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.

Social Learning & Sharing

The learning continues in EC&I 831, and since I haven’t had much time to blog, I though I’d offer a 2-for-1 post with links to the most recent presentations for the course.

On January 27, I offered a session on the Age of Social Learning. The full Elluminate session is found here, and my slide deck is available below.

And, last night, we were very lucky to have had Dean Shareski join us as he presented “How to Be Lazy and Still Get Paid” aka “The Value of Sharing”. The recorded Elluminate session for Dean’s presentation is available here, and his slides are available below.

I really want to thank Dean for his excellent presentation last night. The participants (registered students & everyone else) have expressed gratitude for Dean’s time and wisdom on the topic.

The above presentations work well together, as do the concepts of social learning and sharing. These are ideas, when implemented, that have enormous potential for changing the shape of (online) learning. And, I’m happy to say that these are ideas that continue to shape the courses I teach and that support my ongoing belief in the power of open education.

Why I Copyfight

Cory Doctorow recently wrote the piece “Why I Copyfight” in Locus Magazine. The short essay is insightful and discusses the relationship between copyright and culture, the disparity between copyists and copyright holders, and the reasons why people (should) continue to resist the tight restrictions of current copyright law. Some of my favourite snippets include:

    – “The existence of culture is why copyright is valuable.”
    – “… the reason copyright exists is because culture creates a market for creative works.”
    – “Content isn’t king: culture is.”
    – “Culture’s imperative is to share information: culture is shared information.”

Cory Doctorow

And the most common sense passage I have read in a long time regarding copyright law and enforcement must be:

It’s entirely possible that there’s a detente to be reached between the copyists and the copyright holders: a set of rules that only try to encompass “culture” and not “industry.” But the only way to bring copyists to the table is to stop insisting that all unauthorized copying is theft and a crime and wrong. People who know that copying is simple, good, and beneficial hear that and assume that you’re either talking nonsense or that you’re talking about someone else.

It is unfortunate that current copyright law is more transfixed on control and profit instead of culture and common sense.

Read Doctorow’s full article here.

Video Contest: Bill C61 in 61 Seconds

From Michael Geist and FairCopyright4Canada:

Canadian Industry Minister Jim Prentice introduced Bill C-61, which many have dubbed the Canadian DMCA, in June 2008. There was an immediate outcry from thousands of Canadians concerned that the bill would render illegal every day activities and harm both consumers and businesses.

The C-61 in 61 Seconds video competition is one way that you can speak out. Just post your video as a response to this video. We will post the best videos on the FairCopyright4Canada channel. Deadline for submission is September 1st. A great panel of judges that includes the Barenaked Ladies Steven Page and Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian will select the best of the best. The winners will be announced on September 15th.

To make sure that your voice for fair copyright in Canada is heard, be sure to write to your MP, the Minister, and join the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group today.

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.

Busy Time Rants

I have been busy with a number of things these days. Here are a few thoughts on the what is happening.

re: TLT08

I just came back from the TLT 2008 conference in Saskatoon. It was an excellent conference, and much better than last year. Highlights for me include the amazing keynotes by Rick Schwier and George Siemens, and excellent presentations by Brian Lamb and Dean Shareski. Unfortunately, I missed the keynote by Stephen Downes, although I heard it was amazing. Luckily, I was able to catch breakfast with Stephen and Dean the first day of the conference.

I was a part of three presentations at TLT. First, I presented with Kyle, Vi, Tiffany, and Ashley regarding our Digital Internship Project. Second, I co-presented with the Edtech Posse (Rick, Dean, Heather, Rob) on “The Posse Round Up 2.0“. Finally, I presented again with Rob regarding the Graduate course we recently co-taught, EC&I 831. I am currently researching the process and outcomes of this course, and Rob and I presented some of our initial observations. It was great to have met, former students of the course, Cindy, Dan, and Shaun at the conference as well.

I was also very lucky to have finally met some terrific people for the first time face-to-face. Jen, Cindy, Brian, D’Arcy, Kirk and Kelly … you are all amazing people. It was great to finally meet you all in person, and I really hope I get the chance again!

I would also like to congratulate those that won awards related to course design at the conference. We have so many terrific instructional designers, multimedia developers, and instructors in Saskatchewan, and it is great to see many of you recognized for your hard work. Also, congratulations to the organizing committee for putting together a truly excellent conference.

On a less congratulatory note, to the people that continuously asked the question “what about the cyberpredators?” at almost every presentation, take some to read this or this or contact me, and I can help you get over this fear.

I would also love to have a conversation with the gentleman who voiced concerns (and then walked out) regarding teachers using decentralized funding to buy non-standardized equipment (as mentioned in Dean’s session) and the implications for sustaining technical support. I believe your point was that the purchasing should follow the institutional/division priorities. Here are my thoughts on this.

Start with division priorities that are focused on student learning and supporting innovation throughout the system. Let us forget the term “technical support” and focus on “innovation support”. Let us make the first term a misnomer. If a school division cannot (for instance) get Macs to play nice with a Windows network, your technicians are not doing their job, or they need to go back to training. Technology implementation decisions that are based on technicians’ lack of knowledge or vendor biases are not likely sound decisions. Divisions are learning organizations, and continual learning should be the expectation for all members. And if economics is the stated excuse, why not partner with other school divisions to increase cost-savings? Locking in to single vendor agreements to save tiny margins on the bottom line is ripping off your students, and IMHO, is inexcusable whether it is with Apple, IBM or CocaCola.

There is where I usually rant about open source software and free tools … but I will leave that argument for today.

re: ECMP 355
I am very happy to be teaching a May/June course to undergraduate students related to the appropriate integration of technology in the classroom. My students have begun blogging, and are starting to get the feel for it. Feedback and comments on their posts would be greatly appreciated, and you can subscribe to the ECMP 355 megafeed here.

For course interactions, we are using Moodle again. And, I do not believe it has been officially announced by the University of Regina is making a full move to Moodle from WebCT by Fall of 2009. I am happy to be currently testing the latest U of R release. If anyone would like to see the course, let me know and I will get you the guest password.

re: St. Louis
I am very excited to have been asked by Elizabeth Helfant to present at MICDS in St. Louis near the end of May. I will be speaking to English and History teachers (my original areas of study) regarding personal learning networks and technology integration. I can’t wait!

re: ICICTE in Corfu
I also have had my paper accepted for ICICTE in Corfu in July. I try to get back to Greece every couple of years to revisit my roots. This conference has been an excellent in the past and the venue is always on a Greek island. I highly recommend the country, the people, and the conference.

re: Life
Life is busy these days. I am currently in North Battleford, and teaching in La Ronge tomorrow (yes, on the long weekend) with our Community Based Masters of Education program. I am happy to have my family along with me for the rest of the trip and I am hoping to take some nice photos (and a few deep breaths) along the way. Northern Saskatchewan has much beauty to see. Here’s a shot I took near Battleford today.

Family @ Battleford Bridge

Yes, I am extremely busy with teaching, research, presentations, and family. However, life is good and as I reflected in my last post, I am a lucky, lucky man.

OLPC to Switch from Linux to Windows?

I have been quite critical of OLPC, but the one thing I really liked about the project was that they were using free and open source software as the operating system. If OLPC switches to Windows, I do not think I will have anything left nice to say.

One day after the resignation of the One Laptop Per Child project’s president was publicly revealed, the OLPC’s founder and chairman said that the group’s XO laptop may evolve to use only Windows XP as its operating system, with open-source educational applications such as the homegrown Sugar software running on top.

OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte also told The Associated Press on Tuesday that an insistence upon using only free, open-source software had hampered the XO’s usability and scared away potential adopters. (Link)

Re: OLPC, Negroponte is quoted as saying, “It’s an education project, not a laptop project.” When does commercialism and techno-colonialism become relevant here? At what point does “education” in this context become indoctrination?

Connections – ECI831 Presentations

I gave a short presentation in EC&I 831 tonight titled “connections”.

Slides are available below:

Ustream also available:

Audio is available here.

Lamb & Norman on Open Repositories

It was our great pleasure to have had D’Arcy Norman & Brian Lamb speak to EC&I 831 last night on the topic of open educational repositories. As expected, our presenters shared important insights and engaged students to thinker deeper about concepts which have a continually shifting focus. The presentation helped me to gain a better understanding of the issues around open repositories and open educational resources, and I am very pleased with the depth of conversation that arose.

The recorded Elluminate session is available here. D’Arcy and Brian have shared the session resources on the EC&I 831 wiki. Finally, Rob Wall has produced a podcast (audio only) version available for download.

Thanks again Brian and D’Arcy. I cannot wait to meet you both in person at TLT.

Update: Wow, after reviewing the audio I don’t remember ever sounding so incoherent when introducing presenters. That was just a very poor introduction!

The Curse of Being Free

Brian Lamb recently wrote one of those posts that made me get up from my seat and point frantically at the screen in agreement.

Re: finding a solution for inexpensive course hosting, Brian writes:

This approach is fatally flawed in a number of respects and it will never catch on. For one thing, it is far too cheap, and can never justify escalating technology infrastructure budgets. Worse, instructors and students could adopt this technology with minimal assistance or oversight from instructional technology specialists. In this profoundly unserious framework, there is nothing to prevent students from previewing courses before they take them, or reviewing courses later on. Indeed, some “learner” might benefit from this content without being an enrolled student at all!

The course that I am teaching currently uses a number of free software tools and services, and the content is freely available online. Yet I predict that this approach would not currently go over well with the majority of faculty at my University.

I just read a similar idea in regards to the lack of popularity of GNU/Linux on the desktop. Vlad Dolezal tells the story of Tom Sawyer where he cons his friend into giving away his favourite possessions to have the opportunity of whitewashing a fence. Dolezal concludes:

The above story illustrates a basic human nature. We don’t value things we can get easily. Yet we’d climb mountains, cross rivers and travel across deserts just to reach something we can’t easily get our hands on.

Dolezal talks a bit more about the idea of value and how individuals may perceive value to be less when something is given away. Because Windows as a product is priced at (roughly) $300, it is valued to be worth that cost. If one is to choose between a pirated version of Windows and a free copy of Ubuntu Linux, the cost is the same, but the perceived value is different.

Dolezal comes up with a plan:

I’m going to present Ubuntu as a very expensive posh OS. I’ll mention it sells for upward of five hundred dollars in the States. I’ll say I managed to get an illegal copy off a Polish guy I know over the internet.

Only THEN will I mention all the positives. Multiple desktops, bullet-proof security, stunning visual effects. Somehow all of it makes sense in the context of a super-expensive elitist OS. I’ll see how many people I can convert when advertising Linux this way.

I’ll post exactly a week from now, reporting back on how my Linux Preaching v2.0 went. Hi yo, Silver, AWAAAAY!

Hmmmm. While I believe there are many other reasons for a relatively slow GNU/Linux uptake, these are interesting points. And, it makes me feel that there is some way to solve the problems that Brian has identified.

MyBytes … Bites!

Microsoft has released the new website MyBytes.com to promote copyright education. The site was announced as the company released the results of a survey testing children’s knowledge of copyright law.

I agree that there needs to be a greater emphasis in schools on copyright law and understandings of intellectual property. However, in addressing these topics, educators and educational materials MUST include copyleft approaches to addressing “ownership” of intellectual property and materials addressing open content/open source approaches. At an appropriate grade level, I would encourage deconstruction of terms such as “intellectual property” and “ownership” and discuss both practical and philosophical implications of copyleft vs. copyright (and everything in between). The terms need to be questioned and critiqued, and their history and current emphasis in our laws need to be critically explored.

MyBytes Interviews

And if you are going to use Microsoft’s materials, use them critically. For instance, watch these “interviews” and ask questions such as:

    – Are these interviews scripted?
    – Are these interviews censored?
    – Whose views are being represented here?
    – Where are the dissenting voices (seeing as M$ has identified that dissent/misunderstandings are the majority)?
    – Are alternative views of copyright/copyleft represented in these interviews?
    – Who is the sponsor of this site, and (how) would they benefit from a strict view of copyright?
    – What is at stake with illegal music downloading? Who stands to lose/benefit?
    – Are there alternative models for distributing content? Who is using them? Are they successful?
    – Who benefits from these alternative models? Who loses?
    – What is the Creative Commons? What is its role?
    – What are the issues of power and control inherent in these arguments?

Any others thoughts?

Educators, please, whatever your views on copyright/copyleft. Be critical, and present both established and alternative views on these issues.

The Web Is Agreement

The Web is Agreement is a fantastic hand-drawn poster by Paul Downey, created on behalf of Osmosoft for the 2007 BT Open Source Awareness Day.

The poster, drawn in the style of the Lord of the Ringsā€™s Map of Middle-Earth, delineates the various pitfalls along the way of creating an open source, creative commons work on the Web.

The Web Is Agreement

Visit the original size image on Flickr for a better look.