Open Educational Resources Expand Educational Inequalities
Dec 09, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes
Justin Reich offers the challenging argument that open educational resources (OERs) are actually increasing the gap between rich and poor. "we can use research to answer these questions empirically. This is what I have tried to do with my research with wikis. My assessment of our findings is that in the case of wikis, the second scenario (pictured above) is certainly true." The paper, available (as a MS-Word doc) here, argues "wikis created in schools serving low-income students have fewer opportunities for 21st century skill development and shorter lifetimes than wikis from schools serving affluent students." This isn't just an off-the-cuff observation based on surveying 14 graduate students so common in education research papers; "We analyzed hundreds of wikis randomly drawn from a population of nearly 180,000, publicly-viewable, education-related wikis." In these wikis, a survey measured a Wiki Quality Index, a set of factors describing "'opportunities for 21st century skill development,' a set of behaviors which are pre-conditions for 21st century skill development." The essay is very good, and you can't just dismiss the research, meaning you have to take seriously the authors suggestions for improvement.
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