Open education reconsidered

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Change the model

What a great article in Sunday’s New York Times about East Mooresville Intermediate School.

A bunch of quotes from the article that stood out to me. First, about the program’s success:

Overwhelmed by requests to view the programs in action, the district now herds visitors into groups of 60 for monthly demonstrations; the waiting list stretches to April.

Impressive.  And:

Mooresville ranks 100th out of 115 districts in North Carolina in terms of dollars spent per student — $7,415.89 a year — but it is now third in test scores and second in graduation rates.

How are they doing it? Every kid gets a laptop. (One Laptop Per Child, one might even say.) And how are those laptops being used?

The difference, teachers and administrators here said, is that they value computers not for the newest content they can deliver, but for how they tap into the oldest of student emotions — curiosity, boredom, embarrassment, angst — and help educators deliver what only people can.

With a curious new method:

Many classrooms have moved from lecture to lattice, where students collaborate in small groups with the teacher swooping in for consultation.

That looks a lot like methods familiar to old hands from the open source world:

Ms. Higgins had the more outgoing students make presentations on the Declaration of Independence, while shy ones discussed it in an online chat room, which she monitored. “I’m not a very social person, but I have no problem typing on a keyboard,” said one of those shy ones, Chase Wilson. “It connected me with other students — opened me up and helped me with talking in public.”

And finally, a great quote epitomizing the nature of the success.

“This is not about the technology,” Mark Edwards, superintendent of Mooresville Graded School District, would tell the visitors later over lunch. “It’s not about the box. It’s about changing the culture of instruction.”

Reminds me of someone who once said: “it’s not a laptop project; it’s an education project.”  Hmm.

Once upon a time, I believed that open source software was the key to improving education.

Then I believed that open source content was the key to improving education.

I now believe that open source practice is the key to improving education — which is the hardest and most important change of all. Thanks to Mooresville for showing us how that might be done.


This article was originally posted on Greg DeKoenisberg Speaks.

Greg DeKoenigsberg is the Vice President of Community for Ansible, where he leads the company's relationship with the broader open source community. Greg brings to Ansible over a decade of open source product and community leadership, with the majority of this time spent building and leading communities for open source leader Red Hat.


I totally agree. The term I use is Open Methodology to distinguish it from source, which often connotes code and product (soft, middle or hard- ware). But, as you point out it is the participation, the contribution and the learning from the experience of collaboration that is paramount. Thanks for sharing the quotes, which neatly illustrate the power and benefits of the practice.

“It’s not about the box. It’s about changing the culture of instruction.” - It says it all. It is high time that we embrace change that would benefit our education system and how we should deal with it.

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