OpenFiction [Blog]

Please support

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on February 24, 2009

A personal note about an issue close to me.  When my son was diagnosed with cancer, one of the very important types of support we received was from a young Rabbi who was Staff Chaplain at Dana-Farber/Jimmy Fund.  Rabbi Paskin had, only a few years before, lost his own daughter to a brain tumor, and since then devoted each Monday to serving patients and families at DF/JFC.  He also happened to be the Rabbi at one of the temples in Canton, one town over from ours.  His support as Daniel underwent surgery and chemotherapy, and his subsequent welcoming of us into the Temple Beth Abraham community, has been an important source of strength and healing for my family.

As Rabbi Paskin shares on the temple web site, the endowment supporting the Pastoral Care program at Dana Farber has been affected by the economic downturn, and positions there are at risk.  Rabbi Paskin has created a fund through his daughter’s foundation to try to generate additional support to maintain this important program.  I know too many people and families that have faced a cancer diagnosis and treatment, and have seen the importance many times of spiritual as well as physical care, regardless of faith or belief.  Whatever support you can give to this fund can help ensure that the families who come from all over the world for Dana-Farber/Jimmy Fund’s amazing treatment receive the same kind of pastoral support we did in our time of need.  Please see Rabbi Paskin’s note on the TBA site for more information about how to support the fund.

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Middle East OCW

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on February 23, 2009

The OCW movement catches some flak for having colonialist effects, pushing northern content south and materials from the developed world to the developing world, but I’ve held a longstanding belief that the concept is at its most powerful when all cultures and regions are empowered to share the best of their own intellectual heritage.  I really enjoy seeing regions come into their own as producers of OCW materials, and I see this beginning to happen in the Middle East.  We’ve just put out a press release through the MIT and OCWC sites, documenting some of this emergence:

…the Middle East is emerging as educational leader in the digital age through the provision of open educational content online. With the recent launch of its OpenCourseWare site, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals becomes the most recent university in the region to join the global movement toward open sharing of educational content online. KFUPM OpenCourseWare contains Arabic and English language materials from approximately 80 KFUPM courses, spanning disciplines including engineering, sciences and industrial management.

KFUPM joins other leading universities in the Middle East as a member of the OpenCourseWare Consortium. In addition to KFUPM, the Consortium membership also includes the Open University of Israel and its Open Book Project, which plans to publish courseware and more than 500 textbooks in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian. The Middle East Technical University, also a member of the Consortium, leads a coalition of Turkish universities engaged in open education and publishes material from 23 courses through METU OpenCourseWare. Other members of the Consortium from the region include Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (Iran), International University of Iran – Farabi Institute of Higher Education, Global University (Lebanon), and Alfaisal University (Saudi Arabia).

In Shadows

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on February 13, 2009

Installment 5 in a life lived backwards.  This was our first off-treatment scan.

In Shadows

In this darkened room, we are looking
for signs this horror has returned.
For you, we make a game of this–
jelly belly and Superman pictures.
In a lead drape, your mother holds
your hands as the x-ray lays
a gunsight on your back.

I first saw you in the shadows
of an ultrasound. Like some distant
traveler from nothingness
into light, you journeyed for months,
drawing nearer. Now, in the shadows

of your own body, we are seeking
deadly signs, the ghosts
of what should not be there.
“Turn him on his stomach,” says the tech.
She works the wand across
your back three times, and then
a fourth. “I’m going to call in
the radiologist.” She leaves the room
and the three of us, suspended.

Five minutes from now,
the radiologist will enter, he will
peer into the dark cathode tube,
tell us the shape they’ve seen
is only fat–your body restoring itself,
returning to health.  But in the stillness

before he comes, you sleep
on the table–breath slow and steady–
as your mother and I sit silent
in the dim light of the machine
and imagine you falling
back into darkness, in shadows
beyond skilled hands in latex
or your parents’ desperate grasp.

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Cost per Course?

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on February 13, 2009

Jared Stein has an interesting post rating the remixibility of various OER resources, a good read and a reminder of the barriers faced by someone wanting to create derivatives.  An important element not captured–no fault of his because it’s hard to get–is cost per course.  In other words, what does it take to produce a course that rates 3.0 on his scale as opposed to 5.0?  What is the difference in cost when starting from scratch as opposed to publishing existing content that is produced in multiple original formats?  What is the cost of updating a course once produced in a particular format?

Costs are important because they lead to trade-offs in the overall volume of materials published.  If you subscribe to the view that only one or two really killer versions of each course are needed then total volume is not as important, but if you are trying to publish materials from a broad spectrum of institutions and cultures, the cost of production is an immense barrier.