The UCT campus is slowly coming to life as the summer season winds to a close and children head reluctantly back to school. To wake us up properly, the Cape Town Declaration on Open Education was officially launched today, appropriately at the start of the new school year.
The Cape Town Declaration was drafted by a meeting convened in Cape Town in September, bringing together a group of committed people from across the world at the offices of the Shuttleworth Foundation which convened the gathering along with the Open Society Institute. (For more on the process of drafting the Declaration, see my September blog).
To read and sign the Declaration, go to http://www.capetowndeclaration.org
Of particular relevance to us in the developing world is the fact that the Declaration articulates the development of open education resources as a matter of participation and not just of access, describing open education as a democratic collaborative environment with global participation. The opening passage reads:
We are on the cusp of a global revolution in teaching and learning. Educators worldwide are developing a vast pool of educational resources on the Internet, open and free for all to use. These educators are creating a world where each and every person on earth can access and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge. They are also planting the seeds of a new pedagogy where educators and learners create, shape and evolve knowledge together, deepening their skills and understanding as they go.
The Declaration also stresses that Open Education is not a matter of content alone, but that this openness needs to encompass the collaborative potential offered by technology and should also include and understand the processes of education:
However, open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues. It may also grow to include new approaches to assessment, accreditation and collaborative learning. Understanding and embracing innovations like these is critical to the long term vision of this movement.
This is explicitly acknoweldged in the Press Release:
“Open sourcing education doesn’t just make learning more accessible, it makes it more collaborative, flexible and locally relevant,” said Linux Entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth, who also recorded a video press briefing (http://capetowndeclaration.blip.tv/ ). “Linux is succeeding exactly because of this sort of adaptability. The same kind of success is possible for open education.”
Open education is of particular relevance in developing and emerging economies, creating the potential for affordable textbooks and learning materials. It opens the door to small scale, local content producers likely to create more diverse offerings than large multinational publishing houses.
“Cultural diversity and local knowledge are a critical part of open education,” said Eve Gray of the Centre for Educational Technology at the University of Cape Town. “Countries like South Africa need to start producing and sharing educational materials built on their own diverse cultural heritage. Open education promises to make this kind of diverse publishing possible.”
The Declaration has already been translated into over a dozen languages and the growing list of signatories includes: Jimmy Wales; Mark Shuttleworth; Peter Gabriel, musician and founder of Real World Studios; Sir John Daniel, President of Commonwealth of Learning; Thomas Alexander, former Director for Education at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; Paul N. Courant, University Librarian and former Provost, University of Michigan; Lawrence Lessig, founder and CEO of Creative Commons; Andrey Kortunov, President of the New Eurasia Foundation; and Yehuda Elkana, Rector of the Central European University. Organizations endorsing the Declaration include: Wikimedia Foundation; Public Library of Science; Commonwealth of Learning; Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition; Canonical Ltd.; Centre for Open and Sustainable Learning; Open Society Institute; and Shuttleworth Foundation.