(Editor's note: This is an edited version of a chapter that appears in The Open Organization Guide for Educators, available now.)

We live in unprecedented times—where the only certainty is change the likes of which the world has never seen, where people have greater access to information than they have at any time in history, and where disruptive technologies change our lives on a near-daily basis.

Acquiring knowledge is no longer something people do exclusively in traditional, established institutions, and anyone with a smartphone is now more networked and has more access to information than all their ancestors combined.

So why have our education systems remained essentially frozen in time for more than 100 years?

Why do too many students see "doing school" as a passive exercise, irrelevant to their interests and ambitions? Why do too many educators, who enter the profession to make a difference in students' lives, become disillusioned with the institutional inertia of the status quo? And why do too many students either drop out of traditional educational programs or finish their formal educational career with lots of debt and still no clear idea of what they want to do in life?

Values and principles derived from the open source movement can provide powerful answers to these hard questions. And chapters in the recently released Open Organization Guide for Educators—available now at Opensource.com—provide insight, inspiration, and proven steps that any stakeholder in an educational organization can take to transform those institutions the open source way and better meet the needs of all students.

With its emphasis on rapid, crowdsourced prototyping, the open source approach to software development has in only 20 years shifted from fringe technical communities to become a primary driver of today's innovation economy. Forward-thinking people and organizations across the globe are responding to challenges through collective action to harness both open source technologies and societal expectations for greater openness and transparency. Legacy models of government, the corporation, and even the military are becoming more responsive to these changes. Educators have to make the same, critical decision: embrace these changes or face the reality of irrelevance.

Are we willing to make this dynamic shift, or will we continue to assume that the same industrial model of education on which we've relied for far too long is somehow good enough for our modern world?

The good news is that pioneering educators are embracing a different way. Open organization principles—transparency, inclusivity, adaptability, collaboration, and community—have the potential to completely change this educational paradigm, to make it more relevant to the needs of today's students and their communities, and to help them better develop the skills, knowledge, and dispositions they'll need to thrive in the midst of a 4th Industrial Revolution.

Just as the open source movement has catalyzed the digital revolution and innovation economy, an approach to education borne of the open source movement has the potential to enable any education stakeholder to capture the true promise of a more equitable education system for all students.

Stories from The Open Organization Guide for Educators are a call to action from open education experts around the world. Chapters in the book will provide you with tools for transforming your educational organization—and, because the book is licensed for sharing, modification, and remix, you can adapt its materials for specific learning communities.

Let's get started.


Ben Owens was an engineer for a multinational corporation for 18 years before becoming a STEM teacher in rural Appalachia, where he received state and national recognition for his innovative approach to teaching and teacher leadership. He co-authored the book, Open Up, Education! How Open Way Learning Can Transform Schools, and now works as an education consultant to help educators create similar cultural conditions for localized innovation in their own schools