I've written a number of times about the lamentable absence of open source in education. Thankfully, things are beginning to change, albeit slowly. Here's an example:
UK schools are to have unrestricted access to digital learning resources courtesy of a new national digital content repository. The National Digital Resource Bank will give all schools immediate access to over £30m of digital educational resources with the expectation that this figure will double year-on-year.
The National Digital Resource Bank project will be managed and led by the North West Learning Grid and supported by open source specialists, Sirius.
Despite strong government funding, to date, the enthusiasm for Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) in UK schools has been dampened by the absence of high quality learning content which has been criticised as too expensive and unsuitable for use within Learning Platforms. However tens of millions of pounds of digital resources have been created using public funding in Local Authorities, City Learning Centres and schools themselves. In addition many charities and industry partners have valuable digital resources that they would like to make available to schools. Access to these rich and freely available resources will be now possible through the National Digital Resource Bank.
As the mention of Sirius suggests, there is an open source angle:
Mark Taylor, CEO, Sirius Corporation said: “The National Digital Resource Bank is the first nationwide project that relies on open source software, open standards and open content.
“The scale and ambition of this project has been made possible by of free and open source software. Being tied into a commercially licensed platform would have restricted the NDRB's ability to scale. It would have been just too expensive.
That's an impressive triple hit – open source, open standards and open content – but there's another aspect that's notable:
The technology behind the National Digital Resource Bank is 'Agrega', a multi-million Euro open source development funded by the Spanish government.
In many ways, it's this last aspect that is really exciting. It shows that open source developed in a different country, for a different educational system, can be deployed elsewhere in a major project. Here's what Agrega's Web site says:
El objetivo de Agrega es facilitar a la comunidad educativa una herramienta útil para integrar las Tecnologías de la Información y la Comunicación en el aula. Se podrá acceder a cualquier contenido, desde cualquier lugar, utilizando distintos criterios de búsqueda.
[Via Google Translate: The goal is to add to the educational community a useful tool for integrating information technology and communication in the classroom. It can access any content, anywhere, using various search criteria.]
I'm greatly heartened by the announcement of the National Digital Resource Bank at many levels; let's hope it's the success it deserves to be. In any case, it's a great sign of what could lie in the future of collaborative, open source, open content education.