[Open-education] Open Culture and Bridging “Open Silos”

Alexandre Enkerli aenkerli at vteducation.org
Mon Jul 13 21:11:57 UTC 2015

Hello all!

Haven’t really been active on the list, so far. Thought it might be interesting to open up a discussion about the relationships between Open Education and other movements.

Part of it is motivated by (listmember) Lorna Campbell’s recent post on “Open Silos”<https://lornamcampbell.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/open-silos-open-data-and-oer/>. In that post, Lorna claimed:
“Although open access, open education and open data have all made significant progress in recent years, there has been a tendency for these domains to progress in parallel with little sign of convergence.”

Those “Open Silos” described by Lorna may share little apart from a few key values. Those values might end up contributing to something of an “Open Culture”. Yet, as any social scientist would likely argue, values are insufficient to sustain cultural dynamics. The fact that this “Open Culture” is embedded in a wide diversity of local contexts makes things even trickier.

So, my question is: Can we build bridges between spheres of agency related to “Openness”? In other words, can we link Open Education, Open Knowledge, Open Access, Open Research, Open Data, Open Governance, and Open Source?

Case in point: the pedagogical side of Open Data. We can construct Open Data as OER and there are useful datasets on educational themes. But what are the connections between our concerns in Open Education and the movement to open up (governmental) data?

Back in April, Yacine Khelladi asked about the International Open Data Conference, which was held in Ottawa, Canada, on May 28–29.
(By the way, did anyone end up attending? Went to the Canadian Open Data Summit, which preceded IODC. Didn’t participate in the conference itself.)

Looks like there was in fact a panel on education, focusing on Open Data initiatives from four countries (Kenya, Nigeria, Colombia, and the United States).
Those initiatives mostly had to do with these countries’ education systems.

AFAICT, not much about OERs or changes to education, in that panel. In fact, since Canadian provinces have separate education systems, participants from the conference’s host country might have had a hard time relating to those initiatives

Didn’t hear any discussion of Open Education during the Canadian Open Data Summit. There also appears to be little overlap between Open Data and Open Source, even among public servants who try to promote Open Source software in government. As one of those public servants said, Open Data and Open Source are orthogonal to one another.
Some of the booths at the summit were for commercial vendors of software solutions meant to process Open Data. So it’s not like datasets require the openness to carry over to software used with them.

A similar case happens in education as developers of Learning Management Systems happily integrate OERs, even if their own software development model is proprietary, closed, and restrictive.

It’d probably be fruitless to assign blame to anyone involved. Surely, everyone is doing their part to reach out of those silos. But Open Education could benefit so much from the work done in all of these other contexts.

Not sure what my own solution would be. Perhaps spelling out which desired effects from Open Education go particularly well with other forms of openness. But that might be difficult to do.
As Lorna noted, efforts and resources needed to meet Open Access requirements may distract educational institutions from the importance of sharing educational material and resources in an open way. Chances are that Open Governance could make it more difficult to push Open Education in a given context. And while OKFN offers strong support for Open Education, it may not be obvious to everyone what open educational practices bring to, say, Open Research.

Some of what these silos have in common has little to do with values. For instance, digital technology is involved at some level in each of them, though technology may not matter to the same level everywhere. Standards also have an impact on everyone involved, but not for the same reasons. Some form of experimentation is part of all of these while being more of a “mode of action” than a core value. Obstacles also tend to be shared, as established institutions rarely welcome the changes needed to make these movements have their full impact.

Surely, some of you have found ways to spread Open Education through some other “Open Silos”. If so, how have you done it?

Finally, there might be an assumption, here, as to the importance of all of these forms of openness. Do we all agree that the Open Data movement can help Open Education? Can we fulfill the dreams of Open Education with everything else being closed down? Is it sufficient to make sure that our educational resources carry the appropriate licenses, regardless of the software hosting them?

Sorry to open… Pandora’s Box.


Alex Enkerli, Learning Technology Advisor
Vitrine technologie-éducation
Montreal, Qc Canada
+1-514-332-3000 #6023
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