Laura Gibbs

Open... for Connections!

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Apr 9, 2017

As promised yesterday, I'm spending my weekend coffee time on follow-ups to the two open items I had shared last week: Jennifer Gonzalez's open door and, today, Maha Bali's remarks on open pedagogy, which you will find here:

April Open Perspective: What is Open Pedagogy?


There are two contributions there, one from Robert Schuwer in the Netherlands and one from Maha Bali in Egypt... which is a great reminder that this is an international question. To me a big part of OPEN anything (open resources, open access research, open pedagogy) is that it increases the opportunities for conversation, including international conversations!


ROBERT SCHUWER's remarks focus on open pedagogy and OER, while mentioning active learning and digital literacy along the way.


Just speaking for myself, I really see open pedagogy as being something rather different from OER; they can coincide, but they are not coextensive. OER often does not involve what I would call open pedagogy (especially when OER sometimes just means "free textbook" but with very traditional teaching), and you can definitely have open pedagogy without OER. In fact, there's nothing that says you cannot practice open pedagogy while using traditional textbooks, especially if that is what your school supplies/requires.


MAHA BALI's remarks start with OERs and also open scholarship, and she then discusses the ways in which open pedagogy can be more than / different from just the open content. These are comments that really resonate with me. Here are the specific subtopics:


content: In addition to OER/OA, Maha discusses what she calls content-independent teaching and Dave Cormier's rhizomatic learning work which "aims to empower students to construct their own knowledge."


teaching: This would include the open syllabus movement, along with sharing not just content but also assessments and assignments, including assessments and assignments created by the students.


public student work: Here you have open blogging, along with students doing work in other public spaces like editing Wikipedia.


public student networking: This can happen at social media sites like Twitter, where students are networking with other students in the course, or with people outside the course.


Maha then invokes two aspects of what she calls the ethos of open pedagogy:

A belief in the potential of openness and sharing to improve learning
A social justice orientation — caring about equity, with openness as one way to achieve this


She also discusses the limitations, constraints, and risks of open pedagogy, risks that are greater for some than for others, both among students and also among faculty.


The whole article is full of links, with lots to explore, especially if this is not a movement you have been following previously.


~ ~ ~


I'll add some of my own thoughts here about open pedagogy and why it is important to me.


I've been teaching in the open from the very start because it has been my hope to share with my students the experience I had in my last year of graduate school in the Fall of 1998 when, by accident really, I learned how to make webpages using Netscape Composer and the tiny allotment of space I received as a graduate student at UC Berkeley. From the very first moment that I "published" online, I realized that this would change the way people learn. You wouldn't have to be in an elite school with access to that school's library. Your colleagues wouldn't have to be limited to the people who happened to be physically near you. You wouldn't have to pay big bucks to go to conferences and stay in expensive hotels in order to connect with others. You could get access to BOOKS (and all kinds of other content) and to PEOPLE online. The "books" part of the equation was the OER part, and the "people" part of the equation was the open pedagogy part. I would actually prefer to call it "open learning" myself (since we are all learning, regardless of whether we are "pedagogues" of not)... but if "open pedagogy" is the banner we are waving, I will wave that banner.


So, from the first course I taught at the university in the classroom, I was all about introducing my students to the online resources which, even back in 1999, struck me as mind-boggling in their quality. As a teacher of Latin and Greek, for example, I had access to the Perseus Project with hyperlinked dictionaries, the best dictionaries in fact, for both Latin and Greek texts. And art! So. Much. Art.


And I wanted my students not just to be consumers of this digital paradise... I wanted the students to create and share, just as I was doing. So I was thrilled to find out that at the University of Oklahoma a visionary guy in IT had set up a student web hosting service where each student could automatically activate their 3MB of space. So, in my first semester, I encouraged the students to create websites for their class projects instead of doing traditional papers. The class went about half and half in terms of who chose digital and who chose paper... but the students who chose paper were so obviously jealous of what the digital students were able to accomplish that, starting with the second semester, I asked everyone to create a website, and they did. Because it's not hard: people just needed some encouragement and basic instructions.


And I've never looked back, yet here we are in 2017, and it is still the case that the majority of my students (college seniors mostly) have never shared their schoolwork with others beyond the classroom ... and often there is not very much sharing going on in the classroom either; open pedagogy is not just about online after all!


I see that as a huge problem... but it's a problem that is not hard to solve! We just have to want to solve it, both for ourselves and for our students. As teachers we can share our work, our skills, our knowledge, our experience online, connecting to others, enhancing our own learning while we also help others with their learning. Just as we are doing here at the Canvas Community... and it is my great hope that CanvasLMS will learn from the success of this Community to create more opportunities for connected learning inside the LMS for our students.


Sure, there are practical problems and philosophical problems that we have to ponder here (and which Maha does such a good job of enumerating in her comments). There are practical and philosophical problems we face in every aspect of life; any classroom, physical or virtual, presents us with practical and philosophical problems. But I know we can find good solutions to those problems, and we are even more likely to find good solutions if we are working in the open, sharing what we learn with others.


Being OPEN is what allows us to CONNECT, and I know my classes will improve if I can keep finding ways to make them even more "connected" than they are now. So I'll include this great Connected Learning graphic to end this post, and at this link you'll find the transcription of the text (because I'm trying to be good about transcribing infographics):


Happy connecting, everybody!



Connected Learning


Credit: Connected Learning Research Network and Digital Media & Learning Research Hub
This Connected Learning Infographic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. You may Share and Adapt it, but you must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.