Written by Nadia Mireles*
The knowledge of one of the greatest geniuses of this planet and the winner of the Nobel Prize is now within reach for everyone. Recently, the Hebrew University opened access to 2000 of Einstein’s manuscripts (although access will continue to grow over the coming months).
The news spread rapidly throughout the world, published in newspapers (El Universal, The Economist), magazines (Time, The Chronicle, Business Week), and blogs (Inside Higher Ed) of all types, not just within the education world. This evidence of access to the legacy of one of history’s geniuses confirms that knowledge should be free and accessible for everyone.
Now, we can read, in German, the text in the handwriting of E=mc2. Nevertheless, for those that do not speak German or are not researchers or students of physics, these texts may not say much.
While these texts are translated into other languages, the world of physics currently benefits from many Open Education Resources (OERs) of quality (though not as diffuse nor widely-known as Einstein’s texts). Some examples include: Theoretical Foundations of Physics (Fundamentos y Teorías Físicas), by the Technical University of Madrid (la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid), Classic Mechanics from MIT, and Solar Cells, by Delft University of Technology. The later two even offer the opportunity to join an open study group.
But it was not the news of Einstein’s manuscripts that called my attention to write this article, but rather a small anecdote of when someone asked Einstein for his telephone number. Einstein opened his agenda to look for the number, which, evidently, surprised the individual that had requested it, who asked Einstein how it was possible that he had not memorized his own telephone number. Einstein responded, why should I memorize something that I can easily look up in a book?
Einstein did not know his own telephone number by memory, but he developed the theory of relatively. Clearly, being a genius does not involve memorizing information, but rather, analyzing, judging, questioning, THINKING to discover knowledge as Einstein did.
“Knowledge is not about hiding. It’s about openness,” said the president of the Hebrew University. Access to Einstein’s manuscripts and to thousands of other Open Education Resources makes it possible for students, teachers, researchers, and whoever else may so desire to discover knowledge and information when they search for it.
The OERs continue to grow at an accelerated pace throughout the world, making more and more evident the need for educational approaches focused on learning, not teaching. The OERs offer the opportunity for learning, fostering in students the skills of critical thinking, analysis, and written communication, as well as key abilities in utilizing information.
“Teach to think, not to regurgitate,” was the number one response on the OECD’s survey “Raise your hand,” when asked of the community the top actions to take in education today.
And so, we are all going to learn from Einstein, not just from his now easily accessible manuscripts, but more from his insightful anecdote on not simply memorizing.
* Nadia Mireles is currently a consultant in E-learning and Instructional Design at the IDB, where she supports the design and development of various online education programs for Bank employees and also the region through INDES. Previously, she collaborated with the Universidad de Guadalajara as head of the language self-learning center and then as head of the Unit for the Promotion of Internationalization, where she was responsible for implementing the Universidad de Guadalajara’s self-learning centers, in addition to carrying out language learning projects with technological support.
Nadia has a double master’s degree in E-learning from the Universidad de Guadalajara and the Universidad Oberta de Catalunya. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Education (through a distance-learning program) at the University of Calgary, Canada. Her areas of research include the “open access” movement and open educational resources in Latin America, e-learning trends, Web 2.0 tools, and social and informal learning.