US Department of State unveils Open Book Project | Opensource.com

US Department of State unveils Open Book Project

Posted 15 Feb 2013 by 

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In late January, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled the Open Book Project (remarks, project page, press notice), an initiative to expand access to free, high-quality educational materials in Arabic, with a particular focus on science and technology. These resources will be released under open licenses that allow their free use, sharing, and adaptation to local context.

The initiative will:

  • Support the creation of Arabic-language Open Educational Resources (OER) and the translation of existing OER into Arabic.
  • Disseminate the resources free of charge through project partners and their platforms.
  • Offer training and support to governments, educators, and students to put existing OER to use and develop their own.
  • Raise awareness of the potential of OER and promote uptake of online learning materials.

Creative Commons is proud to be a part of the Open Book Project, partnering with the Department of State; the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization; and our open colleagues around the world. CC licenses are core to OER, providing the world’s teachers and students the rights needed to legally reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute educational resources. When education content is CC licensed, it may be legally translated into (or from) Arabic and any other language. Using CC licenses provides an unprecedented opportunity to ensure OER are able to bridge cultures and fill educational gaps that exist on a global, regional, and local level.

In Clinton’s words, "Talent is universal, but opportunity is not. It’s incumbent upon all of us to keep opening doors of opportunity, because walking through it may be a young man or young woman who becomes a medical researcher and discovers a cure for a terrible disease, becomes an entrepreneur, or becomes a professor who then creates the next generation of those who contribute.

When digital learning resources can be openly licensed and shared for the marginal cost of $0, many educators believe we collectively have an ethical and moral obligation to do so. Congratulations to all of the partners who will work together to help more people access high quality, affordable educational resources.

Note: Video and full text are available of Secretary Clinton's speech.

Originally published on creativecommons.org and republished using Creative Commons.

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6 Comments

AC

So, free leftist propaganda for the Arabs? How nice.

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Luis Ibanez
Open Source Sensei

Very concise comment AC,....but no,
that's not a good summary of what this article is about.

The article describes an initiative to make educational resources available to the public all over the world.

"...harnessing the connective power of technology to give as many people as possible access to the highest-quality learning materials is a good idea whose time has come..."

This is what the Wikipedia is about, what Khan Academy, TED, OpenCourseWare, the Open Access movement, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), are all about:

"Making Education available to Everyone"

Why does it have to be free for people to access ?

Because imposing any price to access it will raise barriers that will prevent these resources from reaching their final destinations. We are talking about making education available to individuals who live on less than $1 a day, sometimes much less than that. They, I assure you, do not have credit cards.

This doesn't mean that it is Free to create and produce these resources. There is certainly a cost to it, and here is where understanding basic concepts of Economics is important. I do get paid for preparing college level classes. Once I have prepared a college class, and recorded it in Video, it cost the same to let 100 people watch it, than to let 10 million people watch it. Therefore, at that point, imposing restrictions to its distribution is actually a waste of the resources that were invested in creating the materials in the first place.

We *already* invest the resources needed to create these materials, since we *already* teach those courses anyway. In fact, I have to interrupt my weekend of creating online materials for a Databases and a Web Development classes at college level, in order to address your comment here.

Why does it have to be available in Arabic?

Because Arabic is spoken as a first language by more than 280 million people, and as a second language by another 250 million.

The fact that the resources are made available in Arabic is simply a matter of making them accessible to people in their native languages, instead of expecting them to be fluent in English.

These same resources are being translated to many other languages. Just as the Wikipedia is available in 285 languages:
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/List_of_Wikipedias

Khan Academy videos have been translated to more than 20 languages (including Farsi, Arabic, Greek, Spanish, Polish and Mandarin ).
http://www.youtube.com/user/KhanAcademyLanguages

TED Videos have been translated (by volunteers) to more than 100 languages:
http://www.ted.com/translate/languages

One can not expect that an 8 years old girl in Ecuador, will be fluent in English, and therefore exclude her from high quality education, just because we imposed an artificial language barrier on the resources that we publish online.

English is the native language of only 5% of the world's population:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_number_of_native_speakers

The world is a much more diverse place than what we tend to think.

Finally,

Labelling Education as "leftist propaganda" is quite simplistic, and it is propagandistic in itself.

Let's not forget that Education is a Human Right, not a privilege to be reserved only for English native speakers who carry credit cards.

We have come a long way, we are not in the 1950's any more, the cold war is over. We now live in a networked world where Economics are based on services, and knowledge-based production. Here and now, having Education available to every one is essential, and Openness is the Economically Smart way to get there.

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Peter B.

I'll dip a toe in here, since you provided an interesting and useful reply, Luis.

While I found the article's lead off around Arabic a bit odd, the second half provided the background around the Open Book project provided the broader context.

It's Luis's comments that made me think more about remuneration of academic and other education/research professionals in the public sphere. As Luis's mentions, since the marginal cost of distribution is effectively zero, why not distribute it freely?

I am not an academic, but I am married to one. Given the budget constraints faced by universities in my country (Canada), I am concerned that the free distribution of content, carried to its logical conclusion, will affect the ability of professional public educators and researchers to earn a living. Worse still, I believe the push towards open access will actually push future graduate students towards private sector research institutes, which will most certainly have restrictions on the distribution of their intellectual property without economic incentive.

However, I'm not immune to the arguments that Luis makes around the importance of universal access to education, regardless of financial situation. It's simply too important to neglect the opportunity to improve the livelihoods of literally billions of people through improved access to educational resources.

If the ability to pay should not restrict access to online courseware, is the opposite not also true? That is, if you can pay, should you not in order to fairly compensate academics (and their supporting institutions) for their investment?

This creates a somewhat terrifying situation where every academic is constantly competing with their peers for both research dollars and student tuition, but the potential market is so much larger, maybe that will even out in the end. Maybe.

I've seen how this outsourcing model can drive down marginal costs, as the labour pool expands beyond national borders. Starting with IT, we have seen crowd- and outsourcing applied to legal, translation, finance, photography and yes, even research initiatives. This has caused significant changes to various industries.

I don't have an answer, but it seems there is a danger in universal access to education via the Internet. The initial adoption will work well for both teachers and students, but over time, without new sources of revenue, the number of trained academics will shrink, even as the demand for education increases.

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Common Sense

What could be more important as we amass historic amounts of debt than expanding "access to free, high-quality educational materials in Arabic, with a particular focus on science and technology?" Argh. Did I stumble upon the Onion without realizing it? Certainly this can't be real?

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Unidentified

I would think that a higher priority would be to provide "access to free, high-quality educational materials" to people in our own country who are lacking a good education, and to try to improve the general public's understanding of STEM topics.

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Unidentified

So... since I am in college right now and pay in excess of several hundred dollars per book... they plan to provide me with free books? Or just to foreign nationals and people who are not US citizens or able to fluently speak English?

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Cable Green is the Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons. He is responsible for setting strategic direction and priorities to build a global movement that will enable robust and vibrant practices and policies for free sharing of education and learning assets.

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