Bring Open Content To Your School

Fred Bartels put out a post this morning on the ISED Listserv about how independent schools (aka private schools) can play a greater role in creating open content that could be reused anywhere, by anyone.

If we can get some leadership then it would be fairly straight forward (hard but not particularly complicated) to combine our strengths to create wonderful and brilliant online open-source textbook replacements that could serve our students along with all the other students in the US and the rest of the world.

Why aren't we doing this?

Fred's thoughts are worth reading in their entirety. Peter Gow also posted some thoughts on the idea.

Free Range

This is something we have been working on and thinking about for a while, and it's hard to say whether this is more a failure of leadership, or whether organizations lack the commitment (both financial and philosophical) to truly opening their process to a larger world.

In any case, independent schools (or really, any school or school district) could make an incredible contribution here simply by encouraging teachers to publish individual lessons under an open license. This would cost nothing, as teachers are already generating original materials as part of their daily work.

The piece of this that requires resources (time and money) would be having a collection of subject-area experts curate and repurpose these openly licensed materials into coherent units.

These units themselves would also need to be made available under an open license, so that they could be remixed and reused.

The challenge here is that it requires an organization or school to step up and commit to doing this - and "doing this" means both supporting the work to create open textbooks, and then using those textbooks to deliver courses. In a time where there is increasing pressure to get students into the "best" college available (ie, college admission is the goal of school, as opposed to learning) doing something that deviates from the norm is a risk. It's more convenient to use the language of progressive education than to actually educate progressively.

But the actual work of creating these resources would not be difficult. Many of these resources already exist, but not in a format that is easy to reuse or remix. Some content would need to be written, some editorial work would be required to ensure that the units and content held together as a coherent whole, but these are issues that can be solved with time and attention to detail.

The challenges here are not technical, nor are they related to not knowing how to proceed. The only barrier here is getting funding to support people to do the work.

Image Credit: "Free Range" taken by Phil King, published under an Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives license.


I like very much your way of presentation Some great information to be absorbed in this post.Thanks a lot for sharing.

I was looking at your page and this blog caught my eye because it seems like a great vision and I think it is being done on a small scale on sites like EducationWorld, Scholastic, PBS, etc.
But with a database the size you are talking about, we could then give students even more ownership of their learning. For instance, during the traditional "KNOW, WANT TO KNOW" period at the beginning of a unit, students could research and find their favorite lesson plans and submit them to the teacher to check for quality. Then the class could discuss/vote on the lesson plans to be delivered by the teacher.
Maybe it takes just two people to start what you're talking about; it's how Wikipedia started...

The suggestions in this article definitely show where the world of education should be heading. I think it would strongly benefit teachers if lessons, ideas, and techniques were shared publicly through the world wide web!

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