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Thinking about open practice

Written by Karen Fasimpaur
February 25, 2015

(cross-posted from K12 Open Ed)

Credit: opensource.com

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about open learning and with Open Education Week coming up, thought it would be a good time to explore this in more detail.

To be clear, I am not talking about open educational resources (OER), but rather open learning practices. (Is there a common term people are using for this? Open learning? Open pedagogy? Open practice?)

In my mind, this area is somewhat loosely defined, but may be at the heart of why “open” is important.

I’m thinking aloud here, but I think that open practice includes things such as:

  • Learner choice and flexibility This is all about learner agency. In an open learning environment, the learners have authentic choice over what they do both in terms of process and product, and they act in a way that is self-directed. By definition, this means that not every student is doing the same thing at the same time. It precludes things like standardization, whole group direct instruction, and scripted, paced lessons.
  • Collaboration and sharing Open practice is about drawing upon and sharing with others. Not only do open learners share their process and end products, but they draw on others in the community and beyond to help formulate and shape their learning. This connectivism makes learning deeper and richer.
  • Transparency and open access Open learning is done in a way that is quite literally “in the open.” Anyone is welcome to participate. It isn’t done behind a firewall or a log-in screen. It is publicly viewable and inclusive. (This makes me wonder about an equity component to open learning.)

Elements of open learning probably exist in every learning environment, but increasingly, it seems that many formal learning structures are going more toward closed. I worry that this not only hinders learning, but doesn’t prepare students for the real world. In a world that is constantly changing and requires more critical thinking and self-directed learning skills, the rote facts learned in a closed learning environment may not be very helpful.

This makes me wonder if open learning also has something to do with content. To me, open learning is about learning how to learn, how to think, how to design, how to iterate, and how to collaborate. It is not about memorizing facts that aren’t relevant or that can just as easily be looked up somewhere.

I would love to hear others’ thoughts on this. What is the best terminology for this? (Hashtag, anyone?) What constitutes open learning? What are the benefits? How can we encourage more of it?

We’ll also be discussing this in several forums during Open Education Week, including on Teachers Teaching Teachers on Wed., March 11 at 9:00 pm ET. I hope you’ll join in the conversation there, here, on Twitter or on some other platform of your choice.

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