Friday, 12 September 2008

Last week's learning.


It's Friday evening. I'm thinking of what I need to pack when I go to Fantsuam, and thinking about information too, and anything else I need to learn about before I go. That got me thinking about what I have been learning in the last week or so.

Akvo water and sanitation

Today I was learning about the Akvo water and sanitation programme with Mark Charmer and Joe Simpson of Akvo (here's another Akvo link). I am hoping that Dadamac can help Fantsuam Foundation to become a field partner. Potential field partners have to show they can send back good information about their project work.

Photo feedback

Regarding information: I hope the Fantsuam team will enjoy helping the Children's Computer Club to contribute information to the People and Place project . It could be a first step towards providing information to projects like Akvo. I've experimented with Peopel and Places and know how to upload phots there now. I know it looks foolproof - but I managed to fail the first times I tried.


I hate doing things from written instructions and I am a very reluctant user of any techie stuff. Usually I only learn what I really, really have to use. I hope that the longer I wait to use a bit of new technology the more user friendly it will get. Even if it hasn't got user friendly, if "every one else gets it first" at least there should be someone to show me how the thing works.

Minciu Sodas Pyramid of Peace feedback

Back to Mark and Joe - I also told them about the Pyramid of Peace (PoP) and the brilliant way that Minciu Sodas got feedback during the post election turmoil in Kenya (see this background information on PoP taken from a call for funds prepared during the turmoil) - or go straight here for the video of the acrobats' peace demonstration.

Transition Towns

Yesterday I was collecting my visa, and on the way home went to the Islington Hub to buy a copy of "The Transition Handbook", published in association with Transition Towns had come up in conversation at the PRADSA workshop the previous week, which is how I knew where to get the book. There is a wiki about Transition Towns They started in the West Country and the place I used to live (Lostwithiel) is listed as a transition town, but I don't know anyone else round here who is interested yet. I want to learn more about them, and perhaps get involved.


I have spent several hours exploring some features of Drupal. I did it along with Nikki. We both find it easier to learn in company - even if neither of us really knows anything much to begin wit). Thanks to a link Alan put in for us, we can now set up forums, and we are beginning to understand how pages link together. I also experimented with the list of html commands and discovered how to make the text bold and italic - all very basic, but more than I knew before.

The whole Drupal thing looks slightly less stange and threatening to me now - so next time I get a chance to learn from someone who knows Drupal I shall be better prepared to benefit from their knowledge. I long to pull all our Internet stuff together in one place and have a welcoming Dadamac virtual reception area where people can came and e-meet us, and join in whatever interests them.

Open tractors

At the weekend I was learning about open tractors and such like from the Factor E Farm weblog and through a skype chat with Marcin Jakubowski, supplemented by discussion on Global Villages . I think there is a lot that he is doing which could be relevant to the sustainable community project that John Dada is planning at Fantsuam. I'll be able to discuss this more with John soon.


Also at the weekend I was learning to operate my new camera. My camera operating skills are about as rudimentary as my Drupal. When I have owned a camera it has usually ended up being used by other people, so I don't learn anything much. This time I felt I had to try harder. I am always asking my Fanatsuam friends to send photos of "ordinary everyday sights" - and it was recently pointed out to me that they would like to see some "ordinary everyday sights" from where I live, so I decided I had better try to oblige. I took the camera with me when I went shopping - and looked at the High Street with new eyes. Hmm - quite a lot to notice that I would never see at Fantsuam. After sixteen photos I ran out to memory. I've put them on my computer, but haven't tried to send them yet.

Connectivism and Connective Knowledge

This week has also been the first week of an online course on conectivism and connective knowledge I enrolled for the free version (no supervision etc), but I'm not doing as well as I hoped. I've read most of the basic information, but haven't got into the interesting disucssions, or gone to any unfamiliar applications to find out more about how they are being used. I really want to be part of this, because I will see how proper professionals run online courses, and how it feels to be a learner there. However this is not really a good time for me to be taking a course. I have a faint, rather unrealistic, hope of managing to catch up a bit over the weekend.

End of the week

So, that is what I have been learning about this week. I am so glad to be able to be part of the online learning community.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

One month catch up

It is just over a month since I wrote my "five months catch-up" so this a quick review of current learning, before too much time goes by.

Last week I was at the final PRADSA workshop, in Leeds. PRADSA is "Practical Design for Social Action" and is part of a "Designing for the 21st Century" programme. This was my third PRADSA workshop, so I know there is a lot of expertise there - lots of opportunities to learn.

Already, as a result of PRADSA networking, there is a People and Place project that will help children in Teeside and children in rural Nigeria to learn from each other by exchanging photos.

This time the workshop theme was Power and Participation. Participation (inclusion) is dear to my heart. One of my big challenges is how I can help my community activist and teacher friends in Africa to be included in online groups, and other Internet benefits, given their lack of bandwidth.

I am frustrated by the way I am an information bottleneck. I am so information rich. I pay a fixed regular monthly subscription which gives me access to the Internet from home for as many hours as I want - every waking hour of my free time if I so choose. By contrast most of my friends in Africa have to pay by the minute, the connections they use are painfully slow, and are typically at cybercafes some distance from their homes.

How can I help my friends? How can I use my information riches to benefit them? How can I use the fact that I am bandwidth rich to overcome the fact that they are bandwidth poor? How can I be their "information runner" - doing some of their information-finding chores for them while they are off-line? How can I help them to connect up with the people they need to connect up with? How can I get the Internet to do more of this automatically for me, instead of doing so much of it "by hand" through emails and yahoo chats? How can I find other people who would be interested in helping? At present there are only really three of us, Lorraine, Nikki and me - and we are seriously lacking in the additional online skills that we need.

Obviously I need the help of some techies - but where do I find them, and how do I explain what we need? In the past we have used emails, lists, instant messaging, and miscellaneous other communication tools, plus some wikis and Moodle, and couple of free websites that sadly vanished into the ether without warning. I understand that if we had an implementation of Drupal then that would serve to pull everything together, and a friend has kindly made Drupal available to me and my friends - so we have a Dadamac Drupal, once we know how to use it.

We are at the start of our Drupal learning curve. Fortunately there at PRADSA I discovered Alan and Paula, who know about Drupal, looked at the Dadamac Drupal and gave advice on how to go forward. As a result there was much behind the scenes "learning by doing" today when Nikki and I were together with a few hours and visited Dadamac Drupal.

Over the weekend I have also been learning about open source tractors and other things that could be relevant to my friends in Nigeria (and elsewhere). I hope that when our Dadamac Drupal is running effectively I will be able to drop into it all these odd bundles of potentially useful information - things like the open tractor discussions. I need to do it in a way that makes the information very easy to find, but putting it there must not be not too time consuming.

Nigeria, especially Fantsuam, is at the front of my mind at present. I go there again soon, and I am supposed to be helping the Dadamac team at Fantsuam to set up the online Knowledge Resource Centre (KRC). We need to tackle various cultural issues related to learning as well as the provision of resources. I want to be as well prepared as possible before I leave. I see Dadamac Drupal as an important part of the long term KRC provision so I would like to be a more effective Drupal administrator by the time I travel.

So - plenty of learning to be done - and thanks to PRADSA we are taking some useful steps forward.