martes, marzo 14, 2006

about opensource, opencontents… p2p, web2 and a wonderful metaphor. 

For the last months I’ve been following rss feeds, list serves, articles, bounced ideas about how the ideology of open access leads to a practice of quality, equality and relevance. Of course, that is political and viewed from the vantage of virtuality, quite illuminating. There is currently interesting interchange in a forum on open educational resources/open content lead by the International Institute for Educational Planning (iiep-oer opencontent discussion) sponsored by UNESCO.

I will post here a message I sent to the forum questioning basic premises. I got one response with a wonderful metaphor of a “sandwich” which I will include here with the writer’s permission, hoping others will join in the conversation.

Dear IIEP-OER participants,

The discussion about research questions related to OER is quite comprehensive and a wide research agenda has been identified. As a freelance online practitioner not institutionally embedded, the questions of transferability and adaptation of offline resources to virtual environments is most pressing. Not only would I question basic assumptions about whether educational resources are transferable but which are the fundamental elements best suited for such activity. Learning environments of any kind (virtual or not) require customization according to persons and places and the dentification of best practices facilitate all educational activities.

Rubrics would be useful for the creation, categorizing and retrieval of content. Likewise, transferable resources in the form of basic schemes to be further developed by each practitioner might result in the most applicable approach. The popularity of p2p environments for distributed knowledge is evidence of the current trend towards spontaneous and self directed use and production of content. It seems that taking "the least common denominator approach" would allow for the largest relevance and applicability of efforts. Then, as these "outlines" are filled by users we could enjoy the wide diversity in each unique experience. That constructivist approach would allow for the mix and match of chunks of knowledge which is different from the offering of complete courses (derived from offline use) which are currently available.

I got the following response:

Hi Karen
Are you suggesting that individual learner needs should be taken into account? :)

I agree by the way, but I'm not sure how that would play out (at the front end) in regards to OERs - if learning objects are created for a particular course (for example) then they are relevant (hopefully) to the intended recipients. If opened to the world, it's not clear that they would be relevant generally. It would be up to whomever is accessing and assessing them to make that determination. Or ... maybe I've misunderstood you??

In regards to your second paragraph (I've left it in its entirety for reference) can you explain further? I'm particularly curious about your reference to peer-to-peer networking environments and about your "least common denominator" approach. I interpret that paragraph to mean that you are espousing the creation and dissemination of small chunks (objects) of info that are contextualized by the "seeker" (i.e. build your own sandwich approach), rather than the dissemination of the objects in their original context (i.e. the "vending machine sandwich" approach) - sorry for the really bad analogies - it's late! :)

To continue this train of thought - the person who builds their own sandwich will find that the eating is more meaningful/enjoyable (or will at least know what not to do next time).

Am I again mis-understanding you?

I am glad about people reducing misunderstandings... although I am sensitive about being too complex when I write.... and I am presently wondering if he understood my response which follows.

Greetings Claudius, and everyone else.

Of course, educational activities means learner based activities in which learners are active participants in the design of curricula, syllabus and creation of knowledge. That process of course must benefit from the current knowledge base. We each experience a different reality and know different things in different amounts. So the challenge is always there to benefit from that diversity for everyone's learning. In the field of education we all are learners, albeit with different philosophical and political experiences. In my case, I look for participatory approaches much like the one presented to this forum with its directive of building a research agenda. We could be given a survey to answer, or we can be asked what questions to include in the survey as a means to answer the research question.

Ideally, OER would be developed by the users. But that is not generally the case. The closest to that participatory and interactive feature online is what is now called web2 and the prevalence of p2p environments. You can freely access a plethora of video, audio and images. So if I may follow your analogy about the options in creating a sandwich, it can already be packaged, or self made, but in addition choosing the options from which to choose is the fundamental-lower denominator that I am referring to. Of course, I might want to eat something else! And also, there is the need to take advantage from experience and aim at the "best sandwich", and in midst of the creative impulse be clear about what is and is not a sandwich.

There is so much available online that everyone's appetite can be satiated. And it is for us to ensure that the options are of highest quality. My aim is to look for universal basic tenets of knowledge that could be applied into the infinity of options. And by keeping the framework fundamentally basic it will hopefully be ansferable across the board.

That is why I find rubrics helpful. But then again, the construction of rubrics also must involve the learner. That is the ideological part. Pragmatically, the question is how software allows for such participation and interaction. And in addition, who would certify experiences to be credible. Then again, we might fall in the usual trap of valuing the same experiences differently according to people and place.

I think you understood very well the point about transferability and I hope the issue of identifying a "common denominator" is clearer now.

Yes, there is food for everyone in this world...

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