Open, Values, and Thinking Beyond the 5Rs

There were lots of amazing takeaways from #OpenEd17 for me. One set of takeaways has to do with opportunities to make the conference a more effective vehicle for advancing the work of open education. I wrote about that yesterday. Over the coming days and weeks I’ll post more thoughts prompted by conversations at the conference, starting below.

Ryan Merkley’s opening keynote was awesome. Among the many important things he said, one that struck a chord with me was a comment about how we talk about “open”. Ryan made the assertion that “open has to be about more than the 5Rs – open also has to be about our values.” I couldn’t agree more, and I think this point is worth elaborating and exploring.

There is only one context in which “open means the 5Rs” – the context in which “open” is used as an adjective to modify a noun which is copyrightable. You see, the 5Rs are a set of activities that you are normally prohibited from engaging in by copyright. So when open is used to modify a copyrightable noun – something like an educational resource (as in “open educational resources”), or the source code to a computer program (as in “open source software”) – then “open means the 5Rs”.

But despite aggressively overreaching copyright expansion, the overwhelming majority of things in the universe are still not subject to copyright protection. Consequently, when we talk about any of these other things, “open” has to mean something else. When we talk about open minds, open hearts, or open attitudes, or when we talk about open pedagogy, open educational practices, or open education, “open” must mean something other than the 5Rs.

I only began writing about openness as a value, or if you prefer, “open” outside the realm of the copyrightable, last year. This is relatively new territory for me. As I’ve explored my personal journey into the work of open education and my motivations for continuing the work, I find that the values that animate my work in open education are sharing, gratitude, and hope. 

Ryan’s admonition to talk more about our values as part of the conversation about “open” in education is a critically important invitation. I’m committing to do more writing and thinking in this area over the coming year. I invite you to, as well. Here are a few questions to ponder to get you started:

What are the values that animate your work in open education? 

What are the values that you associate most closely with “open” in the educational context?

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