Open Learning – trying to define and apply to K12 …again :)

I am still thinking and reflecting about what  “Open Learning is all about”….

I have been thinking more about the variations of “open”…and perhaps @OpenContent  and @FredWBaker  can add to my thoughts (Thanks your comment earlier Fred).

I am now beginning to think of “Open Learning” in three distinct areas: Open Content/ Resources (OER),  Open Pedagogy and Open Leadership. My recent experiences at the Beyond Content Conference #opened12, challenged my thinking on what we (as educators) are really trying to mean when we say, “open learning”. What does open learning “look like” to you?

Gardner Campbell captured my interest on the first day with his fantastic – must be watched and listened to key note address.  “That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all.” (TS Eliot) Campbell alluded to the widespread “free” content online, MOOCs – and their subsidiaries (of which I am a one) and other examples of “open” learning opportunities. But he kept coming back to, “ That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all.” (TS Eliot)

What? Well what did you mean then? And who is the I?  Am I  getting this all wrong on the first day I wondered?

What is open learning and what does it mean to me?  What does it look like – to me?

My thoughts on open learning are that it  can lead to opportunities that a person did not otherwise have before. If you have the passion, you, as a human being, should have the opportunity. That’s what I think open learning is all about.

Now – how do I create an “opportunity” for “open opportunities” for a k12 community.

I am creating a “program” at ADLC. The “OC@ADLC” – The Open Classroom at Alberta Distance Learning Centre.

Within this “Open Classroom” I have to start somewhere, so I have decided to start with students over 14. Students at this age are already experimenting online and are legally allowed to register for more online software providers. Up until this point, any “open” learning should (yes I said should) be teacher guided.  The teacher can create amazing “walled gardens” within the learning environment as proven by teachers Kathy Cassidy @kathycassidy , Silvia Tolisano   @langwitches , Vicki Davis  @coolcatteacher or Kim Gill @Gill_Ville

My point is, there are many examples of amazing “open learning” examples happening in k-6 which are teacher guided.

These teachers have led the way in helping me consider why their learning is “open”.

Characteristics of Open Learning: (Based on exemplary k6 Teachers)

1) Free and open access to resources
2) Willing to collaborate
3) Open Mobile Access (I can “see” artifacts on a variety of platforms)
4) Transparent tone and means of communication
5) Give credit to their sources
6) Open to feedback (peer review)
7) Approachable – able to connect with them
8) Focused on learning and the students

So – to focus on “open Learning” I need to have a more systemic approach, and I can’t do it my myself.

As a result, for me open learning is separated into three categories in which the “open learning characteristics” are apparent.

Where have I seen these characteristics and how have I tried to apply within my organization?

Open Leadership – I have communicated with my administrators about how to approach cultural change and paradigm shifts within our organization. How can I develop new open courses, while still supporting and challenging our “regular” courses? As a “teacher leader” I need to offer PD sessions to my school and to a broader audience, write on my blog and reflect, connect with my PLN and engage others with my ideas.

AND – I also need to listen to others and be empathetic. Just because I want open learning, does not mean that others feel the same way. I can only model “how” to be an open leader and try to emulate the characteristics of the k-6 “open Educators”.

At a recent conference I was in awe as my administrator took out Evernote, linked his notes to twitter and responded to others when they connected with him on twitter. He was demonstrating open leadership characteristics and modelling that everyone (our immediate staff and anyone on twitter) could have an opportunity to “learn” what he was learning.

Open Content – Open Content the area, in my opinion, that has had the most attention. How to create free and open eBooks, online courses, develop and use OER and consider CC (Creative Commons) licensing. However – this is still a weak area in k12 learning environments today and there is a lot of potential in development, research and projects.  @rbyrne Richard Byrne’s timely blogpostyesterday is evidence of the need to consider “how” K12 are could use  open content. I spent time yesterday working on a LiveBinder of OER for ALDC inspired by @kfasimpaur

Open Pedagogy – “How” are we learning online? Are there a variety of instructional designs for open online courses? Are MOOCs really the answer? How can opportunities to learn in free and open ways – focused on student choice – be created online?

These are the options we are  focusing on in TheOC@ADLC this year:

Option 1: “MOOClike” option
(Based on work of Siemens, Downes and Cormier)
Massive Open Online Course focused on connectivism, networking and interaction and collaboration among networks. (Synchronous, Cohort)
At the moment, we are about to pilot a Digital Citizenship themed open online courses in The OC (#BeyondFacebook – end of November/12). Over three days, “learners” will be involved in collaborative groups projects that will lead to student created content- open online courses. Students (and educators) will work together in interdisciplinary, intergenerational groups to complete “parts” of a project. On the last day, the “learners” will present their creations to the world (using social media) and the projects will all come together to create one open online course for all. These courses will be open to any High School student or Educator in the world. Students will be offered badges for their work which could lead to possible dual credit (if they are an Albertan) or certificates and badges.

Option 2: Closed “Course” with Open Content and Open Connections/Networks.
(Based on work of Alec Couros)  (Synchronous, Cohort)
We are also hoping to work on a pilot with a project like the Kaleidoscope Project. 20 ADLC students, 20 College students and 4 teachers will work together to investigate the “Keystone Pipeline/ Northern Gateway Pipeline” and its implications on our environments. Using an Inquiry based approach, students will ask questions and collaborate to create a project that blends politics, geography and science. The students will be offered  English and science credit in this “inquiry” based open online project. In this case, the course will be limited to a set number of students, but anyone can watch the course be built as all content will be open and online and outside networking and participating is encouraged, especially with any Pipeline stakeholders.

Option 3: Open Content in an Open Platform for Autonomous Learners
(Based on the work of Alan Levine and MIT) ( Asynchronous, autonomous)
Finally – we will be working on our OER (Open Educational Resources) – and developing a website/.portal for “creation and innovation”. This will not have any defined coursework, but instead a portal for “creation and innovation”. Students can create projects and attain dual credit or “badges” based on competencies for their work. This will be based on the #ds106 course and scratch.

Option 4:  Open Content in a Closed Online Course
(Based on the work of David Christian – similar to Flat Classrooms) (Asynchronous, Independent)
This option focuses on how to integrate OER (Open Educational Resources) into closed environments and will be developed with a  specific group of asynchronous students. There will be open content, but limited open access. However,the students will connect to other students within the “walled garden” course around the world and the teacher will have the option to encourage “open” pedagogy including connecting through social media. Although – nothing is stopping the students from going outside the course by themselves, the teacher is just not facilitating the learning “outside” the the course itself.
The assessment will be based on a credit system within ADLC.


These four different options of open online learning will be offered to meet the greatest number of students in the widest variety of ways.

So – which model do you think will be the most successful and why?
Does it matter which is the most successful?
What factors will determine success?

Which option could you see yourself implementing into your classroom?
Which model best represents your learning style?

What are the other “open learning” models?

Looking forward to your feedback!

Verena 🙂



6 thoughts on “Open Learning – trying to define and apply to K12 …again :)

  1. Bryan

    Hey! Yes! Over here – me!

    A highschool teacher similarly wow’d by Gardner Campbell’s talk at Open Ed this year, I’ve been trying to take my work ‘open’ in various different incarnations over the past few years. It’s very cool to see this site (brought to my attention by Alec Couros over Twitter) operating as a Canadian hub of discussion about the prospect of open highschool learning. (This semester, I’ve been enjoying a similar experiment with my philosophy class:

    Out of personal interest (as I was thinking of a similar project with my grade 9/10 gifted students here in British Columbia), I would love to see some version of the Enbridge English / Socials inquiry go down, if only so we might be able to work alongside or otherwise benefit from a community investigating a relevant local current event that touches on so many different curricula. Whichever content delivery / assessment model you wind up doing, the pipeline would likely provide lots of opportunity for any ‘open’ aspects of the course to be seen or interacted with by people on the web (namely, hopefully: my class).

    Hope to hear more!

  2. admin Post author

    Hi Bryan!
    So happy to hear that you speak my language! I’m in Calgary – but have worked a lot in BC. Since the “Pipeline project” is a pilot, we still haven’t figured out what that would “look like”. I can keep you in the loop – i know that Kaleidoscope would be delighted and I am need all the collaborators that I can get!
    Thanks for your comment – you can contact me through vroberts at adlc dot ca

    I am off to investigate your philosophy course…do you mind if I add it to the OpenClassroom LiveBinder as an example of open learning?

    Canadians are innovative! eh ?
    Verena 🙂

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  4. FredWBaker

    Hey Verena!

    Thanks for tagging me in this post. I have to admit that I have not yet had the opportunity to listen to Gardner Campbell’s keynote, though it is on my to-do list. I think that it is amazing that we live in an age where it is not only possible, but very easy for a keynote that takes place for an hour on a day in a place to be recorded and disseminated worldwide for free and to be accessed whenever it is convenient. That ability alone expands the benefits of one person’s expertise exponentially (I may not even know who he was without social media!).

    About the post: It is always hard to categorize things because there is no way for an all-encompassing framework to really exist and hold enough detail to be useful in a context; but the frameworks that we make are useful starting points for further developing an idea so that others can see where we are coming from. I like the systemic approach that you are considering. Open systems (which I envision open education as being one of) react to feedback and are ever changing based on that feedback; they are not static.

    I don’t think that open learning (at least what I have seen) is a very well defined, distinguished concept. It seems that the terms surrounding open education are still in flux. Open Education is rarely (if ever) defined without the use of open content or OERs, for example. I tend to think of open learning as the things surrounding and involving the learner (open scholarship, networking, study strategies, etc.) mostly that they have control over, and I think of open pedagogy, open content (& OER), etc. as being components of various open learning environments (which each have distinct characteristics themselves- an overarching term I use is Open Educational Designs [OEDs]). Think about Gagne’s conditions based models here and think about where traditional instructional and learning strategies apply- then expand them to include openness.

    I also like that you are differentiating types of open courses. I tend to be most interested in the closed course with open content and open networking type (Anchored Open Courses) because in my mind they are the most feasible and sustainable long term. I doubt that the traditional higher education structure is really going anywhere, but I do think that it will be modified significantly by digital technologies and openness. I think that a higher education class that is open to all, yet anchored by registered students (hence the Anchored Open Course) and makes use of open content and open pedagogical practices (examples would be David Wiley’s Intro to Open Education or Couros’ EC & I 831 (?) course) allows traditionally enrolled students to partake in a guided instructional situation that also benefits from real-world situations and connections.

    It seems like your characteristics of openness really could all fit under the umbrella of Access, Transparency, and Democracy. This is something to think about as you evolve your ideas on the topic. I tend to identify 6 different areas with open education (transparency and access are two of them).

    Anyway, I don’t want to dominate your comments section, but these are my thoughts on the post. I recently gave a presentation on a similar topic (although it was for a general audience) and I have a paper submitted for the SITE conference with a taxonomy of OEDs. You can find some of that info at my website:

    Overall, I enjoyed the framework and i think that the fact that you are moving along in this direction is a good thing!

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