Appropedia: Service learning in sustainable development

An academic paper in the Journal of Education for Sustainable Development reports on service learning with Appropedia as a platform.

It notes that contributing to sustainable development can be a way of improving students’ academic skills – but this is expensive when it involves international travel, and as a result, few students have this experience.

The article describes two learning experiments with service learning programs based at and around the university, These experiments provided…

…solutions to sustainable development problems using Appropedia.org, the site for collaborative solutions in sustainability, poverty reduction and international development. The course successfully used Appropedia (1) as a forum for students who were geographically dispersed, (2) for a whole-class writing collaboration, (3) to coordinate a sustainability-focused outreach campaign to retrofit stop lights in communities throughout Pennsylvania and (4) to review class material with application to technologies for sustainable development.*

*Quoting from the abstract of Appropedia as a Tool for Service Learning in Sustainable Development by Prof Joshua Pearce of Queen’s University.

More info about our learning programs:

Biofuel Content Initiative

Jatropha seeds are a source of oil. (Source)
Jatropha

One of the practical outcome of the MovementCamp, which finished a few hours ago, formed during the post-camp online discussions. Jason Smithson (who works hard on Appropedia tech) and Darren Hill (years of experience with biofuels) agreed to join forces (cue theme music of Battle of the Planets) and work on a Biofuel Content Initiative, the first of our Content Initiatives. Darren’s been working for some time on this, but is now bringing his work and his knowledge to Appropedia.

There’s a lot of work to be done, but it will result in an extremely useful resource on biofuels – the good news, the bad news, the little known but important facts – and their relevance for tackling climate change and for international development.

If this interests you, check out that Content Initiative page – or leave a note and tell us what area you’d be interested in helping to build.

Sustainability Co-creation at Smack Mellon

Smack Mellon

Appropedia President, Lonny Grafman, will be available in Brooklyn, New York tomorrow, June 24th, for open co-creation on sustainability topics.

Lonny is the resident artist on the Flock House in the Smack Mellon gallery for June 23rd and 24th.  From 12 to 6pm, he will be hosting open conversations on sustainable design especially for local apartment dwellers, families, change agents and entrepreneurs.

Follow the links for more information on the exhibit and directions to 92 Plymouth Street @ Washington in DUMBO, Brooklyn, NY.

Picture: View from Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, © Smack Mellon 2009

Isabell Kimbrough: First Travel Intern, First Blog

Exploring a lake in the Amazon
Hola! Isabell Kimbrough here! I have begun my journey and stint as Appropedia’s first travel intern.  (Follow the links for more info.)

In a nutshell, I just graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in Botany and a passion for conservation and sustainable living. I saved my pennies for quite some time in order to do some traveling in South and Central America; and while I commend those who are able to travel free as a breeze, I come from a world of structure and need to feel that I am on some sort of mission as I wander. This is where Appropedia fits in. Members of the board of Appropedia had already birthed the idea of the “travel intern”, someone who would, during their travels, visit and report on successful projects for Appropedia. My internship is the trial run of this idea. I am excited and honored to have this opportunity.

I have begun my adventures and am writing from the rainforest town of Puerto Maldanado, Peru. My dearest friend Kat Fountain has been working on a conservation project in the state of Madre de Dios Peru , deep in the Amazon. It just so happened that she needed a field assistant and I just so happened to be a qualified biologist. What luck! So I joined her at the Sachavacayoc field station, a center for research, education and ecotourism. For a week we rose before the sun and spent the day exploring and experiencing the incredible Amazon rainforest.

This Amazonian hardwood tree named "La Purma" is 500 years old!

I have learned a lot in a week, not only about the local flora and fauna, but also about the situation of the people. Those working to protect and conserve this incredibly rich and biodiverse region of Peru face many threats and obstacles to conservation including (but not limited to): mining and subsequent mineral contamination in the water, logging for hardwoods, cattle farming, drilling for Petroleum, and slash and burn agriculture. The situation is, of course, very complicated and when taken as a whole, has the potential to be a little overwhelming. However, many of the conservationists and scientists I have spoken with here have a great deal of hope.

I personally find a sparkle of hope in this: There are many people and organizations whose sole (and soul) purpose is to protect this precious piece of the world. One of the biggest problems conservationists faced is that the lack of communication between groups and organizations who share the same goals. Call me idealistic, but it is my belief that as infrastructure for communication improves and these groups continue to collaborate and organize, the looming problems I mentioned before are well within our power to change. As we all know, even the biggest changes happen poco a poco.

This is why I am grateful to be a part of the Appropedia community. Every page, and each connection made, is a step towards change. Perhaps some of you have heard the expression “the revolution will not be televised!” I agree. I think it is being documented in Appropedia.org!

Till next time… Isabell

Appropedia’s Travel Intern Program Initiative: Dock to doc

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the organizations that are working to reduce poverty and help us live both richly and sustainably had the resources to share their best ideas and practices? Of course! (Okay, maybe that was too easy. )

(Port of Callao, Peru by Jim O'Hagan, via Mediawiki Commons)

But we know that most of these organizations are already overcommitted and that thoroughly documenting a project is a big job. Meanwhile, there are lots of folks that want to help make the world a better place, and are quite willing to travel as part of the effort.  But very often the willing traveler is no more knowledgeable than local workers, and so it is hard to justify traveling in-country to lend a hand.

Aha moment.

Juxtaposing these tensions provides a nice little epiphany. Traveling interns can make excellent documenters.  Documenting great projects at Appropedia helps all parties.  The traveling intern learns a ton.  The host project gets some deserved recognition and awareness.  The broader community gets to see well-written, in-depth information that will, ultimately, get categorized, linked and translated for greatest usefulness.

To this end, Appropedia has begun prototyping our Travel Internship program.  Appropedia’s first travel intern, Isabell (Liz) Kimbrough, is already in-country in Peru. She has already coordinated with some partners, but still has room in her itinerary to visit (and document) other projects in Peru (June), Ecuador (July), Colombia (July)  and Panama (August).  And so, we hereby launch the Travel Intern Initiative to invite everyone to help make Isabell’s trip better.  We also want to prepare for broader participation in (and promotion of) our Travel Intern program later this year, so that you can head for the dock, and get your documentation thing on.

Please take a look at these pages to learn more about the program, and find ways you can help it have the most impact:

  • See Isabell’s itinerary to learn where she’s going, or add a potential project or partner for her or a future Travel Intern.
  • Would you (or a friend)  like to be a Travel Intern? Practice writing articles and show your stuff! And check out the application process.
  • How can we make the Travel Intern program better?  Leave a note on this page, or a leave a comment on this blog post!
  • Visit the Travel Intern Initiative launch page for more details.

Please help us spread the word about this program.  Use Twitter, Facebook or your blog to share it with potential interns or partners.  If you’re as excited as we are about this program, and have an hour a week to help out, consider a stint stewarding this Initiative!

Appropedia takes the Initiative!

Appropedia has grown rapidly in multiple dimensions since our early days, and especially in the past several months.   Both the volume and range of activity at Appropedia.org is up significantly.  We have content translation activity, content porting activity, partnership activity and site technology development activity all expanding in parallel. Twitter and Facebook communities have grown dramatically as well.

In addition to all the active participants, we have a lot of eager supporters that haven’t yet identified the best way to engage. We get notes like “I love what you’re doing!  What can I do to help?”  And for every explicit offer, we know there are many more unspoken.  To make better use of all this pent up energy and goodwill, we are beginning a new program for engaging volunteers, both new and veteran.

And so, without further ado, allow us to introduce <drum roll> Appropedia Initiatives!

The Appropedia Initiatives program is an open-ended series of specific activities that will benefit a lot from community engagement.  Each Initiative will be designed to attract a critical mass of contributions and enthusiasm, in order to build momentum on a particular topic or practice.  We know that our community of supportive people has a great variety of skills, and we envision a broad variety of Initiatives to engage as many people as we can.  Some Initiatives will be focused on the Appropedia.org site (either content or technology), and others will be more community oriented.  Essentially, Initiatives are ordinary Appropedia activities that are likely to have some broad interest. Like most things at Appropedia, users input and ideas will define the path for the Initiatives program.  To get things started we have about three Initiatives lined up, and a bunch of loose concepts semi-identified.

Our first Initiative is very timely.  We quietly began prototyping a “Travel Intern” program a few weeks ago, and there are several ways that the Appropedia community can help.  We will launch that Initiative very shortly and a few weeks later we will launch Number 2.  Each new Initiative will be highlighted on the Appropedia main page, and we will do community outreach in the form of blog posts and tweets to make sure that every gets a chance to see it.  Naturally, we welcome your help in passing the word, and identifying people, partners and resources appropriate for each Initiative.

The goal is for each Initiative to take on a life of its own and to continue for months beyond its initial moment in the spotlight.  To make sure that fledgling Initiatives have a good chance, we’re asking that each Initiative should have some semi-committed support in the form of a “Initiative steward” who will shepherd the activity for at least 3 months.  Through the magic of open collaboration and search-engine-optimization, an Initiative that gets off to a solid start will stand a good chance of gathering other support.  Check out the provisional guidelines for Appropedia Initiatives and see whether your favorite topic or project might be a good candidate for an Initiative.  If so, create a launch page and add your Initiative to the list!

Thank you all in advance for your help and support!

Wiki security: prepared for the zombie apocalypse

When you contribute at Appropedia you want to be sure that your work is protected and will be available in coming years, regardless of server crash, unpaid bills, tech admin heart attacks or zombie apocalypse… or, to be a little more serious, whatever unexpected event may happen.

What prompts this thought is that a wiki working in a related area (one of the permaculture wikis) has disappeared without a trace and there’s no response by email from the site admin. I fear that the work that many people have put in may be lost, and sadly, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen this happen.

One of the key ways we ensure the security of your work on Appropedia is through our publicly available site dumps (see Appropedia:Current dump) which anyone can download. I keep a copy on my hard drive, which is on the opposite side of the planet from Appropedia’s server, and you’re invited to keep a copy as well.

What I’d really appreciate is if those people here with sites, blogs, facebook accounts or whatever, added a link to Appropedia and encouraged their networks to contribute to a permanent and growing permaculture knowledge base on Appropedia.

Now, what to do if you want to get a backup of a different wiki? With Wikimedia wikis, a dump is available (they’re huge, especially the Wikipedias). But if there’s no site dump available, you can go to the Special:Export page in any MediaWiki site and list pages to download. (Use Special:Allpages to get page names).

Relevant wiki pages:

Thrivability: A Collaborative Sketch

This is a collection of essays and images crafting a “topography for thriving.” Beyond ideas of personal hardship and sacrifice, towards a mindset of abundance and caring for our planet and society.

It includes contributions by Lonny Grafman (President of the Appropedia Foundation), myself, plus Michel Bauwens, Clay Shirky, Gil Friend and around 60 other thinkers whose work deserves to be better known. Jean Russell, an inspiring ambassador for the concept of Thrivability, herded and encouraged us in our contributions, and curated the work.

The best way to view the book is through the slideshow, above, but there is also a PDF version.

Thank you Jean!

Students and Appropedia

Students at universities all around the world represent an enormous, and greatly untapped, potential.

As we learn, we can do work.

As we teach, we can do work.

As a community we can bring challenges, lessons, opportunities and context.

Together we can have impact.

Thank you to the students and teachers already engaged with Appropedia, and thank you to those communities that have made it possible and worth it.

Students And Appropedia

This is a powerpoint for students and teachers considering using Appropedia in their classes.  Please leave comments on what would make it better, e.g. a slide describing what Appropedia is (I learned that twice in the same day, presenting to two different classes).

Converting to wiki format just got easier

A very important task that the Appropedia community is taking on is converting valuable documents to wiki format, to make it part of the structured knowledge bank we’re building.

An key tool for this is wikEd, which can be used (by those with a Firefox browser) to convert formatted text to wiki markup.  And now there’s an even easier way to use it:  Just use the conversion box at Wikedbox. Paste in the formatted text, and press the “wikify” button above, which looks like this:  [w].  Voila – you now have wiki markup. Mostly it works very well, and saves a heap of time.

For more detail, see Using wikEd to convert formatted text to wiki markup.

Note that this isn’t enough to handle PDFs – we’re looking for people with access to Adobe Reader Pro who can help us with the first step (simple,  but you need the software) of converting PDF documents to HTML plus images.