Monday, 15 March 2010

Real Openness

I took a lot from David Wiley's post on Openness. He outlines what openness represents at the moment and where it should be:

For over a decade, openness in education has been an adjective describing educational artifacts.

Open content, open educational resources, open courseware, and open textbooks all mean teaching materials that are shared with everyone, for free, with permission to engage in the 4R activities.

The 4Rs are reuse, redistribute, revise, remix. Openness is about overcoming your inner two-year-old who constantly screams, “Mine! Openness reminds us of what we knew intuitively before society gave us permission to act monstrously toward one another.

What is the appropriate role of openness in education?
The question is deeply insidious. The question implies that openness might play any of several roles in the educational enterprise. The question distracts people from seeing that openness is the sole means by which education is affected, and that education is inherently an enterprise of generosity, sharing, and giving.
we see technology being turned against it potential and made to conceal and withhold. For example, a course management system like Blackboard theoretically has the potential to greatly improve educators’ capacity to share. But instead CMSs takes the approach of hiding educational materials behind passwords and regularly deleting all the student-contributed content in a course. If Facebook worked like Blackboard, every 15 weeks it would delete all your friends, delete all your photographs, unsubscribe you from all your groups, etc.

Education finds itself using radical new technology in backwards ways, reinforcing those outdated ways of thinking with law and institutional policy, and unable to satisfy rapidly increasing popular demand.

Education has to some degree lost its way; forgotten its identity. We’ve allowed ourselves and our institutions to be led away from our core value of openness – away from generosity, sharing, and giving, and toward selfishness, concealment, and withholding. To the degree that we have deserted openness, learning has suffered.


The spirit of teaching is openness; sharing your knowledge, guiding the learner and hopefully teaching how to be a good learner. But we made learning a commodity; something that can be packages and sold. This is actually one big trick. Learning can be done by anyone at any time and now this is easier than ever before. The threat to formal education is this packaged, controlled, guarded and expensive world is being challenged by the very notion teaching was founded on - openness and the instinct to share. If institutions continue to scream "Mine!" Then, ultimately they will suffer.

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