Notes from the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning Fifth International Seminar. Fighting the Digital Divide through Education.
Mariana Patru, UNESCO
The importance of Education in all stages of development.
The increasing changes that the Information Society and Globalization are bringing impact all aspects of life. Life long learning is one of the paradigmatic effects of the recent changes the World’s been in.
Beyond digital literacy, and digital exclusion because of lack of physical access, there’s a huge knowledge divide that needs to be fought: access to useful, culturally relevant knowledge.
ICT4D as a tool to fight the digital divide
Tim Unwin, Royal Holloway University of London and World Economic Forum’s Partnerships for Education programme with UNESCO.
Fight the digital divide or build on individual strengths? Begin with information and communication needs, being the fundamental part “for Development”.
ICT4D partnerships have been very successful: they have been fostered per se, but also the private sector has had a leading role in ICT4D, in contrast with a lack of understanding among donor agencies. On the other hand, partnerships have worked well because ICT4D is still a complex an unknown area where collaboration is strongly needed.
But partnerships have also failed: partnerships with no clear goals or even meaning; focus on public-private partnerships, forgetting other kinds of organization; emphasis on the supply side; insufficient attention paid to partnership processes.
Sustainability is not something that can be thought of once the project is started — or near its “completion” — but should be included in the plan from the sheer beginning. Same with scale, trying to avoid pilot-project fever that think short run and narrow scope.
e-Learning for development?
The pros are many and quite well known. What are the cons?
- Costs of ICT are high, and infrastructures scarce.
- Tutorial support is required and more important than just content — though important too and needs to be localized indeed.
- The focus should not be put in ICT training, or “office” software, but in Education. Education vs. training.
Main reasons of failure in ICT-led education projects in Africa
- Understand context of delivery
- Appreciate African interests
- Overcome infrastructure issues
- Provide relevant content
- Top down
- Suypply driven
- Photo-opportunity “development”
Constructivism and 21st century skills
Learners involved, democratic environment, student centred learning, etc.
Critiques to constructivism:
- learning might be behaviourally active, but is not necessarily cognitively active.
- may not be delivered in teaching practices. Teaching practice mayh not deliver the theoretical realities
- Ignores the reality of the African classroom
- Emphasis on replicating “truths”
- Modular thinking
- Going for the easy option, e.g. go to the Wikipedia
- Tendency towards plagiarism
- Inability to think critically
- Lowest common denominator attitude
- Pandering to student “demand”
Most of ICT in education focusses on content and collaborative networking, but not in problem solving or critical thinking.
What kind of education for what kind of development?
Private sector and education. Engaged in setting a global agenda, and with strong interest in the knowledge economy.
Hegemonic model — economic growth and liberal democracy — need for focus on relative poverty — inequalities, access.
Emphasis on training for a knowledge economy while forgetting about critical ability and reflection.
Education is not a driver for economic growth. Key skills to be human, fighting the digital tyranny that constrains us rather than liberate us. Some ICTs (e.g. e-mail) do not let time enough to think creatively and take action.
Take control of technologies — and take control of those who control the technologies — to take control of our learning process. Re-define the role of the teacher and re-assert shared and communal educational agendas, while assuring equitable access.
Questions or opportunities for the future
- Post-constructivism and the role of the teacher?
- Processes of learning communities?
- Enabling innovative problem solving and critical thinking?
- How to provide appropriate infrastructure?
- The tyranny of digital environments?
Q & A
Linda Roberts: is there any good practice in ICT4D and Education? A: Sadly enough, there are very few of them, e.g. some of them mobile-phone centred that enable the student to access some content without displacing the teacher.
Eduardo Toulouse: is it the clue teachers and the quality of teachers? what happens when infrastructure is a barrier for even the teachers? A: Yes, the clue is teacher quality. And to achieve this teachers have to be able to live on their own work. And, in some environments, thinking that they are going to engage in the production of materials and share them (at the connectivity cost) for nothing is ludicrous.
[…] from University of South Africa: is there any option left but believe in ICTs, despite all the drawbacks, “buts”, failures and so? A: Top-down approaches do not work, so this “hope” in ICTs has to be indeed grassroots founded.
Ismael Peña-López: what if we do not have teachers? can ICTs help to bring them on our community? can open educational resources help attract teachers? can OER help to create teachers out of the blue? A: OER can leverage already existing social structures to create learning communities. Peer learning, by leveraging peers and turning them into teachers can be a thrilling option. Communal education is the one to be put under the spotlight, and even a local facilitator can even be a bridge between a remote teacher and the community if the tools and the human network are well thread one with the other.
Q: What’s after post-constructivism? What about critical pedagogy? A: Isn’t this a Western approach as well? Even if Paolo Freire is brazilian, his ideas are well rooted in the West.
Paul West: ICTs can help the teacher to lighten his burden by making him more efficient, e.g. when correcting and marking exams. A: Agree. The debate is in whether doing old things in a new way vs. or new things the old way.
Sugata Mitra: is there a possibility for real change? for a shift of paradigm? A: We have to find the gaps and expand them.
Ismael Peña-López: is there a room for co-operation that avoids cultural imperialism, fosters endogenous development, relies on content while not forgetting the teacher, etc.? A: The critique is not in collaboration or in technology, but on pre-established mindsets, one-size-fits-all or magic solutions, etc. Of course collaboration can take place, but to define a solution, not just implement the solution.
Linda Roberts: how to engage the youngest? A: Mass media might be a first approach to get to them easily.
Teemu Leinonen: what’s the role of languages related to education, ICTs and development? A: There are several initiatives where ICTs are being used to support languages that are dying out. On the other hand, localization is not (just) translation into the local language.
UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning Fifth International Seminar. Fighting the Digital Divide through Education (2008)
Fourth and last session at the Open EdTech Summit. Conclusions, in the shape of “plus” and “idealistic” ideas, are presented.
Personalization of the Learning Process
- Two kinds of personalization: what is taught, and how is it taught.
- Concerns about converging processes (e.g. Bologna), acreditation and control frameworks, etc.
- Build new models instead of change current ones, by trying to make obsolete the latter. Find spaces of subversion.
- One space for subversion is assessment, trying to make ends meet with freedom of choice.
- Extreme importance of capacity building, letting the student to localize their own decisions.
- Automated personalization as suggestions, not as compulsory roads to follow, and led by the teacher, not by the technology.
- Microcredits as the smallest unbundled parts of a larger course, so they can be “rebundled” into other courses according to needs and competences to be acquired.
- Opennes a requisite for tailoring and personalization, enabling cost reduction, remixing itself, etc.
- Collaboration is enhanced (if not just enabled) by openness, but personalization can play havoc on social activities: beware.
Learning Content Development and Delivery
- Content as infrastructure, thus OER has to go beyond content and enter into meaning creation.
- Content is not static: it has a source but evolves multi-directionally.
- New roles shaped by the new landscape: teachers and institutions become guides, enablers, capacity builders.
- Cultural shift: from the notion of controlling knowledge towards an open environment.
- Superiority of open content for reuse and reproduction, but as it is not static, the concept of preservation is at stake and needs redefinition.
- OERs should provide context-sensitive output formats: open distribution.
- Open quality assurance: not only open content creators, but also curators.
- Rethink copyright and fair use.
Future Technologies at the Service of Learning
- We need open, interoperable tools and services, no more corporate driven, pre-packaged, specific tools.
- The World is an LMS: knowledge is anywhere and we have to know how to find and retrieve it.
- Access is a right: free broadband (or really affordable), free content.
- Technology has to enhance the joy of learning (not make it a nightmare).
- The success of FLOSS communities should be replicated in OER.
- New assessment models that capture the personalization of learning. The community might be able to accredit the learner.
- Content will come to the learner in a personalized way.
- Usability: make the interface invisible.
- Help (and give credit to) the process of the teachers’ using technology and acquiring digital capabilities.
- Education has to radically change according to the disruption that the Internet represents.
Learning: Everyone, Everywhere and Anytime
- uLearning: ubiquitous learning as the new model.
- Long life learning requires adaptability of the system.
- Knowledge does not go out of date, just becomes more complex.
- Connections more important than the nodes.
- Self organized learning, through mash-up curricula, user generated content, communities of practice and learners, within personal learning environments.
- Ubiquitous and persistent classrooms for continuous (and informal) learning.
- Universal recognition of levels and certificates.
- Accrediting institutions internationally.
- Context and progress aware of digital scaffolding.
- Recognition of prior and experiential learning.
- Limit the cultural imperialism of technology and learning design: one size does not fit all
- Free access for all
- Encourage respect and understanding through learning.
Open Ed Tech (2008)
Third session — and second teamwork session — at the Open EdTech Summit. This second teamwork session focuses in converging the ideas of the brainstorming session and try and come up with 5 “plus” ideas and 5 “idealistic” ideas.
(reprise and gather up from the previous session)
Focus on mentoring as the added value in the learning process
Microcredit structures, besides personalization, allow the evaluator and the evaluate to be different entities. Right now the system is self-referential, as the output is evaluated by the same one that facilitated the inputs.
Education institutions could split in three different institutions: the ones that provide content, the ones that provide guidance and the ones that provide certification.
The added value is in mentoring, not in content. So we should concentrate in mentoring. And open content and open technology to support it play a crucial role in this part.
And quality also has to do in this scheme of things: we have to go open to reach high quality standards.
From teaching to learning
The “bolonization” (convergence) of educational systems, shifting responsibility to the student, and putting more stress on learning rather than on teaching. Focus also in capacity and competences. If just e.g. 25% was standarized or compulsory, that will leave plenty of room for personalization within assessment.
On the competences side: empower people to do things.
On the choice side: allow people to do their choices.
How to engage the student: personalization would actually be a good way to keep students engaged.
Quality assurance systems that foster innovation, or testing innovation in quality assessments, act as a bottle neck as normally do not include technology in their evaluation system. Their assessment map is closed. How much space for subversion, for innovation, can we find.
Make lower design statements to that the learning materials can be acted upon, that feedback from experience can be adapted and sent back to the material or the lecture.
(for “plus” ideas and “idealistic” ideas, please see next session)
Open Ed Tech (2008)
Teamwork at the Open EdTech Summit. First part is a brainwriting exercise where a personal reflection time should produce a list of ideas. Then, a brainstorming exercise with the rest of the group where ideas are put in common. This group is about Personalization of the Learning Process. Other groups are Learning Content Development and Delivery, Future Technologies at the Service of Learning, Learning: Everyone, Everywhere and Anytime.
Team 1 – PLP (Personalization of the Learning Process). Contents of this area: individual methods of learning, personal learning speed. student personal learning experience, interaction between learning processes and technology.
How far can we go with personalization in a credential-driven education system?
- As far as we push the learning process away from teaching, shifting responsibility to the student, the process can be as personalized as at the individual level.
- Goal setting and assessment has to be homogeneous in a higher degree (with slight changes according to personal needs), education has not.
- ICTs lower the transaction costs of individual/personal mentorship
- ICTs lower the costs of content diffusion (open educational resources in digital format)
How far can we go in automatically adapting the student’s personal learning experience, based on the system’s assessment of their knowledge/understanding?
- Syllabuses can be highly dynamic, though they require some human and technological effort
- Again, assessment should take place at the final stage, evaluating the “output” of the educational process. The process itself… should it be assessed (per se, not in terms of evaluating its performance to achieve educational goals)?
Will it be possible in the very next future that each student rules completely her/his learning process?
- The student should be able to rule their learning process
- More effort — and resources — should be put on the how and the what for, not the what
- The focus should be goal setting, designing “default” paths according to more common profiles, and guidance
How far technologies will help us in adapting the personal rhythm of learning to the academic demands of the universities?
- Should universities have academic demands at all? Shouldn’t universities be the ones to adapt their rhythms to personal learning demands?
- If focus is not put in the process but in goal setting, guidance and assessment — not in teaching — then technology could help to bind people together while keeping the ends quite loose.
Is it possible to offer university contents completely adapted to a specific (individual) learning process?
- It absolutely is: we don’t have to make scarce something abundant (e.g. tight syllabuses)
- The goal is not filtering, but capaciting people to filter
Larry Johnson: how do you guide someone through their random process so that they become an e.g. “engineer”?
Jutta Treviranus: Personalization can be understood as personalization of access, not necessarily (or not only) personalization of the content. It’s critical to identify what constitutes an “engineer”.
David Wiley: a credential is shortcut for the employer to identify competences, a bundle of competences. Can be unbundle these competences? Course selection, sequencing, etc. can be hence adapted.
Llorenç Valverde: still a tight curriculum in Spain even after the Bolonia process. Is there room for a freedom of choice?
Lev Gonick: how to create space for subversion? how to bring the student autonomy? not big changes: where are the cracks of the system?
Jutta Treviranus: optimising learning, making it challenging to the student.
Vijay Kukmar: we can go very far in personalization. Microcredits, e-portfolios… are already existing tools that can be drivers of change. Not thinking about disciplines, but transferable skills and learning how to learn.
Jutta Treviranus: how you best learn? personalization is not about the system itself, but the engagement.
Ismael Peña-López: now what’s scarce is not knowledge (that’s why we had to produce and put together the scarce knowledge in classrooms and universities), but mentoning: no more focus on knowledge, but on mentoring.
Claudio Dondi: It’s easy to identify what the core competences are in a specific discipline/degree/etc. Thus, competences should be certified competences, more than learnings. Move the assessment from knowledge only to know-how.
Llorenç Valverde: how to certify competences without assessing content?
David Wiley: what happens with social interaction (amongst students) if personalization goes to the limit of individualization? Personalization should not let aside social activities. How to find the balance between helping in the decision-taking and taking the decision for the students.
Elena Barberà: personalization of what? goals? processes? technologies? We have to identify where are we learning, where are the connections between the person and knowledge, and adapt the use of the tools to this: learning needs evidence, documentation.
Francesc Santanach: personalization will be crucial in the future where heterogeneous students will meet in the same classroom. Globalization and digital technologies foster this heterogeneity. It is more important to recommend, not force anyone into any path.
Larry Johnson: there is a deep lack of definition about what is personalization, how to… There is not such a defined niche for personalization, and technology will not make it out of the blue.
Jutta Treviranus: personalization and technology not only from a pedagogical approach, but also in other aspects just like (physical) access.
Vijay Kumar: the difference between information and education; and between education and formal education (certification, etc.); and between education and learning. Should we focus in how learners customize their learning experience and forget about education?
Lev Gonick: how do institutions avoid the irrelevance of “bad” learning practices?
Llorenç Valverde: personalization has not to be contaminated by the commoditization that came with the industrial revolution. But we can avoid the pret-à-porter one-size-fits-all of education and go into personalized tailoring.
Lev Gonick: we have to set up theories that create new frameworks that e.g. allow the human genome project to emerge.Without that theory, educational institutions will be marginalized from their own system.
David Wiley: theory has to be backed up with real data.
Jutta Treviranus: and we need a framework to gather all theories.
Claudio Dondi: there is a problem when trying to put under the same system training (professional training) and education. The higher education system is not actually coherent with the rest of the socio-economic system. Thus, something should be done at the system level: the problem might not (only) be at the praxis level, but at a more systemic one.
Vijay Kumar: what is the atomic unit of personalization: is adaptation or is it individualization? The currency between the academic system and the socioeconomic system is the degree. Is the problem this currency? the different interests at either side of the currency exchange?
Larry Johnson: the very most importance of competences as the real currency, not certification.
David Wiley: competences permit tying the content, to experience, to certification…
Lev Gonick: we created a personalization at the technological level, but not at the educational process level.
Claudio Dondi: Difference of personalization between how and what.
Larry Johnson: there has to be a mentor-like connection in personalization. The system is educational, not technological.
David Wiley: personalization of the mediation, personalization of the feedback you give, personalization of the hint, etc.
Lev Gonick: how to use the technology to personalize to achieve higher success, to prepare the student for success?
Vijay Kumar: metacognition, where I know how to access problems and where to look for help or solutions. Seeking information, validating information, etc.
David Wiley: prior knowledge is a basic, stable difference between students.
Ismael Peña-López: not only identifying how to access problems, not only assessing one’s assets or prior knowledge, but be able to identify and assess your own context, culture, environment… your localization. These three issues — the cognitive process, prior knowledge and context — might be three main drivers of personalization.
Claudio Dondi: the difference between prior knowledge and the capacity of learning.
Vijay Kukmar: how to shift from content-centered processes towards learning-to-learn processes?
Elena Barberà: we are looking forward more autonomous learners, to enable them to take responsible and adequate decisions at the correct time. Autonomous thinking might be one of the big answers to the whole debate.
David Wiley: personalization as Amazon. Amazon only asks you to buy books, no conscientious or rational or meditated choice required: just buy. And the system can tell the tastes and needs and suggestions.
Jutta Treviranus: what are the limits of personalization? don’t we have to let the system open? We cannot allow ourselves to reinforce individual biases.
Person is all alone, big distance to cover, all learning is contextual, take the route to the future… by walking, the first step is down, it’s lonely on the mountain top, breathing is learning, room for serendipity.
Open Ed Tech (2008)
I am at the Open EdTech Summit where very interesting people from the world of Education and instructional technology have gathered
to share best practices, as the basis for discussions to help identify future education and technology needs and trends for next-generation educational and learning environments.
Opening Up Education
Vijay Kumar, MIT
A departure point of the session is Toru Iiyoshi & Vijay Kumar’s book Opening Up Education (2008), which gathers experiences on open education around the World (and can be freely downloaded at the book’s site).
Some issues: what does open education mean for the future of institutions? how can it be made financially sustainable? how can it work as an agency for change in both formal and informal education? how can niche learning communities take advantage of open educational resources?
Three axes: Open Technology, Open Content, Open Knowledge.
- Investigate the transformative potential and ecological transitions: does open education helps in finding solutions to the structural or traditional problems of education? can quality be scaled to reach wide national needs? what’s the role and design of blended learning? how can we throw down the boundaries of education?
- Change Education’s culture and policy: fight inertial frames (e.g. “scarcity of knowledge/content”), enabling structures, how can open education help to improve access to and quality of education? are we ready for that much openness? what arrangements have to be made in institutions and educators to benefit from openness?
Susan D’Antoni, UNESCO IIEP
Not only universities: but education as a whole, universal primary education, gender equity.
The Horizon Report 2008 states some crucial aspects: the needed change of scope and leadership in research topics related to education (and open education); the importance of mobile devices for mobile learning; the emphasis on collaborative learning that demands new forms of interaction and assessment; new literacies that education has to bring into curricula.
Experience shows that communities of interest are useful for:
- awareness raising and identifiying who the leaders to be informed are
- spreading knowledge and capacity bulding
- guarantee quality and serve as a reputation device for both content and people
Paul G. West, Commonwealth of Learning
The “openness” process has to be smooth and progressive, and same applies to the process of “blendification” or “e-learningification” of Education, specially in those communities where the digital divide is more than a tag (physical access, broadband, affordability…).
In this sense, it is important to see that the sharing will not be one-way sharing (from developed to developing countries) but a two-way sharing. And this requires a change of mindset in developed countries institutions and people.
We need to think on whole-world terms, and beyond the interests of closed groups. And, on the other hand, on the different perspectives and approaches of the many and many kinds of people and communities around the World. And this takes us back again to the digital divide issue.
Linda G. Roberts, Curriki
There’s always been innovators, innovators that are necessary to break with the way things have normally been done and try and find new ways of doing them… or of doing new things the old way. Normally, doing different is the most difficult way.
Clayton M. Christensen Disrupting Class: work from outside the system, break it. Linda G. Roberts: we should work both from inside and outside the system.
After breaking barriers, after bringing innovations into the spotlight, sustainability is the issue. Innovation requires new strategies. If (methodologically successful) innovations are not here to stay, because they are not sustainable at all, should we engage in the effort of making them up?
Sustainability is also about political or strategical sustainability. Thus, the correct questions have to be put — and given an answer — so that the whole thing makes sense for each and everyone.
Of course, sustainability is not only about taking into account costs, or investment, but also in how this investment is going to cut down final costs of alternatives to the innovation (i.e. the traditional way), in this case, open educational resources.
Llorenç Valverde, Open University of Catalonia
We shouldn’t talk about teaching, but about learning — and this is specially important in open or distance education institutions.
If content is open, the container should be open too.
And, as a matter of fact, if content has any value, it does not make any sense to close it to “protect or investment”, because, sooner or later,
someone will open it for us.
Open Ed Tech (2008)
On November 5th, 2008, I attended the V Encuentro de e-Inclusión [V e-Inclusion Conference], a meeting of telecenter administrators from all around Spain organized by Fundación Esplai.
If last year’s edition looked at the Web 2.0 as something new — I imparted then a seminar entitled What do they say the Social Web is? —, this year’s general belief was that not only the Web 2.0 is here to stay but that it’s impact on the way the Internet is used and on how communities go online has altered the whole landscape. Thus, telecenters should reflect on their own activity and, above all, their own role in this new participatory web. The session debated around three main questions, put down below.
The paragraphs that follow freely report the opening session of the Encuentro, featuring three conferences, Q & A to the conferences, two showcases and, lastly, some personal reflections on the whole session.
Telecenters 2.0 and community building
Ismael Peña-López (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)
Training in ICTs and community building
Ricard Faura (Generalitat de Catalunya)
Telecenters achieving maturity: extensive geographical presence and intensively enhanced by new social technologies, the threat being long-term sustainability, both at the economical level and the conceptual (i.e. is there still a need for telecenters?).
1.- The evolution of the telecentre towards v2.0 and community building: utopy or reality?
The telecenter has to work in a network of telecenters, working and collaborating together.
The telecenter as a living lab: a place where tools are put at the citizen disposal, so that the citizenry can innovate, can take part in innovation.
The telecenter has to train and empower the citizen to benefit from social networks, by taking part in the community.
2.- How to build community through digital literacy?
Find and engage the social connector, the person that has to be activated to trigger a multiplicator effect.
3.- Challenges of community building from social initiatives?
Once the first milestones of an inclusion project have been reached, the public sector has to step aside and let the civil society lead. Community leaders – “shakers” – have to be the ones that drive inclusion projects.
Centros comunitarios de aprendizaje
Ernesto Benavides (Tecnológico de Monterrey)
1.- The evolution of the telecentre towards v2.0 and community building: utopy or reality?
Reality, not utopy: the Tec de Monterrey has 33 campuses, 37 campuses + 25 corporate universities in the Universidad TecMilenio framework, a virtual university present in 17 countries and the Instituto para el desarrollo sostenible with 26 social incubators and 1709 Learning Community Centers. Comunity building can thus be understood at many and different levels, the important thing being to act at al levels and in a networked way, sharing principles and resources, and adapting the procedures to the target population.
2.- How to build community through digital literacy?
Engagement is the answer. Let people take part into the whole deployment of projects, from design to evaluation.
Planting solid roots and setting a slow (but steady) path, with easy to reach milestones that report small successes.
3.- Challenges of community building from social initiatives?
Impact in the civil society:
- infrastructures are a must, but not enough
- open software and content are the next required step, but not enough
- empowerment: the telecenter as a window to generate identity and build community
Impact in public policies: try and keep long run strategies (despite of political changes) and try and bring grassroots initiatives into macro policies.
Centros comunitarios de aprendizaje:
- cut down poverty and marginalization throug social inclusion
- bring alternatives of access to education, information and communication
- promote productive projects for a sustainable community development
Q & A
Cesk Gasulla: Facebook is really successful, but is it useful for community building?
Ismael Peña-López: Facebook has been perfect to get people together, and there are plenty of interesting uses of Facebook, but it lacks the possibility (or makes it really difficult) to draw guidelines, schedules, milestones and goals or, in other words, to design, manage and implement a project, as it is difficult to separate one community from another, or different interests, as they live together under the same roof. There is too much “noise” in Facebook to engage in a quiet conversation led by an engaged coordinator without the danger of passerbys peeping inside the project. Probably, Ning is the answer to this need of a closed room for community building. Indeed, as Ning requires more effort to be set up and customized than i.e. an event or group on Facebook, it might probably be taken more seriously by their own promoters, that will commit more as they’d be expecting a return of their higher investment (of time, resources, etc.)
Ricard Faura: while agreeing with the former, we should not forget that Facebook’s main success has been popularizing and making easy to understand what social networking sites are, how do they work, etc. And this is something that other platforms have been having toughest and longest time to achieve.
In Bolivia telcenters are (often) located inside schools so that they can supply the techonolgycal training that schools do (or can) not. Telecenters are also place in rural areas in order to provide access to these remote areas.
Two main areas of speciality of telecenters in Bolivia:
- education: digital literacy, formal and long-life learning. Portals, community wikis where to upload any kind of content.
- agriculture: e-commerce, etc.
How can web 2.0 contribute to telecenter development and community development? What’s the utility of social networking sites?
Milvia Rastrelli (Arci)
How to find the usefulness of ICTs, as a means, not as a goal?
Work with the youth, that have found clear uses of ICTs, in community building though these ICTs in the way they use them. By attracting youngsters with ICT applications that they are asking for (e.g. music sharing, video editing and publishing, etc.), next step (inclusion) comes naturally (or, at least, easily).
Work with immigrants, that again have mastered some ICT applications (e.g. radioweb) for their own benefit. But this has provided free information and in plural ways and approaches. Telecenters promote these actions to foster democracy, information, etc.
One of the most urgent needs for a telecenter is to identify who the dinamizator will be… and engage them in doing it.
I pick one of Cesk Gasulla’s quotes as the summary of the whole session:
We should quit dynamizing technology, and dynamize people instead.
The reflections telecenters are making these days — and the Encuentro not only featured direct representatives form circa 200 telecenters in Spain, but somehow reflected also the philosophy of the whole Telecenter.org network, which gathers thousands of them — are not about setting up some guidelines for the nearest future to come, but reflecting on the essence itself of the role and even need of the telecenter. This reflection is threefold:
- Is there still a need for such a thing as a telecenter, when technology is made more affordable every day, and access is being incorporated in public policies at all political levels?
- If yes, what is the role of the telecenter: does it still has to supply access to infrastructures? should it shift towards digital literacy and capacity building? should it instead switch towards community building and focus on the personal and social networks?
- If yes, how should this be done? and what’s the role of technology in the whole (new) landscape?
There was quite a consensus that access is no more the primary goal of telecenters (though it still is a very important goal in many and many places around the globe).
And there was quite an acknowledgement that capacity building is neither the primary goal. Firstly, because the new 2.0 tools have made things easier to learn and build things on the Internet. Secondly, because there are several examples where newly digitally literate people saw no changes at all in their lives. What’s the purpose, then, in being digitally literate?
So it seems that, besides access and capacity building (remember: no one said it was not a need), telecenters should now focus on community building. There’s increasing evidence that after a first geeky wave of early adopters, the Internet is empowering already settled communities, strengthening their ties and broadening their scope and reach. The Internet has become a catalyst and multiplier of the social inclusion goodnesses of the community, the social and “real” network.
But, being a network as it is (made out of connected individual nodes), the only way to help the individual to weave their own network (offline and online… and back offline again) is being a part of the network too. No hierarchies, no top-down approaches will work for the telecenters to approach the community networks, but their own and sheer participation in them.
This is were the Telecenter 2.0 comes to place: how to be part of the network, speaking their own language, engaging in a conversation; how to find and trigger the community leaders; how to approach the excluded and get them inside the conversation, the network, the community. This is the real challenge of the Telecenter (2.0): the switch from a public service to being another citizen, another neighbour.