I have mentioned the Cape Town Open Education Declaration in many of my public presentations, including a recent keynote Beyond Reading Our Rights: The Changing Paradigms of Open Education for the British Columbia Open Education Librarians. The text was drafted in 2007 at a meeting in Cape Town by the Open Society Institute (OSI) and the Shuttleworth Foundation. Since then it has been signed by several thousand people across the world. Like Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, this declaration’s text has become one of the foundational, reflective pieces of my work as an educator.
There are so many sources of inspiration in the open education movement. Reflecting on the status of the three strategies described in the declaration (i.e. educators and learners, OER, and open education policies) provides a source of inspiration – both looking back at accomplishments and looking forward at what is to come. The theoretical work and research findings regarding the best practices for making and benefits of OER (the second strategy) have experienced dramatic advances since 2007 thanks to groups like the OER Research Hub, the Hewlett Foundation-funded Open Education Group, and BCcampus OpenEd innovators. Meanwhile, research and theory regarding educators and learners (open pedagogy) and open education policies (which I read broadly as the potential of transformative open educational practices within our societal contexts) are currently experiencing an incredibly fecund moment through the diverse contributions of many people whom I am excited to work with and know – check out thatpsychprof MillerJamison actualham OtterScotter acoolidge johnhiltoniii.
I have copied the original text of the declaration below. In keeping with the ethos of open, the original text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License and the drafters encourage adaptation of this text to fit each of our unique settings – be that drafting institutional policies, regional declarations, or simply personal teaching statements.
I encourage you to read it and sign it if you find some resonance with your work.
Cape Town Open Education Declaration:
Unlocking the promise of open educational resources
We are on the cusp of a global revolution in teaching and learning. Educators worldwide are developing a vast pool of educational resources on the Internet, open and free for all to use. These educators are creating a world where each and every person on earth can access and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge. They are also planting the seeds of a new pedagogy where educators and learners create, shape and evolve knowledge together, deepening their skills and understanding as they go.
This emerging open education movement combines the established tradition of sharing good ideas with fellow educators and the collaborative, interactive culture of the Internet. It is built on the belief that everyone should have the freedom to use, customize, improve and redistribute educational resources without constraint. Educators, learners and others who share this belief are gathering together as part of a worldwide effort to make education both more accessible and more effective.
The expanding global collection of open educational resources has created fertile ground for this effort. These resources include openly licensed course materials, lesson plans, textbooks, games, software and other materials that support teaching and learning. They contribute to making education more accessible, especially where money for learning materials is scarce. They also nourish the kind of participatory culture of learning, creating, sharing and cooperation that rapidly changing knowledge societies need.
However, open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues. It may also grow to include new approaches to assessment, accreditation and collaborative learning. Understanding and embracing innovations like these is critical to the long term vision of this movement.
There are many barriers to realizing this vision. Most educators remain unaware of the growing pool of open educational resources. Many governments and educational institutions are either unaware or unconvinced of the benefits of open education. Differences among licensing schemes for open resources create confusion and incompatibility. And, of course, the majority of the world does not yet have access to the computers and networks that are integral to most current open education efforts.
These barriers can be overcome, but only by working together. We invite learners, educators, trainers, authors, schools, colleges, universities, publishers, unions, professional societies, policymakers, governments, foundations and others who share our vision to commit to the pursuit and promotion of open education and, in particular, to these three strategies to increase the reach and impact of open educational resources:
1. Educators and learners: First, we encourage educators and learners to actively participate in the emerging open education movement. Participating includes: creating, using, adapting and improving open educational resources; embracing educational practices built around collaboration, discovery and the creation of knowledge; and inviting peers and colleagues to get involved. Creating and using open resources should be considered integral to education and should be supported and rewarded accordingly.
2. Open educational resources: Second, we call on educators, authors, publishers and institutions to release their resources openly. These open educational resources should be freely shared through open licences which facilitate use, revision, translation, improvement and sharing by anyone. Resources should be published in formats that facilitate both use and editing, and that accommodate a diversity of technical platforms. Whenever possible, they should also be available in formats that are accessible to people with disabilities and people who do not yet have access to the Internet.
3. Open education policy: Third, governments, school boards, colleges and universities should make open education a high priority. Ideally, taxpayer-funded educational resources should be open educational resources. Accreditation and adoption processes should give preference to open educational resources. Educational resource repositories should actively include and highlight open educational resources within their collections.
These strategies represent more than just the right thing to do. They constitute a wise investment in teaching and learning for the 21st century. They will make it possible to redirect funds from expensive textbooks towards better learning. They will help teachers excel in their work and provide new opportunities for visibility and global impact. They will accelerate innovation in teaching. They will give more control over learning to the learners themselves. These are strategies that make sense for everyone.
Thousands of educators, learners, authors, administrators and policymakers are already involved in open education initiatives. We now have the opportunity to grow this movement to include millions of educators and institutions from all corners of the earth, richer and poorer. We have the chance to reach out to policymakers, working together to seize the opportunities ahead. We have the opportunity to engage entrepreneurs and publishers who are developing innovative open business models. We have a chance to nurture a new generation of learners who engage with open educational materials, are empowered by their learning and share their new knowledge and insights with others. Most importantly, we have an opportunity to dramatically improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world through freely available, high-quality, locally relevant educational and learning opportunities.