Thursday, February 14, 2008

Of Hopes and Dreams and the Long Tail of Learning 2.0

I have been thinking is no mean feat to realize the ideals of the open education movement in the Philippines. At the same time I thought... how can we choose to not do it? Even if one does not believe in this so-called new pedagogy of learning, and no matter how one frowns on it -- its time has come.

This is the way the world is going and there is no turning back.

Nicholas Negroponte has invited a lot of criticisms by pronouncing: "it is not about training the teachers nor building more schools, it is all about leveraging the children themselves!" He was of course referring to his OLPC project. Now, that might sound like utopia to many. And no, I am not about to lean towards technological determinism where you shape the tools and then it shapes you. We will then argue for social constructivism and critique that the controversial idea has not been pre-tested. But since this is about surviving in the new global world order, Negroponte may have a point there and to keep pace will be our painful duty. We are on the cusp of a global revolution in teaching and learning -- just look at the OLPC piloted in countries like China, Argentina, Thailand, Rwanda to name a few. As to why the Philippines was not among the pilots for the project you can read about it here.

So please, don't wonder. I have seen how slow things can be. Been there. And it was anywhere from annoying to heartbreaking. I worked for many years with local government units in the Philippines. I have served under mayors, governors, congressmen, done stuff for senators and government administrators. Concurrently, I was also exposed to work at foundations and collaborated with development workers from international organizations.

I shall spare you the details. Let me just say that today, in a setting so far removed from my usual work at local school boards and health boards, I reckon things from this first world point of view but my "third world soul" knows that those who can make it in the new world order are the ones who can be globally competitive, so-called. And who are they? Those sprung from robust local ecosystems of resources supporting innovation and productivity. The statistics are staggering, it is almost scary to think: more than one-third of the world’s population is under 20. There shall be over 6 billion people in 2010. In the US alone, to meet this staggering demand, a major university has to be created every week. Where does that leave us knowing the things we know about the state of Philippine education?

But forge ahead, we certainly must. As you might know from here our wiki group has taken but baby steps yet more than a keen interest on the free culture movement to benefit Filipino school children. (I also belong to a wiki working on a book on public health here. ) And so we talk stuff like open source, royalty-free, share-alike. This project has been included among the priority projects of the Philippine Commons .

Under the weight of what needs to be done, am I losing heart? Certainly not. The natural gift heaven has bestowed on the Filipino child is enough reason to keep on believing. It is worth the long, lonely struggle so the activitists at my university often say. And they say it so true. The Filipino child like every child must grow into all that he should be. There are many odds to realizing this vision. As the Capetown Open Education Declaration has pointed out, most educators remain unaware of the growing pool of open educational resources. Indeed, government people and even certain groups in the academe are either clueless or doubtful of the benefits of such. The biggest setback of course is that the majority of the world does not yet have access to the computers and networks that are integral to efforts at utilizing the free culture movement as a fertile ground to benefit education. Therefore, cooperation is so crucial from all fronts and I believe, must be carried out at a radical magnitude if it is to have impact as the world moves at this dizzying pace.

Still I maintain, little steps do lead somewhere. If you go splashing, the ripples will be created. I hold with Margaret Mead who said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people could change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


aquaris5 said...

this is the most thought provoking post i have read on a blog for a long time.

my initial response was to question whether Negroponte was/is the answer, leaning instead to say someone like R Kiyosaki who might teach "entreprenuerialism" without technology. BUT i am no expert.

irrespective of which approach is taken "education" is key. the capacity to expose someone (and especially children) to new ideas and concepts has such power.

if you havent come across this person they may be of interest to you (peter kenyon -


restless_river said...

Hi Jeff,

Thanks :) I have been provoked to thinking myself, hence that post. I am just as tentative as you are about how things must proceed, but you said it right – education is key.

I cited OLPC/Negroponte to illustrate how things are radically being driven elsewhere to strike a contrast to the woes we have back home, and well, you know, how basic they are, as basic as a textbook for every Filipino child of school age.

Bleak prospects notwithstanding, I still keep the faith and hope that there shall someday spring a real backlash against the globalization of every aspect of our lives and culture. Is it enterprise without technology? Is it a sense of rootedness in communities? We don’t know. But we keep busy to strike a balance – to shape the future, ad infinitum. Butalso to handle our troubles ad hoc.

aquaris5 said...

thanks for dropping by. when i look around me (and my world is really quite limited and western) I think the answer is not in the basics (although they are important) it is in the attitude to "wealth creation" and "trade". In Australia i do not believe we teach this although we are supposed to have a good education system and access to technology.

Please contact my friend and tell him i sent you. he is much more knowledgeable than me and significantly more connected - you will enjoy each others company in the global challenge I am sure

restless_river said...

Hi, will try to check out Peter Kenyon's site. Thanks and cheers.