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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Geographer Looks at EdTech in 2013 - Part 8 - The Battle for Open

--- This post is the eighth in a ten part series examining top 2013 trends in education technology in the context of GIS and geography education. ---

Watters notes that "open" continues to be a trending and yet confused term within education technology. While lots of announcements included references to projects, code, courses or data described as "open," many were not open in any meaningful way. Others were merely "open washed."

In geography and GIS education I think we did a bit better in using "open" to reflect at least one of its true meanings in recent years.

In 2012 Esri announced its ArcLessons would be released under a Creative Commons License.

In 2013 Esri decided to remove the fee on its SpatiaLabs lessons and made it available with an Esri educational site license. (Not open, exactly, but with no fee.)

Back in September 2011, the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) and the International Cartographic Association (ICA) joined forces to "establish Open Source Geospatial Laboratories and Research Centres across the world for supporting development of open-source geospatial software technologies, training and expertise." To date there are 63 set with a goal of 100 research labs worldwide by Sep 2014. (See Geo for All)

In 2013, there were four "open to all" massive open online courses on GIS topics. Two focused on Esri technology, one on free technology and one on Google technology. (I recapped MOOC ideas and these courses in this video. References are on All Points Blog.)

In 2013 TeachGIS.org launched to try to get educators to share ideas. Sadly, it began to lie fallow as its creator took a new job.

All of these are great, forward-thinking efforts. I'm hopeful those involved will document and share the impact these have on geography and GIS education. But, I have a sneaking suspicion that I've raised in the past: "open" sounds good and providers and educators may both "vote" yes on it, but that does not mean it will be used. That lack of use by the target audience may lead unexpected consequences.

Consider all the discussion of how MOOCs will democratize education for all. In reality, some 80% of those taking the courses already have bachelor's degrees. As idealistic and important and morally correct as open is, it's but one tool in our educational arsenal.

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