Open contents in an Open society


Image: shutterstock_266968544 Copyright Gurza


At present, with the increasing growing of the information and communication technologies in education due, among other things, to networks such as the Internet and the lower price and diversification of hardware devices, it is essential and necessary to develop educational contents in digital format. And much better if they are open!

But…. What are open contents?

To answer this question it would be better to review the definition made by UNESCO that you can find in the following link: What are Open Educational Resources (OERs)?, where we can read that it refers to any educational material or content in the public domain or with an open license that can be used, copied, changed and redistributed legally and freely without restrictions.

The movements or approaches aimed at developing and promoting a more collaborative and open digital society date back to the late 1980s, with experiences such as those of Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation, and the birth of projects such as Linux Torvalds’ new operating system, open and available to everyone at early nineties. As a result of both initiatives, we now have operating systems based on GNU/Linux.

Later, with the increasing popularity of the Internet in the university environment, other initiatives to enhance the development and sharing of educational contents in digital format, and that can be distributed freely by such networks, appeared in the United States.

Promoted by Lawrence Lessig In 2001, the Creative Commons movement arose, which establishes a set of licenses for digital contents that allows its free use, copying, modification and reuse. This movement has now spread throughout the globe.

And based on that licensing system, already in the current decade experiences such as Coursera at MIT, and many other initiatives, lead in 2012 to the Paris OER Declaration at UNESCO Headquarters. Declaration in which I was lucky to participate.

In Europe you can check project and initiatives like European Schoolnet, Scientix or eTwinning to see the scope of this aproach.

In Spain, where I live and work as a teacher, the initiatives for the promotion and development of open contents are multiple and started at the beginning of this century. As some examples, we could mention:

  • the different regional free software distributions, like MAX: Madrid_linuX, project in which I collaborate from its very beginnings in 2003;

  • Authoring tools like eXelearning, a project that started in New Zeland and currently leads the Spanish Ministry of Education through INTEF and CeDeC, a project in which I also collaborate;

  • Educational platforms like Educamadrid, which I use in my classes;

  • Content repositories like Agrega and Procomun, where I get digital materials for my classes;
    eLearning platforms and Moodle-based virtual classrooms that I use with my students;

  • or teacher’s projects like Animalandia, from Fernando Lisón, where I shared some of my pictures and that I use with my students.

We can also list similar experiences in different european countries, but it will be countless, so I will only mention several STEM projects in which I collaborate and use in my classes:

  • The educational projects held by the RaspberryPi Fundation in United Kingdom, where they use a RaspberryPi microcomputer, a free hardware developement, and more specifically the RaspberryPi Weather Station for Schools project, where I also participate with my secondary school.

  • The Arduino website, another free hardware project set up by David Cuartielles. Electronic devices that we use in our domotic and robotic projects.

  • Educational materials developed by CERN, which I use in my Scientific Culture classes.

  • Projects like Natusfera, from the Royal Botanic Garden in Madrid, where international public databases on biodiversity are used, and where my secondary school also participates.

  • The Encyclopedia of Life, EOL, an endless source of information for my Biology classes.

We can also mention more academic projects involved in the dissemination of Science that promote, distribute and share information with open digital contents, such as:

To develop these OERs in an educational environment, we currently have open source tools such as eXelearning, which allow us to generate such educational digital contents without requiring knowledge of programming languages.

These tools encourage teachers to get involved in the elaboration and publication of their own contents in a simple and intuitive way.

With eXelearning, you can also export your digital materials to different formats (SCORM, IMS, HTML5) that are used both in CMS (Content Management Systems) and in LMS (Learning Management Systems), and even it allows you to export to formats readable by any kind of tablets, the ePub3 standard.


The unstoppable development of the information and communication technologies brings us closer to an interconnected world with multiple and different devices that do not understand about barriers or licenses, and where education will play a very important role.

Open content encourages the dissemination of information and the development of the knowledge society, so it is necessary to adopt systems that regulate the distribution and circulation of digital contents. And Creative Commons systems and licenses currently play, and are going to play, a very important role in education.


OER, free software, licenses, digital contents, STEM, SCORM, IMS, CMS, LMS, HTML5


All linked webpages.


Jordi Adell, Scientix, RaspberryPi Fundation, Educamadrid. Grupo de Desarrollo MAX, Grupo de desarrollo eXeLearning

Article written by: Ismail Al Gago. Biology and ICT Teacher. Scientix Ambassador. – @ismagago

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