What is Open Pedagogy
word cloud - open pedagogy
Eight Qualities of Open Pedagogy, a word cloud created with Tagul.com

This post was originally published on Teaching and Learning Innovations @CI.

Chances are, you are familiar with the concept of “open content,” but “open pedagogy” has not yet made its way into mainstream conversations about teaching and learning. Open content, of course, refers to digital resources that have been shared online with a license that both permits and encourages re-use and sharing within the limits of the license’s specifications. Many open resources are shared today with a Creative-Commons license.

Open pedagogy, on the other hand, describes the experiences of learners who engage in an experience through the open web. The non-linear, dynamic, and networked characteristics of the open web fully inform the qualities of open pedagogy. Take a close look at the word cloud above — it is comprised of words from the Eight Qualities of Open Pedagogy, a helpful description that was collaboratively written by Rob Reynolds, Laura Gibbs, and Stacy Zemke (as a result of a Twitter exchange). (If you would like to comment on or contribute to the “Eight Qualities of Open Pedagogy,” visit this post on Google+.)

One of the factors that prevents open pedagogy from becoming more prevalent in higher education is the mainstream adoption of Learning Management Systems (Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, Desire 2 Learn, etc.) by colleges and universities. An LMS is a closed environment that creates a walled-off space for instructors to select and share content with students, student to interact with other students, and where content that gets created by students is withheld from the world’s eyes and comments. The qualities of learning in an LMS, are informed this environment. Agency, risk, creativity, unpredictability, empowerment — these are characteristics of open pedagogy that are much tougher to cultivate in an LMS.

Those who don't jump will never fly. Photo By Kodomut CC-BY

 I began teaching online about eleven years ago and this semester will be my first time teaching in the public web. While I have integrated web-based tools into my LMS for many years, I have sought out technologies that provide a secure space for my students — spaces that mimic the environment created by an LMS (but with improved functionality and ease of use).

In the past five years, my own professional and personal life have been impacted enormously by my own active participation in the open web. I have cultivated a professional learning network comprised of educators from around the world whom I learn with continuously. I have participated in conversations with strangers that have left me pondering deeply about issues for weeks. I have deep, meaningful professional relationships with people I have never met face-to-face. Perhaps the most special experiences that emerge from my participation in the open web are the beautiful, precious messages I receive upon occasion from people I don’t know who write just to let me know how much they have learned from me.

At last, this semester, I am embarking upon my first journey into open pedagogy. I will be co-teaching a course at CI on Digital Citizenship (UNIV 349) with my colleague, Jill Leafstedt. Over the summer, we worked together to develop our course site, which was built with WordPress on CI Keys. This site was inspired by the work of our former colleague, Jaimie Hoffman, who dove into open courses a year ago. The students in our class will also be creating their own sites on CI Keys and engaging with their peers and the public in an open conversation about the challenges upon which they will embark this term.

Most of the dialogue I have engaged with about open pedagogy has focused on the student experience. Today, as I prepare for the start of the semester, I am thinking deeply about the impact of open pedagogy on teachers. First, I know in my heart that I would not be making this leap if I did not believe that participation is the best way to prepare oneself for personal and professional fulfillment in a social, mobile society. I am excited to be part of this experience with my students, watch them find their own networks, develop their own voices, and experience the impact their voice can have on the world. Secondly, I recognize that I would not be embarking upon open pedagogy if it were not for the willingness of so many other educators who have placed themselves in vulnerable positions to take risks, experiment, and share their practices. And, third, the support for innovation that is woven into the culture at CSU Channel Islands is a critical factor that continues to inspire me to try new things that are in the best interests of students.

I hope more educators at institutions around the world will be encouraged and supported to jump.

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