Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Open Education and Open Education

One of the great things about St. Michael's college is all the incredible workshops the IT folks run for faculty development. One in particular caught my eye today not so much because of the content but because of the title; Open Education Week is March 5 - 12, this week in fact.

My initial reaction was one of amazement because Open Education was all the rage when I first came to the US in 1977. In fact I supervised student teachers at the Olive Elementary School in Arlington Heights, Illinois, which was one of the many schools in the US using this innovative approach to education. The Education Department at the University of Illinois where I was doing my doctoral studies at the time was also one of the leading advocates for Open Education. Luminaries such as Roland Barth, Charles Silberman and Hassett & Weisberg (Open Education: Alternatives Within our Tradition) were widely read by both faculty and education students.

The basic idea of Open Education was to make education more meaningful and relevant to students as children in K - 6 classrooms. It put an emphasis on what was important to childen in terms of their interests, developmental stages and lives in general. It was the counterpart, in a way, to the traditional idea that elementary school is "preparation for life" or at least preparation for middle and high school life. Open education celebrated childhood and everything it stood for by making the curriculum relevant, interesting and important to the child.

Today the idea of Open Education is somewhat different and refers to free/almost free resources such as Flatworld Knowledge, Merlot, iTunes U, Carnegie Mellon, MIT Open Courseware, Khan Academy, Wikiversity to name but a few.

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