Friday, March 7, 2008

What are Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources: What they are and why do they matter? by Ilkka Tuomi

I will start off by saying that this reading assignment was very excellent.

Aside from getting a really engaging and easy to understand overview of the main principles of open-source, a few concepts really resonated with me while reading the report:

1. As I mentioned in my introduction, I am a student of Public Diplomacy. Somewhat tangentially I have been trying to find the links between ICTs and social change. While I am a huge advocate of the power of communications, I have lately come to a mental cliff-hanger when I consider that for the last 10 years or so we have been told that 'information is power' which I must answer "yes, but no, unless..." My quandry is: "then what!?" An irony of the information society is what do you do with the information?

Thus, reading Tuomi's discourse was very enlightening.
"This paper suggests that, from a policy point of view, it is important to distinguish several different types of resources, some of which generate most social benefits when they are kept open...This puts open educational resources in a new economic context where resource scarcity s not the limiting factor, and where artificial scarcity may carry social costs."
Grounding the ambiguous "information" back into how it can be educational helped me recognize how information can be productive. Which I think is the most important part of the equation.

I saw these links most clearly through the following two discussions specifically:

2. Distinguishing three hierarchical levels of openness in the social domain.

I think my quandry about the vague "information" was that my personal definition ended at what Tuomi calls "Openness I" (where one can access or reach the resource).

However, considering the higher two levels of "Openness II" (where one can access the service generated by the resource), and "Openness III" (the right and capability to modify, repackage, and add value to the resource) was useful in identifying the transformative possibilities of information.

If people have a specialization and really link in with other students/educators/professionals by sharing the knowledge on any given subject (be it computer science, biology, law, etc.) then indeed, information is power and can produce positive human development and social change.

3. Defining resources from an economic point of view

This exploration, while common-sensical in retrospect, was great for me to read in plain black and white as it helped solidify why the network society is so unique and valuable.
"Open source resources can, however, also be characterized as a mirror image of common pool resources. Common pool resources have the specific characteristic that they are subtractable. When someone uses the pool, the value of the pool diminishes...Open source is from this point of view an interesting economic resources. As the future value of the system depends on the amount of developers and the availability of complementary products, an open source pool may become more valuable when more people use it."

A new media experiment: Wikiversity

Well, what better way to really feel the power of global communication than to throw myself into the Wiki revolution.

In one of my net exploration escapades, I stumbled upon the Wikiversity website (I think I ended up there after checking out some info on the UNESCO Communication & Information site). I had never heard of it before, but was excited to see that a course was starting up this month, so I signed on!

The course is about "composing free and online educational resources", and is housed here on the Wikiversity page, and here on the course blog.
To provide a little more context and introduction about myself, I don't have a background in online education tools, so this will all be new to me. However, I am pursuing a Master's in Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California, through which I have been exploring how ICTs and new media can allow for new ways of interacting with international audiences.

This Wikiversity idea is a phenomenal example of this kind of global interaction. The 68 other people enrolled in this course are situated all around the world, who will be learning collaboratively in one virtual classroom!

The Annenberg School for Communication at USC is a great resource for helping me indulge in this field, as there are many centers and experts who devote their time to researching network culture.

I am currently taking a course on ICTs and International Development, whose course blog is here. We will be covering topics of open educational resources in a few weeks time...but hopefully thanks to this Wikiversity course I will already be an expert by then!

By the way -- In the ICT course my semester project involves creating a documentary about the debates surrounding the One Laptop Per Child. Therefore, I'm hoping this experience learning mroe about open educational resources will help me contribute to that debate more intelligently (by the way, if any of our fellow classmates has experiences with and/or a strong opinion about the OLPC, please leave me a comment, I'd like to speak to you and possibly interview you for the documentary!)

Because I am simultaneously in graduate school at the moment I'm concerned that I won't be able to keep up with all of our reading assignments...but I will take our instructor Teemu's challenge to heart and will try my best to be one of the ones left standing at the end of this 9 week course!