Monday, March 23, 2009

Printernet for Education: Journalists and Teachers

The printernet is the subject of my latest column at PBS MediaShift.(posted sometime this coming week.) The subheads in the story are the Printernet for Newspapers, The Printernet for Magazines, The Printernet for Wikis.

But what I really wanted to write about is the Printernet for Education. Maybe I'll find some embryonic form before the next column in two weeks.

My personal goal is to help fix high school education. Newspapers, magazines, publishers are just business problems. Radically improving the efficacy and efficiency of High School education is a public problem.

The path forward took a big step for me this week, when I found,, a startup in Germany that has released Open Source technology to go from a wiki to PDF, ODF and DocBook(XML).

It means that journalists, living either inside or outside a newspaper, can work with teachers to replace textbooks with WikiBooks. The journalists teamed up with teachers can gather, edit, and select just the right stories for the right students at the right time. With this new open source technology, those stories could be delivered in print, in micro quantities directly to the classroom.

Current events told in a context that makes sense to high school kids could make a huge difference. One of the reasons that kids don't read is that mass market textbooks are not worth reading. Another reason they don't read is that they don't own books. WikiNewspapers or WikiBooks solves both problems.

Some excerpts from the 2007 press release follow.
DECEMBER 13, 2007 - ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA: The Wikimedia Foundation today announced a partnership that will make it possible to obtain high quality print and word processor copies of articles from Wikipedia and other wiki educational resources. The development of the underlying open source software is supported by the Open Society Institute ( and the Commonwealth of Learning (, and led by, a start-up company based in Germany.
. . .
This technology is of key strategic importance to the cause of free education world-wide," said Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. "It will make it possible to use and remix wiki content for a variety of purposes, both in the developing and the developed world, in areas with connectivity and without.

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