Mozilla Drumbeat Interview: Brad Felix

With the awesome Mozilla Drumbeat festival less than a month away, I've been talking to one of the featured participants: Brad Felix, Chief Learning Officer of Flat World Knowledge.

Anybody interested in Open Education, Open Software, Open Hardware (basically anything open and web related) will probably know about the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival coming up this November in Barcelona. If not there is one single bullet point on their web-site that summed up how awesome this is going to be:

A chance to play with open source robots, lasers and other nifty digital learning doodads

That’ll do it for me, I’m going.

So with this amazing festival less than a month away, I’ve been talking to one of the featured participants: Brad Felix, Chief Learning Officer of Flat World Knowledge.

Brad is a New Yorker with 14 years of experience building, managing, and teaching about educational technology. He is credited with co-designing and developing one of the world’s first web-based learning management systems as VP of Technology for eCollege, so he has plenty of knowledge on an experience to bring to the festival.

Q: What will you be doing at the festival?

A: I will be co-chairing a conference space called “Open Content Studio”, in which we plan to basically hack, discuss, explore, enhance, find, promote, or perform any other action on Open Content that suits our desire.  We’re also planning to build stuff, by toying with the idea of trying to craft some chunks of an Open textbook, likely on the topic of web development.  We don’t necessarily expect a full textbook as a result, but instead insight into the existing toolsets and where they shine or fall short, as well as the editorial and content authoring challenges of pulling together something like a textbook.  We’ll get a chance to dig into feature sets of various OER tools.

_Simultaneously, our space will hopefully serve as a feedback zone, facilitating discussions with some key people in this space, allowing everyone a chance to help set some direction of where to apply our efforts in the future.  _

Finally, we’ll ideally begin designing, in effect, “OER Catalog 2.0”, to help with the ever-challenging issue of discoverability of resources for educators. We’ll need lots of help here from conference attendees!

Q: Is there anyone in particular you are looking forward to meeting?

_A: I’d say there are probably too many people to list off.  But I’m passionate about education and I’m passionate about technology.  I’d guess that a healthy percentage of the people attending are of the same frame of thought, but each brings a unique and critical personal approach and set of experiences to the table.  So, for this swath of people whose work I have read, cited, discussed, respected, or otherwise encountered virtually, I can finally meet personally and engage, converse, share thoughts, drinks, and the charm of Barcelona.   _

Finally, I’m originally a Mechanical Engineer (before stumbling on this thingy called Netscape 1.0 in 1995), so I have a personal interest in Open Source Hardware, and am therefore also looking forward to the Hackerspace playground in particular.  It will be great getting my hands dirty with arduino bits and other fun toys!

Q: In you’re opinion, what is the most exciting thing happening in education and the web today?

A: One is just tough, so how about two? I’d say 1) access and 2) efficiency.

I try to be pragmatic in life, so generally feel the need to view web as a driver of cost. Driving down the cost of education for students can have massive impact on access. It’s a big part of why I have spent the better part of 3 years at Flat World Knowledge, whose efforts focus on college textbook affordability. Flat World’s model of Open Content and a “Free” business model just makes so much sense here. Its early, but we’re starting to see some results from these new kinds of cost structures, Open Content, and resulting increases in access.

Once people gain access, the experience has to be efficient. For that we need tools and all of our favorite acronyms like IEP’s, PLE’s, PLN’s, etc. which all basically enable the important shift from an educator-centric model to a student-centered one. I love the idea that educators and students can tailor a learning experience exactly according to their needs. With respect to Open Content and Drumbeat, in Barcelona we’ll be working with some of these tools, including brand new ones from Flat World on the verge of release that really break new ground in terms of content customization and remix. Instructors will have incredible and dead-simple-to-use control over their course content.

If this has piqued your interest, follow @brad_felix on “the Twitters”, check out the  Flat World Knowledge website and of course if you have yet to Register, do it now!