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And so it begins…

November 20, 2009

For several years I’ve advocated the use of Open Source Software in education.  The more I talked about it, the more I realized that OS Software probably wouldn’t be successful without free content.  So I began to look at, and advocate free content for schools.

As with OSS, the use of free content was seen as mostly “fringe” idea.  Not real.  Not credible.

Sure, CK-12 was developing some free textbooks and doing the hard work of getting approval of their texts.  Curriki was creating open content.  The Hewlett foundation was supporting open educational materials.

How would these materials be vetted, accepted, distributed and used?

Meanwhile, Steve Hargadon has been busy building a huge community of educators with Classroom 2.0.  He and many others are advocating new ways of teaching to reach out to children with new models and methods better suited to today’s (and future) world.

We’re immersed in technology, yet my daughters drag home pounds of books in pretty backpacks, barely large enough to hold the day’s materials.  Often this is only to have a handful of pages they need for the day’s work.  They are hugely fortunate though.  They have up to date books and go to a good school.

When my wife taught 5th and 6th grade, she was at a “relatively” well funded public school, yet she didn’t have the luxury of providing nice books.  She shared many sets of tired, damaged, sometimes miss-matched books.

Really, is this the best we can do?

After almost 25 years in IT, much of which spent on multi-format publishing and web technologies, the utter failure of America to transform its teaching infrastructure boggles my mind.  There is so much rich technology – much of which is Open Source – available to help author, organize, publish and distribute information.  There are so many smart, engaged, creative people out there.  There are so many powerful display tools available (iPods, iPhones, SmartPhones, Netbooks, Kindles, Nooks, Sony Reader, etc), not to mention the millions of working but “obsolete” notebooks and PCs discarded each year. It’s an embarrassment of riches all around – yet what has come of it?

So that’s my challenge.  To explore how all the great publishing tools and technologies (XML, Blogs, Wikis, text-to-speech, etc) can be harnessed to create freely available content, that meets school standards, and is remixable so students and teachers of the future can have great content at a click of a mouse, or a press of button.

It’s a big challenge.  But if America can mail out millions of beautiful (yet unwanted) catalogs every year and if Wikipedia authors can create millions of articles in numerous languages in under a decade, can’t our teachers and students get the knowledge they need in the format they want?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Chazz Frichtel permalink
    November 25, 2009 7:16 am

    Absolutely spot on! Bravo!

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