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open source

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Open Educational Resources

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What are they? They are part of the whole ‘open’ movement. So far I have mentioned open source, where a program developer or writer allows the source code (the blueprint, let’s say) of their program to be freely available for anyone to use or modify. Well, open educational resources (OER) adhere to the same ideals, they are resources for education – everything from whole courses to lesson plans, to handouts and more – that are made freely available by their creators or developers. All in all, very cool for educators!

If you want a snazzier definition, here is one from the OER Commons, found via Doug Belshaw and the OER infoKit:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online for everyone to use, whether you are an instructor, student or self-learner. Examples of OER include: full courses, course modules, syllabi, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, lab and classroom activities, pedagogical materials, games, simulations, and many more resources contained in digital media collections from around the world.

The aim of the infoKit seems to be as a guide for people who want to be or who are involved in using OER. My personal favourite page is this one – the guide to finding OERs 🙂

The OER infoKit is aimed at sites of higher education. There are OER for us in lower educational contexts 😉 A future post will collect some information and links about those.

Open Source & Education

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One of the reasons I am so drawn to Ubuntu and an open source philosophy is that it reflects my own philosophy of education. That learning is a shared experience, it is collaborative and it happens in relationship. Because of that it makes sense for me to use Ubuntu and open source software as opposed to other operating systems and software that are not collaborative.

In open source, people who develop software and programs allow and expect other people to see the code that was used to create them as well as to make changes to it.

Anyone can use open source program code to make their own ‘new’ programs or just to tweak it to be more to their liking.

With companies like Microsoft and Apple, they don’t allow access to their program code precisely because they don’t want people to make their own programs based on it. If the code for itunes was made publicly available then Apple’s fear is that they will make less money as others began to make itunes-like applications.

Open resources are free, of course donations are always welcome :). This makes technology resources more accessible to more people, thus leveling the playing field for students and schools with different access to funding. If you are teaching a photography class you do not need to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on obtaining site licenses for programs like photoshop. You can get similar programs for free. I use the GIMP. Heck, if you want you can even challenge your students to download the GIMP source code and try to make it better! Talk about being creative!

In my classroom I encourage sharing, borrowing, creating, supporting, collaborating, and questioning. All aspects of open source philosophy. So it makes sense for me to use open resources in my classroom, in my home.

But what does that look like?

The next few posts will be about answering that question:

In the meantime, take a look at these sites to learn more about open resources and education.

SchoolForge.net – Education software for schools: free software, open source

CanOpenER – Canadian Open Source Education and Research.

How the Open Source Movement Has Changed Education: 10 Success Stories

Edubuntu– Ubuntu’s solution for students, teachers, classrooms, and schools

Ubuntu is not scary

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Really. It isn’t.

Especially now, this latest version of the Ubuntu operating system (known as the latest ‘release’) was so simple to install. It took barely a few minutes and I was good to go. AND that was with a development version, meaning it isn’t even the full release! There have been times in the past where a lot of tweaking had to be done to make things work but with each release that has improved and so far I have had to do no tweaking to make this one work for me. None. It’s working right out of the box. Amazing.

The full release is scheduled for the end of April, 2010. Ubuntu always names its releases after when it is released. So this one will be known as Ubuntu 10.04 aka Lucid Lynx. The previous version was Ubuntu 9.10 aka Karmic Koala, which was released in October, 2009.

My mission with this website is twofold:

1) to dispute the argument that Ubuntu is too difficult to use compared to the alternatives. If I can figure it out, anyone can!

2) to help others by sharing how I use and learn about Ubuntu and other open source projects.

Read on if you care about my own story with Ubuntu…
I started with Ubuntu in February of 2007 and haven’t looked back. Really. At first I was very lucky to have friends like Cyrille (in French) and John who helped me understand the things I didn’t. And of course I spent a lot of time on the Ubuntu Forums finding solutions to my questions. I was amazed at how the Ubuntu community immediately stepped up to help someone they didn’t know. And that is where I discovered the true value of Ubuntu. Not only is it an operating system that I trust to work how and when I want it, but I believe in what it stands for, its philosophy.

Ubuntu is an African word meaning ‘Humanity to others’, or ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’. The Ubuntu distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world.

Tracy