The folks at the Indiana Department of Education’s elearning group are working on an OER #GoOpen initiative, which includes a series of Twitter chats (#INeLearn). Last night I participated in one of these lively conversations.
After this chat, I was struck by how important TRUST is to open learning, and again, how OER doesn’t necessarily have to coincide with open learning. (Below is an excerpt from this chat that brought this home to me. A fuller storify of this chat is available here.)
The distinction between open learning and OER has been a recurring theme in my work and my writing here. OER can be implemented without open pedagogy, though in my opinion that misses the whole point. In my mind, the most important benefits come from open learning, which can likewise be done without OER. Of course, the best approach is a combination of the two.
Several of the discussion points in last night’s #INeLearn conversation brought this home to me, and they all revolved around TRUST of educators (and of learners):
- The oft-mentioned topic of materials evaluation and curation was brought up. Who should do this? How should it be done?
- The questions of sharing rights, access, etc. came up. Related to this is the question of whether educators should be allowed to modify materials.
- Who should be designing our curriculum? How is personalization to be done at the classroom or individual level? (“fidelity” issues)
All of these are points that I have heard raised at schools, districts, states, and national organizations. There seems to be a fundamental lack of trust in our educators (and even more so, our learners) to make these decisions.
To me, this is an issue of professionalism. The teachers I have worked with nationwide are thoughtful, high quality folks. They have the best interests of their students at heart and, by and large, know how to address their needs.
Unfortunately, education in the US has turned into a negative blame game, and teachers have bore the brunt of this. It’s time we reverse this, and let teachers do their job.
Open learning demands not only that we trust and empower not only our teachers, but also our learners. Doing this, I believe, would result in a more positive learning experience all around. Teachers and the learners they inspire are the most important part of any learning experience — more important than any textbooks, standards, content, electronic resources, or other resources. If we don’t trust and empower our teachers and learners, no resources are going to be effective.
On the positive side, thoughtful professional development that engages teachers in finding, evaluating, curating, and modifying open resources is one of the best ways to deepen our practice. And this benefits everyone. This may in fact be one of the greatest benefits to OER.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and hope to see you on future #INeLearn chats.