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Developing an Open Participatory Learning Infrastructure

March 26th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

I am in Houston, Texas for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation 2007 Open Educational resources Grantees meeting.

Central to the event is a presentation by Daniel Atkins, John Seely Brown, and Allen Hammond, of their 

Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities.

It is a substantial report with many interesting asides and well worth a read.

They identify the following ‘key enablers’ as driving the OER movement:

  • “open source code, open multimedia content and the community or institutional structures that produce or enable them;
  • the growth of what we are calling participatory systems architecture; Our notion of architecture includes both technical and social dimensions.
  • the continuing improvement in performance and access to the underlying information and communication technology (ICT);
  • increasing availability and use of rich media, virtual environments, and gaming; and
  • the emerging deeper basic insights into human learning (both individual and community) that can informed and validated by pilot projects and action-based research.”

Central to the report is the call for the development of an Open Participatory Learning Infrastructure (OPLI) (which is not a long way form what Ray Elferink and I have been advocating in the form of an Architecture of Participation. The authors “believe that the Hewlett Foundation can play a leadership role in weaving the threads of an expanded OER movement; the e-science movement; the e-humanities movement; new forms of participation around Web 2.0; social software; virtualization; and multimode, multimedia documents into a transformative open participatory learning infrastructure—the platform for a culture of learning.”

They go on to say that “the proposed OPLI seeks to enable a decentralized learning environment that:  (1) permits distributed participatory learning; (2) provides incentives for participation (provisioning of open resources, creating specific learning environments, evaluation) at all levels; and (3) encourages cross-boundary and cross cultural learning.” The OPLI can be envisaged as “a dream space for participatory learning that enables students anywhere to engage in experimenting, exploring, building, tinkering and reflecting in a way that makes learning by doing and productive inquiry a seamless process.”

This is good stuff indeed – visionary but not beyond the realms of what can be achieved. Particularly welcome is the weving together of technical and social objectives. My only reservation is the continued stress on the role of higher education institutions – but maybe this is a reflection of the objectives of the Hewlett Foundation.

More tomorrow – I’ll try and post a couple of live blogs from the conference. In the meantime I’m off to the Longneck Reception and the Good Company Barbecue Dinner.

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