The First Amendment was designed to allow for disruption of business as usual. It is not a quiet and subdued amendment or right….Dr. King, when asked about disruption, said that the disruption caused by peaceful protest is good and healthy in a society, because it is the result of festering problems that need to be addressed and that are buried being brought into light to be dealt with constructively. (Source: Naomi Wolf at Huffington Post)

Update 10/24/2011: Tim Holt writes a response to this blog entry, which I’ve responded to in the comments of his blog post.

You’ve heard the term before. Disruptive Innovation. What does it means in regards to the coming apocalypse for self-hosted course management systems (e.g. Moodle, Sakai)?

disruptive innovation. This is an innovation that transforms an existing sector–or creates a new one–by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility, reliability, and affordability, where before the product or service was complicated, expensive, and inaccessible. (Read more here)

There’s been some hand-wringing on whether Texas schools should be using Project Share (from the Texas Legislature, paid for in the midst of an economic crisis for years in advance it seems), or investing efforts into using Moodle, the premier, free (and no-cost) open source software (FOSS) solution that whips Project Share’s backend in both feature-set and activities.

Let’s take stock of course management systems or tools for teaching online (in order of my preference):
  1. Moodle
  2. Building Online Courses with Wikis – Wikis and discussion boards cobbled together
  3. Sakai or some other self-hosted course management system
  4. Project Share – a state education agency tool available to public school educators and students.
  5. OpenClass – Pearson’s venture into a GoogleApps for Education delivered CMS.
It’s ironic that my belief we should “own our data,” avoid dumping countless hours (actually, 24 hours per 1 week online course is my count) into proprietary systems that have no exit strategy puts me on the side of those who don’t want to use cloud-computing tools in schools like GoogleApps for Education. Obviously, I’m a GAFE supporter but counsel against choosing tools that lock up our content, unlike Moodle and it’s distant cousins.

One of the hard lessons of using an outsourced system–whether for student information systems, ePortfolios–districts should learn vicariously is that they should never, ever move their data into a system unless they have a clearly articulated exit strategy. That exit strategy should not only involve control of the data, but also how to make that data work on their own systems. One obvious solution would be for GoogleApps for Education to make a “standalone” version that works on school district servers, OR provide migration tools to other systems that exist. Data and the structures that house that data should be as portable as possible. 

(Source: On Exit Strategies via Henry Thiele)

That’s what makes blog entries helpful…an opportunity to evaluate whether you’re being inconsistent in your thinking, a point Tim Holt calls me on via Twitter:

timholt2007@mguhlin You trust lots of others with proprietary systems. That is a straw man for not wanting to implement it.

That’s true, isn’t it? I’m not a purist a la Richard Stallman. I like to have my cake and eat it, too, even if it fattens my waistline. I have to ask, “Would you rather trust the State with a proprietary system where they hold the keys or host your own content?”  For those whose organizations bother to even consider this, rather than do what is politically expedient or aligned with their ever-changing values, Scott Floyd points out the following:

woscholar@timholt2007 @mguhlin We prefer our staff and students to be portable with their digital lives. Not locked up in NY Times Epsilen Land.

I suppose that I just don’t like web-based, proprietary CMSs–like Project Share and OpenClass–because their current design tools lack substance. It’s not that you can’t make things happen with them but that after spending a lot of time working with other tools, like blogs, wikis and Moodle, those proprietary systems’ tools are anemic by comparison. It is a criticism I’ve documented before. What’s frightening is that I now have to worry whether the million/billion-dollar companies that host these products will look over my shoulder and say, “You know, Miguel, why can’t we just get along?”
Or, I could pray for a more enlightened response — “Let’s work together to make these tools more like what you imagine Texas schools need.” In virtual spaces, there’s plenty of room, isn’t there?

Either way, my biases are showing, aren’t they? What fun to explore them in public.

If you’re curious as to my bias, I haven’t backed down from this opinion piece published by ISTE in September, 2005:

 Is open source the right direction for schools/districts?
Yes to open knowledge sharing. As a Texas schoolteacher, I learned a lesson about sharing ideas–the more open we are about what we we do in our classrooms, the more significant the impact on teaching and learning is. Our planning period table-talks changed what we did in the classroom. In a similar manner, our children are transforming our attitudes regarding the role open knowledge and software plays in our schools. As they sit around a global table, it is our students’ ideas that we would do well to heed.

Yes to open source software tools. Today’s students are already using the Internet, writing programs and designing licensed as free, open source software. They collaborate with each other, relying on global experts, building systems that they can use in various settings. Through open knowledge sharing they create tools such as the following: graphic organizers, Office suites, instructional software, blogs, wikis, web/graphic design, web-enabled databases, and podcasts. Open knowledge sharing is quickly allowing these students to construct a digital reality.

Yes to a new digital reality. Students are using open-source software–compatible with proprietary tools–to create an online world outside the bounds of costly, proprietary software. For example, one urban school district pays as much as $75 for MS Office, $65 for Norton Anti-Virus, $120 for Macromedia Studio MX 2004 software per seat. Contrast the cost of these proprietary software titles with the free, open source software titles such as OpenOfficeClamWin AntivirusNVU Web Design, and //THE Graphics Image Manipulation Program//, all Windows compatible. A potential savings of $410 per computer or in a district with 18,000 workstations, a total of $7,380,000. Or, consider another combination of software tools: MS Office, Norton AntiVirus, and Inspiration (let’s say $14.00 for a large district purchase) for a total of $212. Savings would be $2.7 million if you went with the free OpenOffice, ClamWin, and //Cmap Tools// (alternative graphic organizer software). Couldn’t we do something else with a couple million?

We all must ask, “How does this expensive software support me as I learn, teach and communicate in a global economy?” Locked into a cycle of increasingly expensive software purchases and licensing…shouldn’t American school districts seeking to heighten problem-solving, collaboration, as well as decrease costs, use open source software?

Yes to rigor and relevance. As the world changes, we seek to prepare our students to think critically and solve problems collaboratively. Yet, those who abandoned the factory model approach to schooling need software tools. Educators require tools that enhance rigor and heighten relevance within the curriculum. We are educators striving, not to make our pupils, software developers, but rather, enable them with software they can use without fear of becoming digital pirates.

Yes to collaborative problem-solving. If our students have the courage to use open source software solutions, then we, as educators, must also. If we do not, we will fail those who will face the competitive nations of a world that has already capitalized on the open source software development process. America will have been defined by its failure to reach out and tap into the digital partnerships, the creative power it ushered in.

Yes to ambiguity and flexibility. In business, we look for rock-steady environments. In education, we seek out opportunities that will force us to think different, thrive amidst ambiguity, and foster flexibility. Advocating Open source in K-12 goes to the heart of what it means to be educated in the 21st Century, as well as how we can no longer fund proprietary software companies at the expense of our education systems.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure