on openness

By robynjay On March 3rd, 2011

‘If you don’t like change you are going to like irrelevance even less’

Notes and reflections on the Openness panel @ the DEHub Summit.

There was quite a lot of talk around Open Education REsources (OER) at the event so it was good to see this panel focusing more broadly on openness in general.

Terry Anderson began by speaking on ‘open scholars’ who he said:

  • are transparent with a key critique element
  • self archive
  • do open research and openly apply research exposing the learning that happened
  • filter and share with others
  • support emerging open learning alternatives
  • publish in open journals
  • assign open textbooks
  • induce open students
  • teach open courses
  • build networks
  • are change agents

Rory McGreal reminded that one third of internet connectivity in the world is ONLY via mobile devices and that our current model of elite education is simply not sustainable:

  • a balancing act is needed between bandwidth and performance etc
  • fluid design is needed to enable displays for different screens etc
  • OERs include games – titanic, mudball wall..

He asked how do we recognise what people learn on their own?

Don Alcott reminded that nothing is ‘free’ – so who does the work? who funds OER? – and stressed difficulties in a climate of competition and closed learning organisations.

Grainne Conole stressed the need to move from a focus on content and resources to practices, activity and use in open education (hear, hear!). Shae introduced her projects based in cloudworks and asked:

  • If learners and their context have changed, we need new approaches to L&T. How can we harness sophisticated tools and OERs
  • What are the quality implications?
  • Will a focus on OER practices lead to improvements in quality and innovation?
  • Will openness enable or restrict social inclusion?

I’ve pondered the last point myself for years.

Are we producing an elite group of learners?

The assumption that any potential learner is capable of finding, filtering, engaging with OERs and establishing connections is unfortunately absurd. So what is needed to support this – community OER mentors and Govt funding/resourcing?

[CC FlickR image shared by Paul Downey]

you can lead a horse to water…

By robynjay On November 9th, 2010

It was suggested to me yesterday by a senior manager that we should not focus on the new and emerging technologies that only 5% would embrace but stick to the ‘basics’. Unfortunately the ‘basics’ do not include the new and emerging tools and applications that provide ease of mastery, or which enable multimodal spaces for creation, engagement and collaboration… instead think LMS, anti-plagiarism and assessment.
It’s a depressing state of affairs that promulgates antiquated teaching practice and unengaged learners.

But even where contemporary applications are promoted and supported there is poor take up. Why?
In some cases support mechanisms are ineffective, in others there is lack of policy level encouragement, lack of time, lack of resources, etc etc – an endless list of excuses that does not explain why a small number DO take up new approaches and opportunities. Even in an ideal context where excellent applications are carefully chosen, and time and resources are allocated to mentoring staff in their use I suspect take-up would remain low.
I’m starting to wonder if the key issue comes down to culture and personal philosophy.

The underpinning philosophy behind many of the contemporary learning applications is openness. They support a collaborative learning community that positions the learner as a valued content creator; that values sharing, discovery, connections, opinion, reflection, partnerships. Unfortunately however openness and collaboration are threatening and foreign to many educators. They are not a part of their lives and they are not a part of their teaching practice. It’s a very difficult task to live one set of values and to cast them aside at the workplace gates.

In higher education academics are part of a system that dictates the PhD hurdle be jumped to obtain permanency; a PhD that in essence requires secrecy and non-collaboration lest ideas be stolen and which results in a piece of work that is read by 1.8 others. Without knowledge of contemporary education practice they lecture, providing content and grading papers. They teach as they were taught in a system that prizes paper publications and revenue generation, not which celebrates and expects innovative teaching. So presented with, and trained in the use of, social media/software spaces and applications the focus is on two things: content and assessment. Wikis look good (if kept private) because they allow PDF uploads or easy authoring of lecture notes and are used for such until the users is lured away by LMS assessment and grading admin functionality. Blogs and podcasts (if kept private) might be used to post concepts. FlickR is used to illustrate course content (we’ll use the work of others but not put anything back). And that’s as far as it goes until told that you can do all of those things together in one place via the LMS and its automatically private – no risk, no exposure.
The few that do embrace new applications and approaches I suspect live that life of openness and collaboration. They gravitate towards technology that supports their core values; that position learners to embrace (or at least be exposed to) what they themselves are passionate about; a different way of living.

How can the minority reculture the majority? Should they?  The developers of collaborative/ social applications and open content, and the few that can model effective use, are change agents. They are laying at the feet of the masses a new approach to life and learning and working but what does it take to value what is offered in its entirety?

CC FlickR image by anmuell