The exploding classroom

Will Richardson, one of the most forward-thinking educators I know, has been insisting that open-source sharing will come to education. That and this story on CNet made me check into Wikibooks, Jimmy Wales’ effort to revolutionize textbooks, and even though it’s only beginning, it’s already an amazing collection. Of course, I can’t vouch for the quality, neither reading them nor knowing nearly enough. But there can be little doubt that capturing the wisdom of the wisest crowds, freeing it from its ivy bonds, will create amazing resources. I only wish there were a text for journalism.

  • But there can be little doubt that capturing the wisdom of the wisest crowds, freeing it from its ivy bonds, will create amazing resources.

    Is this a joke? Textbooks are produced by cubicle farms of grad students, and only rarely do the authors listed on the book even given them a cursory read-through before they ship. If the ivy league were responsible for producing all our nation’s textbooks, the system wouldn’t be nearly so messed up as it is today. C.f. this article on textbooks.

  • Jeff, you really prove that you don’t know what your talking about when you write this stuff. Like, hey man, let’s all just sit around think deep thoughts about cocoa farms. Like, hey, the kids in the ghetto, that’s all they need to break free of the bonds of oppressive thoughts.

    Gosh, do you think if it were that easy, it would have been done long ago? When was the last time your friend Will Richardson spent time in a classroom in Ozone Park? Or how about you?

  • “Open-source sharing” is alive and well in education. Consider MIT’s OpenCourseWare project which provides free & open access to many of MIT’s course materials. (Let alone all the course websites and syllabi easily found via a web search)

  • EB

    Jeff, you might also be interested in this site:

    which I heard about on Leo Laporte’s podcast (TWiT, this week in tech) awhile back…. it is not Open Source, but it is about self-publishing books rapidly and free. Just fyi.

  • Jeff,

    Be sure also to check out DOAJ, the Directory of Open Access Journals, a collection of over 1800 internationally peer-reviewed scholarly periodicals available free on the Web. Once dismissed as a utopian experiment that could never possibly be taken seriously by professional academia, the open access phenomenon has exploded over the past couple of years. And as more scholars choose to publish online first with these titles, the more open access journals gain academic respectability and attract even more submissions in a positive feedback loop.

    Many folks in higher education have had it with the publishing conglomerates, who nowadays are merely distributors who add no actual value to the product but only markup after markup. Things like open sourceware and open access journals are just two ways that scholars and educators are attempting to cut out these unneccessary (and not to mention unbelievably expensive) middlemen. I wish them all the best of luck.

  • Amy

    Hi Jeff,

    First of all, I agree with your assessment on Will Richardson. He has pioneered many educators to “think outside the box.” And for that I…and many other teachers are grateful! But I have to take issue with Jenny D., on this one. Her “Will comment” was OFF BASE! I’ll pose two questions…how does she know he hasn’t been in an “ozone park classroom”? And lastly, how does she know what a “REAL” down home ghetto is?” It sounds like she’s trying to PIONEER a cause as a particpant…but not necessarily from someone who has LIVED it. Correct me if I may be wrong. But don’t slam the messenger Jenny. He’s a part of the solution, Not the problem. Unlike some people.

  • I’ve spent years studying poor, disadvantaged schools. Including spending time in them. Trust me when I tell you that a wiki, or a new internet hookup, or open source anything is not going to help fourth graders grapple with the difficult problem of learning difficult comprehension skills.

    It’s lovely that Will, who is a tech guy in an affluent NJ district, brings this to his schools. But for a perfect example of why this isn’t the answer for the most disadvantaged kids, look down the road to Princeton, which was the subject of a blistering NY Times column this week. Princeton has a ton of resources, all types. Yet minority students and poor students there (yes there are some) fail.

    The solution is not to shovel more information resources into schools. The problem is how to teach. How do you translate available resources into working knowledge and cognitive advantage for kids, particularly disadvantaged kids? The students I study are in 4th grade and do not know what a letter looks like. Yes, a standard letter. They have never seen one.

    What I find is that some teachers do remarkably well at leveraging student knowledge using the most scanty of resources. Other teachers are drowning in resources and are unable to really teach.

    That’s the problem.

  • Amy

    I agree that teachers play a pivotal/crucial role in “leveraging student knowledge”. However, it seems as though a teacher who has the unique ability to reach the disadvantaged students in the disadvantaged schools (early on), with the information resources (in the tool-chest) could make great strides and “connections”.

    I’ve actually witnessed students in disadvantaged communities take ownership of their academics through teacher directed online tasks. Now, don’t get me wrong, their day wasn’t saturated, exclusively with “InfoTech overload”. But I can’t imagine disadvantaged students growing up in a world, whereby their future is virtually online and we as educators aren’t ensuring their competency in these areas. Again, the basics are paramount and you’re RIGHT ON about that. But are these minority students in Princeton failing because of the enormity of resources? Or, because of a poor foundation laid early on in their education? You’re though…Effective TEACHING is the Ultimate KEY to solve this problem.

  • Amy

    You’re RIGHT though…

  • Okay, we agree.

    Truth is the teachers are not internet literate either. But that’s for many reasons. One is that there are more pressing problems. Like teaching kids that you open a book cover on the right and that you read text from left to right.

    On the other hand, I think there’s a vast group of middle-class kids, or blue-collar kids who could be well-served by better resources in schools as long as they are well-used by teachers.

    I tend to study the most challenged students, but there’s a group more advantaged than these who could benefit lots from more internet, etc. resources.