Open Education: Reading Response March 6, 2016

This week’s readings and videos on The Open Education Movement were fascinating and

intriguing for me. I value creativity personally and professionally. I believe strongly in collaboration for teachers and students; that two heads are better than one; that true synergy is powerful and transformative.

We have the ability to connect, collaborate and create more than ever before in history. However, the resistance of government and big business are drastically slowing and preventing the possibilities that exist.

The video that stood out the most for me was The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. Surprisingly, I had never heard of Aaron Swartz  and I found his story to be both inspiring and heartbreaking. Aaron was an amazing individual. His own obsession with knowledge, his belief that the world’s collective knowledge should be free and available to the world and his desire to fight for social justice resulted in tragedy. This was a tragedy not just for Aaron’s family but for the world, as we lost this bright star who may have made unimaginable breakthroughs in our world, had he been able to see his visions become reality.

The resistance to open access from the government and big business is terrifying. Aaron apparently was trying to make electronic documents about American law free and available to the public. As a result he became a threat. This should cause average citizens to wonder “what are they hiding?”. Shouldn’t the law be transparent? What would be the reason for a government to make it difficult for the public to gain knowledge that could help them gain justice for themselves? I’m sure you will come to your own conclusions.

I wondered if Canadian laws about open access were similar to American laws.  I found some information on Wikipedia and The Government of Canada website where you can find the Access to Information Act.  From the quick research I did, I found that it does not seem easy to gain access to government documents, as one must request these documents in writing, and permission to access them may or may not be given.  I did find some optimistic information at The Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences and The University of Ottawa. If you have any knowledge about the Canadian perspective, I would be interested to hear it.

This topic infuriates and scares me. I don’t believe in settling for the status quo. I believe we should participate in democracy and continually be ensuring that our world is fair and just for all. However, standing up for any cause has potential, sometimes catastrophic consequences, as exemplified by the story of Aaron Swartz. And it doesn’t matter if you’re on the side of what is right. It causes me to question how far I should go in standing up for what is right?

Picture courtesy of Reddit

Even something as simple as speaking out for progressive education or advocating for students can have social and professional repercussions.

I am glad that there are individuals fighting for open access and that the Creative Commons exists. However, we still have a long way to go.

This week’s readings and videos reminded me of some readings from previous weeks. I was reminded of The Theory of Multiples as explained in Clive Thomson’s Article Why Even the Worst Bloggers are Making us Smarter. Clive states, “When you can resolve multiples and connect people with similar obsessions, ideas flourish and multiply”.  Why would we want to prevent this?

I was also reminded of Attention and the 21st Century, especially, the idea of “crap detection”. Aaron Swartz was very good at crap detection. Unfortunately, it got him into a lot of trouble and cost him his life. I hope we can all detect crap when we see it (and it is everywhere, isn’t it?). What do we about it when we see it? That is the critical question. I struggle with it daily. What I do about the crap I detect varies, depending on my energy and courage at the time. It ranges from simple reflection to speaking up or informing students and my children. I have not taken any further action, although I am passionate about many social causes. As educators, I think we feel obligated to represent the values of the school system, even though they may not always be congruent with our personal beliefs. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences about “crap detection” and action for a open education and other causes.

Cartoon of the discovery of the inverse impact law exhibit in the pre-modern hall of the science history museum
Picture courtesy of Absolutely Maybe: PLOS Blogs

Danah Boyd’s article Open Access is the Future: Boycott Locked-Down Academic Journals also really made me think. It made me wonder about my own thesis research. I will certainly be cognizant about my choices of journal articles and resources as a result.



This week’s readings have left me somewhat unsettled.  Amazing potential exists for progress and innovation. I would love to be part of it. But how?  And at what cost?

Picture courtesy of We Beat The System



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