Can Uganda’s robot dreams change the nation’s technological problems?

Sydney Obua Odongo profiles the work of Solomon King who founded Fundibots and is both working in classrooms in Uganda  and opening his home as a lab encouraging students to develop a range of robots. Connectivity across Uganda is slowly improving but data transfer costs are still high. The students are looking at the different problems Uganda faces and wondering how robotics can help with these problems.

“Robotics is a ‘solution waiting for a problem’ says Mr King. “Long term there’s industrialisation which is maybe a bit too grand, but on the small scale we have small scale solutions – maybe a small windmill in a village that generates power. Maybe a home-made mosquito repellent system. That’s what I’m trying to do with the kids. “I think my biggest passion is to see Africans solving Africans problems.
“A lot of the time we get assistance from abroad and when you bring a solution down here it doesn’t quite work, because it’s different mindsets, different environment, just the weather conditions alone are strange. “That’s what Fundi Bots is about. It’s called Fundi Bots but it’s almost less about the robots than the process of building the robots.”Mr King feels that agriculture in particular could benefit from robotics.

Photos of the robots and article in full

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Summer Project: Start a Digital History Toolbox

Katherine O’Flaherty looks at what a digital historian might be, how easy it can be to forget to try and use lots of tools and suggests building a digital history toolbox including six options for what might be included.

As you get started keep in mind that digital tools are just that…tools.  Some are powerful and will allow you to tap into sources you never even dreamed existed in ways you couldn’t have imagined a week ago. Tools that work for me might not work for you and tools that simplify one project complicate another.  You have to use your historical training and know-how when thinking about and assessing tools (digital or otherwise) much like you do evidence and argument.

In the toolbox

Teaching technology in a no-tech classroom

Ian Hamilton reports about Karen Lichty’s class in Journey School,  Aliso Viejo.

“The school was founded by a group of parents in 2000 and is based on the Waldorf approach to education, which means it is focused on hands-on physical activity and art-based projects. There are 13 teachers at Journey, and students move up through the grades together, where possible, while computers and technology are avoided in place of a variety of activities including gardening, knitting, building, music, painting, storytelling, performing and, as with Lichty’s son, projects like dissecting a computer to learn how they work.”

They encourage the students to learn about digital technologies and the impacts on their lives such as cyber bullying, information and research literacy but do not actually use them during this period.

In full

Online Learning is where Online Music was Five Years Ago

Andrew Maynard at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies reflects on the impact of youtube with online education, reporting on a panel at VidCon where all the panelists were not formally trained or from institutions but experienced online educators.

As new tools come online, educational institutions are jumping on the band-wagon to provide instructional content.  Initiatives like Coursera and edX are bringing college course material to a far wide audience using online video.  But even these innovations are in danger of looking turgid and outmoded in comparison to the new breed of community educators.

In full

Lifelong Learning and Technology Ties

Patsy ponders about the impact of technology in people’s lives.

I’ve begun to realize this is a real dividing factor among people and how they feel about technology and particularly things like Twitter, Facebook and blogs. People often say to me, “it’s just junk.” My response is that if all you’re finding is junk on blogs and social networking sites, you need to connect with different people. You’ve chosen poorly. Find smarter, more interesting people. I find more useful and interesting material everyday online than I can possibly read and absorb

She appreciates and is motivated by her connections with other people online and tools such as Facebook allow her to see information from people she is not able to connect with face to face but can carry on conversations online

In full

Both Sides of Technology

Donna Jodhan thoughtfully reviews some pros and cons of technology as she experiences it as a blind person.  She has found amazing gadgets that she says have greatly improved the quality of her life. She is sometimes able to find assistance when she runs into technical issues but in some cases she has to go out and get a new gadget because she cannot source appropriate technical expertise.

You may be thinking that it is no different for a sighted person and this is very true but for a blind person it is much more difficult, and why? Because there are fewer people around who possess the knowledge to troubleshoot and problem solve in the access technology arena as well as to fix talking devices whenever they fail to work.

Perhaps in addition to Teach Parents Tech there should be a site / community to help people fix their own devices and software

In full

Whether the digital era improves society is up to its users – that’s us

Danah Boyd writes in the Guardian Battle for the Internet series. She looks at the impact of fear and notes how it can be a mechanism of control, how people are responding to overwhelming information through their online connections, where psychological warfare is being used to try and capture and maintain people’s attention. She questions whether radical transparency is worthwhile and mentions how people are

How do these impact people’s online experience through their networks. She notes that people have access to more people through more networks with more visibility and wonders about the implications in terms of their relationships.

it’s high time we examined the values that are propagated through our tools. We all need to think critically about the information we create, consume and share

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How are learning analytics being used in education

Andrianes Pinantoan looks at how ever increasing data being mined provides opportunities for researchers to explore how these are being and can be used in learning contexts. He notes that learning analytics is in its infancy and looks at several studies which have used recommender systems, resources being offered to students based on their web browsing habits and development of tools which provide different visualizations for educators and students to investigate how they are performing in web based environments.

  1. Learning analytics “has problems representing the nature of connections between data sets and people.” We’ll still need human interpretations, the research found, and this will remain so as learning analytics become more ingrained in education.
  2. However, learning analytics can be “powerful in giving meaning to interactions and actions in a learning environment” – allowing us to eventually personalize every learning environment based on the student’s preference and progress.

In full

#change11 Getting to know you: introducing Jaap Bosman

Contributed by Liz Renshaw

Photo of Jaap smiling I would like to introduce you to Jaap Bosman. Jaap lives in the North West of the Netherlands in a polder built in 1930. 😉

It is 4 metres below sea level. At university Jaap studied Pedagogy and majored in the Philosophy of Science. He has been teacher, trainer and a book publisher.

Jaap is now the editor an educational site called Kennisnet at http://about.kennisnet.nl . Kennisnet is the public educational organisational that supports and inspires Dutch primary, secondary and vocational institutions in the effective use of ICT. Jaap’s speciality is soft skills: http://softskills.kennisnet.nl/

Jaap says that as an editor

I am always looking for inspiration and information and that is why I am in the MOOC

Jaap finds abundance of information is not a bad thing. He sees it as a blessing and chooses and selects the resources he needs for his job.

Jaap believes that building a network or PLE means that you must be trustworthy and send messages of value. Also he likes to ask questions. He sees it as being human and recognises the importance of answering questions, responding and adding personal messages.

He finds that most of his friends and people he connects to are using Twitter and Facebook so as an editor he uses these tools to communicate.

In the Change Mooc  he found that some presenters did excite him but he was really happy with his fellow students. Jaap’s post on this topic can be found at [http://connectiv.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/change11-teacher-roles-and-mooc/.

If you follow Jaap’s blog you will see that he always uses pictures.  His pictures are always intriguing and leave readers pondering their meaning and connection to the writing.

He believes that pictures are important. Words can tell a story, but pictures [http://jjbs.wordpress.com/] will tell so much more. Jaap’s minor at university was was “Images and words” a combination course of literature, arts and history of arts.

I would like to thank Jaap for agreeing to provide a profile for our Blog Calendar.

Towards Peeragogy

At DML Central Howard Rheingold shares his experiences with students collaborating using a range of social software, how groups interacted with each other and how they build a community of co-learners.

It’s not exactly a matter of making my own role of teacher obsolete. If we do this right, I’ll learn more about facilitating others to self-organize learning.

In full