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2 June 2006 / erikduval

Openness

I started my talk today in Berlin with some general remarks on openness, as I addressed the theme of “open global learning”. In brief, I deeply believe that openness is a quality in itself and to be preferred over closedness.

On the technical level, I believe that open systems are superior to closed systems, because they allow for evolution and innovation. Closed systems lead to lock-in and make it difficult to innovate. At some point, closed systems typically collapse under their weight and one needs to start anew. Open standards on the other hand make it possible to have a diversity of components work together, so that individual components can be “lean and mean” rather than monoliths.

More importantly, I also believe that it is extremely important that we help our students to cope with the evolution towards a more open society. This is not a purely “academic” remark: in recent weeks, we’ve had some extremely worrying racist incidents in my home town, that left several people killed. (In other European countries, similar events have happened.) I believe that this is at least partly caused by a rejection of openness and a desire to return to a more closed society that, even if we wanted to (and I don’t!), is no longer a realistic option.

As I mentioned before, openness enables diversity and innovation. For me, these are Good Things. As we are so focused on learning, we should ask ourselves how what we do can help our learners to enjoy the benefits or at least accept the reality of our open society.

Please do send me your comments or leave them here if you have any remarks or suggestions! (And have a look at this petition if you understand Dutch or French.)

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