Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
I applaud this initiative and appreciate the difficulties in the nature of the task and its importance. But should we be ringing alarm bells? I don’t think so. While I acknowledge that, we should not think that all people making contributions on the web are people of goodwill, and that everything they post would pass Sir Berners-Lee’s trustworthiness and reliability criteria. I guess we should be moving toward educating the masses and especially the Internet community on the importance of verifying any suspicious piece of information through refereed means and channels. Without sounding pessimistic, I do not really think a movie-rating kind of approach is likely to achieve the desired results.
To argue my point, I will use Tim’s examples of conspiracy theories and cults. The American Heritage Dictionary defines conspiracy theory as “a theory seeking to explain a disputed case or matter as a plot by a secret group or alliance rather than an individual or isolated act.” This is done intricately accounting for evidence presented either by showing of “the cover-up, which the conspirers are attempting, or “showing discrepancies in the received explanation.” (Clarke, 2002). Further, a conspiracy theory always seeks to deceive and always targeting the anti-elitists and populists and always have more visible evidence than the convectional elitist theory. Due to their populist agenda, conspiracy theorists are likely to convince most of the unquestioning and non-inquisitive minds against the conventional science, just like the case of MMR and LHC. (It is worth noting however that the original evidence of the link between MMR and autism was published in Lancet, a recognized scientific journal). What we get after a conspiracy theory, is either total silence from the mainstream bodies, or branding of the conspiracy theorists without providing evidence that would convince even the undecided. It would not be surprising if the conspiracy theorists come up with a good explanation as to why we should not use Sir Berners-Lee’s approach for authenticating web content, rather we should use their content as it has passed all the known tests.
Like a conspiracy theory, cult is a blind following that is also against the mainstream doctrines. One of the definitions given by the American Heritage Dictionary for cult is an “obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.” In the history of human history, cults and cultism have been known to exist – from the religious, political and social followings. That would probably explain why people would, for example, come out in numbers to support some politicians and political causes that are detrimental to the wellbeing of forward-conscious society. Take for instance the ongoing talk here in South Africa of people in some high offices claiming they are ready to kill if one of the politicians is convicted of corruption. Here, the blind masses have been indoctrinated to think that their preferred politician is being persecuted. While there seems to be conspiracy theories surrounding the case, I would want to think most of the people who are seen following the politicians are just cultist. In the same note, followers of any ideology would follow what they think (or are made to believe) is within their leaders – blindly. By implication, even if we rate web-content, we are unlikely to change their way of thinking or approach to life. They would not believe the ratings anyway.
So, exactly what can be done? The bulk of the work should be in educating the masses – creating in them inquisitive and questioning minds that will always seek to know the truth in neutrality following facts and ideas that are testable and can withstand scrutiny. Another tough call. But, it is my submission that if all the minds are inquisitive they will question the relationship between say the LHC, the Black Hole and the end of the world, or the relationship between MMR and say autism, or why following a certain politician or political ideology is in the best interests of their great-grand children. Perhaps this neutrality is what Jimmy Wales had in mind when he conceptualized Wikipedia. Are we likely to reach any semblance of neutrality in our discussions based on the facts and ideas on the ground? Very unlikely. That creates another catch-22 situation. Just like the two sales people, we will conclude different things given the same facts and ideas. But at least they are based on facts and ideas – not blind following, or naïve falsificationism.
Clarke,S. (2002). Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracy Theorizing, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 32(2), 131-150
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
What is intriguing is his argument for more funding for Humanities than science in South African universities. (This is not only a surprise because he is of a medical background, but also for the prominence science is being given for the economic development in Africa. I would argue also, given the AIDS scourge a person of his background would advocate for more funding for medical research especially in HIV/AIDS and TB). That is not to say that humanities (or social sciences) are lesser than the natural sciences. Indeed his proposal looks more proactive than reactive on one angle – that we need to first deal with our social and individual needs before we turn onto other areas like science. That is not to say I agree with his point of view. I would add that South Africa as a country as without doubt the rest of Africa need a proactive approach to the funding of projects and by extension higher education. That is, our reason for funding more humanities projects than science and technology projects in higher education should not be based on factors like the number of Nobel prizes we have in humanities as compared to sciences. Neither should it be pegged on the areas that we are good at, we need to explore new and diverse galaxies to find if there can be better life.
Just because South Africa is good in “international mediation, non-racism, reconciliation, justice, equity and even xenophobia” we should focus all our funding there. In fact, we can use that as a step towards exploring other areas like sciences or even medical research that is of betterment of the citizenry of this country and Africa as a whole. What the old professor seemed to ignore is that, despite what we can achieve in humanities, at the end of the day the “hungry child is going to aim to become a great scientist” not because there is lots of humanities in universities, but because there is food. In a time like his where everyone in the world has been alerted of a looming food shortage (although some are saying is artificial and speculative while others attribute it to the use of foodstuff in fuel/power generation), I would have expected the professor to advocate for some funding in food and agricultural research to feed the “hungry child”. Humanities won’t feed the child. In addition, it is time we changed the meaning of struggle from the mere creation of “a humane and just society... largely [based] on humanities”. Rather, we should transform the struggle to creating opportunities for the populace. I am yet to see a humane and just society where a section of it is destitute and hungry. While the iconography, native knowledge (and I may add wisdom), and unique history should be explored further, wide and deep, it should not be at the expense of science and technology. Well maybe I did miss a point.
In Italy, the economics are working. Universities (just like in SA incidentally) get subsidies from government based on number of graduates who “pass” through a university system. In this system, government “funds allocated to a university increase with the total number of full-time equivalent students (FTE), which is defined as the ratio between the number of exams passed and the number of exams that students should have taken.” The major concern of this approach is the allure of making more money by lowering academic standards. This especially becomes a problem because all universities are meant to be autonomous and offering their own examinations. In fact, as Professors Manuel F. Bagues and Mauro Sylos Labini and Ms Natalia Zinovyeva report, “graduates from universities with a high relative number of FTE students tend to do significantly worse in the labour market.” While this might be attributed to the high number of graduates the mills are producing (as compared to those graduating from high-grading university), there should be mechanisms of regulating the quality of academic offerings and standards at universities. Perhaps such mechanisms are favouring universities that “produce higher value added”, using “system based on external examiners” and “foster[ing] reputation effects in the market for higher education”. The latter could be done by “publicising data about how graduates of different universities and disciplines perform in the labour market.”
Let us see which university publishes data on employability of its graduates first!
Sunday, August 31, 2008
I have been thinking about what eLearning can be in Africa, if all the obstacles and barriers are removed it can prosper. But wait a minute, we are always reminded and reminding ourselves of our weaknesses, our inadequacies, our insufficiencies, and more often of our past failures that we become pessimistic of the future, we become procrastinators or non-starters, and people who will always see and hear the negative side of things. There is the usual rhetoric of seeing the opportunities, in every situation and context, where its said that a pessimist will see a glass as half-empty while an optimist will see it as half-full.
How often have we heard and read news of how Africa as a whole is not ready for the digital revolution and eLearning specifically? How often have we talked of the lack of access to digital resources in Africa, the bandwidth, the human capacity, the prohibitive and restrictive policies and regulations, the lack of ‘African’ content on the Internet, the poor electricity and related infrastructure; the lack of policy makers support; the limited or lack of financial resources; and of how our socio-cultural issues are very incompatible with what eLearning espouses? How often have we looked at closing debate on the questions of our weaknesses, inadequacies, insufficiencies, and past failures? Have we let these questions to blind us to the extent of seen an opportunity just because it is canvassed between illusional barriers? Have we attempted to turn this barriers (or identified Threats and Weakness in the SWOT analysis to Strengths and Opportunities)? I guess we are still seeing the glass as half full.
A story is told of how two shoes manufacturing companies in Europe sent there marketing gurus to an ancient country in the tropics to look for prospects of diversifying and extending their brands' market. On reaching this country, where as it were, the natives did not wear shoes, the two gurus returned to their companies with two different verdicts. Representative of one of the companies (say Company A) reported: People in that country is so primitive that they do not, as it were, nor do they need shoes. Investing our brands in that country would be the worst thing (since the sinking of the Titanic). The marketer from the rival company (Company B) reports: The country has an unexplored market that is just waiting for us to venture into it. A market that we will have no competitors, and the only thing we need to do is to show the natives of the country the benefits of wearing shoes, and off we have the market for our shoes!
Incidentally, some of those doing the marketing for Africa, are seeing a market (which some would say is digitally unexplored) that has no potential or opportunity for eLearning as the case was with Company A’s representative. They fail to see how the simple possibilities, benefits, advantages, opportunities, potential and the future that come along with the use of eLearning are. It is sad, to know that most of these crusaders of inadequacies are Africans themselves. This is not to say that we do not have our shortcomings, or there aren’t any barriers or hindrances to the use of eLearning in Africa. Rather, we should first look at what we pose to benefit from in the use of eLearning, and the work on the barriers. We should not try and paint a gloomy picture of our wonderful continent just because we are looking for a collaborator or donor or development partner (or any such entity) without putting ourselves first, and knowing what we are seeking to achieve at the end. Unfortunately, this can only be achieved for the good of all if we, as a continent are devoid of the mentality of weakness, inadequacy, our insufficiency, and of fear of past failures. To this end, I salute those of us who have soldiered in educating and advocating for the use of eLearning based on what we have, and what we can do – and we can reach heights only if we could use 10% of our current resources.
For one, we can achieve this by educating the masses and more importantly the policy makers of the benefits of eLearning: of the need of creating a workforce that is knowledge-economy ready that has special information- and knowledge-handling skills brought about by the use of ICTs; of the need create regional, continental and international networks that can deliver education and facilitate learning using ICTs; of the need to provide flexibility in content, delivery, pace, place and time of learning afforded to us by the use of eLearning; of the need to provide easy learning and learning process management using digital technologies like learning management systems; of the need to create repositories of intellectual and human capital that can be accessed and queried using ICTs anytime, anywhere; of the need to extend learning from the confines of a formal classroom; of the need to allow academic partnerships strengthened by the use of ICTs, and also of the need to encourage life-long learning.
Perhaps, when we do this (by showing first, then talking) all those who see a half-empty glass will start seeing the potential of the half content of the glass, or even something that could fill the glass. Maybe this is possible, if when you all have read this; you don’t start questioning your weaknesses, our inadequacies, our insufficiencies, and your past failures BUT YOU SHOW AND TELL. You walk the talk, or simply put your money where your mouth is.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The minister's comments then seemed to be a single case, but it seems to be a reflection of the perception within the political and policy making circles that eLearning will indeed increase interactivity to the level of phasing out teachers and professors in educational institutions. In neighbouring Tanzania (or is it the United Republic of Tanzania) the Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Prof Jumanne Maghembe, has said that IT will be used to cater for teacher shortages in schools. With a shortfall of 40 ooo teachers, Mobile phones, computers and projectors will be used not only to cater for the shortage of teachers, but also to improve on the enrolment rates. The minister is quoted to have said:
After the project is completed, we shall be able to use one teacher to teach many students and the shortage of teachers will be history in TanzaniaWhat I always seem to miss is what world some of this policy makers and politicians live especially when they have some (potential) 'donors' in their midst. They seem to have a rare and distant intelligence that make them utter words that might seem to be policy directions that are impractical to say the least. First, like I stated in May last year if the reason for introducing IT in schools is to do away with teachers, then that is the worst reason that can ever be. The mere introduction of IT in education brings about paradigmatic shifts and challenges in both quality and delivery (or imparting of knowledge).
This new paradigm requires the (teachers to transform into) facilitators to involve and engage student frequently to avert loneliness, low self-esteem, isolation, and low motivation to learn, whose consequences are low achievements or eventual drop-out. The engagement and involvement, both during the teaching and learning process, and the development of the learning materials and contexts translates to increased workloads for the facilitators and therefore the need for more teachers. This dual challenge of paradigm shift, and increased workload in the face of eLearning in the schools might lead to user resistance, and eventual failure. In fact, most of the change theorists and researcher have indicated that people would always resist anything that would challenge the status quo, or one that is perceived to bring about increased roles and responsibilities.
Secondly, the drop-out (also attrition, absenteeism) rates are reported to be higher in technology mediated classes than in the face to face classes. It is only difficult to proof absenteeism in the case of online learning because of the anywhere anytime philosphy. Completion rates to some on online programmes have been reported to be as low as 30%.
Prof Jumanne Maghembe, did you mean what you said or you were also misquoted? Or did you just read from a 1985 Apple Classroom of Tomorrow script?
A quote from The Citizen (Tanzania) of 2nd August:
Several African governments have turned to mobile phones and computers to mitigate the effects of teacher shortage they are facing.
Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia have started ICT projects involving mobile-phone messaging and computer-generated classrooms for both primary and secondary schools.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Are you an academic in higher education? Are you from or working in any of the following countries (Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe)? If so, you are invited to participate on an eLearning adoption survey. Click here to participate. A guide on how to go about filling in the questionnaire is available here.
Day 28@1203 28 June 2008
Number of responses: 74
Number of valid responses: 38
Number of saved responses: 6
Countries represented: 11
Universities represented: 20
Day 13@1505 13 June 2008
Number of responses: 59
Number of valid responses: 30
Number of saved responses: 5
Countries represented: 8
Universities represented: 11
Day 9@1525 09 June 2008
Number of responses: 29Number of valid responses: 16
Number of saved responses: 1Countries represented: 6
Day 3@2017 03 June 2008
Number of responses: 14
Number of valid responses: 6
Number of saved responses: 1
Countries represented: 5 (Kenya (2), Mozambique (1), Rwanda (1), South Africa (1) , Zimbabwe (1)).
Universities presented: 6 (University of Nairobi (1), Africa Nazarene University (1), National University of Rwanda (1), Stellenbosch University (1), Catholic University of Mozambique (1), National University of Science and Technology (1)).
Gender representation (6 Male, 0 Female).
More information also available on my homepage.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Over the last few decades, there has been a worldwide surge in the use of information and communication technologies (or digital technologies). There have been reported mixed results of the ‘digital revolution’ to the different angles and spheres of our daily life including education. However, there is a perceived lack in terms of both research and success stories in African higher education institutions with regard to the adoption of digital technologies in teaching and learning despite their promise and potential. There is therefore need to study and document the contributing factors, and at the same time develop frameworks and/or guidelines for successful use of digital technologies in teaching and learning, popularly known as eLearning.
You have been kindly requested to participate in a research on the adoption and use of eLearning/Learning technologies in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in selected countries in Africa. The questionnaire seeks to gather information about the perceptions, motivation, organisational and environmental factors affecting the use of eLearning with the aim of understanding the kind of interventions required for faster adoption and continued use of eLearning. The results of a statistical analysis of the data will be used to make specific recommendations on the areas of personal characteristics and attitudes, organisational realignments, technology policy, implementation, and operations for HEIs for successful adoption of eLearning
It will take you approximately 20 minutes to fill in this questionnaire. For internal validity of the questionnaire, some items may appear as if they are repeated. To fill in the questionnaire, copy and paste the following URL onto your browser: http://www.elearningfundi.net/survey/index.php?sid=37667 OR http://tinyurl.com/64lmob
Monday, April 21, 2008
Recently, a JISC funded initiative continued to define and enumerate “tangible benefits” of eLearning that could be used as an indicative measure of ROI. The benefits are in a report entitled: Exploring Tangible Benefits of e-Learning: Does Investment yield interest . Among the tangible benefits identified in the report are:
- Effect on learning (e.g. context, style, insight and reflective practice)
- Effect on exam results
- Effect on student personal development (e.g. skills, employability, confidence)
- Student satisfaction with e-learning (e.g. effect on motivation, attendance and enjoyment, as shown in national survey, institutional survey, module evaluation, focus groups, or other)
- Innovation in teaching, learning and assessment (e.g. stimulus to creative approaches)
- Influence on educational research
- Staff satisfaction with e-learning
- Effect on staff personal development (e.g. skills, employability, confidence)
- Influence on recruitment (students or staff; e.g. through greater accessibility; opening up new markets)
- Influence on retention (e.g. students or staff)
- Influence on policy (e.g. institutional, faculty/school, departmental, or other extra- institutional body)
- Effect on resources (e.g. effect on cost of delivery, time, applying full economic costing to teaching and learning)
- Modifications to learning spaces (e.g. libraries, wireless networks, informal learning spaces)
- Effect on management of learning assets (e.g. institutional IP, repositories)
- Effect on a social justice agenda (e.g. widening participation, provision of space for consideration of differing or challenging perspectives).
I am yet to read the whole report but as I do, more questions that I asked in 2006 still linger. How for instance do you tell the difference in effects on learning that are as a result of eLearning? And not, say, as a result of student’s personal initiative, extrinsic motivation (e.g. having to get a job promotion after completion of a course), what is the effects of learners’ innovativeness when it comes to using technology tools that can be attributed to effects on learning? Can we measure and ascertain that good grades in an exam can be attributed to the use of eLearning only? Hopefully, I will get insights or partial answers or convincing arguments on this and more questions as I read the the report.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Thank you very much for agreeing to help us out on this, alright here are these questions:Not a problem! It is always good to know I can be of help to someone. Please note that some of these questions are too technical and the few sentences given as answers are oversimplifications of what actually is or happens.
When is open source free and when is it required to pay a fee?Free in open source is a matter of freedom not fees. What this freedom means is that you get the source code together with the software (or you can access the source code without limitations). The freedom hence mean you can take the source code study, change, and improve its design and redistribute it to others. In addition, you can use it for any purpose. You may be required to pay for the software (if its not available for download) or pay for its customization to your requirements if you do not have the in-house capability of doing it.
With other operating systems, particularly Windows XP, they tendWhat makes windows more vulnerable to viruses is its design especially on permissions management. Most users (including programs) can install software and also take control of the running of some software. In Linux, security and permission is king and installation of programs take a process and need change of rights. The implicit requirement to set user rights on Linux makes it less vulnerable to viruses. To some extent Linux might be vulnerable to malicious software, but since most of the control is on the user then the system administrator can control what specific users do on an installation.
to be very vulnerable to viruses, How is it that Linux is immune to
How does one choose between the likes of Mandriva, Fedora, Ubuntu,All this are blends. The rule of the thumb in choosing between them is closeness to support of a wider community using it. In case you need help or when you need to improve or do something extra with them. I use fedora because I like one or two things in it.
etc, when planning for deployment?
What are some of the utility programs available on Linux?Utilities for? I don't understand.
But most of the blends or distros of Linux come with most of the basic software: Office Suite (open office), Email client (Evolution, Thunderbird etc), Package management (Yast, RPM,etc), Web servers (Apache). Depending on your installation choice/type, you can easily add on most of the applications that you need.
Threats to system security come not only from outside the computerFirst, physical security is as important as software security. Linux-based system have the best user and user rights management system (Access Control Lists) that I know in an operating system. You can manage users to the point of what file the user (or group of users) can see, execute, or write. In short, the user access-level security is as good as you can set it to be as the administrative user.
system but also from inside the community of systems users as
well. What are security measures that are taken by Linux on
unauthorised access to sensitive data by unauthorized users?
How does Linux support kernel threads?Much better than most of the other operating systems. Please see http://tldp.org/FAQ/Threads-FAQ/index.html for more information.
What are the most common problems that are experienced by LinuxMainly its a question of attitude and resistance to change. Otherwise, most of the people who have changed to using Linux and open source software have developed the right attitude towards them and get to know how to go about most of the things. Support for the users is therefore very important during the change (or introduction) phases of the software.
users, or open source in general?
People are very much used to the windows environment, to make theMost of the desktop Linux distros now come with a graphical interface. Gnome and KDE remain the widely used desktop interfaces for Linux. To switch from an Ms Windows environment to a say Gnome environment, one just need to have the right attitude and perceptions and to learn the new terminologies.
transition easier, what are the Linux basics that users must
familiarize themselves with?
How does Linux handle scheduling?
Linux scheduling does not differentiate between a task and a process e.i. Linux in its implementation does not differentiate between a thread and a task. All threads are implemented as processes that share resources among themselves based on time slices. Please check http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/linuxkernel/chapter/ch10.html for more information.
How does Linux support Ethernet, WAN & LAN through routers andThere are a number of resources on getting information about networking in Linux and other Unix-based systems. For a quick start, please check "The Linux Documentation Project" http://tldp.org section on Networking: http://tldp.org/HOWTO/HOWTO-INDEX/networking.html
Hope this answers all your questions. Do not hesitate to contact me when and if you need more clarification on the issues.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
There are too many technological and pedagogical decisions to be made, and at times, even being an adviser in the same you are at the crossroads. The crossroads often leads to dilemmas that as a technology advisor, I have to take a stand and follow it through (standing on it, although deep down I have this feeling it might fail and portray negatively on my image). That said, there are no silver bullets, and there are no quick fixes especially on educational technology. There are tough pedagogical implications of any technology choice. And then there is the paradox, I am expected to advice and strongly advocated for the use of technology in teaching and learning, while at the same time be wary of their pedagogical shortcomings (that at times need not be known by the clients).
In short, I don’t envy being a salesman.
So, back to the New Year story. The prediction of the year, is in as much as we would want change in teaching and learning using technology, the only thing that will change considerably is the technological jargon, with little offer on the pedagogy. Before you shoot me, please read my prediction at least three times.