The media is constantly overflowing with updates on technological advancements and products, but their emphasis is truly reflective of the most important aspect of our changing world. Technology, as the humanitarian world has seen in the past decade or so, is not just a luxury for consumers in the first world. In fact, perhaps the greatest use of technology has been in developing countries.

Last week, the now-former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a small ceremony for the newest collaborative initiative coming out of the Department of State called “The Open Book Project”. Along with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO), MIT, Rice University, and the non-profit Creative Commons, among other educational organizations, The Open Book Project strives to extend open educational resources (OERs) to the Arab world in their native language.

While many countries are familiar with OERs, which allow free access to non-commercial users to legally license material for educational or research purposes, translating American textbooks and materials into Arabic is a huge step towards providing much-needed information in an area that does not have adequate access to the best universities or schools.

Websites such as or are priceless tools for young children and adults alike who want to learn more or further their knowledge. In the Arab world, where education can be limited by wealth, geography or gender, The Open Book Project hopes to break these boundaries. This is much more than a technological program; it can and should be seen as an example of “educational diplomacy”. It is a promising relationship between the United States and the Arab League as they come together on the issue of improving the opportunities for young people around the world.

Ambassador Mohammed Al Hussaini Al Sharif, the Arab League’s envoy to the U.S., sees The Open Book Project as “a huge step forward in the Arab-American relations”. By presenting themselves as supporters of increasing education and access to such resources, not only will the United States be improving its public image but more importantly, it is making huge strides in terms of addressing the many issues surrounding global poverty. Education is the main key to achieving success no matter what country someone lives in. By opening up this portal to documents, textbooks, lectures, research and other types of media, The Open Book Project will help people around the world to become productive and active members within their own communities.

Deena Dulgerian

Source:U.S. Dept. of State,Voice of America


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is offering one of the most useful courses available for free online. As open educational resources, or OERs, are gaining more and more popularity, creating classes on subject matters that affect everyone globally is a sure way of increasing an OER’s audience.

Introduction to Sustainability is taught by Dr. Jonathan Tomkin, a man with as much research experience as any top university department could wish for. He has studied the interaction between climate change, glaciers, and landscapes in areas such as the Swiss Alps, Patagonia, Antarctica, and the Olympic Mountains.

The 8-week-long course which starts on March 11th will debunk common myths on the future of the earth’s survival and discuss ideas on how science, the economy and societies can alter the future. The concepts of this course provide the foundation for furthering our understanding of sustainability through cross-disciplinary studies. With a comprehensive education on population growth, engineering, ethics, global change, resource limitations and cultural history, students in this class will develop a clearer vision of the different options humanity has for the foreseeable future.

Environmental ideology is becoming a more influential part of our lives. Whether for policymaking in the Western world or teaching farming methods in a third world country, sustainability techniques are as unique as the people who use them. What works in America obviously wouldn’t have the same effect in India or even New Zealand. The 8 weeks of study will cover topics ranging from temperature statistics and trends to the idea of the “disappearance of the third world”, and even the role of ethics in sustainability.

For those who may not have the time to manage the 8-10 hour weekly workload, Dr. Tomkin has made the course textbook, which he co-authored, available online for free (and yes, even in tablet-reader format). Such open-access resources can benefit people globally and drive a more informed and educated response to critical global issues such as environment and sustainability.

In order to understand what changes need to be made to level the playing field for all humans, whether they live in poverty or comfortably in a Californian suburb, universities need to dedicate more class time and teaching positions to such topics and also make them widely available through the dozens of technological mediums for people living in any part of the world.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Coursera
Photo: Palm Beach Schools