Open Thinking Turns Five

My first post to this blog is dated March 11, 2004. So this post marks the fifth birthday of my blog! Happy Birthday Open Thinking!!!

Happy Fifth Birthday Open Thinking!

This space has helped me to enjoy some of the greatest learning experiences of my career. It has connected me to many brilliant thinkers. It has enabled me to write and evaluate ideas in the open. It has become a storehouse for my thoughts, and an important component of my digital identity.

Had anyone told me how important to me this would be five years later, I would have never believed it.

Please join me in wishing Open Thinking a happy fifth birthday!

Visualizing Open/Networked Teaching: Revisited

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.

Working Revisions:
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).

Open Teaching - Thinning the Walls

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).

Open Teaching - Thinning the Walls - Revision #2

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).

Open Teaching - Network Sherpa

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.

Open Teaching - Network Sherpa - The End

“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 β€œit 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.

Visualizing Open/Networked Teaching

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.

Open Teaching - Thinning the Walls

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.

Open Teaching - Network Sherpa

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.

Open Doctrine? K-12 Online Conference Teaser

Here is the teaser and introduction to my K12 Online Conference presentation, in the form of a personal attack ad. As mentioned earlier on this blog, my presentation will be titled β€œOpen, Social, Connected: Reflections of an Open Graduate Course Experience.” A portion of the presentation will be devoted to the idea of openness in education, and how the actualization of this concept helped to create a transparent culture of sharing among students and other course participants.

I hope you enjoy the teaser and I invite you to participate in the rest of the coming presentation at the K12 Online Conference.

Thanks to Dan Carr for his narration and for helping bring this concept to life.

Oh … and there’s an edupunk version. :-)

Draft of Article: Open, Connected, Social

I will be leaving to Greece shortly to attend ICICTE in Corfu. The following is an early draft of a paper I wrote for the conference that outlines some of the processes and early feedback I received regarding a graduate course I recently taught, EC&I 831.

Comments are welcome and encouraged. Keep in mind that this is an early draft and there are likely many errors. It was a paper written a while ago BEFORE I had much of the new data in (which I am working through right now). I have only shared it at this point as I enjoy making my writing processes as transparent as my teaching.