Am I missing the point on open educational resources?

self-titled, originally uploaded by procsilas.

I’m sitting in the opening session of the UOC UNESCO Chair in E-Learning Fifth International Seminar on Fighting the Digital Divide through Education (I believe you can follow the presentations via video). So I don’t have time to provide an adequate overview of yesterday’s Open EdTech Summit… Thankfully, I can refer you to Ismael’s usual amazing liveblogging of the event for that.

It was a genuine privilege to be able to take part in the experience. Thirty or so gifted and very accomplished educators with varying associations with the open educational movement were crammed into a few meeting rooms with the goal of identifying “future education and technology needs and trends” for a pending white paper. So rather than listening to a bunch of talks, we were put through the paces of a creative process that was at turns exhilarating and exhausting. An invaluable learning experience for me.

I came into the day with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, having just read Scott Leslie’s epic post on planning to share versus just sharing and his provocations very much on my mind. In the early brainstorming discussions, I staked out something of a confrontational stance… that higher education is still conducting its business as if information is scarce when we now live in an era of unprecedented information abundance. That we in the institutions can endlessly discuss what content we deign to share via our clunky platforms, while Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, TED Talks, the blogs and other networked media just get on with it… That I might not be able to legally reproduce much of the copyrighted media on the web, but I can link to it, maybe embed it, or simply tell students to search for it. This is not to suggest that sharing more of the presumably high quality content that higher education produces would not enrich the store of available information… but that the world is not waiting for us to get our act together and become a relevant force on the web. The world is moving on without us.

One of the other participants asked a question that resonated with me: if we live in an era of information abundance, why is the primary drive around OERs the publication of more content? And what other activities around the open education movement might be an effective use of our energies? What other needs have to be met?

I realized then how locked in I can be into a content-delineated mindset. Maybe that’s because I can get my head around it. I can set a goal of publishing [x] number of open courses, or collecting [x] number of educational resources. If I try to go deeper, I might think about how to reproduce content in multiple environments.

But other than a simple faith that using and diffusing simple, open tools represents a vast improvement over current educational “best practices”… I really don’t have a clear sense of how to think of and promote useful OERs as something other than content…

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