Why Open Education Matters – The competition and my take

I’ve been hearing bits and pieces about a new project being launched by the US government to support open education. Certainly the recent work being done by Cable Green is a clear indication that government support for the obvious financial advantages and more subtle curricular advantages of #OER are coming around. I think of the content provided by #OER as the foundation of learning. It has the possibility of being nothing less than the ‘dictionary’ of our times. The thing that allows everyone access to the basic bits of information that make up the fabric of our world.

Is it everything that education is? I certainly hope not. It’s the foundation. The bowl, rather than the icecream 🙂

The competition
In an attempt to create a message that will help covert others (i presume) Arne Duncan (Secretary of Education) has launched a competition for people to submit their videos explaining why open education matters. An attempt to create a short (hopefully) awesome (certainly) video that will help convert people to the idea that things that are open can still be good. http://whyopenedmatters.org/blog/2012/03/05/kicking-off-the-video-competition/ They want you to create your own high quality video to help convince teachers, students and schools that #OER is the way forward.

Issue 1. They left parents out of their list. I’m going to take a huge leap of faith and believe that that was an editorial mistake. Parents are the wildcard in all these decisions. Oh… and government. As they make alot of the decisions. Lets not forget the parents and the lobbyists… i mean… government.

The competing part
There are any number of existing projects out there that have been made in an attempt to spread this message. One of the nice things about the #OER community is that it allows for people to live alongside each other. Of course, recent comments by #OER luminary David Wiley do signal a move towards a more professional approach to dealing with #OER.

Issue 2 – OER hasn’t entirely been about competition so far, but people have certainly been competing for funding, so maybe this isn’t very different.

The judging
This is where i start to get my dander up… as it were. I have no doubt that each of these seven folks are fine professionals. I am familiar with the work of most of them, and Liz Dwyer in particular has certainly been involved in a number of massive educational projects. So lets dig in a little more

  1. Davis Guggenheim is an Academy Award-winning American film director and producer.
  2. Nina Paley is the creator of the animated musical feature film Sita Sings the Blues (update: Nina Paley is a strong copyleft proponent. http://questioncopyright.com/mimi-book-ip.html Thanks @hjarche)
  3. Liz Dwyer is the education editor at GOOD magazine (plus a bunch of other education stuff)
  4. Anya Kamenetz is a staff writer for Fast Company magazine and a columnist for Tribune Media
  5. James Franco is an actor, artist, and filmmaker
  6. Angela Lin oversees all things education at YouTube
  7. Mark Surman is the Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation
  8. http://whyopenedmatters.org/judging/

In this list we have 5 of 7 people who have made part/most/all of their careers working behind the copyright firewall. Angela Lin works for youtube… which allows lots and lots of creative commons stuff. Mark Suman is an excellent choice as a judge obviously.

I’m not even saying that a few of the others might not make interesting choices, or offer insight or star power. Many of them have a profound understanding of how to get a message out or how to craft video. Those are necessary things in communicating any messaging. What I can’t understand is how on a website that acknowledges that #OER has been around for 10 years they have not been able to find a SINGLE one of the people who has been carrying that banner the whole time.

Issue 3. why are there no open education experts on the open education judging panel?

What this means for OER
Well. Here it is then. I posted my first open website (before i’d heard of openness) in 2003… and it sucked. But I made it and I offered it up. I shared my work and handed it out to the world. Since then I’ve met lots of other people who have done the same, who share their work, and make it public for everyone. I think OER is great for dealing with introductory concepts, for getting people on board, for giving them a sense of what you are doing.

But openness, where it’s really powerful, is about connections. It’s about really talking to the kids in that other country about what its like to live there. It’s about having 20 slightly different points of view on the same subject so we can see the complexity of the world around us. It’s about sharing.

Do these guys understand that? Or is this where the OER movement becomes about trying to convince people that we’re right? We’ve always been a hundred factions, a thousand factions… that’s the nature of it, we don’t need to agree with each other. This project feels different. Maybe, like in Wiley’s case, it’s just openness growing up. Maybe the use of the word in public is going to become something i don’t recognize.

Issue 4 – is this project about openness as I understand it or is the word soon going to mean the same as ‘at no cost’?

I hope that’s not true.

Author: dave

I run this site... among other things.

7 thoughts on “Why Open Education Matters – The competition and my take”

  1. Open is a way of life. It’s like learning to ride a bike, some folk take longer than others — but hopefully we will all get there in the long run.

  2. Consider the point made by Peter Diamandis in his TED Talk “Abundance is our future” about the 3 billion new participants joining the on-line community in the next few years. While this contest may help promote open education resources for wealthy people who can afford to watch on-line videos, the people who most need free OER are living on $2/day. The contest we really need to win is about making an educational system these people can afford. Technology now makes it possible to deliver a teaching system which can work off-line and off-grid, powered by sunlight, for under NZ$300. A video about this system will be entered into the contest. If it wins, the prize money will go toward making and distributing another 100 of these systems.

  3. A video is a very passive medium, it is sit and watch and follow me.
    I want a text, a verbal text. I want to make shortcuts, to read twice, to think about a sentence. Want to start at the end to see if its worth reading.
    When you want to show me some processes or other real visual things then I would like a video.

  4. Hi Dave,

    I couldn’t help but think of the learning opportunity that a crowdsourcing initiative, run parallel to the judges’ selection process, might be compared and contrasted for a more thorough analysis of the product.

    Think ‘electoral college’ ~vs~ the popular vote here. The ultimate ‘open’ IMO.



  5. Small correction to your post. The judge’s name is “Mark Surman”. You can see by looking at my name why I was confused. http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/press/bios/#bio-surman

    That being said, I am involved in education. I head up mobile development at Instructure, maker of the open source LMS, Canvas. OER is something we are watching very closely.

    I agree that the panel of judges should have someone from the OER community on it. They would help to ensure that the vision of OER is represented in the winning videos.

  6. I seem to recall a week or so ago a lot of people looking at the “KONY 2012” viral web phenomenon and saying things “why can’t we have something like this for education?”…

    This competition seems designed to unleash a new horde of videos in the “Invisible Children” mode. Just what we need.

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