Padlocking an idea

Padlocking an idea

Two very different quotations came to mind during the last week in conversations with colleagues. The first is when the Highlander Folk High School was being (temporarily) closed down by segregationists – when asked why he was laughing as the law-officers padlocked the gates, Myles Horton replied it was because “you can’t padlock an idea!” The second quote relates to the Buddhist concept that to really get the best out of something, we have to ‘let go’ of it, and share it with others. I am referring, of course, to the idea of Open Educational Resources. Some people just don’t seem to get it. There is an idea that if it is free, and on the web, then it can’t be of any use. Naturally, there are a lot of poor quality resources on the web – but there is also a huge amount of very poor books in print, and that doesn’t mean to say that all books are terrible, or that we should not learn to be able to distinguish the good from the bad. Many years ago, an Australian colleague, who was far in advance of his time in making web-based educational resources a ‘public good’ told me the reason that his university was backing his open-access initiative. “Prospective students see what we put up free on the web and think, if that’s what they are showing us for free, what else do they have? I want to go there!” Other institutions, such as the Open University UK, have talked about the value of attracting learners to using their OER, who then may go on to enroll with the OU. It becomes a sort of ‘kite-mark’ of quality. The crucial word is “quality”. If we produce quality resources and share these openly, it will only enhance our reputation as a university of choice. On the other hand, no matter how good our learning resources may be, if they are hidden away in the darkest recesses of academia behind lock and key, they will only benefit a minimum number of students, and our reputation will take longer to become established. Give me transparency and openness over close rooms and closed minds any time!

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One thought on “Padlocking an idea”

  1. I fully agree with all your sentiments and would add another quote that is as relevant today as it was when coined in the 1920’s:
    “Lock up your libraries if you like, but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind”
    Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, 1929
    I have been grappling with similar issues over innovation, and have just written an editorial for an open European Dental Journal on the subject. But will it be published…?!

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