Saturday, November 3, 2007

Week 10: Connecting the dots on book reviews

First, I'd like to say that I'm so glad we are now reading each other's blogs and posting our thoughts. I cannot stress enough how great it was to not only read others posts on the different books (I now feel I have a grasp of those books!), but also to see others comment on mine - adding ideas I hadn't thought of. Thank you!!

Second, I found it interesting that many of us commented on similar books. While other books weren't reviewed at all! I wonder if it is because the most popular books reviewed were available free online? (Here's who has done what - hopefully useful to others - sorry if I've missed any!)

Books Reviewed

Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm (Benkler)
Commented on by: Yu Chun, Anton, Catia, Alessandro, Jon

Free Culture (Lessig)
Commented on by: Elisa, Mela, Greg

The World Is Flat (Updated and Expanded): A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (Friedman)
Commented on by: Rob, Jennifer

Wikinomics (Tapscott, Williams)
Commented on by:
Andreas, Stian

The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (Easterly)
Commented on by: Erik, Me (Megan)

The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics (Easterly)
Commented on by: Silvana

Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (Lessig)
Commented on by:

Random Collection of Others Thoughts

Although not cohesively glued together yet - this is what caught my imagination this week while reading other's blogs.

1. Localization, not sustainability?

Dave Wiley commented on my blog last week, when I was writing about the importance of avoiding generic blueprint OERs, and targeting the needs of specific groups of learners. He writes:
This extends a drum I've been beating a lot lately - it's not sustainability, but localization that is the final frontier of open education, and "only a local can localize OER."
I hadn't thought of it in terms of a trade-off between sustainability and localization, but I think he is right in one sense - at the moment, projects will be most sustainable if they are localized. Rob also comments on this point - (quoting Friedman and Joel Cawley of IBM) saying that the businesses that will survive are the ones that localize. When OERs become more popular in the future, perhaps then the goal will be a mass audience, but I don't think it will happen soon.

Greg connected this point to the gap between rich and poor:
Most OER come from rich and powerful places of the world because that is who has the money and other resources to create them. Localization is very important to help alleviate this concern.
He also makes an intriguing point, which I agree with whole-heartedly - note: paraphrased:
It seems to me that most educational materials have one voice. The voice of the creator. But in the actual instruction does open ed allow the few to speak for the many, or does it give opportunity for self-expression [among all - learners & teachers]? ... Open ed needs to take a hard look at what voice is speaking in its resources and whether students who are participating in a class, or teachers using open ed materials can be heard.
2. Connecting Localization to Commons-based peer production

So, if localization is where it is at, how does this connect to finding the right people, who are addressing their own specific educational problems, to co-create something that benefits the community?

Alessandro and Anton both deal with this problem, I think. After explaining what "Coase's Penguin" means (thank you for that!), Anton quotes Benkler, in that:
the widely distributed model of information production will better identify who is the best person to produce a specific component of a project.
However, Alessandro comments on the importance of having the participants as active learners. He describes two projects, one which failed because the participants "hadn't switched from the role of mere-learner to the role of learner-for-letting-others-learn". Perhaps this will change as people get more familiar with web2.0 - where participation is the norm? He makes a mind-catching distinction between top-down and bottom-up projects, though - stating that:
If you say peer, you cannot mean pear!
Jon echoes this point, stating that "Projects can deter users from contributing."

It seems as though Friedman and Benkler have hit upon the same point - that the best person for the job will be self-identified in their own interest. Jennifer, commenting on Friedman, states:
Instead of thinking of a global community "collaborating" on an "answer", Friedman describes a network of individuals connecting around common interests. In contrast, collaboration implies members of a group working towards a single goal. However, in the communities Friedman describes, each person bring individual contributions to the network based on individual needs and interests. While they may interact and in turn support each other, they are not necessarily focused on achievement of the same goal or for a specific outside audience.
Very cool, that's all I have to say!

3. Political Opportunity Structures - Not Constraints

Karen wrote very eloquently on Lessig's model of four constraints that regulate behavior (below). She showed how each of the four has important implications for OER.My one comment on this comes from the Social Movement and Transnational Advocacy Network literature.

Instead of looking at these as four constraints - they can be looked at as political opportunity structures (See K. Sikkink's work).
Social movements frequently look at the constraints around them and try to push against these constraints - for example, in the area of law by pushing for new laws concerning freedom of expression, or the rights of civil society groups, etc. In the area of norms, they might try to push the way people see women (suffrage movement), or slavery, or marginalized groups. By pushing the boundaries of the current "constraints", they create pockets of resistance, and little openings from which to expand their ability to act.


Jennifer Maddrell said...

Thank you for the summary of class reviews! I'm a bit behind reviewing the blogs this week and it is great to see them presented in this format!

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