The Growing Pains – Reflection on #OpenEd14

A colleague who was unable to attend #opened14 this year emailed me to ask my take on the Babson survey and how it was being handled at the conference.  Her thoughts:

it appears that for a lot of folks “open ed” means open curricula or open curricular resources (texts/videos/games). if this is the case, then i’m confused by the fact that no one seems to remember we’ve been here before. back in the … early 90s? ah, I wikip’d it: 1997-8, at the beginning of Merlot and the rise (and rapid fall) of “learning objects.” there were other exchanges, even earlier, as well (e.g., Intellimation) that did not go well. are we back here again?

am i missing something. what happened to the reclaim concept? 
Excellent question, and Open Education was unable to answer it.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the growing pains of the Open movement, as so put by David Wiley, were evident throughout the conference, and the idea of consensus on definitions or movements remained elusive while discussion of tools and techniques and product had no such problem.  I do worry that Open will fall to its earlier history if our products always supersede our processes.

My question at Open Education was one of value:  how could we go beyond the sharing and using of resources to view Open as a value rather than a product?  On Wednesday, George Veletsianos and I presented on this topic to a large group who offered thoughts and critiques of our proposal.  In short, we believe Open to be a movement rather than a product, and as such it needs to recognize and act accordingly to the social, cultural, political and economic elements of a phenomenon.  Making data available is not enough, nor is doing research.  Our push for a more nuanced approach to the Open movement was contradicted in several sessions where presenters advocated for more data and more research as the solution (including Richard Culatta, the Director of EdTech at the Department of Education), and I believe some people thought we were asking for the opposite.  This is not true; more data and more research are important and worthy, but in and of itself just putting more out there will not engage or enable.
What makes the Reclaim movement so powerful and important is that it puts the learner at the forefront:  reclaiming ownership and agency results in true engagement and authority.  The Reclaim movement is shifting the paradigm of how a learning environment’s members should be structured.  It recognizes that saying we should go from sage on the sage to guide on the side is a bunk argument because, as the learning platform dictates, the instructor and institution remain the whole in control.  Reclaiming is very much about owning data and content, but it is also about taking a seat at the round table and engaging with novices, experts and all people in-between on the topic at hand.  It is the best digital visualization of a situated learning environment in play today.
I am impressed the definition of Open is inclusive and expansive; you can consider something Open if it only allows for reuse, or you can consider it Open if it fits all five Rs.  However, the scholars and practitioners driving the Open movement need to work on all fronts (research, advocacy, public policy, social responsibility) to engage people interested in Open.  Mr. Culatta told a story during his 15 minute speech about how a teacher was frustrated by Open because there were 3000 different Open resources on a topic, an overwhelming number when she only wanted one really good one.  Mr. Culatta used this as an opportunity to advocate for curation and taxonomy, but I see it in a very different light.  The Open movement has an opportunity to engage that teacher and explain why remix, reappropriation and revision can accompany reuse and redistribution.  What would be better for the teacher would not be to get One Good Video, but rather to take One Open Video and amend it for her space and place, making it resonate with her learning environment. That is the true power of Open.
There are numerous issues within the Open field today:  ethical responsibilities, copyright, a lack of empirical research, and. the ahistoricism of technology in society to name a few. All of these need to be addressed, and there were excellent sessions on each.  At the same time as we focus on these obstacles, we need to consider Openness outside our specific silo and work to change perceptions and better engage colleagues.  There is an energy in this movement rare in education.  There is also a well-worn trail that leads to obsolescence.
Posted on: November 24, 2014admin

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