Evolving ‘Open Pedagogy’

At it’s core, the question of open pedagogy is “what can I do in the context of open that I couldn’t do before?” This turns out to be terribly difficult, because of the ubiquity (even ambience?) of copyright in our lives. An educator asking the question “what can I do pedagogically if I don’t have to worry about copyright?” is a bit like an aerospace engineer asking, “what could I do in rocket design if I no longer had to worry about gravity?” or a politician asking “what could I do if I no longer had to worry about the party system?” or a researcher asking “what could I do if funding were no longer a constraint?”

Design is the process of making goal-oriented choices under constraint, and I fear we have been operating far too long under the assumption that copyright restraints are as inevitable as death and taxes. Our design strategies have evolved in the context of this very harsh environmental factor – copyright has actually shaped the evolutionary path of pedagogy. And now we have to roll back the clock, as it were, and reimagine what could be now that couldn’t be before. What evolutionary path will pedagogy take in this newer, significantly less hostile environment?

There are doubtless dozens of very good answers to the question “what is pedagogically possible in the context of open?” As this is a very broad question, I’ve tried to narrow it (to gain a foothold) my first time through the inquiry loop by connecting it to the research base. My goal with this line of work has been to try to connect the 5Rs to research on strategies that effectively support learning. My first exercise along these lines was to look at the top 20 or 30 influences at http://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/ that pertain to the curricula, the teacher, and teaching and learning approaches, and ask “how do the 5R permissions expand what can be done here?” and “what novel opportunities for remixing effective practices are presented by the 5R permissions?” That’s what I’ve outlined at http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/2975.

Are you thinking about open pedagogy? Do you find it difficult? What are you doing to break out of your old thinking? What kind of new world are you imagining?

I’ve been thinking about these issues as I prepare a new keynote for Affordable Learning Georgia next week, and as I work on our 5R Open Course Design Framework. But a special h/t to Clint Lalonde for prompting this post.

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  • hapgood

    I’d actually think of it in the context of Hattie’s unifying point, which is good things happening when the teacher has the tools to learn how to be a better teacher and the learner has the tools to learn how to be a better learner. The title of his book — Visible Learning — seems for me to intersect with Open Learning in this way.

    You got at a piece of this a number of years ago in your ELI keynote — how can a teacher be engaged in the process of becoming a better teacher if they can’t alter the materials? Yes, we know that many teachers teach on script, and don’t alter materials. But is that where we want to be?

    I think the broader intersection of “Visible” and “Open” is that without Openness the only model students have for improvement is the teacher’s example. Teachers need to see what other teachers are doing. Students need to see the example of other students. We say that we’re teaching students to blog or wiki, but in reality we’re providing models for thinking.

    Hattie spends a lot of time talking about the importance of students understanding what the target is. That’s part of visibility, a visible target. In Open Pedagogy we call out model submissions from the community for praise. We use those models to clarify what the target is. When communities like UMW Blogs do this year after year in the open, the target becomes part of cultural knowledge.

    Finally, I’ve been interested in Feynmann’s idea of triangulation. (see: http://journal14.hapgood.net:3000/view/welcome-visitors/view/concept-triangulation ). And here’s a point: you can’t triangulate what you can’t see. You can’t triangulate what you can’t access.

    Scattered thoughts. Interested to see what you end up writing.

  • I’ve got a kind of study in contrast between two courses I teach, both Gen. Ed. Humanities. One is “Mythology and Folklore” (which is to say: ANYTHING and EVERYTHING), and the other is “Epics of Ancient India” (i.e. Ramayana and Mahabharata). For the Mythology course, the public domain gives me everything I need, and I built a massive UnTextbook for my students using public domain materials: http://mythfolklore.blogspot.com/

    For the Indian Epics course, though, the public domain does not give me everything I need (although, glory hallelujah, all praise to Nina Paley for her amazing generosity with Sita Sings the Blues). I have traditionally asked students to buy four paperback books for that course; cheap mass market paperbacks but still, they had to buy them. Copyright.

    Now, though, I have realized that there are just so many benefits to having students work with open content that is in the public domain that I am morphing the content of the Indian Epics course and changing the reading to make it more about Indian storytelling traditions more broadly understood, not just epics (shhhh, don’t tell my school). That way, I am able to include in that course the amazing Indian storytelling resources in the public domain that I developed for my Mythology class.

    So, yes, the availability of open materials is shaping my pedagogy. Restrictions and limitations are frustrating, but in some ways they have helped me to make the class a better class by forcing me to think and make choices, forcing me to be hyperaware about what open materials are available and then to imagine the best ways to share these materials with my students. I feel very lucky that the public domain offers me this superabundance of material I can use. I have colleagues who teach in subjects where the admittedly dated content of the public domain is not at all able to meet their needs. Me? I am in bliss with Hathi Trust, Project Gutenberg, LibriVox, etc.

    Then, I look at my school spending literally MILLIONS of dollars this year on a new learning management system (Janux) being developed by a private company (NextThought) where none of the content we are developing at great expense is openly available on that platform; all closed, all protected, all under a “personal use only” TOS. Argh!

    So, I am very grateful for this blog and the posts you have published recently, especially “The MOOC Misstep and the Open Education Infrastructure.” That post diagnoses very accurately I think the mistakes my school has made with this Janux venture. I hope your new 5R framework will prompt them to rethink the project and open up all the content that is currently closed closed closed. Fingers crossed! Thanks very much for all your good work and for this blog.

  • Definitely thinking about (how to define/describe) open pedagogy and how to have helpful/supportive conversations with people who design courses: http://tracykelly.net/?p=905

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  • I’ve been thinking about re-designing the course that I teach (design and development of online learning) and a course that I might have an opportunity to teach (intro to instructional design) in an open fashion. Luckily, to some extent, there are a number of open resources that I can use in lieu of closed materials (textbooks, walled-off journal articles). For me, the big stumbling block (or rather what I am still chewing on) is the “at scale” bit. There is no indication that my courses will ever be “massive” but what happens if people do decide to come and join? How do I assess those 10-15 students who paid to get college credit and still keep in line with the larger-than-expected following? I don’t want to have a two-track system as I think that this isn’t open and engenders a feeling of haves (those who paid) and have-nots (the free access)