When I read the book Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky, a writer and media studies professor at NYU, I thought of the foreign language educator. Check out Shirky’s TEDTalk on the subject:
Shirky argues that modern life has resulted in unprecedented amounts of leisure time. And today, thanks to the Internet, people are choosing to use their free time to collaborate in new and exciting ways. Here’s an excerpt from the book cover:
For the first time, people are embracing new media that allow them to pool their efforts at vanishingly low cost. The results of this aggregated effort range from mind-expanding reference tools like Wikipedia to life-saving Web sites like Ushahidi.com, which allows Kenyans to report acts of violence in real time. Cognitive Surplus explores what’s possible when people unite to use their intellect, energy, and time for the greater good.
His claim is that the Internet is turning consumers into producers. But is this true of language teachers?
Despite Shirky’s enthusiasm, teachers still view themselves as consumers of pedagogical products. And yet, teachers produce pedagogical content all the time: lesson plans, quizzes, worksheets, activities and so on. The problem is that teachers denigrate their materials as amateurish or unprofessional. Because of this pervasive attitude, they rarely share their local materials with other teachers.
Shirky argues that all forms of digital production–from LOLcats to Wikipedia–have an important role to play in Internet culture. So, here is the point: every educational product, no matter how humble, is the result of a creative impulse that has the potential to benefit others.
To participate in the Open Education Movement, you don’t need to be a professional textbook author. But you do need to realize that sharing your materials is a powerful act of intellectual generosity.
Carl Blyth is Director of COERLL and Associate Professor of French, UT Austin. His research includes CMC, cross-cultural and intercultural pragmatics, interactional sociolinguistics, and pedagogical grammar. He is project director of eComma, an open-source annotation application to facilitate more “social” forms of reading.
To read more about sharing your educational creations, read Set Them Free: How to Share Your Materials by Georges Detiveaux.
Also, March 11-15 is Open Education Week — raising awareness of the open education movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. We’ll be participating and sharing the links with you.