Other People’s Good Ideas

Give It A Voice

python cartoon from xkcd

Image credit, xkcd

Computer Science textbooks aren’t always the most exciting learning materials in the world. But research shows that people learn better when they’re having a good experience. After some discussions, we decided that it would be good to create a character who would deliver the messages - a kind of steampunk International MOOC of Mystery. The irony was intentional - we wanted people to understand that a machine was talking to them, as if other MOOCs weren’t machines! It also allowed those who were writing the text to have a bit of fun, with an anchor for for presenting content that, if you’re not careful, can come across like different shades of eggshell paint.

P2PU, How We Made The Mechanical MOOC - Freerange Learning With a Mechanical Guide

What Does Collaborative Content Creation Look Like?

This slide deck walks through how to design activities for learners to create the content with each other. Folks were asked to design community-centered websites based on their interests. Check out all the awesome wireframes folks made!

Content is the Residue between Learners

In other words, the Internet Course, and ds106 before it, were not designed around pre-determined content, often packaged as textbooks (so much of the open education movement is still premised on this idea of the authoritative text), but rather on an open educational experience. For example, in ds106 students could choose from a series of assignments, create their own, and navigate a series of resources other shared, etc. But that wasn’t a text in any strict sense, content as a concept was far more elastic and slippery that this hulking, unmoveable metaphor of insfrastrucutre. It was constantly negotiable, remixable, and fluid in its relevance. In the Internet Course there is no pre-exisiting syllabus or readings, rather the students in the course immediately start brainstorming a set of topics and then start researching and reinforcing what was what. Content plays a crucial role, no doubt, but it’s not predetermined or pre-existing in it’s layout like this idea of infrastructure.

Jim Groom, Is Content Infrastructure or the Residue of Social Learning?

Content as Infrastructure

And finally, we have to understand that content is infrastructure to see current “open educational resources” projects and initiatives from the proper perspective. The OpenCourseWares, the Connexions, the GLOBEs, and all the other repositories of open educational resources in the world are critical infrastructure. As such, they are necessary conditions for revolutionizing education. The revolution can not happen without them. However, open content itself is by no means a sufficient condition for the revolution to succeed. So much more is needed! The list above includes only a handful of what needs to be worked on (localization, translation, low-bandwidth delivery, accreditation, degrees, certificates, support, tutors, study group locators).

David Wiley, Content as Infrastructure


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