OpenEd: Week 9, Wikinomics

October 28, 2007, [MD]

It was interesting to note that I had already read most of the books listed by David Wiley on the curriculum page. I don’t know if that means I am very up to date, or that I am too quick to throw myself at all the “pop-social science best sellers” that are published? Either way, I hadn’t read Wikinomics yet, and a professor of mine said it wasn’t half bad, and generously lent it to me.

General impressions first; I wasn’t too impressed. Perhaps it’s partly that none of these ideas are particularly new to me (although some of the individual examples of how companies are using them were), and perhaps to someone who has never heard about Wikis, networking, collaboration, Web 2.0 etc, this could be a great book. However, it is very clearly a business book, written for executives, and with a language and writing style that I am not used to, and don’t particularly like. I remember thinking the same thing about The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by CK Prahalad, another book that I had been looking forward to reading. It is exuberantly optimistic, and provides a whirlstorm of “case studies” that have “revolutionized business”, but provides little in-depth analysis or comparison. The book will not be a good guide to those that are convinced about the merits of collaboration and opening up, on how to implement it - which is our situation (I am assuming).

That said, I was able to extract a few points that could be valuable.

(One thing I am curious about is the reach of the share-alike, what exactly does a derivative product entail? If I wrote a book, and inserted a picture, that whole book would be CC as well because of SA? What if I put together a folder of educational material, and included a CC SAed brochure? Etc.)

An additional thought after reading about all these companies that opened up their internal processes to collaboration both from the internal staff, and from external customers, was the idea of a more open and flexible university. Some enlightened professors are great at engaging their students in defining the contents of the class, but generally both our programs of study (which courses we have to take to graduate), and the contents of them, are determined by individual faculty. Of course the over-worked, disengaged, GPA-chasing student body today does not make this easier, but that is partly a chicken-and-egg problem. I would love to see the process of undergraduate teaching become as studied, as discussed and as public as research - where plans, processes and results are posted publicly and discussed publicly, where professors sit in on each others classes and give each other fair advice and criticism, and where the whole academic community (including students) are involved in finding and promoting best practices (without homogenizing or taking away local autonomy).

I guess my three points were a bit top-heavy, but it was difficult to find good insights since he focuses so much on what companies can do, hopefully the above is somewhat useful.

I am very glad that there is an open debate about this course now, and that we have the Wikipage to talk in a more informal manner, although it is not too much in use yet. I also notice that a lot of people have “fallen of the wagon”, and it will be interesting to see this week, with one of the more individual and creative assignments so far, how many hand in - and then how the new curriculum works out, with one week for posting your initial thoughts, and then one week for reflection and reading of others postings. I am a bit dismayed that some of the initial material that was more “generative”, like trying to persuade local colleagues to implement open practices, have been removed, but I am thinking about trying it anyway, hopefully with a colleague.

Stian\ (thanks a lot to Tanakawho @ flickr for the abstract paintings)

Stian Håklev October 28, 2007 Toronto, Canada
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