Readers of this blog are aware of my interest in promoting open education resources. Last year, I was a formal member of a Joint Commission on Technology and Science subcommittee related to this topic. This year, there are no formal members besides the legislators, but the public is encouraged to attend. The meeting yesterday had a variety of great presentations, and as I left, I realized I had been watching the world change.
Aneesh Chopra, Virginia’s Director of Technology, talked about how the state has been innovating. I have never seen him present before, and he was nothing short of inspirational. I’ve added his weekly podcast to iTunes. He described a school he had visited where the textbook indicated that cathode ray tubes were a primary part of televisions. This textbook was being used in a community in which the plant that used to make cathode ray tubes had been closed because, of course, cathode ray tubes are not used in televisions any more.
Stewart Smith from the Community Ideas Station filled us in on their efforts to digitize and distribute their vast collection of multimedia through a project called eKlips. The materials are available for free. I can’t wait for some free time to poke around.
I was pleased that Dr. Richard Baraniuk from Rice University was able to teleconference in to talk about the Connexions project that he spearheaded nearly ten years ago. I had recommended him to the committee after seeing him present at NECC.
But, it was the last presentation that was most interesting in terms of watching the world change because we got a glimpse into a business struggling to figure out how they would survive in this new world. . Pearson spent some time discussing their plans for bringing textbooks into the 21st century. They were led off by former Virginia Board of Education President Kirk Schroder, an entertainment lawyer who is also a registered lobbyist for Pearson. His take on open education resources was that they were fine for higher education, but for K-12 with the pressures of high stakes testing, they were too much of an experiment. I took public issue with what I felt was a rhetoric of fear; it’s the same kind of argument that software companies make against open source products. The idea is that if you pay lots of money, you automatically get a better product and more support. But, then, as a lobbyist, Schroder’s job is to discourage the state from going down the path of open education resources, so his rhetoric is not surprising but a bit disappointing. A quick check of Pearson’s 2007 financial highlights (pdf) shows a 1.2 billion dollar operating profit with some 4oo million dollars coming from their K-12 sector. I think they could still make a profit and put some of that money into more public-minded partnerships with open education foundations. Continue reading Watching the World Change In Front of My Eyes