In an article entitled ¿Es aplicable el modelo de producción del software libre a contenidos educativos? (Is the free software model of production applicable to free educational content?), Sergio Monge Benito compares how free software is developed and tries to see if the educational community could reproduce its model to produce free educational content.
The text is very interesting. After a first short introduction to F/OSS he says that software and content are quite similar. They both are packeted knowledge and so they can be shared, modified, easily transferred, etc. Another point is their modularity. In both cases, software or content can be cut into little pieces (the shortest bunch of lines of code or the tiniest learning object) so its difficult not to be able to adapt a part of the whole to one’s own purposes.
The problem, of course, is not the similarities but differences. These differences are grouped in the following lines:
There is a community of free software but there is not a community of free content teachers, at any level but, specially, at the secondary school level – of course he speaks of an articulated, legitimized, running, actual community, collaborative network the way we understand the hacker community.
This community of teachers or content producers does not master the technological tools to be used in a collaborative ICT enhanced environment.
Even if they did, they surely do not master either everything concerning the production of materials to be used in virtual environments or, at least, to be filed in virtual repositories. The author does not speak of anything concrete but I guess he’s right thinking that not everyone knows about HTML, DHTML, Flash, Breezer, RSS, PDF, PowerPoint, etc. – I know it sounds weird but try and run a poll in your nearest environment.
Simple. While the F/OSS community is standard guided, content community is not. Yes, there’s some attempts with IMS, Scorm, etc. but this is only a part of the problem – the technologycal one – and it is far from being solved.
Concerning to content itself – and this is my opinion – this community of teachers has a lot to learn from people usually working in wikis (is it the same community? maybe)
Mmm, dark point here. The author says most of the biggest leaps in F/OSS came from the University, from university volunteers (“the F/OSS community benefits from availability of time and energy from university students all over the world”). Well, this might be true, but I think is a little bit biased.
The author concludes that teachers are usually overwhelmed by their everyday work and thus the University – university volunteers – should collude with them in their effort to create these learning objects and asks the public administration and the private sector for help.
A minimum number of people is required to kick off a F/OSS project. Then, others join it and the project goes on.
This is difficult to happen in the educational world as there is an “individualist tradition” in the teaching community.
Well, not a very optimistic point of view, though I share it 90%.
At least, we seem to know our weak points :)
If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:
Peña-López, I. (2004) “Is the free software model of production applicable to free educational content?” In ICTlogy,
#13, October 2004. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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