Framing our Open EdTech project

There was a great series of blog posts between Dave Winer and Joi Ito this past weekend about the Open Web that touched on the role of universities in the Open Web. You can read Ito’s first post, Winer’s response, and Ito’s followup.

A few things struck me reading this exchange between two web luminaries. First, both are having a good old fashioned blog dialogue on the open web in spaces they each own and control, and because of that I get to reap the benefit of overhearing their conversation. This gives me a better understanding of how two people who are deeply connected to the web are feeling about the web today. Their transparency working in the open brings to me a bit of their knowledge about the state of the web. And clearly, they are both feeling the web that they know – the web that allows exactly this sort of free flow of dialogue – is being threatened by more and more closed spaces.

The second thing that struck me was the list of call to action points that Dave Winer posted as one way to combat the closing of the Open Web.

  1. Every university should host at least one open source project.
  2. Every news org should build a community of bloggers, starting with a river of sources.
  3. Every student journalist should learn how to set up and run a server.

I’d actually expand the third point to include many more people, including first and foremost, any academic or researcher.

But it’s the first point that caught my eye and made me wonder how many open source projects are being hosted by BC higher ed institutions? And how many of those are specific to teaching and learning?

I know that UBC and RRU have public open portals that showcase some of the open work being done at those institutions. I imagine there are many many more at not only those institutions, but others around the province being spearheaded and/or contributed to by staff, students and faculty. I’d be interested to hear about them, and if you know, please leave a comment below.

It was a timely series of posts to read for me as I have been working with Grant, Brian, Tannis and Val on crafting a vision & plan for our open collaborative educational technologies in BC higher ed group (OCETBCHE? We really need to come up with a name), and one of the goals I have of our work is to see an increased level of interest across our system in the use of OSS for teaching and learning.

To frame our work, I’ve been looking for some high level documents that articulate the importance of OSS in an educational context. One of the strongest statements I have found about the importance of OSS in education (that also connects quite nicely with the BCcampus mandate of open education in general) is a paragraph in the Capetown Declaration.

For many working in open education, the Capetown Declaration on Open Education as a defining document in the field. While it is often connected most explicitly to open education resources, there is also a section in the document that speaks directly to software and technology that doesn’t seem to get the same level of attention as the sections about OER’s.

However, open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues.

Building on this principle, I’ve been thinking about the purposes of our working group, and I’ve come up with a few ideas of why we want to do this.

  1. To promote the use of open source applications focused on teaching & learning. While there are numerous commercial vendors promoting the use of commercial software, numerous open source applications get overlooked because there are no vendors selling & marketing OSS.
  2. To provide practical solutions to educators wishing to employ open education pedagogies that build on network learning principles.
  3. To promote inter-institutional collaboration. OSS relies on the development of communities of developers and users in order to be successful. The success comes from sharing knowledge about how the software is constructed and can be pedagogically utilized. The software becomes the focal point around which a community can develop.
  4. To provide a pathway for institutions and educators to actively participate in OSS projects that are focused on EDU OSS.  Pathways to participate in OSS projects can sometime be obtuse and difficult to maneuver, meaning educators may not want to, or feel welcome to, participate in EDU OSS projects. This group can provide support for those who wish to dive deeper and participate in specific community projects, and in ways that are not just software development. This provides benefit to the OSS project as it can bring new members into the community, and active involvement in OSS communities strengthens the software, the community developing & maintaining the software, and the long term sustainability of the software.
  5. To encourage technological autonomy and provide ways for students, faculty and institutions to own and control their own data.
  6. To lower the barrier to participation on the open web for faculty and students.
  7. To provide value to other higher ed support systems within BC (think specifically of utilizing services like BCNet’s EduCloud).

It’s my start at trying to define some of what I am hoping we can do here in BC over the next little while.

Photo: I support the Open Web by Bob Chao CC-BY-NC-SA


Clint Lalonde

Just a guy writing some stuff, mostly for me these days on this particular blog. For my EdTech/OpenEd stuff, check out


3 thoughts on “Framing our Open EdTech project

  1. What a fabulous initiative. This is going to take us to new and better places in BC and also inspire many others. Keep up the amazing work, Clint, Grant, Brian, Tannis, Val and all the rest of you BCcampus ed-tech stars!

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