A few days ago a came back from the iCamp – informal meeting of the internet activists, which took place in Russia. The event was made in the barcamp format, which is a kind of trend in the CEE region, since Blogcamp CIS and Baltics was held in Kyiv on Oct’07. Agenda was divided on a number of sections: Educamp, StartupCamp, LawCamp, BlogCamp, CodeCamp, etc. (more detailed review of iCamp is available on the Oleksandr’s Demchenko Eastern European Blog)
As far as I’m driving away Educamp Kyiv`08, Russian Educamp was one of the most interesting events on the iCamp for me. I had a lot of exciting conversations with folks who are working on the so-called “Education 2.0” in Russia. As they understand this term – it’s a conceptually brand new way of education which will use the multimedia technologies and the internet intensively.
The significant part of sessions was dedicated to the ambitious plan to build the “University of the Future” – the Metaver. In the Metaver modern technologies and ideas of the distance learning should be harmonically united with the strong educational traditions. It looks like the initiators have a strong conception and a lot of ideas for their project. Metaver is the commercial project, aiming to create a kind of “elite” system of education.
Very interesting was Paul Miller’s presentation, who told about his UK-based startup School of everything. This service provides a platform for the distance learning. The teachers can create their accounts and the pupils (or their parents) are able to find the appropriate one. All teachers have a rating, which should be a kind of measure of their professionalism. This project tries to monetize by taking the percent of money paid for the lessons.
In my own presentation about the “Education 2.0” I said about the things a bit different from the mainstream discussion. Russian professors, who learned how to use the technologies of the new web and propose to follow the last trends in the Education, talking about the distance learning and new media technologies just forgot that the absolute majority of their potential pupils don’t know how to use even those instruments available at hand. I told in my presentation about the tools that everybody should know how to use in the Internet; about who should be taught in the first place and about how can we provide such education.
The Educamp section turned out maybe the most attended section on the iCamp and it has the most popular group on the icamp.ru. A lot a of people are going to make a business on the education and a lot of people realize that the strong understanding of the Internet will help them develop their business. Two links I managed to find in my Reader last evening were an interesting addition to the foregoing facts.
The first one is Educamp Berlin (Oct 10-12). The topics they are going to discuss seem to me more practical than the theoretical visions of the Metaver. Among their topics are: “Corporate Learning 2.0”, “E-learning in universities”, „Digital games and virtual worlds“ and others. This Educamp is the second German educational barcamp, the first one was held in the Ilmenau (April 18-20, 2008)
The second link is an article “ Can New Media Be Taught in Schools?” by Marshall Kirkpatrick on the popular English blog ReadWriteWeb. The author points at the rapid growth of interest in the education in the social media particularly on the YouTube and Del.icio.us.
Marshall indicates one important thing, which is often omitted by those ones, thinking about the “Education 2.0”:
“It's one thing to figure out how to use social media tools, another to learn how to use them powerfully in a professional context.”
That is the phrase from which we should begin the conversation when we talk about the internet literacy.
Answering the Marshall’s question I say that yes, new media should be taught in schools. The question is how should we do that, and I doubt whether most teachers from the post-soviet space who are not younger than 40 years old know the answer.
Ideas about the education of the future are just flying around, but why they are not embodied? I think, that not only in Eastern Europe but also all over the world, the main problem lies in the orthodox nature of the educational system, which was unable to handle that amount of tools given by the Internet.
The changes will be, but they will be mainly initiated rather not by armies of the awkward officials but by ingenious entrepreneurs, who will study how to sell brand new shiny “Education 2.0”