Friday, December 1, 2006

Teachers Without Borders

Dr. Fred Mednick of Teachers Without Borders was on campus today and I got to sit in on a lunch conversation with him at the Luke Center. He had some interesting observations about the potential of technology to provide "High-touch, high-speech" connections between donors providing microcredit to poverty-area businesspeople in other parts of the world. So if you are perhaps, like most of us, more inclined to give money to a cause when you can see the result, tecnology is being developed—like the now-controversial $150 laptop—that will allow you to do that. (For a fascinating overview of the microcredit/microfinance initiative in global economics, read Connie Bruck's "Millions for Millions" in the October 30 New Yorker. Muhammad Yunus, the originator of the concept of microcredit, has just been named as recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006, and is featured in the PBS Series The New Heroes)

During the conversation (Punahou president) Jim Scott mentioned emerging plans for the school to establish, as part of a redesigned capstone course in Economics for seniors, an endowment which would allow Punahou seniors to each provide four or five hundred dollars in microcredit to a selected recipient. Students would be encouraged to develop a sense of social entrpreneurship by doing research and making intelligent decisions about where to invest the money.

Perhaps the most interesting area of conversation that we got into while I was there had to do with a new platform for Open Education which Cisco Systems has helped him develop. It is a kind of open-source program which will allow teachers from all over the world to collaborate on creating online texts that can be used anywhere by anyone.

This new platform will give teachers the chance to learn from one another within the disciplines they teach, to develop curriculum collaboratively, and to share global best practices. Interested in plugging in to this project? Explanations and procedures should be available at the Teachers Without Borders website in a month or two.

(See also this article which references both Fred Mednick and Punahou School.)

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