A Year of Open-Source Education in Review

November 23, 2010

As this year comes to a close, its hard not to realize all the amazing projects I’ve been lucky to be a part of, and continue to be. These past few months I’ve been entirely engrossed in my work, and my passion for open source education.

Soon to be posted is a quick-fire video presentation about open-sourcing education and how it revitalizes the importance of creativity. The fact that the education system itself is failing is not a new concept by any means. But rather than focus on that, I’ve been focusing on the specific issues: that students starting at a young age are bored and unenthusiastic by school, and that students have an average of 10-20 minutes of attention during a traditional lecture-style course.

By categorizing learning into closed systems: that history is only history or math is just math, we’ve forgotten the importance of creativity and the breath of impact it can have. We’ve assumed too much that creativity is only for the arts and that only specific gifted people are creative enough at the arts to be successful. We are taught to ostracize and categorize ourselves in a traditional educational system, that crossover is unnecessary, when in fact it is when opposing fields of study clash that true progress is made.

What has been frustrating is that there is a whole field of research on open source education in a digital landscape and how it will, one day, change our value system, when in fact these things are already occurring. Meanwhile there are the grassroots, loose organizations that are unaware of the academic perspective. We’ve tried top-down overtake of the system and grassroots, and neither have been successful. With luck and a bit of encouragement, it is possible to meet in the middle, thanks to the incredible digital progress that has already been made.

While at Maker Faire in New York this fall, I watched Phil McKinney of HP do a presentation on this topic. His observation was simple and incredibly powerful. He argued that if we focus on teaching critical thinking, that the desire to learn the skills will come. No longer is the world about finding the right answer, but about asking the right questions.

I watched Sir Ken Robinson‘s riveting 2006 TED talk a long time before I was seriously involved in this issue. In the past few months I’ve revisited that talk again and again to remind me why it is important. I hope that you will find the same resonance.

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