Archive for July, 2012

Open education needs free knowledge needs open data

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

“Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is the best…” – Frank Zappa

Open education can only happen with free knowledge. Free knowledge does not exist without open data (and information). Open education should focus on wisdom, truth, beauty, love and music (art).

The Wikimania, the annual Wikipedia conference, is taking place this week in Washington DC. A couple of days before the Wikimania, the World Bank is organizing an International Open Government Data Conference in the Banks headquarters in Washington DC. The same week in Brussels, the European Commission DG for Education and Culture, is having a round table meeting on Open Education with researchers and practitioners in the field of open technologies and open education.

The themes of the three events are related and partly overlapping. The Wikimania is focusing on Free Knowledge with the well-known vision: “Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That’s our commitment”. Open Data researchers and advocacy groups see that opening government data will increase transparency and help in the anti-corruption work. Open Education is seen by many as a vehicle to improve education and skills development. All three have an impact on economy and social good.

In the Wikimania there will be many sessions on how to use, and what is the impact of Wikipedia and its sister projects to education. Wikipedia plays a huge role in education today. Without doubt, Wikipedia is the largest and most used repository of “Open Educational Resources” in the world. What the Wikipedia community could work on more is creating free textbooks on various topics that are written for different age groups. Why we do no have ABC-book, basic algebra book, geography, biology, democracy, physics etc. books online, for free for all — let say at least in 200 major languages of the world at the begining?

The latest project of the Wikipedia community, the Wikidata, has many connections to the governments’ open data initiatives. Practically Wikidata is building a repository of open datasets, which will provide data to the Wikipedia. Without access to data and other sources of information Wikipedia would not exist. The more open data there will be, the better the Wikipedia will become and more widely it will be used in (open) education.

Open data and free knowledge are the basic infrastructure of open education. They are crucial parts of the system. Without them one can’t have quality education.

From the three interconnected things education is probably the hardest to arrange, even if you have the other pieces in place. Investments on curriculum and testing are a wrong medicine.

Quality education is only possible when we see that the primary building block of it is a knowledge community. Knowledge community is a deeply dialogical community where people do things together. They communicate. They contribute to the process of creating knowledge.

When teachers start to see themselves as knowledge community leaders there is hope.

In its simplest and most pure form, education is a human system for building communities with time and space to do things: to explore wisdom, truth, beauty, love and music (art). In education we must get beyond data, information and knowledge.