Open Education And Opportunities

When I was at a Zero1 event, I heard about the efforts to use Open Source for education in Malaysia.  This was among many, many things discussed (some of which will find their way into the blog here).  But this got me thinking.

I’ve discussed before the role of “backlog” in media – we have so much made and recorded in various forms, this ever-growing amount of sheer media, that it has made me question how it affects the development of new media.  Novelty, however, is very important in maintaining media interest.

Not as much in education.

Education in many ways is about using a large backlog of information – history, classic documents, time-tested mathematical techniques.  Yes the new has a role, an important role in Education, but the backlog is even more important in Education, and more relevant as the social role of novelty is vastly reduced.

(There’s the educational role of new things, but that’s a different factor).

So Education is a place where long-ago acquired and produced information, documents, and knowledge is of paramount importance.  Open Source work in education, and indeed any technical innovations will play on this Backlog – and on expanding it.

A few thoughts on this as it applies to progeekery:

  • Copyright/trademark/etc. is going to be a factor in a more technical, more Open Source educational future.  Expect some crazy lawsuits, as well as ways to work the hell around it.
  • We’ve already seen controversies on for-profit education (), and can expect more open methods to run into assorted legal efforts, competitors trying to head it off, etc.
  • Getting things into an open format will be important.  Though there are many efforts to get classic books, documents, etc. into electronic format, there’s doubtlessly a lot to do.  Feel up for converting docs?
  • Standards of documents and formats will be an issue – certainly I think people will be more inclined to use, say ePub, than Kindle/Mobipocket. (Unless Amazon sees a market, and they may).  Your knowledge may be needed.
  • It will take technically proficient teachers and educators to use the technology in the first place.  Might be an opportunity to teach or train.  In fact, they have to know the backlog exists in the first place.
  • New textbooks can be created with ease – much like pretty much anything can be published.  How do they relate to previous text, classic texts, etc.?  This is something you can do, or edit, or validate.
  • * Speaking of validation I see this as a big issue in Open Source education – how do you know something is valid and not a lost of B.S.?  Source management of some kind is going to be an issue (and a way some commercial interests might jump in).

Also a few non-backlog related issues:

  • This also risks removing a sense of expertise about teachers (at least those below college level), which is an opportunity for would-be-educators, but also can marginalize talented teachers.  Opportunity is here as well as a chance to mess up educational professionals.
  • If you thought controversies over home schooling and the like are bad now, just wait until Open Source education calls even more into question.  Pundits, start your engines and people with useful professions, prepare to tell them they’re full of it.
  • Open Source education will bring up the question of standards and how you measure progress.  I’m guessing for some countries/communities this will bring in testing again.  Now who designs them is the question.

We’ve got a lot of changes going on in Education, and Open Source certainly calls into question what our huge cultural and document backlog means.  Of course it calls into question many other things.

So are you ready?

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at