Laura Loves Languages

A place for many opinions


I cannot tell you all how wonderful it is to attend an e-learning conference online, as gas prices hurdle to $4.19 at my local gas station and the comfort of my living room surrounded by my dogs replaces airport gates and runway waits. (Ha ha! sorry for the pathetic rhyme.)

At any rate, a number of us on the MAN (MERLOT Africa Network) are attending e/merge and I thought it’d be very interesting to leave comments on this blog about what we all learn there. Today, I listened to the narrated presentation by Irene Ficheman of Sao Paulo, Brazil who compares today’s learning environments to digital ecosystems. We are reading many of the same people- Prensky on Digital Natives, Paulo Freire on learning theory and some new names for me which I will look at soon.

At any rate Ficheman talks about how learners, teachers, content and software act and interact (or not)

so that students can gain knowledge in a dynamic learning environment. We have a good opportunity for reflection on the roles of teachers and learners as actors in this environment. For deeper learning, it seems that the more interaction the better. (So, let’s speak up.)

Anyway, I look forward to checking into this Digital Ecosystem discussion tomorrow and to hear the voices of MAN colleagues so that we can all later interact with the digital ecosystem that is e/merge. I am honored by the privilege to learn from colleagues, Bronwyn and Maggie, who taught us netvibes yesterday.  Earlier in the week, they showed and Facebook. During the  portion, I came across George Siemen’s  Connectivism presentation  from 2005 and, coincidentally, also his blog post about the recent e-learning Africa .

July 13, 2008 Posted by | e-learning | , , , | Leave a comment

e-learning Africa -First Pan African Forum on Open Educational Resources

Gerry, Moustapha, Laura of the MERLOT Africa Network

Gerry, Moustapha, Laura of the MERLOT Africa Network

At the AICC conference center in Accra, talking about MERLOT in an African context. Catriona Savage from UNESCO Education Sector, Paris, France presented first on Open Educational Resources. Open educational resources are educational materials and resources offered freely and openly for anyone to use and under some licenses to re-mix, improve and redistribute. Open educational resources include:

  • Learning content: full courses, course materials, content modules, learning objects, collections, and journals.
  • Tools: Software to support the creation, delivery, use and improvement of open learning content including searching and organization of content, content and learning management systems, content development tools, and on-line learning communities.
  • Implementation resources: Intellectual property licenses to promote open publishing of materials, design-principles, and localization of content.

She spoke about the UNESCO perspective on the international OER movement. The OER movement began in 1998 with the term ‘open content’ coined by David Wylie. In 2001, MIT Open Courseware became the first large OER project. She talked about Rice University Connexions intiatives that provide a response to the limitations of traditional textbooks and the University of the Western Cape Free Courseware Project. Health OER is a project between South Africa, Ghana and the University of Michigan dealing with Health education resources.

UNESCO themes include Education for All-Building knowlege societies. With Hewlett Foundation support, the OER movement has been growing as has the availability of free educational content worldwide. Ms. Savage addressed the priorities of the UNESCO OER community. In Africa, some of the priority issues are:

  • Awareness raising
  • Communities
  • Capacity Development
  • Sustainabilty
  • Quality Assurance
  • Copyright
  • Learning support services

Raising awareness through community building and network development are highest priorities.

The OER Wiki

Dr. Bakary Diallo, rector, talked next about the African Virtual University, (AVU) begun in Washington, DC at the World Bank and now based in Nairobi, Kenya. The topic was to increase access to high quality higher education in Africa. Barriers:

  • Limited classrooms
  • Outdated curricula
  • Teaching and Learning Methods
  • Research capacity
  • Access to OER
  • Bandwidth

The AVU seeks collaborative partnerships for the creation, design and dissemination and utilization of OERs. Dr. Diallo stressed the importance of addressing the issues surrounding working in an African historical, philosophical, psychological and cultural context. AVU is establishing collaborative partnerships with MERLOT and the MERLOT African Network. There is a plan to release 73 AVU Math and Science modules as OER.

Dr. Moustapha Diack continued with a talk about “Open Solutions” to increase the availability of OER, to promote free access to scientific literature through Open Access and to adapt open source solutions for learning design and community building. Global and regional policies need to be aligned in this movement to promote truly open access. Diack promoted MERLOT as a premier e-learning community and the MERLOT Africa Network as a means of facilitating networked partnership between US and African institutions affiliated with MERLOT. Open Access resources he mentioned included:

  1. Directory of Open Access Journals
  2. The Hinari Program
  3. The Agora Initiative

I came all the way to Ghana to hear Vikram Savkar, the Publishing Director of Nature Publishing Group, who also happens to be the son of my dear colleague at NOVA, Reva Savkar, Professor of Chemistry at the Annandale Campus.  He spoke about the importance of tertiary science education in Africa. Without access to current quality science research, it is a challenge to provide good education and build capacity. Among solutions to the challenges alluded to by all speakers were: Open (Me-learning) & print materials, centers of excellence and private and public partnerships. Vikram Savkar hasworks on the Nature Science Education library of searchable, reusable digital content, a community of teachers and learners who can collaborate online and tools to permit the community to interact with each other and the content. The key theme in all of these presentations today, including Vikram’s is partnerships- academic, industrial and government partnerships.

Questions and Answers followed: What is the best opportunity to promote OER? Catriona Savage mentioned “talking about OER , telling the story of what works and what does not.” Gerry Hanley of MERLOT talked about “planning for action”. He encouraged the forum participants to have dialogues in their countries after experiencing MERLOT firsthand at the afternoon workshop. Dr. Diallo stressed the importance of addressing different needs and different perspectives.

A question from the audience was about interpretation and translation needs of the OER movement as well as training material about how to effectively use ICTs for teaching and learning. How will we adapt materials for different cultures? Panelists all recognized the needs for multilingual solutions.

Another question raised was about how we will keep track of quality in ICTs? Community built around the content, peer review and user comments, as in MERLOT, were all promoted as means of making decisions about quality.

All speakers talked about the critical need for faculty development in the area of teaching well online. The participants were encouraged to join MERLOT and start making use of the free and open library.

This afternoon, participants in the forum will attend our MERLOT hands-on workshop and get a chance to start to build their own personalcollections of learning objects.

May 28, 2008 Posted by | e-learning | | 2 Comments