Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Clarifying My Earlier Points

OK... look at the Open Learning Interplay conference page. I'm saying this is a group of people who don't care about free software, as in "free as in freedom" software. This is not, actually, a controversial statement. The honest response is "Correct, we are not free software advocates, we're 'open educational resource developers,' which is different; that's why we made up a different name." Or "Correct, we're learning science researchers, and software licensing is not our concern."

Neither one of these groups makes any pretense of valuing freedom, so it is quite obvious that when they get together, they won't be talking about software freedom. But they will be patting each other on the back about their "openness."

I don't have a beef with OER people, the only problem is that the students of the world need somebody to try to get the learning sciences to take software freedom seriously. Each missed opportunity hurts.


Downes said...

> the students of the world need somebody to try to get the learning sciences to take software freedom seriously.

Well, with reference to my previous comments, people in learning *are* taking software freedom seriously, even if U.S. foundation-funded initiatives are not.

I agree that 'each missed opportunity hurts' but it's not like the people of the world are doing without just because the U.S. foundations are not on board.

That said - and it has been noted elsewhere - there is a clear pro-institution and pro-commercialization slant to American educational initiatives.

This has been the cause of conflict, including within the OR community.

But I think the correct stance here is not to take an attitude that "the world is missing out!" but rather to suggest that "the American initiatives risk becoming irrelevant."

Just remember - there are many more OER people than just the foundation people, and they matter - in the long run, they may matter rather more.

Bill Fitzgerald said...

What kills me is the opening line of the OLI Symposium home page:

"For the first time, learning scientists and open educational resource developers come together to spark the next generation of open learning."

Have we had the first generation yet? Really?

And phrases like "open learning" are vague to the point of meaningless.

When documents like the Capetown Declaration include this language -- "Resources should be published in formats that facilitate both use and editing, and that accommodate a diversity of technical platforms." -- you would think that something as basic as an RSS/Atom feed from a repository would be standard practice.

This can -- and will -- proceed without the US foundations getting on board. It would be a lot easier, however, if they did. It would also be nice to see some funding going to initiatives that were looking to do more than simply replicate textbooks online.