Recently, I have been conceptualizing/personalizing the concept of open teaching as informed by my facilitation of EC&I 831 and ECMP 455. In my view, open teaching goes well beyond the parameters of the Free and Open Source Software movement, beyond the advocacy of open content and copyleft licenses, and beyond open access. For open teaching, these are the important mechanisms, processes, and residuals, but they should not be viewed as the end goals in themselves. Rather, open teaching may facilitate our approach to social, collaborative, self-determined, and sustained, life-long learning.
My working definition of open teaching (focused on the above areas) follows:
Open teaching is described as the facilitation of learning experiences that are open, transparent, collaborative, and social. Open teachers are advocates of a free and open knowledge society, and support their students in the critical consumption, production, connection, and synthesis of knowledge through the shared development of learning networks. Typical activities of open teachers may include some or all of the following:
* Advocacy and use of free and/or open source tools and software wherever possible and beneficial to student learning;
* Integration of free and open content and media in teaching and learning;
* Promotion of copyleft content licenses for student content production/publication/dissemination;
* Facilitation of student understanding regarding copyright law (e.g., fair use/fair dealing, copyleft/copyright);
* Facilitation and distributed scaffolding of student personal learning networks for collaborative and sustained learning;
* Development of learning environments that are reflective, responsive, student-centred, and that incorporate a diverse array of instructional and learning strategies;
* Modeling of openness, transparency, connectedness, and responsible copyright/copyleft use and licensing; and,
* Advocacy for the participation and development of collaborative gift cultures in education and society.
(Key phrase, “working definition”, comments always welcome.)
Through interactions with current and former students, the resulting practice has lead to a learning environment where the walls are appropriately thinned. This process is visualized through the following graphic.
Through the guiding principles of open teaching, students are able to gain requisite skills, self-efficacy, and knowledge as they develop their own personal learning networks (PLNs). Educators guide the process using their own PLNs, with a variety of teaching/learning experiences, and via (distributed) scaffolding. Knowledge is negotiated, managed, and exchanged. A gift economy may be developed through the paying-forward of interactions and meaningful collaborations.
In the digital and rich-media environment, educators may also take on different roles, metaphors that extend beyond “sage on the stage”, “guide on the side”, etc. The “network sherpa” (source?) may be a suitable metaphor to describe these pedagogical processes.
This metaphor projects the role of teacher as one who “knows the terrain”, helps to guide students around obstacles, but who is also led by student interests, objectives, and knowledge. The terrain in this case consists of the development of media literacy (critique & awareness), social networks (connections), and connected/connective knowledge.
As with any models/images/diagrams/metaphors there are always limitations and (outright) flaws. Yet, I present these three pieces (i.e., working definition of open teaching, thinning the walls, network sherpa) in hope that it will lead us to a discussion on some of the perceived changes in teaching & learning in the wider scope of education.
Feedback and critique always welcome and encouraged.
For me, there is the push of the assigned curriculum as defined by the North Dakota Language Arts Standards. My students are tested on those standards, though the tests are not high stakes. These standards aren’t as oppressive as one might think, and I teach them as best as I can. I sense that I will be held more accountable for my students doing well with those standards than I am now. Is that good or bad? I’m not sure.
The best I can do for my students is to show them I’m an expert learner. I try to crack open my thinking for them as much as possible so they can experience the procedural knowledge I have for my content area—English— as well as for learning in general. This lets me guide them through terrain (to use your metaphor) that I’m not entirely familiar with (technology, Web 2.0). Teaching becomes then helping students see and experience navigating unfamiliar terrain.
Do you metaphors work? Yes…they work as models to reach for. I especially like “an environment where the walls are appropriated thinned.” Learning does happen everywhere.
I really like the gift metaphor, so I’m going to tell a story. My daughter is very dyslexic. In Grade 11, she asked her teacher if she could make a film about Schizophrenia instead of writing a paper. The video was so well done, the teacher decided to use it as a teaching resource for later classes. The positive feedback, let my daughter to rewrite the video and present it as a play in the Fringe. – An exchange of gifts that let to new horizons.
The flip side of this story is my daughter dropped out of school soon after the video experience; she just got fed up with people refusing to accommodate her LD because of the schools inability to think outside the text box. – Walls so thick they blocked out the sun.
Today at 21, she is a trainee television producer (just in case you thought the story ended badly.)
In recent weeks, the community of Georgetown University has begun to have this discussion, albeit on a rudimentary level. It started when professors began pushing the University to prohibit use of laptop computers in the classroom. Their argument was two fold: A) Students can type so fast that they are able to dictate the lectures and do not have to process the material, and B) students become otherwise engaged checking email, google-chatting, surfing the web, playing solitaire, etc…
Students in turn responded to the later saying that the multi-tasking with computers is a symptom not the diseases. In an atmosphere where students are penalized for missing class, but the only material presented in class is a summation of the assigned readings it really doesn’t matter if students are paying attention during lecture on not. Many students use computers to their advantage by finding examples or consulting Wikipedia to better understand something in class.
Yes, the university tries to utilize technology by providing classes with blogs, but it is mostly student responce driven. Instead, professors could be posting links to relevant real-world examples and asking students to write a paragraph response, or respond to other students, rather than a prompt that is based off of assigned readings (i.e., books and journal articles).
Last fall I was part of a class on the History of the Silk Road. The class was to be a modern Silk Road exchange, through the partnership with Fudan University in Shanghai. However, the class never really got off the ground. So much potential, but it ended up falling short for a host of reasons, including interference by the Chinese Government. Anyways, my point is that I think that students are itching to take the platforms on which they function everyday and expand them into the classrooms, but because teachers/professors are unfamiliar with the platforms we haven’t seen much in the way of headway. Yes, a projector and PowerPoint are available in most classrooms on campus and I have even had professors utilize YouTube clips during class, but I think we are still a ways away from integration. I still have professors not using email!
Send me an email if you want to chat more.
Convincing teachers to stop teaching from the mountaintop and lead the students up the mountain is an on going challenge. I think we are getting better at guiding them. Our tools are better designed to help our students become learners. New provincial curricula challenges teachers to make these changes. Our teachers need to constantly remind themselves to try new teaching methods and avail themselves of the tools.
As an administrator I have a key role here. To lead teachers to be comfortable with their students directing there own learning is one of my main goals I am working on this current year. To accomplish this I try to lead by example and use new tools and techniques in my own teaching and then share successes or failures. I also try to encourage staff to learn about and infuse new technology (yes, some of us are lost somewhere on the media literacy mountain).
There is no question that all of this is sound. What will make it redundant for a while is the lack of teacher expertise to put this into practice. One would imagine its young teachers who will be taking and running with this, but I’m finding them woefully unprepared for teaching in a modern classroom. Taught by old teachers from and old system they start with old ideas in their heads and are successfully placed in old thinking schools – they are now part of a CoP that isn’t open to ‘open teaching’. Entrenched teachers are generally too caught up in the mundane to break into something innovative and exciting like this, they have enough trouble surviving the adminstrative load without being differnt in teaching style. They also bump into the layer of assessment. We continue to assess kids via exams designed while students still used chalk and slates.
I have hope that old teachers (those supposedly digital migrants) like myself can infiltrate the junior end of education where there is more flexibility in the curriculum and instill this approach before the strictures of secondary education impact.
Students themselves will then be the agent of change and carry these transferable skills as they pass through and tolerate most of the education we offer.
As a working definition some elements are bordering on “motherhood’ statements, but so good to see someone making a stab at writing what I’m thinking; but I lack the writing skills to say it.
I like your ideas about everything being open, including the educators. This is a perfect model for adult learners who are passionate in learning. Do you think it’s worthwhile to re-define the role of the “teacher” or “educator”? Are there better name for it? Nancy call herself expert learner. I have once like the “mentor” but it seems to be more appropriate for professional development.
I have once posted the role of teacher/educator with A-Z in http://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com
Would an open learning model (or open network learning) focussing on the learning itself work? Everyone (including the teacher and learner) plays an equal role sharing the teacher-student model, or the peer teaching model). I have once been in a mentoring program working as a mentor. And I think the reciprocity of mentor and mentee and peer mentoring model, when immersed in your model shown would give excellent results (and it has!)
I have still retained the role of the teacher, but I think such rigid role needs to diminish upon time when the learner has grown into an expert learner (or teacher). The http://connectivismeducationlearning.ning.com may be the community network that fits your suggested model.
I also learnt that you have facilitated or have been involved in other networks with such model. Like to learn the extent of success from your point of view.
Thanks again for sharing this excellent model.
I love this mentioned methaphores and i am convinced there will be a lot of teachers feel the same. I would like to second the gift metaphor as an good symbol of the changed use and common – based on social networks, like it developed itself. The second i love is the itself destructing wall continiuosly ongoinng in time.
What i am missing are three points who are shining up but IMHPO not clearly highlighted. First is the teachers role. Going from a information selector an presentor towards a process and progress moderator is mentioned clear. I would like to see embedded a teacher as a learner inside this progress. The same is the institution, which should be also on the way from enabling the learning situations to self learning – and allowing the teachers as well as the learners to be open for the process. Thinking so I can say with gsiemens: The learner is the teacher is the learner and the teacher is the learner is the teacher. Both directions are important
Going a step back, I got my decision to try to make a difference between content producer and recipient AND learners and teachers, because it depends on the context who is who.
There is a second point i got in mind which could be extended: By imagination about to who those activities are directed it is important to claim they are public — world wide public and directed, designed and dedicated to people with interest in the topic or the producers person. This can produce a fear – this can also produce a boost. I cannot describe how my students are changing their behave after they really recognize being “recognized” and got their hard work “valued” f.I. by comment. This are my key moments in this process.
The third is more methodical than a real extension. For me it changed a bit critical to start with media literacy aiming to get in networks. I prefer to concentrate on the content and deliver the media literacy as side effect. But I agree – this is because i focussed one web2.0 media type. But i also observe how quick they get tired on the next and the next and the next …. (|: repeat :|) tool they have to login. It seems more complex for them as I recognize 4 me.
So far my 3 cents
As a social work educator, I love your vision of open/networked teaching. It is overtly value-based, which is surely more exciting to students and educators than the (supposedly) empirically based, “objective” knowledge we transfer to them (what Freire called the banking system of teaching). It’s a relational, democratic, generous model that generates abundance among members of the networks.
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So now I’m taking off my parent advocate hat and putting on my teacher hat. Assessing to standards always seems to be the argument used for not letting students create with technology. If your goal is “Students must learn A”, then the education systems assumption is they can only demonstrate their achievement of A through some form of standardized writing. Only art, computer and trades classes are exceptions to that rule.
The proliferation of technology for creating film, images, mashables, discussion forums etc. have opened up an opportunity to express “A” in hundreds of ways never seen before. The balance of power has shifted and students may know more about demonstrating their knowledge of A than the teacher.
Imagine a 14 year old taking adult play writing workshop with the writer of DeVinci’s Inquest and having a film shown at the Winnipeg film festival. How many English teachers had similar opportunities? How do you mark an alternative vision of A when you have no idea how it was created; when you have no control over how it was created? How many teachers are willing to ask a student “teach me”?
Alex’s vision of open teaching fits well with the 21st century world that our students live in but most of our schools are still based in the industrial age’s vision of mass education that required regimentation and control. Like car manufactures, schools are out of sync but too huge to put out of business.
I would like to underscore something that Sylvia mentioned: your thinking on this subject is deeply value-based and even a wee bit political, and that’s a nice change from some of the bloodless views of teaching and learning we’ve all been treated to over the years. Of course I feel that way because I share these values with you. Taking this kind of position, as you well know, will also invite some “other values-based invective”, so fasten your seat belt. This could be a very interesting journey.
The metaphors and descriptions themselves will no doubt shift, or even disappear in favour of other ways to describe your ideas as they grow. I’ve found that metaphors–at least the ones I’ve employed–are liberating and transparent at first, but they almost always end up being inadequate for expressing my ideas as they get deeper and more subtle over time. At some level, they seem to implode. But that being said, I do think you’ve picked some very good ways to illustrate these ideas, and these metaphors are rich and nuanced. In the long run, I wonder if they’ll hold up for you, or if you’ll explore other ways–say, critical incidents or narrative–to augment the central notions?
I’ve got a few other thoughts on the change process itself — whether it is linear or iterative over time, and whether there are pockets of change that interact with other social forces to cause our understanding of teaching and learning to evolve or sometimes shift dramatically and suddenly. But I’ll stop for now, as I have to put supper on the stove — and that’s not a metaphor for something else — I really have to put supper on the stove.
Yes, Silvia. Thanks for mentioning Paolo Freire.
I’m not sure my students know all that much about technology. Yes, they can text-message quite deftly under their desks, but I’m not sure they have even an inkling of what’s available to them. And quite frankly, neither do I.
And Deirdre. You’re right; we cannot let assessment run the show. I shouldn’t not do something with my students, because I don’t know how to assess it.
I can imagine change in my corner of the world. How do we move change beyond each of us?
I absolutely love the graphics. The concept of the post initially drew me in, but I find true genius in the sheer simplicity within the graphics. The sherpa image is one I would love to use (slightly modified) as a way to explain a shift toward a more constructivist approach in secondary classrooms. Whether is goes by the name of “inquiry” as it is most often in science, “PBL” (god, I hate these acronyms), workshop model in communication arts, etc… these are all attempts to move the “teacher” of the class toward something that may be best described as the “lead learner” in the room.
I love the idea of a sherpa… thanks for putting this into my brain.
@Nancy: Thanks, I like that you extended the “unfamiliar terrain” outside of my tech-headiness. Sometimes I’m ashamed to think that I was once an English teacher. :-)
@Deidre: Thanks so much for the story of your daughter. Interestingly enough, when I went to Saskatoon Bar Camp a while back, there were a number of young ‘new media’ people who spoke about badly the school system had failed them in regards to their needs.
@Ashley: Thanks for the insight re: The Georgetown U community & the Silk Road experience. It is my experience as well that there is a huge disconnect between institutionalized pedagogy (and typical instructor knowledge) and the informal processes of student interaction/learning. There is much to learn here regarding an intermediate understanding, and much we need to do to improve learning through institutions. Yet, I am also skeptical of the push toward mainstream type gaming as an approach to (all) pedagogy, or developing (say) Facebook-like systems to mimic informal student interactions and learning (see creepy treehouse). There are different motivators for some of these pieces. We certainly need to pursue these avenues, but caution is warranted (but not molasses-like progress, or fear-mongering). – Sorry, went a bit astray on that one. :-)
@Dave: I appreciate the addition to the mountain metaphor, something I never picked up on until you wrote it. I’m glad to see yourself in that position, as I know the change needs to happen … and this is certainly a good way to approach it. Let me know if you need any former HPS students to help with the cause! ;-)
@SirChriss: Your depiction of these problems seems accurate to me, and I’d like to hear more of possible solutions, *especially* since I come from the land of teacher education. All I can offer is the understanding that teacher education cannot make these changes without the participation of schools and school districts, and vice versa. Thanks also for pointing out the sense of “motherhood statements”, I think I need to look very closely and revise the language. Thanks for this important critique.
@John: I think I really need to look closely at the images and revise them to extend the learning of the educator (yes, better than ‘teacher’). It really is a part of the model, but the conceptualization faded that point out a bit … and it really is important in this whole scheme. Thanks for the thoughtful critique, extension, and links.
@Andreas: As I mentioned to John, yes, I need to make the learning of the teacher (educator) much more explicit here … very much agreed. Your second point re: valued globally is a bit more difficult to represent I think, but equally important. It’s something I need to think about. And your third point re: media literacy as a side effect to social networking (instead of a prerequisite) is well taken. However, I really didn’t mean the ‘mountains’ to be sequential, but simply important pieces along the way. And, already, the mountain image breaks down a bit for me as I don’t want people to think that this distant “knowledge mountain” is just at the end of a journey. Rather, it is within the exchanges (and exchangers) along the way.
@Silvia & Rick: I want to thank you both for the overtly values-based piece. It really has me thinking about this in a different way … I think you jarred something in me (not sure if that is good or bad). I guess, I’ve always thought that everything around education was pretty much chock-full of values (the choices around what curriculum, who’s knowledge is worthy, how we present material, what tools we use, … that sort of thing). Perhaps, I am just much more explicit about it, and I am not sure if that is a good thing, but more importantly … for which audiences can I frame my arguments this way? And, is it going to get me in some trouble along the way? Hmmmmmm.
@Deidre (again): I’m really hoping that we are on the cusp of this change. I really don’t know if the status-quo is going to be possible in the near future. Something is going to break.
@Sean: Thanks Sean. I’m wondering how you’d modify the sherpa image. I’m certainly looking for new angles on all of this.
Thanks to all who have commented so far! I am really happy with the feedback, and hope to have other comment as well. I really want to improve these ideas and do so within the overall spirit of openness.
Good graphics! And very in line with two animations we did a few months ago with approximately the same message:
Traditional education model: http://malsatt.novia.fi/manuellt/flowplayer/traditionell/
Improved education model: http://malsatt.novia.fi/manuellt/flowplayer/svangdorren/
Future education model: not made yet – what should it look like?
The commentator speaks in Swedish, but I think you get the idea by just looking at the animation.
@Alec: Of course everything is value-laden — in education, in social work, in research… But a modernist society maintains the myth of objectivity. Science plays a very important role in validating political decisions at all levels, including what gets included on the curriculum, which teaching approaches are used, etc. You know how the game is played.
The moment you make your values explicit, you open yourself to all kinds of attacks on the “biased” nature of your work (versus an “objective” project). Within the university community, your work may be hailed by many as cutting-edge. But as some other commentators have pointed out, it’s a very different case for the teacher in the field.
I see an interesting role for someone like me (antioppressive social worker) in the area of creating change, because my basic framework permits me to understand the systemic power issues at stake and provides me with certain means to attempt to circumvent or dismantle some of these structures.
At any rate, I think you need to *choose* the settings in which you promote the value base of your work. I believe that these values made explicit will inspire and renew the energies of many educators. But in the wrong context, these values can be used to dismiss your work and to undermine your reputation.
I’ve had to learn to be subversive. I can talk “empiricism” along with the best of them, if the context demands it. I’ve learned how to analyze the context and to shift my approach accordingly. It means occupying multiple locations and identities sometime, in order to sustain the precious commodity of academic credibility. I value my integrity and I don’t see this as dishonest at all — I simply have to master several discourses, similar to speaking in a foreign language in order to be understood. It’s part of the skills of the interdisciplinary scholar.
As threatened on Twitter, I’m back with more on the “MacGuyver (and grant ‘concierge’ redundant) notion.”
I believe this will be necessary given the “disruptive” impact of your model. As one encounters institutional and political “push back” I’d expect the need for “workarounds” to be apparent. As fans are aware, MacGuyver “implemented clever solutions to seemingly intractable problems” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macguyver
Also see something about the importance of synchronous communication as a specialization for the network sherpa.
Maybe synchronous matches avalanche in the mountain metaphor, or maybe the sherpas also river guide–but I see a “swept away” aspect to the social side of network-building that happens synchronously, and is distinct from other online interaction. This is also where the “real Mac” will come into play in terms of “on the fly” workarounds, and bringing resources to bear on a particular “problem” facing our sherpa.
Still digesting, and thanks for the metaphor to chew on….
Thanks for the food for thought! As someone who recently graduated from teacher education here in Winnipeg (UW), I agree that the twenty-somethings are, ironically, less open to using technology in the classroom than old fogies like us (and I am EXACTLY nine years older than you, birthday buddy). Maybe it is my science background, but I can’t believe how stodgy some of these young teachers are … and how authoritarian. Maybe the same fear is behind both issues?
I’m wondering if you can connect your “open teaching” concept somehow with the ideas of Alfie Kohn? I think he would love the Sherpa idea … although I think you will need to deconstruct that word a bit to get rid of the racist overtones … oh dear, my philosophy minor is showing.
I’m thinking that a school that was able to implement truly collaborative, wall-thinning (love that!) learning would also not have to worry as much about “discipline” … I’ve been spending some of my time walking the halls fussing about hats … such a waste of time.
Looking forward to the development of your thoughts!
Thank you for this inspiring post on open teaching, Alec. I mulled the classroom image over in my head and cannot see everything you may want to have seen in there. As you are thinking about open teaching, I think the role of the teacher needs to be clearer (as mentioned earlier). However, I think not just his / her learning, but the entire role. For me it would already help in the interpretation of the picture if I could recognize the teacher over time in the image. Right now there are three guys who wear similar clothing, but I am not sure if that is always the teacher as the clothes are just similar and not the same. In order to bring in the learning of the teacher, maybe an additional, a 4th, time interval would be beneficial in which the teacher exchanges gifts with the students (I am not sure if that is actually already depicted in interval two or not). I like that you depicted the first group of students as “conform” through their identical clothing, but showed their individuality through colored clothes in the next two time intervals. Then why do the students in the mountain image wear all black (except for three guys with white T-shirts)? Wouldn’t they have to wear clothing as colorful as the students in the second and third time interval in the classroom image?
I liked your sherpa metaphor, but I feel that it misses the tremendous amount that teachers learn from their students. I teach online courses on the use of the internet in the classroom and each semester I learn more and more as my students climb to new heights and push me to do the same.
On another point, I often participate in the free, six-week Electronic Village Online courses offered by volunteers in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages. What I have noticed over time is that many of the courses are now collaborative in the sense that each week is handled by a different teacher of group of teachers. I think that is a teaching model that needs more exploration.
Great Insight. I agree to most part of your concept differing with you on the copyright bit. Openness and Technology has its stages and i have found it pivotal to familiarize collaborators and participants of the system with these steps. In web 2.0, thankfully each participant is supposed to add to the existing body of knowledge through feedback or primary content creation, so i guess this would create a web of shared-vision and experience if put comprehensibly.
I strongly disagree with the fact that copyrights should be regarded in any academic endeavors to restrict the usage of copyrighted content if it is relevant to the matter on hand. Very notion of copyright is corporate and capitalistic and therefore should be discouraged in both academic and individual lives. Well thought-out model though. Keep shinning :)
@Romi: Very neat animations, and very much inline of what I have done here. Future of education model? Now that’s the question, isn’t it. I am hoping that work like yours, and posts like this (and by others) can help us at least collaboratively create a vision for what this may look like. Thanks for your work and links.
@Silvia: Thanks for your excellent input. I agree with your notion (if I read it correctly) that we have to subvert where possible. The message really shouldn’t change, but the language may be different for different groups, some are more accepting, willing, and able to change than others. Thanks again for the input.
I love the MacGyver piece, and I’d love to just produce something totally along that line. I am quite sure that one graphic will not serve every image we have for education(al change), but at least this post was able to inspire complementary pieces. Thanks for your thoughts on this, I’d love to follow this line further.
I don’t know Kohn’s work well enough, but you’re not the first person that has advised me to read it (or not to read it). As for your comment on “racist overtones”, I am quite aware that there could be that criticism. When I heard the sherpa metaphor, I looked into it closely. The term has become ‘unglued’ from the ethnic Sherpa (small letter throughout post) and has come to mean a highly regarded, highly skilled, elite mountain guide. I thought to make this point in my post, but decided against it as I felt my mentioning it may provoke a distaste that was unnecessary if you look at the historical treatment of Sherpas vs. say First Nations/American Indian guides in early colonial days. These are very separate histories, and the indigenous terms have entirely different connotations. I understand your concern, as I had it myself. Yet, I do not think we should be scared to use language like this, especially if we understand the etymology and possible criticisms. At any rate, the metaphor is transitional, just a means to get to a better understanding of educational change.
@Kristina & @Maryanne: You are not the first to mention that the teacher’s learning must be more clear (nor will you be the last). I know this was certainly an important part of the metaphor, but it did not come out well in the diagram. Look for possible revisions, and thanks again for the feedback!
@minhaaj: Thanks for your objection to the copyright. I used to have very similar ideas as you re: copyright. I was pretty much a copyright abolitionist. However, two things changed my mind. 1) I feel that I need to be more understanding of those who create content as their career. At my institution, as a professor, I am paid for research, scholarship, and community service. I am paid whether or not I create or sell content. I can give my content away, and do not have to rely on making my living that way. I personally publish everything under copyleft licenses (NC/ATT/SA), but I do not believe I have the right to enforce this upon others. Licensing content should be a choice. 2) Copyleft is a reaction to too much ownership of content in society. However, copyleft does not work as a legal mechanism without the existence copyright law. In other words, without copyright, there is no copyleft. Sure, another system may come around to replace copyright, but it does not yet exist. This is actually why there are many critiques of copyleft as well.
Thanks to everyone again for contributing to this conversation. This has been wonderfully insightful, and I do hope that others will also contribute and build upon what we have all said here.
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One of the really good classes we had here at UW was taught by a Cree elder, about the aboriginal perspective. One of the points I was able to take away with me is that there is a lot of similarity between the experience of aboriginal people all over the world. She was very definite on this, based on her experience working with aboriginal groups in many different parts of the world. I was strongly struck by this while studying the aboriginal experience in Australia and Hawaii, myself, as well.
I find your statement that the Sherpa experience is qualitatively different from that of other aboriginal people in the world to be very interesting, and would love to know what that is based on. I don’t think it is PC gone wild as I am basing my thoughts on the words of this elder, whom I respect very much. I have also developed a strong respect for you, so I’d like to learn where your opinion comes from.
I do realise that this is ranging far afield from the purpose of this blog post, which used the image of a trusty mountain guide as a metaphor for a teacher. I do understand that. But I hope you don’t mind carrying on a bit with this side discussion. We can do it in a different forum if you prefer.
@Hadass: I am not saying that the experiences of aboriginal/indigenous people do not have some similarities universally. Human, also, in general share many attributes, experiences, etc. However, I do not believe that you or I or any 1 member of a group (ethnic/cultural/language/political) can speak for all members in such that their opinion is ‘true’ for all members. With all respect due, a Cree elder can speak well of his/her experience and generally of the experience of his/her community. And in the case you mention, it appears that there is much more global experienced added. But even First Nations in Canada are much more diverse in opinion and belief than the media would make it seem. In Saskatchewan alone, we have First Nations people who identify as Cree, Ojibwa, Assiniboine, Dakota, Chipewyan, Gros Ventre. These FN people are organized in over 53 bands, and three government treaties. There are also at least 6 FN languages still taught in Saskatchewan (likely more). And that’s just the traditional piece. What about the urban/rural, reserve/non-reserve split? What about those that know their language, those who do not? Those who went to residential schools, those who did not? What about non-treaty, those that lost status through marriage/children, or Metis? The indigenous experience is anything but uniform/universal.
There are other things that unite/divide people. In the case of FN people, in many cases it is unfortunately poverty. There is also the residential school experience that (by United Nations definition) led to a very real genocide. There are more positive uniting factors: band government, FN-controlled education, political self-determination, etc. These are things that make each FN individual unique; these depend on circumstance, culture, context.These are VERY different from the experience of the ethnic group known as the Sherpa.
But again, as you say, this is not about *the* Sherpa. This refers to the term sherpa that (now that I have researched this a bit more) has been used 100’s if not 1000’s of times in ways that represent a form of leadership and know-how in a very favorable manner. With all I have said above, I cannot determine what the majority of ethnic Sherpas would think of us using the term for modeling a type of teaching and learning. Nor, do I think you could get a consensus. But, I feel the term has been separate enough from the ethnic group that I would feel comfortable using it. And, I wasn’t the first person to use it in this context.
And, you asked finally, where do I get my opinion from? I was a history major with a strong focus on aboriginal education in my undergrad. I worked on reserve for 4 years teaching at a First Nations controlled school. I have worked with First Nations education (7 years full-time) for over a decade. I have a strong foundations/philosophy background. I have taught over a dozen undergrad sessions re: social justice/technology/race in education. And most personally, I married an Ojibwa woman and have two children who are considered ‘Treaty Indians’ under Canadian law. See more here: http://educationaltechnology.ca/couros/1065
Well people in western hemisphere have this respect for copyrights but its pretty serious issue here exactly opposite in nature and i don’t seem to be the only one with this stance. This is an article with my views and other leaders in copyright movement around the world. We here are pretty much against the very notion of copyrights be it under the guise of protecting the content creators or restricting the knowledge.
@Minhaaj: I have said openly that I am more a copyist, than a copyleftist … personally. I understand that there are other cultural views regarding the property of discourse, especially whether or not knowledge can be owned. This is particularly problematic when it comes to drug patents, genetically modified food, or even patenting aspects of the human genome.
I have read the “tragedy of the commons” paper before. In your very words, there is the bulk of my argument toward fairness and balance in the copyright/copyleft system. You say “In Pakistan, pirating materials is a great, common way to distribute to students who can’t afford original versions because it would take significant time and resources to re-create equivalent content of the same quality. There’s the problem. Creating good content takes time. In a university, I can do this as part of my job. For others, creating content is their only source of income. With the balance of control, we can have people copyleft content (or public domain) and make it available to educational institutions. However, others can create content for profit. But at least there is choice, and availability. I do not believe that I should be able to mandate a particular license (or lack of license) to people who create artistic works, where their main incentive for creation is that it pays their bills and feeds their children. Ideally, I prefer the free exchange of content (true gift economy). However, the entire monetary/trade system would have to radically change before we could ever do this within an incentive-based system.
Thanks for the thoughtful response. You were up even later than me, and I appreciate your taking the time to respond so thoroughly.
I see that you have uncovered, both personally and professionally, much more of the iceberg that I was contemplating. My own background includes, among other things, years of feminist analysis, philosophy of science, research on gender and science, and lately, courses at the UW about social justice and the aforementioned Aboriginal Perspective. The latter, in particular, was an eye-opener in many ways. Not to mention the singular privilege of being a woman physicist in an all-male environment for quite a few years ;-). Talk of minority status! So, I have thought about these things, too.
Like you, I have been looking into the use of the word “sherpa”, at least on the net, and it does seem to be overwhelmingly positive; except for the odd book or article about the exploitation of the Sherpa by the climbers, especially back in the 1950s. There is also a fascinating study out there of feminism in Nepal, and the disconnect between the businesswomen of Kathmandu and the peasant women in the fields. (I was searching “Sherpa” “appropriation”).
I also appreciate what you say about the lack of a monolithic opinion among any group. That is of course true – still, I would claim that the voice of any member of a group, with authentic experience, would carry weight even if other group members felt differently. Not that I’ve seen *any* commentary from *any* ethnic Sherpa on this, which I find fascinating in itself. I still can’t help wondering what it would feel like to see your family name used in terms like “Marketing Sherpa”. Maybe one day I’ll find out, and I’ll be sure to let you know ;-).
I’ll shut up now – I think I’ve taken up enough of your time on this subject. I do love the mountaineering guide as an image for a teacher, regardless of other connotations, and that, after all, is what this was all about. I need to get the UW types to get you over here as a guest prof or something ;-).
@Hadass: Thanks for the push, the critique is very important, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness and time challenging and informing the issue.
Well most of the world doesn’t live in Western world and i guess they are not supposed to follow the oppression caused by copyrights here and by the dint of democracy thats rather over-hyped in my personal opinion i guess copyleft or lets say no notion of ownership of content should go be the status quo by a referendum. Its not so since media chooses not to reported fairly and accurately the unrepresented MAJORITY of the world. Thanks to social media things are changing but even in western world majority is unaware of the collective and divine nature of content creed of the east or they suddenly would’ve revolted or atleast on an individual level, would have tried to deter copyrights.
I see your point on creation of good content. I would like to rectify you on the very basis of your creed that creation of good content takes time. I have always had faith in the belief that it doesn’t take time to create good content. It takes PASSION to take good content. I have never seen good content created because of monetary greed behind it, atleast in my lifetime. There will also be a difference in opinion about what do you refer to as ‘good content’ again. If we go beyond ‘content’ i guess drugs are drugs and they are meant to save people but western monopolies like WIPO and TRIPS are meant to use it to decimate human race. 30,000 kids die on the face of earth daily according to UN mainly because of the lack of drugs, that are mostly patented or unaffordable to those miserable souls. If you look at the entertainment industry, lets assume for the sake of conversation and bend over to give you the benefit of the doubt that artists need to live off their content and they need money for it, which i don’t agree to an extent because you missed the passion part which i don’t think comes with money, what is the amount of money which artists would say ‘enough’ to?
For me, having a home, with couple of cars, three meals a day and a million in a bank is more than enough justification for you plea for artists or content creators’s ‘be able to pay bills’ part. Why ordinary people should pay for the luxurious lifestyles and world tours of these artists when they were only trying to ‘break-even’ in your argument here atleast. I am widely interviewed and asked about this and i tell people that its not designed to benefit the people and the artists mutually. If you go into the real life facts, even artists don’t get brunt of it. Record companies and corporations are the giants who swallow most the of the profits and then there are hundreds of other economic models that can take the load of people. Google’s advertising model, Islamic economies of scale model, profit sharing etc. Find your choice but people shouldn’t be the scapegoat. I have tried on my part for years now to defend atleast my part of world from this scourge and we’re happy that nobody here respects this corporate elitism. I hope it would spread out like it has in western world too.
sorry for the typos. a little distracted atm.
@minhaaj: You corrected me on your very own quote, as I was quoting you from the article as you reportedly said “significant time and resources to re-create equivalent content of the same quality”. As for the rest of your argument, I think I have covered all of this in my previous response to you.
This is great! I love the ‘Teacher as Sherpa’ metaphor. I played with a Teacher as Compass metaphor a while back and I think that these metaphors do a lot to create a different kind of understanding of the role of a teacher and how it has shifted.
When I first looked this post over I wanted to comment and add some wisdom to what you’ve outlined, but re-reading it I realize that your working definition, metaphors and visualizations hit the mark… I can only say well done!
On a different note, the ‘open teaching’ you write about shifts not only the role of the teachers and learners, but also the format, the design and the purpose of assessment. When you are assessing a journey traditional summative assessment is all but useless. I’d love to hear your perspective on formative assessment, as well as self and peer assessment and how these relate to open teaching and learning.
Hi Alec, thanks for an interesting piece. I agree with your comment that copyleft is problematic for relying on copyright, but disagree that there’s no alternative. It’s possible for content creators to disclaim copyright altogether through public domain dedication, as I routinely do. It works for software developers as well, such as the SQLite project, which releases its code into the public domain, making it truly open source.
Of course, that’s assuming one observes copyright at all. Personally, I’m happy there’s a reaction in the developing world against what really is a Western structure that’s alien to many other cultures. The golden rule of globalization may be “he who has the gold makes the rules”, but that doesn’t make it right.
@Steve: I actually included the public domain as a possibility in comment #28. I’m not adverse to this at all, but believe it should remain the choice of the content creator and that there can be benefits. For instance, attribution can be important for certain pieces as it will alert the original author (the one most likely to do something with the information seeing as in reality, open source software is not produced by 1000s of people working around the clock but by only a few dedicated developers) of any input, changes, revisions needed, etc. And as for your comment on “truly open source”, actually I think you mean “truly free software” (by Stallman’s definition). Open source in most cases means that the code was released with some sort of license (usually a GPL variant). Free software is likely more what you are referring to.
And yes, copyright is a Western structure, and I am also happy to see that there is a push back against the notion of any ownership/control of content (especially re: patents). However, a system of content creation of anarchy will thwart the development of creative content in a capitalist-based economic system. This is not a plug for capitalism vs. socialism, but simply stating the system of barters/exchanges/incentives will have to change first before every citizen is able to give away their content for free. Within this system (as I have stated previously), people who are payed as teachers, researchers, academics, can (in most cases) give away their ‘stuff’ and still be paid. However, this is not the case for all professions currently unless they are able to create a ‘value added piece to their work that they are paid for (and can give the content away). And that’s the trick … and I am not sure if it is applicable in all cases, or necessarily equal.
It’s interesting that you refer to the importance of copyright to economic systems, because I think you’re hitting on something vital — that difference of ideology is the actual difficulty. You and I can talk about the practicalities of copyright, and might even be closer to each other than either is to the current system. But our underlying difference is less pragmatic than philosophical: whether a form of speech or expression can legitimately be the property of one person or corporation in the same or similar way to how physical objects can be property. Those who believe so think about the other position as being forced to give things away; those who don’t believe so think about the other position as having essential freedom restricted. Perhaps this disagreement on first principles is a gulf too wide to be bridged?
@Steve: Actually, our ideologies are probably more similar than dissimilar, however, through the presentation of this ‘working’ model I am promoting what is currently ‘actable’/possible within the current system. I guess I am looking at what is possible in the short term vs. what should be in my idea of the perfect society. There are many posts yet to be written.
@Alec Couros & Steve Foerster: What is it, precisely, that is not possible within the current intellectual property regime, with regard to Steve’s comment? There is nothing stopping authors of text, audio, video, and software from releasing their work into the public domain right now. Wikipedia is based on a public domain document: a century-old edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica “Intellectual property” is based on the misapplication of the concept of physical to that which can be reproduced at a cost that approaches zero. If you cannot exclude others from accessing something, and their use does not diminish that thing, then that thing fulfills the definition of a public good, as that term is understood in economics. When you try to regulate public goods through monopoly, like copyright, patent, and government franchise, it is as if you were trying to charge by the minute for use of sunlight or by the liter for breathable air. Furthermore, all information goods can be encoded as strings of ones and zeroes, thereby making them large binary numbers.
Above, the author indicates that feedback is welcome. I would modify the bullet points above, thus:
Advocacy and use of free and/or open source tools and software wherever possible and beneficial to student learning; [keep as-is]
Integration of free and open content and media in teaching and learning; [keep as-is]
copyleft content licensespublic domain declarations for student content production/publication/dissemination;
Facilitation of student understanding regarding copyright law (e.g., fair use/fair dealing, copyleft/copyright); [keep as-is]
Facilitation and distributed scaffolding of student personal learning networks for collaborative and sustained learning; [It is unclear what is meant here, in operational terms.]
Development of learning environments that are reflective, responsive, student-centred, and that incorporate a diverse array of instructional and learning strategies; [This has to do with pedagogical philosophy, and not with content management. If ‘reflective’ degenerates into ‘everyone gets a trophy’ as is all too common in the Anglo-Saxon world, then pupils will not be prepared for university or the workplace, even if they are entrepreneurs and not salaried employees.]
Modeling of openness, transparency, connectedness,
andresponsible copyright/copyleft use and licensing and reliance on public domain content where feasible; and,
Advocacy for the participation and development of collaborative gift cultures in education and society. [This has nothing to do with pedagogy or content management and is a statement of moral philosophy. Including this here conflates issues related to open access to information and knowledge with something bordering on socialism. If you want to advocate socialism, that is fine, but that is a wholly separate issue.]
Active and vocal opposition to all restrictions on information access, use, and remixing, especially non-commercial restrictions. Either one supports free information, or one does not. Information cannot be a little bit free any more than a woman can be a little bit pregnant.
@CWE: Thanks for your careful look at the working document piece. I will looks at your ideas closely. As for “What is it, precisely, that is not possible within the current intellectual property regime, with regard to Steve’s comment? There is nothing stopping authors of text, audio, video, and software from releasing their work into the public domain right now.” No, nothing technically stopping them, anyone can submit work to the public domain. However, people need $ to support their basic needs. I have explained this before. With my salary as a professor, I can choose any license I want, and it doesn’t affect my take-home pay. For others, where their livelihood is attached to royalties or other publication $, they may not have as clear an option as I do.
@Alec: “[A]nyone can submit work to the public domain. However, people need $ to support their basic needs.”As stated here, you seem to be saying that if an individual pursues a career based on a failed business model, then that creates an obligation on others to support that failed model. If you need money, then that means that someone has to give it to you. The principle of “to each according to his [or her] need” has been tried, and it generally is deemed a failure by those forced to live under it (even if many academics in the West still are enamored of it).More important, the issue of how to earn money from one’s work is secondary to the question of what the fundamental nature of that work is. As I indicated above, and in a working paper on this topic, information goods are simply large numbers. I might want to earn money from selling copies of my work, but then again I might want to earn money by being in a rock band, running a restaurant, or staring at pictures of pretty girls on the Internet all day. However, my desire to earn money in any of these ways is no obligation on the parts of others to support me, no matter how much effort I put into my work.Ultimately, arguments based on the amount of work that individuals have devoted to the development of information goods are based on the Labor Theory of Value, which underlies the economics of Adam Smith and Karl Marx, and was abandoned in the 1870s, in favor of modern theories of value. The amount of money that a creator has coming to him or her is not a function of how much he or she sweat to produce it, but on how much others are willing to pay. The fact that this debate even exists is proof that large numbers of individuals are unwilling to pay monopoly profits for public goods.Although you have not taken this position, others have, and I address it here in the general context of this debate: Invocations of “It’s the Law” with regard to copyright are appeals to authority, which are logically invalid.There is a very active thread in the legal literature about the misapplication of the property metaphor to information. (One can google Stanford law professor Mark Lemley, and work out from there, if interested.) The ‘property’ in ‘intellectual property’ is a misnomer; all attempts to rescue this conceptual error distract us from finding workable solutions, including sponsorship, advertisement and product placement, and – as you advocate – charity and gifting.
Thank you @Steve and @CWC for questioning the impossibility of an alternative system to copyrights and the baseless idea that being an artist, rest of the world owes you the monetary tribute for your work regardless of its importance or relevance to ‘exactly’ everyone on earth and inability to do that should result into litigation against someone who hasn’t committed a felony by using the public domain called ‘knowledge’. I have put the answers for most of these questions that i have been asked repeatedly about non-western views on copyrights and sharing of knowledge in a blog post i have written recently. I hope you will give your feedback on this. I am happy to the see increasing reaction and resistance to notion of copyrights as well as creative commons to an extent even if that doesn’t make mainstream western academics think about the legitimacy and viability of an alternative system per se. Please have a look on.
@minhaaj: If you go back through the posts and comments, it is clear that I do not discount an alternate system. However, this alternate system is only possible if the entire economic and political system changes significantly. From the article you first referenced, you talk about how “pirating materials is a common way to distribute them to students who can’t afford original versions”. There is a problem with this, especially if you see this as a basis for your alternate system. First, “piracy” would not exist in the new system; these terms have been been created by content protectionist, it’s language of control. Second, and most importantly, the content that is being pirated (in your example) is content that was created in a monetary-incentive based system. This is not a pure system, rather, it is where two systems meet. Is that the ideal to which you speak? I am very interested in hearing from you (or the others) of what this system would like (seriously). Draw it out for us, challenging my thinking. It is the ideal, I agree, but I have yet to see how it can be done.
Also, in your blog post (linked from your last comment), you called me hypocritical. Please explain.
1. ‘If i go back through the posts and comments’ if it is clear that you do not discount an alternate system, it isn’t that you are particularly enthusiastic or even inclined about the idea of free education WITHOUT copyrights or some rights (rights being NC,Open Domain, SA and free for people who can’t afford it, although i’m still not clear how can you claim ‘partial’ rights).
2. Piracy if you want to call it that, is definitely a popular way of sharing knowledge in my part of world and i don’t agree that content is created in ‘monetary-incentive’ based system even in your part of the world. My prime example here would be educational content but i can see how easily it can be generalized to other copyrighted material. I don’t believe all content in educational sector has anything to do with material incentive. They are primarily evidence of passionate and profound research and development efforts and i don’t see the relationship or evidence of this relationship between these two . Your own comments show your works as being part of your job and they definitely have contributed to body of knowledge and without your ‘Knowledge’ you wouldn’t have been adding to it and not without ‘Monetary-incentive’. So i don’t agree with your belief that these works are created in a ‘monetary-incentive’ based system because your job comprise of a lot of other things that doesn’t fall into ‘content creation’ category so the monetary-incentive doesn’t apply to your salary holistically. I also don’t agree with your baseless assumption (atleast to me) that an alternative system of copyrights can not exist without changing the whole economic and political system. Creative Common itself is the living answer for you, if you choose to see it. System is what people choose it to be. Supposedly democracy is also what people choose for themselves and i would like to see compelling evidence of the support of majority with copyrights to accept that status quo is what people want it to be. How many people are against it on the other hand is evident and is totally incontroversial, to my understanding atleast.
3. Its interesting to see how people can hook onto negative adjectives without reading the whole sentence. I said ‘unintentionally’ too but i guess you chose to ignore it and made peace with hypocritical. I wouldn’t mind being ‘unintentionally’ called hypocritical but i apologize for the slur i never meant or uttered anyways. As i said in my article and for your convenience would repeat here, i am shocked by the ease by which you support copyrights even partially in the face of the argument that it is costing human lives in bulks on earth. In the same breath you want to see a system free of restrictions and then you support copyrights for the content creators to ‘be able to pay their bills’. I wouldn’t rephrase my answer to this argument as i’ve done it in my post.
This is an amazing discussion. One that I would find difficulty adding to. What I feel is important to say in light of global environmental and economic crisis, is we need to shift away from values of individual ownership of the gifts we are given (intellectual or otherwise) and move toward that of sharing our gifts without restrictions. I also want to make a plug for network neutrality; for without it, this globally diverse conversation could have been “shaped” out of happening. Thanks, for everyone’s participation.
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We are currently in a class that practices “open teaching,” and participate in the same kind of activities that are mentioned in this blog. Although we meet in a classroom every week, most of the learning takes place within the net. We have found this very beneficial, yet very unlike most classrooms in this generation. In Benkler’s, “The Wealth of Networks,” he demonstrates this kind of benefits of this teaching when he says, “The emergence of the networked information economy has the potential to increase individual autonomy…It increases the range and diversity of things that individuals can do for and by themselves.” Open networked learning allows more opportunity for students to obtain autonomy, because open networked teaching is not as controlled as hierarchical teaching. In stead of getting all of their knowledge from one teacher lecturing to a class, students can interact with one another, sharing their knowledge and learning others’ knowledge. This allows students the ability to be more independent, self sufficient, and creative. Although we have a teacher that is leading the class, he is only there for guidance and helping us get plugged into the networked world.
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Its interesting to see how people can hook onto negative adjectives without reading the whole sentence. I said ‘unintentionally’ too but i guess you chose to ignore it and made peace with hypocritical. I wouldn’t mind being ‘unintentionally’ called hypocritical but i apologize for the slur i never meant or uttered anyways. As i said in my article and for your convenience would repeat here, i am shocked by the ease by which you support copyrights even partially in the face of the argument that it is costing human lives in bulks on earth. In the same breath you want to see a system free of restrictions and then you support copyrights for the content creators to ‘be able to pay their bills’. I wouldn’t rephrase my answer to this argument as i’ve done it in my post.
Wow, it’s hot in here!!!
I hooked into this cosy little chat via my Flexible Learning Course at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, NZ. Was at least expecting to see my facilitator in here some where. Where are you Leigh?
I’m not quite sure whether this chat reinforces my growing interest in online learning or diminishes it. On second thoughts I’m probably inspired and before anyone bites my head off – I’m allowed to change my mind – Free Choice – or is that a bit political?
The copyright topic under debate is interesting and certainly requires my attention in the not too distant future but right now I don’t have an opinion to offer (perhaps I am being subversive). Having said that, the debate as it has manifested on this page reminds me of one of those drunken arguments you have in your early 20s with philosophy majors. Fun at the time but it all gets a bit tedious. Is it just me or are these guys going round and round in circles. Post modernism which is surely the philosophy underpinning flexible learning would say that your realities are all equally valid. Perhaps you could just respectfully agree to differ?
I am inspired on a personal level. It is in fact great to feel the energy jumping off the page but would I want to risk exposing vulnerable adult students to this kind of virtual spanking – I think not. Do I have a choice or does that make me a disempowering teacher? Someone was asking earlier about alternative terms for teaching. I like the term Learning Facilitator.
Managing classroom confict around expression of values is a big part of what I do in the classroom. How does a learning facilitator manage this on line in a way that keeps the students safe? Many students would run a mile or curl inwards and stay there if they were exposed to this level of conflict. My efforts at scaffolding students journey towards independent self directed learning would be thwarted. Am I being over protective – Do I have a responsibility to be? or am I just being disempowering
if I may suggest that higher education is doing in the field of professional learning should adjust to the talent and opportunities available in the environment or in the community.
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Excellent work, thank-you. You may be interested in contributing to related work in development on Wikiversity about Open Academia:
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