The power of technology and the possibilities that technology opens for education are boundless. We were recently reminded of this during our EC&I 831 class with guest Dr. Verena Roberts. With my classmates, professor and our guest scattered over three provinces, we were all able to “meet” in our virtual classroom and learn together. What a time to be alive!
Truly, everything I have learned in taking Dr. Couros’s EC&I classes has changed my professional life – the infusion of ed tech, the collaboration of ideas, blogging, using Twitter to build a PLN, attempting new apps and programs, becoming more comfortable with stepping outside of my comfort zone to help engage learners… I am so thankful that I enrolled in these classes. But the biggest paradigm shift for me has occurred around the topic of Open Education.
According to the OER Commons website, “The goal of Open Educational Practice (OEP) is to build the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that support and improve teaching and learning. Using open educational resources (OER) presents unique affordances for educators, as the use of OER is an invitation to adapt, personalize, and add relevancy to materials that inspire and encourage deeper learning in the classroom and across institutions.”
I have been grateful for the sharing and collaboration I have enjoyed with friends and colleagues over the course of my teaching career – using the internet to expand our knowledge and collaboration opportunities has opened up numerous possibilities. From pen pal projects to having “experts” join our classes… and perhaps, most importantly, the opportunity to see how other teachers teach. As an educator, time is our most precious commodity – and it has a price tag. Having the time and ability to witness other teachers in practice is a luxury not many schools or school divisions can afford. With technology opening up these possibilities, it has created an even more connected world for us.
I recently joined a Facebook group that is specifically for Advanced Placement English Literature teachers. The sharing and collaborative aspect in this group is astounding. I am absolutely learning so much from the discussion and sharing of resources with these educators, with the only stipulation being “please use and adapt as you see fit.” Some ask that if we use, we mention them as the original creator but we can adapt as needed. Some don’t mind if they receive no attribution at all. Though some of these educators do sell their products on Teachers Pay Teachers or directly on their own websites, for the most part the resources and ideas that are shared within the group are without limitations.
“Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them.” (source) When we utilize and share what others have created, students truly reap the benefits. Being able to adapt or remix lessons and content shared freely by other educators means that I maintain small shreds of my sanity and can fool myself into thinking that I may have achieved a minuscule shift in the work/life balancing act.
I have been extremely thankful for Open Education over the past few months as I embarked on my learning project for EC&I 831. I enrolled in a MOOC on Indigenous Canada. Through videos, readings, and quizzes, the MOOC lead me through a series of lessons and gave me a good background on the history of Indigenous peoples in the comfort of my own home, at a pace dictated by myself, and – best of all – it was free. Cost does not have to be a discriminatory factor for learners any longer – many of the MOOC topics I have investigated over the last few years have been available free of charge. Granted, sometimes you get what you pay for … but my experiences with the three MOOCs I have taken have been very positive. The learning platforms were easy to use and I found that even though the MOOCs I was enrolled in were non-connectivist, learning a topic of interest in a self-guided environment was beneficial to me. My interest in the topics and my desire to learn made working through the courses enjoyable.
One of the drawbacks to Open Education, as my classmates Daniel and Loreli both mentioned this week, is adequate access to technology, both within school and outside of school in the community. This may continue to be an issue for some learners, simply due to socio-economic reasons, or where they are geographically located. It could also be an issue where schools or school divisions have restrictions on the types of websites, programs, or resources that they will allow students (and teachers!) to use within their learning environments. This is definitely one area where our school divisions have not caught up to what might be considered best practice for student learning.
Because Verena’s chat with our class really got me thinking about a few different aspects of my teaching (specifically the development of a new online class), I read a few of her blog posts. One of the posts that made me really excited and hopeful that I may be on the right track is Proposing OLDI (Version 1): An Open Learning Design Intervention for K-12 Open Educational Practice. The post discusses the the K-12 Open Learning Continuum as “an ongoing, iterative continuum that has formal learning on one end, non-formal learning on the other end and a pile of learning in between” using Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory of social interactions as the basis of learning with four iterative cycles:
Stage 1: Focus on Learner Context – Build Relationships
Stage 2: Development of Digital Literacies
Stage 3: Find Your Yoda
Stage 4: Be a Yoda
Focus on Learner Context – Revisit Relationships
All of the things I am learning about Open Education make me question my face to face teaching practices and learning design. Knowing what I would like to accomplish within my online course and the parameters within which I must design it is also frustrating! For the time being, I will have to abide by the wishes of our school division and the tools it has the capacity to support for our students, and be thankful that I have colleagues who are willing to share and collaborate with me.
Do you have experience in developing Open Educational Resources or do you have experience with teaching online and developing online content? I’d be very interested to hear about which LMS you use and why as well as what you would use “in a perfect world”?