Joining the dots: Introducing the iCommons iCurriculum

Contact: 
Heather Ford, iCommons Executive Director in Johannesburg, South Africa +27 11 327 3155, heather@icommons.org´╗┐

Johannesburg, South Africa iCommons, an organization created to help coordinate and support global efforts to share educational content on the Internet, is launching an online project to try to learn what makes such efforts succeed.

The new project, called iCommons iCurriculum, is intended to support a growing movement to share educational content on the Internet. Open education goes beyond posting textbooks online to offer tools that lets educators and learners share, reorganize and republish educational materials to suit their needs.

iCommons iCurriculum will work with iCommons partner, the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, to develop and coordinate a research framework with which to assess what makes an open educational resources project successful in developing low-cost, sustainable and effective resources. The framework will consider questions about how localized the material is, what incentives there are for contributors, what kind of review systems are in place and whether the project is sustainable or not.

Partly because the field is so new, there have been few opportunities to share program learnings and advances across  projects, said Dr. Lisa Petrides of ISKME. As a result, there is a  large potential for knowledge-sharing among developers, supporters, and users in order to advance and improve the development, use and re-use of open education content. 

Once the research framework is in place, the project will use an online questionnaire to invite open educational resources communities around the world to analyze their own efforts. By creating this  common tool with which to study these efforts, the iCommons  iCurriculum project hopes to build a comprehensive body of data on their successes, and to help create the capacity to track, analyze and, share key developments in the creation, use and re-use of open education content.

The project is supported by four of the most prominent donors to open educational resources: Curriki the Global Education and Learning  Community, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the telecentre.org program at Canada s International Development Research  Centre (IDRC), and the Shuttleworth Foundation (TSF).

We believe that we need to have well-designed research that can be used to support the success and growth of open source curricula,  said Dr. Bobbi Kurshan, Executive Director of Curriki. The iCommons iCurriculum will be a space where open education communities can learn from the successes of their peers in the hopes of making the finest educational resources available for free to all students, regardless of whether they are studying at a university in Johannesburg, at home in New York, or at a community telecentre in Delhi.

What iCurriculum learns through the research also can be used by the donors in their support of future educational resource sites. iCommons iCurriculum is the perfect place to practically explore grass roots applications of new and emergent processes that can be applied at many levels, said Helen King, Executive Director of the Shuttleworth Foundation.

This kind of collaboration amongst donors is rare. According to Mark  Surman, Director of telecentre.org, We thought it would be useful to get people working on open curricula together to share experiences on what's working and what's not in terms of methods for these kinds of  collaborative projects. We believe that collaboration goes a long  way. So, if the telecentre networks developing open curriculum can learn from others who are also trying this kind of thing, it's likely  they will do a better job in the end."

Dr. Catherine Casserly from the Hewlett Foundation said that they are involved for similar reasons. We hope that bringing these efforts together will create synergy to  accelerate the impact of open educational resources on teaching and learning throughout the globe, Dr. Casserly said. That s what the foundation s grant-making and broader efforts to build the field are all about. 

There are great hopes for iCommons iCurriculum in the future. Once the framework has been developed and lessons learned from this study, iCommons iCurriculum will go on to report on lessons learned by the open education community, and will continue to bring together open educational champions to find  further areas for collaboration at the annual iCommons Summit.

Over the long term, it would be great if we could see a whole  curriculum commons movement emerging, Surman said. This would be people who are committed to innovating the way curriculum is created, bringing in peer production and even bringing in the students. I think iCommons could make a real difference in the world if it could  help to convene this sort of community."

 
About Curriki - the Global Education & Learning Community -  www.curriki.org

Curriki - the Global Education & Learning Community is a nonprofit  dedicated to improving education by empowering teachers, students and  parents with universal access to free and Open Source Curricula. Curriki is building the first and only Internet site for a complete  course of instruction and assessment for K-12. The organization will create a world-class educational environment that is community  developed and supported. Founded by Sun Microsystems in 2004, Curriki now operates as an independent nonprofit.


About iCommons www.icommons.org
Incubated by Creative Commons, iCommons is an organisation with a  broad vision to develop a united global commons front by collaborating with open education, access to knowledge, free  software, open access publishing and free culture communities around  the world.

About ISKME - www.iskme.org
ISKME is an independent, nonprofit educational think tank whose  mission is to understand and improve how schools, colleges, and  universities, and the organizations and agencies that support them, build their capacity to systematically collect and share information,  apply it to well-defined problems, and create knowledge-driven  environments focused on learning and success whether through the  use of assessment data to improve classroom instruction; the use of  professional development to catalyze change; the use of evaluative  findings to improve programs and policy; the use of research to  engage practice; or the use of open education content to advance  learning opportunities for all learners.

About the Shuttleworth Foundation www.tsf.org.za
The Shuttleworth Foundation, founded by Mark Shuttleworth in 2000, is  passionate about social development. The organisation drives social  innovation by ensuring policy alignment with the core values of  openness and accessibility in the fields of education and  technology. The action based research portfolio combines best  practice globally and makes it relevant to the South African context. Current foci are: school leadership and management, the  promotion of communication and analytical skills; wireless &  telecommunications regulation; collaborative content creation; intellectual property rights.

About the telecentre.org program at Canada s International  Development Research Centre (IDRC) www.telecentre.org

telecentre.org is a collaborative initiative connecting telecentres, networks, innovators, social investors and others who believe that  information and communications technology, used locally, strengthens individuals and the communities where they live. Hosted by Canada s  International Development Research Centre (IDRC), telecentre.org  invests in actions that bolster the global telecentre movement to  benefit small telecentres directly. It makes these investments in existing and emerging telecentre networks that provide services and learning opportunities to people working on the ground in local  telecentres. telecentre.org s founding social investors include IDRC,  Microsoft and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

About the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation www.hewlett.org

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has been making grants since 1967 to help solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. The Foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, the environment, global development,  performing arts, philanthropy and population, and makes grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. A  full list of all the Hewlett Foundation s grants can be found at  www.hewlett.org.