This is perhaps the shortest TED talk on record. For those of you who follow African threads, you might already know Ushahidi. Basically, Ushahidi is a way to crowdsource crisis information using the common denominator of technology. Namely the technology that is most readily available in Africa: the phone.


Ushahidi basically started in response to the Kenyan election violence iu 2008.  Citizens reported in on election violence using their phones and Ushahidi tracked all of this with mashups (maps). It had 45,000 participants in a short span of days (it didn’t exist before), went viral, and the model has now been exported to Gaza, Haiti, and Zimbabwe.

The original Kenyan mashup from 2008.

And it is an amazing African developed response to technology, a model that can be exported to the rest of the world. In this TED talk, the founder discusses the projects they are working on now, namely crowdsourced filters for constant flows of information. Anyone with a Twitter feed and a Google Reader account will appreciate this. An overflow of information and manual filters don’t always work (I am constantly deleting and arranging contacts in meaningful ways; why not rely on the judgement of the community I already place trust in?). Even better, it is a decidedly African response to information overflow; let the community manage it. It works well with the existing ICT (cellphone) and allows for extended participation.

It can be exported to rural areas with limited infrastructure (aside from phones), a real impressive model to follow. So why not a Ushahidi for education? Why not have crowdsourced knowledge construction?

Those in the eLearning crowd know that learning is a social activity. It is a constant back and forth with our communities (of discourse), our peers. It is a literal information mashup. Knowledge is constructed and deconstructed perpetually and what better way to capture that than with mLearning (mobile)? And better yet, it bypasses a good deal of the digital divide of access to ICTs (a lot more people in any country, anywhere have cellphones than computers).

So why not skip a technology cycle or two? If I am the leader of an area/country with limited resources, why bother with massive investments in technical infrastructures (bandwidth, hardware, knowhow)? Why not rely on learning most suited to development purposes? mLearning is immediate, it is directed, it is firmly situated in context.

I am a nurse in a rural clinic with limited exposure to advanced medicines, but I have a cellphone. So I have a network. I am a teacher in a village school and want to see what other teachers are doing. I have a phone, so I have a network. I could, but I won’t go on and on.

Either way, give the video a look as it is only a few minutes long.

By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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