What are you passionate about? Music? Technology? Cats? Baseball?
How did you become passionate about this topic? Friends? A teacher? Your parents? An online discovery? I’d bet that it was a connection with someone who shared their passion that inspired you. These personal connections spark interest and creativity, and provide the necessary fuel to continue learning and participating. George Siemens says, “[n]urturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning” (2014). The internet doesn’t simply connect us with ideas or knowledge, it also connects us to the people who have those ideas. Thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, people have been able to connect with, well, almost anything they want.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
So, what happens when the possibility of making connections online are limited by laws?
Lawrence Lessig says that copyright laws are stifling creativity, resulting in the stunted evolution of new ideas, and argues that the internet should revive a read-write culture rather than kill it. Danah Boyd argues that locked-down academic journals should be accessible to the public for the same reason: our collective ideas are more powerful when they are shared than when they contained by “[h]eavy metal gates.” Aaron Swartz, a contributor to the development of Creative commons, among many notable accomplishments, argued, “sharing isn’t immoral – it’s a moral imperative.” He fought the Stop Online Piracy Act bill in the United States because he believed so strongly in the importance of learning from others. He said that it was a “bill against the freedom to connect.” These individuals understand the necessity of connectivism to our collective global development.
"I work for ideas and learn from people" - Aaron Swartz
Some organizations, like Creative Commons, have taken steps to ensure that digital material remains accessible to the public. Their “vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.” Spaces like Flickr are thriving today because of the work of of Creative Commons.
Right now, I’m learning how to play guitar using a variety of internet sources and apps, all of which I have accessed for free! People have generously shared their knowledge and talents by creating tools and educational videos for others, like me, to benefit from. This same generosity allows open education to serve those who might not otherwise be able to access learning materials or educators.
Take advantage of the connections that are available to you online, but more importantly, be generous in what you can offer to others. Share your passion.