What is it that prompts individuals to share resources they have had to invest a great deal of time and expertise to create?
Today, I attended a session on the future of the book. While the general opinion appeared to be that the traditional book can no longer serve as the only source of information, there appears to be little consensus on what else should be available and how the development of these other resources should be financed. A teacher who relies on self-generated content was on the panel and presented samples of her materials. She contends that teachers are typically willing to share as long as other teachers reciprocate. I wonder. How many teachers would be willing to participate and how could it be assured that the requires types of content would be created. Can the open source model somehow be adapted to provide the content necessary for K-12 instruction?
The comment on sharing made me think of a session we attended yesterday. Mitchel Resnick from MIT was describing the work being done with Scratch. If you have not been exposed to Scratch, it is a visual environment within which the behavior of objects can be scripted (programmed). Programs are not developed using a language consisting of words, but rather objects. The objects are organized and interrelated by the programmer. The idea is to create a simple way to program that can produce impressive and thus motivating projects. Scratch is a free product. In addition to the software, the creators offer a site participants can use to upload completed projects.
The Scratch team has noticed something interesting about how the site has been used. Students download a project from the site, see how the project was coded, add an improvement of their own, and then upload the improved project back to the site. It is kind of a training ground for open source software developers. Put your project on the site and expect other people to modify your work. Maybe this is not only a way to reintroduce programming into the curriculum, but also a way to develop an appreciation of sharing.
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