What do education, highways, and OER have in common?

Welcome to my blog. Although I have been blogging for the past couple of years as part of the Connexions team on the Connexions blogs (blog.cnx.org, devblog.cnx.org), this is the inaugural entry for my personal blog. The main purpose of this blog, over the next year, is to communicate ideas, calls for action, calls for advice, and reports on progress in conjunction with my Shuttleworth Foundation fellowship to foster an ecosystem around open education resources (OER). I will also blog occasionally about research and projects that I am reading about that have to do with learning, usability, and open source software, three related passions of mine.

So first off, what do I mean about an ecosystem around open education software? I am going to start out with a series of analogies and if you have a few minutes, feel free to explore the video that I made (with some credited help) as part of my proposal for the fellowship.
The starting point is OER, those open education resources that many different visionaries, projects, and organizations are creating. The potential impact of open learning materials is three fold: first being freely available, open resources can potentially reach under-served learners all over the world and even for adequately and well-served learners they can free up economic resources for educational support and innovation; secondly, being open for adaptation, a much larger pool of talent (not just the original authors or publishers) can adapt resources to the needs of particular learners and improve resources through corrections and additions; and thirdly, openly reusable  resources can be used as components in research (results are easier to replicate if the ingredients are easily available) and learning environments (machine-assisted learning, peer group learning, teacher development). Essentially, open resources can act as a highway for distributing educational wealth and connecting learning innovations.

Currently, however, open resources are available in incompatible formats in many individual projects that aren’t easy to contribute to and adapt from. It is as if they are hidden down unmarked dirt roads. My goal is to accelerate both the production of high-quality, reusable OER and the development of innovative learning environments that build upon OER, by providing ‘sign posts’ and ‘on ramps’ to the highway of open education. Ecosystems on the web require proper infrastructure so that innovators’ services can work seamlessly together. Working with as many OER innovators as possible, I intend to spend the next year providing some of the infrastructure that has been missing, and then working with communities to develop a catalyst service that will unleash content and creativity. I will be blogging much more on what this catalyst service or tool might be, sharing my ideas and the ideas of many  others, and at the same time asking for your ideas.

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