When David Wiley sees something broken, he wants to fix it, especially if it has to do with access to education. With emerging technology that can transform the way instructional content is delivered, the Brigham Young University scholar contends that now is the time to reform a system bogged down by proprietary concerns.
"The Internet presents an opportunity to share information like never before. I am driven by a passion and a feeling of responsibility to increase access to education for everyone," said Wiley, associate professor of instructional psychology and technology.
Now he has a new platform for that pursuit, as a senior fellow with Digital Promise, a congressionally authorized center devoted to developing technologies that improve teaching and learning. He starts his work Monday with the Washington-based nonprofit, which is funded by education-oriented foundations and the U.S. Department of Education.
"David is one of the country's leading thinkers and innovators around the use of technology in education," said Digital Promise executive director Adam Frankel. "There is no better match than David coming on as our first senior fellow to help us build a fellows programs and be a voice for what the role of the government and private sector should be in spurring technological innovation in our schools."
In 2008, Congress authorized Digital Promise, initially called the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies, to support research about learning technologies similar to how the National Institutes of Health support biomedical research and the Department of Energy supports energy research.
Wiley is associate director for research in the Center for the Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling, housed in BYU's McKay School of Education. Among the nation's leading proponents of open-source (free) education materials, he is founder of Open High School of Utah and is "chief openness officer" of Flat World Knowledge, a new company that produces open-source textbooks.
"His cutting-edge work is helping America find ways of cutting costs while delivering a world-class education to all our students," Frankel said. "In the context of tough economic times, his work is more relevant. A lot of people are looking at how education can be more affordable."
College textbooks have become so expensive in recent years that more than two-thirds of students surveyed by the Student Public Interest Research Group said they sometimes avoid buying them.
"There is no good reason any student or any person, for that matter should not have access to the high-quality materials they need to support their learning," Wiley said.
Despite their potential to lower costs, digital textbooks have failed to deliver much savings and are saddled with restrictions and kill dates that limit their usefulness.
"There are already today so many technologies that have so much potential if they are used appropriately," Wiley said. "We need fresh thinking. We'll find pragmatic ways to move this stuff into practice."
About David Wiley
Wiley, an associate professor on educational psychology and technology, is associate director for research for the Center for the Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling at Brigham Young University. He is now a senior fellow with Digital Promise, formerly called the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies.
See his blog at http://opencontent.org/blog