state) teacher networks.
Some nice things showed up in my feed reader while I was at LCA.
- Really nice Wikibooks screencast of the PediaPress Collections extension in action. (This extension lets you select any set of pages to produce a PDF, and if you like buy a printed copy.) (via Wikibooks News)
- Kevin Kelly has a new essay called Better than owning where he concludes, “Access is better than ownership.” “As they gain in public accessibility, books, music and movies are headed to become social goods even though they might not be paid by taxes” — well, not if TPTB have anything to do with it. (via waxy.org)
- GotGastro.com: “a Google Maps mashup of the NSW Food Authority’s name-and-shame lists.” What an awesome idea (and name!). It’s open source, too. See the cool things that open access to PSI can produce? (via Collaborynth)
- Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own is a new book purporting to be a history of the free culture movement. You can buy it for $ or download it for free (according to the PDF it is under CC-BY-NC, although I didn’t see a notice for that on the website). (via James Boyle)
- Another book of interest: Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software is available online as CC-BY-NC-SA. What is particularly awesome is that is has been published with something called CommentPress (note: site currently seems to be down, but see here for more info). CommentPress gives you per-paragraph commenting (almost annotating — like scribbling in the margins, really). (via Open Access News)
- Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge looks like an extremely comprehensive collection of essays on, well, what the title says. It’s licensed CC-BY-NC-ND. (via Open Access News)
- Free the facts! is a neat set of cartoons written on index cards, explaining the current situation with regards to publishing of scientific research, and thus the need for the open access movement.
It’s licensed CC-BY-NC-SA. (via Open Access News)
- The University of Europe: accessible to all is a brief article in the Guardian, talking about European adoption of open content/open courseware. (via Open Access News)
This is a video that I took at the VITTA conference (Victorian IT Teachers Association). I was there giving a workshop about using Wikipedia in the classroom (session 1202), and Pia was there keynoting (1601 — the video above) and talking about OLPCs in Australia (1307)! She was also kind enough to let me license it CC-BY-SA.
While there I also caught up with Donna Benjamin (1207) and Pru Mitchell (1203) — we three had the bad fortune to all be scheduled in the same time slot. Although with 20 simultaneous sessions, it might not be avoidable.
By comparison with ACEC, this conference had a much better representation of open source software advocates amongst its speakers. The Linux Australia stand in the exhibition was getting excellent traffic throughout Monday.
My workshop went well; the first time I’ve done anything like that, but the participants seemed engaged enough. 50 minutes is not really long enough for anything substantial, and I think a better ratio than 1:20 would be more helpful, but it’s a start!
I had a great, although tiring, day yesterday: I went to the AussieChix microconf event. AussieChix is the Australian arm of LinuxChix. The “microconf” was a one-day event simultaneously happening in Melbourne and Sydney, with speakers in both cities, connected via videoconferencing. Giant thanks to Mary and Alice for organising it, and Google Australia and their wonderful employees for donating their space, bandwidth and time to enable us to have this event.
I first got involved with LinuxChix not long after WikiChix was founded, I suppose. I was curious about this group that we were modelling on, and I was probably feeling more confident about exploring Linux. I really can’t speak highly enough about the Australian LinuxChix. They are some amazing women. Every single one of them is just doing really cool stuff. Whether they are quiet or boisterous, they are all really strong and each have their own way of not taking shit from other people. It’s like women-company nirvana for me. And that we all just utterly geek out is the icing on the cake. :)
Anyway enough raving. I gave a ~15 minute talk on “Wikipedia & the education system”. It’s not anything super polished, just some thoughts I have been having since I attended ACEC, the computers in education conference.
- Wikipedia is now internet furniture. [I may have forgotten to use this phrase in my talk, d’oh.] What are the effects of that for the education system?
- WP the product (encyclopedia – traditional, conservative) vs WP the process/project (massively collaborative authoring – radical, new)
- WP (the product) is like EB with uber-visible referencing. WP’s referencing is psuedo-academic — not used in exactly the same way as academics.
- Schools will have a responsibility to equip students with media literacy skills for processing and understanding this new method of authoring.
- Schools – ways of using WP – directly as content – http://schools-wikipedia.org – or indirectly – referencing projects, reviewing projects, analysing how WP works
- Teachers need to educate themselves about how it works – contacting WM chapters is a good way to go
- NSW HSC English has WP on the curriculum – “Global Villages” module
- Universities – more animosity because it’s seen as an affront to authority – also more inappropriate for students to use
- Universities should recognise and reward academics’ involvement in Wikipedia just as they recognise getting an article published in a high-prestige journal. (What is the impact factor of Nature vs WP?) Academics have a responsibility to communicate the importance and relevance of their work to the general public.
- Authoring assignments for uni students (ie “write a WP article”) – good bc greater impact, readership, motivation; potentially better “peer review”- bad bc have to learn wiki skills (software & community) as well as topic area; WPians can be rude, abrasive and wrong
- What WP needs to do
- improve SW for ease of use – Wikipedia is too important to have technical barriers that stop people from editing – WYSIWYG, blame colouring, more direct stats
- welcome and encourage collaboration – both onwiki and offwiki (again chapters, outreach, engagement)
- WPians will eventually enter the education system as teachers – already have many editors who are retired teachers – both editing WP, and teaching, attract people who love learning.
This Slideshare bizzo is pretty neat. (But after you press play you probably don’t want to do anything else in your browser.) The audio synchronising tool is well designed — now what’s the offline equivalent?
While I was there I felt a certain duty to start this article …
I just arrived back from the Australian Computers in Education Conference (ACEC). It’s actually still going, but as I’m not a teacher and hence hanging out at education conferences doesn’t constitute paid work for me, I decided to go home early.
It was all a bit of an eye-opener for me. There was a huge hall filled with exhibitions mostly from commercial software companies, where all meals were held. I was rather taken aback at the idea that teachers might wander around and actually purchase software based on these stands. Reminded me of pharmaceutical companies marketing to doctors.
For fun I spoke to the woman at the Encyclopedia Britannica stand. I didn’t even realise they had much Australian presence. And I didn’t even realise the main thing they were pushing these days was website subscriptions (as opposed to books and CD-ROMs!). They offer basically three versions of each article, written for different ages/reading comprehension skills. She also told me a couple of scare stories, like what if chill-uns look for pictures of the murray darling (“Imagine what they get, with the word ‘darling’!” — actually they get exactly what they’re looking for), and a surely made-up story about her 10 year old nephew looking for pictures of soldiers by typing in “pictures of privates”.
There was exactly one talk relating to open source software (many others by commercial software providers). At first I was so excited to see another FLOSS advocate (despite the somewhat troubling use of the word “freeware” in the abstract.) So I went to it… and the speaker proclaimed that “Google” was “open source”. I don’t even know what that is supposed to mean, most Google products don’t even supply source, let alone under an open source license. So that was kind of a shocker. What a shame. There was supposed to be an OLPC talk but that was cancelled.
I spoke to a university lecturer there I had met before, and I said how I found the lauding of web-based technologies a little worrying given the concerns about network lock-in, and that as I saw it there was little difference between being locked in to a software product/format vs a website. (It’s all about the API — can you get your data back out if you need to? If not, tread warily!) He mentioned how a large company had come to his campus offering to take care of his university’s infrastructure (email, course management etc), and his university had just laughed at them because it would be ludicrous to give up that control to a commercial company for little to no benefit. And seemingly the large company was taken aback because elsewhere they had had a good reception. Seriously.
What primary school and high school students learn to use is likely to be highly influential. Many of them may never go software-exploring beyond what they become familiar with at school. As I remember my grade 12 software development and design teacher putting it, why the hell should the state education department pay Microsoft (or anyone else) for the “privilege” of using their software or services? Why the hell shouldn’t they be paying the education department for the opportunity to influence this captive audience of millions of students?
OK, so that’s a naive dream, but I learnt more about free software in education at a Software Freedom Day event with an audience numbering tens, than I did at a gigantic biennial national computers-in-education conference. So we freedom lovers can’t afford lobby groups and trade show exhibition stalls; I reckon we could have at least put together a FLOSS talk from someone who actually knows what the term means.