Open Source Learning

I am not a techy, nor do I want to be one. However, as their language grows more ubiquitous, I am drawn towards the concepts presented therein. For instance, take “Web 2.0”. From my understanding, Web 2.0 describes

a social phenomenon referring to an approach to creating and distributing Web content itself, characterized by open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom to share and re-use, and “the market as a conversation”.

I am interested in having a discussiong that takes those central tenants and applies them to the act of learning as a deliberative process. Think of this:
* Open communication between the student and the educator
* Decentralization of authority among learners, educators, and administrators
* Freedom to share and re-use in the classroom, and
* Education as a conversation

This is a truly radical proposition; however, its footed in history. The “free school” movement described by Jonathan Kozol in his book of the same name operated on many of these ideas; so does Summerhill School in the UK and Sudbury Valley in Massachussetts. However, I would like to consider the radical re-exploration of the role of deliberative learning processes in the face of the Internet and the continued “gappening” of American schools, where mostly brown and low-income students are crowded into educational asylums/prisons, and where their communities are under-resourced to the point of suffocation. What is the role of the computer in meeting the needs of these students?

I have no false conceptions about the inadequacy of the Internet and the inability of most low-income people to obtain use of computers. “I’m from the hood, stupid- what types of facts is those?” But I am also from a place of hope, a place of consideration that wants to see these ICTs as more than a tool of oppression, actively impressing neoliberalism throughout the lands.

Here’s to hope. Now, can someone tell me about Open Source Learning?


  1. Working for a poetry program called Pongo Publishing in Seattle with incarcerated youth in King County, they received a whole swath of new computers off the truck from the Gates Foundation, all in a day. If they had a choice, I think those kids would have preferred a room without a teacher and just a computer to thrash about the World Wide Web or to crank out some free form poetry. These kids were brilliant and quite proficient with the computer, probably most self taught without a lick of having time in a computer related class. Of course their freedoms are limited, stifled by a panopticon phenomenon of teachers and guards all in the same room and around each blinding corner. Yes, all income levels should have a crack at the computer, at least a computer does not cast judgment, hang expectations, or tell you what you can and cannot do.What adults allow students to do freely on a computer, is a whole other question? And for for what purpose does the computer serve in the process of “education, would be a whole other topic?”

  2. Education… the other other topic.

    Yeah, you’re right. Self-driven learning is a workable tool that can- and when presented, does- work in every situation.

    The relationship of that belief to the formalized process of education is another story, though, because of the rigamoro involved. I have watched schools choke on their own inadequacies in the last five years as they grapple with standardized learning, responding with standardized teaching. I’m afraid that reality kills any possibility of self-teaching in most schools- although I know there are exceptions.

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