It feels like an old song to me (nothing wrong with classics), but open content or open education IMHO is not solely focused on the things- the courseware, the things shared – its more about the spirit of sharing openly, and how that multiplies, sometimes on its own accord.
This is but a tiny example, but remember, everything in this world is made of very tiny (sub-atomic) stuff. Stephen Ridgeway, from all the way in New South Wales Australia, tweeted a link to a video he made explaining how to use my Flickr CC Attribution helper – a browser script that embeds easy to copy attribution text to creative commons licensed flickr images:
So, without me asking, Stephen has created a nice how to that adds some value to the thing I created. So think about if everyone who used shared online content created something as an add-on like this. It gets one kum-bah-ya giddy like counting stars in the sky.
But there’s another layer on this.
I had never created a GreaseMonkey script before (and not sure I could do one from scratch now), but because all of the items at UserScripts is open, I found this one that did some of what I needed, and I looked a to a few more (I don;t remember) that showed me some tricks for navigating the page DOM to add content, Between having some models to work with, a little knowledge of scripting, I was able to create exactly what I wanted.
It would not have been possible with some shoulders to stand on- and while I have created one script and maybe modded another, it would take a lot of effort for me to learn it all to create more. But I don;t have to.
Open is good, eh? It leads to more. And more.
Color me a hippie optimist.
Another example? A few months ago I got a few thank you’s on flickr for a few Arizona photos that a guy named Pete Tillman was using to add to WikiPedia pages. I don;t know him, he does not know me, but we are connected now. He seems to be avid on supplementing WikiPedia pages with content — and thanks to Pete, I see two of my own photos on WikiPedia’s page about my home town.
Again, this is nothing that is going to save the world, reform education, or turn milk into cheese. But I am floating on this ecosystem of content shared under creative commons in flickr, being discoverable through search (and other tools via open APIs), content being able to be re-used in the biggest wiki in the universe…
But open content is not about the web page, the video, the photo, the script- it’s about people like Stephen and Pete and a gazillion more, who take it on their own, to share back one bit.