We have an internal Shuttleworth Foundation IRC channel which mainly consists of comments, banter, understanding where people are, soliciting opinions and, most importantly, links to interesting things we are reading. These readings inform our current thinking and shape our ideas. To share them at large, we have tagged them in deli.icio.us under SFreads (what the Shuttleworth Foundation reads). The RSS feed is to the left of this post, and will be on the front page of our website.
This week, the team went on an Insights training course, which whilst a lot of it can be taken with a pinch of salt (how you can fill out 25 questions and define the exact characteristics of each complex individual I will never know) there was a lot of truth found.
You are plotted on a map and assigned a colour, each colour represents a personality type (as with Myers Briggs and so far, not that inspiring), the part that I liked was that you were able to see which colours were assigned to your team members and then there were explicit statements of what each person liked, and did not like and if you want a positive result from any interaction a simple list of do’s and do nots.
I was an ‘Inspirer Motivator’ – which whilst is a lovely sunshine yellow colour and is ‘out-going, can develop and maintain contacts, able to create enthusiasm, verbally effusive, optimistic and sees the good in others’ there are obviously some down sides!
Broadly speaking, strengths are:
- Outwardly directed energy ensures a fast friendly pace.
- Becomes involved in many activities.
- Will look for the good in people and events.
- Participative and involved team player.
- Can be bubbly, effusive and spontaneous.
- Ability to see options and alternatives.
- Will try anything at least once.
- Has an outgoing nature and builds relationships quickly.
- May take criticism of her work personally.
- Generally speaking, she is speaking generally!
- Will set unrealistic deadlines for herself and others.
- May ignore others who contribute in a less energetic style.
- Easily distracted from the routine.
- Does not enjoy working or being alone for long periods.
- Generates so many ideas that chaos often ensues.
- Can appear insincere.
Value to the team:
- Sees the “big picture”.
- Creates considerable activity.
- Can organise the social calendar.
- Is seen as a good team builder.
- Exudes high drive, direction and sociability.
- Boosts self-esteem in others.
- Brings a fresh outlook.
- Is innovative and imaginative.
- Leads by personal example.
When communicating with me do:
- Keep the conversation lively.
- Don’t be too serious, dull or severe.
- Omit unnecessary and intricate details.
- Provide for both flexibility and structure within the meeting.
- Use colourful and bold language in conversing.
- Maintain a positive and open stance.
- Be spontaneous and harmonious.
- Be clear on completion details.
When communicating with me, don;t:
- Speak too slowly or hesitantly.
- Be mundane, boring or dismissive.
- Expect her to respond favourably if you dictate to her on policy or procedures.
- Take issue with her demeanour or jaunty disposition.
- Leave her out of the picture.
- Limit her range or scope of activity.
- Be dismissive of her feelings and emotions.
- Appear slow, sluggish or too formal.
We are not afraid to take risks on new ideas or projects and we are not afraid to tell the world when they have gone wrong and failed. The Kusasa project has failed. Essentially we could not reconcile the original vision of the project with the practical realities we faced in South Africa.
We started the project, back in April 2006 with an incredible meeting (and sometimes clashing) of minds in London, we had Alan Kay of the Squeak project and Squeakland educational software platform, Guido van Rossum of Python fame, and James Dalziel of the LAMS project, to name but a few. We essentially decided that we wanted to produce children from the education system that could, as Mark Shuttleworth’s blog states:
- Learn a set of tools quickly and efficiently. In life, the set of tools we apply to the problems we face changes every few years. So it’s not the specific SET of tools you learn, its the ability to grok a new toolset, figure out when to use, and do so efficiently that counts.
- Break problems into simpler pieces, solve them using familiar tools. The whole process of analysis is about taking a big hairy problem that is new and unfamiliar, and teasing it into pieces that look solvable based on tools that you already know.
- Put those simpler answers back together to make an answer to the big problem. This is the synthesis part – taking the results of your analysis and making them meaningful in the real world.
We also wanted this to be a programme that would be very easy to replicate and use as they wished. To be simple and easy, peer-to-peer taught and evaluated. To enable the teacher, not to be the holder of the domain specific knowledge, but to be able to facilitate the learning.
It has become apparent that the project success depends on teachers developing skills we did not initially anticipate and due to learner abilities the project used illustrated stories to introduce and role model effective thinking, which whilst the right thing to do, strayed from the original vision.
It is important to shout about our successes, and to acknowledge our failings and whilst the project has failed, the materials produced are fabulous and pedagogically sound. I would encourage those using them to continue to do so and those in environments that do not have the same constraints as we have to take them and add to them. You can find them on the website and are all licensed openly.
Whilst there have been a lot of people who have been key to driving this project forward, Sam Christie and the Bright Sparks team have been fabulous.
We are finally starting to get under the hood of the foundation. We have published the first in our ‘How we work’ series on Open Licensing and have been getting some great feedback. As we know, we are not perfect, but we do have a clear policy on what we want to do and very real ideas and opportunities to get there. Every agreement we enter into, be it with a service provider or in the form of a donation ensures all material and resources are open and will remain so, they are also free from technical protection measures.
We are now wokring on deconstructing our fellowship programme – watch this space.
Very excitingly, we hosted the first Village Telco workshop. It exceeded all expectations both in the calibre of the people attending and the very concrete outcomes that emerged. Details of the workshop and its results are on the newly hosted website. One key result of the workshop is a plan to create a new device that merges the functionality of a low-cost mesh access point and an analogue telephony adaptor (ATA).
The week following the Village Telco workshop, Steve and Jason attended another wireless workshop at CSIR, this time funded by IDRC and focus on creating a Wireless Africa Alliance that would network low-cost wireless entrepreneurs across Africa. The Village Telco and the results of the workshop got a very good reception.
The Teachable Agents (TA) project is under way. In June two training sessions were held with natural science teachers as well as computer lab teachers from all of the participating schools. The teachers learned how to create concept maps using the Betty’s Brain TA software. The software has also been implemented at all of the schools.
Steve presented at the 3rd International Conference on eLearning 2008 conference in Cape Town on Kusasa: Developing analytical thinking skills. About 130 delegates from 20 countries attended the conference to share and discuss e-learning at school and tertiary education levels. The Kusasa presentation was well received. Two papers of particular interest to us: Developing Critically Thoughtful, Media-Rich Lessons in Science by Philip Balcaen of the University of British Columbia, Canada, and Technology-Assisted Reading for Improving Reading Skills for young South African Learners by Gerda van Wyk and Arno Louw, both from the University of Johannesburg.
Steve is currently overseas presenting at the ED-MEDIA 2008 (Austria) and Games, Learning and Society 2008 (USA) conferences.
On the Kusasa project we have seen a shift in emphasis from development of materials toward implementation. Much of the work during June has focussed on dealing with site-specific technical and organizational issues and on incorporating these learnings into our system approach.
The evaluation approach seeks to mirror the approach of Kusasa and correspondingly is developmental, iterative and continuous. Feedback is provided to, in the first instance, the Kusasa project team and to educators. Already this kind of feedback is proving valuable and has led to changes in the pacing and structure of the implementation design.
Technical efforts have focussed on understanding Edubuntu deployment scenarios and on improvements to the VMware virtual machine that we use for project deployment. The review group constituted to review new development work is now up and running and the first of these reviews has taken place. The material under review has been published on the project wiki.
During June the Foundation made detailed submissions on two draft Bills. As 2009 is an election year, South African government departments are attempting to put all their pending Bills through Parliament in the next term. As a result the next few months will be a very busy period of responding to legislation which affects access to knowledge.
The Foundation made a detailed submission, including draft wording, to the Department of Trade and Industry on exceptions and limitations to copyright for teaching and learning for inclusion in the Intellectual Property Amendment Bill before it is brought before Parliament.
The Competition Amendment Bill is currently before Parliament. The Foundation made a focused submission to the Parliamentary Committee on a single critical issue. The competition authorities should be given clear power to curb anti-competitive conduct in respect of intellectual property rights.
Shuttleworth IP Fellow Andrew Rens gave a keynote address on openness to the Workshop on Open Standards for XML documents in Government, organised by the Departments of Science and Technology and Home Affairs, held at the Tshwane University of Technology. Other notable speakers included Rob Weir, Co-Chair of the OASIS ODF Technical Committee, and Patrick Durusau, Editor of the OpenDocument Format (ODF).
In other open standards news, ISO put the standard for Microsoft’s OOXML document formats on hold in June. After member states, including South Africa, filed four complaints against the standardisation of Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) document format, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in Geneva have responded by postponing publication of
the revised specification. As the ISO announced, the planned ISO/IEC DIS 29500 cannot be published until these complaints have been heard.
June was Cape Town Book Fair month. Mark Horner participated in a poster session where he presented some of our ideas on print aggregation. The presentation was very well received, with some saying the poster ‘stood out for its sheer gumption’. We’ll keep you posted on how this plan unfolds.
Philipp Schmidt (Rip-Mix-Learn, UWC), Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams and Eve Gray (OpeningScholarship, UCT) have been sharing their findings and learnings from Rip-Mix-Learn and OpeningScholarship with the broader education community.
On 24 June Philipp and Cheryl (UCT) offered a pre-conference workshop on OER at the International Conference of e-Learning (ICEL) 2008. The workshop wiki will be on-going for at least a month after the conference.
On 27 June Cheryl presented a paper, Paradox, Promise and Problem: A Social Realist View of the Potential of Open Educational Resources at the University of Cape Town, at ICEL 2008. This paper was based on findings from the OpeningScholarship project.
Also on 27 June, in a different continent, Eve presented a paper on African Universities and the knowledge economy at ELPUB 2008 in Toronto.
Philipp attended the MIT Open Courseware Consortium (OCWC) meeting in April in China with our support. At this meeting Philipp was elected to the board of the OCWC. As part of our desire to share as much information and ideas as possible, Philipp wrote a blogged about his experience there and ideas for the future.
The Foundation along with partner OSI just launched Open Education News, a group blog, lead by David Wiley, which gathers, sorts, analyses, synthesises and disseminates news related to open education, much like Peter Suber‘s Open Access News does for open access.
Peter describes Open Education News as a “welcome development. The Open Ed movement has needed this for a long time.” David’s introductory blog on Open Education News and Peter’s blog on the launch highlight the growing momentum in this area.