by Stephen Downes
Jun 16, 2016
The next time someone tries to tell you girls and women aren't naturally good at math or computing, show them this. "California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has been central to the US missile and rocket development and operations for decades, and from the beginning that technology's success rested on a corps of expert mathematicians, people known as computers. And from the beginning they were all women..." And it should remind you that the prevalence of boys and men in math and computing is a recent thing, brought to us by the advertising and gaming industry, and as artificial as any of their messages. More.
There are times I think a lot of OER advocates doesn't really comprehend the benefits of OERs. This is especially the same when OERs are being used in a traditional education setting. A case in point is Jim Groom's post: "does the push for OER in the form of a cost saving argument for textbooks feed this bait and switch?" he asks. "Like EDUPUNK and MOOCs, I would hate to see OER be the latest installment in a long line of useful idiots for cutting, gutting, and redirecting higher ed funding." That's fair enough, but I also don't want to see OER entrenching the existing content-centered elite-focused higher education system as it exists today.
We have to understand there are two separate, equally valuable, and not-incompatible agendas here: first, to create access to a wide range of learning materials to people who would not otherwise have access to them; and second, to lower the cost for students, parents and governments (and, for that matter, employers, companies and institutions). I'd rather see us spend less money per student on education, and enable more flexibility and self-management in education (and we're going to have to if we're to fund education for 7 billion people). To me, OERs are an effective strategy to do this - but we have to do them right.
Alex Reid points to the obvious counterexample to studies claiming that students in classes with laptops do worse than students in classes without: "t someone might conduct a different study wherein the students who brought laptops to class were also allowed to use them during the multiple-choice final." Yes, that might have a different result. But more to the point: "None of us, students and faculty included, have really figured out how to live, learn, and work in the emerging digital media-cognitive ecology," he writes. "So it is certainly true that we can struggle to accomplish various purposes with technologies pulling us in different directions."
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