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December 04 2012

The MOOC movement is not an indicator of educational evolution

Somehow, recently, a lot of people have taken an interest in the broadcast of canned educational materials, and this practice — under a term that proponents and detractors have settled on, massive open online course (MOOC) — is getting a publicity surge. I know that the series of online classes offered by Stanford proved to be extraordinarily popular, leading to the foundation of Udacity and a number of other companies. But I wish people would stop getting so excited over this transitional technology. The attention drowns out two truly significant trends in progressive education: do-it-yourself labs and peer-to-peer exchanges.

In the current opinion torrent, Clay Shirky considers MOOCs one of the big disruptive technologies of our age, and Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University, writes (in a Boston Globe subscription-only article) that traditional colleges will have to deal with the MOOC challenge. Jon Bruner points out on Radar that non-elite American institutions could use a good scare (although I know a lot of people whose lives were dramatically improved by attending such colleges). The December issue of Communications of the ACM offers Professor Richard A. DeMillo from the Georgia Institute of Technology assessing the possible role of MOOCs in changing education, along with an editorial by editor-in-chief Moshe Y. Vardi culminating with, “If I had my wish, I would wave a wand and make MOOCs disappear.”

There’s a popular metaphor for this early stage of innovation: we look back to the time when film-makers made the first moving pictures with professional performers by setting up cameras before stages in theaters. This era didn’t last long before visionaries such as Georges Méliès, D. W. Griffith, Sergei Eisenstein, and Luis Buñuel uncovered what the new medium could do for itself. How soon will colleges get tired of putting lectures online and offer courses that take advantage of new media?

Two more appealing trends are already big. One is DIY courses, as popularized in the book Fab by Neil Gershenfeld at the MIT Media Lab. O’Reilly’s own Make projects are part of this movement. Fab courses represent the polar opposite of MOOCs in many ways. They are delivered in small settings to students whose dedication, inspiration, and talent have to match those of the teacher — the course asks a lot of everybody. But from anecdotal reports, DIY courses have been shown to be very powerful growth mechanisms in environments ranging from the top institutions (like MIT) to slums around the world. Teenagers are even learning to play with biological matter in labs such as BioCurious.

Fundamentally, DIY is a way to capture the theory of learning by doing, which goes back at least to John Dewey at the turn of the 20th century. The availability of 3D makers, cheap materials, fab software, and instructions over the Internet lend the theory a new practice.

“I believe in everything never yet said.”–Rainer Maria Rilke, Das Stunden-Buch

The other major trend cracking the foundations of education is peer-to-peer information exchange. This, like learning by doing, has plenty of history. The symposia of Ancient Greece (illustrated in fictional form by Plato) and the Talmudic discussions that underlay the creation of modern Judaism over 2,000 years ago show that human beings have long been used to learning from each other. Peer information exchange raged on centuries later in cafés and salons, beer halls and sewing circles. Experts were important, and everybody could recognize the arrival of a true expert, but he or she was just first among equals. A lot of students who sign up for MOOCs probably benefit from the online discussion forums as much as from the canned lectures and readings.

Wikipedia is a prominent example of peer-to-peer information exchange, and one that promulgates the contributions of experts, but one that also has trouble with sustainability. (They’re holding one of their fund-raisers now, and it’s a good time to donate.) This leads me to ask what business model colleges can apply in the face of both MOOCs and peer-to-peer knowledge. How do you mobilize a whole community to educate each other, while maintaining the value of expertise?

This challenge — not just a business challenge, but really the challenge of tapping expertise effectively — happens to be one that O’Reilly is dealing with in the field of publishing. We introduced the equivalent of filmed stage shows in the mid-1990s when we created the Safari Bookshelf to provide our books on a subscription-based website. The innovation was in the delivery model, which also delivered a shock to a publishing industry dependent on print sales.

But we knew that Safari Bookshelf barely dipped into the power of the web, which has grown more and more with advances in HTML, JavaScript, and mobile devices. Safari Bookshelf is much more than a collection of web pages with book content now. As a training tool, the web has exploded with other experiments. We offer an interactive school of technology also.

So the field of education will probably see lots of blended models along the way. It’s worth noting that proponents of open content have called for licensing models that reinforce the open promise of the courses. Some courses ask students to write their own textbooks and share them — but one asks where they get the information with which to write their peer-produced textbooks. In an earlier article I examined the difficulties of creating free, open textbooks that are actually usable for teaching. Such dilemmas just show that the investment of large amounts of time by experts are still a critical part of education — but applying the broadcast model to them may be less and less relevant.

May 03 2012

C3S: Die Gründungsinitiative ist online

Noch ist sie nicht formell gegründet, aber die “Cultural Commons Collecting Society”, kurz C3S nimmt nun auch im Netz Formen an. Seit heute ist die erste Website der Gründungsinitiative online und erklärt nicht nur genauer, wie das Konzept aussieht, sondern bietet für Kreative bereits die Möglichkeit, direkt per Onlineformular ihr Interesse an zukünftiger Mitgliedschaft zu bekunden. Das Sammeln solcher Absichtserklärungen ist unerlässlich, um später durch die Regulierungsbehörden die Zulassung als Verwertungsgesellschaft zu erhalten, denn dafür muss glaubhaft gemacht werden, dass die Gesellschaft ausreichend viele Urheber vertreten und dadurch nachhaltig finanziert sein wird.

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November 16 2011

August 12 2011

Creative Commons: Ein neues Buch und eine Bestandsaufnahme

Wer “Creative Commons”-Lizenzen nutzen möchte, aber noch nicht genau weiß, wie, findet in diesem neuen Buch Antworten: Creative Commons – A User Guide. Allerdings nur auf Englisch. Der Autor Simone Aliprandi, der copyleft-italia betreibt, gibt ihm den Untertitel “A complete manual with a theoretical introduction and practical suggestions” (“Eine vollständige Anleitung mit theoretischer Einleitung und Vorschlägen für die Praxis”) – und das auf 116 Seiten, die in einer HTML- oder PDF-Version verfügbar sind oder für 13 Euro als book on demand erstanden werden können.

Die Idee zu Creative Commons formulierte der US-amerikanische Urheberrechtler Lawrence Lessig gemeinsam mit seinem Team im Jahr 2001. Als Alternative zum “Alle Rechte vorbehalten”, dem gesetzlichen Normalfall, sollen damit die Urheber selbst eigene Lizenzen erstellen können und mit einfachen Mitteln entscheiden, wem und unter welchen Bedingungen sie ihre Werke zur Verfügung stellen.

Seitdem ist nicht nur in den USA einiges an Erklärmaterial entstanden, dass insgesamt dazu beigetragen hat, Creative Commons bekannter zu machen und zu einer breit gefächerten Akzeptanz zu bringen (mittlerweile in Deutschland auch gerichtlich durchsetzbar).

+ John Weitzmann auf “Im Lizenzbaumarkt – Creative Commons als alternatives Modell“, wo er schreibt: “Das Urheberrecht ist komplex. Während ganze Bevölkerungsschichten kriminalisiert werden, hat sich seit 2001 mit Creative Commons ein neuer Lösungsweg entwickelt. Er umgeht die träge und teilweise wirtschaftlich instrumentalisierte Gesetzgebung, die noch immer am „Alle Rechte vorbehalten“ als gesetzlichem Normalfall festhält. Das Zauberwort heißt „Privatautonomie“.”

+ Ein Comic des Brasilianers Nerdson, der das System “Creative Commons” erklärt

+ Ein Motivationsfilm für Creative Commons von Amadeus Wittwer, der 2010 den WissensWert-Award von Wikimedia e.V. gewann

+ Creative Commons ausführlich erklärt: Matthias Spielkamp – “Brüder, zur Sonne, zu freien Inhalten? Creative Commons in der Praxis” in der Publikation der Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung “Medien – Macht – Demokratie. Neue Perspektiven” (die online hier zu finden ist)

+ The Power of Open – ein Buch über Erfolgsgeschichten mit “Creative Commons”-Lizenzen

+ Akademische Betrachtungen zum Thema finden sich in “Open Content Licensing – From Theory to Practice“. Darin unter anderem Till Kreutzer: “User-Related Assets and Drawbacks of Open Content Licensing”

+ des Weiteren gibt es die iPhone-App CCStamp, welche die verschiedenen CC-Lizenzen erklärt und dem Nutzer ermöglicht, seine Fotos in sozialen Netzwerken mit dem eigenen Lizenzstempel zu versehen. Und ein Online-Kommentar zu Creative Commons ist in Planung.


May 09 2011

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