Shuttleworth leads global open education drive
Today sees the launch of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration which aims to make learning and teaching materials freely available online, to improve the quality of education in schools in South Africa and the rest of the world, leveraging the potential for open collaboration on the Web.
The declaration resulted from a meeting organised by the the Shuttleworth Foundation and the Open Society Institute in Cape Town last September and it already has some high-profile international signatories, including Ubuntu’s Mark Shuttleworth, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, Lawrence Lessig of Creative Commons and musician Peter Gabriel.
Although named after Cape Town, this declaration is part of a global initiative to encourage governments and publishers worldwide to make all of their publicly funded materials freely available online. That the declaration has already been translated into 15 languages so far is testament to its global reach.As part of the declaration, teachers and students worldwide are urged to use the web to share, remix and translate classroom materials to make education more accessible, effective, and flexible. Part of the motivation behind this effort is to overcome challenges faced by low-income and far-flung areas in accessing educational materials, giving students unlimited access to high quality and constantly improving course materials.
“Open education allows every person on earth to access and contribute to the vast pool of knowledge on the web,” said Wales, who was also one of the authors of the declaration. “Everyone has something to teach and everyone has something to learn.”
The concept of open education combines the open source aspects of allowing free access to the source and the freedom to make changes together with a focus on the learners that allows them to provide feedback and become more deeply involved in the teaching process. Through this collaboration the aim is to provide educational materials that are individually tailored to best suit the needs of the learners.
“Open sourcing education doesn’t just make learning more accessible, it makes it more collaborative, flexible and locally relevant,â€ said Shuttleworth. “Linux is succeeding exactly because of this sort of adaptability. The same kind of success is possible for open education.” (To view a video press briefing given by Shuttleworth, go to http://capetowndeclaration.blip.tv)
“I am particularly pleased that this launch is taking place in Africa, because Africa represents both the greatest opportunity for transformation if we get this right and perhaps the greatest risk if we fail, to really open the doors of knowledge and learning to all in the world today,” he added.
“Cultural diversity and local knowledge are a critical part of open education,” said Eve Gray of the Centre for Educational Technology at the University of Cape Town. “Countries like South Africa need to start producing and sharing educational materials built on their own diverse cultural heritage. Open education promises to make this kind of diverse publishing possible.”
Readers are encouraged to sign the declaration, which can be done here.
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