I first heard about “open source learning” in 2006 from a TED talk by Rich Baraniuk, a computer science professor from Rice University. Rich is also the founder of Connexions, a global clearinghouse of open-source course materials. People in some 200 countries tap into its vast store of texts on everything from signal processing to music theory, adapting the content as they see fit.
Rich is a charismatic speaker and his talk motivated me to learn more about the potential of OER for foreign language education. So, I visited the Connexions website. And I downloaded several articles on Open Education.
One article by Rich (Challenges and opportunities for the open education movement: A Connexions case study) in particular captured my imagination because it described Open Education as a grassroots movement among like-minded educators:
The Open Education (OE) movement is based on a set of intuitions shared by a remarkably wide range of academics: that knowledge should be free and open to use and re-use; that collaboration should be easier, not harder; that people should receive credit and kudos for contributing to education and research; and that concepts and ideas are linked in unusual and surprising ways and not the simple linear forms that today’s textbook present. OE promises to fundamentally change the way authors, instructors, and students interact worldwide. (Baraniuk, 2007, p. 229)
Rich’s belief that collaboration should be easier really struck a chord with me. I truly enjoy collaborating with students and colleagues on pedagogical projects. In fact, I have been involved in several such projects throughout my career. But I am often dismayed by how our own professional practices and institutions are impediments to collaboration. I have also discovered that collaboration will not work if the conditions aren’t right for everyone involved. In other words, collaboration must be a mutually beneficial relationship.
As our mission statement proclaims, COERLL seeks to promote a culture of collaboration that lies at the heart of the Open Education movement. In fact, we started this blog to identify potential collaborators, kindred spirits who will join with us to promote open educational products and practices. So, here are my questions: How can COERLL make it easier for foreign language teachers to collaborate on pedagogical materials? What are the impediments to collaboration and how might we overcome them … together?
Baraniuk, R. (2007). Challenges and opportunities for the open education movement: A Connexions case study. In T. Iiyoshi & M.S.V. Kumar (Eds.), Opening up education. Boston, MA: MIT Press.
Carl Blyth is Director of COERLL and Associate Professor of French, UT Austin.