In the practice of open education, the choice of tools and platforms can greatly influence usability, the ability to share, ownership and the protection of privacy. In our choices of technology, we might also consider how education might promote more ethical and sustainable online environments and practices.
- What is open technology and why should we care?
- Safe, ethical open online learning
- Activity One: Exploring H5P
- Activity Two: Building with H5P
What is Open Technology?
There are many ways that “open technology” may be defined. Some define it simply in terms of cost. By this logic, if the tool is free to use, then it is “open enough”. At the other end of the spectrum, others insist an open technology needs to be open source.
We won’t be insisting on any one definition, but encourage you to ask the following questions when choosing a tool or platform:
Is there a cost? Is that cost born by the institution? The teacher? The students? Or perhaps some business model built on the collection and sale of personal information?
Are there limits to how people can participate? Are there functions that can only be used by instructors, not by students?
Can the resources that are produced be shared legally and easily? Can others find, access, and reuse materials and activities? Does the technology require something (an application, or a plugin, or a password) for people to access it?
Can the resource be revised, rebuilt, customized or remixed with other resources without needing an expensive tool?
Does the technology support open standards and formats, making it easy to move work to other open tools?
Examples of open technology tools:
- WordPress: an open source platform for web publishing, with a very large and active developer community contributing themes, plugins (added functionality), and practices.
- Pressbooks: a version of WordPress intended to support the production of print and ebooks. Frequently used with open textbooks, or educational resources such as Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers.
- SPLOT: Simplest Possible Learning Online Tool (or some other acronym). A SPLOT is a tool that is simplified to perform a single task as easily as possible, and without requiring the collection of personal data from users (such as user accounts). There is no single SPLOT technology, but Alan Levine has built many SPLOTs on top of WordPress.
- MediaWiki is the open source software that runs under Wikipedia and many other open online projects and communities. It has been widely adopted for university uses and educational projects.
- Sandstorm is an open source platform for hosting web applications. This is an excellent set of tools for experimentation and smaller projects.
- Cloudron is another platform for running open source apps.
- Mattermost is an open source alternative to Slack, designed to promote collaboration and ongoing communication within groups. Increasingly popular in organizations as an alternative to email.
The open source way is about applying the principles of open source software development beyond software. Beyond technology. Opensource.com is about sharing how the open source way can change our world in the same way the open source model has changed software.
Why Open Technology?
- Access: open technologies tend to reduce costs, allowing for participation from a wide range of people.
- Flexibility: adoption of open standards reduces dependence on any one tool or platform. Open technologies tend to work better with one another than proprietary ones.
- Independence and freedom: if you own the technology, you are not at the mercy of a provider that may decide for its own reasons that it cannot support what you do.
- Persistence. Building on a non-open technology can involve risks if the technology is no longer supported, or if it becomes obsolete. Resources developed with the once-dominant Flash now do not run on many devices, involve security risks, and must be converted or rebuilt.
Using open technology does not eliminate these risks, but history suggests that it does reduce them.
Open Technology in Action
Beyond the attributes of the technology itself, an open technology project can be identified by how those tools are platforms are used: open participation, an ethic of sharing, a willingness to adapt to the evolving needs of its participants. Some examples:
- http://ds106.us/ – an open course that became a way of life.
- https://femtechnet.org/ – “resources for learning more about feminism, cyberfeminism, and feminist theories of technology.”
- http://umw.domains/ – “students, faculty, and staff to register their own domain name and associate it with a hosted web space… the opportunity and flexibility to design and create a meaningful and vibrant digital identity.”
- https://reclaimhosting.com/domain-of-ones-own/ – a framework that supports institutions with their own “domain of ones own” initiatives.
- https://ikmeportfolio.trubox.ca/ – an example of an online portfolio project supporting Indigenous undergraduate students in Canada to become researchers.
- https://l21c.trubox.ca/ – a SPLOT writer used to support an online course blog.
- http://wiki.ubc.ca/Science:Math_Exam_Resources – a set of wiki math resources. Students not only provided the resources, they suggested and added functionality.
Learn More about Open Technology
- Education Technology and the Power of Platforms, Audrey Watters. An overview and critique of how for-profit interests can distort the online technology environment for learning.
- Reclaiming Innovation, Jim Groom and Brian Lamb. Includes a critique of the limitations of learning management systems such as Moodle as an open online platform.
- Digital Detox 2018, Digital Learning and Inquiry (DLINQ), Middlebury College. Less about “open technology” and more about practices to ensure privacy, safety and control in a diverse online environments.
Open Technology Activities
These activities are an opportunity to explore one specific open technology tool that likely has usefulness at the teaching level. As you learn and experience the features of the tools, keep in mind how they demonstrate (or do not demonstrate) the principles of open technologies discussed earlier.
Acumalador reflection: advancing UDG with open technology
In your workgroup develop an idea that you propose for UdG to advance and expand the concept of open pedagogy using an open technology. It may be a strategy on how to use a certain tool, or an education initiative to promote more ethical or thoughtful uses of technology.
Add your ideas to the Accumalador. Be sure to include the following:
- Proposal: what is it you think should be done? Who will use it?
- Rationale: Why is this idea needed? What gap or need does it address?
- Implementation: Where will this technology live? Who will support it?
- Challenges: What will be difficult about adopting this technology? Are there related problems that would need to be solved?
You can see a sample entry that shows the types of information we are looking for.