Mapping OER with Wikimedia

Final conference – photo by Ben Bernhard – Mapping OER – Bildungsmaterialien gemeinsam gestalten, CC BY 4.0, Link

What are  opportunities of Open Educational Ressources and how can we map the various efforts, projects, groups, together with the vivid and diverse community so that the community can coordinate their efforts and funding gets funneled effectively?


Learning has always been a dynamic process as knowledge & methods evolve but also as the motivations and needs of learners vary. For centralized solutions with tight copyright, producing such a high diversity of material is just too expensive. Open Educational Ressources, in contrast, offer material editable by teachers and pupils, material that can be expanded and re-mixed (5r of open material).

But they also come with new questions: How can I evaluate quality? Can I rely on proper licensing? What training is helpful to work with open ressources? And, of course, how can appropriate business models allow for sustainable and professional services?

OER are today driven by a diverse community of practioners, researchers, and activists, including some positions in official administration. Knowledge, questions, and positions are equally diverse.


Working as a close team with Wikimedia, we developed a series of expert workshops around these four focus questions, and a final conference for about 200 people. While Wikimedia provided domain knowledge and was in touch with the community, we brought in our knowledge of methods for engaging multi-stakeholder workshops.

Each workshop collected existing experiences, moved on to needs and gaps the participants sensed. Dedicated input on technology or legal issues made everyone aware of constraints. All of this served as input for ideation sessions in small teams. The group as review body provided immediate feedback for  further refinement of the proposals. Plenary discussions, brainstormings, individual focused work, and guided analysis sessions in small groups supported a high level of activity and fostered exchange among the the participants.


Initially, we planned the workshops meticulously in activity and timing. We soon found out that all participants were highly self-motivated and that the groups were very good in self-organizing and following their own pace to be most productive. “Lateral guidance” was a true difference to strong structure and motivation that we often need to provide in corporate workshops.

Looking at OER themselves, I realized that it isn’t about ressources alone but about a different approach to learning (and teaching and schools in consequence). More self-driven and peer-based, more exploratory, more open ended. “Don’t call it education” as André Knörig of Fritzing put it: At Fritzing, people find inspiration. They gather knowledge as a means to build cool stuff.


Mobile Youth and Social Networks

danah boyd has been working for years on the life of youth and particular what role digital media plays for them. At last year’s Aspen Ideas Conference she made three statements that I found extra interesting (beyond my general respect for her work):

  • teenagers engage in emotional exchange with their peers, especially late at night. This is new because without (digital) media they couldn’t meet at these hours before as they were not allowed to go out so late.
  • they don’t need/want super-immersive online worlds for their friends (like 2nd World) but meet them in asynchronous online communities. Problem here is that you can’t connect from MySpace to Facebook.
  • best thing for them is to “take their friends along in their pocket“, i.e. on their mobile phone. But carriers wall their networks and services even heavier then online communities do and, in consequence, “you don’t see innovations happening in mobile” on the social network side.

And this is a sad thing. As you can see here and as we also found out by our own research, mobile communication has the potential to address exactly these wishes of young people. Already now they make use of the technology in maybe unexpected ways: from sending photos from the fitting room to check their new look with their peers to subtle ring tone patterns that inform friends about the success with dating the latest crush.

T-Mobile’s My Faves looks like a move into the right direction because it is open to “even landlines and other networks” — it seems to be a success in the US but is discontinued it in Europe (where “other networks” were only available in one of the options). It’s people who live in social networks and these networks are not determined by a certain web framework or carrier. If carriers want to respond to that they need to open up and get ready for it before the online communities do and take the lead completely.


Inventing for the other 90%

Growing without design? housings in El Alto

Growing without design? housings in El Alto

The more I get to know the work in large corporations the more it strikes me how much money they spend (or waste) on generating new ideas. Thousands and millions are made available for new or not so new ideas and for exploring new fields of business in continually saturated markets. It comes by little surprise that a lot of the results are pretty poor. Granted, when dealing with “innovation processes” you never know what you’ll get for your investment which makes it hard to judge which money could be saved. But what could be sparked with these funds if applied elsewhere, outside of the business context?

A lot of “ideas” or development efforts are not focused on new technologies or services in the sense of making our lives better. They are just meant to produce new or refined business models so that the company can earn more money. Serving the user’s (let’s say: real) needs from a more holistic point of view is just not taken into account (literally!). In the end of inovation workshops, the single factor for decisions about the future “life” of an idea is profit and not user needs.

I don’t want to criticise companies (at least not here) for their single minded goals of making profits–in the system of capitalism it’s their only reason of existence (and even the companies can’t keep the money but have to pass it on to their shareholders. The contradiction between user needs and profits grows even more this way, as André Gorz describes very clearly). But if we allow us just for a little moment to think outside these business restrictions: Enormous resources are spent to make some bright minds comfortable and creative every day so that they struggle with those oversaturated markets and fight against the “no need barriers” of obviously happy customers.
What if a fraction of these efforts was directed on problems like child poverty, ecologic smartness, cultural diversity? What if oxfam, amnesty international or terre des hommes could be supplied with a comparable stream of brain work?
For sure the effects would be enormous. So many people are longing for a better life and don’t have to be convinced by (insanely) expensive marketing. And all those people are more than willing to contribute as much as they can (and often fail because of lack of influence).

Increadible amounts spent to get ideas on how to cram even more products into costumers in the one world and the destruction and the eradication of so many perspectives because of lacking funds and minds in the other one: That’s an insight that makes me really, really sad.
Of course, you could believe in the Trickle-Down-Effect and hope that the more profits large companies make the more they can invest in new ideas that finally will make the lives of all of us better; but noone is able to tell how long are we supposed to wait for some drips to reach the bottom.

On the contrary! It might be totally plausible that we can’t design within the usual innovation (business, distribution) system if we want to reach this bottom…


Let’s do…

scenario: swim together small

Of what use is a well structured address book, as it will result from my master thesis research? We engage in a lot of our activities jointly with our friends; different cliques that form anew each time we start out for a new band to discover or quite stable teams for sports. Today, we have to collect all necessary addresses by hand or rely on static groups that we configured in advance before we can send a group email or SMS. A socially aware digital assistant (e.g. on our mobile phone) could keep track of our communication and would be able to make some good guesses about these groups and theire dynamic developments. For our activity planning we could use our address book group-oriented compared to individual-oriented.


best replica attractor

This is just a small and simple experiment to see if i can attract a huge amount of spam for my newly installed gmail-account. The more I succeed in doing so, the better I will perform i a newly created game from the Digital Playground Class at FH Potsdam. Very intersting class, but for the bots only this link does count: my attractive replica site!


Computer Science Helsinki: The Context Project

Why use mobile phones as technology platform?

Smartphones are the first real pervasive platform. They are always with you and have the processing power and network connectivity of a 1995 PC. A service or application that works on a Smartphone has the unique capability of being available throughout your everyday life.

This is the statement that can be found on the homepage of the Context Project, the documentation of a large research done on the communicative (and consequentially social) behaviour of people by the
Department of Computer Science,
Helsinki Institute for Information Technology Basic, and
Advanced Research Unit

They developed a very sophisticated software application to keep track of all the people you meet and conversate with during the day, called the ContextPhone. Unfortunately it is designed for SymbianOS and therefore restricted to Series60 Nokia mobile phones.

Moreover, they mention the potential of the communication logs as private diary, several privacy issues and the possible influence on our behaviour (rituals), because we could start manipulating our context in order to make use of the collected/transmitted information as a message on its own (ideas which came to my mind as well).

I found another reason via Wade Roush on Technology Review

The smart phone is “an ideal system for pervasive, supportive social computing,” writes Russell Beale, director of the Advanced Interaction Group in the computer science department at the University of Birmingham, England. It’s “a two-way device, creating and consuming information, is highly personal, and is almost always available… .”


MS Research: Social Computing Group

While digging into the field of Social Computing I found some very interesting projects from the Microsoft Research Social Computing Group.
It seems to be abandonned, with the last update from 2003.


Identity 2.0

Identity in digital media, as discussed by Dick Hardt and Kim Cameron.

Dick Hardt proposes in his OSCON 2005 Keynote an identification system for the virtual world modelled after reality: Some authorities issue ID-certificates to the user and she can use these IDs independently for a variety (best: all) of services (e.g. shopping). The service doesn’t have to ensure the integrity of the user by contacting some 3rd party authentification authority with every login (as it is now) and the user has one ID for everything (simple). That’s (very roughly) what he tries to sell with sxip.


autonomous assistants

[edit 080223] There is a new and English abstract![/edit]
[edit 071129]With my thesis I want to explore what role machines can play in our interaction with extended social networks.[/edit]

here comes the latest version of my proposal that will be the basis for my master thesis at FH Potsdam.

Please do comment as much as you can and like, everything is appreciated!

Get proposal pdf 230 kb, text in German only


. . . .

the button code

Just for the record: This code will drive our arduino boards (two of them and yes! they are connected AND talking!).

It took Larissa and me quite some time and a lot more nerves. And Tomek, too! He spent hours with us on ICQ altruisticly, even got his two Arduinos out of the box and gave us the right hints finally – by remote!
So we learnt a lot. Most important: With two communicating Boards, never forget to connect the grounds. Always remember.

The code for the geeks: