Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Finding a Culture of Openness in Education

I have a post up today over at e-literate in which I discuss the current shortcomings of the OER and open learning content market. In it, I spell out the lack of discoverability, the lack of global aggregation, and the unevenness in quality. To that list of limitations, I would also add the general lack of an open culture among faculty.

Alan Levine captures the difficulties of creating an open culture with faculty in his notes from the Culture of Openness Panel at SXSWedu. And, as Alan points out, " If we are talking about creating a culture of haring, it suggests we are not doing it."

At least in Higher Education, one of the main reasons we don't share more is that we are brought up and trained in a system that defines sharing as a bad thing. We are taught to emphasize our own work and contributions. We are taught to guard our ideas and intellectual property because they are our road to tenure. We work in departments in which there is organizational cooperation but little real sharing. The university, in fact, is an ecosystem in which we are often encouraged to do our "own brilliant thing" by ourselves.

By contrast, I have been sitting in SXSW sessions all weekend in which developers have shared their core ideas freely. More important, many of them are also sharing their code freely at a place called GitHub. In a Web application world in which speed to market and product agility are everything, code development has become as much about "mashing up or connecting snippets of existing code as it is about writing that code in the first place."

I notice that Audrey Watters has also picked up on the GitHub model as it applies to education. She uses it to describe the new and improved ClassConnect, and remarks that "it's a powerful system for code. And it's a wonderful model for thinking about educational content too, particularly content that, like open source code, is licensed 'open.'"
By the way, ClassConnect looks to follow the gitHub model by allowiing you to "create your lessons plans. License it openly. Allow it to be downloaded and replicated. Allow others to fork your content. Encourage people to give back their "code." Let people monitor the changes. Let them contribute."

As Audrey writes, "Create. Replicate. Fork. Give back."

Oh, and please forgive an old language teacher for remarking, yet once again, that we had better be teaching languages in our schools and institutions for some reason other than the need to communicate with folks who don't speak English. We can already use Google Translate to handle our written texts and Web sites at a proficiency level well above what we learn in our General Education language requirements, and now we have technology on the way that will provide live translations of our spoken words.Vocre 2.0 will do this for video calls and Microsoft is showing off a universal translator of its own.

Finally, in the world of e-reading, take note that 28% of US adults say they are already reading e-texts on e-readers or tablets. That's a good thing to keep in mind as you ask yourself why folks are paying so much attention to e-book pricing these days. Chief among those "folks," of course, is Amazon. That said, there is at least one area in which Amazon controls the pricing of e-books completely -- Kindle Singles. On that note, I'm glad to report that this genre is alive and doing quite well, as Amazon has sold more than two million singles int he first fourteen months of the program.

Suggested Reading

Culture of Openness Panel (SXSWedu) - CogDogBlog
Ray Ozzie’s not alone: Everyone loves Github — Cloud Computing News
ClassConnect: "GitHub" for Class Lessons
Vocre 2.0 for iOS brings live translation to video calls - Engadget
Microsoft unveils universal translator that converts your voice into another language | ExtremeTech
28% Of U.S. Adults Read On eReader Or Tablet - eBookNewser
Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog: Thoughts on eBook Pricing
PaidContent: Kindle Singles Sell Two Million in 14 Months, Earns Amazon $1 Million | Digital Book World

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