Ewout ter Haar (STOA) and Carolina Rossinni (Berkman Centre) organized an open informal meeting on Open Educational Resources at USP last Friday morning. Invited international speakers, Melissa Hagemann ( OSI ) and Joel Thierstein ( Associate Provost from Rice University and CEO from Connexions ) came together with a group of Brazilian academics  to give a brief outline of their projects and discuss issues like sustainability, federated architectures for OER implementation, Creative Commons Licenses, the impact of such projects on intellectual property and the implications for the publishing industry. It was interesting to participate in this event, get to know what is happening here and the issues faced. (presentations can be found here).

After an explanation of the work conducted at the Open Society Institute and a brief outline of the history of the Open Education movement and initiatives,  Melissa pointed to The Cape Town Open Education Declaration, which is

at once a statement of principle, a statement of strategy and a statement of commitment… meant to spark dialogue, to inspire action and to help the open education movement grow.

1741 individuals (1742 now that I have added my name) and 177 organizations have signed the declaration. Pilot countries comprise Poland, Australia and Brazil.

Some open repositories (which do not require a subscription fee) : Arxiv, DOAJ, Dspace, PubMedCentral, OpenDoar, Eprints Soton, Scielo Brazil, Hindawi, Public Library of Science, Springer Open Choice, Bioline International.

While Connexions founder Richard Baraniuk was discussing OER at the Berlin Online Educa,  Joel Thierstein, Cnx’S executive director, showed us (here in São Paulo) how their open source platform allows professors and teachers to  “Create Globally, Educate Locally” by giving them the possibility to create, collaborate, build/share custom collections. Users and authors can find content on a page by page basis through an interconnected repository (400+ textbooks, 7000+ lego modules from students, teachers, professionals  worldwide) and remix it for their needs. Authors retain copyright and license it via open access licence to share, copy and transmit the content. Hard cover copies of personalised textbooks created by mashups of different content were passed around.

Differently from the States and other developed countries, in Brazil, information and expertise are still scarce, which reinforces the educational gap between the haves and have-nots. Ironically, state funded  and  free higher-ed ( like the University of São Paulo) cater for the higher middle-class who paid for their studies in private secondary schools and preparatory courses to succeed in the university entrance exam. The federal campuses are usual far from the city centre and transport difficult for those without a car. As a result of this, the most needy have to pay high tuition for overcrowded “one size fits it all” night classes at private commercial institutions, many of which of doubtful standard. In formal or vocational education, there is no recognition of prior and experiential learning, which further restricts the entry of qualified people to help out as facilitators, guides or curators.

OERs and open education should be more than “a blip on the educational radar”.  It is important to have access not only to broadband and resources but also peers and experts who help learners filter, discuss, re-mix, create and make this content personally and contextually meaningful.

I hope these first steps will allow Brazilian educators from all extractions find a way to collaborate and partner in networks beyond their schools and universities – across the river in the city of knowledge as Gilson Schwartz  put it and share instead of just “planning to share” so that more people and initiatives follow to open access to meaningful and dynamic education in our country.

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