I check in with the Saylor Foundation’s Twitter feed multiple times each day for all the latest news in education and technology. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed a flurry of updates specific to the open education community. From the announcement that our favorite Open Education guru, David Wiley, was selected to be a senior fellow with Digital Promise, to MIT offering certificates for anyone who successfully completes one of the free courses via its new MITx program, it seems as thought 2012 is starting out with a bang in terms of free education.

Within the string of news updates, there were a couple noteworthy items that I’d like to share with you here.

Congressional bills, namely SOPA and PIPA

Last month, we posted our stance on the Stop Online Piracy Act, a proposed bill in the House of Representatives that aims to prevent “foreign online criminals from stealing and selling America’s intellectual property and keeping the profits for themselves.” Of major concern was this bill’s negative impact on Open Educational Resources. We were excited to read that, on January 14th, Congress shelved this bill after massive public pressure, including a statement of opposition from the White House.

The White House statement of opposition also included disapproval of PIPA, the Senate’s Protect IP Act and essentially their version of SOPA. The extreme amount of debate over and public opposition to these two bills caused the six law makers who initially supported PIPA to send a letter to Senate majority leader Harry Reid and request that the scheduled January 24th vote on the bill be postponed. According to a recent article, they believe the bill requires a more thorough debate on the Senate floor before it can be voted on. While it appears that the January 24th vote will occur as planned, the lack of support makes us hopeful that the bill will not move forward as currently written.

It now appears that SOPA and PIPA will head for a major overhaul and won’t be plaguing us this year. However, because both bills are technically in play, many in the ed-tech community continue to protest these bills’ existence as they will continue to threaten the structure of the Internet – and Open Education – until they are declared dead. For example, Wikipedia, Reddit, and several other websites are planning a blackout on Wednesday, January 18th to show their opposition to the bills. Read Wikipedia’s statement here.

Apple Taking On the Textbook Industry?

Apple has sent out invitations for its January 19th announcement at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. After much speculation, it has been confirmed that Apple’s announcement will include a platform likened to a “GarageBand for e-books” that is rumored to greatly impact textbook publishing as we know it today.

This announcement isn’t all that shocking. After the biography of Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple, was released this past fall, biographer Walter Isaacson recounted that Jobs “wanted to transform the textbook industry by hiring writers to create digital versions and making them a feature of the iPad.” Apple initially released the iPad, the company hoped to expand learning experiences with its education apps.

However, the cost and reach of these new textbooks is unknown. We have high hopes that these texts will follow in the steps of Apple’s iTunes U project, and will be made open-source and freely available to all.

We’ll keep a close eye out for reports coming out of the Apple announcement and any action on the SOPA and PIPA bills.  Please check back with our Facebook and Twitter pages for more updates.


Photo Credit, NS Newsflash