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Who wants an open source curriculum based Education?

Inspired by Clay Shirky's recent open source talk, I thought about having an educational curriculum that is open sourced to students. Wouldn't it be exciting if students are taught to take ownership of their own learning journey. No more vague and unhelpful teacher feedback, instead students come into educational institutions knowing that their perspective counts and that they are in charge of their learning. Conceptual.understanding at their pace and language.

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    Sep 26 2012: The education system should not be at the mercy of trendsetters as in pop culture. There is something about authority and curriculum that makes the present education system work. It is not perfect; it has its failings; and teachers are usually blamed for most of its failings.

    But students who perform poorly will always have someone or something or the system to blame. The present system has had success stories, and also its fair share of failures.
    And so will whatever rosy idea that we have in mind now.

    If there is to be a game there has to be rules and there has to be an authority. The idea of students to be in charge of their learning means that assessment is on the student's term; and we all know that assessment needs to have a criteria and an authority.

    Nothing good comes easy; and so if we are looking for a system that would be approved by students because of its comfort and convenience; and that allows students to get stuck in their comfort zones; we are about to produce a worse educational system.
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      Sep 26 2012: I think we need more teachers like Stephen Ritz:
    • Sep 26 2012: I think Feyisayo hit the bulls-eye of my proposition, authority is a taught concept, although more often than not, the concept of authority is part of a hidden curriculum. That is why I like the idea of an open-source curriculum, concepts like Authority will only be scrutinised in a paradigm where everyone can have an input. What is authority? How is it best taught? You can't just condition students to fearing or obeying their teachers without jeopardising their creativity or critical thinking. Isn't the call for a revolution of how education is brought about from the need to have a more critical, whole-rounded learner?

      In my paradigm, curriculums will still exist, but the discourse of what should be prioritise, the scope and sequence, that would be the bone of contention, that which I believe will attract great input that will lead to improvement. Students from the onset will be taught through scaffolds that aim to ultimately get them to take control of their own learning.

      Actually, a lot of what I am saying is already happening within the IB classroom where students are taught with the aim of conceptual understanding in mind. I just want to take it a step further and say that all this data should be made available to all the stakeholders. Inquiring minds are engaged and proactively encourage to take action.

      As to the assertion that in this system, students might get stuck in their comfort zones, minds that are engaged do not have comfort zones. I think the biggest fallout if this form of educational system is even to be conceived of, is that teachers, parents, all the stakeholders of education, will be forced to rethink everything they know. Gone will be the days when a teacher can just recycle knowledge, or give minimum feedback like a tick and a cross, in this paradigm, if one where to be a teacher, he or she would have to equipped with the conceptual understanding of a lesson and will truly have to engage their students.
      • Sep 27 2012: What if the learner was the subject and the expert of the curriculum? What if the learner is the authority? What if the curriculum was developed around the learner's personal or professional interests? Or the problems that needed to be solved were "How can I find a job?", "What does success mean to me?" and "How can I be successful?" Personalization has been realized in almost every other sector, accept Education.
        • Sep 27 2012: Learner and Teacher are roles within a design. In order for a learner to take charge of his or her own learning, he she must first be taught various pedagogies effective for different learning processes. Student curriculum control must still be guided for learning to be effective, if curriculum were a car, there is a huge difference between a driver and an expert mechanic. If we are expected to be lifelong independent learners, shouldn't we be both expert drivers and mechanic.
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    Oct 1 2012: In order to provide solutions we must examine the current practice. 1) Text book publishers are the driving force in education (big bucks), 2) test writers base the test on the textbook (big bucks) 3.) Federal, state and textbook publishers tell the teacher what, when, and how to teach. (throwing big bucks AT the problem) 4.) System based on 1850's Bismark model. 5) Administrators and unions have combined to devise a nest egg system that is totally resistant to change. 6) The mind set that college is the only goal of high school. 7) Rote memory and redundant practice do not equate application and synthsis. This is in reality teaching the test. 8) The lastest and greatest error was to tie the student test scores to the teachers evaluation ... This promotes test score changes, teaching the test, and academic violations. 9) A major problem is how we use and accept volunteers and parents into the process. The federal and state mandates, syllabus crunches, and time constraints have eliminated input.

    This could go on forever and is really negative. So lets stop here and apply Open source ans see how many of these problem go away. Not many. The reason is Federal and state, and union intervention into education. Once these are put into proper prespective the healing process can begin.

    Yes, the system is outdated. However, any replacement system must have structure and disclipine. Having the teacher as the focal point is not the best means to keep. Make the teacher a mentor in a competent/non competent system a partner in the process. Learning at their speed in a modularly developed system using all resources. To make this possible a two teir system of college prep and manual trades. Stop the testing and ranking and embrace the application as the measuring stick.

    Out of space ... but not ideas. All the best. Bob.
  • Sep 26 2012: It really depends on the subject, but like Feyisayo already mentioned, there is something to be said for teachers being authorities. Kids often don't realize how valauble some boring stuff you learn in school can be later in life and at some point kids have to learn that some opinions are better (more informed, more likely to be correct) than others, despite the ruling class of lawyers/politicians/priests constantly trying to tell the public the opposite. Also, a bright student shouldn't have to suffer from lack of enthousiasm among his fellow students and some subjects (math, physical sciences) should not be debated, except at the university level.
    • Sep 26 2012: Anything taught within an open-source curriculum should never be boring. If sequenced properly, students would be engaged in learning at the right time, right place and right curriculum. That is the very challenge that I think an open-source curriculum can succeed in, a form of education that teaches what we all value to be worth learning, in the most effective and efficient way possible. All around me, I see kids going through mandatory education learning content that they can never contextualise, and I would never blame the teachers, for they to are forced by the system to make sure that everything is standard, that the curriculum must progress even if the students haven't. We don't have the resources, but perhaps, through open-sourcing, allowing all the stakeholders to pitch in, with everyone more engage, with the technology that we have now, the idea that time frames are ineffective in bringing about true learning.

      But what just dawned on me is that in order for this to be successful, the industry of human resource must also become open-sourced. If mankind is to trust that true learning is all that matters, then the institutions that will hire must also buy in to the idea that it is not who we know, but rather what we know and what we can do. Wow this is exciting!
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    Sep 26 2012: Yes! Yes! Yes!

    But, how about we also open source the teachers teaching the same subject. They can then spread different teaching methods that work and keep students engaged, while they are learning!

    A brainstorm is swirling around my head! =)
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    Oct 8 2012: in my opinoion i agree that coz it improve the students mind by getting alot of information not just what it's acctually contine in school book, so if the students want to increse there culture he need to look at the other open sources, and the best outside sources is the webs coz it allways contine of the develop information every day we have it in webs not as what contin in school book,even if the school book every year added anew developing information ,but also we must be look at what happens new around world , neverthelesse we can't eject the book and both keeps complementlary to other.
  • Oct 8 2012: Me!
  • Oct 8 2012: This is why so many parents, particularly gifted parents, are homeschooling/unschooling their children. Although we don't know how many parents are withdrawing their children from public/private schools due to the lack of an open source model or digital technology, I do predict there's a portion of parents who do and that this portion will grow. I think much of what John Holt, John Gatto, and Ivan Illich (Deschooling Society) wrote 30-40 years ago is probably more relevant today with open source.

    I actually think that the change to education will come from outside the present educational system. Already we're seeing parents, especially mothers, banding together to create 'learning webs.' We see parents getting political active with sites such as Race to Nowhere or End the Race or various blogs, wikis, support forums, etc. - and questioning the status quo. There are some mothers, such as Penelope Trunk, who are predicting that kids who are born between 2000-2010 and homeschool will help to revolutionize education as we know it. However, we're still looking at possibly years for any revolution to take hold.

    Globally, there is a growing shift and consensus to use open source in education. There is also a greater impetus to revolutionize the educational system to one base on creativity and innovation rather than rote. Already Australia has ICT standards/curriculum in place, but the emphasis on open source is still lacking. More work is needed, I think.
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    Oct 4 2012: We teach knowledge and understanding. Facts and concepts. Given the open source model, let's apply this system of argumentation to the problem.

    At the end he talks about what will matter in the transformation. I say one hyper-valuable tool is IBIS (Issue Based Information System) style argumentation. When we can distinguish twixt claim/position/idea/answer and question and arguments pro and con, we can understand tremendously complex things much better.

    One tough thing is that in essay form we often take a position without making the question to which this is an answer actually explicit. Skilled people can intuit such a question and propose it. Knowing the question clarifies the answer a great deal. When you change the question for which this is the answer then you need to make another copy of the answer/idea/position, since the pros and cons will also be different. Nevertheless, the discussion or argument gains clarity and alternate answers are easy to propose and consider.

    This is a form of learning that gets radically better as more people use it for more topics over time. There really are a hundred million questions deserving careful thought and good answers. Lots of good answers. And what a web to explore! It could be fascinating for a lifetime. It is for me already.
  • Oct 2 2012: i do
  • Oct 2 2012: Check out Amy Cuddy's talk about power poses, just another example of things, I believe are overlooked when considering pedagogy. It's happening in my school, teaching kids as early as K1 to not only tact but also change attitudes. It's not enough to verbalise an experience, a problem or conflict, the next step is to teach conflict resolution skills, and most importantly aid young minds into making that distinctive association between empowerment and helplessness.
  • Oct 1 2012: I agree that the increased pressure from the States and the Federal government in the U. S. by pouring money into, or initiating, education programs under the PRETENSE of improving education have actually DESTROYED the educational system nationwide. Why do we have to regulate the content of the textbooks or the teachers' teaching methodology? Why do we have to require students to pass a unified test, but sometimes restrict the promotion or retention of grade levels of the students? The current "learning approach" seems to emphasize too much on memorization and drilling on materials relevant for passing a test than the learning of the principles within the knowledge/philosophy. The result of this regimental approach ended up in the CONSISTENT DETERIORATION OF PROFICIENCY of the U. S. students in INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION in reading, writing and math scores/ranks in the world. The average score of reading skill of the U. S. students this year fell to the lowest ever in the history on record. Yet, the money thrown by the governments into the K-12 education is by far higher than that of many countries which ranked highest in the world.
    I have seen some videos showing a private school using open source materials to let individual students plan their own paces of learning under the "supervision" or rather advice of several teachers in a computer-equipped classroom. I believe that this is probably a good approach because a school setting will facilitate the searching of appropriate teaching/learning materials, but not too much restriction on the so-called authorized textbooks or references. The qualifying tests of the students' achievement can be done by the businesses or industries , or for students in the lower grades by the testing arms of the next level academic institutions. Finally, through the internet communication system, the students and their parents would always be "connected" to the school and the teaching materials, is not limited to the class time.
  • Oct 1 2012: The beauty of this (the K1-K3 open source trans-disciplinary curriculum) paradigm, parents are challenged to introspect about their role in society. It is hard to be a heroine dealer in front of your kid. I for one believe that all parents want to do what is best for their kids. I feel that it is time that we all as a collective sat down and started finding out what is best for our kids. There are a lot of reasons why parents can't make that the right choice, there are a lot of excuses why most parents don't feel the shame of letting their kids down anymore. I feel it is time to start finding solutions to this problems rather pointing blame, I feel that it is time to give Education back to the household, not so that we can all become islands again, but rather realise that the hierarchy of social institutions is from the basic unit of society then towards everything else. Who is family? I for one think that it doesn't always have to be biological. Everyone has a family! Everyone must have a family. If you look back, my whole system of lower school PYP education is contingent on the fact that parents have jobs that they can be proud of and understand. What about those that don't? What about those that have dysfunctional families? I would never limit the word family to biology. I would never be where I am now if they did. This I think more people can vouch for.
  • Oct 1 2012: My vision is, as of the moment, it changes everyday, lol, is that entry level students undergo a PYP like education where they come in and are put into classes similar to what we have today, age based in grouping. I feel this is important because most kids are dependent on routine and at this stage peer to peer social interactions are at a premium. This then go on an inquiry based learning that tackles a sort of open source learning curriculum. I say open source, because the parents or guardians of the students are asked to put their personal input into the up coming curriculum. A part of their job maybe, or an industry which they live in. This takes the idea of contextualised learning beyond to what we have today. Parents will need to put what they do into perspective, and are challenged to have conceptualised understanding of their job. I agree that initially, this may not be popular because it forces everyone to be a teacher. But if and when it catches on, the age old problem of functional low teacher to student ratio would have been solved. Each student will go on a guided inquiry as to what one of their parents do, then share their knowledge as an expert with their classroom peers. Wouldn't that be more meaningful as a k1-k3 education. Of course the usual literacy/ math trans-diciplinary methodology still applies. But imagine an education where the child's identity is developed by getting to know their parents better, that peer to peer learning is not hindered by social status but rather the idea of diversity as a strength not a weakness. And the beauty of it, the required list of literacy and mathematical skills needed can still be ticked of, just that in this paradigm, they are done within not only a contextualised environment, but also a meaningful and personal one.
  • Oct 1 2012: Sir Ken Robinson once mentioned that the current design for Education was based on the industrial revolution paradigm where everything worked in a factory line. We now know that this does not work, but rather alienates most learners and frustrates most teachers. From where I am looking, the best way to go about it is to re-integrate the industries that we have. When we set up education as a career path, the message we are sending is that income is the end game. When we put a time-limit to Education and force everyone to learn with their age group rather than who they work and learn best with, we lie to our children. We all know that corporations do not hire according to age and that learning doesn't stop.

    If we are to revolutionise education, we have to start from scratch and consider all the knowledge that we have know, all the skills , all our technology, what really matters and what will matter in the future.

    Even in Hong Kong, the wealthiest of International Schools are still handcuffed by the price capitalism puts on Education. What is learning? What is Education? Most teachers know that different kids would thrive in different classrooms settings i.e. sizes, teacher styles, etc.

    My message is pretty simple really, we as a specie are coming together as the world we live in becomes more interconnected. A lot of eyes are opening, and minds are opening up to the idea, the truth, that the progress of mankind is contingent on the quality education of humans as a diverse specie. I feel that it is time to stand together and put Education to the forefront.
  • Sep 30 2012: I have been a preschool teacher for many years and find that it's easy to plan an entire year of curriculum based on my needs, perceived interest of the kids, and what parents want/expect. But it's so much better for the childen when they have a say in what they are learning. This is sometimes called a "project approach"--actually asking children to express what and how they want to study a topic. I think it would be difficult, as a teacher, to satisfy the interests of an entire class, especialy with a multi-age grouping, but in a modified format, it could work well. The biggest problem I see is in class size. In my Head Start classroom I had 20 children, 3-5 years old, and strict regulations for lesson planning, individual goals for children, and environmental requirements that actually made a 40 hour work week (another regulation) difficult to adhere to. It was frustrating! I did ask parents for input on ideas for curriculum and got some good feedback on that which I incorporated into my weekly plans. I also encouraged parents to participate in class in ways that were meaningful to them and their children.
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      Sep 30 2012: This is not intended as a comment about your program or your abilities, but there is no shortage of critics of the Head Start program in general. The numbers just aren't there to justify the number of dollars we're spending.

      "Head Start is a bust, but the bureaucrats who manage it zealously protect it as politicians in both parties lavishly fund it. And Head Start is just one of 69 closely related federal preschool programs that consume more than $25 billion annually.

      Read more at the San Francisco Examiner:

      I believe that the issue is that we need to better understand child development.
      • Oct 1 2012: Last sentence of your post, Theodore: AMEN! I retired because I wasn't allowed to teach according to my philosophy of what's best for kids. It's not about child development, it's about money.
        • Oct 1 2012: I guess the challenge is for everyone in society to start realising that everyone is a stakeholder in education. Money should never be an issue when it comes to quality Education, but in today's world, I guess there is a price to everything. Let us put our wills together and make open source learning happen. Let us then put our minds together and make open source learning work!
  • Sep 29 2012: Thank you for your response. I am quite enthusiastic about online adult education. I would be glad to contribute some effort to your endeavor,with the following topics; mathematics, statistics, public health, business administration, finance and design of clinical trials. I also want to make a few suggestions in the organization of teaching materials. When my younger sister was in the 9th grade, I taught her how to study the pattern of spelling and pronunciation in English words. The reason is that the majority of English words were derived from Latin or French. If you look up a decent dictionary, it usually tells you about where certain English word were rooted from. When I looked at the dictionary, usually glanced at these relations and kept them in my memory. So after just few discussions, my sister got a championship in a spelling bee contest among her schoolmates. So the educational materials should include the method of patterns and association of certain concept, instead of rigid memorization of the formulas or the official solutions. This approach could also be incorporated into the "homework exercises". When I taught courses in Biostatistics, most of the students in my class were MDs, postgraduate nursing, public health administrators, environment scientists and nutritionists. Most of them were scared of statistics, but after the course was completed, many told me that even they had statistics before, they had never understood why and how the conclusions were reached in statistical testing of hypothesis until then. Instead of just explaining the concepts repeatedly, I used the homework questions to EXPLAIN the statistical concept which usually stays in their mind longer or forever, because the concept hit their brains when they were seriously thinking instead of from their concentration (usually wandering here and there) during the classroom lectures.
  • Sep 27 2012: Absolutely! In my construct, the learner is the car, the driver, and the mechanic.

    However, there will be a role for someone who has more knowledge or expertise to help facilitate the discovery process. It’s just not the traditional teacher role because information is ubiquitous. Knowledge can be obtained from anyone, not just a “teacher”. And learning becomes a function of whatever the learner is most interested in, or passionate about.

    In this construct, the traditional teacher/professor role will become a "sage" for some, and a "coach" for others. Those who qualify for this new sage/coach role will have domain expertise or professional experience in an area that the learner finds valuable to their own growth and development.

    The motivation to learn becomes more internal than external. The learner will be more responsible for identifying “trusted” sources and engaging those people who want to share their knowledge or experience. And together they will co-create the discovery process. I believe that all of these factors contribute to better learning outcomes and provide a potential solution to America's "skills gap" and dropout crisis.

    Admittedly, this model has some challenges. But many of these challenges are due to a lack of formal structure (or an institution) to support, encourage, or maintain these kinds of interactions. But what I'm suggesting is no different than learning from Socrates himself, the stated goal of an apprenticeship program, or the way literacy in America changed during the book revolution that occurred from 1770 to 1830.

    We just haven't reached the tipping point.
  • Sep 27 2012: For me, I am not afraid to admit that the whole concept of the open source curriculum is a huge one that will take many years for me to even begin to grasp. One thing that is clear to me though is that the idea itself so long as I can keep it as a LENS during my journey, I'm both a better teacher and student because of it. Our learning, our responsibility, my curriculum, my journey!
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    Sep 26 2012: Isn't that available now at
    • Sep 26 2012: Thanks for that, and I guess it does to a certain extent, but these open source sites exist as tools or as compliments to education and not the official curriculum itself. Consider this please if you may, we've all experienced holding a piece of curriculum paper, our transcripts maybe, and I for one felt and still feel that alieness towards its form and content. For something that took so many years of my life, why is it that I feel that it is not truly representative of my learning experience. My assumption is because I wasn't really involved in the curriculum creation process.
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    Sep 26 2012: Those who receive expert guidance, mentoring, and shaping/sequencing of educational experiences to take into account what is known about learning and about the most important principles of the disciplines would get a vastly superior education to those who don't.
    • Sep 26 2012: Mainly my point, if experts can share their knowledge about how best to teach and learn, then effectively they will be mentoring a world. That is what open-source can do for education, make the best information available to everyone.
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        Sep 26 2012: I don't think school children would be able to gather, synthesize, and apply this expert information effectively.

        It is something like why it is not efficient or effective to have people- and most particularly children- read the medical literature and self-prescribe treatments and medications.
        • Sep 26 2012: I never actually took out the teachers from the equation but rather, I think in this context, we will need more teachers than ever before. It is just the pedagogy that changes. Imagine GitHub and Khan academy applied together, teachers would of course need new expertise, but the point is, it is suppose to make their teaching more effective and efficient. I keep saying IB, but I hope that everyone is familiar to with it, because what I am proposing is pretty much extreme IB. It is transdisciplinary in real time with the classroom more like a mission control room where expert teachers are available to give proper amount of scaffolding and prompts.

          That is the most amazing thing about contextualised and inquiry based learning. The teacher's job is to understand what is really meant to be learn, how it can be conceptually taught and what truly are the success criteria. No more recycling of curriculums, personalized learning at its best, at the same time, best of all, the learning experience is more social than ever.
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        Sep 26 2012: I am certainly familiar with IB. But more broadly speaking than any single curriculum, contextualized, inquiry-based learning involving small group work and discourse is well understood to be best practice in teaching and the most popular pedagogy at this point in lower education in the United States. This has been true for the last decade certainly.

        And most classrooms, I believe, even in the least financially supported districts, make extensive use of the internet as a resource for freely available content.

        Is this not also true in Hong Kong?
        • Sep 26 2012: Thanks for your reply. IB is still in its infant stage in Hong Kong. I consider myself fortunate to work in one of the few institutions that cater to IB principles. Everyday, more and more educational tools or made available via the net, but institutions are slow to respond. It is of course dependent on the teacher's teaching philosophy and that of the school. That is why Github was so appealing to me for its promise of cooperation without collaboration. Current bureaucratic structures require to many conditions to be right that are really not essential for cooperation. It will be many times more chaotic than what we have now, more work, more jobs perhaps, but definitely more representative of reality.

          My proposition is to source free the curriculum instead. The one that truly matters, because it will be what the lesson plans are based on.
    • Sep 29 2012: First, let me tell you about my learning history of something which might be called a prehistorical open source education. I was born in the 1920s. I had to quit school after the 7th grade and went to work as an apprentice in a paper mill. Then I learned to be a bookkeeper in the main office. During that period I self-studied many topics, first the English language, and then topics such as physics and chemistry and mathematics.Later on I was allow to be a technician in the paper manufacturing plant. In 1949, I moved to another city and had to find another job as an accountant in an insurance company. Later on I decided to come to the U. S. for formal education. However, I had to pass a qualifying exam and an exam for the equivalency of a bachelors degree in Accounting. I came to the U. S. and obtained admission as a special student in the business school. By next year I was admitted to the graduate school and worked out a Master of Arts degree in mathematical Statistics. After 3 more years I got a PhD in Public Health. While I was in the School of Public Health, I was invited as a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics for 20 years.
      So even though I am not a child anymore, I am able to understand the therapeutic value of most common drugs and their adverse effect as well, without a teacher guidance.
      What I am trying to say is that if a person has a strong motivation of leaning everything he is interested and has the maturity of knowing what he wants, he could succeed in self learning, even in multiple topics. Now that was done even when there wasn't any internet, or even television available. As most of you probably know, that the guidance in learning in graduate schools is not like the hand-holding style of a elementary or high school teacher. How did I learn some quite advanced physics, etc. by myself? That's because I was in a city where used college books are available. With internet, self learning is quite easy
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        Sep 29 2012: I agree and am entirely enthusiastic, Bart, about continuing education for adults. I have spent my entire adult life engaged in it, either through institutions or self-study. I am younger than you are, but books have always been my most serious source of in-depth education in adulthood.
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    Gail .

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    Sep 26 2012: Count me in