Join the discussion: can open educators transform teaching and learning?

To their credit, the organizers of the OER meeting I’m at have recognised that there is an overflow of challenging ideas here, and they have proposed trashing reworking tomorrow’s agenda to allow for more open discussion of the key questions being addressed.

Those questions are framed as:

* What does transformed teaching and learning look like?
* What are the key components needed to effect this transformation?
* How do we build these key components and connect them?

I’ll be posting my own responses to these questions tonight. But for those of us here who want to make a case that the wider edublogosphere has a contribution to make, it would be awesome to get your own perspective, however brief.

Feel free to post your thoughts on any or all of the above questions here, on your own blog (please let me know about it), or post your ideas and opinions on the OERderves blog directly — each of the questions has its own blog entry. Many of you have posted on these questions before, directly or indirectly, so pass on links if you don’t feel like repeating yourself.

Now if you’ll excuse me, they said something about wine in the exhibition hall.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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12 Responses to Join the discussion: can open educators transform teaching and learning?

  1. Good questions – not sure that I have answers, but certainly a few thoughts:

    What does transformed teaching and learning look like?

    Learning environments that conflate teaching and learning (like open wikis) are an interesting thought. Learners become teachers through content authoring and teachers become learners by observing and commenting on content development processes

    If we are serious about Education for All – we must find scalable ways in expanding access. In some cases this may involve the “de-institutionalisation” of education – not in a revolutionary sense – but I don’t see that we are able to build enough classrooms and/or train enough teachers to satisfy demand in the developing. The majority of secondary school age children will not have the priveledge of seeing the walls of a classroom. Free cultural works can make a difference – but we will need to think outside the box. We must find ways of linking those who are willing to provide teaching support. Teaching philanthropists who would be willing to donate say 3 hours a week to interact with kids learning from free content materials in a rural village in Africa. Community members who are willing to support this kind of informal learning. National governments would need to think about an assessment and accreditation system from learners who have acquired knowledge through free cultural works etc. We have to think outside of the box if we serious about education as a common good.

    What are the key components needed to effect this transformation?

    A key component is within OER projects is the adoption of a content licenses that meet the requirements of the free cultural works definition and resolution of the incompatibilities among different license types. The other problems will work themselves out through processes of self-organisation. The thing is – built on a phenomenal leverage principle – you don’t need 95% of all educators participation. 5% will do the trick

    How do we build these key components and connect them?

    Freedom plus the read-write web i.e. sustainable innovation using free software and the principles of mass collaboration.

    A few thoughts to ponder.

  2. Great questions. One problem I see that needs to be solved sooner rather than later is accreditation. You have two thousand freshmen enter college in any given year at any given school. For those that finish, they will all take about the same amount of time. Why is that? Aren’t some of them quicker than others? Don’t some come more prepared?

    It seems we have this conveyor belt education system, and if you want the ‘degree’ (the foundational currency in the workplace), then you have to get on this conveyor belt and go along for the ride. Never mind that some of the material you already know, or that you are spending entire semesters on information that you will likely never need to know again.

    There is also a distinct ‘expert/learner’ model that needs to be beat out of kids long before they get to college. Wikipedia has shown us the wisdom of mobs. Sure, it’s not perfect, but neither is the professor/student model. I feel like I can learn with a group of 20 other self-learners much better than sitting in a 15 week class with an expert. The expert still has a valuable place, but it’s not in front of the class room.

    But then again, I could be wrong. Just a few random thoughts. 🙂

  3. Keira McPhee says:

    Yep and yep again to the commenters above. Brian you know I’m obsessing about informal learning networks these days. I love the idea of the learning party and the tupperware model of connecting hosts (someone who wants to learn something or needs something done) and their friends/community connections to a teacher (someone who has some experience/knowledge and a desire to share it).

    An example:
    I want to see Vancouver transformed with perennial food/medicine gardens in the backyards, parks and commons fast. I think a network of 2 hour hosted workshops could start that. What does the website look like that facilitates these kinds of connections between hosts, teachers and learners?

    How do we encourage people who’ve learned a skill to start teaching it as the next step in learning (i.e. you don’t have to be the guru of everything to start teaching what you do know)?

    I think a bit of cash is key: hosts get something for free (hosting is work, fun but work), participants pay a nominal fee for a 2 hour workshop, the bulk of the fees goes to the teacher with some left over to sustain the network. Maybe part of what I want is some kind of hybrid and craigslist of learning sites.

    The experts at the institutions (not just the profs but people like you) need to be on the ground supporting these networks and connecting people to knowledge they need to make these community learning experiences richer.

    We’ve got an ingenuity gap and big problems. Ernest Becker says somewhere, probably in the Denial of Death, that we’ve got all the knowledge we need to tackle the really big problems of human survival. Synthesizing that information and knowledge is the big, perhaps insurmountable hurdle.

    But now we’ve got the power of the social web to bring people together- it strikes me as our best shot.

    Have fun tomorrow and come home with good news, ok?!

  4. Jim says:

    And big yep to Keira. I love the tupper ware party idea, and my response below -drafted while Keira was making it irrelevant -smacks way too much of the formal structures I am writing both against and from within. Damn i wish I could write like that!

    Alas, I digress. Here is a long, tortuous, and unstructured response to these prompts.

    * What does transformed teaching and learning look like?
    Something like this

    *What are the key components needed to effect this transformation?

    One way to look at this question is to think about the transformation of the educational system itself. What is the perceived value of an education in our particular moment. Is the idea of transformation framing a reactionary response (“prepapredness”) to the pervasive ideas of the inevitability global markets, borderless businesses, and securing intellectual properties (not in the Willinsky senseâ˜ș), etc.? Are educational institutions thinking about technology as ways to capitalize on the surface discourse in circulation that is defined by buzzwords like “excellence,” “assessment,” and “marketable skills.” If so, I am not sure this is a transformation at all.

    Transformation defines a space for thinking through potential alternatives within the digital landscape for learning that is still itself still being defined? This metamorphosis would, at its core, reflect the possibility for problematizing some of these unexamined assumptions about learning within the institutional setting. Ideally, these questions might lead us to the notion that a university needs be a space (by no means limited to the physical realm) for creating meaning and shaping culture within a community. This community needs to be made up of a nexus of individual’s participating towards an examination, analysis, interpretation, and reflection upon the culture within which their experiences are framed. Education should represent a particularly unique space to create meaning using these various skills for the community to consider more broadly.

    A transformed experience wholly depends upon a transformed philosophy wherein the idea of teaching and learning is built around passionate curiosity, the willingness to fail, a drive to create something, and the openness to share it with others. None of this is dependent on the tools, but this list of seeming inanities has become an afterthought for much of the curricula framework in higher education in recent history.

    * How do we build these key components and connect them?

    We start by framing communities along different lines. Web-bases social networking applications like blogs, wikis (with some handy dandy rss) have already suggested what one possible model might look like (eduglu?!). But whatever the technology, ideas need to circulate freely and be readily aggregated for others to find, explore, interact with, and remixed into something else.

  5. Jim says:

    @Keira: By the way- learningparty,net has just been beautifully visualized, so everything you’ve written is what I would have answered to the third bullet point if I had an expansive and generative imagination. That is down-right genius!

  6. Hi Keira and Brian,

    Keira, one of the ways that your learning parties can happen is through using the Community Weaving model and the Family Support Network website. Sign up is free. You can register to share knowledge and resources in your geographical area. You can post activities on the website and can establish a group id to circulate activities to. Participants set their own fees or otherwise. It is designed to be a channel to build capacity and resilience–so particpants in a workshop grow to host and share their own offerings–and create partnerships with the formal systems–which is what you are taking about with professors etc getting on board.

    A supported distributed network–the way the world is changed…

    I am in the midst of creating the Canadian pilot here on Gabe and we should have a Canadian skin on the webportal in the next couple of months.

    Chat soon,
    lotsa love,

  7. Brian says:

    Wow, the names in this stream are a real trip — how great to hear from each of you!

    This is all useful and bracing, thanks so much all of you. Now, I’ll try to package this up for the OER folks, and add a few bits, most of which suggested by your truly awesome selves.

  8. Very briefly, because I don’t have a lot of time…

    * What does transformed teaching and learning look like?

    It is directed by the learner, rather than the learner. It ceases to the the focus of activity, and becomes a support for whatever is the focus of activity. It creates empowerment, rather than dependence.

    * What are the key components needed to effect this transformation?

    Attitudes, mostly.

    Things that allow people to direct their own learning and create their own resources. Things that allow these resources to be located wherever they are needed (ie., ubiquitous internet + resource syndication). Placing control (and hence power) in the learner’s hands – eg., personal identity, not institutional identity; personal resources, not institutional resources; etc.

    * How do we build these key components and connect them?

    We don’t.

    If we absolutely must build something, we build tools that allow people to create and build and store and syndicate. Then we give these tools to the people, making them very portable, rather than trying to establish a (proprietary, branded) web presence.

    When we are building other things (such as games or EPSS, etc) we create opportunities for student-directed learning to be placed within the activity environment.

    We allow simple grass-roots standards (and tools and computer languages) rather than trying to engineer a perfect solution to foist on the masses.

    We continue to lobby for free and open software and resources rather than trying to create something *called* ‘open’ which nonetheless requires payment (either directly, via fees or subscriptions, or indirectly, via membership fees or tuitions).

  9. Brian says:

    Thanks so much Stephen!

  10. Let me try this a day late, because it’s important stuff.

    The stance of the question matters. Whose vision? There’s a descriptive set of answers to that, which are worth pursuing, and we should do that.
    Thinking of that is essential for getting at the prescriptive vision of what we think t.e. *should* be. I want… deep and extensive globalism. But I need to bring to mind the other prescriptions out there: the multiple national models; “training” vs “education”; what K-12 and its equivalents are trying to drive; etc.

    Historicity matters. I’m reminded of the cute party game in Pattern Recognition, where one person asks others to think how the next decade will see them. Let’s think of 2017, by all means, but that vision will be predicated on (among other things) what 2017 thinks was going on in 2007. And 1997, and so on. It’s not just a matter of extrapolating from our history (although we never, ever do enough of that in .edutech), but imagining how the future remembers the past, and acts in response.

    Enough meta. On to the question:
    -globalism, deep and extensive. I don’t want to get into the world is flat stuff. It’s just a horrible idea to treat learning as if it’s not happening in a increasingly globalized way. There are many pieces to this, but think about pedagogies requiring students to interact with people at least one thousand miles away. Or asking them to examine media (video, podcast, whatever) (preferably nonprofessional) from another continent, as part of any information/media literacy/speech/writing exercise.

    -networking. Default mode should be networked, rather than individual.

    -archival. Students and teachers leap into archives every day, finding, experiencing, and contributing. Cf podcasting and web video. Librarians need to help us with this.

    -ad hocratic. We all slap together components based on the desire of learning. Cf Summerhill, Deleuze and Guattari.

    That’s for starters.

    How to go about it? Let me add a few pieces.
    Examples need to be celebrated. Time and again I find people who simply haven’t knowingly seen edu 2.0. That means more stories.
    Kids need to be valorized as contributors to media and knowledge.
    Teachers K-16+ need to not only be trained, not only immersed in this world, not only be comfortable in it and willing to grow further, but also have to be in a position to argue for whatever it takes in the public sphere. Where are teachers in copyright debates, or the attempts to block web 2.0, etc? The big old media (hello, Chronicle) needs to listen and record this – but, more importantly, we should be a bigger part of the emerging media than we are.
    In turn, we – the learning world – need to be active players in world 2.0, world 3.0. We can’t be thinking “Wikipedia, shun or ignore?” We *need* to be already playing in that field, contributing critically and massively.

    Shoot, Brian, I’m out of time. And I’ve probably wandered far afield of your intentions. Keep this going?

  11. Gardner says:

    Two days late.

    I’m in full-on violently-nodding-head agreement with Stephen on the “how do we build it” answer, and with Bryan on the whole enchilada pretty much.

    Another radical thought emerges: we must be very cautious in our talk about “democratization,” a metaphor that obscures more than it reveals in this context. I will back that point up, really I will, soon.

    Actually, I’m not two days late; I’m about a month early. I took a stab at answering these questions at the University of Maryland several weeks ago. Audio here: . Click on “audio file” for audio (surprise!).

  12. Brian says:

    Bryan and Gardner — not too late, I’m really pleased to be able to extend the conversation.

    I’ll package up and post these bits over at OERderves shortly… (unless you object). I’ll also try to engage some of the meatier thoughts in this thread soon — alas, today I’m nursing a couple feverish family-mates, and time is not on my side.

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