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August 6, 2010 / Cameron Campbell

Open Education? Sharing? Edupunk?

The current edition of Educause review is making the rounds, both IRL (h/t to Patrick for sending this along) and online (heaps of educators on twitter are recommending this issue as a must read). It deals with the concept of “Open” in the open source software sense as applied to education.

All of FLI highly recommends the entire issues and endorses that idea that it’s a must read for educators. Rather than being a mere cheer-leading for the open movement the issue takes a very good look at what has and hasn’t worked in practice.

I’m especially interested in the article that focuses on the EduPunk movement. A good video that many consider to be the EduPunk manifesto is this one (it’s about 5 minutes long – and in an office environment you might consider donning headphones):

One of the best explanations behind the creation of this “movement” can be found here on Tran|Script which contains a one sentence defense of the idea “The movement is primarly creative, not destructive. It just looks like destruction to those who haven’t seen creativity in a while.”.

In simple terms EduPunk suggests leaving behind the corporatisation of learning tools (and learning for that matter) and looking at ways that you can deliver meaningful, open, student created, constructivist learning, for free. The idea is that all the Web 2.0 tools are just sitting there, why tie yourself down to a single, closed platform that dictates not only what you can and can’t do, but has pedagogical ideas and limitations built into it.

From this “movement” a thousand blogs and wikis and shared bookmark lists flourished… but… but… at that back of all of our minds is the niggling idea that the “free” tools that we’re meant to use are, well, not very free or, in some ways, not very open.

As the EDUCAUSE article points out, Google stores so much data about you that it’s probably not a good idea to even consider it, for fear of scaring yourself with the sheer Orwellian possibilities of it all. Additionally, and one only has to look at this blog (though it seems to be most apparent when you look via a mobile device) or any of FLI’s wiki’s to see this, the business model of all these “free” services is based on advertising. Google, flikr, twitter (to a lesser degree), Facebook etc all run advertising.  So, in our desire to move away from a proprietorial system that controlled and limited how we delivered our learning we’ve moved to a system that, at times, is so festooned with adverts that they look a bit like this:


Free to look at, but at what cost?

So, need one go all or nothing? Is our choice really this stark?

Businessmen in dark suits

Image used via a Creative Commons licence from Anthony Easton

Jolly Roger

Image used via a Creative Commons Licence from Nick Humphries

Perhaps a middle way, and one that I think makes a great deal of sense, can be found in the work and musings of UNITECs Thom Cochran.

What he suggested in his talk at the MoodleMoot 10 (if you follow this link you can register and look at what he presented at courses>2010>Facilitating students creating their own content) was the notion of using Moodle (what we call Learn here at Lincoln) as a sort of Hub to gather up and link to all these free to use systems. Rather than trying to send students all over the web after different tools, he tends to embed what he can within his moodle pages and link to those that he can’t.

He uses all sorts of amazing, interactive tools and his courses are really worth a look (all his official courses allow guest registration).

As a final thought here’s an guide to using some of these new technologies in your classes:


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