Some thoughts on the way the term 'open' has changed in meaning for education over the years. It explores the concept of the open scholar and the benefits of making sharing the default action for an academic.
I work at the Open University in the UK, and it’s mission is to be open to people, places, methods and ideas. When it was founded in 1969 this meant reaching out to people who were excluded from traditional higher ed, using methods such as TV and print, and local tutorials.
We really got lucky with our name! We could have gone for something like ‘the university of the airwaves’ (I think there is a chinese distance ed university with that name) and that would have dated. In contrast the term open seems to have become more significant in education as time has gone on. If I were starting a new unversity now, and I wanted to be radical and cutting edge, then I could think of no better name than the Open University
While those original aims are still appropriate ‘open’ has a whole host of other meanings in education now. The OU is trying to embrace many of these changing definitions, but here are some.
What I’m interested in is openness as part of educational practice. The term ‘open scholar’ has started being used to indicate a new type of academic for whom ‘openness’ is the default approach. This academic is largely online, probably keeps a blog, makes all their presentations available via something like slideshare, engages with new resources such as YouTube, shares bookmarks in delicious, belongs to social networks and publishes their content in open access journals. The key to all this is easy sharing and networking, which I’ll talk about now
Run through it, (show Friendfeed)Take Flickr photoUse blip.fm
We developed pedagogy around quite heavy duty collaboration, but this easy, frictionless sharing is different. I would argue that becoming a good sharer is the way in which you now establish yourself within your community and what we should be teaching our students is how to share appropriately and thus maintain and build a network. This will be the key skill for the open or digital scholar.
As an example I want to take the slidesharing service slideshare as an example. For years we have been trying to get educators to share teaching material throgh learning object repositories, without much success. But slideshare is very successful, because it is low threshold, allows embed, and has some motivation to do it. What is interesting is not just that people use slideshare but how it is transforming academic practice in these ways.This is a very real example of how openness begins to change what it is that we do.
There is talk of a gift economy online – ie you are valued by what you give away. I also think it is a reciprocity economy. Your ‘credit’ is how much reciprocal action you perform or people will perform for you. If you blog regularly and people value that, then you will receive reciprocity through links, comments. If you add value to your social network then when you put out a request for help people will respond.I had an example of this recently – my wife has recently recovered from cancer and is doing a half marathon. She set up a just-giving page amd I blogged it. We received a lot of money from people I have never met (and who certainly don’t know my wife), but who I know through the blogosphere and twitter. I think this happened mainly because they’re nice people, but there was an element of the reciprocity economy in play too – maybe it’s a way of being able to say thnkyou because they value my blog/network contributions.
This is a very small tale, but I chose it because it’s typical, from scottleslie. Scott developed a blog use matrix a few years back which got a lot of hits. It then got picked up and used in teaching people about blogs. It was taken, reformatted and translated. A flash developer created a drag and drop version. This was then turned into a wiki version that everyone could contribute to. The key is Scott didn’t intend, or ask, for any of this to happen – it was a consequence of it being open.
Alan Levine did a presentation on amazing stories of openness, so rather than repeat those, I’d recommend you go and have a look at these.
I want to move on to what I think are five principles of social media learning, which are all derived from openness as your base assumption.
Embed, and other data standards such as RSS are really really simple, but they cut across the web, meaning we can share stuff fantastically easily. It’s dumb but it works and I think we should use those as our starting points
Think twitter over more complex communication tools – the reason twitter works is because everyone is there
So you have to make sharing really easy and something people want to do. If embed is the data driver then sharing is the human driver
You don’t have to specify every possible function – others will develop on top if it is open and there is a point in doing so, and they’ll develop things you could never anticipate. You want an unpredictable system.
The way users interact with the system and create content and communicate generates complexity, not the app itself, so better to have a simple app that fosters a community
Reflection in openness
Reflections on openness<br />Martin Weller<br />By mag3737 http://www.flickr.com/photos/mag3737/1914076277/<br />
The OU<br />The Open University is open to people, places, methods and ideas.<br />
We got lucky!<br />By psd http://www.flickr.com/photos/psd/3717444865/<br />
If you were starting an OU now…<br />Open source<br />Open educational resources<br />Open teaching/courses<br />Open research<br />Open systems<br />Open technology<br />
The Open Scholar<br />The traditional scholar, like the scholarship he or she produces, isn't open--open-minded, hopefully, but not "open" in a public way. No, a typical scholar is very exclusive, available only to students in specific academic programs or through toll-access scholarly publications that are essentially unavailable to all but the most privileged. In the digital age, the traditional barriers to accessing scholars or scholarship are unnecessary, but persist for institutional reasons.<br />Gideon Burton – Academicevolution.com<br />By Gideon Burton http://www.flickr.com/photos/wakingtiger/3157622458/in/set-72157612021421472/<br />
An everyday tale of openness<br />Reused for teaching<br />Blog use matrix<br />Translated, <br />reformatted<br />Drag and drop <br />Flash version<br />Wiki version<br />
See more Amazing Stories of Openness at<br />http://cogdogblog.com/stuff/opened09/<br />
By Michael Ruiz http://www.flickr.com/photos/simax/3390895249/<br />5 Principles of social media learning<br />
1. <embed> is the universal acid of the web <br />– we should build around it<br />
2. Simple with reach trumps <br />complex with small audience<br />
3. Sharing is a motivation to participation<br />
4. Start simple and let others build on top<br />
5. Complexity comes from the network not the app<br />
If true what does it mean?<br />How do we transform education to take advantage of these?<br />
In what aspects of your academic life are you not open? Why?<br />Does your institution place obstacles to openness?<br />What would it take to convince you to be more open?<br />What are your concerns?<br />