Wrong forest

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Invitation to Step Back and Look at this from a Different Perspective

This page augments the discussion on the Open Education Declaration - and reflects a posting on the UNESCO mailing list intended to challenge the thinking a little bit.

Wrong Forest

Let me start by congratulating the team who drew up the declaration. It is always good to know of some of the leading lights getting together to brainstorm the way forward in these changing and challenging times when there are so many perspectives to accommodate.

I have been in touch with the Open Education movement since late 2005 when I joined the IIEP/UNESCO OER mailing list. What a great introduction to the world of OER that was!

In that short time I have observed tremendous progress in this community from discussions of great ideas to implementation and early adoption - a dynamic community, doing great things on both theoretical and practical levels, learning, and progressing through sharing.

For an excellent overview see:

Regarding the declaration, I have a question for discussion:

Would it add any value to use the word "libre" in the declaration to disambiguate "free"? We usually mean "libre" (free as in freedom) and not necessarily "gratis".

Perhaps re-label the declaration to "Cape Town Libre and Open Education Declaration"?

Comment will be welcome on some of the rationale outlined below.

  1. Clarity: the word "free" is often assumed to mean "gratis" instead of "free as in freedom" (libre).
  2. "Open source" has gained a lot of media attention and success in the software industry, and has been part of the inspiration behind the OER movement. This is great, but it seems unfortunate that the more philosophical/ethical underpinnings of the free software movement are not emphasised a bit more in the transfer into the education space. ("open source" emphasises the practical benefits of collaborative software development, rather than respecting users' freedom to copy-modify-mix and share which is central to the emerging world of networked learning). The declaration could be more inclusive (and far reaching) by relabelling it to "The Cape Town Libre and Open Education Declaration" - in the same way that the term "FLOSS" is including both the free software community and the open source community.
  3. To shift the balance of emphasis towards the learners (currently, the emphasis in the declaration seems to be towards the educators):

Pedagogically, what we are seeing is the emergence of a copy-modify-mix and share culture (rip-mix-burn) - a form of social constructionist learning, knowledge creation and cultural development. The Open Education movement is doing a lot towards this but in a global context we need to do more and focus on the learners ... the billions that will be connected in the next decade ... many of whom will not have access to teachers and the services of a formal education system capable of meeting their needs.

Apart from developing their own locally relevant knowledge resources, those they find on the Internet will be of most value if they are "libre resources" that may be used for any purpose, localised and enhanced (quality is contextual) and shared.

The wording in the declaration is generally compatible with "libre resources":

"Libre implies freedom to access, read, listen to, watch, or otherwise experience the resource; to learn with, copy, perform, adapt and use it for any purpose; and to contribute and share enhancements or derived works".

But not all OER are "libre" - for example, those licensed CC-BY-NC-SA, or CC-BY-NC-ND, etc. These may be "open" but not "libre" as they do not extend all the core freedoms (to use, adapt, enhance and share to help oneself, one's neighbour and community).

So, say "libre" when that is what is meant (and "open" when there is some restriction on the user's freedom). See Say Libre for more background on this line of thinking,

and a draft "libre declaration" which concisely states the core freedoms, a manifesto and declaration.

Hopefully the two declarations will be mutually reinforcing.