What can the «anti OER lobby» learn from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer?

Occasionally I bump in to representatives from the «anti OER lobby» and they often start of by talking about how open educational resources ruins the marked, and if the OER is financed with public money they go on about how the government is using their position to compete in the marketplace handing out «free content».

The problem with this claim is of course that it belongs in another paradigme, a paradigme without what we now call «the internet». This is a global issue but we could use Norway as an example. The idea that the Norwegian government, municipalities and counties should not be able to let teachers(with public paycheck) share content on the web under a free license is just ridiculous.

Last week I met a guy from an organization that lobby hard against OER and while talking to him I came to think about Steve Ballmer, former CEO at Microsoft. It was sort of a deja vu moment and it took me back to 2001.

During an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times on June 1, 2001 Ballmer said that «Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches»

15 years later Microsoft has shifted their stands completely and invest substantially in open source and even Balmer him self is quoted saying «We now considers that the threat from Linux is over». Current chief at Microsoft Satya Nadella took it even further and went public 2 years ago saying that Microsoft loves Linux.

In the 15 years that has past Microsoft has lost its position in many markets and is now overtaken by Google and Android in the mobile market while Linux dominates everything from the server market to devices running in cars or in the kitchen.

For anyone that has been a part of both the open source movement and the OER movement its obvious that they share principles,  philosophy and methodology.

So my simple question is: What can the «anti OER lobby» learn from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer?

We value “Open” as a fundamental quality in education and in our learning resources.

“Open” produces better outcomes than “Closed”. This gives us a new responsibility. We must now prioritize our time and resources accordingly. The time has come to value “Open” as a fundamental quality in education and in our learning resources. – Head of NDLA, Øivind Høines

The Norwegian Digital Learning Arena (Nasjonal digital læringsarena) is a joint enterprise operating on behalf of the county councils in Norway. Our goal is to develop and publish high quality, internet-based open educational resources (OER) in subjects taught at upper secondary school level and make these freely available.

The term “open” is a cornerstone in all our projects and an important part of our strategy as we develop new subjects and open educational resources. From the beginning in 2007, head of NDLA Øivind Høines and his team started working on how NDLA could build the plattform, content and organization with “Open” as an important quality.

For NDLA as an organization this materializes in four focus areas:

  • Open standards
  • Open source
  • Open interfaces
  • Open methodology
  • Open standards

    A major reason for us at NDLA to use open standards is that we would like our content to be reused and remixed by anyone. By using open standards we aim to make it easier for systems from different parties using different technologies to interoperate and communicate with our content and technology.

    Another important aspect of open standards is to hinder confinement to a single vendor or proprietary technology, and to provide better conditions for free competition between all technology vendors and content creators. Open standards set out to prevent unfortunate interlocking, monopolization and competition bias.

    An important area of focus is the use of standardized protocols and specifications where it is deemed relevant. This is pertinent both in between components internally in the NDLA solution, but also in NDLA’s communication with third-party services.

    A few examples of such standards and specifications:

    • HTML5: a mark-up language intended for the formatting of webpages with links and other information that can be viewed in a browser|, and which is used to structure the information. HTML5 incorporate several new kinds of content (e.g. audio and video) than previous versions than the HTML standard.
    • CSS: Cascading Style Sheets is a mark-up language used to define the layout of files written in HTML or XML.
    • Tin Can: a standardized API for learning technology making it possible to gather data on user experiences. To a larger extent than today, NDLA will be built upon this notion of open standards and known specifications.

    Open source

    Open sources is an important part of all development at NDLA. We have based our plattform on Drupal and contributed significantly to the development of H5P as a platform for easier creation, sharing and reuse of the developed content and applications.

    H5P is not a standard, but an implementation that supports HTML5. H5P is being used for the development of different kinds of interactivity in NDLA. H5P is an open source-based framework for the development of HTML5 based content (video, interactive presentations, multiple choice assignments, timelines, etc.). We are proud to say that more than 2400 websites all over the world now run H5P.

    Why open source?

    Open source software is software that is distributed with the assumption that the source code is being made readily available for reuse. The opposite is software that keeps the source code secret/closed or protected through legislation. The main strategy of NDLA has always been geared towards open source , but in certain contexts it has proven difficult to avoid using third-party products or components that follow other regimes of licencing. In the future, NDLA will go further and demand open source software in all vital parts of a solution.

    Open Interfaces

    We are interested in sharing our content in any way we can. In addition to developing our own website and servise we develop AAPI’s (i.e. application programming interfaces) or open interfaces to make it easier to reuse our content by any third-party.

    By developing and using such open, well-documented API’s, NDLA will facilitate a modularity that deems the solution more service based and flexible to change. Additionally, both the data and the modules become easier to reuse by third-party.

    What is an API?

    API’s (i.e. application programming interfaces) are the interfaces between different software components. API’s link the components together in standardized ways. The API describes what will happen in different circumstances, e.g. finding or saving specific data in a database. An open API is an interface that is openly described, i.e. that is a known matter how it operates so anyone can develop a solution that can link to and benefit from it.

    Open methodology – crowdsourcing

    For us at NDLA, crowdsourcing is an methodology where the individual teacher and pupil can create, co-create and develop content themselves. The concept of crowdsourcing makes it possible for a larger group of people, e.g. teachers, to revise an academic plan, curriculum or the actual content in learning resources.

    Crowdsourcing is a work practice based on voluntary participation, where a large amount of contributors execute a task based on a sense of community, participation and self-organization, rather than managerial control. Numerous actors thus contribute to the improvement of quality on a specific product.

    The word “Open” has for us a pedagogical foundation. Learning as an activity thrives in an open landscape where information is truly liberated and free. We learn better when we freely can participate, when we openly share what we make, when we are allowed to remix the work of others, and our own contributions becomes part a wider and connected society. – Head of NDLA, Øivind Høines.

     

    OER Global Search – makes it easy for you to find open educational resources

    The last couple of weeks I have been working on a project that I have called OER Global Search. The idea behind OER Global Search is to make it easy for you to find educational resources that allows reuse, re-contextualization and translation.

    It can be very difficult for users to distinguish between what is called Open educational resources and other services that simply provide content for free. Even some websites that use the term Open in their name are not always offering content with a free license. For individuals or projects that plan to change, re-mix or translate content it is important to find OER, not free as in gratis.

    OER Global search solves this by using what is called Google Custom Search targeting 15 to 20 of the most widely used websites that are not only free, but actually offer content with free license.

    The most well known OERs are MIT OpenCourseWare, Khan Academy and CK-12.org. Here is a complete list of the service that are included in the search. http://searchoer.com/list-of- oer.html

    We are seeing a dramatic increase open educational resources covering different subjects at all levels. At the launch of our service a keyword such as “Algebra” returns 387.000 results. The technical development of the service is fairly simple so the main focus will be to develop the search further by identifying good services in different languages.

    The main language on the web is English but we also included some resources languages Hindi, Spanish, Norwegian, Portuguese and French.

    GoOpen Talk with Meredith Jacob

    In this GoOpen Talk I have a conversation with Meredith Jacob, Assistant Director at American University Washington College of Law. Meredith is a part of the legal team at Creative commons US and a leading expert on IP and Copy right issues. In this videoblogg she talks about the OER situation in American schools and the GoOpen campaign launched by the The U.S. Department of Education.

    GoOpen talk with Meredith Jacob from GoOpen.no on Vimeo.

    Digital delingskultur løser problemet for lag og foreninger som kreves for penger etter bilde-tabbe på 17. mai

    Denne teksten ble også publisert på følgende nettaviser første uken i juni 2016: ItPro, Itromsø, Computerworld og Tidens krav.

    Aftenposten skriver denne uken om Loddefjord idrettslag som brukte et bilde av det norske flagget i forbindelse med 17. mai uten å spørre fotografen om lov. Dette kostet dem dyrt, noe som er både trist og unødvendig ettersom det finns gode alternativer uten kostnad eller risiko for å havne i retten.

    I en verden hvor det har blitt vanlig å dele bilder både på sosiale medier og egne nettsider er det viktig å være bevisst på konsekvensene av å bruke et bilde med copyright uten tillatelse fra opphavsmannen. Dette fikk Loddefjord idrettslag smertelig erfaring med i forbindelse med årets 17. mai-feiring. Etter at de brukte et bilde tatt av fotograf Martine Petra Hoel måtte de punge ut med 5.000 kroner. Fana IL gjorde samme tabben og fikk en regning på 10.000 kroner. Det er mange lag og foreninger over hele landet som har havnet i samme situasjon.

    Personlig mener jeg fotografen i dette tilfellet utnytter en utdatert lov og krever en alt for høy sum basert på at noen har gjort en liten tabbe. Det er allikevel lag og foreninger selv som ansvaret her, selv om det er helt unødvendig av dem å sette seg i denne knipen. Det gledelige er nemlig at det finnes en veldig enkel løsningen på problemet. Den digitale delingskulturen er i dag godt utviklet. Denne delingskulturen bygger på at bilder og andre kilder blir underlagt det som kalles en fri lisens.

    Den mest brukte av disse er Creative Commons. Denne lisensen gir alle som ønsker det lov til å gjenbruke bilder, film og tekst uten å spørre om lov, men under gitte forutsetninger. Tillatelsen for å gjenbruke har opphavsmannen gitt på forhånd ved å bruke denne lisensen. Denne globale delingskulturen drives frem av frivillige bidragsytere som nettopp ønsker at deres bilder, filmer eller tekster skal kunne gjenbrukes av andre. Nettsider som Wikipedia og Pixabay.com tilbyr i dag et stort antall bilder av høy kvalitet under forskjellige frie lisenser.

    Ser man for eksempel etter et bilde av det norske flagget på Wikipedia vil man blant annet finne et bilde tatt av fotografen Hans-Petter Fjeld. Hans-Petter er en av mange frivillig som gjør en fantastisk jobb for å sørge for at den norske versjonen av Wikipedia har denne typen bilder.

    Foto: Hans Petter Fjeld, CC BY-SA 2.5
    Foto: Hans Petter Fjeld, CC BY-SA 2.5

    Jeg jobber til daglig i Nasjonal Digital Læringsarena (NDLA) som er et fylkeskommunal samarbeid for å utvikle digitale læringsressurser for videregående opplæring. For oss er den digitale delingskulturen en del av vår strategi. Dette betyr i praksis at vi deler det vi selv utvikler av innhold under en fri lisens, samtidig som vi gjerne gjenbruker bilder som andre har delt.

    Når vi i redaksjonen hos NDLA trengte et bilde av et flagg til en av våre artikler brukte vi det tidligere nevnte bildet fra Wikipedia som Hans-Petter har delt. For Loddefjord idrettslag eller Fana IL ville det vært helt gratis og fritt å bruke det samme bildet – helt uten risiko for å havne i retten eller motta en stor faktura i posten.

    The true pioneers of the sharing economy

    The real sharing economy is not about renting out your apartment on Airbnb or offering your services as a taxi driver on Uber. These are both good services but it would be completely wrong to label them as pioneers of the sharing economy.

    The true pioneers would be the technological sharing culture with projects like Linux, Wikipedia, Github and Open Street map. The communities that developed the Internet in the 90s and the important work by the free software movement in the 80s built the foundation for one of the largest paradigme shifts in history. The Creative Commons movement that has grown strong over the last 10 years has also played an important role in creating a strong sharing economy.

    If one were to look for companies that can be called pioneers in the sharing economy it would have to be Amazon, Google and Redhat.

    People like Richard Stallman, Tim Berners-Lee, Lawrence Lessig and Håkon W. Lie are pioneers of the sharing economy trough significant contributions that deserve to be mentioned.

    Creative Commons: Remix from Creative Commons on Vimeo.

    More than 40% of the global population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand

    Quality education should be delivered in the language spoken at home. However, this minimum standard is not met for hundreds of millions, limiting their ability to develop foundations for learning. By one estimate, as much as 40% of the global population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand (Walter and Benson, 2012).

    A great part of the world’s learning content is written in English or in major languages in the industrial world. We don’t know the exact shares for the most-used languages when it comes to learning related content in particular, but it’s reasonable to assume this to be proximately equal to the most-used languages on the Internet as a whole.

    As of 2015, 55.5 percent of all web content was in English, followed by the next four most-used world languages Russian, German, Japanese and Spanish, adding up to an additional 21.5 percent. Compared to this, the lack of digital resources is striking for languages like Swahili, Bangla or Hindi which are mother tongue or commonly spoken languages for an estimated 60+, 200+ and 500+ million respectively.

    Principles for digital development

    For any ICT-based project it is crucial to develop technology based on good and sustainable principles, implementing solutions that are user driven and based open standards at the same time addressing concerns like universal design and privacy. There should be no exception for all the projects targeting users in developing countries.    

    A growing number of youth in developing countries are online and thereby possibly connected to learning resources on the Internet. By 2025, as many as 4.7 billion people worldwide will be online. Compared to today, about 75 percent of the increase will come in emerging economies. An increasingly digital world brings unprecedented opportunities for innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation. This will result in a large number of projects that develop technologies over the next decade and significant investment from NGOs and governmental organizations.

    But to reap these benefits, it will be incredibly important to ensure that technology, data and digital resources are developed based on a sustainable model.

    Donor and multilateral organizations have been discussing how to surface and spread best practice in the use of ICT tools as part of development programming for at least a decade. These discussions culminated in the UNICEF Innovation Principles of 2009, the Greentree Principles of 2010, and the UK Design Principles, among others.

    At the end of 2015 I came across a project called The Principles of Digital development working to consolidate these efforts. The Principles for Digital Development draw from the processes mentioned above, and are the result of consultation with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and large number of NGOs and governmental organizations.

    The Principles for Digital Development are “living” guidelines that can help development practitioners integrate established best practices into technology-enabled programs. They are written by and for international development donors, multilateral organizations, and implementing partners, and they are freely available for use by all. The Principles are intended to serve as guidance rather than edict, and to be updated and refined over time.

    The nine principles are:

    • DESIGN WITH THE USER
    • UNDERSTAND THE ECOSYSTEM
    • DESIGN FOR SCALE
    • BUILD FOR SUSTAINABILITY
    • BE DATA DRIVEN
    • USE OPEN DATA, OPENSTANDARDS, OPEN SOURCE,OPEN INNOVATION
    • REUSE AND IMPROVE
    • ADDRESS PRIVACY & SECURITY
    • BE COLLABORATIVE

    If you are in the planning stages of an app, a portal or any other project involving technology you should take your time and study the documents and guidelines at digitalprinciples.org/ 

    GoOpen talk with Jöran Muuß-Merholz

    Jöran Muuß-Merholz is a OER-activist that runs www.open-educational-resources.de promoting OER in Germany. Jöran joined us in Oslo this week to participate in a book sprint. This gave me the chance to sitt down with him for a GoOpen talk.

    In this videoblogg Jöran talks about the situation for OER i Germany just know, and how OER has gained momentum both in politics and as a grass root movement.

    Jöran Muuß-Merholz from GoOpen.no on Vimeo.

    The story of Android and how it gave free software the right WAF-factor(Wife Acceptance Factor)

    In the «Pre-Android period» gadgets from Apple and computers from Microsoft had what you might call a higher wife acceptance factor, meaning it was more likely to be adapted by non technical users.

    When I started out playing with free software more the 15 years ago the terms free software and open sources had a very high geek-factor associated with them . At this time it was hard to imagine any laptop or device running free software taking marked shares from Windows.

    For companies developing proprietary software it was also very important to label free software as low quality and unreliable. This has changed dramatically over the last 15 years and Android played an important part in this journey.

    Android gave the word disruptive a whole new meaning

    The year is 2008. The first GoOpen conference is about to kick off in Oslo.

    When the Director of free software at Google, Chris Dibona enters the stage as one of the conference’s keynotes, he talks about how Google has built its business with free software.

    He also talks about how they are already well underway to expand Googles business, not only to cover search, ads and video (acquisition of Youtube). At this point it was already known that Google had launchd the first version of a mobile operating system in November 2007  that was based on Linux – the name was Android.

    The first phone with Android was released in Norway the next summer and in only 18 months Android dominated the market for smart phones in our country. Sins the launch in 2007 Android have taken over markeds across the world with nearly 1.5 billion users at the end of 2015. This despite the fact that both Apple, Microsoft and the Finnish mobile company we have forgotten the name of,  did every thing possible to dominate the same space during this period.

    From the start Google and their partners had a totally different business model, letting different vendors develop new devices based on the same core system. This gave the marked many different devices and the vendors freedom to build on the same software commodities. The key in this approach is an open plattform in an open marked.

    The story of Android is important for many reasons, but primarily because it shows that by rethinking a business model completely, it is possible to change a large market in a very short period of time.

    An important thing to remember, the mayor topic that concerned most free software activist in 2007-2008 was not Android but the document formats and the battle between OOXML and ODF. During the GoOpen conference in 2008 a friend of mine, Håkon Wium Lie, organized a demonstration that ended up in front of the Norwegian Parliament, with the slogan “OOXML – Go to hell.”

    Little did we know that it was not ODF and OpenOffice but Android that would cause a breakthrough for free and open source software and give it all so important Wife Acceptance Factor.