Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘openness

Every now and then I get requests to be interviewed, to write an article, or to have something I wrote be part of someone else’s site.

I say no almost all the time and I explain why based on the context of the request. But there is one reason that is common to all requests: I do not want to be manipulated into pushing someone else’s agenda.

Everyone has an agenda, even if they say they do not. Having an agenda is fine if you are honest about it and if you have your heart in the right place.

Quotes taken from what I say or write might get decontextualised. An opinion piece that I write might get edited until its original message gets diluted or warped.

These are probably why some politicians who are interviewed by the press also post their speeches or thoughts on platforms like Facebook. Better to hear from the horse’s mouth.

The sad thing is that not all do this. Instead of allowing people to thinking critically and make their own decisions based on source material, the sources and the press conspire to leave it up to the press to publish selectively.

What is our excuse in the realms of schooling and education?

Is the source material unavailable?

Is the source material available, but not accessible?

Is the source material available and accessible, but not understandable?

If we say yes to any of these questions, why is this the case and what are we doing about it?

In the wider world, people can take control of the information they generate. They create, share, and discuss, largely on social media.

If the goal of schooling and education is to prepare kids for the wider world, then why are we not allowing and insisting that students create, share, and discuss more openly?

OPEN by mag3737, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  mag3737 

I have had a draft of this reflection sitting in Evernote for such a long time I cannot remember exactly why I wrote it. 

Let us say that you have a complex problem to solve. Some will lock down while others will open up.

One benefit of being strategically open is that it can create more transparent processes. This in turn can build trust.

Being more open with problems, ideas, or policies can result in greater feedback and critique. While doing this might result in slower implementation, you are more likely to get better inputs by crowdsourcing.

I think one reason some people do not like being open is that they fear that others will not understand the complexities of the issues at hand. But how are others expected to understand if you are not open in the first place?

Other times people worry that the process is messy and that being transparent is a sign of discord or weakness. But I think that it takes trust to build more trust.

You have to share some information that you might have withheld in the past. This leads to a more informed group that now knows the context, background, or the reasons why.

If you manage the situation well, it creates trust whether you succeed or fail during implementation. That trust is more important than the problem you tried to solve because it helps with the next problem.

Now I remember why it remained a draft. I was just rambling mentally.

I know for a fact that people steal the ideas that I share as I reflect openly in my blog. But I am not too worried.

When I say steal, I mean that people take the credit for my work (or even make a profit off an idea) and fail to properly attribute me or my blog as a source.

Part of the problem lies with the prevalent mentality that “if it is online, it is free for all”. That could not be further from the truth from a legal standpoint, but try arguing with the thieves and you will get nowhere.

It is sometimes difficult to lay claim to an idea or definitively identify the source of an idea. There are very few unique ideas. All of us stand on the shoulders of some other giant.

The knee-jerk reaction is to not share at all or to create in a closed environment. I do not think this is helpful because it does not allow for a diversity of ideas that result from cross-pollination.

Another reaction is to remain open. I do not mind if my some of my ideas get taken and developed for the greater good. But I do ask that people respect the Creative Commons license I share them under (scroll down and look to the right).

Putting your ideas online, well formed or not, will date and time-stamp them. In the absence of a patenting or intellectual properties office, this allows you to lay claim to an idea quickly and freely.

That aside, I believe that what goes around comes around. If you steal or fail to give credit where it is due, your actions will return to haunt you. You will get away with it some of the time, but you will not get away with it all of the time.

I thought that last week’s #edchat had a particularly impressive list of questions. Folks at #edsg attempted the topic on Twitter strategies to get the most out of PLNs.

It is a shame that we did not discuss the other questions. Maybe I will reflect on the rest of the questions this week.

One of the other questions was: As a connected educator what do you do differently now in teaching that is a result of being connected?

I am not nearly as connected as some of the educators in the Twitterverse or the blogosphere. I follow very exclusively on Twitter and I maintain this blog merely as an open journal for reflection. Any connections I make or lessons I impart are serendipitous.

But the connections that I have and make have changed not just my teaching but other aspects of my life.

I read more frequently in micro-bursts, e.g., during commutes, waiting in queues, during any interstitial time. I question established practice. I share my thoughts and resources more openly with the expectation that some will reciprocate.

Being more open has made me more willing to try new things, question more deeply, and write more carefully. It has helped me integrate my public persona with my more private one and I think that I am a better person for it.

Open Teaching - Thinning the Walls by courosa, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  courosa 

I think this image illustrates the change quite well. I found it while I was preparing for a talk I will give next month, but it is relevant here.

The big difference in my teaching and the rest of my work is that I have torn down walls and barriers. I am more transparent in my dealings with people. The more connected I am, the more open I have become. This in turn has benefitted me and others around me.

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If you have observed some major online players offering open educational resources, you might think that the era of free and open online learning resources has arrived.

What am I talking about? For something more recent, consider Apple’s iTunes U, YouTube Education, or the Prezi U announcement and site. Carnegie Mellon has its Open Learning Initiative. MIT might be considered a pioneer with Open Courseware which has been around for just over 10 years.

In our own small way, CeL has been trying to provide more open resources at NIeLearning as well as at a free help site and templates for the e-portfolio initiative here in NIE.

Why go open? Entities like Apple, YouTube, and Prezi benefit from brand recognition and platform adoption. Openness is an indirect but important way to make money. Educational institutions that put open educational resources in such platforms gain in a similar way.

But what of organizations whose primary goal is not to make money? If you believe that education is a socio-economic leveller, then being open and providing open educational resources are means of getting there. Doing this might solidify your reputation for good service in the educational ecosystem.

In an ideal world, all education would be free. In the real world, there is a need to provide infrastructure, utilities and transport, pay people to teach, advertise and recruit, etc. But these are not the real barriers to open education as people who take their education online bypass the brick-and-motar model and either reduce or remove cost in order to learn. People who have the information, knowledge, and the means to teach are the real barriers.

Ask most instructors why they would rather not share a resource openly and they will cite institutional policies (if any) and copyright. It is relatively easy to change policy; whether people take ownership of it is another. If an institute mandates that a certain percentage of courses goes open, how many instructors will buy in?

As for copyright, I see two main arguments: 1) The instructor wants to retain the copyright of the resource (not let others take credit or profit from it), or 2) the instructor is using someone else’s copyrighted material.

Providing a resource openly does not mean that you give up the rights or that it is totally free. If you make it available online, it is time-stamped and you might be better able to say who came up with an idea first. Offering some resources for free (a taster) and requiring payment for the rest is not a bad idea either.

The more serious problem is not sharing because you are using someone else’s copyrighted material. But we have phones and email to contact copyright owners, do we not? Alternatively, use the free and/open resources already available at the repositories above or search for CC-licensed resources.

Openness can be infectious, but only if we overcome mindsets.

I borrowed those three words from George Siemen’s opening paragraph of his blog entry open isn’t so open anymore.

It’s a long but stimulating read on defining “openness” and how to be open in education. Siemens argues that you need to be driven by ideology and will probably need to be a stubborn, irritating and aggravating person to be a visionary. I’d add a caveat: There is a thin line between a visionary and someone who is simply an a-hole!

So what might a visionary’s ideology be driven by? I borrow from some wise words in the quote of the day section of the TADO blog.

A visionary probably realises that after all is said and done, more is said than done.

A visionary will probably realize that to lead the orchestra, you have to turn your back on the crowd while acknowledging that a successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.

Other poster-worthy quotations:

Words don’t necessarily lead to action, but they can certainly power them!


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