Kudos to yet another great talk from the RSA.
A whirlwind of news, geek-speak, tech, art, and more.
I’ve been a fan of organisations such as Kiva and Zopa for a while now. Peer to peer loans make many-a-business-ideas and lives possible around the world and today I found out about an equivalent type of service for students in developing countries. Vittana is still in beta, but is already creating connections with many microfinance institutions in the developing countries to stimulate regional student loans.
I never fully agreed with the idea of free education, but I’ve always looked for systems that make it universally accessible whether through loans, scholarships or offering students part-time work. In principle, if you really want to go to university and you’re willing to work hard for it, nothing should stand in your way. If it’s complicated to get a loan in the EU, I can’t even imagine what it must be like in developing countries. Back in my student days, when I first moved to the UK, I was denied student loans in this country and the Polish banking system back home told me that since I’m not studying in Poland they didn’t want to have anything to do with me.
Education is a key way of changing societies, governments and the economies of developing countries. Ironically, the countries that most need educated people often cannot support their own domestic intellectual potential. Provided they take off, organisations like Vittana might be the single non-governmental way to allow more students to have a university education in developing countries.
The UN has launched a tuition-free open university. Much like the iTunesU, University of the People supports the idea of a globally accessible free education. So far unaccredited, the institution offers just two programs, one in business and economics and one in computer science. It will be interesting to see how much development, recognition and popularity this project might gain.
For hundreds of millions of people around the world higher education is no more than a dream, Shai Reshef, the founder of the University of the People, told reporters. They are constrained by finances, the lack of institutions in their region, or they are not able to leave home to study at a university for personal reasons.
Mr. Reshef said that this University opened the gate to these people to continue their studies from home and at minimal cost by using open-source technology, open course materials, e-learning methods and peer-to-peer teaching.
Admission opened just over two weeks ago and without any promotion some 200 students from 52 countries have already registered, with a high school diploma and a sufficient level of English as entry requirements.
Students will be placed in classes of 20, after which they can log on to a weekly lecture, discuss its themes with their peers and take a test all online. There are voluntary professors, post-graduate students and students in other classes who can also offer advice and consultation.
The only charge to students is a $15 to $50 admission fee, depending on their country of origin, and a processing fee for every test ranging from $10 to $100. For the University to sustain its operation, it needs 15,000 students and $6 million, of which Mr. Reshef has donated $1 million of his own money.
Digitall is a part of a larger network of mentoring and volunteering initiatives called TimeBank. TimeBank acts as an umbrella organisation connecting charities, volunteering, business and mentoring initiatives. Opportunities range from community projects to refugee, drug addicts and child support. If you don’t know what you’d like to do or try to do, you can just register, tell TimeBank about your interests and they promise to inspire you with relevant opportunities.
Yesterday I attended my third Thishappened, a series of events at the intersection of new technologies, arts, design and innovation. Thishappened was establised by 3 friends Chris O’Shea, Joel Gethin Lewis and Andreas Müller and is held pretty much every three months. The event is free, but really hard to catch, as the tickets fly out in seconds (literally, this time it hit a record 40s before they were gone). The projects and their creators hosted at Thishappened are inspiring each and every time, whether through their creative flair or dedication to a good cause. Currently all the talks are also available online, so for those who can’t make it to the events, you can always catch up on their site as well.
One of the most inspiring things I saw last night was Heartworks, a project created by Glassworks, a London-based award winning post-production company. Approached by the Heart Hospital of London and supervised by its top medical experts who direct a course in peri-operative transoesophageal echocardiography, Glassworks spent the last two years creating a 3D digital human heart in motion that allows students to learn about the heart before putting a scalpel on anyone. Apart from being able to see it from different angles, zoom in and out of it, students can also dissect the heart with a virtual sheet that can literally slice the heart open or provide ultrasound images of the chosen section. Students can also experiment with a mannequin that allows them to learn about the tube insertion procedures that allow for ultrasound imaging diagnostics.
Initially Heartworks was meant to be a small project for the London hospital, but the interest it has received from foreign universities has turned it into a larger scale commercial venture. The success breeds potential not only for students around the world to be able to learn more about the human heart in a better way, but also gives potential for developments of such imagining for other organs be it the brain or other difficult to access areas of the body.
[Image courtesy of Heartworks and Thishappened]
The Element is a brilliant talk by Sir Ken Robinson, to me a pioneer in the philosophy of education. I first saw him at TED, in his talk on whether schools kill creativity. The Element talk is connected to his fairly recent book under the same title, which deals with questions about the currect education system, but also with what haunts so many people – whether what they do is what they should be doing and what their most meaningful application in life may be.
I’ve always loved a quotation by Confuciuos that says ‘find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’. From our earliest days when the most fun hours at play seem to always pass by too quickly, we all long for finding more play. I still believe that finding the right work will inevitably bring play or transform the work into play (and hopefully into meaning, too). Excelling at what we love is so much easier than just aspiring to excel at something we happen to be doing, as we can do it with the happiness and hard work that passion can extract from us.
[Image courtesy of TED and Ultimate Icons]
After attending a class on traditional French book binding today, I found out that the Mayfair squatters‘ court case has put their eviction on another 2 week delay. Another week of classes is set to roll in the coming week, so for those of you who missed out this week, this may be good news.
History of the Internet is an encapsulation of the development of the Internet since 1957. The animation uses PICOL icons, which are meant to facilitate a standardised and minimalist form of communication in digital. The video is an informative and understandable explanation of the origins of perhaps the most important invention of the past century. Created by Melih Bilgil:
History of the internet is an animated documentary explaining the inventions from time-sharing to file-sharing, from arpanet to internet. The history is told with help of the PICOL icons, which are also a part of my diploma. The icons are soon available for free on picol.org
Commoncraft is a company that explains applications and aspects of Web 2.0 in Plain English. Created by Lee and Sachi LeFever, Commoncraft produces short videos that provide invaluable insight for those who are running behind on the important aspects of the changing digital landscape. Today the videos are translated into many languages and are used both by public and commercial environments. Lee and Sachi and the only two in the company and work from their home in Seattle, US.