OERs shining light, new textbook model, or harbinger of a new imperialism.

Ok. So I’ve been backchanneling all over the place trying to get my mind around what I’ve been trying to get my mind around this week (really… for the past year). I have a couple of questions that I’d like to explore…

What are OERs good for?
When are they a good thing?
Could they be a bad thing?
Whom do they serve?

Sacrilege? Perhaps… so lets take our time and develop out this idea properly. First we’ll talk a bit about different kinds of knowledge and which ones are well suited to prescripted ideas of content, then we’ll move on to a consideration of how OERs can be imperialistic and, finally, on to some considerations of OERs and scale.


straight knowledge
For those of you who’ve ever heard George siemens and I at the same event, our discussions inevitably descend into the same area… about ‘truth’ and more recently the ‘advancement of knowledge’. (This is an eluminate discussion of same) I’ve been particularly concerned that George’s examples of what he calls knowledge are often in the STEM realm (science, technology, engineering and math) and involve people building planes that don’t fall out of the sky. I am a very, very strong proponent of very stringent approaches to building airplanes, and, while I accept that people can have ‘airplane building communities’ I have no interest in the teaching of airplane building being a choose your own adventure. There are, in much of the STEM realm, clearly identifyable things that are WRONG. Airplane falls out of sky. Hadron collider heating up. Bridge falling down. (seems to be alot of falling here) But you see what I mean… these are things that we can all pull out a finger and point at and go BAD. Let’s call this straight knowledge. Straight knowledge, in George’s sense can ‘advance’. Stronger bridges, faster airplanes.

curvy knowledge
This is not true for what most of us call learning. (i have no research to support this, this is an intuition, that’s why I’m writing it in my blog… if you have this research, I would be very grateful) The vast majority of the things we learn are more subtle than this, have multiple possible solutions and no real ‘wrong ways’ of turning. They involve people’s feelings, their histories, their individual goals, the different ways their brains might work… all things that no group of experts would ever actually agree on. It is for this realm of ideas that ‘rhizomatic education’ was intended. A group of staff members trying to learn new ways to make their company more efficient. A group of 12 year olds trying to connect to history. A community of educators trying to come to grips with how new technologies can and have changed their profession and how they can make the best of it. These are the kinds of situations where I’ve used the idea of a community coming together to create it’s own knowledge. They can’t be ‘WRONG’ in the sense that a bridge falling down is wrong. Some of the content can be wrong, they might have misunderstood what someone in their office does, they might have gotten the date of the Boston Massacre wrong (I know you’re out there John Mullaney) or used a fake email address when they registered for delicious and then forgot their password… but their goals – better working environment – connecting to history – empowerement with the technology – were still achieved. These things are the knowledge, the jobs, dates and passwords are simply the content… things that could be jotted down, or googled for when needed but not really the thing they are there to learn. For these people the community, the feeling of using a community to learn… this was the real curriculum. Let’s call this curvy knowledge. Curvy knowledge does not ‘advance’, it changes… there is no ‘linear existance’ for it to follow.

Hold on a second… I thought you were talking about OERs… do you even know what one is?
I know what Seth Gurrell thinks one is, and I’ll take his definition. He works for COSL (the Center for Open and Sustainable learning) and it is this username (and presumably person) that wrote the definition of OERs used on the Wikieducator site.

The term “Open Educational Resource(s)” (OER) refers to educational resources (lesson plans, quizzes, syllabi, instructional modules, simulations, etc.) that are freely available for use, reuse, adaptation, and sharing… included in the many initiatives are

  • developing royalty free textbooks for primary and secondary schools;
  • simplifying licensing of resources for authors and educators;
  • packaging and indexing educational materials so they are easier to find and use;
  • nurturing online communities for teachers and authors; and
  • growing open education as a field and a movement.

Other definitions could be found, and hairs could be split, but essentially we have three big words. Open. Educational. Resources. There are some things implicit in these words that are will bear a couple of words. By Open we mean available with or without copyrights (there seems to be some disagreement about this…) lets call it viewable by anyone to dodge that bullet. Educational means that whatever knowledge may or may not be lurking in the content it has been processed by someone – a professor, an instructional designer, a teacher, a friend – to make it easier for someone else to learn. That educationalizing process is an interesting one… that content is almost always contextualized to the context of the person who has done that. (an important point for imperialism later) And, of course, it is a resource… something in a big old pile that we can draw from when we need something.

OERs and straight knowledge.
Any OER that gives knowledge on how to do something (like build a well) to someone who otherwise would never have access to this knowledge is a wonderful thing. If it helps people build safer cars, earthquake resistent houses, more environmentally friendly office spaces… anything I can point to and go ‘that thing’ I support it. This does not, I don’t think, extend to things like k-12 textbooks. The k12 sphere is not ‘pushing the limits of the advancement of our STEM knowledge’. They might, and that’d be really great, developing new kinds of curvy knowledge, but access to other people’s exclusive knowledge is not necessary for this. If really good free textbooks are needed, any number of organizations could get a bunch of teachers together to write one (and, indeed, this has been done) and then ‘MAKE IT FREE’. tahdah.

OERs and curvy knowledge
This is where i jump ship. I took a cruise through a bunch of courses at one of the flagshipes of the OER movement MIT OpenCourseware (yes, i know some people don’t think this is really ‘open’) I found one in particular that I thought served as a nice example of what I’m talking about “Technologies for Creative Learning. I would call that course curvy knowledge, and no amount of brain research is going to convince me that ‘creative learning’ is a STEM subject… it’s curvy. I would challenge anyone (anyone really… if you’re there 🙂 ) to take a look at that syllabus and ask yourself if you would choose those particular articles… You might. I might not. It’s kinda neat to see what other people use in their courses… I’ve sent some of my own work to other colleagues and have really enjoyed reading their’s… this is a good thing. But. Is it important that this particular list came from MIT? Should it affect the choices that we make when we teach our own courses? How much of an affect will the prestige of the university have over other people’s approaches to curvy knowledge.

Scale and the new textbook
One of my concerns, going forward, is the scale of the process. If, lets say, everyone published their syllabi publicly, along with all of their teaching resources… what happens then? Well, in one sense, we just have the internet all over again. There is no guarantee that because a course is being taught at a institution of higher learnign that the content is going to be good or even correct. More likely maybe, but no guarantee… you’ll find yourself wading in a see of content. This will, inevitably, lead to a number of folks offering to ‘guide people through the sea of content’ some will be free, some will charge and then you’ll have a new economy of people who are collating existing bits of content and/or knowledge into a compendium of things based on themes or categories… LETS CALL THEM TEXTBOOKS.

The new imperialism
The Myoops issue. MITs OER translated in Chinese. The five years I spent living in Asia gave me no end of examples of the reverance with which the American Uber Schools are seen. I have had students for whom the words ‘Harvard and MIT’ (and i do say word… em-ai-tee is a word, not an acronym) are the easiest to pronounce and use in a sentence like – “i want to go to Harvard”. In the places where ‘straight’ knowledge is actually straight, electrical engineering for instance, this is a really cool distribution of knowledge (At least, as far as I know, not being an electrical engineer). In the STEM subjects this offers any number of current and uptodate sources of knowledge that might otherwise be hidden or not there at all. But once things get curvy, the conversation gets more complicated. If the MIT edtech curriculum started being the default curriculum taught in even 10% of chinese universities this gives whatever professor is teaching that course ENORMOUS control over the direction of the industry… and not just in China. Image a course in ethics or social justice. You could argue, and some do, that this is the reason more people need to open their curriculum. I ask you… how will the majority of people be able to choose between the curriculum of a small town Nova Scotia university and Berkely. Easy. They’ll either choose the most famous or the one that they were already in agreement with. This does change the paradigm… I just wonder in what way.

Final thoughts
Freeing knowledge is a good thing. Freeing content, on the other hand, is a bit sketchier. When something is ‘packaged’ into an ‘educational resource’ we’ve left the straight path (however straight you might think that is) of the research process and enter the realm of contextualization. When you design a particular course, you need an audience in mind, a skill set, a number of literacies, goals… you make any number of decisions about how to frame and scaffold that knowledge so that a particular group will assimilate it in whatever way you see fit. If we turn these into tradeable cultural capital, we will, in a sense, not be changing anything at all. The major institution of learning currently do influence a great deal of our public policy. Clever translators of that knowledge (think Gladwell or Friedmann) already make a gazillion dollars oversimplifying the work that has taken others years to painstakingly put together. And we are left to our wits, our time schedules and our demands to judge how deeply we’re going to be able to assess the knoweldge coming in to figure out if there is something in it worth passing on…

All curvy knowledge ends up being like this. For me the last of those list of five goals is of particular intersest. “growing open education as a field and a movement.” This is the part that I really care about… and particular ‘open education around curvy knowledge’. Getting people together to talk about the stuff they need to know… and come out with their own version of it. OERs might be important to this… and they might not… but i just can’t help but think that they will just end up being ‘the internet’ all over again. Who exactly will they serve I wonder?

Thanks to Alec Couros, Jen Jones, George Siemens and Jennifer Maddrell (and others) for pushing my thinking on this subject. (note: by this, of course, i don’t mean to imply that they in any way ‘agree’ with me, but rather, they were kind enough to talk to me which helped me hammer out what i was thinking)

Author: dave

I run this site... among other things.

35 thoughts on “OERs shining light, new textbook model, or harbinger of a new imperialism.”

  1. Like the post Dave. Hmm curvy knowledge sounds good – is it contextual knowledge I wonder? Concrete rather than neat reusable abstractions? Interestingly, the rather boring MIT syllabus you link to contains a couple of gems including http://www.exploratorium.edu/IFI/resources/museumeducation/situated.html Brown, Collins, Duguid’s piece on Situated Cognition.
    It seems to me that good quality research and writings offer punctuation points in our enquiry, and lesson plans, etc. can be things to be adapted but they are brought to life by dialogue. Freezing knowledge is an outcome of its commodification – sometimes even when it’s ‘free’ knowledge is being ‘sold’.

  2. Thank you for the post. You raise an important issue. As a non-Canadian (non-American) I think your post has two dimensions which are important in the discussion of the “inherent imperialistic nature” of OER:

    1. National, regional, or personal identity

    On one side a person finding OERs as an educator or learner with a strongly established national, regional, or personal identity is also embedded in well defined contexts. They will probably have a tendency to look generally critical at OERs developed in another context as they will discover conflicts with their own (valued) contexts. Which must not be negative, it can be an enriching experience.

    On the other side if a person does not have such a strong established national, regional, or personal identity due to for example political, economic, or societal changes with associated changes in values, they do live in variable contexts. Here they are more prone to OERs and absorption of their “inherent imperialism of culture”. They are in search of new contexts and thus susceptible to the messages contained in the OERs available. The danger arises from the a) educational lighttowers (MIT, etc.) and the lack of choice.

    2. Availability of choice of OER

    The big educational institutions were amongst the first to make OER available on a large scale. If that would have the effect to shy others away to do it likewise, then we would have a problem. But I have the feeling that humans take great pride in reinventing the wheel – a little different context allows for justification of the effort. Very helpful in doing that is the internet in making the publication of OER cheap and easy. We would have a great problem if OER where paper-book based.

    So we can have and probably will have a great diversity of OERs to choose from. In the end this will lead to the survival of the fittest in a given context. (I finally got the curve to Darwin.) I am definitely in favor of biodiversity of OER so that the best suited for each context can be chosen.

  3. can’t believe I’m leaving this comment as I don’t have the energy to get into this, but as soon as you make the STEM/Straight/curvy distinction like this you give up the game – I’m not wanting airplanes to fall out of the sky either (why always airplanes? he wonders), but by making this distinction we also divorce the ways of knowing from what they end up producing, as if it were some accident that a society built on top of ‘straight knowledge’ ends up with environmental catastrophes, economic collapses, fragmented societies, isolated individuals… Whoops!

    By accepting “fit to empirical verifiability” as the ONLY norm for one type of knowledge, one type of knowing, we automatically concede the game, instead of contesting this, situating it alongside the “curvy knowledges” and insisting they live up to the same standards, because in the end, it’s NOT about keeping the plane up in the sky, or not JUST about that.

    1. Of course you’re right Scott… but not all STEM knowledge is ‘straight’ and not all ‘curvy’ knowledge is in the ‘soft’ sciences. You’ll notice that the post says stuff like “in much of the STEM realm”… I might not have made this abundantly clear… but I didn’t say that STEM = Straight… otherwise i would have used the word STEM and not straight. I believe you’ve read my paper on knowledge Scott… I would certainly NOT say that ‘fit to empirical verifiability’ is a ‘kind’ of knowledge. What I’m saying is that the argument that is often used by George is that “you want solid research on things that are empirically verifiable.” and that “things that are empirically verifiable advance” it’s those two advancement and the need for 100% correctness that mean we’re talking about the parts of STEM knowledge that involve events that are not up to debate. Plane fall out of sky.

      Please come back and read it again. If you have the same critique… we’ll try ‘er again… ’cause i’m pretty sure i agree with you on this point… and maybe not some others further down.

  4. So I re-read the piece more closely, and would not change anything in my original comment. I *do* agree with you, but was trying to argue that even for what you are calling “straight” knowledge, all the conditions and issues you bring up for “curvy” knowledge *should also apply*. It’s not that it’s not “true” that if you put the wing on this way versus that way it doesn’t make a difference, but by accepting that as “knowledge” that can exist outside of culture, norms and practices, we continually cede the site of struggle to those who argue they are simply study “what was already there.” I understand this is extremely slippery slope, and like I said, I was extremely reluctant to even post a comment, not just because of diminished energy and focus but because *I* don’t have this all clear for myself. But I venture that it’s making this distinction in the first place that then moves us along to treating what you’re calling “curvy knowledge” in the ways you accurately describe, that are both ineffectual and inappropriate. I was urging a much more radical critique which I am only just embarking on.

    1. Ha. you’re making a different kind of claim… but yes, i see where you’re going now. I’m not sure that the fact that “the site of the struggle” is in the wrong place should force us to change the conversation at hand. The plain fact is that things like “how to attach a wing” are MUCH easier to identify than whether this “is a good plane”. One is straight and one is curvy (and lets face it, I’m not attached to that language, but used different language to try and avoid this very discussion, not because it isn’t important but because i’d already hit 2000 words and had 2 sick kids on Sunday)

      People favour the straight knowledge because it’s easy to talk about and makes their world feel more secure… (or maybe some of them just like it) I favour the curvy stuff because I THINK IT’S MORE IMPORTANT. And, much like the debate between and atheist and an zealot… there is no frame of reference that I know for hte discussion… We have two philosophical continents following two different journeys… one reductive and the other explorative.

  5. I’m with you in spirit, but it comes back to my objection to the objections to “content,” namely that I’m lost with phrases like: “Freeing knowledge is a good thing. Freeing content, on the other hand, is a bit sketchier.”

    I’m pretty sure I’ve heard all the distinctions and definitions, and I even buy a few of them… but as a practical matter, please share en example of freeing knowledge that doesn’t involve content. And I’ll bet you a dollar in advance that the distinction is really about the definition of content (and it most often involves a straw man conception of content, but I’m open to something new).

    1. dudes… first scott and now chris.

      by ‘content’ I mean ‘the knowledge predigested into an ‘educational object’ that can be inputed into a repository’. I was hoping to simplify the semantical debate to actually focus in on the particular issue I was aiming at… and it seems I failed. I will try again.

  6. Or a shorter formulation (and without a twisted digression in noumena and things-in-themselves that part of me really wants to go on): it’s all necessarily content and it’s all happily curvy!

  7. My last comment crossed the wires with yours…

    Perhaps the problem is that I don’t yet see a path to untangling what you want to untangle! In part because it’s a problem endemic to post-structuralism the very assertion of which negates a “solution.” So far.

  8. I’ve been waiting for free time to craft a thoughtful response to this, and it is interesting now to read the comments you’ve received. I’m going to try and paraphrase your concerns, and you can let me know if I’m interpreting incorrectly.

    1. There’s some stuff out there that can be learned from a piece of paper, a lecture, a book, a wiki, whatever, because of the nature of the stuff. Who really needs a billion ways to teach this stuff?
    2. There’s some stuff out there that evolves differently in every learning situation, for each learner, group, instructor, etc.. Is there really a benefit to creating reusable resources for this stuff?
    3. We need to carefully consider the potential social impact of OER’s including access, presumed expertise, and contextualization of content.

    If I’ve summarized correctly, I would have to say I share your concerns. I hope you don’t mind me adding some of my own to the mix. I’m not interested in the semantic debate, or questioning types of knowledge, because I really feel your concerns are valid, whatever the outcome of those interpretations. In fact, I don’t think I’m even ready for debate, as all I have to offer is a list of questions and a lot of humility.

    1. When the best critical thinkers in education have spent years trying to agree on a definition of OER and are unable to identify what resources are actually OER, is this the direction that is really best for future learners? If it can’t be defined and the resources aren’t easily discerned from non-OER, how are we going to convince anyone to adopt it?
    2. Why the E? If we’re trying to situate learning, why do we have to make things that are just for education? Isn’t the world educational? Why jump from publisher text books to free/open text books? Why not just skip over text books altogether?
    3. Why are we creating so much stuff? For example, how many presentations are there out there about OER? Do the people presenting on OER ever re-use, re-mix OER presentations? Instead of creating a movement around getting people to share their stuff, why don’t we just tell people to stop making so much stuff?
    4. When we’re talking about the stuff that can be learned from a piece of paper, or a book, or whatever, wouldn’t our efforts be well spent advocating for transparency on the part of the manufacturers of the products we’re teaching? Why should we create materials they already have, but just won’t give up?
    5. Who decides what gets to be an OER? Who judges quality? Who publishes? Who organizes? Who evaluates and revises?
    6. Why would I want to take the time to review dozens of other lesson plans, find a file type I can work with, modify it to add my own style, decide how to give attribution, revise to suit my audience, create new assessments, etc. when it takes only a small portion of that time to quickly create a customized resource linking out to reliable reference material? Is it possible Web-based tools, online content, and filtering techniques have advanced to the point where OER are obsolete?
    7. Why can’t people and relationships be the new learning resources? Why can’t we concentrate on teaching learners how to find the people with the answers and help them build relationships and connections? Why should the computer be more than an interface, a way to connect people, something almost invisible? Why would we want to create more things that trap people in front of screens, instead of sending them into their environments to learn?

    Oh, I could go on and on, but I’m already hijacking your post and probably bringing down more contention than you care to see. I’m infinitely curious about these things, but I will wrap up my comment and save room for others.

  9. oh for crying out loud. The only important part of “OER” is “Open”. It’s not even really about licensing or copyright or reuse. It’s about sharing and working on stuff that people can have access to.

    did we learn nothing with the whole learning object / LOR nonsense? trying to force any Universal Understanding of Terms is impossible, and pointless. I’d much rather just focus on working with people to get them to share the cool stuff they’re doing, without worrying about acronyms.

  10. Thanks Dave. All you say makes sense to me, within your world.

    My context is different from yours. I am focused on taking Open Education Resources to people who have no access to education. OER makes it possible for anyone on this earth with internet access to visit the classrooms of the great universities, professors, etc. My God, think of the multitude of kids hungry for knowledge that now have access. I really don’t care whether we are talking about curvy or straight knowledge. Let’s get it out there.

    Teachers of the world will have more materials to create with. The real force here is the internet. My feeling is that the internet nurtures diversity of views and creativity. When these open resources hit the many cultures out there who can doubt that the teaching of curvy knowledge will adapt differently to the classrooms of these many environments.

    1. actually, it is just the scenario you describe that worries me. I’m not sure what you think “my world” is but I can assure that international development is just the issue I am talking about. what content do you believe that is at “the worlds great universities that will help better than the stuff available at universities in their own countries and that already available on the net. connectivity is key. yes. but grreat universities? I don’t believe they exist.

  11. I’m with D’Arcy and Jen on this one, especially her points #2, 3 and 7. It touches on something I found a bit worrisome at the recent WordCampEd: how so many great minds were working so hard to make WordPress work (in an open-ish kind of way) within closed institutions. Why? Is that the future we want to see?

    If we can get students (novices) together in reciprocal apprenticeships to sort out real problems and grapple with real issues in the world, assisted by resources readily available to them, mentored by experienced guide/experts, then we’ve got magic. Back in the seventies I went to a high school WITHOUT textbooks. Each teacher threw a problem, a primary source document, a question on the table and it was up to us to figure it out, to come up with a hypothesis, test it and sort out the most promising approaches, to lurch towards understanding. We had each other and a library. And we did pretty darn well. It was incredible. With the internet, well, imagine how that kind of learning could go.

    Please let’s not repeat the blunders of the past 100 years–making lousy textbooks and curricula, just now they’ll be available to all. Let’s use openness to open our minds to other ways of using the spaces, the connections now available to us to transform our approach to formal learning altogether.

  12. I’m not sure how to be with D’Arcy AND Jen on this one since their posts seem to indicate a bit of opposition. Then again, I don’t see any hope of the institution transforming, as Barbara seems to wish for, so my constant goal is trying to empower educators and students (and what’s the practical difference most of the time, really?) to allow for their own transformation.

    Jen’s point #7 is the most important (#5 is totally bizarre, incidentally. I have no idea what the question means), but also brings the circle back around because we tend to overlook while letting go with all the “let’s just connect people” happiness that people connect and interact around social objects. Those objects are what makes a social network work.

    D’Arcy ends with “I’d much rather just focus on working with people to get them to share the cool stuff they’re doing, without worrying about acronyms.”

    Barbara speaks of “students (novices) together in reciprocal apprenticeships to sort out real problems and grapple with real issues in the world, assisted by resources readily available to them.”

    As far as I know, that’s what most people who are pushing open ed today are trying to do: facilitate sharing the cool stuff so that other educators and learners have more resources available to them to further their conversations.

  13. Terry makes an important point, and I’ll note that it’s one of the most important points I have returned to as well… the value of open material for people who don’t have access to even that part of the education many of us take for granted.

    Perhaps some think that the few hours a teacher takes “extra” to stage their materials in an open way and capture some of their process on an open platform would be better spent serving those students directly somehow. I don’t agree… the value of making openness a part of education (as it should be) is to make most aspects of these discussion moot (because, in a way, I really agree with the open ed naysaying here, I just think they misunderstand what open ed is about).

  14. To respond to Jen directly (From here on out I will use the word “stuff” that D’Arcy chose):

    1) the world is full of subtleties of definition, yet people work productively anyway. Some people like to debate such things (so they study philosophy, typically). I don’t see that discussion as having a lot of bearing on the practicality of openness.

    2) To my mind, the point of openness is to provide the stuff on which the contingent interaction thrives. I can’t count the number of times I’ve used that stuff that D’Arcy talks about to get to the all-important “real-time” interaction. Including your OnRamp blog, which is sharing “OER”s isn’t it? When I talk about open education– like most, in my experience– I’m talking about helping educators get the “stuff of their thought” out of various closed boxes.

    3) What’s with the old-world concern about too much information? Things have changed, the idea of having “too much” is an odd one in the current environment. I talk about open ed at different times and I’ve certainly used and been strengthened, directly and indirectly, by the open materials from others. More importantly, in the much broader sense I use such stuff EVERY DAY.

    4) Why do you posit this as a zero sum game (we must either advocate for openness or create open materials)? And why do you presume that creating and facilitating open education ISN’T advocacy? Traditional content gatekeepers have already been opening up in various ways… in part because of the pressure the trend of open content puts on them. Consider what Open Source has done in and to commercial software…

    5) Like I said earlier, this question makes me wonder if we are talking about anything like the same thing? A gatekeeper? Defining content? Categorizing? I don’t see the point or need for any of that (nor do I see anyone asking for it).

    6) Now I really think we are talking about different things when you talk about OERs. Search engines (and more importantly the human network) don’t make what I’m thinking of obsolete– they are critical. The OER idea encompasses a wide field of sharing. “Reliable reference material” is useful for only a very tiny fraction of an educational experience… open ed helps promote sharing more of the other 95% of the material that is useful. The tools and filtering and searching are useless of there’s nothing to search for or find.

    7) You are again making a huge assumption about how people use open resources and how all this stuff feeds into “the network.” Individuals + content can be useful in particular situations (see my previous comment), but in general it’s all about the triad of person – object – person and openness provides the fodder. Having stuff on a screen isn’t the end point most of the time (there ARE independent learners out there who don’t have the ability to network in the way most should and do), just the beginning. People engaging in open ed processes are, in part, the “people with the answers.”

    Honestly, I don’t see what the big problem is. I see “OER” in the same way I see the word “blog.” I don’t think the word “blog” means much but it doesn’t rob them of their usefulness nor does the term go away. Are their concerns and problems and people misusing and taking advantage of others? Sure. It’s not a magic spell, it’s just a word representing an umbrella of approaches taken by teachers to attempt to be better teachers and help others.

    The real problem, as I see it, is about the institution. I think that’s what Barbara’s comment really questions and I don’t think there is an adequate answer.

  15. Yup, that was one of my contributions, but you’ll see in the edit history that David Wiley made some changes to improve it. As for the larger points in the post, I’ll have to think about it some more and write back.

  16. My work for years with OER and FOSS/FLOSS has been only because of my belief that it is definitely a way to import copyrighted knowledge into free domain for western audiences sooner or later. All professional writers and content creators know that almost every new book is a very intelligent rewritting of existing work. In western world OER is a great strategy by using creative commons to pull it to public domain but in east here, we are not enthusiastic about copyrights or creative commons. Piracy if you want to call it, is a great way to share resources among people and i truly feel this is the best possible way to share resources. Whatever explanation western world might have for revering copyrights, we here have been successful in keeping it away.
    This might help in understanding view that might sound to simplistic in this comment.

  17. Valuable post and comments here. I especially like the new light of clarity that Minhaaj brings. Pirating is the best way to share 🙂 that’s great. Imagine the millions of people out there who have learned, been empowered and enjoy income on the back of “pirated” learning. I learned all I know about computing through pirated software. More than 3/4 of the movies I have seen are pirated. I have a lot to thank the pirate industry for. So I’m with Minhaaj.. and its a nice cocktail to combine Minhaaj, Jen, D’Arcy, and Barb. Loved Jen’s first comment: “OER, sounds like the Internet”. Says it all.

  18. Came here from Leigh Blackall’s blog discussing OER and colonialism.

    I think you make some good points, but I thought I’d chime in with some of my own thoughts about non-Western OER, which I have thought a lot about. First of all – although MIT material is being translated to Chinese, both by CORE and MyOOPS, I have found no evidence that it is actually used in classes (I was going to write my MA thesis about this – thinking, like you, it was problematic, but had to change focus, because I couldn’t find any examples).

    What has happened, is that universities (which are, like you said, obsessed with becoming “world class” and thinking MITHARVARD is the gold standard – which is deeply problematic!) have used the open curricula for comparative research, even publishing studies comparing Chinese and US curricula. And I’ve talked to individual professors who have consulted these curricula to update their own courses. (Cross-national comparison and learning is not bad, but I wish it learnt from many more countries/institutions than just US/MITHARVARD).

    What’s happening in China is that the Chinese government is funding the development of open courses, including hundreds of universities and thousands of courses. And for me, studying comparative education, it’s been incredible to be able to “virtually visit” courses from India, China, Mexico, Japan, Saudi Arabia etc. (And I wish these would get much more attention, like the amazing release of 16,000 teaching documents by the Indira Gandhi National Open University! Who is talking about that? (http://reganmian.net/blog/2008/12/05/worlds-largest-university-opens-almost-all-its-materials/)

    About the curvy stuff, I think this is one of the main drivers behind our P2PU experiment – we use the OER out there, but in a very critical manner.


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