I recently posted a developing framework for open/networked teaching. In the post, I introduced a working definition for open teaching, and two diagrams; analogies to inform the open classroom and the emerging role of the educator. This ‘revisited’ post provides revisions to these preliminary ideas, reflections on what was learned, and insight into why developing thoughts ‘in the open’ is an important process for (personal) learning.
Knowledge is both a process and product. Improvements to my framework were fostered by the conversation around the previous post.
Working Definition of Open Teaching:
First, as I have thought for some time now, and as Dave Cormier challenges, the term ‘teaching’ in ‘open teaching’ is problematic. This problem was also voiced by Sui Fai John Mak in the comments of the previous post. I have lamented that I would rather use the term ‘open education’ (to include those that do not regard themselves as ‘teachers’), but that term has already a distinct meaning. For now, the problem remains unsolved. Does anyone have suggestions for an appropriate ‘catch-all’ term for educators (teachers, professors, instructors, lecturers) who increasingly use and advocate for open and networked forms of teaching and learning in educational environments. Or, is ‘open teaching’ good enough for now? Do we need to get hung up on a term? I look forward to the day when we do not have to distinguish among educators who facilitate learning this way; when ‘open education’ is simply ‘education’.
That note, leads me right into the next big observation regarding my thoughts on the subject so far. It was observed by both Richard Schwier & Silvia Straka that my ideas on open teaching were intensely value-laden. While these comments did not seem written as distinct criticisms, it really did alert me (as I often forget) the basic assumptions regarding teaching, learning, and society that ‘openness’ encompasses. A few of the most prominent assumptions in my work include:
* the importance of information and communications technologies (ICT) in teaching and learning;
* the relevance of critical media and technological literacy as a way to expose and deconstruct power and influence by consumers/adopters;
* a strong focus on social learning, collaboration, and group growth (as a means for individual growth); and,
* the nurturing and preservation of a free and open knowledge society, where access to information and knowledge is a basic human right (where proprietary knowledge & ownership are dramatically reduced, or ousted altogether).
While this latter point may seem radical, I found that my thoughts on the subject were not nearly as radical as others would have liked. Commenters Minhaaj Rehman, Steve Foerster, and Charles Evans (collectively) argued for a position beyond Creative Commons licensing and to advocate for public domain dedication (no restrictions to users/consumers). I do not oppose public domain dedication at all, in fact, I believe it to be a pure form of gifting within the knowledge economy. However, my support for Creative Commons licensing is based on these important premises.
* Creators are given a choice of what licenses to waive or to keep. (I feel this is important for artistic works, although my position flips when it comes to life, death, economics, poverty, education, e.g., genetic/pharmaceutical patents, some educational resources). In my work as a professor, I am able to give up rights to my work through copyleft licenses and still get paid. Those who earn their living through the sale of books, music, poetry, etc., should not be required to waive their rights to support their livelihood. Yes, many fine lines exist.
* I believe that attribution is vital to the history and progression of ideas in society. A simple ‘attribution’ requirement is not too much to ask for most work.
* Creative works, in at least the current political and economic economies of Canada and the US, are often produced because of existing monetary incentives. This is not to defend the capitalist system, but rather to explain that an entire reality (e.g., copyists, copyleft licenses, pirates) are reactive channels to current, restrictive conditions (e.g., intellectual ‘property’), not components of an alternative, viable economy in and of itself.
It is also important to know that a true Public Domain designation is not legally possible in many nations. The new Creative Commons Zero license (CC0) is about as close as creators can get in some jurisdictions (here are the details).
From these critiques, and others, I will continue to improve the working definition of ‘open teaching’ (or whatever it may be designated as in the future).
Thinning The Walls (Diagram):
The “Thinning the Walls” diagram was fairly well received. This diagram represents my experiences in facilitating the EC&I 831 graduate course where students went from a (somewhat) traditional learning configuration to an increasingly networked learning context. The walls of the “classroom” where slowly thinned as students developed their personal learning networks (PLNs).
The most important feedback on this diagram was that it failed to represent the continuous learning of the teacher and it failed to recognize the knowledge of the students (special tks to Kristina Hoeppner & Maryanne Burgos). These aspects were always meant to be within the overall model, but I believe it is important to make these pieces more explicit (as attempted below).
Network Sherpa (Diagram):
I also put forth one possible analogy for the role of a teacher, that of the ‘network sherpa. At the time of the post, I could not recall where I had heard this term. I have since remembered that it was included in Wendy Drexler’s Networked Student video (recommended viewing), although I do not believe this is the original source. While the diagram was generally well-received, critique included:
* the idea of sherpa bearing the entire ‘load’ of learning (a critique I thought was pre-empted with each individual carrying identical baggage);
* the difficulty of (re)presenting inquiry within the diagram (or analogy itself);
* “that it misses the tremendous amount that teachers learn from their students” (Maryanne Burgos); and,
* ethnic misinterpretation or discriminative interpretations by the name (a critique I take very seriously).
I stand by the analogy as a potentially powerful way to view a method or view of open/networked teaching. However, for those that dislike the metaphor, I now provide you with an alternative.
“Publish Then Filter” & The Importance of Analogy:
A week from today, this blog will be five years old. While this space serves a number of purposes (resource sharing, announcements, advocacy), the most important activity to me is that it helps me think. Not only is it a giant storehouse of my ideas, it is a place where my thoughts are vetted, beaten around, and transformed. It is an extension of my brain and one of the entry ways into my personal learning network. It is where, as Shirky describes, I “publish then filter“.
The most popular of my posts, not surprisingly, have included visualizations, rich media, metaphors, or analogies. The latter two devices played an important part in these discussions as the diagrams provided the context to resonate, to disagree, to extend, and negotiate understandings as well as to project future visions for teaching and learning. As Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein (1999) point out “it is the inexact, imperfect nature of the analogy that allows it to bridge the gap between the known and the unknown.” So while the analogies may not be perfect, this is quite intentional, unavoidable, and (I believe) forgivable. It will take many of these imperfect models and raw conversations to create and shape the future of education. Believe in the conversation, throw out your ideas, engage with others, and teach and learn with the passion that this process breeds. This is openness at its very best.