Great video on the problems with making predictions about how certain technologies are poised to revolutionise education. There’s nothing particularly new in the video, but the presentation makes it really clear why comparison-type studies of technology in education are problematic. It also does well to make the point that learning is about what happens inside the student’s head and is a process that, while influenced by teachers, is not dependent on them.
Just a few thoughts after reading The digital divide is shifting, but is it for the better? (by Christina Costa)
In the debate about the digital divide, it’s no longer enough to differentiate between those who have access and those who don’t. It is increasingly clear that it’s not enough to have physical access to technology (hardware, software or networks). If you want to enable equal participation in the digital world (and today, what isn’t included in the digital world?), you must develop epistemological access alongside physical access.
Lowering the cost of access might get a connected device into everyone’s hands, but if the way you use technology is not strategically aimed at improving your life (for example, through the intentional use of information for personal or professional development), the digital divide will continue to grow.
To possess the machines, [they] only need economic capital; [but] to appropriate them and use them in accordance with their specific purpose [they] must have access to embodied cultural capital, either in person or by proxy.
Bourdieu, P. (1986). Forms of Capital. In Handbook of Theory of Research for the Sociology of Education (pp. 241–58). Greenwood Press.
Universities and other higher education institutions are increasingly moving towards what many are calling the “connected campus“. While this move brings with it many benefits for students, it can also be expensive to implement. In 2008 I wrote a short post entitled “Open source alternatives to proprietary applications“. This was before the launch of the iPad, before Android, even before the beta version of Google’s Chrome browser was launched. Chrome has since become the most popular Internet browser, which shows how much can change in a few years.
At the time that I wrote that post, I had just started working in a contract position at the university and it was my first time working in an environment where everyone else was using Microsoft products. I had been using Ubuntu since it launched in 2004 and the idea of having to integrate with the proprietary platforms on campus was distressing. Hence the post on alternatives to proprietary software. However, since then there is even more choice, open source platforms have developed more quickly than proprietary versions (in my opinion) and the world of educational software has exploded. One of the things that was most surprising to me when I started thinking about this post was how many platforms are now included in the category of educational software. Things like blogs, micro-blogs and wikis are now pretty much mainstream, whereas a few years ago they were considered not only cutting edge but not really part of the educational technology landscape either.
I decided to write this post so that I could explore the open source tools that are currently available, with an emphasis on those that are commonly used in the context of education software. I won’t give multiple examples in a category because in some categories there are many options e.g. email clients. This list is not exhaustive and covers only the tools that come to my mind. I’m also not going to include anything that is free, but proprietary or not open source. You must be able to download the source code and either run it on your own server or modify the code and run it independently of any company. In other words, for social networks in education Google+, Facebook and Edmodo are out but Elgg is in.
So, here is my (unordered) list of software applications that we might want to include in the category of educational software, acknowledging that virtually anything can be used in an educational context (all links below go to Wikipedia entries):
- Desktop operating systems (Ubuntu)
- Mobile operating systems (Android)
- Email (Thunderbird)
- Office suite (LibreOffice)
- Blogging (WordPress)
- Micro-blogging (StatusNet)
- Wiki (Mediawiki)
- Web browser (Firefox, Chromium)
- Social network (Elgg)
- Graphics manipulation (GIMP)
- Video editing (Avidemux)
- 3D animation (Blender)
- Audio editing (Audacity)
- Digital lecture capture (Matterhorn)
- Reference management (Zotero)
- Learning Management System (Moodle)
- Collaborative editing of simple text documents (Etherpad)
- Interactive whiteboard (Open-Sankoré)
- Online file hosting and sharing (ownCloud)
Looking at the list above, I think it’s clear that universities and departments, should they choose, could run a significant portion of their infrastructure using open source software.