This Saturday July 19 (starting at 11:00 am Pacific), Pete Forsyth and I will join friends in leading a "Wiki Barn Raising" at the Oakland Impact Hub in California (2323 Broadway) – and online.
"In the wiki world, we often borrow the term 'Barn Raising' to evoke the idea of a community coming together to build something substantial in a short time. It's been described as a way to 'make the impossible possible'," Pete explains. And he would know – my longtime friend and colleague, he's been an active Wikipedian since 2006.
This event is the project's last hurrah, but it marks the beginning of something truly exciting. I've had the privilege of working with Pete on the Communicate OER project (funded by the Hewlett Foundation), a collaborative effort to improve Wikipedia articles about Open Education, since mid-2012. We've helped newcomers to Wikipedia create, review and improve hundreds of articles, largely through our "Writing Wikipedia Articles" (WIKISOO) class with the School of Open, and with extensive collaboration with members of the Open Educational Resources community. Our work has contributed to formation of "WikiProject Open," an online community which will carry our work forward after this project's funded period ends.
This Saturday we'll be looking at articles that still need improvement, and identifying tasks for the future, to help present the world with an accurate picture of open education principles and projects. We welcome online participants from around the globe (time zone permitting - check event in local time here) – and we have a few tricks up our sleeves to get everyone working together, collocated or not.
Register here if you can join us. We'll get you the links you need to tune in, some background on editing Wikipedia, and info on how to stay in the loop as the day progresses. And for those who can join us in Oakland, CA, a bonus: free lunch!
Hope to see you there.
The Communicate OER project is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Oh, that question! Many of us who work in the field of open education forget how obscure the term open educational resources (OER) really is. Sure, most teachers have a passing familiarity with at least a few of the learning materials available online for free these days − and it feels like everyone knows about Khan Academy (as ensured by Bill Gates in 2010) − but the term OER itself is pure lingo. Does it matter? Well, yes. That OER advocates be able to define the term precisely, and then be able to translate related concepts coherently to educators and policymakers, is absolutely essential to the OER movement's future.
If you're lost already, my sincerest apologies. To backtrack, over the past 15 years or so there has been an slow but steady shift towards the liberation of many educational materials from the private entities which hold them under copyright (and thereby restrict who may access which resources, where, when and how). The internet has provided the perfect platform for testing open data principles, as digital reproduction guarantees exact copies every time a user downloads them (just as good as the original!). University lectures and course materials, for example, have been placed online by prominent institutions since 2001, when MIT launched its OpenCourseWare initiative. (Mass media declared this the end of US university education as we know it; what a relief that it has survived to endure the media clamor over its successor, the MOOC, in 2012). California started its open textbooks project in 2001 to ensure students statewide free access to learning materials, and work in this area continues to expand as textbook prices reach all-time highs in many countries. And more generally, the "reusable learning object" repository as conceived in the early 2000s has mutated into online libraries of bite-sized materials that educators can access freely and then incorporate into their own lesson plans. Newcomers should check out OER Commons or OpenStax CNX (formerly Connexions), where one can search by grade level and/or topic. There's a a lot out there. Tell your co-workers and friends.
It's the "O" in "OER" that's hardest to understand:
free is not the same thing as open.
If this all sounds abstract to you, that's because it still is. What's all this fuss about defining terms, you may ask? Why does it matter if something is, or is not, called OER? Well, if jargon can be alienating in conveying new concepts, then ill-defined jargon can work to the detriment of the very ideas it supports. It's the "O" in "OER" that's the controversial bit. This definition from the Hewlett Foundation is the one most of my colleagues look to for clarity:
OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.
A YouTube video, book chapter, or other online resource is not necessarily in the public domain, nor has it necessarily been released under a license that permits free use and re-purposing. In other worse, free is not the same thing as open, and depending on context, using these basic resources in certain ways might actually be disallowed by the content's creator or publisher.
Creative Commons offers a very handy What is OER? page, which breaks down various definitions of OER from UNESCO, OECD, Wikipedia and others.Take some time with at the matrix at the bottom of this page to understand the key differentiators in definitions, especially if you're wondering why most of today's MOOCs are not considered truly "open" by many of today's purists (hint: lack of open license; openly commercial intent).
If you're still reading (thanks!) and just wondering what to do next, here are some thoughts:
Sara Frank Bristow,