A Mediterranean Diet for Open EdTech

A long lunch during the hottest hours of the day

From the Wikipedia article on the Mediterranean Diet:

In 2013, UNESCO added the Mediterranean diet to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of Italy (promoter), France, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, and Croatia. It was chosen because “The Mediterranean diet involves a set of skills, knowledge, rituals, symbols and traditions concerning crops, harvesting, fishing, animal husbandry, conservation, processing, cooking, and particularly the sharing and consumption of food.”

I am presenting a talk at the OpenMED conference in Torino on Friday. I have been struggling a bit with the talk and, for that matter, open as a concept more generally.¹ But Martin Weller’s recent posts about a Mixed Tools Diet and Rewilding Edtech reminded me that using ridiculous metaphors to explain edtech is a time-honored tradition of the ragtag, online incarnation of the field known as edtech. And we need to savor that tradition lest edtech become an actual discipline (#resist!).

Anyway, the idea is to try and take some concepts basic to the Mediterranean diet and map them onto some fundamental elements of healthy open edtech in order to communicate some values of the field. So here it goes:

In many ways the signature feature of the Mediterranean diet is olive oil. So, what would Olive Oil be in terms of Open EdTech? Olive oil is ubiquitous in the Mediterranean diet as a kind of basic infrastructure that cuts across all plates. You put olive oil on mozzarella, tomatoes, pasta, pizza, salads, etc. It’s omnipresent, and it not only makes the food taste better, but its healthier. Making the leap of faith then, the undergirding ingredient of open edtech is first and foremost the open web. The basic protocols, markup languages and scripting tools that define the World Wide Web are the Extra Virgin Olive Oil of edtech that lubricates sharing by removing the artery-clogging principles of a traditional means of publishing by enabling us to seamlessly navigate and share within a de-centralized, distributed infrastructure of information.

So, we can understand Olive Oil as the open web, the fundamental ingredient which any idea of openness in educational technology is built upon. Now we have other essential elements such as vegetables, fresh fruits, cereals, nuts and legumes. These are the elements that underscore the light nature of this diet.  This is designed to limit the amount of saturated fats, which might be understood as independent sites like Wikipedia as a vegetable garden of knowledge, creative commons as the fresh fruit, blogs as the nuts, and beans as the open source substitutes for high protein, fatty learning management systems (LMS). This may need some more work, but you get my drift. I have four days, so all recommendations welcome 🙂

Speaking of saturated fats, it is not expected that you avoid the LMS all together. In fact, we understand they can be useful, but as with most fast food it often defaults towards shutting down and templating content—so be wary.  Less than 8% of your OpenEd diet should be LMS-related. 

Five Guys Coming to Bay Area

Jun Seita’s “Five Guys Coming to Bay Area”

The same is true for social media, while Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and the like can be fast and convenient, diets are never about easy or pleasurable. In fact, look at what has happened when we let Facebook go 🙂 A rigorous diet of creating and maintaining your own resources online on your own space is essential to a new digital you. Resist the siren song of the quick fix dietary advice of social media conglomerates, and setup your own blog and start building your course and disciplinary resources through a leafier, greener web. 

course 2: salad

Jen R’s “Course 2: Salad”

Anyway, that’s all I have so far and I’ll be working on it over the next couple of days before I head to Torino, so any and all fun-loving recommendations are welcome. I’m sure some of you people who actually know something about health and diets could help me out here. I mean, I’m sure there are some fringe dietary facts I could use, I’m still figuring out how Domains and ds106 fits in. Maybe this is one of those analogies that is better abandoned then seen through for obvious reasons … such as this post. 


  1. The 5 minute videos Downes has been creating for the Introduction to OpenEd MOOC Siemens and Wiley are running have been quite helpful for me. I particularly agree with his assessment of OpenEd as a series of personal relations rather than licenses and stuff, but he does a nice job of abstracting the vision of what connected networks mean. The videos nicely encapsulate Downes ideas about networks, open, and learning in quickly, accessible, and human bits. Downes is a machine.

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8 Responses to A Mediterranean Diet for Open EdTech

  1. Alan Levine says:

    I like blogs as nuts.

  2. Alan Levine says:

    This will be a great metaphor, definitely by starting with the likely failure of metaphors but despite that, they taste so yummy.

    With food you also get the social aspects of working together in a kitchen, or they way people tend to gather in/near the kitchen. There’s the story aspect of recipes handed down. And also the notion of recipes being guides, that as a cook you make substitutions or try subtle changes, it’s not a fixed things.

    I’ve tried in talks the comparison with fast food- its easy to dig at the obvious un healthy kinds of food, but you could go a bit more towards what we trade for in the convenience of prepared food in general (cost, not always getting what we want, food poisoning) e.g. the whole dining experience compared at home vs out. So it’s not that eating out is bad itself, but how we how about making those choices knowing the tradeoffs.

    I’ve done the difference between a hotel room and a person room (slides 9 & 10 here https://extend-domains.ecampusontario.ca/guide/what-and-why/ also about half way through this one http://cogdog.wikispaces.com/Affordances+of+the+Open+Web) beyond the obvious differences I suggest that our relationship to the room changes between one we own/rent/decorate vs one we just use for a short exchange.

    And spice! We need spicy food

  3. I like the idea also of where/how you eat. E.g.
    “Home Cooking” (self managed hosting of blog like DoOO)
    “Take Away Food” (WordPress.com)
    “Resturant Dining with menu” (Tumblr)
    “All you can eat buffet” (Facebook)

    These need thinking about a little bit – but perhaps there’s something about where we get the food from as well as what the food is?

  4. Anne-Marie Scott says:

    Can you get some sort of sustainability angle in here? Typical Mediterranean foodstuffs are pretty low on the food chain and preservation techniques tend not to be complicated (air drying etc). You can often grow quite a bit at home or buy local. Might fit with ideas of DIY, sharing knowledge, leading edge tech etc.

    Also what about biodiversity? Fast foods often promote mono cultures and over-reliance on a few key ingredients in highly processed form.

    This is a diet recognisable to a huge geographic area. Why is that? There’s some common environmental factors, but also shared cultural practices? I like Alan’s reference to the kitchen space above.

    I’m really hungry now. I think breakfast may involve a lot of homegrown tomatoes…

  5. dkernohan says:

    Online courses are Pizza. The original canadian ones are Italian pizza – sharp, thin base, local. The big corporate moocs are chain pizza: sweet, fatty, homogenised.

    Pizza is delicious, but if you’ve never had the real ones….

  6. Pat says:

    So here is my take
    The ingredients don’t matter, as what you have is more of a one pot style of cooking, and that no dish has say the “meat and two veg” limitation or some constriction on size (say pies, pastry). This breaks a little bit with pizza, but stick with it.
    As such, if someone new comes, there is scope to feed them, and if lots more come, the dish can be expanded and scaled up. So this is a MOOC open and not a Wiley/Downes approved certified badge wearing open, but then throw in Al Fresco dining and you’ve a nice mix between both ideas.
    Tie in regional and seasonal variations, a perpetual harvest, foraging and you’ve D0OO

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