Learning how to be an Open Learner….By Being an Open Learner

My colleague Laurel asked me some questions in her comments on my last blog post.

How have you shifted from being a  “stranded evangelist” to a  “connected educator”? What have you learned from the people around you? How has your practice shifted as you listen to the teachers with diverse perspectives? How have they shaped your current best practice?

This model could explain the “how”…


Retrieved from: http://www.added-value.com/source/2011/01/roberto-suros-commentary-on-cultural-openness/

Or I could explain Open Learning IMO – In My Opinion 🙂


Open Learning is NOT just about being a rock star and following a set of “rules”.


I believe that students, teachers, parents, admin and everyone else learn together – when I say “learner” I am referring to everyone.

I learn more about educational technology from my son than from anyone else, and he is 7.

Chris Hadfield is an inspiration to many learners, and not to others. That’s ok.

I felt like a stranded evangelist when I first started my new job – and now I don’t.

Some people feel uncomfortable with the term stranded evangelist, some aren’t.

I am practicing being an open learner by writing this blog- and the replies – in an open forum.

Being an open learner to me means being vulnerable, being intimidated and pushing through – while often being pushed back.

Being an open learner means listening to other people’s perspectives – really listening….

I have rethought something Alan November told me awhile back….”Verena, when you go in and ask teachers about how they would like to integrate technology, ask them about a project that they love and have already developed. Ask them what they could do to make it even more engaging for students. Discuss how technology can save them time and meet the needs of a wide variety of learners….then sit back and listen with a cup of tea. And every time you want to say something, take a sip of tea – and listen.

But never, never give up on trying to make a difference in meeting the needs of learners.”

Listen, really listen It’s ok to feel differently, but you still need to listen. It helps if you believe in yourself and to that “voice” that is inside of you as well. Listen to different perspectives in the open world.

On a different note, as a colleague just said to me – “Your blog post on Hadfield was exactly like a lesson I taught where the students seemed to focus on a totally different topic than the one “presented”.” Have you ever taught one of those “lessons” where you started in one spot and ended in a totally different place?

It’s ok to create untethered learning environments – it’s ok to let the discussion go into uncharted waters.

In an open learning forum, I have no way to control the learners or the learning – I give up my “control” over my words, the moment I click accept on a blog post. Learning how to be vulnerable and accept “push backs” in an open forum is extremely difficult. I create an “untethered” experience.

The last blog post, comments, twitter chat and backchannel discussions have demonstrated that it is possible to have an open online dialogue in a safe and open learning environment – but it can be really hard as well.

I would not say that I have felt entirely safe in this open learning environment called the Internet.  I have had tweets taken out of context with storify’s created out of them, I have had openly aggressive people keep tweeting at me, I have had people encourage others to tweet about me because of some perception of what I have said, I have been trolled and I have had a variety  of blog post comments. That is part of what being an open learner is all about too – its open for everyone.

When I was at Educon I was asking the students about youtube because creating videos is such an important part of the way teens learn and “where” they are learning today. One girl told me a story about her first video  where she was singing a song she wrote. She was so proud of herself. I asked if I could see it, and she said no because she had to take it down because of all the hurtful comments. I asked her if that mattered to her, and she said, “no” – it wasn’t worth it.

The intimidation factor and comments keep her song, her voice,  out of the open.

Although some comments made on my blog were not inappropriate, they were hurtful and hard to hear for me – and they were in the open. I didn’t take them down though. I responded.

From the point of view of a woman, who has only recently come back to education after working part time and staying home with kids – it has been particularly difficult to be an open learner. I am not only learning how to be an open learner, but learning how to survive in the education profession today. As such, I have a mom’s perspective on what is happening in my kid’s schools – while living in a professional world. Those perspectives will come up in my blog, and I am proud of who I am as a mom and educator today. There is no one quite like me.

Just like there is no one quite like any of you. I have learned to encourage differences.

It was also suggested that I talk about my learners in my open forum and give them a voice.

My students didn’t feel ready to comment  about what they are up to – in an open forum. From my perspectives on being an open learner over the last week, I would agree with them.  Being an open learner takes some practice, perseverance and loads of guts. They have to feel safe and ready. The first steps have to be on their own terms.

Who am I learning with?  I am learning with some grade 7 and 8 First Nations learners who are piloting an  “immersive” (virtual) world program in Atlantis Remixed. They are starting with a unit about being proud of their cultural identity and not hiding it. With Kory, (a fellow teacher) we have all created a team teaching, computer mediated model to help first nation youth engage in authentic learning experiences.

I am so proud to learn with the teens and as they strive to develop their own cultural and digital identity. Their struggles and perseverance remind me how hard it is to learn something new. Their passion reminds me how important it is to keep trying.  Their smiles remind me of how important it is to have fun while you learn.

Their openness is expressed by the fact that they have let someone into their community and they are willing to learn with this person. Their trust in me is truly special. Think about it – I skype in and talk to them, they chat with me as if I am just another “head” in the classroom. It boggles my mind at the Jetsons like culture.

Getting back to whom I learn the most from: my 7 year old – who created lego videos at 5 on youtube and showed the world our house and me in the kitchen….We all have to work on our digital identities and knowing how much is “too much” to share in the open.

What is “open” and what it means to learn “in the open” is up to the individual learner. I can only help to encourage each person’s unique openness.

It’s been quite a week and I am thankful for all the learning.



Please support my attempts to build knowledge together with some feedback and/or suggestions