Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Public Domain Music Keeps Getting Better

Portrait of Django Reinhardt, Aquarium, New Yo...Image via WikipediaHow does public domain music keep getting better? For one thing, the technology being used to clean up sound files has gotten significantly better. Many of the online archives of audio suffered from some pretty raw recordings from wax-cylinders and old 78s. This music is in the public domain and free but much of it was listenable only for real fans. There is some really amazing music out there too, for instance Django Reinhardt is well represented in http://archive.org. You can pull up whole collections of his music here and here for instance. You can listen to the music there, embed the playlist on your blog, or click on a link and download the whole collection. And it is worth doing now because the files have been cleaned up in one of the many programs that clean up audio files to get all the pops and hisses out of old recordings. Many use Audacity which is a free open source audio recording and editor package. There are instructions on their wiki on how to clean up audio files. Archive.org is an important site on the internet because it is a huge repository of public domain and openly-licensed texts, images, movies, music, and any kind of recording (poetry readings, famous speeches, lectures, radio programs, etc.).

This music is important in the history of music and jazz and should be available. Many of these recordings would not be available to anyone if it weren't for Archive.Org. I also want to recommend Django Reinhardt's music as a cure to seasonal affective disorder - you just can't be sad listening to his music!

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Call for Open Education Practices

UNESCO Headquarter, ParisImage by Matthias Ripp via Flickr
This is from Abel Caine:

UNESCO is a member of the Open Educational Quality Initiative (OPAL) which aimed to create a new open educational practices (OEP) framework.

Open educational practices were defined as practices which support the production, use and reuse of open educational resources (OER) which help learners, educational professionals, organizational leaders, and policy makers to improve quality in higher education and adult education and training.

UNESCO's responsibility within the OPAL Initiative was to:
1.   Build a Clearinghouse of at least 100 of the best open educational practices; and
2.   Assist at least 50 organizations to apply an OEP Maturity self-assessment

We are close to achieving our goal and with the Initiative ending on 31st December 2012, we are making a final big Call to all members of the global OER community.

If you are currently working with OER or open educational practices, we would like to invite you to submit your practice to the OPAL Clearinghouse.

This is a very quick fill-in-form (approximately 5 minutes) which allows you to share your best practices.

If you feel your organization already practices open education or is ready to move into open educational practices, then please take the time to complete the OPAL Maturity Assessment:

This is a comprehensive mapping exercise based on the OPAL Guidelines (approximately 25 minutes).

Please excuse any cross-posting and don’t hesitate to contact both myself or Ms. Molly Malone (m.malone@unesco.org) for any help to complete the uploading of a practice or the self-assessment. We'd appreciate it if you could please also forward this message to your OER colleagues and look forward to your submissions.
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why #Occupy will succeed

George Siemens wrote an interesting post on the Occupy Movement earlier this month. I think he gets that leaderless, connected groups can succeed but he also writes "I saw a few #occupy members on Colbert Report yesterday. They may not be representative, but I was left with a sense of  'wow, I don’t speak their language…I have ZERO interest in being a part of what they are talking about.'" I think that is a win for the media!

Essa-queta, Kiowa Apache chief. http://lewisan...Image via WikipediaThere is a real problem with understanding what the Occupy Movement is all about. It is not the so-called incoherence of the message, its that the power structures that are being protested against include the very media that is reporting on the movement. Even the Economist gets it - when discussing the media's take on the movement they report that "They also give the lie to the idea, spread about when the protests first began, that the people behind the protests don't know what they want. What they want is pretty clear: jobs, cheaper health care, cheaper education, and relief from suffocating debt." If all you knew about the Occupy Movement was what you saw on CNN or Jon Stewart, then you will not get it. CNN, Brian Williams, or Stewart are not in the business to give you the big picture. Television is entertainment. It is the circus in "bread and circuses." If they don't have a goof-ball with aluminium foil on his head, it is not good television. They have to trivialize this to assuage the frayed nerves of their corporate sponsors. In this time of financial corruption and economic recession and depression, how comfortable are those sponsors with a protest movement that is centered on accountability, bank and financial reform, and general expressions of public frustration? The critics of the movement want a bullet-pointed executive summary. In an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Cornell West said "It’s impossible to translate the issue of the greed of Wall Street into one demand, or two demands. We’re talking about a democratic awakening."

This is an international movement. This movement has been compared to the protests in the 60s and I remember that those protests also suffered from a so-called lack of a coherent message. Ending the Vietnam War sounded to many as strange and abstract as Bank Reform. It sounded clear later as more people were seeing the impact of the war. The real story of those protests in the 60s and early 70s did not come from CBS News (although images in the media from Vietnam were instrumental in turning public opinion), the message and organization of those protesters came through underground newspapers, pamphlets, and books. There were radio stations too.

And now this is why I am writing about this. The Occupy Movement has all it needs to succeed: it has a message, boots on the ground, and its own media. A useful model for understanding this movement comes from the book "The Starfish and the Spider." The idea behind "The Starfish and the Spider" is that centralized organizations are like spiders and can be destroyed with an attack to the head. Decentralized organizations rely on catalyst-leaders in the field to make decisions. These organizations are like starfish: no single blow will kill them, and parts that are destroyed will grow back. Some points from the "The Starfish":
  • When attacked, a decentralized organization tends to become even more open and decentralized;
      We have seen this over and over throughout the Middle East in the Arab Spring. Nothing strengthens or legitimizes a movement more than over-reaction by the governing authorities.
  • An open system doesn’t have central intelligence; the intelligence is spread throughout the system;
      This is why interviewing individuals for "the message" can be pretty pointless. The real message is found in the network of the participants.
  • Open systems can easily mutate;
  • The decentralized organization sneaks up on you;
    Who saw this coming?
  • Put people into an open system and they’ll automatically want to contribute;
  • When attacked, centralized organizations tend to become even more centralized.
The examples from the book include a look at how the Apache indians dealt with the Spanish invasion of the Americas - their organization was loose knit and flexible enough to allow them to go from living in villages to being a nomadic people. Other examples of decentralized organizations include AA or Al-Qaeda.

Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr are all important tools for organizing this movement. The Economist says of the Occupy Movement "what's going on in America right now may be the world's first genuine social-media uprising." I think the Arab Spring might hold that title, but the media's lack of understanding how social networks are shaping politics in the U.S. and the world is quickly making the mainstream media's lack of relevance even more apparent.

George Siemens wrote "#Occupy can be leaderless and diverse and still succeed. It can be distributed and networked and still succeed. However, if its message doesn’t resonate with a significant portion of society, due to lack of coherence or limited capability of individuals to form personal coherence around numerous voices, it will fail." But the interesting part of this is that in his work, knowledge comes from the connections; meaning can emerge out of chaos.

Don't wait for CNN to figure this out for you - go out and talk to those people who are standing in front of your city hall. Think about how you feel about these issues, talk to others, and don't accept every thing the banks tell us as inevitable in "this economy." Check out your local credit union. When you do that - the movement succeeds. 

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Job Announcement: Open Education Director

OpenImage by wiccked via FlickrTacoma Community College, an innovative college in an innovative state, is advertising for an "Open Education Program Program Director." I can tell you by direct experience that this is a good college to work for. I think the fact that there is an American community college advertising for such a position is incredibly significant. I am hoping as progress is made in open textbooks and the open education resources, that more colleges will need staff positions dedicated to supporting instructors and students. Washington state has already released 42 courses in its open course library project.

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