The start of the virtuous circle

Circles seem to be either vicious or virtuous, circle culture is obviously very judgmental and polarised. However, the act of circle creation suggests perhaps one of two things

1) We knew when we started that we intended to create a circle

2) We’ve remembered where we started and decided to head back

Much innocent Liliputian blood has been shed over the real meaning of the word Open, but once I was faced with explaining OER to a room of anthropologists I decided to give it a go. So with trowel in hand I shall return to my theory of where OER did first exist.

Alexander Graham Bell.

That is my theory. After patenting the telephone, Bell was suddenly a very rich man (no doubt you’ll agree a trait shared with all OER practitioners). The United States has very strict laws on monopolies, and so Bell’s phone company was split into smaller and smaller phone companies, and restricted from certain activities, one of which was selling software.

Now Bell’s companies made extensive use of software, but in being prevented from selling it they just gave it away for free to others, on the basis that changes in the code would be shared. Effectively the monopoly over phone companies inadvertently created Open Source. The programming language C (one of the most important languages every written), which was developed alongside Unix (one of the most important Operating systems in existance).

So this code was often used by Universities, of which MIT and Berkeley would have been just two. MIT and Berkeley both have open source licences (MIT and BSD) and so, imagine amongst the dreaming spires the potential Eurekan bathtubs as one academic says “what if I just open sourced my teaching materials?”. Berkeley has contributed a lot of open material, but it was MIT that could claim to the birthplace of the open education (albeit in the slightly grander form of Open Courseware).

Does this sound logical? Would we consider MIT as the birth place of Open Education? Could it be the basic application of the Open Source to Education?

Where would you say Open Education started?

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