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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Open Source: A Do-It-Yourself Movement to Change Education from the Bottom Up

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending DrupalCon, an annual developer's conference highlighting the open source content management system (CMS), Drupal. For those of you not familiar with the term "open source," it generally refers to a collaborative movement in which developers work together to create usable code that is made available to the public at no cost.

No cost? Yep - that's right. People work together to solve a problem and then share their resources to the community so others can use it. The resources also continue to evolve as a direct result of the community cooperation. Interesting concept, eh?

On day two of DrupalCon, I listened to Tim O'Reilly, a web 2.0 guru, as he stated that not only has open source continued to drive our society's capacity to act together and collaborate effectively, it has also sprouted the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) movement.


O'Reilly used an intriguing metaphor to set the stage for the need of the DIY spirit by using a vending machine to represent our government. Like a vending machine, we put money in (taxes) and we get out a product (services). He took this metaphor a bit further by stating that when we think we're going to change the government, we think in terms of protest. We're going to "shake the vending machine" and try to get more out of it. And if any of you have shaken a vending machine, you know that you either break it entirely or hurt yourself (or others) doing it! ?

Instead of "shaking the vending machine," O'Reilly suggested that we can (and should) apply the Do-It-Yourself spirit on a civic scale. He mentioned a recent story about a washed out road that led to a state park in Kauai. When the community learned that the government wasn't going to be able to get to the road for 2-3 years, they got together and fixed the road themselves in as little as eight days!

Open source is a bottom-up movement that is slowly changing the world in a dramatic way. Through the DIY spirit it creates, it provides an opportunity for us to see what needs to be done and just do it. The fundamental question is: "Why can't we apply this DIY concept to education?"

How many road blocks and red tape have you encountered in your school or district when you wanted to do something new? Imagine a world where everyone worked together and collaborated to create the most effective solution to any of our educational problems. Many educators have been embracing this DIY spirit by using open source tools such as wikis, digital textbooks, and more, but the problem lies in the fact that these educators are isolated and not able to collaborate on a bigger scale to create real change.

In Tim O'Reilly's closing words, "We need to use technology to work on stuff that matters." I ask you, what's more important than education? I urge you to share your thoughts on how all of us can use the DIY spirit to fix our society and to build a better world.

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Grace Rubenstein's picture
Grace Rubenstein
Former senior producer at Edutopia
Blogger 2014

Hear hear! For a few examples of what's possible (and this is just the beginning of what we can achieve), check out these links:

Daring Dozen honoree Richard Baraniuk, who started the open-source textbook website Connexions

The El Paso Independent School District ditches textbooks and has teachers write their own source materials

The Flat Classroom Project: A DIY collaboration between students in Bangladesh and Camilla, Georgia

California teacher and friend-of-Edutopia Rushton Hurley created a handy website where anyone can post an instructional video (vetted by Hurley) that students can access for free.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

Just came across this article, " How the Open Source Movement Has Changed Education: 10 Success Stories."

It's worth a read -- it mentions tools such as Open Office, Wikipedia, Google Scholar beta, Ubuntu, EduCause and more...

Sean Banville's picture

Open Source pops up in every discussion about school resourcing, collaboration, making a more democratic Internet, how to help poorer students and communities, etc. etc. etc. It seems so strange in this day and age when using the Internet to get free stuff is second nature to all of us that Open Source isn't one of THE most talked about things.

I have no answers. I still use Apple's OS and Microsoft's OS7 (apologies but the latter is my work laptop - pre-installed with everything Microsoft). I did put OpenOffice on my 8-year-old son's laptop (in no way wanted to buy the inferior MS product).

I think a page on the http://www.opensource.org/ site that is friendly to those new to opensource might help - A "here is what you can get with opensource" type affair. At the moment, the site looks like a site for techies.

That, and a liberal mention of the site (and others) on Twitter and blog posts.

Keep up the good work.

Sean

Bram Moreinis's picture
Bram Moreinis
Director of Technology, Hudson Valley

http://empowered-teacher.com/blog/feed - comments welcome! I'm still flailing about for my next post topic ... have you any questions I could address?

I've also got a "Drupal for K12" site: http://drupalschools.net - which is designed for (though not attracting yet) guest bloggers - if you're interested in my help cross-posting, let me know?

My consultancy, "The Empowered Teacher", helps teachers use Drupal to do blended learning - http://empowered-teacher.com - and that's where my Open Source Education blog is.

There is no shortage of information out there about using open source in schools, but very little about the intranet environments behind blended learning. I think Drupal is ideal for that purpose...and I think blended learning is the most transformational (and low-cost) path for teachers to transform public education DIY.

-Bram

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

You bring up a great point Sean. I was actually surfing the web to see the resources for open source in education to prepare for this blog and look for ways to cross-promote and 1) I couldn't find much that specifically had to do with open source and education and 2) You're right -- the resources I did find probably would be intimidating to the average person (they were very techy and not very user friendly).

It amazes me as well that more people in general aren't taking advantage of open source tools -- they're free and they have a whole community behind them supporting and updating them. I think in order to begin to see adoption of open source in education, we need to start dispelling the myths. The ones I hear the most are 1) You have to have webmaster-like skills to use open source and 2) Open source technologies are not secure.

Anyone want to take a crack proving these wrong? I could get started...but what would be the fun in that? ;)

PS: I truly think we need to make Open Source more accessible and reveal it in a non-technical way to educators to drive adoption -- I'm thinking of possibly creating a website to do just that. Anyone want to collaborate with me to do this?

[quote]Open Source pops up in every discussion about school resourcing, collaboration, making a more democratic Internet, how to help poorer students and communities, etc. etc. etc. It seems so strange in this day and age when using the Internet to get free stuff is second nature to all of us that Open Source isn't one of THE most talked about things.

I have no answers. I still use Apple's OS and Microsoft's OS7 (apologies but the latter is my work laptop - pre-installed with everything Microsoft). I did put OpenOffice on my 8-year-old son's laptop (in no way wanted to buy the inferior MS product).

I think a page on the http://www.opensource.org/site that is friendly to those new to opensource might help - A "here is what you can get with opensource" type affair. At the moment, the site looks like a site for techies.

That, and a liberal mention of the site (and others) on Twitter and blog posts.

Keep up the good work.

Sean[/quote]

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

Thanks for that reference Geoff, I should have known that Funny Monkey blogs on education and open source.

Interestingly enough, it looks like Bill Fitzgerald at Funny Monkey wrote a book on "Drupal for Education and E-Learning" -- Looks interesting!

[quote]One of our developing partners posts a blog that frequently covers education, open source, and sometimes Drupal!

http://funnymonkey.com/blog[/quote]

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

Hi Bram -

Love both of the sites you've created. So cool and very impressive! Yes, I'd love to connect. You can message me through the community and I'll get back to you. I would love to spread the word of open source to more and more educators out there.

[quote]http://empowered-teacher.com/blog/feed- comments welcome! I'm still flailing about for my next post topic ... have you any questions I could address?

I've also got a "Drupal for K12" site: http://drupalschools.net- which is designed for (though not attracting yet) guest bloggers - if you're interested in my help cross-posting, let me know?

My consultancy, "The Empowered Teacher", helps teachers use Drupal to do blended learning - http://empowered-teacher.com- and that's where my Open Source Education blog is.

There is no shortage of information out there about using open source in schools, but very little about the intranet environments behind blended learning. I think Drupal is ideal for that purpose...and I think blended learning is the most transformational (and low-cost) path for teachers to transform public education DIY.

-Bram[/quote]

Roderick Chu's picture
Roderick Chu
Chancellor Emeritus, Ohio Board of Regents

The Ohio Resource Center for Mathematics, Science, and Reading (http://ohiorc.org) and the Ohio Social Studies Resource Center (http://ohiossrc.org) provide treasure troves of "links to peer-reviewed instructional resources that have been identified by a panel of Ohio educators as exemplifying best or promising practice. Available resources also include content and professional resources as well as assessment and general education resources that will support the work of preK-12 classroom teachers and higher education faculty members. The resources are correlated with Ohio's academic content standards and with applicable national content standards."

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