Sunday, July 19, 2009

Open Minds Needed

In the midst of our economic peril, it takes an entrepreneurial mind to see opportunity glowing in the heap of rubble amidst us. I believe that some of these entrepreneurial minds are the educators today who are willing to open their educational content and share it with the world.

What is an educator? Is it someone who loves to teach? Does it stop there? Or is there an inherent responsibility in being an educator? Should an educator be committed to educating? Is it a person who feels fulfilled at the prospect of giving and extending one's ideas to a fresh mind eager to learn, willing to listen, thirsty for a new perspective?

Today, in the face of open content and all the potential this context holds for education, I am concerned that many our educators are not willing to open their resources and I'd like to understand why. Frequently in recent years as I've sat in workshops with faculty teaching them how to podcast, how to create VoiceThreads, how to blog, etc., I see the enthusiasm in their eyes turn to fear when they look at me and say, "but that means everyone will be able to take my work." We then go into a discussion about, "Yes, it does mean someone can 'take' your work but imagine all the minds you can reach, all your peers who can leverage your content to support their own."

However, after I see that "fear," the excitement stops and I lose them. This concerns me. We, as educators in the 21st century, need to see the potential and the power for sharing educational content. We need to look to the leaders like MIT who has been sharing their educational content for years and OER Commons. We should be thrilled at the prospect of knowing other professors are using our content to support their class content and, respectively, reach out to engage the content of other peers to enrich our own. The 21st century is about engaging, connecting and enriching lives; bringing diverse ideas together by harnessing the full potential of the networked world that we have created. This is what an educator should be doing today. The more educators actively jump in and participate in this dialogue, they are leading by example and teaching their students how to learn, how to connect how to use technology to its fullest potential.

I also recommend David Wiley's recent article Open Teaching Multiplies the Benefit but Not the Effort in the Chronicle's Wired Blog in which he reflects on the feelings of sharing his educational content. If you read the article, don't miss the engaging debates that surfaced in the comments -- an intriguing way to read how people really feel about the topic.

Just tonight I read an article that has me on the edge of my seat -- one that signals a major shift in the higher ed enrollment landscape. Anyone who reads my blog regularly recalls that I have been noting shifts in enrollment trends and new forms of competition emerging for higher ed as online enrollments and open education have emerged in recent years. Well, it seems that the Obama administration may have a plan to develop a free online college as an extension of community colleges to support the needs of students coming out of high school entering the workforce. Wow...pretty exciting stuff! I am refreshed to see new ideas focused around supporting the needs of our over burdened and under supported community colleges. The details of the plan have not been fully revealed but an article in Inside Higher Ed noted that there may be as much as $50 million per year for open courses which will be courses owned by the government developed to support key core programs. Needless to say, I am excited to learn more about this story!

For those of you eager to stay current on open education trends, I recommend the new book by Curtis Bonk, The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Technology. I heard Bonk speak last November at the Sloan-C International Conference for Online Learning and he was quite inspiring. Great stuff for any educator with an open mind.

Should be an interesting year as we brace for furloughs, layoffs and new models of learning in higher ed -- times are changing!
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