Posts Tagged ‘openness’

Institutions and Openness

January 21st, 2010 jonmott Comments

There has been lots of great discussion at ELI 2010 about openness–what it means, why it’s a value we should embrace, and what it means for institutions.

As I’ve contemplated all of this, I was reminded of Whitman poem:

“I Hear It Was Charged Against Me”
by Walt Whitman

I HEAR it was charged against me that I sought to destroy
But really I am neither for nor against institutions;
(What indeed have I in common with them?–Or what with the
destruction of them?)
Only I will establish in the Mannahatta, and in every city of These
States, inland and seaboard,
And in the fields and woods, and above every keel, little or large,
that dents the water,
Without edifices, or rules, or trustees, or any argument,
The institution of the dear love of comrades.

I aspire to belong “the institution of the dear love of comrades.” That is why I embrace openness. But being open does not mean being anti-institutional. I affiliate with formal institutions that embrace Whitman’s ideal, institutions made up of outward-reaching “comrades” trying to make the world a better place. I teach, attend professional meetings, make presentations, write articles, blog, engage with colleagues via social media, all in the context of my association with my formal institution of higher education.

We can embrace openness *and* remain ardent supporters of our institutions. Indeed, institutions of higher learning have been the primary source of intellectual and cultural openness throughout history.

I embrace openness. I embrace my institution. There’s no contradiction in that.

The Wikinomics of Education

August 8th, 2008 jonmott Comments

I started reading Wikinomics this week. In the book, the authors observe that “deep changes in technology, demographics, business, the economy and the world” have ushered in a “new age where people participate” like never before (2008, p. 10). Moreover, they contend that we have already reached a “tipping point where new forms of mass collaboration are changing how goods and services are invented, produced, marketed, and distributed on a global basis.” In The Wisdom of Crowds, Surowiecki explains that large groups of people can be “smart” when they are diverse, individuals in the group are independent from each other, and thought processes are decentralized (2004, p. 42). Another view of so-called “crowdsourcing” suggests that humanity is now capable of “using the kind of collective intelligence once reserved for ants and bees—but now with human IQ driving the mix” (Libert, 2007, p. 1). The result? A “quantum increase in the world’s ability to conceive, create, compute, and connect. We are only beginning to comprehend the consequences.”

The troubling thing to me about all of this is how little mention there is of education in these books. For example, Tapscott and Williams specifically mention education only four times in their 340 page volume on “Wikinomics” (see Index p. 343). The references themselves are also enlightening. The first is a mention of the MIT Open Courseware initiative (p. 22-23). The second references TakingITGlobal’s efforts to reform education by providing a “set of tools and curricular activities that will get students collaborating with other students in other countries” (p. 51). The third refers to the California Department of Education’s Open Source Textbook Project (p. 69). The fourth is merely an additional mention of the California textbook project (p. 301). Note that only one of these references relates to the way students actually learn—the others are about content creation and distribution.

This is additional evidence that technology’s real impact on education is yet to be realized. In a 2007 IRRODL article, David Annand observed: “Much like the Industrial Revolution before it, rapid technological change in the Information Age has to date created significant, fundamental change in virtually all sectors of society except education” (2007, emphasis added).

What are the factors that will bring about a fundamental paradigm shift in learning? For starters, I believe we need to press onward in our efforts to make teaching and learning technology (both tools and content) more modular and interoperable. We also need to do a better job of leveraging the network effect, connecting more learners to more content and more fellow-learners. Finally, none of this will be of any significance if we don’t doggedly stay focused on learning (instead of on making administrative and teaching tasks more efficient).

This is all the subject of an article I’m working on with my BYU colleague Mike Bush. I’ll post a link to it when it’s published.