Autistic Person Translates “In Her Language”

(via BoingBoing)

“In My Language” is a youtube video in which a non-verbal person with autism “speaks in her own language” — a combination of sounds and visual cues and gestures — and then explains what this all means by means of a text-to-speech program. It’s a fascinating and compelling statement from someone who’s given the problem of communication a lot of good thought.

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Sickness Of Crowds Or Why I’ve Had Enough Of Digg

I have found many good stories via Digg since the site has been around. Now, I understand that the Internet is not the most wholesome of places, but I am increasingly repulsed by the bad-taste of Digg commenters. It seems to be getting worse and worse.

For example, one of today’s top stories included “Todder Dies In Hide-And-Seek Game“. Popular comments include:
– “He won, right?”
– “He was so dedicated that he did not even fear death, so long as it secured his victory. Legendary.”
– “wow…adds a completely new dimension to the game”
– “owned”

One Digger finally had something useful to say:

so i’m feeling that deep & instant empathy i always feel for other parents who’ve lost a baby — but that’s not the worst thing. that first comment, and the +83 diggs it’s gotten? that’s … hideous.

in spite of the revulsion i feel at the individuals who contributed to that number, i sincerely hope that they never have to experience the loss of a little one — no matter how badly they need some perspective on the subject.

here’s hoping they find that perspective some other way. meanwhile, i seriously need to turn off my digg feed and go take a shower. ick. just ick.

I’ve killed my Digg feed permanently. I do enjoy many of the stories that come through, but we really need an eduDigg of sorts, something with similar contributory mechanisms, but utilized by those with souls.

Teachers Without Borders To Release Free Software

Media Newswire reports that the Teachers Without Borders organization is set to release new software tools that “will provide the world’s 59 million teachers with easy access to online educational materials that previously have been available only in developed countries with access to high-speed Internet connections and elaborate computer networks and platforms.” These tools “will make it easy for teachers to collaborate by creating groups and then working on individual pages, or by creating and sharing galleries, blogs, forums, news feeds and bookmarks.”

OK, I’m a bit confused. I thought these tools already existed in various incarnations (e.g., Moodle, WordPress, Flickr, etc.) Aren’t these available to everyone?

OK, I’ll read on:

TWB Tools will initially contain a small library comprising primarily TWB books, five full professional development courses “and all the tools one would need to build one’s own library and/or contribute to the main branch,” he said. Mednick added that it will be “quite easy to import more, so that the local communities can have a baseline of content from which to work — to copy, remix, reuse, adapt, adopt.”

Well, I guess I will have to wait to see what these tools actually will look like. “TWB Tools are scheduled to be available in February 2007 on the Teachers Without Borders Web site.”

Do As We Say, Not As We Do

It seems that Microsoft has won a 12 month extension to their UK schools contract. This is a bit of a surprise in light of last year’s Becta report which states:

“… open source software can provide a cost-effective and efficient solution in schools if effectively deployed. Becta believes that software used in schools should be of a high quality and adhere to open standards, enabling compatibility and interoperability between products.”

From the article:

The extension has drawn criticism from open source advocates in the UK who believe that Becta is undermining its own research by not encouraging the adoption of open source alternatives.

“We’d like to congratulate Becta for getting a discount on their season ticket for the Titanic,”

Gotta love that last quote. This goes to show how difficult it is to make these significant changes in our school systems. It seems that all of the research in the world alone, cannot fend off the strong, corporate influences in our contemporary school culture.

Update: Just after writing this post, I found an article titled “Becta report slams Microsoft academic licensing, dismisses Vista“. Here are some of findings from Becta’s new interim reports:

– Microsoft’s licensing arrangements in the education sector pose “significant potential for institutions to find themselves locked in to Microsoft”… and “very significant complexity… that has resulted in widespread use of inappropriate licensing strategies.”

– There are “a significant number of issues that need to be addressed before Vista should be considered for deployment in educational institutions” while “Becta has not yet been able to identify any realistic justification for the early adoption of Office 2007 across the educational ICT estate.”

Read more.

So why exactly is Becta renewing their contract with Microsoft? Am I reading something wrong?

Lessig’s Lecture At 23c3

If you have an hour and a quarter to spare, Lawrence Lessig’s 23c3 lecture (available on Google Video) is worth a watch. I particularly like the following passage, about 8.5 minutes in, after Lessig shows several creative, Internet videos.

So what’s important about these examples is not the technical facility they demonstrate. Since the beginning of film or television … anyone with access to a film or television studio could produce everything you’ve seen here. What’s important about these examples is that these tools have now been democratized. Anybody with a $1500 computer can take sounds and images and remix them in ways that say things differently, in ways that express ideas more powerfully than any written text could ever, given the character of the cultures we’ve become. These tools of creativity have become tools of speech. They represent a new potential to speak, a new potential to learn, they are a new literacy for the 21st century, doing for images and music and film what we took for granted growing up ,,, were our freedoms with the pencil and the typewriter. The freedom to capture and share and remix ideas in ways that express them differently.

I’m trying my best to get this message across to my own students in many ways, especially in focusing on some of these new literacies as course content.

University of Regina Offers Open Source Course

I posted this news earlier, but the posting disappeared.

Here’s a link to the CBC story covering the new open source course offering at the U of R.

While this open source course focuses on software developed, I am currently developing a course for the Faculty of Education that will focus on open source methodologies and practice as they apply to educational communities. Stay tuned.

Open Thinking Launched

I posted this earlier but my service provider had a bit of a meltdown, and took my blog down with it. has recently been launched. The idea for this online community emerged from a discussion that Rob Wall, Heather Ross and I had at a recent conference as we tended to our open source software booth. Rob Wall has set up this Drupal-based website to discuss ideas around openness and open thinking in education.

In my dissertation, I defined open thinking in the following way.

Open thinking is the tendency of an individual, group or institution to give preference to the adoption of open technologies or formats in regards to software, publishing, content and practice. Open thinkers critique, question and seek to reject technologies or formats that compromise the power of adopters, especially in the freedom to use, reuse, edit and share creative works and tools. Open thinkers value group-based problem solving and give preference to tools that enable social collaboration and sharing. Open thinkers actively strive to replace adopted technologies and formats with open alternatives. Open thinkers advocate for the adoption of open technologies and practice.

Certainly, it’s not a perfect definition, nor is it meant to be. However, it’s something that appeared in my data analysis and I think it helps to capture a certain view of openness.

If you would like to share or discuss issues around openness and open thinking in education, we welcome you to