Thursday, September 18, 2008

Open Courseware: The Future Of Education

Standford University has released the Courseware, including lecture videos, for some of its computer science courses under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. MIT has undertaken a similar intiative, release materials under a similar license. Standford has fewer courses, they all appear to have videos from each lectures.

This is an amazing development. But then, when considered, the reasons not to post educational materials, such as video lectures, seem selfish. Educator time is best spent answering questions, rather than lecturing. Some Lecturers are also fortunate enough to be in a class of their own, and everyone should benefit from their gift.

On the whole, Information technology is starting aspire to its true potential and this should be celebrated. Corporations have been realizing this potential for some time, but now there is also a particularly remarkable transformation in the public space right now. The revolution in education is just getting started, but it will be humanity's greatest accomplishment to date.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Adversity Inspires Innovation

I just listened to a fascinating interview with Simon Phipps on FLOSS weekly. He's the top open source advocate working at Sun Microsystems. You can check out the interview here. He covers a lot of ground in about hour, including how adversity inspires innovation, the future of open source software, and why sun created Java in the first place. He describes how, in terms of a technology company, creating free software moves the value farther down the chain and how it is still possible to profit greatly from that value.

I've always wondered why sun created Java. There never seemed to be much of a profitability model around it, at least as far as I could see. But Simon explained that the creation of Java was motivated by the fear of an Intel hardware monoculture. Which makes perfect sense, its bad for everyone, especially another chip maker like Sun. Its also pretty clear how open sourcing Java would only further this goal. Now I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner.

I wish the interview had been longer. One point that was quickly covered was his view that the creation of the internet was an accomplishment of even greater historical significance than the creation of the first printing press in Gutenberg. It has me thinking about that printing press and how significant the mass produced written word has been. Fascinating.