Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The different faces of open education and my contributions

The Open Education movement has been considered inclusive by eliminating barriers that limit access to traditional education. Before the development of computers and the invention of the internet open education exists with the correspondence schools. Correspondence schools deliver courses to participants through mail. These participants have to read, study the courses and do the assignments that they have to send back to the schools for evaluation. Open Education in its informal aspect was and it is still delivered through live radio and television broadcasting. It was also delivered in a larger scale of openness through radio and television cassette recording. With the development of computers and the internet an electronic form of learning called elearning took place through computer discs (CD) and the web. Some european universities like the Open university in UK enrolled thousands of students by eliminating university admission.

Open education originates in the free culture movement. The free culture movement is a social movement that allows to distribute and modify freely Creative Works by using the internet and other forms of media. Creative Works are considered to be works in the Arts, Literature,  Music and Software. Open education learners are responsible for their own learning and take a personal and social approach to reach their learning objectives. They are also more interested in hands-on learning. In a formal learning setting facilitated by educators learners discuss and share their learning in communities. The instructor provides the learning materials through a Learning Management System (LMS) and is responsible to guide the students. Synchronous lectures are delivered through special platforms or through live videos on YouTube or other platforms. Other resources can be provided in the form of PDFs, links, etc. Learning facilitators communicate with learners synchronously (video-audio, audio only, instant messages) and asynchronously using email or other asynchronous forms.

Open education was developed through many concepts and resources such as open courseware, open educational resources (oer), open access, etc. Open courseware consists of course materials made available by some universities and other educational institutions freely on the internet. Open courseware started in the early 2000's with MIT that decided to put their courses freely online. Since then many other universities throughout the world followed suit. MIT and Harvard have decided to create an online platform, EdX, to teach open courses. Other professors from renowned universities started their own open courseware or teach in other ones. Coursera, Udacity, etc are well known new platforms delivering open university courses for free to anybody located throughout the world.

Open Educational Resources are educational resources that others can use, remix and distribute freely to others under certain types of licences. Creative Commons issue different types of licenses for open educational resources. Those licenses are necessary for others to copy, remix and distribute these resources thereby eliminating traditional copyright permission. The common licenses used are: CC BY, CC BY NC, CC BY SA, CC BY NC SA. An author creating Open Educational Resources uses CC BY so that others can use his work by attributing credit to him. The CC BY NC license is used so that other authors remixing the resource can use it for  for non-commercial purposes and don't have to license the derivative works using the same terms of the original license. In the CC BY SA license that can be used for commercial purposes other authors remixing the resource have to license the derivative work under the same terms as the previous license.Under the CC BY NC SA other authors use the previous work for non-commercial purposes and have to license the derivative work under the same term as the previous one. Acknowledgement of the previous author is required in all the licenses mentioned below.    The licenses allow others to copy. remix and distribute the work of the original author.

There are many open courseware and open educational resources sites in the web. An organization called OER university comprised of some universities has taken the initiative to evaluate and give credits for informal learning but learners have to continue their education at these institutions and it is unlikely that an amount of learning equal to a degree can be evaluated to confer a degree earned only through self-directed learning without matriculating at any educational institution. Instead of matriculating at an existing educational institution self-directed learners use a PLN (Professional learning network) and/or a learning plan to reach their educational and professional goals. Some self-directed learners like myself, Leigh Blackall. Peter Prawsthorn, etc use Wikiversity and Peer- to- Peer University to develop a plan and execute it using our blog and other social platforms to reach a level of graduate learning called Open and networked PhD (OnPhD) or simply Open PhD. I have already taken 21 credits towards a PhD and I intended to continue the journey by pursuing an Open PhD. This takes an enormous amount of time, self-discipline and cooperation to develop a common plan and figure out individually some personal approaches. Such an approach of an Open PhD is not completely different from the traditional approach. That's the reason why we have discussed about being guided by PhD professors and supervisors. The goals of my open PhD are to develop skills that enable me to develop online or not educational projects, online and traditional courses, online and traditional tutoring, educating online informally and developing individual and lifelong learning skills along the way. All these skills are also based on my previous formal, informal learning and teaching experiences. I have started developing Open Popular University and I am still inviting people willing to support this educational endevour in any way they can and participate actively by contributing to advance its mission. People interested can contact me. New Direction Education Services provide face-to-face and online tutoring in Math, French, ESL and Spanish. It provides also online courses and some other services.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Learning, literacy and digital literacy

Learning is a survival human skill and literacy is an activity that allows it. Learning has been equated to literacy including digital literacy thanks to a perpetuating belief that confuses learning with literacy creating a bipolar world of learners and non-learners, literate and illiterate. The formalization of the educational system has deepened the divide between these contrasting categories by ignoring those who are informal literate and informal illiterate learners. In fact learning is a natural skill of the human beings and starts from conception to death. Learning and knowledge exist well before the symbolic representation of knowledge, the invention of print and the formalization of learning through schooling. This formalization contributes to widen the gap between social and economic classes marginalizing some vast categories of people. Literacy as a subproduct of formalized learning denies the illiterate the power of learning. In fact it would be impossible for a human being to survive without the ability to learn. We are all learners whether literate or illiterate and whether as literate we learn formally or informally. Technology as a creation of the social structures that create the formalization of education has evolved to the point of breaking out the structures of formalized learning and ways of social living. The open education movement and the creation of learning materials in the web allow people to learn less formally and more informally. Web technologies allow people to communicate. share and collaborate virtually to a certain low degree. Structures of formalized learning and detrimental traditional ways of living persist through technology which is a mirror of the social structures that create it. Traditional ways of learning find their ways in the digital learnng. Consequently literacy as a way of learning find its way in the digital world as digital literacy.

Digital literacy encompasses an umbrella of literacies enabled by digital technology and called "new literacies". Digital literacy can be defined as the ability to find. use, evaluate, summarize, critique and create information. Information and communication tecknology is widely used in digital literacy. It involves the use of computers, hardware and software, the internet, web technologies and various telecommunications systems. The digitally literate is able to navigate the web, create content using digital spaces, use different web 2.0 tools to save, communicate and share information. The digitally literate uses the web for learning, innovating and different social functions. Blogging, sharing different types of information through text, photos and videos, emailing, posting information, communicating are some common actions performed by the digitally literate.

Traditional concepts of learning such as literacy, fluency, etc persist in spite of the development of digital technology.This development has the potential of providing the marginalized illiterate tools of learning that don't rely on the ability of reading and writing. Perhaps this development can eliminate the printed word and replace it with auditory, visual, kinesthesic and many other ways of learning therefore putting aside the dichotomy of literate and illiterate. The use of cognitive abilities can still be used without the existence of the printed word. The transformation of society through tools created by the dominant social structures seem to be an utopy but meanwhile technology can be used to reduce social inequalities by making its tools more affordable and useful to the majority of people. For example the cost of computers, cellphones, telephone and internet services could be reduced to facilitate access to more people. Computers and cellphones can be built with a lot of educational software allowing the user to access to information without paying for additional services. The so-called illiterate can learn without using the printed word through cheap computers and cellphones. Some educational software can be created in digital devices allowing the illiterate to read, write and learn automomously.