Author Archives: Christina Hendricks

Join the CC open education platform!

Over the past couple of months I’ve been involved with a new Creative Commons initiative, the Open Education Platform. I first learned about the new CC platforms from a Virtually Connecting session with Cable Green and Regina Gong, at the Creative Commons Global Summit in April 2017. That’s where the first draft of the CC Open Education Platform Working doc was created (we are now on version 2). This is an exciting initiative that has the potential to connect people from many parts of the world to make progress on important goals. Yes, many people are already doing this, but for me, I’ve mostly been working with a relatively small group of people from only certain parts of the world, and this is connecting me with more; one of the explicit goals of the platform is to ensure that we are including people from many different geographical areas.

Here is an invitation letter that was recently sent out to many open ed and OER email lists. Please see the letter and links for more information about the CC Platforms, the Open Ed platform, and how to get involved!


Greetings Open Education Colleagues:

In early 2017, the Creative Commons Global Network (CCGN) completed a consultation process of renewing and reorganizing itself to support a strong and growing global movement. The year-long process resulted in the CCGN Global Network Strategy. Part of the new strategy is to establish defined areas of focus, or “platforms,” which will drive CC’s global activities. Platforms are how we organize areas of work for the CC community, where individuals and institutions organize and coordinate themselves across the CC Global Network.

In the spirit of openness and to effectively strategize, these platforms are open to all interested parties working in the platform area and adjacent spaces. That’s why Creative Commons invites you to join the CC Global Network Open Education Platform!

WHY join?

  • Stay connected to global actions in open education resources, practice, and policy.
  • Identify, plan and coordinate multi-national open education, practices and policy projects to collaboratively solve education challenges with an amazing group of open education leaders from around the world.
  • Secure funding (from Creative Commons and other funding sources) for the open education projects we collectively select.
  • Contribute to global perspectives on open education to strengthen advocacy worldwide.
  • Connect your country / region to global open education initiatives.
  • Be on the forefront in implementing Creative Commons’ global network strategy.
  • Meet annually, in-person, at the Creative Commons Summit with members of the CC Open Education Platform to celebrate successes, share best practices, and plan for the next year.
  • Explore, practice, and share innovative methods for inclusive and open engagement with educators, learners and governments around the world..

WHO should join?

  • Open education advocates working in the areas of open educational resources, open educational practices, and/or open education policy.

WHAT are we working on right now?

  • Reaching the right people (you!) to build a strong open education platform.
  • Developing decision making and engagement structures.
  • Defining the goals and projects the CC Open Education Platform will pursue.

 

Joining the CC Open Education Platform is easy and free:

 

  • Sign up for IM (Slack or IRC):

 

      • Slack: sign up: (it will send an invitation email), then sign up to the #cc-openedu channel
      • IRC: to join the #creativecommons-openedu IRC channel, connect via Freenode.

 

 

  • Attend and participate in the monthly meetings.
    • The next meeting is October 18: 8:00pm / October 19: 9:00am (PDT, UTC -7).
    • Note: every meeting has two different times – so everyone can attend one of the meetings during local daylight hours.

 

Please join the e-mail list and IM channel, introduce yourself and we’ll see you at the next meeting!

Grading rubrics in philosophy

This is a quick post designed to collect links to grading rubrics in philosophy, for the sake of putting them together in one place for graduate student TAs in our department to refer to if they want to see some examples.

Here is a recent version of a grading rubric for essays that I use in my courses, including Introduction to Philosophy and an interdisciplinary course called Arts One. I’m including a PDF version and also an MS Word version in case anyone wants to use and edit it (Word is often easier to edit). It is licensed CC BY, which means you can use it and change it if state that it’s adapted from mine as the original source.

Hendricks Philosophy Paper Rubric (PDF)

Hendricks Philosophy Paper Rubric (MS Word)

 

Daily Nous had a post in May 2017 with what they called “An impressively detailed philosophy paper grading rubric,” by Micah T. Lewin.

 

 

Mara Harrell of Carnegie Mellon has created this rubric (MS Word) for marking philosophy essays, which is even more detailed than the one above.

 

This paper marking rubric by Melissa Jacquart includes point values for each cell, which is also an option. Giving points for each part of the rubric can make marking quicker, though it also be somewhat problematic because it’s hard to include every aspect of what makes a good paper in a rubric, and sometimes it’s how things work together that leads to a better essay even if some parts are not as strong as one might like.

 

The Teach Philosophy 101 website has a list of rubrics (including some of the above) that has some not only for grading essays, but also for other kinds of assignments.

 

I’d be happy to hear about other rubrics not on this list!

 

 

Students and open education

For an article I am writing this week, I’d like to showcase work by students relating to open education and Open Educational Resources (OER). I’m writing this brief post mostly to gather comments from others on examples I don’t know about!

Here are a few things that come to mind:

  • Student advocacy on campuses and what it has accomplished: there has been some great stuff happening at UBC due to student advocacy around OER, and I’ll talk about that. What else has student advocacy accomplished?
  • Students creating OERs: I will speak about work I know of here at UBC where students are creating OER, including Wikipedia projects and also other open educational resources. What else is out there?
  • Students contributing to open textbooks: Yes, open textbooks are OERs, but I’m separating them out here just for now. I know that Robin DeRosa has involved students in creating open textbooks, and this blog post from the Conversations on Open Education for Language Learning blog talks about a couple more (by students in classes with David Wiley and Lixun Wang). What other such projects do you know about?
  • Anything else that would fall under students working to create, revise, or promote OER?

Please provide your ideas in the comments!

 

Update Aug. 21, 2017: Several people replied on Twitter instead of in the comments below, and in order to keep all of the contributions in one place, I’m embedding the tweets here.

Mobile teaching and learning

On July 26 I participated in an elearning symposium at the University of Washington-Bothell, virtually, on the invitation of Todd Conaway. There were numerous presenters, many from far and wide, including Alan Levine in Arizona and Viv Rolfe in the UK.

Each of the presenters only had 15 minutes to speak, on something related to the symposium’s theme of “Learning Everywhere.” And since several of us were coming in virtually, we didn’t see the rest of the symposium. Fortunately, Todd did a writeup of the whole day, in a blog post.

I wanted to share here what I said in my 15 minutes, in case it’s useful to others.

college students sitting on stone steps of a building, three of them with phones in their hands

People of Berkeley – Meeting Place, shared on Flickr by John Morgan, licensed CC BY 2.0

The title and description of my short presentation were:

Teaching & learning on the go: students and faculty

Our students are learning pretty much everywhere: on the bus, at coffee shops, walking around town…. What can we as teachers to do facilitate that learning? And what can we ourselves do on the go in our teaching and learning practice? Christina will provide a few ideas on these questions, and ask for participants to share their thoughts too.

So yeah, that’s what I had planned. But I didn’t get to that last part of people sharing their thoughts too. I finished what I had planned to say with maybe 1 minute left, so there wasn’t time for discussion while I was there. 15 minutes is hard to squish things into, and I probably took on too much for that time slot. But anyway. Here are my thoughts on the two questions above, expanded a bit from what I actually said in the symposium.

What can we do to facilitate students learning on the go?

Or at least, to avoid hindering it.

How are students learning on mobile?

I use my smart phone a lot. Or at least I thought I did, until I realized how much more students in my classes were using them. I use my phone for email, for social media, for maps, for looking up things on the web… but when it comes to doing a deep dive into things I’d consider part of my “work,” I usually switch over to a laptop or a desktop computer. I still feel like there are things (like writing a blog post!) that are much easier for me to do on a computer interface rather than a mobile one.

But a couple of years ago I watched students in a class reading and commenting on their peers’ essays on their phones. These were 1500-2000 word essays–fairly substantial ones that required a lot of scrolling. But rather than lug a laptop around, they preferred to do it on their phones. And they were not terribly pleased when the particular reading/commenting platform didn’t work very well on mobile.

I have witnessed students taking notes during class on their phones. When you think they are doing social media or texting during class, they might be actually taking notes!

And I am told, though I haven’t seen this myself, that students have complained when they are trying to do academic work on their phones on the bus, on the LMS, and their data signal cuts out in certain “dead zones” on the bus routes. This means they lose what they have already put into an assignment–like a discussion board post or a quiz.

I spoke with someone at our teaching and learning centre who said that medical and dental students working in clinics have wanted to access the LMS on mobile while they’re doing this work, to find an article or something else relevant to what they’re doing at the time. So having a good mobile interface was important.

Many students are truly learning everywhere: on the bus, in cafés, sitting outside on campus between classes, on breaks at their workplace…. And it may be more likely they’d use a phone than a tablet or laptop in many of these spaces/places because the phone is with them at all times, and has a data plan (not everyone has a data plan for their tablets).

How can we facilitate this learning?

The first step is one I didn’t really think about carefully until I started working on this presentation. But now it seems obvious: look at your course site on a phone! Honestly, I’ve had course sites on WordPress for years and I think only once or twice have I looked at them on my phone, and only when I needed to look something up really quickly on the go. I haven’t checked for usability on a small screen. For example,

  • Some of the items below may be less relevant if you’re using an LMS and don’t really have much choice in how things show up on mobile, but it’s useful to see what the site looks like for students on a phone regardless.

 

  • What do the menu items look like on a phone? Do you have a super long menu with many sub-items, like I do on my WordPress courses? How does that play out on a small screen?

 

  • What do threaded discussions look like? Sometimes when I’m reading blog posts or articles on my phone the threads end up getting pushed more and more to the right side of the screen to the point where some of them end up being really narrow, with just a few words on each line–very annoying to read.

 

  • How does the text look on a phone? The html text should hopefully be large enough to be readable (and most course sites are now able to be responsive to screen size to facilitate that). But do you have large blocks of text that look not so large on a big screen but seem to scroll endlessly on a small one? Do you need them to be that large?

 

  • Are you giving readings in PDF or Word that are near impossible to read on a phone? Do they have to be in PDF or Word? Could they also be in some other format that is easier to read on a small screen, like copied and pasted into a page on the site itself? This is often better for screen readers anyway–they may not be able to read PDFs well.

 

Another thought that came from someone I talked to at our teaching and learning centre: consider whether it’s really necessary to assign students to have long discussion board posts, which are hard to do on mobile. And when the data or wifi cuts out sometimes you lose the whole thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost comments on blogs when I’ve tried to save them and something has gone wrong and it takes me back to the comment page and my comment is gone. It’s really frustrating, and to the point now where I tend not to give comments if I’m on a phone, unless it’s something short I don’t mind writing again if it’s lost. If it’s pedagogically important for students to write long comments, then okay, but consider whether it is necessary. Maybe they could write more, shorter comments instead, and reply to others?

There are likely many other things to consider, and I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

 

What can instructors do on the go in their teaching and learning practice?

This part got cut pretty short in the presentation, but that’s okay because it’s the part I had the least to say about. Again, I feel like I do most of my work on a laptop or desktop. And while the laptop can be taken practically anywhere, it doesn’t really feel any different to me than a desktop. The OS is the same, the capabilities are the same. I guess having a laptop with me most of the time means I can work pretty much anywhere, anytime, but to me that is a dangerous thing (work creeping into personal life!). Still, here are a couple of thoughts about what mobile learning allows me to do in my own teaching and learning practice.

First, when I think about learning everywhere, one thing I think about is people being in many different places learning together. And I’ve done a lot of that, with online video meetings. I have an online meeting 4-5 times a month, it seems, working with people in various parts of the world on projects, or having conversations with people who are at a conference through something called Virtually Connecting (a way for those who can’t attend a conference to talk to some of those who are there), or just having a conversation about teaching and learning or other things. And of course, there are things like open online courses that bring people from lots of different places together to learn (the courses ETMOOC, Open Education, and DS106 are just some of the ones I’ve taken).

I also think about bringing people from elsewhere into the classroom, virtually. Last Spring, in an interdisciplinary, team-taught course called Arts One, we brought comics artist and visual theorist Nick Sousanis in to give a one-hour guest lecture, virtually. It worked really nicely, even though we were in a terrible room where he could only see about 1/4 of the students at any given time because of the room setup. The elearning symposium at UW-Bothell I was speaking at was another great example–bring in people from various parts of the world to speak at your professional development workshop!

I spoke with someone at our Teaching and Learning Centre who provided another idea for what can change in our teaching when we and students have access to mobile technology. She had spoken with a professor who asked students to take their phones outside (they were actually locked out of a building for a little while for a fire alarm I think) and take photos of something that represents a concept they were discussing in class. This sort of thing could be adapted to many different learning contexts, I think.

Finally, I was trying to think of what I do on mobile that is just actually better done on mobile than on a desktop or laptop, and there are two things:

  • There are apps that you can use to make a video out of a set of slides, with a voiceover, that allow you to draw on the slides while you’re recording. And this is done nicely and easily with a finger or stylus on a table. Educreations is one such app, though I haven’t tried it–I have heard of it and gotten an endorsement from someone I trust. But it does cost a fair bit of money if you want to use its best features. There used to be an app called PlayBack (I think) that did something similar and was much cheaper (you didn’t have to sign up your students, either). It doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
    • There must be other such things out there but I can’t find them. Help?

 

  • I have spent hours sometimes meticulously creating diagrams on Power Point slides with shapes and lines/arrows. And then I have to move something and the whole thing gets screwed up. Drawing on a tablet is much easier. Paper by 53 is a drawing app that has “smart shapes” where you draw something like a circle or triangle and it snaps into place as a nice-looking circle or triangle, and you can easily add lines and such as well. It just looks nice and you can save as an image file and upload to a slide. Of course, you can’t edit it from the slides then, but you can do so easily from the Paper app.

There are people who do a lot more on mobile than I do. I recently met Amy Burvall, who said she does all her slides and videos on a phone or tablet (if I got that correctly). She does the drawings in drawing apps, puts them together into videos and adds music and voiceovers on mobile apps, creates gifs on mobile apps, etc. I’m not there yet!

 

Anyone else have ideas on how you teach and learn on the go, with the affordances of mobile technology?

 

Open Case Studies project

I am involved in an OER (Open Educational Resources) creation and sharing project called Open Case Studies that started about a year ago. I’m writing this post to give a general overview of the project to introduce it to new people who might want to participate.

This post will generally follow the format of a couple of presentations I’ve already given recently. Here is a set of slides from one of them, that goes over the basics of the project.

Motivation for the project

This project started from an idea by Daniel Munro, who was in 2015-2016 the Associate VP Academic for the student association at UBC, the Alma Mater Society. He wanted to start a project that would allow for several things:

  • Creation and adaptation of OER by both faculty and students at UBC, to be shared for revision and reuse by others
  • Interdisciplinary discussions and activities–students and faculty working across disciplines
  • Students avoiding “disposable assignments” and instead creating things that add value to the world; this is also connected to the idea of students as producers of knowledge rather than just consumers

You can see more about the objectives of the project on the “about” page of the Open Case Studies project website.

Project in a nutshell

Our project and site involve both faculty and students creating or editing case studies that are openly licensed (CC BY) to allow for revision and reuse by anyone with no restrictions except an attribution to the original source. See here for more about CC BY and other Creative Commons open licenses.

We held a two-day sprint in May 2016 in which faculty and students wrote the first set of case studies. You can see all about that sprint in my blog post about it.

How the case studies have been used in courses

In the 2016-2017 academic year, several faculty members used the case studies in their courses at UBC. There are many ways to do so! Here is what has been done so far:

  • One faculty member has assigned a case study “as is” in a course
  • One has asked students to add “action plans” at the end of one of the case studies (see here)
  • Several have asked students to write their own case studies
    • See the Forestry case studies on our site
    • And also this case study from Civil Engineering
    • A class in Gender, Race and Social Justice had students write case studies too, but they’re not on the site because we haven’t yet sought permission to give them a CC BY license. You can see them on the UBC Wiki, here.

We have a teaching guide for the project that shows some examples of assignment instructions faculty have used with the case studies. See the “sample assignments” on the Teaching Guide page for the project.

We are particularly interested in developing interdisciplinary activities involving the case studies. So far students in single disciplines have been approaching the case studies from those disciplines. But we would love it if students could approach existing case studies from a separate discipline and add their own perspectives. There are places in each case study where such perspectives can be added.

Or perhaps two classes could work together on creating case studies from two (or more) different disciplines.

Help with implementing open case studies into courses

This project is funded in part by a Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund grant from UBC, which allows us to hire graduate assistants to help faculty design and implement assignments.

We also have access to help from the UBC Library and the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology in creating resources to help students understand how to write or otherwise contribute to the open case studies.

So anyone from UBC who would like to join has access to help in implementing open case studies into their course (at least for the next year or so)!

Anyone can contribute

We have focused most of our efforts so far on UBC faculty and students, but we are also opening out the project to anyone who would like to join in, from any post-secondary institution.

We are working on creating a form for people who are interested to fill out that will be posted on the site, but for now, please just email me if you would like more information or think you might be interested: c.hendricks@ubc.ca

And be sure to check out our website!

 

 

 

 

 

What needs improvement in Intro to Philosophy

bust of Socrates with the words "PHIL 102: Introduction to Philosophy with Christina Hendricks, University of British Columbia-Vancouver" off to the right of it

Image from front page of my PHIL 102 course site from Spring 2017. Image of Socrates is Bust of Socrates from the Louvre, by CherryX, licensed CC BY-SA 3.0 on Wikimedia Commons.

 

I am working on my Introduction to Philosophy course (PHIL 102) again; I’m teaching it next starting in January 2018. But I’ve just been appointed as the Deputy Academic Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at UBC (starting July 1, 2017) and so I’m trying to get as much planning done on this course before the Fall as I can).

I have taught this course many times already and every year I am not fully happy with it and try to make it better. This year was no exception (I taught it from Jan-April 2017). Some of my previous blog posts about this course are here. The post I did in Summer of 2016 on this course I thought was pretty good on overall learning goal planning and reflection, so I’m going to reuse those ideas.

But this post here will be a bit different; I’m going to approach it from the perspective of what I thought didn’t work so well, and see if I can’t come up with new ideas from there.

Recent student evals

I’ll start with some common comments on recent student evaluations for the last two times I’ve taught the course (Fall 2015 and Spring 2017).

What could be improved

What students commented on most often in the section where we ask for comments about improving the course is the readings:

  • readings are too long or too dense
  • need more context or questions to focus on before students do the reading; some said they couldn’t get it on their own

There were also somewhat frequent comments on:

  • some students want more discussion and in-class activities like we were doing with Learning Catalytics (a kind of clicker-type system that students can use their own devices for)
  • some from this past term (Jan-April 2017) said they didn’t quite understand how the different parts of the course all fit together (I agree!)
  • Some want more information on how to write a good essay
  • Some want a chance to rewrite essays (which I have given sometimes in courses but didn’t this last term); we do peer feedback on essays, and students wanted to rewrite the essays after getting the feedback. I have given that option before and will again!

For the last two bullet points, I do give a fair bit of information on writing–see here. Still, I think that such things can get overwhelming and don’t really mean that much until one actually starts writing and getting feedback. Then the instructions start to hit home more. Thus the need for more chances to write and rewrite.

Of course, we are limited in our time and TA hours for marking essays, which is a bit of a problem sometimes. I have up to 150 students in this course, and marking and giving feedback on essays takes a great deal of time! Thus the peer feedback exercise, so they get more feedback.

What went well

In the part where students give comments about what part(s) of the course taught them the most, the most common answers were:

  • lectures: students appreciated my lectures and my lecture slides, which I make available on the course website
  • discussions: students mentioned both the smaller-class weekly discussion meetings and the larger-class discussions we had on Google docs
  • a few students said that writing essays taught them the most, as that is when they really dug into the arguments/views we were discussing

 

My own reflections

Class time

I have rarely been satisfied with what I do during class time. It’s such a precious few hours in a term and I feel like one should focus on things that it makes sense to do when we’re in a room together, rather than on things that could be done online or in other ways. That means it should be things that require that we work together somehow, not me just standing there talking. Yet, that’s mostly what I do and I’m frustrated with myself for it.

Of course, many, many students think the lectures are what taught them the most (see above), so I’m also torn. Still, I could do the same things with videos, right? I mean, at least with parts of the lectures…the videos wouldn’t be as interactive as the lectures are, since I intersperse the latter (on days when I’ve planned well) with questions on Learning Catalytics or activities on Google Docs or other things.

Me providing many of the answers

This is related to the above; I too often, I think, do for students what I should be asking them to puzzle through in order to learn. I say that philosophy is not about memorizing things about philosophers’ views and I believe it, but sometimes what I do in class operates on that model. I explain the philosophers’ view for them. So what are they supposed to do with that? Memorize it and answer questions on the exam? Well, a bit more than that–they are also supposed to take those ideas and apply them to something else, compare them with other views, come up with questions or possible objections about them, etc. Still, I often operate, during class time, as if my role is to provide content knowledge from the expert perspective and theirs is to take it in.

What’s the problem with this? It’s not always a problem, and sometimes it is very important and valuable to students to “download” knowledge from the professor. But there are some drawbacks, and reasons why this shouldn’t be the only or the main modus operandi:

  • If students are just fed the information, they won’t necessarily feel the need for it themselves; they just take it in because I tell them to rather than because they have an internal sense that they want it or need it for something
    • In Ambrose et al., How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching they note that “students’ motivation generates, directs, and sustains what they do to learn,” and that students need to see a learning goal as both subjectively valuable and also attainable (p. 69).
  • Active learning, in which students are doing something rather than sitting passively, is more effective for learning
  • I act as a model for students when I give them the overview of each view, but then also expect them to be able to do this on their own when they leave the class; they need practice to do what I am giving them in lectures

More time on skills, less on content

In relation to students’ concerns noted above with there being a lot of reading, I really want to help students practice doing reading of philosophical arguments (whether in classically “philosophy” texts or elsewhere) and honing their abilities to analyze and criticize those arguments. That’s so important to carry over into other aspects of their lives–there are philosophical arguments everywhere, and being able to parse them and question/criticize them well is an important life skill I believe.

I have thought in the past about spending time on reading and taking effective notes on readings, finding arguments and outlining them, etc. I’ve done the latter in this course but not the former (how to read, how to take notes has been left behind). This time I really want to include that.

Content

I am not happy with any of the themes I’ve used for this course. It’s an introduction to Philosophy course, but it’s focused on “value theory” (roughly: ethics, social & political philosophy, aesthetics…or any one or two of these). It is not required for majors, and most students who take it won’t go on to take any other philosophy course. So the point is not to make sure they get any particular content, but, from how I think of the class, the content should be a vehicle to teach skills like careful reading, analyzing and criticizing arguments, formulating one’s own arguments, writing, respectful discussion, etc.–things that will be useful in their lives more generally.

Of course, some students do go on to take more philosophy courses, and I’m thrilled when they do! So the content is not entirely immaterial. But it should also be engaging for students new to philosophy who may never take another course in the field. And it should have something to do with value theory without just being a repetition of other courses in value theory that may take in their second or third years. (This is the mistake I made when I taught the course the first couple of times…it was basically the second-year moral theory course that I also sometimes teach, only “lighter.” Which, to me, was too much repetition for those who did go on to the moral theory course.)

I’ve tried the following:

  • Philosophy of happiness
    • Here’s a syllabus I used for one of the terms I did this theme: PHIL 102 Syllabus, Summer 2011 (PDF)
    • I wasn’t that thrilled because I kept thinking that I really needed to know more about psychology to do this well than I do
  • What is Western philosophy/what do Western philosophers do (with a focus on value theory)
  • Matters of life and death (or: living well and dying well)
    • Here’s a syllabus: PHIL 102 Syllabus, Fall 2015 (PDF)
    • This one was pretty good overall, though some students thought there was too much emphasis on death
    • I changed it for Spring 2017 (below) because I wanted even more engagement from students, connection to everyday life, so I included a section on civil disobedience
  • Is the unexamined life not worth living? What is the examined life and what of value is it?
    • Here’s a syllabus: PHIL 102 Syllabus, Spring 2017 (PDF)
    • This was even more nebulous than the second one in this list. I worked really hard to have it work around a single main idea, as you could see in this mind map; but it just didn’t work out.

What do students say they like best in terms of content? Looking just at the last two iterations of the course (3rd and 4th bullet point above), for those that mentioned some content being more interesting or contributing to their learning more, the common responses were:

  • Ancient Greek philosophers: Socrates, Epicurus in particular
  • Existentialist philosophers: Camus and Sartre
  • Ethical issues: Singer on world poverty, Nussbaum on the capabilities approach, and the trolley problem
  • When I taught the course on matters of life or death, a number of students thought the discussions on death were really interesting (only one said they thought there was too much on that)
  • For the Spring 2017 version of the course a few students mentioned the civil disobedience section as being most engaging

What I am thinking right now is that the course should have some “applied” topics (a few students said they liked those better than the more theoretical discussions), and that everything should fit together into a somewhat coherent whole (some students got a bit frustrated in the Spring 2017 course about this, and I did too).

 

What to be sure to do for next time

I’m out of time and so finishing this off even though there are probably other things I could add to the section on what I think should be improved. So I’ll end with a few notes to myself.

  • focus on how to read and how to take notes; provide practice
  • find ways to help students see why the things we are studying are important, so be curious to figure out some of the difficult readings rather than me just feeding the views to them
  • make sure class time is optimized by being spent on those things that need us to be in the room together as much as possible
    • make more videos for the course for stuff they can just watch outside rather than watching me lecture
  • give fewer readings; provide context for each reading before asking them to do it (background on the philosopher, why we’re reading it, how it connects to other things, etc.); also provide things to look for while reading

 

More to come on all this…I’ll be doing planning of this course in the open as I often do!

Navigating open pedagogy, part 2

many different colours of embroidery thread, tangled together

Trying to pull together stray threads. Threads image licensed CC0 on pixabay.com

This is the last (for now) in a series of posts over the last couple of days on open pedagogy. Previous posts:

  • Part 1, where I do some not terribly focused reflecting on some recent posts on open pedagogy, as well as my own view before reading them (warning: long!)
  • Part 1.5, where I consider: why try to define open pedagogy at all?

This post is dedicated to trying to pull together some of the threads from what I’ve read in the last two days.

What is “open” about open pedagogy?

In part 1 of this series, I discovered that I don’t have an answer to the question of what is added to “pedagogy” or “educational practices” when I put “open” in front of them. Now I’m going to try to come to some clarity for myself on that.

Note that I’m using open pedagogy (OP) and open educational practices (OEP) interchangeably here. Maybe someday I’ll separate them.

Some commonalities in what I’ve gathered from others’ views

I’m here including links to some new posts and resources that I didn’t have in part 1 of this series, as well as some that I did.

  • OER: a number of people (e.g., Wiley 1, Wiley 2, Hegarty) define open pedagogy in terms of practices that are made possible by open licenses, so practices that are made possible by OER
    • Under this view, one might say that OP or OEP include things like revising, remixing, redistributing OER (is retaining them an open practice, though?)
  • Access:
    • Robin DeRosa: “The open license helps us reduce textbook costs, but it also symbolizes the belief that college costs– everything from tuition to transportation– should be addressed and reduced/covered as part of a strong public educational infrastructure.”
    • Samantha Veneruso: “Open practices privilege access: access to content, access to learning.”
  • Connections: A number of posts talk about OP as promoting connections–between students, between students and teachers, between the class and people outside the class, etc. E.g.,
    • Jim Luke: “Isolation vs. Connectedness:  Does the pedagogy and learning activities exist predominantly in a closed, isolated space such as the traditional classroom or do they engage and form connections with the larger, outside world?”
    • Maha Bali: “A focus on students networking in public. Having students interact with each other or people outside the class altogether on social media like Twitter (see my Twitter Scavenger Hunt as a small-scale example) or creating entire courses where students are constantly interacting with others outside of the course (a recent example is Networked Narratives by Mia Zamora and Alan Levine)….”
    • Samantha Veneruso: “Open practices emphasize connection and community enabled by technology.”
    • Tannis Morgan: “Open as a means to connect with a broader, global community”
    • Robin DeRosa: “Connection. Helping students become lifelong learners is a real thing, and I am tired of the lip service that we pay it. … Teaching them the skills that help them enter a collaborative scholarly and/or professional community will give them access to the content in their fields as it changes over time.”
    • Bronwyn Hegarty: “connected community: participate in a connected community of professionals”
  • Students as co-creators, as having more authority & autonomy in their education
    • Heather Ross: “If teachers and students can now modify their textbooks and learning materials, we shift the student emphasis to contribution to knowledge as opposed to simple consumption of knowledge.”
    • Devon Ritter: “the ability for learners to shape and take ownership of their own education”
    • Samantha Veneruso: “Open practices are learner driven.”
    • Catherine Cronin: “Overall, open education practitioners and researchers describe OEP as moving beyond a content-centred approach to openness, shifting the focus from resources to practices, with learners and teachers sharing the processes of knowledge creation.”
    • Robin DeRosa: “Learner-Driven Structures. Another thing Higher Ed pays a lot of lip service to is the idea of “student centered learning.” Working with OER helped me see learning materials as more shape-able, and involving students in that shaping had a profound effect on the location of authority in our classroom.”
    • Jim Luke: “Teacher as “the” authority vs. Students being able to bring other sources of authority.”
    • Me, in part 1 of this series: “Involving students in co-creating the curriculum, such as through helping to choose some of the course topics, choosing the nature of assignments for the course, or creating texts, videos or other content for the course.”
  • Students contributing valuable knowledge and resources to the world
    • Maha Bali: “…trying to create assignments that are sustainable or not disposable, assignments that would have benefit to others beyond the limited course time and space. For example, having students create their own blogs or domains (see Domain of One’s Own), edit Wikipedia or create podcasts or websites that have value beyond the course.”
    • Gill Green: “Learners contributing novel ideas and original research to pressing contemporary problems.”
    • David Wiley 2013: “Because students know their work will be used both by their peers and potentially by future generations of students, they invest in this work at a different level.”)
    • David Wiley 2016: “A “renewable assessment” differs [from a disposable one] in that the student’s work won’t be discarded at the end of the process, but will instead add value to the world in some way.”
    • Me, in part 1 of this series: “Asking students to do renewable, or non-disposable assignments in courses. These involve students creating things that others can revise and reuse, that add value to the world beyond the course.”
  • Social justice, equity
    • Maha Bali: one of the two components of the ethos of OP: “A social justice orientation – caring about equity, with openness as one way to achieve this”
    • Open Educational Practices Scotland, which I found through this slide deck by Beck Pitt et al.: “We think of Open Educational Practices as those educational practices that are concerned with and promote equity and openness. Our understanding of ‘open’ builds on the freedoms associated with “the 5 Rs” of OER, promoting a broader sense of open, emphasising social justice, and developing practices that open up opportunities for those distanced from education.
  • Open-mindedness, receptivity to change
    • Suzan Koseoglu: “What are our “spaces of possibility”? How do we construct those spaces and nurture democratic learning environments where people get exposed to different perspectives, challenge the way they view the world and their position it?”
    • Bronwyn Hegarty: open practices “encourage spontaneous innovation and creativity”
  • Transparency
    • David Wiley: “No doubt we have yet to see definitions of open pedagogy that approach from other open traditions, like the “open” in open government where open primarily means transparent.”
    • Rajiv Jhangiani: “open pedagogy would also encompass instructional practices such as open and transparent course design and development”
    • Rajiv Jhangiani: “even though we may operationally define “open” differently, we share a common foundation that values access, agency, transparency, and quality.”
    • Me, in part 1 of this series: “Open course planning, which I first saw via Paul Hibbits at an ETUG (British Columbia Educational Technology User’s Group) meeting in 2014. See my blog post about that here.”
  • Reflective practice: this could be part of transparency, but I’m pulling out as separate for now
    • Me, in part 1 of this series: “Engaging in open reflection on educational practices and processes, whether by students or profs or staff or anyone else involved in an educational experience.”–I was thinking of public reflections like on this blog
    • Bronwyn Hegarty: “engage in opportunities for reflective practice”; Hegarty includes the value of feedback from peers on this practice (p. 10), so it sounds like doing reflection to some degree openly would be good

And as I am reading through, finally, I think all of the posts and slide decks on Maha Bali’s curated list, I find that Open Door Classroom by Jesse Stommel (slides) has many of the above points in it as well.

What else?

Have anything to add? Please put it in the comments, below!

What might all this have to do with open?

I’m trying to figure out, recall, what is added to “pedagogy” when we talk about “open pedagogy.” And if it’s something like the above list (with the list being not final, not necessarily the last word and me policing boundaries), then why might we call something like a gathering of the above things “openness” in terms of pedagogy?

There’s open as in:

  • visible: transparency
  • changeable: open-mindedness, openness to change; 5R’s (e.g., revision, remixing)
  • available: access
  • crossing boundaries: connections, wider communities, students contributing knowledge and resources to the world
  • freedom: autonomy, shared authority

Where does equity/social justice fit in here, though?

Here’s another way to think about it. Open is the opposite of closed, and to me, closed means things like:

  • encircled by boundaries that keep some things in and others out
  • private
  • hidden
  • locked or restricted

And these have to do with social justice, because they often mean that what is private and hidden to some is not so to others. So in a way, all of the above might be related to social justice and equity.

So maybe we could think of the above in terms of reducing boundaries, or making them permeable (because I don’t think a practice without any boundaries at all is even conceivable)? (And with due credit to Alan Levine for helping me understand the difference between porosity and permeability!) Making things visible, available, changeable, and providing freedom to be self-directed would all be connected to permeable boundaries to some extent.

From this, I tried to come up with some pithy definition, but I’m not really succeeding. So for now I’m just going to think of OP or OEP as: teaching and learning practices that open up otherwise closed educational boundaries to promote access, agency, connections, transparency, and transformation for the sake of improved student learning along with equity and social justice. But that’s a mouthful and not really all that more helpful than the list above. Hmmmm….

And I discover that after all this, I am very much in agreement with Maha Bali’s two aspects of the ethos of open pedagogy!

I would say open pedagogy is an ethos that has two major components:

  • 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

 

I welcome comments on these reflections, as well as attempts to put the above together into a less wordy way of thinking about open pedagogy!

 

 

 

 

 

Why define open pedagogy?

This is a kind of addendum to my last post, where I did some summarizing of and reflecting on a few definitions of open pedagogy given on blogs and elsewhere lately.

When I first heard about the flurry of blog posts on open pedagogy, and the disagreements on how to define it, I thought: why do we need to spend so much time arguing about the definition? Why is it so important to focus on how to define it?

black and white image of a fence along an urban road

Do we need a fence around open pedagogy? Fence image licensed CC0 on pixabay.com

One of the first posts I read during this flurry was by Jim Groom: “I don’t need permission to be open.” There, among other things, he wonders:

In a moment when fences and lines are being drawn all around the world according to ideologies that other and petty definitions that exclude, why would this seem a good time to start drawing lines around open? Frankly, it seems a bit more like fear mongering.

And further, taken from two different parts of his post:

Seems to me there is an attempt to define it in order to start controlling it, and that is often related to resources, grants, etc.

I think the locking down of open is dangerous. I think it draws lines where they need not be, and it reconsolidates power for those who define it.

Groom points out that once we start drawing lines around a concept like open pedagogy, this can have the effect of closing down new ways of thinking about and doing it. If we start to say, “this is open pedagogy” and to get a grant or to publish something under that umbrella you have to be doing x, y or z, then someone who is doing q or p may be left out of what is the current “new shiny thing” in the zeitgeist of open education.

That’s how I felt too when first stumbling upon the overwhelming number of recent blog posts on the issue. Or rather, I had some vague sense of wondering why we needed to spend so much effort on it, and then reading Jim’s post helped clarify the issue for me.

Still, given that I just spent over 3000 words in my last blog post talking about open pedagogy, apparently I think it’s worthwhile to try to get some further clarity around it. Why do I think that? What follows is me thinking my way to understanding my own views through writing about them.

Openwashing

David Wiley points to the problem of “openwashing” when he says it’s important to define open pedagogy. And that makes sense to me. If we don’t have a good sense of what “openness” in education or educational resources or pedagogy is, how can we criticize an edu-disruptor-innovator company who claims to be promoting open pedagogy when most in the open education world would agree they’re not? How can we point to what it’s not if we don’t have at least some clarity on what it is?

Giving credit where credit is due

Sometimes there’s a tendency to speak of open pedagogy and open educational practices as if they are definitely something different from other educational practices or pedagogies. And maybe they are. Or maybe not; maybe what these end up being are combinations of other educational theories, or perhaps even just slightly reworded versions of one educational theory that already exists. Honestly, I don’t know because I don’t have a background in educational or pedagogical theories. But if we can’t define what we mean by “open pedagogy,” then how can we tell if it’s something different or if we should just be using a view that is already in existence?

A sense of clarity about one’s own views

I’m a philosopher, and it bothers me a great deal if I am using words and trying to make arguments about something that I can’t define. And by “define” I don’t necessarily mean that I have to put strict boundaries around it; this could be a rough idea with lots of porosity. But my previous post convinced me that I don’t know what I would say if someone asked me: what is it that is added to “pedagogy” or “educational practices” when you add the word “open” to those? What unifies that list of things you think of as open educational practices? There are a whole lot of things that could go into an answer for that, and they’re a bit jumbled in my head right now and as a philosopher that bothers me.

Should it? I do think this is important. If we can’t get clear on what we mean by particular words or phrases, then what are we doing when we try to advocate for those things, or explain what it is we’re doing when we say we engage in those things? Which leads me to:

Advocacy

There are a number of us who give talks, facilitate workshops, in which we talk about open pedagogy or open educational practices. Are we talking about the same thing? Are we advocating for different sorts of things, for different reasons, and calling it all one thing? It’s hard to see advocacy working towards promoting change if it’s working at cross purposes.

Other?

I’m curious to hear others’ views on why having some further clarity on open pedagogy (or some other form of “open”), if not a strict boundary line around a definition, might be useful.

 

But there are still those worries noted above

How can we get more clarity on open pedagogy without doing so in a way that supports the power of those doing the defining (or those who would define it similarly)? How can we leave the boundaries open enough for there still to be room to move beyond them and change them?

Can we have a flexible, porous fence that’s not really a fence but more of a gathering that leaves space for differences in details and upheavals in the future?

 

 

Navigating open pedagogy, part 1

In April 2017 there was a flurry of blog posts and a hangout about open pedagogy–various ways of defining it, thinking about it, etc. That was during a heavy teaching term for me and mostly I just saw that it was happening and read maybe one or two of the many blog posts at the time.

You can see a curated list of them, here (thanks Maha Bali!).

In a couple of days I am presenting on a panel for the BCcampus Open Textbook Summit, called Open Pedagogy Case Studies & Examples from Langara, UBC and Athabasca. Marianne Gianacopoulos (Langara), Michael Dabrowski (Athabasca) and I will be speaking on projects we’re involved in that we each think of as having an element of open pedagogy. So we’re starting with a discussion of just what “open pedagogy” is.

Thus, I figured it was time to visit that large number of blog posts linked above.

I won’t be able to read them all before Wednesday. And I definitely won’t be able to synthesize all of even those I manage to read. I am writing this post just to gather some thoughts from what I am reading in the next day or so. Think of it as my own filtering, focusing on what I find most interesting or surprising or what I want to think further about, rather than a definitive analysis of what I think open pedagogy is. [Aside: As I’m writing this post I’m surprised to find I don’t already have a tag on this blog for “open pedagogy.” Just changed that.]

This post is my somewhat rambling reflections on reading some of the posts Maha Bali curated (linked above). The next one, part 2, is where I will try to pull some of these threads together into a revised view of my own.

This post is my somewhat rambling reflections on reading some of the posts Maha Bali curated (linked above). In part 2 I will try to pull some of these threads together into a revised view of my own.

[Addendum added later: Actually, it turns out I wrote another one before part 2: part 1.5, why define open pedagogy?]


My initial view, to start

Before I start looking at what others have said, here is what I think of when I think of “open pedagogy.”

I have considered OER to be about content, while I’ve thought of open pedagogy more along the lines of practices. And that brings  me to a chart of a spectrum of open practices that the Open UBC group (which I’m a part of) created, which you can see on the Open UBC website, here: http://open.ubc.ca/teach/what/

I’m also posting the chart here for reference:

chart with a range of open practices, from "low touch" to "high touch"

Spectrum of Open Practice, by Cindy Underhill, licensed CC BY-SA 3.0

If I remember our discussions about it correctly, the spectrum ranges from low-ish degree of difficulty (on the left) or effort to higher (on the right). That said, we had a lot of conversations about this because there are so many different factors to take into account, and not everything fits well on a spectrum like this. Plus, adopting OER for a course is not necessarily on a low level of degree of difficulty! It requires actually finding relevant and high quality OER, and changing up one’s course at least to some degree, to accommodate the new material. Still, it’s arguably somewhat less effort that adapting or creating new materials.

This chart is still partly focused on content–it talks largely about adopting, adapting, creating OER. But there is more there, especially towards the right side of the chart. We talk about students and instructors connecting and collaborating with communities outside the course, as well as about students co-creating courses. On the far right there is also discussion of students and faculty sharing their reflections and processes, which could include how they created content, or how they collaborated on courses, or reflections on how things went.

In an explanation of open education that I wrote for a teaching award (which I didn’t get but am happy I wrote this!), I quoted Tom Woodward from an interview Mary Grush did with him for Campus Technology.

[Woodward refers to open pedagogy as] “a general philosophy of openness (and connection) in all elements of the pedagogical process,” where “[o]pen is a purposeful path towards connection and community” (Grush, 2013; italics in original). Thus, open pedagogy can also include open assignments, which allow students to shape how they will show evidence of learning (or even create assignments for other students to do); open course planning, in which one invites comments and contributions from others when planning a course; and what Woodward calls “open products,” where students publish their work “for an audience greater than their instructor. … Their work, being open, has the potential to be used for something larger than the course itself and to be part of a larger global conversation” (Grush, 2013).

Based in part on the above, here are some practices that I have thought of as part of open pedagogy:

  • Open course planning, which I first saw via Paul Hibbits at an ETUG (British Columbia Educational Technology User’s Group) meeting in 2014. See my blog post about that here.
    • I have practiced open course planning twice so far; see blog posts here and here.
  • Asking students to do renewable, or non-disposable assignments in courses. These involve students creating things that others can revise and reuse, that add value to the world beyond the course. I wrote a post about renewable assignments for UBC’s Flexible Learning site in 2015.
    • These can range from things like students contributing to Wikipedia to students doing work for community partners, to students writing blog posts that might be useful to others (the latter is what I have done in my courses so far).
  • Involving students in co-creating the curriculum, such as through helping to choose some of the course topics, choosing the nature of assignments for the course, or creating texts, videos or other content for the course.
    • I haven’t done any of this yet in my own courses, though I keep thinking I should!
  • Engaging in open reflection on educational practices and processes, whether by students or profs or staff or anyone else involved in an educational experience.
    • A number of professors use blogs to do this sort of reflection, such as this blog right here!

Now, as I write this, I wonder if I have any sense of a distinction between open pedagogy and open practices. And my answer to that at the moment is “no.” I feel more comfortable talking about practices than pedagogy, actually, as I’m not sure I have a good sense of what “pedagogy” is, and then there’s that whole thing about pedagogy vs andragogy that I’m not well versed in (and I just found this on pedagogy, andragogy and heutagogy, which made sense of this post by Josie Fraser asking why we aren’t talking about open heutatogy). And this post by Lorna Campbell brings up a point that using “pedgogy” may seem harder by people who are not teachers than using “practices.”

Nevertheless, since the conversation is currently about open pedagogy rather than open practices, I’ll stick with the former term here for the moment.


Views from recent blog posts on open pedagogy

Rather than trying to summarize and synthesize all the blog posts Maha Bali gathered, I’ll mention a few things that were brought up in some of them (I can’t read them all!) that leading me to think more deeply about open pedagogy and my own previous views.

Open pedagogy as requiring involvement of OER?

a chart of the 5 R's of openness: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute"

5 R’s chart, from a slide deck by David Wiley called “Open Education: A Simple Introduction,” licensed CC BY 4.0

David Wiley has defended a view that open pedagogy is

the set of teaching and learning practices only possible or practical in the context of the 5R permissions. Or, to operationalize, open pedagogy is the set of teaching and learning practices only possible or practical when you are using OER.

 

Here is a more in-depth discussion of the 5R’s Wiley is talking about.

This emphasizes open licenses as part of open pedagogy–the latter is what is made possible when people share their work using an open license. That is what allows, e.g., for revisions of OER by faculty and students. And students creating work with open licenses then would count as open pedagogy.

Note, though, that after a flurry of Tweets and blog posts, he added  another set of thoughts, looking at how there seem to be two views of “open” working in the recent discussions of “open pedagogy.” More on that below.

[Addendum the next day:] Maha Bali pointed out to me that Wiley wrote yet another blog post in which he said he was going to stop using the term “open pedagogy” and use the above definition for a new term called “OER-enabled pedagogy.” This is because the terms “open pedagogy” and “open educational practices” do not have agreement on what they mean, so it’s difficult to use them, he says.

Rajiv Jhangiani agrees with Wiley’s earlier definition, stating in a post on the Year of Open website that “open pedagogy refers to innovative teaching and learning practices that are only made possible through the application of open licenses.”

A couple of the posts in Maha Bali’s curated collection point to “Attributes of Open Pedagogy: A Model for Using Open Educational Resources,” by Bronywyn Hegarty (Educational Technology July-August 2015). As the title suggests, Hegarty also connects open pedagogy to OER. From my reading, the article links open pedagogy to open educational practices (OEP), and Hegarty uses definitions of OEP’s that are directly connected to OER, such as

Open Educational Practices (OEPs) constitute the range of practices around the creation, use, and management of open educational resources with the intent to improve quality and innovate education.(OPAL, 2011a, p. 4)
Still, Hegarty’s suggested list of 8 practices that could be considered ‘open pedagogy’ include a wide range of things that need not (?) all require use or contributions to OER. Here is the list of 8 from p. 5 of that article:
  • participatory technologies: use for interacting via web 2.0, social networks and mobile apps
  • people, openness, trust: developing trust, openness and confidence for working with others
  • innovation and creativity: encourage spontaneous innovation and creativity
  • sharing ideas and resources: share ideas and resources freely to disseminate knowledge
  • connected community: participate in a connected community of professionals
  • learner generated: facilitate learners’ contributions to OER
  • reflective practice: engage in opportunities for reflective practice
  • peer review: contribute to open critique of others’ scholarship
Even if not all of these require the use or creation of OER, they are, I believe, meant  to be part of a larger practice that involves use/revision/creation of OER:
Immersion in using and creating OER requires a significant change in practice and the development of specific attributes, such as openness, connectedness, trust, and innovation. (p. 3)

What is the “open” in open pedagogy?

My view of open pedagogy is basically a list of practices. But what makes these “open”? What is it about reflecting publicly on teaching, or having students contribute to public knowledge or co-create the curriculum that makes these things “open”?

The following is a list of ideas gleaned from several recent blog posts on open pedagogy. It is in no particular order.

Open licenses

One view, as put forward by Wiley in his earlier blog post on this discussion, is that what makes things open is the permissions granted by open licenses:

As I’ve argued many times, the difference between free and open is that open is “free plus.” Free plus what? Free plus the 5R permissions. While almost the entire internet is free to watch, read, and listen to, only a small slice of the internet is open – licensed in a way that grants you the 5R permissions. These permissions are the distinguishing feature of open, whether you’re talking about open educational resources, open source software, open data, or a range of other open things.

But I have still thought of students helping to co-create the curriculum as “open” in some way even if this doesn’t involve creating content that is given an open license. Why do I think that?

Power and freedom

Jim Luke has some thoughts that help me here. He argues that pedagogy is a process, as opposed to OER as a product, or content. So if licenses/permissions are what make a piece of content open, what makes a process open, Luke asks? He points out that pedagogy, as a process, is about power relations:

Humans are the center of pedagogy or educational praxis. It’s students and teachers and their interactions that are the essence of pedagogy. That means that pedagogy is not just about some instructional design strategy, it’s about power relations. Who gets to do what? Who gets to tell whom what to do? Who sets the bounds and the rules? … To me, any pedagogy is primarily about power relations and therefore freedom.

(Of course, if the reason pedagogy is about power relations is because humans are at the centre, then pretty much every human interaction is about power relations. But as someone who has done a lot of work on the view of Michel Foucault, this makes sense to me!)

Luke then goes on to say,

Since pedagogy is about process and power relations, then openness in pedagogy is about freedom and connection. It’s about the degrees and ways in which a pedagogy is free and mutual.

This starts to make sense of my previous just kind of rough sense of some kinds of practices being “open.” Providing students more freedom in their education, freedom to co-create curriculum, and interactions with people outside the course fit with these ideas on freedom, mutuality, and connection. Luke talks about a range of openness in pedagogy, such as courses that take place and encourage interactions only with a closed group of people vs. those that involve connections to wider communities, or courses that involve the students bringing their own authority rather than only emphasizing the authority of the instructor.

Social justice

Maha Bali, in a post on the Year of Open website, lists a number of practices that could be part of open pedagogy (somewhat similar to the list I made earlier in this post of my own views of such practices), and then characterizes open pedagogy helpfully as an “ethos”:

I would say open pedagogy is an ethos that has two major components:

  • 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

I like how Bali focuses on the social justice aspect of openness and open pedagogy. In large part those of us who are interested in these things are so because of the two elements of this ethos: improved learning for students and caring about equity for them and in the wider world.

Different perspectives

Suzan Koseoglu agrees with Bali, and adds another aspect to the “open” in open pedagogy, inspired by bell hooks:

I’m under the spell of bell hooks right now so I will define open pedagogy as the way she frames it in her book Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope:

Intentional approaches in teaching that encourage students to have “the will to explore different perspectives and change one’s mind as new information is presented”(emphasis mine).

Koseoglu goes on to discuss further the emphasis here on exploring different perspectives: “How do we … nurture democratic learning environments where people get exposed to different perspectives, challenge the way they view the world and their position it?” So here, openness in pedagogy is connected to having an “open mind,” one might say, and being willing to listen to alternative views and change one’s mind where that is called for.

Open web

David Wiley, in a blog post responding to a number of those in Bali’s curated list, talks about two different kinds of openness: one having to do with open content, open access, open data, and the like, and one having to do with the idea of an “open web”:

On reflection it seems that the subtle difference between these two forms of open is that the open in OER, etc. is a matter of free access plus copyright permissions, while the open in open web is a matter of free access plus no requirement to seek approval before creating or inventing.

This could connect to Luke’s point about freedom and Hegarty’s view that one aspect of open pedagogy is encouraging “spontaneous innovation and creativity” (as quoted above).

Transparency

Wiley also briefly mentions in the above-mentioned post another way of thinking about open:

No doubt we have yet to see definitions of open pedagogy that approach from other open traditions, like the “open” in open government where open primarily means transparent.

This makes sense to me: open pedagogy could involve being transparent about how one is teaching and why, or what one is doing as a learner to show one’s learning, and why. Rajiv Jhangiani, in a post on the Year of Open website, also says that “open pedagogy would also encompass instructional practices such as open and transparent course design and development.” And one could argue that things like learning outcomes and program outcomes are in part doing that kind of work.

Autonomy, freedom, choice

Tannis Morgan looks into the history of the term “open pedagogy” (so does Gill Green, in his post on the Year of Open website) and discusses (among other things) a 1979 article in French by Claude Paquette called “Some fundamentals of an open pedagogy” (translation mine; probably not an adequate translation as my French is not very good!).

Morgan notes that

Paquette outlines 3 sets of foundational values of open pedagogy, namely:  autonomy and interdependence; freedom and responsibility; democracy and participation.  He goes into some detail about these, but us ed tech folks will recognize some of the themes – individualized learning, learner choice, self-direction, – to name a few.

She goes on to say that for Paquette, “open is very much about learner choice.”

“No gates, no hoops, no end”

This isn’t from one of the blog posts curated by Maha Bali, but from a set of slides by Robin DeRosa that I found while searching for an image for the top of this post.

In one of the slides DeRosa states that open pedagogy emphasizes:

  • Community and collaboration over content
  • Connects the university with the wider public
  • Treats education as a learner-developed process
  • No gates. No hoops. No end.

The first three are pretty self-explanatory, and she goes on in later slides to discuss them further. [Addendum later: DeRosa also talks about the first and third points in this blog post included in the curated list by Maha Bali). The last one I think of as making learning as accessible as possible, and trying to make, as she says in a later slide, the community and the course continue even after it is over. One could do that by encouraging lasting connections between students, students and instructor, students and people outside the course, or between students and what they are studying such that they continue that work later. These things are my own interpretations of what she might mean by her last bullet point.


An interim conclusion

Basically what this review of some of the recent blog posts out there on open pedagogy has done for me is make me realize that I have been operating with a kind of list-of-activities view of open pedagogy, without really understanding why I think those activities should be categorized under “open practices.” And this feels pretty overwhelming because I have gone down the road in the past of trying to determine what I think “open” means and didn’t get very far. Partly because I think it’s quite likely different for different kinds of “open” practices and entities (e.g., open government, open science, open access, open source software, OER, etc.).

So what could it be that is added to “pedagogy” to make it open, that might be similar to or different from what is added to, for example, science or data that makes these open?

What’s even harder, for me, is that to start to answer that question one has to determine what “pedagogy” is (or andragogy, or heutagogy, as noted above). And the fact is, there are many different kinds of pedagogy. I’m starting to wonder if David Wiley might be right in suggesting that perhaps “open pedagogy” by itself makes less sense than trying to think about what “open constructivist pedagogy” or “open connectivist pedagogy” might be.

So for me, this might be another reason to start talking more about open educational practices and less about open pedagogy. Or maybe that will just lead to the same problems.

Okay, more tomorrow in part 2!

Open Textbook for Intro to Philosophy

Drawing of a book with "open textbooks" on it, and arrows pointing out to people using the book in various contexts

Open Textbooks, by Giulia Forsythe on Flickr, licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

After talking about it for a few years, I am finally able to start working on an open textbook for introduction to philosophy courses. There are a few of us working on it already, and we’re going to need all the help we can get…so this post is to introduce the project and talk about how others can get involved.

Open textbooks

First, what is an “open textbook”? The easiest way to think about it is that it is like any other textbook except in two crucial respects:

First, it is free of cost to students. There is no price tag. This comes with another implication: we are doing this for free ourselves. There is no publisher who is paying us to create the textbook, and there are no “royalties.” But frankly, I can’t imagine ever making much off of a textbook anyway (how many new textbooks are there a year, and how many actually make money? I don’t know but I am skeptical of it being terribly lucrative in philosophy).

Second, open textbooks have an “open license” that allows others to reuse, revise, remix it with other things and release new versions publicly for others to use, revise, etc. The most common open licenses for educational resources like this are Creative Commons licenses, which come in several versions. See this CC page for a general discussion of the licenses and different license types; the University of British Columbia Creative Commons Guide has further information, including a comparison chart. The license we will be using for this textbook is the most permissible of the CC licenses that require attribution of the original content creators: CC BY, which lets content be used and revised by anyone for any purpose as long as the original creators are attributed.

Why do this?

I can’t speak for others, but I myself have two main motivations, having to do with the two characteristics of open textbooks given above.

  • Saving students money
    • Textbooks are expensive, and getting more so as time goes by. There is a good deal of research on open textbooks that explains the costs to students and how this affects them not just financially but pedagogically (e.g., when they go without textbooks because they are too expensive, or choose what courses to take based on textbook costs). I am co-author on an article whose literature review details some of this literature; I’ll try to remember to link to it here when it comes out (it’s in press right now). Or you can check out this 2016 research review on open textbooks by John Hilton (open access), though it doesn’t have information on costs.
    • I also get frustrated that students are paying a lot of money and I might not be using the whole textbook. Which leads to…
  • Ability to revise the book
    • Only want to use Chapters 3 and 8? Great–delete the rest.
    • Want to add in some of your own interpretations, or change what you think might be misleading, or add in a graphic you have created that helps illustrate an idea? Excellent–go ahead and change what’s there.
    • Can’t understand why the textbook excerpted Mill’s On Liberty in a way that leaves out that crucial part? Put it in!
    • Dislike the example used to illustrate a point because it only speaks to a limited audience of students and may not make any sense to others? Change it!
    • etc.

Basically what an open textbook does is provide a starting point that you can adjust if needed…or not. You can use it as is, or you can make it fit your course or context better. I want to be involved in a project that provides this starting point for myself and others.

For some, creating educational resources that are used by others can be considered for merit, tenure and promotion. That is going to depend on your college or university context.

Rebus open textbooks

We are working with an organization called The Rebus Foundation, a Canadian non-profit that is made up of wonderful people who are doing great things with digital publishing and open textbooks. We are part of several open textbook projects that are creating new models for publishing open textbooks, through connecting people into a community to collaborate on shared projects.

The Rebus open textbook projects are all being discussed on the Rebus Community Forum. There you can see and contribute to multiple textbook projects. Each is going to need help in the form of reviewing and copyediting as well as writing, so even if you just want to contribute a little without writing anything, that’s possible too. All help is appreciated.

Some basic parameters

Please see this document for an explanation of some of the basic parameters of the intro to philosophy open textbook, some of the ideas of what, generally, it should be like and why. The following is copied and pasted from part of that document:

This Open Textbook “Introduction to Philosophy” should be, firstly, an accessible introduction to philosophy, suitable for college or university students taking a philosophy class for the first time.

As such, the book should:

  • cover a broad range of the fundamental ideas in philosophy
  • present these fundamental ideas in a clear and accessible way
  • focus (first) on presenting existing arguments, rather than making novel arguments

As an Open Textbook, this Introduction should be considered the starting point: a reasonably complete (eventually), and relatively accessible “map” of the important intellectual traditions of philosophy.

But it should also be considered a framework upon which further (open) explorations could easily be built, further sections or additional materials added, by a professor for a particular class, by students as part of course work, or by future contributors (or current contributors) to the project itself.

Note that there is a table of contents on that document; we are not saying nothing else could be there. That is what we have come up with at the moment. As new people are added to the project, new sections might be created.

The process

I am serving as the main editor for the whole thing, but mostly what that means is being the central organizer. I will be writing some parts, but this is a joint venture that will come to fruition from the work of many people. That way, no one person has to do a great deal of work but it can be spread out. We’re all doing this on a volunteer basis, after all.d

Here is a list of tasks for the book.

I will be the overall editor, but each section of the book (e.g., ethics, social and political, metaphysics, philosophy of mind) will have a section editor who is responsible for that section. That means helping to find people to write subsections, arranging for others to review/comment on what has been written, ensuring those texts are copyedited (by themselves or by volunteers), etc.

Here is a post describing what we are envisioning for section editors.

We have already started discussions on general topics to include in a textbook for introduction to philosophy courses, and we found that we were rather scattered…so we have decided to start by focusing in on two sections. I asked the group who would be willing to be section editors, and we came up with two volunteers:

Ethics section: editor George Matthews (see here for a discussion board devoted to that)

Aesthetics section: editor W. Scott Clifton (see here for a discussion board devoted to that)

So those are the two sections we’re making a push on at the moment, but I would also love to hear if anyone else would like to volunteer as a section editor.

How do I get involved?

Does this sound intriguing? Or even better, are you excited to get started? Here are your next steps:

  1. Join the Rebus Community!
  2. Peruse the conversations we’ve had so far on this textbook if you want, and add your thoughts. It’s a long thread, but you can skim it! Introduce yourself and what you’re interested in about this project.
  3. Add your name and interest area to our spreadsheet (go to the ‘people’ tab at the bottom)
  4. If you would be willing to write something for the Ethics or Aesthetics sections, we are particularly interested in hearing about that right now. You can go straight to the discussion threads for those:
  5. Email me if you have questions: c.hendricks@ubc.ca
  6. Spread the word!!