Offline networked learning

ARCLIGHT will be using innovative, low cost technologies to help promote our work, and collect and share stories of positive mental health. We will be using small, portable, battery powered Raspberry Pi computers that can be connected to from people’s own smartphones or other WiFi enabled devices. This will allow people to log in and view a website running on the Raspberry Pi, to leave messages in a Guestbook, and to share files, uploading their own and downloading others.

For the last three years, the European Union funded MAZI project (www.mazizone.eu)  has been developing a set of tools – the MAZI toolkit – and in ARCLIGHT we’ll be taking the toolkit, trying it out, and customising and improving it for use in our community settings. The tools have been built with community based learning in mind, and designed to work ‘offline’ away from the internet. People accessing the toolkit via the Raspberry Pi will have the same experience as visiting a website, except this website isn’t connected to the internet, it’s just on the computer in the same room as them.  We see this as a way of taking advantage of the widespread ownership of WiFi enabled devices (such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets) to help share and create knowledge in places where there’s limited or no internet connectivity. We call this ‘offline networked learning’.

In many places people use and own smartphones, laptops, or tablets, and have ‘domesticated’ them into their everyday activities: they don’t need training in how to use these tools that are already familiar and part of their daily lives. These are powerful devices, which enhance the kind of learning activities people can engage in. For ARCLIGHT, we can ask people to use their own devices to take photos, audio record their personal stories, make videos, and even write texts. What we’d then like to do is to work with community members to share these thoughts with others, and to work together to generate shared creations that can be stored and shared with others. The researchers would like to then take this collection of stories and use them to help build an evidence base that can inform a nurse training programme. What we need therefore is a way of sharing these stories that community members have generated on their own devices. In places where there is highly developed infrastructures we’d be asking people to connect to the internet and share their creations via a website.

However, we’re also aware that in many places there’s very limited internet and cellphone connectivity, or none at all, or that it’s too expensive or otherwise problematic to use. In these situations, the Raspberry Pi computers running the MAZI toolkit will come into its own. The researchers can ask people to bring their own devices along to a workshop, and we can all work together, creating and recording stories and sharing them with each other, wherever we are, even if there’s no electricity or internet connectivity. The researchers will be able to then upload the stories over the internet to a secure space when they are next at a location where they can connect to the wider internet, as well as drawing down other resources made by other groups, and sharing these further stories in the next community workshops.

Mark Gaved 18/04/2019

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