Simon Fraser University

Open Source Education

For today’s youth, the Internet and new media such as Wikipedia, mobile technologies and video games are ever-increasingly intertwined into the fabric of their everyday life. New media have created an environment in which children’s daily lived experiences bring them into regular contact with the adult world. To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, youth instinctively understand the new social order brought by new media; they live mythically and in depth in the electric drama.

Current educational models, however, seek to create an inorganic barrier between the world in which youth live and the one in which they learn. The Internet is viewed with suspicion – a place that, while presenting some useful educational resources, is largely a den of iniquity – while new media such as video games are simply barriers to real learning. The pervading ethos is that the school should serve as a place where credible information should be taught from standardized textbooks by trained educators in a classroom setting. Whereas this may have been an effective model for the 19th and early 20th centuries when information in a community was relatively scarce, in our current hyper-mediated environment it seems an anachronism.

Current educational models try to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. By limiting its notion of literacy to the ability to read and write the printed word, our current educational system is falling behind its students’ lived experiences. Over the course of my presentation, I seek to clarify the notion of Media Literacies through an exploration into the origins of critical media pedagogy. In particular, I explore Marshall McLuhan’s calls for educational reform in the 1960s and 70s, and recontextualize them in today’s networked society. After unpacking his assertions that new electronic media bring humanity back to a tribal state, I apply his rationale to the Internet and propose that the modern phenomenon of Open Source collaboration is the paragon of McLuhan’s vision. Finally, I examine how this knowledge is currently being applied in schools today, and where it may lead to in the future.

Marcin Lasinski, SFU School of Communication

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