Well, I did the presentation yesterday and it went fairly well - although I left unsure about the actual impact. Below are my notes from the day. I've uploaded the final presentation to http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Presentations/en.
There were about 100 people attending the conference - the largest group were free software developers followed by secondary school teachers and then local education authority staff. I was after lunch and the conference split into five sessions - the most popular one in the auditorium and the four others in smaller rooms. My session had about 15 people. At the start of the conference the organisers said they wanted the "un"conference to be about interactive discussions rather than presentations. What this meant for my session - and a couple of others I went to - is that I started the presentation, got about a third of the way through and was then sidetracked into talking about issues that a couple of participants wanted to bring up. I then skipped through the last slides in the time given without being able to give them the proper attention. We got as far as discussing the Schools Wikipedia - quite a few people were interested in this and took away copies of the DVDs I had brought along. We discussed how wikipedia is written so that adult generalists can understand it, and I was asked whether there should be a separate childrens wikipedia, aimed at a lower reading age. I repeated what SOS Childrens Villages had said at our AGM - that they were quite happy with the current level. After the session I thought I should have mentioned simple english Wikipedia, which I've done in a follow up comment to their forum. One person was very interested in setting up a Wikipedia in his own school, that only his students could edit, to give them a sense of having created something. I mentioned how it would quickly become out of date; we then moved on to talking about adding lecture notes to Wikipedia, and I spoke about the Wikibooks and Wikiversity projects. We had a discussion on how universities can be quite hostile to Wikipedia on sourcing grounds, but schools don't seem to have the same concerns - possibly because they aren't generating their own expert reference works in the same way. At that point I ran out of time, meaning I couldn't talk about active learning, blocked IPs or the role of Wikimedia UK. However, I think we covered plenty of ground in the 30 minutes available! The rest of the conference was an interesting mix. The opening session was by an open source evangelist. It started with me thinking he was going to get on my nerves, but by the end I was very interested in his insightful observations about the nature of the education system and the challenges brought about by technological change. His idea that we have been undergoing since 1992 a revolution as radical as the industrial revolution, and the way that revolution reshaped our educational system was particularly interesting. I also attended a session by Fiona Iglesias from the "The National Digital Resource Bank" - a great idea initiated by the North West England Learning Grid. This is creating a database of high quality reviewed and catlogued educational resources, much of which will be creative commons licensed. They want to get local education authorities signed up so that their schools can access the information. The Bank is planned to go live this autumn. They're not thinking of making this available outside local authorities - I asked if a local authority could, for instance, decide to make it publically available through local libraries, and she thought she wouldn't want that for commercial reasons. The sign up fee - which she wouldn't disclose - sounded like it was be hefty, and also involved a commitment to helping with the meta data. I also spoke to Fiona after her session and we agreed to talk again on email. She may be interested in getting some of the Wikimedia information into the database, but only the bits that would pass their stringent quality standards. Wikipedia for Schools and featured Wikibooks material are the ones that sprang to mind for me. Thinking afterwards, I might suggest we talk again in, say, 18 months time, when the UK market will be saturated. We could talk about releasing some "teaser" material into, say, Wikibooks, which could be used to advertise their presense to a global audience and solicit foreign subscribers. This would follow the pattern of the successful partnerships that, for instance, Wikimedai Germany, have had. The next session I went to was from the BBC regarding their "Open Lab". I really struggled to understand where this fitted in with the overall purpose of the BBC - even the presenter admitted that if they were too successful they would be closed down! As someone put it to me afterwards, the BBC have a tendency to "chase pretty balloons" - i.e. go after the latest craze. The closing keynote was also from the BBC - this time George Auckland, the Head of Innovation at BBC Learning. Very interesting and personable, he sounded keen on open source as a concept, but made the point that saying "Yes" to sharing is in some ways harder than saying "No" because of the can of worms it opens up. I asked him what the prospects were of releasing images, for instance, under free licenses - he replied that there were many problems with this - they were working on making more archive material available for streaming, but most of the licenses they hold - for documentaries, for instance - were for broadcast rights only. I also had a great chat with him afterwards, over coffee. Interestingly he said they had looked at using Wikimedia Commons material and decided against it, because they couldn't be sure enough over the provenance. They'd rather pay a company for images, who they would have a contract with and could sue if anything went wrong, than take them for free. Started me thinking of a business idea, but that's for another time! Well that's my reflections - let me know if you have any questions on anything here. Regards, Andrew
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