Calculating Your EduCarbon Footprint

As long as we’re enjoying this recent era of new word creation (c.f. “edupunk“), I’ll throw out the idea of an “EduCarbon Footprint.” Marie Duncan, a doctoral student of mine, is currently finishing a study of the structure of reuse with the Connexions repository. While reading her discussion of why more people don’t reuse existing, openly-licensed material, it made me think ‘we need a measure, like your carbon footprint, of how much you reuse existing educational materials.’ What would such a measure look like? A ratio of how much you reuse to how much you create? A ratio of the amount of open resources you use to closed resources? Would it be useful to have a measure like this? Surely you can think of a better name? And lastly, someone else has probably already proposed this – who was it?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • A very interesting idea, David. As you point out, there are several ratios of interest here. The picture is also complicated by the fact that open content–unlike, say, trees or oil–isn’t really consumed. When I move carbon from the crust (oil, coal, etc.) to the atmosphere, I don’t get a chance to get the energy back. Open educational resources may be more like solar power: it’s not diminished by use.

    So, if we really wanted to stretch the analogy, we might suggest that closed content, then, is more like fossil fuels. Producers (OPEC/Bb) spend money exploiting and accessing the resource, and then dole it out bit by bit to customers who need it. And just like in the case of fossil fuels, once infrastructures are set up to use closed content, it becomes very difficult for big organizations to switch, even as the benefits of “alternative edufuels” become increasingly clear.

    This is one quick take, but I know there are other directions to take this idea as well. I’ll look forward to some other folks picking this idea up.

  • Dear David- the issue of reuse and also of adaptation and updating is one that we spend a lot of time thinking about. Does your student Marie have anything published yet on reuse in the Connexions project?

  • No, she hasn’t published anything yet. She should be defending by the end of the month, so we can expect results online in that timeframe.

  • How about a play on “post-consumer content”?

    Is there a way of tying this to your idea of “teacher bandwidth”? Are these people bandwidth hogs?

    Of, course, as pointed out by Jason, the metaphor has problems.

    The angle, though, is right on. Using paper made from recycled paper was never a selling point until it became green. And education is in the same boat — using other people’s resources gets in the way of the natural egotism that people who like to give presentations have (including me in that). It’s perceived as substandard.

    In terms of production, I think the mash-up metaphor starts to get more toward the point, because the whole idea is to make reuse cool — I like the idea of the educator as master DJ, seamlessly spinning track into track with appropriate overdubs, and wonder if that root metaphor provides anything with the socially responsible overtones you’re looking for…