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.

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