Over in the Mozilla Webmaker Google+ community it’s the final day of our online discussion as part of Open Education Week. Today’s prompt asks: Do we need to protect the Open Web and Open Education? If so, who or what from? How do we do that?
My short answer to this would be yes we do need to protect Open Education and the Open Web. We need to protect them from commercial, proprietary providers looking to profit from creating silos. How do we do that? I’d argue by innovating in ways that are different from those looking to make a quick buck.
It’s obvious, but worth stating: I’ve no problem with people charging for services. The issue is more to do with the overall landscape. If all you’ve got is shiny silos from which to choose, it’s a frustrating pseudo-choice. Openness proposes and provides a different way to do things than following the logic of the market.
The problem is that ‘Open’ is an ambiguous term and seems to have become the latest fad. Martin Weller points out that in many ways ‘Open’ is the new ‘green’:
The old “open vs. proprietary” debate is over and open won. As IT infrastructure moves to the cloud, openness is not just a priority for source code but for standards and APIs as well. Almost every vendor in the IT market now wants to position its products as “open.” Vendors that don’t have an open source product instead emphasize having a product that uses “open standards” or has an “open API.
As Audrey Watters has eloquently stated, the fight is now who gets to decide what counts:
This battle involves the ongoing struggle to define “what is open.” It involves the narratives that dominate education – “education is broken” and “disruption is inevitable,” for example – and the “solutions” that “open” purports to offer. It involves a response to the growth of corporate ecosystems and commercial enclosures, built with open source technologies and open data initiatives. And all of this, I would argue, must involve politics for which we shouldn’t let “open” be an easy substitute.
As the term ‘MOOC’ (Massive Online Open Course) has shown, you can’t have it both ways: if a term includes enough ambiguity and flexibility to be widely adopted, then those who originally defined it no longer have control over the definition. It’s out in the wild. Like a virus, the definition mutates over time.
It’s not the word ‘Open’ we need to protect, it’s the spirit behind it. We’re fighting a losing battle if we expect a word to mean the same thing for all eternity. Instead, as a community we should create, sustain and release new terms to help shed light on the things we believe to be important and hold dear.
Finally, as Audrey reminds us in the quotation above, to align yourself with an agenda of Openness is a political statement. As such we should be prepared to get our hands dirty and fight for what we believe.
Image CC BY-NC-SA John Carleton
I’m currently moderating a discussion as part of Open Education Week on behalf of Mozilla. In today’s discussion prompt I asked:
What do you see as the link between Open Education and the Open Web? Does the former depend on the latter?
It’s a question that depends on several things, not least your definition of the two terms under consideration. Yesterday, in answer to the first discussion prompt, I used Mozilla Thimble to make this:
The above would be my current (brief) definition of Open Education. But what about the Open Web? Here I’m going to lean on Mark Surman’s definition from 2010:
Open web = freedom, participation, decentralization and generativity.
That last word, ‘generativity’ is an interesting one. Here’s part of the definition from Wikipedia:
Generativity in essence describes a self-contained system from which its user draws an independent ability to create, generate, or produce new content unique to that system without additional help or input from the system’s original creators.
As an educator, I believe that the role of teachers is to make themselves progressively redundant. That is to say, the learner should take on more and more responsibility for their own learning. Both teachers and learners can work together within an Open Educational Ecosystem (OEE) that is more than the sum of its parts.
The more I think about it, this is how the Open Web is similar to Open Education. Both are trying to participate in a generative ecosystem benefitting humankind. It’s about busting silos. It’s about collaborating and sharing.
Does Open Education depend upon the Open Web? No, I wouldn’t say it that strongly. Open Education can happen without technology; you can share ideas and resources without the web. However, the Open Web significantly accelerates the kind of sharing and collaboration that can happen within an OEE. In other words, the Open Web serves as a significant catalyst for Open Education.
What do you think? What’s the relationship between Open Education and the Open Web?
Join the discussion!
This week is Open Education Week 2014:
Open Education Week is a series of events to increase awareness of open education movement. The third annual Open Education Week takes place from March 10-15, both online and offline around the world. Through the events and resources, we hope to reach out to more people to demonstrate what kind of opportunities open education has created and what we have to look forward to.
Mozilla is playing a role, through a week-long online discussion entitled Open Education and the Open Web. There’ll be a new question to prompt conversation each day in our Google+ Webmaker community.
What does it mean to participate on the open web? How can we encourage others to take agency over the opportunities the open web provides? This discussion led by Mozilla’s Doug Belshaw will explore the participatory culture of the web, why it matters, and what we can do to protect and cultivate it.
Today’s prompt is simple. We’re just asking people to introduce themselves and respond as to what ‘open education’ looks like in their context.
You should join us. It’s totally fine to dip in and dip out. Take the first step:
Click here to join the Mozilla Webmaker Google+ community
Image CC BY mozillaeu