I have been on the Internet for many years now and I have noticed many changes. As a teacher I have watched resources that were once free become for pay. Now when I search for resources that are specifically geared to education, as often as not, I click on a link to find that the item is available by subscription only.
Having read Karen Kasimpaur’s blog post responding to my admittedly provocative post Is open source too difficult? I focused on the second part of her post referring to open content. Karen asserts that focusing on open content may be more important and more successful than a focus on open tools.
She envisions the open sharing of educational resources through digital technology. Open knowledge is a topic I am passionate about myself and one that I have explored in an entirely different domain—tie-dye.
Several years ago, my children enjoyed a tie-dye project at our town’s summer recreation program. I decided that it would be great fun to try to do this on our own. Naturally, I turned to the Internet to find virtually nothing. I also turned to a tie-dyer at a craft fair. I soon found out that tie-dyers are a tight-lipped group. Finally, I found a tie-dye discussion forum run by an individual who broke ranks with other tie-dyers producing a how-to video.
While this forum no longer exists, this release of knowledge and the collaborative forum opened the gates to knowledge that was not in the public domain. A desire to keep this knowledge in the public domain led to my first ventures in Web 2.0 (using open source software) when I created a new tie-dye forum and wiki. These venues now get considerable traffic and offer a great body of knowledge that was once unavailable or available only for pay. Everybody who visits these venues has become a better dyer because we bypassed the owners of the knowledge.
We educators need to do the same thing. Just as the tie-dyers became better by sharing, so too should teachers. Educators need collaborate and share high quality content as a means of bypassing the owners of knowledge—the textbook companies and other for pay content providers. This is a bottoms up model that can revolutionize education by working outside the educational bureaucracy.
Our new technologies and collaborative tools gives us the ability to draw from a global tool of talent and build an informal community without an overarching power structure and investment of capital. We have the promise of improving education for everyone by making quality content universally available. We have the collaborative tools. This is our chance to make real change bypassing the painstakingly inert institutions that many of us find so frustrating.
Just as everyone can become a better tie-dyer because of the aforementioned resources, we can all become better educators by actively sharing any quality resources that we have created. This is definitely a tide that when unleashed can raise all boats.
More to come on this topic. What are your thoughts?