In my last #tiegrad class we discussed what it means to be an open educator. Since then, I’ve been developing my own understanding of ‘open practices.’
According to Wikipedia:
“Open education is a collective term to describe institutional practices and programmatic initiatives that broaden access to the learning and training traditionally offered through formal education systems. The qualifier “open” of open education refers to the elimination of barriers that can preclude both opportunities and recognition for participation in institution-based learning. One aspect of openness in or “opening up” education is the development and adoption of open educational resources.”
My understanding of Open Education is that it represents a mindset – a way of thinking of others instead of ourselves. Educators who engage in ‘open practices’ create a culture of sharing, collaboration, and cooperation. They work together toward a common goal. Each one offering a unique perspective, or enriching the process of collaboration with their past experiences and knowledge. It can start local with team teaching or grade group collaboration within a school, or it can extend beyond the boundaries of the school to the virtual world. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), for example, are readily available online, and cater to a variety of subjects areas and topics. These courses allow learners to connect via the web, share their knowledge, and better their understanding of the subject matter being discussed. There exists technologies, which allow educators to connect in more informal ways but many of them are hidden behind passwords and usernames. When we adopt a mindset of open practices, as educators, our practice can flourish and our students thrive.
One of the most exciting aspects of open education, as it relates to my own practice, is the ability to participate in my own personalized professional development. I don’t always feel like I connect to the professional development opportunities that my school district hosts or those offered by my school, but I do get excited knowing that I can connect with other educators in subject areas of interest, and create, share, and adapt content, which I can then used to enhance the learning experience I have with my students.
Open Education also has real and meaningful impact outside of my own classroom practice. It has huge implications from a social justice perspective. I spend a lot of time engaging my intermediate students in service-learning projects that help them to understand, and create awareness around, local and global issues. Our many discussions over the years always lead back to the root cause of many social justice issues, education. Institutional-based education is not readily available for many children around the world, particularly girls, so access to education via the Internet is critical to helping us solve this problem.
What Limits Open Practices?
Closed practice educators may be more concerned about claiming ownership of knowledge, protecting intellectual property, or simply feeling like they have nothing to offer others. I get it! It is not easy to be publicly visible about your practice because you open yourself up to the possibility of criticism and critiques.
Fear can also limit open practices. Recently my school district adopted Sharepoint as tool to better connect students and teachers in the district. It is a step in the right direction but the tool is only really meaningful in the closed environment of our school district. It’s not possible to share documents, and create content with anyone outside of our group. Why? Perhaps schools feel anxious about privacy and the potential dangers of open practices, or maybe they feel the need to exercise control over knowledge and information. My students can definitely learn a great deal from the skilled students and staff in the district, but I am certain they can learn an awful lot from those outside of my district, as well.
What Tools Do Open Educators Use?
Educators who engage in open practices often need specific tools to help them connect with like-minded professionals. Some of these tools may be described as Open Educational Resources (OER’s). In order for an educational resource to be classified as open, it needs to meet four key criteria. OER’s need to be intentionally created for others to redistribute, reuse, revise, and remix. Creative Commons work meets many of these requirements. Unlike a research paper or a textbook, which is created once and is static, OER’s are dynamic. They are always a continuous work in progress; much like the educator I strive to be.
Keywords relating to the topic of Open Education:
MOOC – Massive Open Online Course – MOOC List
#openedu – Open Education Twitter hashtag
#ceetopen – Community of Expertise in Educational Technology