Wiki education: Schools should take "open source" approach to ICT, says Naace

By Peter Gothard
14 Jun 2012 View Comments
Academic mortarboard symbol on computer keyboard

Chair of ICT education association Naace, Miles Berry, has put out a call to ICT educators to use the removal of a national teaching framework as an opportunity to build an "open source, wiki curriculum".

Speaking at the Westminster Education Forum this week, Berry said that by looking at the way open source software companies are run, it's possible to "see what we can learn and apply to the curriculum".

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Berry described the "free" nature of the open source movement being applicable to education, not just in the potential offered by sharing resources at no cost between institutions, but also in following the "free speech" aspect of the movement.

"That's where the current two-year period of disapplication takes us to," said Berry. "We have the freedom to start making what we want this to be ourselves, rather than simply downloading something and teaching it.

"Think, if you will, that this could be recipes, rather than going straight to the meal."

Berry went on to say how the most important aspect of such a self-governed curriculum was in "tweaking" what the government had provided in previous years, but with the new ability to "change it and adapt it".

Berry cited essay The Cathedral and the Bazaar by open source spokesman and author of the New Hacker's Dictionary Eric Raymond, which compares two approaches to the structure of software. Berry argued that a rigid, unchanging architecture versus a freeflowing, adaptable and collaborative build was a perfect representation of the past and a possible future for A-level ICT teaching structure.

"In the bazaar," said Berry, "people can bring whatever they want into it, into this big, wide-open space and choose from that what they want to use. So we have something which I think is a little more relevant and agile.

"It's lots of bits that fit together, so it's not just one big monolith, but parts of a curriculum. So for instance, take Naace's ICT framework, and take the bits of that that appeal to you."

When questioned on the often chaotic nature of market shopping – and thus, by his own estimation, open source software – Berry responded that open source's success stories float naturally to the top.

"A reason that significant products succeed on Sourceforge and others don't is because they work," he said. "People will come to you if they know there are things there that work. Teachers are not stupid, and children are certainly not stupid."

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