Open education: tons of potential, but does it let governments off the hook?

In our #EC&I831 course, we recently had a guest speaker, Alan Levine (@cogdog on Twitter), join us to talk about open education. In short, the essential understanding is that education and education resources have an opportunity to become more open-sourced, and not limited to the prescribed resources of the day. The conversation was intriguing, as a lot of what was discussed is also prevalent in my own teaching practices: resources losing relevance, and a struggle to find quality replacements or supplements for them. I can’t be the only one to experience this, so in that sense, this conversation could be relevant to all teachers.

In addition to this week’s meeting, I perused some additional resources related to open education. I had a listen to Lawrence Lessig’s TED talk, “Laws that Choke Creativity”. His premise, that society can combat the idea of a “read-only culture.. a culture which is top-down, owned, where the vocal chords of the millions have been lost” (1:08), can be seen in the efforts surrounding open education. Alan’s idea that education can be truly free and available for everyone rings true here, as well.

Now, having said that, I tend to always think about these ideas can actually play out. The more I think about open education, a couple, perhaps unfounded, concerns pop up. First, with the emergence of all sorts of different educational tools and strategies, I wonder if there is a possibility the education actually becomes less cohesive, and potentially even more inequitable, if there are too many different pathways to try to navigate. I’m not saying this because of a sense of self-preservation for the teaching profession, I suppose my concern is that the value society has of the entire education sector decreases.

This leads me to my second point: if the onus is on individual teachers to find, curate, and perfect the entirety of their teaching resources, I feel this may let provincial governments, who are supposed to be responsible for provisioning school divisions, and by extension, teachers, with the resources needed for their success, off the hook. I can’t back this up with any supplemental evidence, and I’m not going full conspiracy-theorist, but it’s something I wonder about as educational resources continue to be revised and made openly available. I use some of these myself (I’ve used CK-12 many times, for example), so I’m not advocating for minimizing the open education future. I just hope that we, as teachers and society at large, can make the most of the open education movement while still enshrining the capacity of teachers and the public education sector to give every student the means to develop as young people with positive futures ahead of them.


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