Friday, March 21, 2008

OER week 3 - Philosophical Background

ATC: The World is Flat 1
Originally uploaded by kellypuffs
I work mostly with Swedish folkbildning, part of the Popular education movement that we read about in the introductory material to this part of the course. As I read the different articles (listed at the end of this post) I saw a number of tensions between different elements of society.

One of these tensions is between popular education and formal education. That there is a popular education system in many countries shows a belief that the formal education system is lacking in some ways. The Swedish parliament funds folkbildning because:

The Swedish parliament sees that the formal education system, for whatever reasons, does not fulfil all the needs of society. That this is so can clearly be seen in present developments within adult education. Formal adult education is seen more and more as a tool for economic development, with the cultural and democratic development of adults being left to popular education.

Within the library system there is a tension between public libraries and other more specialised forms of library, such as the university library. In some parts of the world the public library system is being questioned with regard to “value for money”. Do “the public” need to be able to borrow whatever books they want to? Should the system be restricted to “Good and worthy Books”? These arguments are reflected in the debate typified by Andrew Keen’s “The Cult of the Amateur” and James Surowiecki’s “The Wisdom of Crowds”. These ongoing questions are reflections of debates within the Enlightenment. Is knowledge something to be restricted to a certain group or can “the crowds” be trusted with knowledge? (Or even with the creation of knowledge!)

Open educational resources are also a part of that debate. Are educational resources best left to experts, or can the crowds also provide high quality resources

Although it is not mentioned in the article on public libraries one of the forces behind the development of the public lending library was the falling cost of books. While books were very expensive to produce it was not possible to lend them out but once the cost came down to a level where the loss of a book was not a disaster the lending library became a possibility. With the development of digital materials the cost of “owning” or providing books and other materials has sunk dramatically. This offers an alternative to the lending library which is excellent news in parts of the world where such things are not on offer, although the downside of that equation is that questioning of the need for libraries even in the developed world!

This worldwide access to information has led us nearer to the global village, or as Thomas Friedman writes in "The World is Flat", nearer to a level playing field.

What my reading has shown me is that there is a broad philosophical background to the OER movement, which is not to say that it is universally accepted or universally popular. I have mentioned one philosophical ongoing debate about the wisdom of OER and there are other forces in the world, economic and political, who are not in favour of free access to information for all, but that is perhaps the subject of another posting!


1 comment:

Peter Rawsthorne said...

Kieth and I ended up both making reference to the world being flat as we drew closure to this weeks OER assignment. I'm beginning to wonder if the world is concave, the further from the center you are the more difficult it becomes to stay there.