on the CEFR & YouTube generation


What you see here is the first page of a brand new textbook for 12-year-old German kids who want to learn Spanish (as a foreign language).

It starts with a listening comprehension unit and provides relatively short exercises throughout the whole textbook. Nothing really new so far, but with the difference that most pages come within a teen magazine style.


And that’s exactly the trend today: providing small bits of information which may then be served to the inattentive YouTube generation – a new generation used to max. 10-minutes videos online, single mp3 files instead of complete (music) albums, Google-able knowledge and interests for specific topics (only).

This development, however, is not as bad as it may sound in the first place. Sure, today’s kids may find a different learning environment than what we had when we were kids, and one could argue if a school should continue supporting this open, free & easy approach. But then, in today’s world where everything and everyone needs to be *special*, needs to have specific knowledge on something and thus requires much more of this *modular knowledge* (as I call it – modular, as in exchangeable), it’s very interesting to see that publishers are already starting with textbooks to adopt to new learning (teaching?) methods.

It’s not that things had really changed over the years when it comes to language textbooks. I remember having a longer discussion with my mum many years ago on such a topic where we were both wondering about the very strange and embarrassing approach in textbooks for German as a foreign language (Deutsch als Fremdsprach, DaF). Some of those exercises were just so….ouch! + *sigh* + out of this world.

The real difference between this DaF textbook back in the days and today’s “Gente Joven” Spanish textbook is that the latter is focused on the YouTube generation.

Now, if we argue that the next generation is our biggest asset – how will they perceive this world in future, how will this upcoming generation positively influence the future and in which way does their specific knowledge, paired with a healthy ambition to win competitions, contribute to the future?

In the end, it all starts with what we’re providing them with right now – as much as our own success is based on previous generations (e.g. the creation of programming languages and integrated circuits, implementation of a world-wide IT network, etc.).

Another interesting developement is the introduction of A1/A2, B1/B2, C1/C2 levels on a school level – the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR): Learning, Teaching Assessment


… which provides “clear standards to be attained at successive stages of learning” and helps to evaluate “outcomes in an internationally comparable manner”. I wish we already had this system way back in school!

Clearly, the harmonization of (language) learning levels and setting of standards is a very good way to create a common basis in Europe. Imagine the problems I am always having explaining my German degrees to the English speaking world… and again, Europe is becoming such a modular world.

Make Some Green…


The goal of the competition is to promote upcycling by encouraging the use of wasted materials to generate innovative designs and redefine the standards of environmental sustainability by fostering balance between conservation and development.

Despite this rather unfortunate phrasing ;-), there’s a very smart upcoming competition promoting the upcycling ideology (waste = food). Nice!

[h/t Erik!]

Knowledge Centres for sanitation and waste management

Just a short note on an interesting e-mail I’ve received today on the ecosanres Yahoo!Group on ecological sanitation: The (dutch NGO) WASTE “on behalf of the Programme Board of the INTEGRATED SUPPORT FOR A SUSTAINABLE URBAN ENVIRONMENT (ISSUE) programme” puts out an open tender for Knowledge Centres with tasks related to sanitation and waste mangement.

This is an invitation for a bid for the provision and distribution of ‘knowledge’ for the implementing partners of the ISSUE programme for a period ending on December 31, 2010. …Interested parties who have the pre-requisite experience in running and managing Knowledge Centres are requested to submit technical and financial proposals and any other supporting documentation not later than 1 August 2008.

Why is this interesting?

  1. “Countries specifically asked to respond are: India, Vietnam, Benin, Kenya or Tanzania, Malawi or Zambia”
    Please note the “or”. As in: “one regional office will do.” Kenya vs Tanzania. Obviously, an opportunity for Kenyan experts.
  2. You may probably know that I am an admin at the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (website, whose link i will not repeat because our website is currently being relaunched and still too shabby to be shown around…*cough* *cough*) and we or at least I quite frequently come across ppl who are willing to do something but are lacking the adequate funding and/or don’t know how to apply for funds. Neither do I! However, what I do know is that funds – as limited as they are – will be made available once there are suitable local partners. So, what is actually required (I think!) are much more local networks that will help those funding agencies to approach a local market. And with “funding agencies” I am not only talking about the usual suspects aka dev aid orgs who make a living out of “helping” the poor. Instead, think of businesses from abroad, companies from the US and Europe who would like to invest into an African market and often don’t know whom to approach at first hand. Such a “knowledge centre” for the reproduction and dissemination of knowledge could be a perfect incubator (ok, now that is vc lingua already) for healthy businesses.
  3. The assignments runs from 2008 till 2010, the end of the ISSUE
    programme. The total budget (3 years) for each KEN will be approximately:
    Latin America (Costa Rica):? ? 235000 Euro
    South East Asia (Vietnam):? ? 170000 Euro
    South Asia (India):? 145000 Euro
    West Africa (Benin):? 145000 Euro
    East Africa (Kenya or Tanzania):? 170000 Euro
    Southern Africa (Zambia or Malawi? 140000 Euro

Guys, what I am talking about is this upcoming market of sustainable toilet facilities that will rock communities across the globe in future. Just think of the Adopt-A-Light initiative (and what the GoK did to them once they realized there’s money to be made).
“Knowledge Centres”? – to me – are local networks that provide much more than just a nice budget for a two years period. Hence this open tender is a first qualification programme to see who will be able to pool other consultants/manufacturers in and who will prepare the market for the future.

In other words: THERE’S MONEY TO BE MADE FROM “WASTE”. Think about it next time you toss out stuff out of your car window or go to toilet.

(disclaimer: “sanitation as a business” is my favourite subject ….pole :-)

AOB: Link of the week – PicLens – an advanced image viewer plugin for FF that will provide you with a “haiiaaaaaa”-effect. Try it!

49 minutes

…on why waste = food.

“The goal is very simple and technical. And the goal is a very delightfully, safe, healthy and just world with clean air, soil, water and power, economically, equitably, ecologically and elegantly enjoyed.”

Enjoy! :-)

(disclaimer: a) just found this while searching for the Silent Spring link on my previous post, b) Braungart is (was) my professor @ varsity, c) I’ve already mentioned their philosophy aka the Cradle-to-Cradle approach a few times here on my blog since 2005. I really believe in the C2C idea and took up my work within ecosan because it’s one doable way to close the loop. Oh, and thx 4 this documentary!)

World Environment Day @ work

So today is World Environment Day and I had actually planed not to cover this special day as I am dealing with environmental issues almost every day and would actually have to blog on it every day then. Just similar to what World Water Day means to me (not much as a *special occasion* from my very own pov, that is).

However, as I went for lunch with my colleagues today, we found the following flyer(s?) on our tables and I instantly thought: hey, i’ve gotta blog this. ..

.So, here you go:

And? What’s the message?

  • Locally grown carrots produce less carbon dioxide emissions than avocados that were imported via airplanes.
  • Argentinian beef steak has a (calculated) carbon emission of 6,79kg/kg if transported via ship.
  • Energy saving / compact fluorescent lamps of 11W save an equivalent of 469kg of carbon emissions when compared to conventional bulbs @60W and a life expectancy of 15.000h.
  • Take your bike to work and contribute to a better environment
    (which would be ~ 12 km one way for me).
  • …and: calculate your own carbon footprint – which takes into account ALL data. Average carbon emission of Joe User in Germany (according to this site!) is around 10t/a, and I was just below it with ~ 8t/a. Still, lots of room for improvements. My colleague had ~ 25t/a! What’s yours?

Lesson learned: everything is interconnected, interwoven to a huge network of reasons and causes. Eating expensive and imported avocados from Kenya that cost at least 1,- EUR each and come at the size of an egg (sic!) are much more problematic than local food.
It prolly produces even more carbon emissions than the printing and distribution of such flyers to a staff / target group that is already sensitized for the world’s burning issues (health, water, sanitation, energy, transport, urbanisation, HIV, Malaria, war, greed, etc. etc.). …

No, seriously, World Environment Day is here to remind all of us that environmental protection starts with our own environmental awareness and that we can not just sit back and wait for some Messiah to come and give us a working solution. Rethink your actual behaviour and identify the potential.
(And this, although I am a strong defender of the Braungart/McDonough theory, e.g. how nice it would be to have a 2nd – green – industrial revolution where the reduction of *bad behaviour* isn’t a solution (= consuming less is still harmful), but instead identifying and using materials whose biological and technical nutrients remain in an loop. Ecosan is one of such approaches….but that’s another story :-).

Does this make you feel better?

A animated flash advertisement when I logged off my webmailer led me to the page of Volvic fuer UNICEF, an initiative between (the water brand) Volvic and UNICEF that provides a simple marketing idea:

Buy 1 litre of Volvic naturelle water and they (Volvic) will pay the equivalent of 10 litres in form of financial aid to UNICEF – who are said to be drilling boreholes in the Amhara region of Ethiopia.



What a perfect way to improve your public image.

Nothing new though, the project has been up and running since 2005 now, and there’s a credible (German) journalist doing his “research” on the ground to see every donation is properly used.

Now, before I delve into the usual criticism when it comes to dev aid, lemme get this straight:

People in Europe WANT to help other – poorer – people and they want this aid to arrive as a 100% sum. Obviously, it’s a noble idea.

See that screenshot above? It comes from the Volvic fuer Unicef website and informs visitors about recent activities, tells them where Ethiopia is, which region will benefit and even – and that’s a bit strange, I think – provides us with a gallery of donors that have already logged in on that site and donated for this cause.

Now, those 92 boreholes/wells may not be such a huge figure to the groundwater discharge problem, but as far as I am informed, “water is in abundant supply on the world’s poorest continent” and poorly managed”.

Poorly managed, oh yes indeed.

So what do you – dear readers – think about such an intiative, considering various complex aspects such as

a) the usage of a mismanaged, but proud and rich country like Ethiopia to highlight some burning Millenium Developement Goals?

b) private companies trying to raise their sales & creating a positive product image by donating a certain amount for an x quantity of sold goods?

c) consumer’s desires to share their relative wealth with other, less fortunate people on this planet in a politically correct way?

As for me, I am bit undecided. It always freaks me out when I see this kind of advertisement (Africa = poor = help needed) – as already seen the other day.
Even IF we share 1 Euro/pp with another nation of our choice – will things improve? And is it only a matter of financial aid?
What about poor management? What about those young academics who are educated abroad and then have to settle for a 300,- EUR/month job with a governmental institution once they come back? Are they going to be the Cheetah generation? Or are they rather going to stick to the rules and manage to climb the institutional job ladder in order to support their families and continue managing the mismanagement they’ve inherited from the retiring Hippos?

I think that Ethiopia does not really need this help. Sure, it’s a nice gift and comes for free + provides further income, but is this the way to help?

How do you feel about this?

Asiyekuwepo na lake halipo


“This private blog is presently not open because it is closed” JKE

…for some reasons I just love this pic above [via, thx!] and maybe also because it perfectly helps to illustrate my silence aka blog-abstinence earlier this week – due to this:


Approx. 4kgs of papers related to the beautiful subject of hydrof******mechanics – an exam I had been procrastinating since 2004 (!) and eventually maneeeeegehhhd to passssss. :-)

Can u imagine I even carried this material to EAK the other day?

Kawia ufike.

Cheetahs at work

…it is an informal settlement, not an illegal.

We had approached the mayor with a detailed baseline study of all problems, sorted to their priority and asked him for help. He replied that “it’s an illegal settlement”. – “No”, I then replied, “it is not, it’s just informal. Sir, you always use this explanation as an excuse, yet when it comes to the elections, you go to these piipoll in the informal settlement and ask for the votes”.

We then collected money in the community and registered the settlement so that progress isn’t stopped by such bureaucratic hurdles.

– my colleague Obed Kawange from Zambia on his work back home

It’s always nice to see how piipoll react when you show them this video. :-)