May I?

Open & Collaborative Resources

Kathi has started her phased implementation strategy for the OER roadmap.  In May, she attended the IMS Learning Impact conference to get advice from leaders in learning software that have experience creating interoperable pathways between software and developing API’s. They recommended a phased implementation of the publishing API in Connexions (sooner is better than complete) and get started building demonstration tools that use the API right away to generate interest and create software that others can build on.

SWORD chosen for publishing API: They settled on SWORD and AtomPub to use for publishing OER (with extensions) and this was validated as a good approach through discussions at Learning Impact and subsequently at the Open Repositories 2011 conference (in June). SWORD is implemented in many institutional educational repositories (DSpace, Fedora, ePrints, arXiv, Zentity), which makes clients that can publish to multiple repositories much more likely and which provides a strong developer community.

Sprinting at the Plone East Symposium: They sprinted (communal coding) to extend an existing partial Connexions SWORD implementation to allow creation of modules from deposited Word files or CNXML (Connexions semantic document format) files and improve the handling of metadata (title, language, etc). With the help of fellow fellow, Mark Horner, we found and invited Carl Scheffler, whose background is in machine learning, and whose interests include improving education, to participate in the sprint, along with Connexions, and Penn State (advising).

Starting to expand the team: Carl will continue as a team member and began working on an editor that will make it easier to translate existing Connexions content and publish the translations. Also found was a team member to help with User Experience design for tools and services and with community engagement.

Philipp has a new website – P2PU launched their beta site at in late April, but started moving users onto it during this month. It’s a slight reboot of the learning model to allow more flexibility – not all courses have to start at the same time, and also hopefully encourage creation of more self-organised study groups in addition to courses. Also changed is some of the terminology, and are pushing the peer learning angle more strongly, so that users don’t fall into the old model of expecting to teach or be taught. They put in some groundwork to prepare the migration in June, but more on that next time…

Better support – Also did a lot of thinking about how to better support users. It is not perfect, but the combination of redesigned P2PU Handbook, and Q&A site, works much better than before. The new P2PU Handbook is part resources (screencasts, tutorials) and part community support forum. They set up an open Q&A site for any question that might come up at Both are monitored by the core community. And the newsletter now focuses on promotion of new courses and study groups as they are created.

Badges grow up – The interest in an open badges infrastructure has been overwhelming, and the project is transitioning to sit more within Mozilla. P2PU will be the pilot implementation for the badge issuer functionality. They also continue to help drive and
promote the ideas and are part of the advisory group, but it frees up some of resources to focus back on our core challenges at P2PU.

Hiring an army – a touch of an exaggeration – but not much!. They are growing and hiring, and the interview process is taking up a lot of time. The positions we are filling are a P2PU product manager, who will take over much of the platform development work from me; a product manager for School of Webcraft (which is a Mozilla position, but will co-report to Mozilla and P2PU), and two assessment related position (an assessment specialist and an assessment developer) to drive the Hewlett work forward.

Mark Horner has been extremely busy in May!  He completed an extremely successful translation hackathon on the 7th of May at Stellenbosch University’s Elec. Eng. Dept. (summary video still to come), presented at 3 of the 4 Tshikululu trust’s Maths educators’ meetings (Cape Town, Johannesburg and Limpopo (4th meeting is in June)) and this represents a partnership that could result in demand for Siyavula’s products, advice and support from 105 schools.

Both Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg hosted a week of evening events each. Both were very successful and established good connections with many schools. A number of interviews of educators using OERs/technology were filmed and these will begin appearing on the Siyavula site soon.  St Johns School for Boys in Johannesburg also expressed interest in uploading all of their science content (Effectively their own textbook for Physical Science Grade 10-12) onto Connexions

Siyavula registered as a member of the Publishers’ Association of South Africa (PASA) which is trivial to do but PASA has always been the organisation journalists have gone to to challenge what we do!

Citizen Cyberscience

Francois Grey’s Brasil@home  was the main highlight of the month, with a group of eight researchers touring Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, giving a lecture series on citizen cyberscience, running a two-day hackfest (in Rio) and having meetings with specific institutes, in particular INPE, the Brasilian space agency.

The main outcomes of the event are a series of new projects in the pipeline: volunteer digitization of archival documents about the Brazilian economy with the Brazilian think-tank IPEA; volunteer mapping of deforestation with INPE and two Brazilian Universities; drug design for parasite borne diseases with researchers from the Fiocruz institute. Plus several other areas of future collaboration defined in climate science and particle physics research.

Another important outcome of this event was the establishment of a Brazilian sister site to the Citizen Cyberscience Centre,  by several of the local organisers.

Access to knowledge

Together with the Centre for International Environmental Law, the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests, Kenya Young Greens, the Rainforest Foundation Norway, and BirdLife International, Kabir and the Natural Justice team developed a submission on REDD+ safeguards for the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. It was stressed that “In the discussion of biodiversity and social safeguards relating to REDD, … Articles 8j and 10c suggest that the most fundamental ‘biocultural safeguard’ is the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).”

They co-facilitated the first Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Capacity Development Workshop for African lusophone countries in Maputo, Mozambique. Approximately 35 participants from Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, and Mozambique included the ABS focal points of each country and other government officials, as well as representatives from the scientific community, civil society organizations, traditional healers, NGOs, and the private sector.

Also in Paris, the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) hosted a back-to-back experts meeting on access and benefit sharing (ABS) and biotrade and a conference on “The Strategic Importance of Biodiversity: The Beauty of Sourcing with Respect”. They explored the links between ABS and biotrade, particularly cross-cutting issues such as traditional knowledge, fair trade, and corporate social responsibility.The conference was directed primarily towards companies engaged in “ethical biotrade practices” and included some discussion of the Nagoya Protocol on ABS. UEBT also launched the latest version of its “Biodiversity Barometer”, which helps track awareness of biodiversity issues among consumers and the business sector.

Participated in the launching workshop of the Open AIR (African Innovation Research and Training: Exploring the Role of Intellectual Property in Open Development). The workshop sought to kick off the 3-year Open AIR project, which is supported by IDRC and GIZ. It seeks to address the questions, “What is the relationship between innovation, development and “openess”? What are the enabling conditions, and how do they interact?

Also participated in the information and preparatory meeting for Indigenous peoples and local communities on access and benefit sharing (ABS) and traditional knowledge entitled, “The Nagoya Protocol and the Way Ahead”. The meeting, which took place from May 21-22, is organized and supported by the ABS Capacity Development Initiative for Africa, the Indigenous Information Network (IIN), Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC), Conservation International, GIZ, and the Equator Initiative of the United Nations Development Programme.

Youth publishing

Gavin did some ‘youth employability in SA’ research fieldwork with partner agency the Consumer Insight Agency, including a 24-hour overnight immersion for me with them in the field, in Mxenge, Phillippi.

This process is proving crucial in developing an increasingly detailed understanding of the beneficiary group, their needs and the approach needed to tailor the project to make the most impact based on the model of Live magazine UK is trying to replicate… Research will be complete by mid-July.

Gavin had an intensive three weeks of meetings, networking and doing ‘creds’ presentations: notably Nike, Google, Red Bull, Ikamva youth, Big Issue, RLabs, Equal Education, British Council, Mahala magazine, Young in Prison, Children’s radio Foundation, and fellows past and present… creating foundations for potential partnerships and collaboration.

Agreeing and creating the plan for Ikamva Live – a one-week mini-mag production sprint taking place in early July, taking a group of 20 young people through the process of creating a publication… giving the chance to make a mentor call-out for volunteers.

As part of walking the talk, Gavin began mentoring two young people for a two-way learning process for me and them: a young publishing entrepreneur from Langa, an aspiring journalist from Phillippi.

Lastly, and perhaps most pleasingly, final figures show that Live Mag UK 10th birthday issue beat its £38K quarterly ad revenue target by £10,000… a significant marker in the push for full sustainability. read it online:

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