RADICAL REALTIME TRANSPARENCY3
Open source, hardware, and content projects such as Linux, Firefox, and Wikipedia provide richenvironments for authentic student learning by allowing students to participate in an ongoing project of significant complexity. The communities that surround these open projects are particularly interesting,as the transparency of both artifacts and processes contributes to both an individual student's portfolioand their institution's public profile. Such projects allow students to gain real-world experience within a professional environment where the development process is made as visible and explicit as possibleand a culture of inquiry and cooperative learning is fostered. This affords students a view of a creation process that typically cannot be provided by
or within the confines of a conventionalclassroom.In short, there are opportunities for learning here. However, it's difficult for instructors to designclassroom experiences for an unfamiliar world they may have never seen themselves. To manyacademics, it's almost as if open communities speak a foreign language – they certainly have a foreignculture that requires translation into terminologies and ways of explaining that are familiar to anaudience of professors. Prior scholarly work has focused on describing open culture to a variety of academic domains such as sociology, anthropology, economics, and law, but no such translation existsfor education.This paper aims to be one such introductory translation geared towards teachers of engineering at theundergraduate level, a period which serves as the final pre-professional phase of training for most newengineers. The focus, therefore, is on preparing students to function as working technical contributorsin the “real world” while they remain within the relatively safe confines of the classroom, where theramifications of mistakes are less costly. Open communities are good places to experiment withworking in the “real world” because they
the real world – but the real world presented in aremarkably flexible way that can be readily adapted to the classroom environment.
This paper posits that healthy open source, open content, and open hardware projects (hereafter “opencommunities”) are communities of practice whose cultural practices of transparency enable situatedlearning and cognitive apprenticeships in ways that complement traditional classroom instruction.
For those involved in a project, the process of creation involves a rich and delightfully messydiscourse, a conversation between teammates and technology, components, codes, analysis, andconstraints. This conversation is situated in a particular context; one cannot learn “how to talk aboutengineering” through textbook memorization or reading university brochures any more than one canlearn "Italian conversation" through vocabulary memorization or reading tourist guides.However, for those not already involved in the creative process, that's the equivalent of what they'restuck with. The invisibility of "what engineers do" doesn't exactly encourage people to participate inresearch projects themselves, whether that's as subjects or as researchers. It can also help engineers