Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Open Source Principles at Schools?!

CC-BY-SA @San Jose Library

Today I read an article in one of the big Swiss newspapers about the use of the internet, esp. Wikipedia at school [1]. According to the article teachers still mistrust this rather unknown media internet. Wikipedia is not a trustworthy source for information. In some schools even the site is blocked. What a pity.

There are so many fantastic possibilities to use and learn with it. You mistrust Wikipedia? No problem. Make a project with your students. Pick a topic (from you history book for example) and analyze the wiki page. Let your students compare it with a couple of textbooks. Discuss why the article could be not up to your standards. And finally fix it! Edit the page with your students, improve it until it matches your standards. Create something valuable with them. What a fantastic learning experience! 

In one paragraph the article mentions that e.g. the Russian version of World War II is not completely objective (in their view) because it has a national perspective. Oh! I am sure that textbooks are always objective in all countries. Talking about "untrustworthy" sources like the Internet (or perhaps official books in countries we call dictatorships) the young people learn to think on their own and to check other sources. Imho this is a very valuable experience.

So if you mistrust the source in your language, let your colleague, the English, French, Spanish, or what ever modern language teacher, join your project and compare the content of the different languages sites.

If you know some children (those little persons making a lot of noise), then talk to their parents and teachers. Inspire them to experience wikipedia and other open source projects, let them feel the power of working together and sharing, let them learn together while exploring the world and creating something valuable. Offer your help and make things possible.

[1] http://www.nzz.ch/nachrichten/startseite/per_mausklick_zur_schlacht_am_morgarten_1.7536473.html (German)


Fri13 said...

I have many times suggested this for few schools. Make a account for school (and class?) and use it from the school computers. Do first a offline edits and then in the end of the "project", push them to online.

Soon wikipedia would be more filled with the material what is done more proper sources than individual hobbiest.

annma said...

Teachers also mistrust wikipedia because they think students will copy/paste from it and not learn a thing. They are brainwashed by companies selling encyclopedias to schools (like Microsoft and Office!) and by schools hierarchy forcing them to use those encyclopedias.
It's the role of teachers and parents to educate kids to use internet tools wisely (as I say to my kids "you can find everything on the internet and its opposite") and thus to educate kids towards freedom (as choice is the first condition for freedom). It should be a natural thing to teach kids to use Wikipedia and to teach them to look at other sources for the information as well.

Thomas Thym (ungethym) said...

@Fri13 What do you think are the main reasons that teachers are not fascinated by your idea? I like it. What are the barriers holding them back? And how could we help to destroy those obstacles?

@annma Yes, I read that, too. They fear "copy and paste" and prefer to spend money on software to "control" the "c&p" proportions of the texts of their students. And here at work my co-workers still prefer to reinvent the wheel before using the internet. And that is not efficient at all. How could we reach teachers and let them experience the advantages and the power of community projects and the internet in general?

Fri13 said...

I think the reasons for not liking the idea are the grown job when the project schedule can be longer than usuall. And then the group management is harder.

I have tried to explain that using the wikipedia idea, we can mix multiple different teaching lessons together. One student project, smaller group project and even bigger group projects.

Everything works almost fine when the work is done by smaller groups (think 30-40 students in class, where are 5-6 students groups). Teacher has much less work than if there would be 1-2 students "groups", what means teacher need to check itself more the work what everyone is doing than what group is doing.

But then there comes a dilemma when you would need to get two or more classes to work together with one project. As teachers can have problems to work together with other teachers and their goals.

In good wikipedia article, we need historical data, the current state and then all kind small informations. And usually these can be very small infos or changes but very difficult to master. And then there would be even need for the different languages as you said and to own mother language.

Most teachers see that all too hard to actually manage.

And I think the reason for that is the work in the schools is not linear, but more like different projects what are not tied together.

Sometimes there comes teachers who tries to get a linear projects work. As example, in biology classes you learn about one subject, like evolution. Then in next glass, in history, you learn how the evolutio theory evolved itself by historical perspective.
And then in religion class you learn the counterpart of the evolution and then you write a essee from all that in mother language classes and then you translate them to other language in those language classes.

So in the end, they try to mix one project from multiple directions and use the skills on those.

Shaun Reich (sreich) said...

I agree; this always annoys me when teachers say "wikipedia isn't a trustworthy/reliable/good source!". I tend to argue with them about it. And of course, the teachers that they are(and humans), they are already "set" on the idea of paid for encyclopedias && textbooks being The Only Way™

Thomas Thym (ungethym) said...

@Fri13 I think one of the main problems with the argument "it takes more time than regular lessons" is what your goal of the education is. Do you want your students
1. to learn content (this is #1 goal in most cases I know) or
2. do you want to share the fascination of learning in general and about your subject in particular, the ability to learn on your own, learn to cooperate with others (this ability is needed in real life) etc.
Imho 1. is dominating but we would need 2.

Thomas Thym (ungethym) said...

@Shaun Sure. Teachers are humans, too (I am quite sure ;-)) and they prefer the things they know. And in many countries the teacher is very limited in his/her freedom of choice. They are told, what to do and how to teach. But there are some excellent examples (esp. in Scandinavia) that show the power of teaching "the Open Source Way" (of cause they don't call it this, but the principles are the same.)