Openness

Ahh! Freedom again, after a week of power and control… I found this subject to be very inspiring. It’s something that’s been on my mind for quite some time now. In my school we use a lot of books (off course) but also a lot of software for which one has to pay (Windows and Office as the obvious guilty parties). I’ve wondered a lot about how schools could be cost free, but until today I couldn’t see how to achieve that. When talking about computers you could easily change your system to Ubuntu, together with OpenOffice, Firefox, VLC Media Player, etc. Using the open source tools available combined with web 2.0. But does it work? I guess that it could, I lack the experience, but the thing that always seems to come up is the education software made by publishers to accompany a book. These things are mostly Windows dependent software, so incompatible with Ubuntu, Mac, etc. You can’t use that content in the way you really want it. It almost seems that power and control are back for another week! Publishers seem reluctant to offer their content independently from some sort of program. As a teacher I’m being robbed of the choice of using the means that I prefer. And subsequently forcing my students into some sort of design they have to follow. George Siemens’ article about open source in education describes the open source content as an alternative (not competitive) to the proprietary. However the latter is responsible for a very institutionalized way of teaching, forcing us in a certain method. Our CCK11 is very different in that aspect!

The open educational resources can have an impact on the dilemma! We could offer valuable content for free. Free of costs, but also free to use in a format of our choosing. This combined with Creative Commons could make a difference. In Belgium we have a place to go to find free course content. It’s a website called KlasCement (Class & cement – what holds bricks together!?). It’s a place where teachers can share course materials that they have made with other teachers. Free of charge, just download and use it in your own class! Wonderful initiative to help find content without being dependent on publishers. Maybe this kind of initiative should be more available. We should be able to find more free content to use as we choose in our classrooms. Writing stuff ourselves and sharing it with others should be the way to go.

I get the feeling this subject is about what we already discussed in the beginning of CCK11. We should pursue the open objectives suggested by connectivism. Openness is important to be able to incorporate the content in your own world. Use it freely and in the tools you choose as a student. Luckily there are a number of tools to use out there, that could be integrated in the classroom. Try, as a teacher, to persuade your students to use these. Help them to look for information and process it with these things. It’s hard sometimes. I tried it a couple of weeks ago, trying to explain that Facebook is more then just telling the world what color socks you’re wearing! Setting up a group where they could share information and showing them how to create and share documents using Hotmail’s Skydrive or Google Doc’s was enlightening for some, but others didn’t like this new collaborative approach. Maybe they are already stuck in the “old” way of teaching, I don’t know. It changed my “mission statement” though! I want to try to use these things more in class. Show them the value of connecting with others and learning accordingly. To be continued!

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