Friday, February 22, 2008

Deschooling Web 2.0

I was in colleague's office this morning rambling about Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society. If you don't know who he was, he was a radical intellectual in the 60s and 70s and very popular with the alternative schooling types. One or his ideas is that schools are made to contain knowledge rather than share it. This is why school rooms in fascist, communist, and capitalist countries all look the same. Anyway, Charlie Crawford sent me a note this morning pointing to Chapter 6 which contains Illich’s “Four Networks” which is about the decentralization of knowledge but actually is also a good description of the ideal web 2.0 learning community (i.e. MERLOT and possibly some aspects of the future Tacoma Challenge?).

1. Reference Services to Educational Objects-which facilitate access to things or processes used for formal learning. Some of these things can be reserved for this purpose, stored in libraries, rental agencies, laboratories, and showrooms like museums and theaters; others can be in daily use in factories, airports, or on farms, but made available to students as apprentices or on off hours.
2. Skill Exchanges — which permit persons to list their skills, the conditions under which they are willing to serve as models for others who want to learn these skills, and the addresses at which they can be reached.
3. Peer-Matching — a communications network which permits persons to describe the learning activity in which they wish to engage, in the hope of finding a partner for the inquiry.
4. Reference Services to Educators-at-Large — who can be listed in a directory giving the addresses and self-descriptions of professionals, paraprofessionals, and free-lancers, along with conditions of access to their services. Such educators, as we will see, could be chosen by polling or consulting their former clients.

The thing that is so ironic about this is that Illich was not too keen on technology, but technology seems to be what is facilitating this vision now.

The purpose of the Challenge isn’t to be a reference service, but it could certainly be a hub where students share their learning experiences and connect to people and resources. The podcasting project and the blog tools in Drupal can facilitate this. In ancient Greece, the paideia, was not just one institution, but the whole community. The Challenge, and other open source content management systems, can be this connection.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Open Source Textbooks

I am in the middle of a conversation elsewhere on the net about open source textbooks and open source in education in general. I think this is certainly the way to go. The print industry moves far too slowly for the field of educational tech. anyway.

And speaking of educational technology; There is an article in the Feb. 15th Chronicle called "One Way to Rein In the Cost of Textbooks: Make Them Free." It is by Paul F. deLespinasse, who is from Adrian and has four textbooks available online. He says that given modern technology, "there is no reason why textbooks could not be extremely cheap, if not free." He says that most of the cost comes from things like printing, distribution and marketing. He also said that texts that are radically innovative never make it through the publication process. I love this point "...faculty members who do not wish to rely on miracles to produce texts based on new approaches to the subjects can post their materials on the Internet. That would increase the richness and diversity of materials that instructors can choose from as they develop courses, and would benefit students both intellectually and financially.

What is interesting about his take is that I assumed that true experts in the field, seasoned, experienced scholars like deLespinasse would not be interested in open source texts. I thought that adjunct faculty or up and coming scholars would be more interested in this, but his own work proves me wrong.

He points out in his article that some of the disadvantages of online publishing is that online texts are not subject to review and the editorial process. For myself, this just points out how crucial organizations like MERLOT are.

The article is worth checking out. (Unfortunately, the Chronicle is still a very commercial publication, and to read the article online, one must have a paid subscription.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Open Source Resources for WA CTCs

I was in a meeting today with Cable Green on open source. Here are the opening notes that were posted on Injenuity's blog before the meeting:

Cable Green will lead a discussion on how the Washington Community and
Technical Colleges can actively participate in and contribute to the
Open Educational Resources (OER) movement.

He doesn’t have the answers but brings a host of questions that higher
education needs to wrestle with to increase learning opportunities,
lower costs, and form a more perfect global learning space.

* How do we educate all stakeholders about open educational resources
(software, content, standards, publishing) and why they are an important
part of our system’s future?
* How do we make it easy to share learning materials, courses and
* What are the policy implications of sharing content? Are we all so
unique that we can’t use one another’s courses? How many different
Algebra 101 courses do we need?
* Under what circumstances will faculty “receive” what has been built by
others? How do we collectively get past the issue of “I need to build it
* Is content is a strategic advantage? Or do walled gardens wither and
die without the winds of collective input and continuous iteration?
* How much longer can our students afford traditional textbooks? Why
can’t we develop open textbooks?
* How much longer can our libraries afford buying access to articles our
faculty published? What is stopping us from an open publishing movement
for academic journal articles?


I have been interested in open source teaching materials since I have been involved in teaching or education support. We have really lost something in this age of "intellectual property" and copyright. I don't think I would be the teacher I am today if it wasn't for the other teachers who were gracious enough to share ideas, curricula and syllabi.

I am creating an open source developmental English textbook. I am going to offer it on LuLu.Com but the whole book will be in a Creative Commons rather than a restrictive copyright.

All of the teaching tools that we create in Second Life should be available to all teachers.

Faculty claim to be interested in the students welfare when they say that they do not want to have "their" students learn online because of the cost. Yet, they will assign textbooks that cost over a hundred dollars.