Last week I gave my last big speech before the baby comes, at Educause, the ginormous ed-tech conference/trade show/organization. You can watch the video here. The previous Friday night at 8pm I spoke at the New School to about 12 people (with a new, speculative, not-so-ready-for-prime-time presentation), so it was really nice to go out with a large enthusiastic crowd. I got mostly positive feedback on this speech on Twitter and email, and I’ll also get a chance to look at people’s evaluation forms, which is cool.
Big news coming out of the conference, which I touched on in the Q&A, was the phenomenon of large for-profit education behemoths jumping on the “open” bandwagon.
Update: I have to link to Michael Feldstein‘s extremely thoughtful look at the details behind these announcements, and what they mean for openness.
Pearson is launching something called OpenClass, described as a cloud-based, self-service, learning management system (LMS), compatible with Google Apps for Education and available in the Google Apps store that is completely free to use–free of licensing, hardware or hosting fees.
Meanwhile Blackboard, which has a similar free cloud-based service, announced that it’s becoming Open-Educational-Resource-friendly, making it easier for educators who use this platform to publish the resources they create under Creative Commons license, and to allow universities to more easily grant access to their learning platforms to non-enrolled students.
Cable Green from Creative Commons asked what I thought about this in the Q&A, and I brought up David Wiley’s concept of “openwashing.”
On the one hand, it’s great that these large companies are recognizing the power of the concept of open and free sharing of educational resources to the future of education, collaborative, peer-based, puppies, kittens, blah blah blah. On the other hand, if you want to create a truly open learning institution, wouldn’t it be better to use an actually open-source LMS like Moodle or Sakai than a version created by Pearson, which mainly wants to sell you resources, or Blackboard, whose money comes from fees for services and license?
On the other, other hand, as I pointed out in the Q&A, it’s only rational that these companies are pursuing multiple strategies to remain sustainable in a rapidly changing market, both holding on to their old closed businesses (buy a printed, copyrighted textbook from Pearson here) and trying to get into the platform racket. And advocates of openness have to do the same thing to remain sustainable, either as profitable businesses or as nonprofits.