Education for the poorly connected

Innovative uses of the internet in education, in Mexico and India:

Universidad de la Tierra – Mexico

Located in the southern Mexican city of Oaxaca de Juarez, the Universidad de la Tierra is an alternative learning initiative through which students learn from the world by doing. This process happens largely in communication with others, in the form of study/reading circles (“communities of practice”) and intercultural exchange. The NewWorkSpaces online community tool (Unitierra’s space here) enables learners to access “collaborative technology that will help [them]…convene conversations, co-create and publish documents, invite others into…learning experiences, and exchange…knowledge and resources.” Other means of sharing learning experiences include libraries, documentation centres, community radio, media campaigns, and publishing. These modes also provide dialogue opportunities around Unitierra activities such as those with indigenous communities engaged in cultural regeneration, technological and socio-political innovation, and social struggle (e.g. through workshops, videos, the creation of ecological dry toilets and solar arrays, organic agriculture, and alternative media). More.

Samvidha – India

This project is a response to the need to make relevant internet-based information accessible to all of India’s teachers and students at a low cost. Carried out by the non-profit Media Lab Asia in collaboration with Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, the Samvidha project is an effort to bridge the digital divide by providing off-line access to curriculum-related internet content using a query-based system. Individual variations among the different students can be captured by their user profile, which includes each student’s individual interests and capabilities. This idea of offering personalised content access and presentation is also reflected in the fact that navigation interfaces are offered in Bengali, Hindi, and English. Content which is appropriate for the user’s needs is then emailed to the user in the school; information located on the internet is provided to the user in English or, where available, in a given Indian language. More. See also the Samvidha page on Media Lab Asia’s website.

Thanks to The Communication Initiative Network for this news – “Where communication and media are central to social and economic development”.

Relevant Appropedia wiki pages:

For the unconnected

A question at BarCampAfrica: What use is a wiki, for the poor who have no internet?

  1. First you need to develop the information the resource. But over time I’m sure the Appropedia community will put more and more effort into dissemination.
  2. There are all kinds of ways of distributing offline content – in a computer (e.g. OLPC bundles), CD-ROM flash drives,  hard drives, printouts (leaflets, booklets or books*), education programs based on content developed on the wiki.
  3. Phones. A story was told at BarCampAfrica of a conversation in Africa. “Have you heard of Google?” “Yes, of course.” “Have you searched Google from a mobile phone?” “Of course – how else can you search with Google?” You only need one phone in the village with this capability to massively increase people’s ability to find information.
  4. Villagers who have moved to the city to work, that maintain a connection to the village – if they have internet access, they can send or take the information back to the village.
  5. That other way – the one none of us have thought of yet.

There’s no need to put weighting on the different channels. You might think #4 won’t be effective, for example. You may be right. For now, the important part is #1: Create the resource.

* This is one reason that it’s so important to use an open license that allows commercial use, so people can be motivated distribute this knowledge.