#openedMOOC Week 1: The value of ‘open’

Link to source of image

Why Does Open Matter? This is the key question for Week 1 of the Introduction to Open Education MOOC, being offered on edX by David Wiley and George Siemens.

This question has been asked of participants, but since David Wiley and George Siemens have both fully answered the question in a two-part video, I suppose the question for participants should really be, Why does open matter to you?  And the assumption seems to be that we are talking about openness online as opposed to offline.

David Wiley believes open to be a value, like diversity and that openness is imperative for increasing access to, affordability and effectiveness of, engagement and vibrancy in education. He writes that “To be true to the deeper ethic of open we must be generous and open-hearted, feeling a sense of love, care, and responsibility for all humanity.”

George Siemens talks of the benefits of quick, frenzied, open knowledge generation.

Neither of these responses work particularly well for me. I have personally experienced the opposite of ‘love, care and responsibility for all humanity’ in the open environment. Openness online can encourage an ‘anything can be said’ attitude, presumably because the recipient of the comments cannot be seen. As Lisa Lane has written “…. we now have an appalling acceptance of unacceptable behavior and uncivil conduct, which in my country has now reached the highest levels of power.”

And quick, frenzied knowledge generation doesn’t work for me in terms of learning. I can understand the excitement generated which I acknowledge can be motivating, but for learning and knowledge production I personally need slow, quieter interaction, where everyone has an opportunity to be heard, not just the loudest voices.

But like Lisa, I am an advocate of open education and I am grateful to all those like David, George and Stephen Downes, who have done so much to promote it. As David said in one of the videos, open is beyond free. Even in countries, such as Germany, where education is free, open can unlock new pedagogies. David also said open matters because if we learn by ‘doing’ then anything that constrains that ‘doing’, e.g. copyright restrictions, prevents learning. For me that is a powerful argument in support of open education, but I would add, as mentioned above, that some online behaviours can be equally restrictive. This is the aspect of open education in which I am most interested, i.e. I am interested in both the rhetoric and the reality for individual learners, although I suspect, as Andy Lane (2016) has argued, that currently the reality does not measure up to the rhetoric.

However, in the meantime, I continue to benefit from open education; in fact my work as an independent researcher depends on it. In return, as I have written about before,  I try to be an open practitioner, within the constraints of my own capabilities and personality!

Reference

Lane, A. (2016). Emancipation through Open Education: Rhetoric or Reality? In T. eds. Blessinger, Patrick and Bliss (Ed.), Open Education: International perspectives in higher education (pp. 31–50). Open Book Publishers ,. http://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0103.02 Retrieved from: https://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/531/open-education–international-perspectives-in-higher-education

#openedMOOC begins October 1st

David Wiley and George Siemens are offering a new 6 week MOOC – Introduction to Open Education – on EdX at the beginning of October.

There is already a Twitter hashtag – #openedMOOC –  and you can enrol on the EdX website where you can also find the course syllabus:

Week 1: Why Open Matters
Week 2: Copyright, The Public Domain, and The Commons
Week 3: The 5R Activities and the Creative Commons Licenses
Week 4: Creating, Finding, and Using OER
Week 5: Research on the Impact of OER Adoption
Week 6: The Next Battles for Openness: Data, Algorithms, and Competency Mapping

I have signed up for the MOOC, mainly out of curiosity. My hope is that it will offer a fresh perspective and rekindle the enthusiasm I had for open education in the early days of the first MOOC in 2008, but which I have found increasingly difficult to sustain in the last couple of years.

Despite this, I remain an advocate of open education in the terms in which it was first offered. It would be difficult not to wish for a global democratic education system which offers free open access to all no matter what their circumstances – or is that an erroneous assumption? I am hoping this course will take a critical approach, encourage diverse perspectives and be willing to surface and challenge assumptions, such as the assumption that ‘open is good’, as implied by the header on the EdX course site.

Source of Image: EdX website 

In 2012 Stephen Brookfield wrote that “critical thinking involves three inter-related phases:

  1. Discovering the assumptions that guide our decisions, actions and choices
  2. Checking the accuracy of these assumptions by exploring as many different perspectives, viewpoints and sources as possible
  3. Taking informed decisions that are based on these researched assumptions 

(Informed decisions are based on evidence we can trust, can be explained to others and have a good chance of achieving the effects we want).”

It is getting increasingly difficult to recognise evidence we can trust. We know that over time ‘open’ has led to as many problems as solutions, not least the pursuit of ‘fame and glory beyond your wildest dreams. Or, at least, a few thousand views’ that David Wiley writes about in his blog post. Is this what we really want from open education? I have recently wondered whether one of the problems of ‘open’ in relation to networks is that it is so often discussed out of context, i.e. out of the context of the principles of networks expounded by Stephen Downes, who believes these to be autonomy, diversity, openness and connectivity. He has written about this many, many times over the years, but here is one reference.

Downes, S. (2010, Oct 26th). What is Democracy in Education?http://halfanhour.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/what-is-democracy-in-education.html 

I see these four principles as being interdependent, i.e. they should be thought about in relation to each other and the absence of one will have consequences for the others. For example, openness without diversity simply leads to echo chambers. In addition, autonomy is a key principle. An open network must respect personal autonomy. My perspective is that loss of diversity and lack of respect for autonomy is an increasing problem in open networks. Hopefully we will get to discuss some of these issues in the MOOC.

David and George  on their blogs, have asked that we create a 3-5 minute video sharing our perspectives and experiences regarding one or more of the weekly topics. I have exercised my autonomy by deciding not to do that but to begin my thinking here on this blog. But I will point you to the videos Stephen Downes has created in response to this request. He is always a hard act to follow!

Here is the first one:

And here are the links to the others, one for each week

Week 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPHYAFcUziA
Week 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVVULztlp1s
Week 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKaJNTgwHWc
Week 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3S3xOK6-GA
Week 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ic1sRq46hys
Week 6: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wT_IaZG797

Reference

Brookfield, S. (2012). Developing Critical Thinkers. Teachers College, April 20th & 21st. p.14 http://www.stephenbrookfield.com/s/Developing_Critical_Thinkers.pdf