Teach your children about open. Even better, show them.

I’ve been in Raleigh the last two days participating in the K-12 Open Technologies Summit at the William & Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University. It was quite intense but this wasn’t a group singalong where everybody was singing the same song. Sure, almost all the people here were convinced that “open technologies are good” but there was a wide range of opinion about the rate and pace of current and future adoption and there were a variety of ideas about how to make it happen.

And this is exactly how it should have been. This is a dedicated community at work.

These people are passionate about education and learning first and then, and only then, how open technologies–open source, open standards, open architectures, and open content–can help make that happen. They understand that today all these things are working in a blend with proprietary elements and that is likely to continue. However, the same influences that are sweeping through the industry as a whole will directly affect K-12, higher education, and later life learning. Here are some predictions from me based on what I have heard and knew before:

  1. Desktop educational applications that are not browser-based will become extinct.
  2. AJAX will have a major influence on the quality of these browser-based applications.
  3. Both administrative and learning applications will be affected, with the administrative ones tipping first.
  4. While the ASP model has already taken hold some places, it will accelerate as school districts and states themselves become the ASPs, though the hosting may be transparently outsourced.
  5. Much of the infrastructure providing these services will be open source. This means Linux but Java and PHP applications running on Apache as well.
  6. Commercial middleware applications for databases and web application servers will frequently be part of this mix with some open source counterparts.
  7. Many of the browser-based learning applications will be hosted locally on servers.
  8. The creation of a community to drive professional development and awareness of these new open technologies and educational materials will be essential. By their very nature, teachers are widely distributed geographically and their participation in new low-friction virtual communities can accelerate the adoption of “open.” We have to do new and different things here, not just more of what we’ve tried before.
  9. SOA will have to be taken more seriously in the education industry to reach the goals we seek. This means that some applications and standards will need to be rearchitected and some architects will need to let go of old design methods to gain the primary advantages of SOA. No excuses and no being defensive. SOA is not a fad and not everything is SOA.
  10. Many children get “open.” We need to further teach and encourage them to adopt the core principles in the way they work and the way they learn. We will be assured of success if we lay the foundation today with the teenagers who will be the teachers of tomorrow.

To this last point, have you talked to any children about open source and open standards? Assuming you think these are good ideas, this is a great way to increase the population of people who “get it.” Show them some open source applications. Explain how they were developed. Show them some of the communities on the web. Extend the ideas to other areas and explain the value.


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