March 17, 2011 Leave a comment
Being ‘information interventionists’ (Myburgh, 2007), as we are, we facilitate the transfer of information from one head to another. Practically speaking, we can only do this if the information has been recorded in some way: recorded information, or documents, we can call ‘information resources’. The recorded information must still be moved or transmitted physically – whether by postal services or by networked information and communication technologies (ICTs). While it is one thing knowing whether suitable information resources exist, and another knowing how to find them, the third is actually achieving physical access to them. It is this last point that is, and has long been, critical for many individuals and communities. Physical access to materials in many Minority World countries has been facilitated by the establishment of libraries, and more recently, by digitising information resources and making them accessible using networked ICTs. But the problem of physical access remains enormous in most parts of most Majority World nations. Computer costs and network access costs are often prohibitive, and purchasing access rights to digitised materials – particularly scholarly materials and those associated with teaching, learning and research – is often not a viable option.
To deal with this problem, and provide access to necessary information materials, ICTs are nonetheless very useful, and setting up centres where people can access networked computers has been largely the domain of the field called Community Informatics (which is a bit like public libraries on steroids, really. As an aside, it puzzles me why the Community Informatics people don’t work more closely with public libraries, which are often already established as network ‘nodes’ and can provide internet access. But that’s a matter for another discussion). The access to suitable materials remains a problem: open access as a general issue will be discussed as a separate issue. The focus here is particularly on educational materials, and goes beyond access, as these are understood to support learning processes which take place over a period of time, after which the participant will receive formal recognition of having mastered the material: in other words, accredited certification.
The wonderful work currently being undertaken by Open Education Resources, which endeavours to provide quality learning materials to all, either free or at a very low cost, and to ensure that completion of such courses are formally recognised as equivalent to those bearing the imprimatur of established schools and universities, is a world-wide initiative which has drawn massive support from all over the planet.
I am proud, therefore, to introduce you to the work of a student in the Digital Library Learning Master’s program, who I met (and taught) at the University of Parma last year: Nithin Lakshmana. Nithin is originally from India, as so is familiar with many of the information issues experienced in Majority World countries. As his thesis, he has designed and developed a course for school teachers, which will start on 4th April. He is hoping for at least 20 participants: please join or forward this information to any school teachers you may know! Check out the web page: http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Open_Educational_Resources_for_School_Teachers_from_Developing_Nations http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Open_Educational_Resources_for_School_Teachers_from_Developing_Nations
All the best
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