I was just checking the program of the Open Education Conference, OpenEd 2009, with the tagline “Crossing the Chasm”.
I have two questions about the conference:
1) Why is the title “open education” and not “free and open education” or “libre education”?
Isn’t the “open education” in this particular case making references specifically to the idea of “free software” or “libre software”, when it is applied to educational content and new forms of learning? If yes, why not then using the word free or libre to make it clear? The use of the open (alone) gets even more confusing when we remember that “Open University” and “Open Distance Education” are established concepts in the field of education and do not have anything to do with the idea of “free / libre software”.
2) Why there aren’t any talks/presentations about language learning?
If the conference is about to cross chasms why don’t it talk about language learning? Learning languages is a critical for the “open education” movement – I’ll write about this a bit more later, when getting into the humanities.
A few days ago David Weinberger wrote a post, Transparency is the new objectivity. I agree that calling something “the new” is naïve but still the comparison of these two things really makes sense. The idea is also extremely relevant and important for open and free learning content.
In the case of open and free learning content the transparency means that the user of the content will know who and in what conditions and context the content was produced. If the content comes from a North American University or from a global publishing house one should “read” it differently than in a case of it coming from a Chinese University or from some individual living – let’s say – in Luumäki. The point is not who do you believe. The point is that you are aware of the possible different interests and intentions, even biases and misunderstandings among the content producers. You must be aware and able to read the cultural meaning in the content and follow the links to sources increasing the transparency.
So what we need to be able to “read the cultural meanings”?
We should study humanities: languages, history, religion, arts, and literature of different cultures. Only by understanding the secondary material increasing transparency (who, where, when) we can get a clue of whys. If we do not get the material because of a language barrier or do not understand the cultural-historical context where it was produced, it is pretty much useless.
So, to make the open education a global movement, the people producing “open content” should study languages, and people aiming to use the content should study languages.
With the languages comes the rest: history, religion, arts, and literature – all needed to do the interpretations.
Now I am out in Busuu.com to practice my Spanish.