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Open_Ed assignments for week 13: The Future of Open Education

24 Novembre 2007

I have liked Dr. Wiley’s idea of writing the chapter about the future of the OER movement in an autobiographical form, as if everything had already happened. It has given the narration a more realistic flavour, there is more credibility in what he writes. At a certain point in my reading I was afraid that he was going to give us no hope in a positive development of OERs in the future but, as it happens in all the best novels, everything has been set and the surprising ending has been assured. Wiley discusses the problem of the future of the open education movement in higher education from an essentially U-S centred viewpoint, and that could not be different, it would be too difficult to figure out a worldwide scenario. This is exactly the reason why I will try to figure out what can happen, I hope at least what might happen, in my local reality, old little Italy, in the near future.

It seems to me that three different mainstreams will be important to consider:

  1. the cultural aspect
  2. the legal aspect
  3. sustainability

As regards the cultural aspect, it will be important to spread the awareness of the importance of openness and cooperation and to encourage the sharing of educational materials in schools and universities for non-profit aims and educational purposes. That would give more prestige and visibility to the institutions involved and would be rewarding in the long term. In Italy there is a group of teachers and university researchers who have attended Dr. Wiley’s Open Ed course and are planning to produce a wiki about the topic, to discuss their learning/training experience in seminars and conventions, who want to create awareness and a sensibility towards the OER movement in educational organizations. We could begin from these pioneers, they can start by trying to convince their organizations, schools or universities, to begin participating actively in the open education movement. These pioneers could create learning materials that can be published and shared freely online on a "MetaU-like site" with the help of other volunteers.

As regards the legal aspect, my first and most important hope is that there will be the introduction of the fair use for educational or non-profit purposes in the Italian copyright legislation in a short time. In the Internet era it is impossible for a teacher to rely on our great cultural heritage without piracy; it is a contradiction in terms that must be eliminated as soon as possible even because in our schools the so called "education to legality" is one of the most important pedagogical objectives to attain. As regards the controversy between CC and GFDL licenses, I hope that the better solution can win, but I cannot make up my mind in favour of either one or the other solution, I am not properly informed and qualified to side with any.

As for sustainability, the government might start to consider the importance of OERs when discussing the problem of guaranteeing the right of studying to all Italian citizens and in particular the problem of buying textbooks. In Italian secondary schools all textbooks must be paid by the families, and some laws have been passed to limit the amount of money that each year the students’ families have to pay because Italian textbooks in secondary schools are expensive, sometimes new editions of good textbooks are published without any apparent reason but improve the publishers’ incomes. There are some contributions granted to the poorest families, but this does not solve the problem, it is like a drop in the ocean. On the contrary, the government could start to consider alternative ways to save money in buying textbooks by giving the opportunity to create and share open courseware  material and other resources on public repositories created for educational purposes and addressed to different kinds of learners. It would be nice to organize competitions among schools for the production of the best course in any subject. As Wiley himself remarked in his chapter about the OpenCourse Wars, motivation can be a great incentive for the students in the production of incredibly valuable educational materials.

  1. 25 Novembre 2007 a 20:13 | #1

    I find this class incredible, in that we can be concerned and working towards the same goals even though we are separated by space. If there is anything I can do to help, please ask. I look forward to the wiki you and fellow Italians are preparing. However, I don’t speak Italian, so I may not be able to follow too much. Good luck with all of your endeavors! And thanks for commenting on my blog.

  2. 29 Novembre 2007 a 8:44 | #2

    You mention that “It would be nice to organize competitions among schools for the production of the best course in any subject.” I am wondering how this would happen because competitions among schools are already existing in any field. The best course competition might be only between the teachers who create those courses. And another issue can be raise by organizing this kind of competition: how to judge the quality of those courses and those courses have to be the same course in the same field. I think it is very limited or restricted.

  3. 29 Novembre 2007 a 18:40 | #3

    I was thinking about your cultural aspects – why do you think it is that the Italians in this course have really progressed in terms of creating a community, and working towards OERs?? Why not other European countries? I’m trying to figure out what aspects of this Italian environment is enabling this to take place?

  4. 30 Novembre 2007 a 7:25 | #4

    Wow, no fair use in Italy?

    I think with no fair use, and with families having to purchase expensive textbooks for their kids, the time appears to be now for Italy to adopt OER on a large scale.

  5. 30 Novembre 2007 a 23:22 | #5

    A preamble for our non Italian colleagues: laws in Italy are often chaotic and conflicting each other, so it’s frequently a good pretext for not observing them :-) but in some cases, specially when “strong interests” are threaten, then there is much severity! So we had a teacher charged for having put some painting images on his educational blog…
    However, for the “fair use” there are some news: recently, in the last October, our Government replied to a Parliament inquiry on this matter (specifically on the case of the teacher..) and said we now HAVE something similar to the US fair use (Wow!). The recent modification to our copyright law, according with the European Union rules, wuold include fair use… (from Wikipedia Italia). Can we trust it? I’m not completely sure…

  6. 1 Dicembre 2007 a 9:35 | #6

    dear Elisa, you made a realistic analysis an you and me are agree with many of its issues. Now we’re all starting to do something together to share and solve some of the italian school problem. Oh! they’ll be a drop in the sea, but it’s important to try to do them.
    See you soon.

  7. 2 Dicembre 2007 a 16:44 | #7

    To Jessie: As for the competitions among schools, why not think to a cooperative work between teachers and students? Last year, as I could not find a good textbook for my 17-year-old students, we created a wiki where we published the material of our course by a process of mutual cooperation. Why not offer this opportunity to other classes in a similar situation by means of the participation to a competition instead of putting it in a locker and forget it? It would give visibility and add in terms of reward and self-esteem. As for the organization of this kind of competition, I would like to have a commettee of peers to assess the quality of the material. Anyway, what is for me particularly important is the process of mutual scaffolding and cooperation in an open education setting that is fostered by such an experience rather than the realization of the product or a possible award.

  8. 2 Dicembre 2007 a 16:59 | #8

    To Anto: I am happy for our unlucky colleague and genuinely hope you are right. I always fear that, one day or the other, I can receive a terrible fine for the publication of any copyrighted material though unaware of it. Anyway, I’ll go on publishing this notice on my educational Internet spaces:

    “This space has been created for no profit objectives and with educational purposes. Any violation of a possible copyright is absolutely incidental and not intentional. If anybody disagrees about the publication of his/her own copyrighted works is invited to contact the person who is responsible for this space in order to remove them.”

    Better safe than sorry (fidarsi è bene …)


  9. 2 Dicembre 2007 a 22:04 | #9

    Hi, Elisa!
    I had never imagined that Italy could have these issues related to the access to textbooks. I see, then, that they are expensive everywhere. The Brazilian government didstributes a kit of books to all students of public schools and they are responsible for returning them in the end of the year, so that they can be used by other students in the future. Instructions are given as to how best keep them. This system has its flaws, for sure, but at least it demonstrates how the government is worried about this issue.
    I also found interesting your comment about the italian pioneers. Is it right to believe that you also might become one? :-)

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