Many are tweeting about it. FaceBook is full of it. I’m talking about a movement, a change, a shift, that is not under anyone’s control and is undermining the very structures of the world as we know them. People from overseas are having a significant influence on it. Organisations, including government, around Australia are struggling to harness it. We thought it wouldn’t happen for years. It has. It is. You are probably part of it without even knowing.

[I’m not discussing the troubling growth of ISIS – although as a History teacher I am desperately worried about the recent attack on places such as Palmyra. The human cost is extraordinary, the violent expansionism of the terrorist group truly unbelievable, but the cost to our identity is also significant. Palmyra and other world heritage listed sites will be defiled. History will be blown apart. All that will be left – if unchecked – are the unmarked graves of innocent people and History itself. With inaction will come a collective amnesia as we lose piece after piece of our memory. ISIS is doing what many other nation- or empire-building enterprises have done in the past but doing so in a uniquely bloodthirsty manner.]

What I’m talking about is a positive movement of people who are striving – sometimes without realising it – to overturn and open up the way education happens. In particular, the question of precisely which school one belongs to and which students are the beneficiaries of our work. Aside from formal associations, networks, institutions and, of course, a school, teachers are now developing professional learning networks in which they can collect resources from beyond their staff room and share their own resources with many more people than their own department. In fact, without realising it, suddenly the collective knowledge and skills of all digitally connected teachers are available to anyone and everyone who would like to tap them.

FaceBook groups, Twitter chats, Diigo communities, Nings, Wikis, TeachMeets, EdCamps…. none of these things have a president or secretary, none of them require anything more than participant’s time and energy. These new forms of digital connection allow teachers to transcend the structures and frameworks placed upon them in the day-to-day by school and system leaders and, of course, governments. Some teachers have YouTube channels, some upload resources to TES Australia, some create Google Drive or DropBox folders, some simply email or Tweet their stuff. And a lot of it is good stuff. This might be called “open source” education.

So are we seeing the beginning of a new era where teachers may be employed by a single institution but ‘belong’ to the whole education community. An expert Modern History teacher, for example, (one of whom I’m lucky to teach with) can have an impact beyond his or her own school to the collective benefit of all. This new “open source” education isn’t in the misty future… it’s here. It’s now. How can we harness this potential beyond simply sharing files? What impact might this have on our often competitive mindset between schools and systems? What impact might this have on employment?

What impact might this have on external assessment structures such as the H.S.C. exams in NSW? Where all students study from the same syllabus, sit the same exams, but with (sometimes extremely) different access to resources, teaching styles and support… 15 years into the 21st century, should it matter where kids live as to whether they have access to a great education?

We keep talking about the impact of new technology on education but what I’m really interested to see is the impact of new thinking and new action on education which is supported by technology. I wonder how far we can undermine the current system before the system pushes back. How open can we be?

I’d love your thoughts.


This post was inspired by a short news item on the Open Source Malaria initiative and reinforced by the ideas of David Price OBE