The October-November 2006 issue of Innovate: Open Source

The October-November 2006 issue of Innovate focuses on the potential of open source software and related trends to transform educational practice.

Our first four articles map out the current state of open source technology and offer recommendations for how educational institutions can benefit from its advances. David Wiley sets the stage by offering a recent history of
the open source movement and discussing its recent impact in the educational sector. (See http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=354 )

In turn, Robert Stephenson argues that the community networks established by open source software initiatives provide a model for similar networks in the educational sphere. In his commentary Stephenson outlines his concept of open course communities, a “knowledge ecosystem” in which the development and assessment of course materials would arise from
technology-enhanced grassroots collaboration among educators, designers, librarians, and students themselves. (See
http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=345 )

Meanwhile, for many institutions the actual adoption of open source software still remains an open question; focused advocacy and strategic foresight thus remain the watchwords in our next two articles. In their commentary Gary Hepburn and Jan Buley first describe the implementation strategies available to schools considering open source software, and they
subsequently address the key sociopolitical factors that must be taken into account by advocates of such implementation. (See http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=323 )

Patrick Carey and Bernard Gleason note that open source software has resulted in significant advances in commercial software as well, which has led to the possibility of adopting modular combinations of open code and proprietary applications. In order to take full advantage of these trends, they argue, institutional planners should ensure that their systems provide an open, standards-based architecture that allows for a flexible range of software options. (See
http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=314 )

The remaining articles contain detailed accounts of the development, design, and use of specific open source applications as well as a study of how the process of open source development provides a valuable model of pedagogical design in its own right. Toru Iiyoshi, Cheryl Richardson, and Owen McGrath introduce readers to the KEEP Toolkit, a set of software tools designed to provide graphic representations of teaching practice and thereby support focused inquiry into  pedagogical strategies. (See http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=339 )

Harvey Quamen illustrates how he used MySQL software and PHP code to create a database that streamlines editorial tasks and procedures for a journal on humanities research. (See http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=325 )

Kun Huang, Yifei Dong, and Xun Ge propose that the collaborative work environment of open source development has a distinctively pedagogical value for instructors. In illustrating this claim, they describe a graduate computing course in which student teams worked on software design projects in an online environment modeled after the virtual workspaces of open
source software initiatives. (See http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=324 )

Finally, in his Places to Go column, Stephen Downes introduces readers to Intute, an open access Web site that represents a significant step forward in the evolution of learning object repositories. Through the distinctive design of its search feature, Intute gives readers free access to a much broader network of resource providers than typically provided by other repositories. With its plans to release its own software as open source, Intute also promises to spur the growth of similar repositories that will further fuel vital innovations in teaching practice. (See http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=398 )

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