b) An understanding of your target learners

DRAFT 19/05/207

Core area 2: Teaching, learning and/or assessment processes
b) An understanding of your target learners

“Open education is used here to designate a general approach to teaching and learning…views the teacher more as a facilitator of learning than a transmitter of knowledge”

Open Education and the American School by R.S. Barth, 1972.
(Reference via D. Kernohan and V. Rolfe, OER18 Open to all.)

Although I don’t teach in a formal capacity, I am part of a connected community of open learners, open education practitioners and networked scholars, both within my institution and across the domain of open education more widely. I see an important part of my role as being to engage with peer learners and to understand the issues being discussed across this community.  This allows me to contribute to the debate and also enables me to provide current and timely advice and guidance to colleagues within the university.

In order to keep abreast of discussions within the open education community, explore issues, and contribute to the debate I make extensive use of social media tools and technologies and I participate actively in a number of open education groups, including the Open Policy Network and the ALT Open Education SIG.  I am also a member of the Advisory Board [1] of the Open Knowledge Open Education Working Group and a long standing member of several open education mailing lists including OER-Discuss, of which I am co-owner.  I follow many open education technology blogs where I read and comment on articles written by colleagues and I follow the discussions when they spill over onto twitter where I follow a large number of open education practitioners.  I regularly participate in teaching and learning events at the University of Edinburgh such as  the eLearning@Ed Conference and the Digital Day of Ideas, and in international open education events such as the OER Conferences and Open Education Week.  This gives me an opportunity to  engage in discussion with fellow open learners, and helps me to  develop a broad understanding of current topics of debate and how they might be relevant to my peers and colleagues within the university.  In order to be part of a peer learning community and to understand the concerns of learners, it is also necessary to be an active listener,  so I frequently participate in open education webinars [2] and VConnecting sessions [3].  I often reflect on the issues and concerns raised by my peer learners and synthesise my thoughts in blog posts of my own which I hope will help to facilitate learning within the community.

For example, following the OER17 Conference which I attended as a speaker, co-chair Josie Fraser wrote a blog post titled Waves not Ripples reflecting on the themes raised during the conference.  One of these themes was definitions of openness and the relationship between open practice and open pedagogy.  I added to the comments [4] on the original blog post, and followed these discussions when they were explored further by Maha Bali.  In response to a call from Maha for posts on the theme of Open Pedagogy I synthesised my thoughts into a blog post of my own Open Pedagogy – A View from a distance [5].  Maha curated my post along with many many others in advance of a #YearOfOpen webinar on the same topic.  I participated in this webinar as a member of the audience, summarising and tweeting colleagues’ comments over the course of the evening.  Participating in these discussions gave me a good understanding of the discourse around open pedagogy which will inform the advice and guidance I provide to colleagues with the university.

Reflection

As a member of the connected community of open education practitioners, I believe it is important not only to understand the learning needs and priorities of colleagues within my own institution, but also to have a nuanced understanding of the diverse perspectives, concerns and priorities of the wider international community of open educators.  This means continually engaging in critical reflective practice, challenging my own prejudices and biases, questioning my own assumptions and those I make about others. To do this, I try to engage with a wide range of colleagues whose social and cultural backgrounds, domains of expertise, and experiences of open education differ from my own. I try to seek out and listen to the quieter voices and not just be swayed by the dominant discourse.  I believe it’s fundamentally important to understand that openness means different things to different people in different contexts and that we can not apply a one size fits all definition to open education.

Much of my engagement with my peers is mediated through unrestricted access to communication technology and social media and I am conscious of the privilege this entails.  I have the freedom to use twitter to engage in challenging discourse with peers, I can join google hangouts to listen and talk to colleagues across the world, I can read and write blog posts to learn from colleagues and support my peers and colleagues in return.

This position of relative privilege was brought home to me recently when I participated in a panel at the OER17 Politics of Open Conference titled Perspectives on open education in a world of Brexit and Trump [5].  The panel was chaired by Jim Luke and featured video provocations from four practitioners from North America, UK and Egypt (Robin DeRosa, Nadine Aboulmagd, Chris Gilliard, and David Kernohan) with responses from Jim, Martin Weller, Maha Bali and I.  The aim of the panel was to provide different perspectives on the relationship between Open Education and the political changes represented by Brexit and US presidential election.  We had a lively and engaging audience who contributed actively to the debate.  Participating in this panel provided me with a valuable opportunity to understand more about the diverse experiences and perspectives of my colleagues. It also brought me to an understanding that access to open education is mediated by personal circumstances and political context and has led me to be more thoughtful about how my experience and understanding of open education may differ significantly from others.

@bryanmMMathers, CC BY ND

I want to conclude this reflection with a quote from my blog post Open Pedagogy – A view from a distance, which I mentioned above:

“Although I’ve worked in Higher Education for years, I’ve rarely been involved directly in teaching and I have never considered myself to be a teacher or an academic. I’ve very rarely taught staff or students, though I do hope that people have learned things from me along the way.

What I do consider myself to be is an education practitioner. I participate in the process and practice of education and hopefully, some way further down the line, this contributes to teaching and pedagogy. Perhaps more importantly for my own personal and professional identity, I see myself as an open practitioner. I try very hard to practice my profession in the open, I try to learn from other open practitioners, I try to listen and learn and engage, and I try to be guided by the principles of openness and inclusivity.”

Evidence

  1. Open Education Working Group Advisory Board https://education.okfn.org/advisory-board/
  2. “How To Be More Open: Advice for Educators and Researchers”, Open Education Week webinar with Lisa Marie Blaschke, Fabio Nascimbeni, Catherine Cronin, Chrissi Nerantzi and Lorna Campbell, http://www.eden-online.org/open-education-week-how-to-be-more-open-advice-for-educators-and-researchers-webinar/
  3. Lorna M. Campbell, R. John Robertson and Martin Hawksey Virtually Connecting from OER17 http://virtuallyconnecting.org/blog/2017/03/25/oer17/; Lorna M. Campbell and Fiona Harvey Virtually Connecting from ALTC http://virtuallyconnecting.org/blog/2016/09/02/were-vconnecting-at-altc/
  4. Comment on Waves nor Ripples by Josie Fraser http://www.josiefraser.com/2017/04/reflections-on-oer17/#comment-43981
  5. Campbell, L.M., (2017), Open Pedagogy – A view from a distance http://lornamcampbell.org/higher-education/open-pedagogy-a-view-from-a-distance/
  6. Bali, M., Campbell, L.M., Luke, J. and Weller, M., (2017), Perspectives on Open Education in a World of Brexit & Trump https://oer17.oerconf.org/sessions/perspectives-on-open-education-in-a-world-of-brexit-trump-1559/