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Dec 24

Best open education tools and tales in 2014

yearinreview_education

A great Bengali polymath and noble prize winner in literature, Rabindranath Tagore, once said: “Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time”. With changing times, the systems and customs that govern our society should also change. Human beings are intrinsically curious. To quote Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher, “Curiosity is the lust of the mind”. However, there also seems to be another aspect of our human nature that sees systems and customs in a preordained manner. This aspect stifles disruptive innovation, restricts growth in a vertical direction, and fortifies the stubborn staying power of our fixations with these systems and customs.

Our contemporary system of education is the first thought that comes to my mind when I think of an example of such kind of a system. The education system, as it exists in most parts of our world today, is not aligned to our changing times and needs a major overhaul. The old methods and practices are embedded deep inside this system and that calls for fundamental changes in which teaching and learning happens in our society.

Sir Ken Robinson, one of the pioneers in the educational revolution, puts things in perfect perspective in a TED talk when he draws parallels between the contemporary schools and the factory lines during the industrial revolution. Students of same age group are put into batches and assumptions are made about the pace of their leaning and their overall learning behavior. This one-size-fits-all model which defines much of our schooling system today does not fit anymore.

Due to the significance of the education system in our society and the role it plays in defining the future and character of our progeny, it has become a matter of exigent concern for the public sector and a playground for big organizations, startups, and individuals who want to make a difference in this field to conduct their experiments. In many of these experiments, technology in general and open source in particular plays a central role in bringing about the change.

At Opensource.com, our focus on open source and openness in education has been a force in bringing forward the stories of these dynamic individuals and organizations who are using open source technology and methodology to change the landscape of education for the good. And considering the scenario in today’s world where the expected solution has to be robust in quality, low in cost, and should provide a mechanism to include all sections of the society, the open source way makes perfect sense. Through these stories, essays, and articles, we provide two ingredients that are vital for converting any thought into action: 1. Motivation 2. Ignition of curiosity.

We strive to share cutting edge innovations and information that exist in the intersection of open source and education, and we’ve done that this year in 2014, from article to article. Among these reflective articles are: Luis Ibanez’s review of the Raspberry Pi A+ open hardware board, Phil Shiparo’s insights on digital libraries of tomorrow, Nicole Engard’s interview with Charlie Resinger about the tale of Penn Manor’s student-Linux experiments to help them become better problem solvers, Jen Wike Huger’s interview with Ned Batchelder on how Open edX is empowering educators, and Scott Nesbitt’s interview with staff and faculty at the Center of Development of Open Technology (CDOT). In my own fruitful association with Opensource.com this year, my regular readings and ruminations of the articles on the channel inspired me to conduct my own short experiments and share them with the community. Two of these were teaching Linux to my niece in Four Linux distros for kids, and tinkering with open data in Why open data matters in education.

In addition to these stories, check out…

The 5 most read open education stories in 2014

1. Four Linux distros for kids by Aseem Sharma

2. How to teach hacking in school and open up education by Pete Herzog

3. Introduction to Linux course now free, open to all by Amanda McPherson

4. 5 key insights on the transition from Windows to Linux by Robin Isard

5. Raspberry Pi and Coder by Google for beginners and kids by Luis Ibanez

All-time favorite: Three open source school management software programs for teachers and students

This article is written for Opensource.com as part of their annual review process and is published here.

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