Hello all and Happy New Year to you all as 2024 kicks off!
I live in Perth, Australia, and I’ve been serving on the OE Global Board for the last few years. You might know me as the founder and CEO of Moodle (the open source LMS), although I’ve recently retired from the CEO role so I can move into a full-time position as Head of Research at Moodle, so this year is going to be exciting for me as I’ll have a lot more time to focus and study optimal ways to use new technologies such as AI and AR to support open education. I’m also the founder of the Open EdTech Association.
I know you’re all believers in Open Education, that’s why we’re here, but there are a lot of different things included under that banner, such as OER, Open Pedagogy, Open Data, Open Science and Open Practices.
The one I’d like to remind you about, as you make decisions in all the others, is Open Education Technology.
Something I see a lot is: a laudable Open Education initiative chooses to create information in proprietary Microsoft or Google platforms, or use some proprietary platform like WhatsApp or a startup at something.com to implement their initiative. The justification is usually “Well, we don’t have a lot of technical skills” or “It’s still free for people to access so who cares” or “it’s the platform that most people are already using anyway so we should stick to that”
I do understand these arguments, and I know how hard it can be to implement Open initiatives at all: sometimes there’s barely enough energy/funding/knowledge just to get them out there as it is.
However, I do want to just point out there’s a risk you’re introducing when we do things on non-open infrastructure:
- the prices may be low now but they will climb and exclude even more of the people who may need your project the most
- because someone else controls the platform, you may lose access entirely to it, sometimes with very short notice
- even on seemingly “free” services, the data and privacy of those who use it are at risk. Your forcing teachers and students to share their data on these services in order to access your project is not great.
There is an ongoing war in the world between open and non-open, and if you really believe in fighting for the open side and building a better future for education, then I encourage you to do everything you can to make your projects as open as you possibly can, including the stack of technologies and document formats that you choose. That little extra effort will support those who create open technologies and will help us all in the war to make openness the default (rather than yet more walls, restrictions, inequality, digital colonisation etc)
In many cases you’ll find these open alternatives actually have better features - once people have taken the time to try the client they were not familiar with or to learn a slightly different way of doing things.
If you have some tech choices to make in your projects this year, why not share your thoughts here and let us see if we can collectively help you out?