Mary Lou Forward [mozilladrumbeat]

Mary Lou Forward is the Executive Director of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, an international organisation that has a vision of improving global education by making high quality learning materials free and open for all.

Mary Lou has spent a good part of her academic career in Africa and most recently was Dean of African Studies for SIT Study Abroad, overseeing 29 programs across the continent.

At the Open Educational Resources International Symposium in London back in July (which also featured Brian Lamb) Mary Lou gave an enjoyable and uplifting opening keynote that really made clear what a global effort ‘open education’ is and how wide the reach of the OCWC is (the slides and audio of this presentation are available and well worth checking out).

I was lucky enough to chat to Mary Lou back in London and I was able to catch her between flights and meetings to see what she was going to be up to in Barca.

Like many she is attending both OpenEd and the Festival but she is particularly looking forward to the ‘open’ nature of the festival;

“Having spaces for collaborative creativity around learning and the web is a great idea. I really can’t wait to see what we all come up with during the festival…The Drumbeat Festival is providing a venue for discussions and creativity, so I’m hoping to meet lots of people I don’t know yet.”

One of the things that struck me in Mary Lou’s replies to my questions was the ‘people power’ element to all we are doing in ‘open education’. So often technology ends up taking centre stage (which given the backgrounds of many of us is unsurprising!) but I think Mary Lou put it wonderfully;

“People’s willingness to help each other gain knowledge is quite astounding, whether through posting educational resources, offering advice, linking up for peer tutoring, answering questions, etc.”

As with all my Q and A’s I ended with a question about her personal perspective on the term ‘open web’ and unsurprisingly she gave a great, thoughtful answer;

“[the ‘open web’ means] a level playing field. It’s a forum where anyone can build, sculpt and create learning experiences for themselves and for others. Traditional barriers like geography are broken down, though there are still barriers to full participation, including global economic inequalities and internet access issues. We need to be mindful of all the benefits and limitations as we work towards full openness.”

You can read the full Q and A with Mary Lou at http://backpass.org/2010/10/09/q-and-a-with-mary-lou-forward/