On being open


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by opensource.com

Last Tuesday‘s EC&I831 class was about open learning. I’ve spent a fair amount of time considering learning in the open but one thing I want to think more on is teaching in the open.

I’ve previously done some research on open educational resources with Gillian Nowlan so I am already on the bandwagon that sharing resources is awesome. Why? Because we are extremely influenced by ideas we are exposed to. Yes, it is possible to come up with totally new ideas in what appears to be a vacuum… but why would you? When it’s possible to access ideas from people all over the world, why wouldn’t you take advantage of experiencing different ways of doing things? Maybe you’ll decide that the familiar ways work for you. Maybe you’ll learn something new.

Moreover, everyone does something well. Why not share your talent? You may have a great way to teach a particular subject. You may have an inspiring assignment that works very well for you. Maybe your syllabus is innovative. Nobody will ever know unless you also share.

I think we can learn a lot from software like GitHub (and the options with forking) and the open software movement. Alec Couros talked briefly about open software during our class and it is something that I have previously encountered. Years ago I dated a guy who used Linux and who suggested I might really like it. I never did get into Linux but the idea stuck. Instead of paying a company for a product that may have bugs that I can’t do anything about, I could use something developed by people because they care, with bugs being fixed by other people who actually use the software, and it could be adapted just for me?!

The idea of customizing and collaboratively working on something really appeals. Maybe it’s the focus on individualization that our society feels is imperative. Maybe it’s the hope for humanity that I feel when I find people willing to work together instead of competing. Or maybe it’s just that I hate shelling out huge amounts of money for software that I expect to have issues when it comes right out of the box and be obsolete in a couple years.

Regardless, I think we as educators and those in the field of education can learn a whole lot about this. I’ve watched my colleagues in religious studies share knowledge. I’ve used an assignment from a former professor and one that I built for that former professor. I’ve discussed collaborating and sharing developments. I’ve had friends send a syllabus around to be used by others. That just seems like the sort of thing you do, at least in my world. So why not go farther? Why not share with people you haven’t met, be inspired by someone, make suggestions in an open way so we can all move in different directions?

I am promising myself that I will be more open. So, with that in mind, I’m going to share the syllabus I used when I taught Religious Studies 100 almost 3 years ago. It needs work. I have a lot of ideas of how I would teach it differently now after learning a whole lot about education and teaching since then. To be fair, it was my first time teaching, I was working full time at a completely unrelated job, and I was planning my wedding. But this is my starting point. This is something that I put together that might be useful.

If you have suggestions, share them! What do you share? What contributions do you make? What do you share?


cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Toban Black

5 thoughts on “On being open”

  1. Great post Kirsten! I also wrote about similar ideas after Alec’s class on open education. My own experience of sharing has been very similar to the one you described with your colleagues…but “why not share with perfect strangers” (to sort of quote you) is exactly it. I have gained tremendously from my interactions on-line, yet I’ve offered very little back. It’s now my goal to start putting more of my work out there for others to use and change for their purposes. I’m not exactly sure on the best ways to share, but I started with creating a google doc and adjusting the settings to public.

    Through a MOOC a took, I’ve also discovered a teacher’s blog – Catlin Tucker, and she is so open with her work. It is inspiring and seems that a blog is a great way to share.

    So… I think between Google Docs and my blog, I’m going to try to share more of the resources I’ve created for my Grade 7/8 world.

  2. I’m working to make what I do more open to others. I was involved in a project 10 years ago where we built a website that had tons of original resources on it that supported curriculum. Since then Saskatchewan Education has taken that resource and all the others that were developed down. It really hurt to see all that work become unavailable. I’m searching these days to find the disc that has the site on it. I’d love to make those resources available again somehow… but I’m not even sure I have ownership to do so. I agree with Shauna Drackett on the google doc public setting. That’s how all my stuff will be made from now on!

    1. That really sucks, Jason. I hope you do find the resources and figure out if you can share them, or are able to alter them enough to share. Intellectual property is a big deal and definitely is important. We need to be aware of what rights we retain when we develop something for someone or something.

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