This week, we were asked to think about the consequences and complexities of learning “in the open”. This is something that I have often debated and dabbled in throughout my teaching career and I am excited to be jumping in to a space where I am a little more comfortable with implementing open learning in my classroom.
I have seen student blogs done well, I remember taking ECMP 355 (I think that was the number) with Alec in my undergrad studies and commenting on the student blogs of a Calculus class, asking questions and encouraging the students writing them to think outside of the box and, ever since then, I imagined a classroom where I would do the same. In reality, I struggled with access to technology, bandwidth, and student and community support in implementing blogs. I also had to grapple with an experience that many of my students had where using blogs was not as well planned as it could have been and they had a “sour taste in their mouths” about the process.
What are the best possible outcomes of having students share their work with the greater world? I can’t even brush the surface of the benefits! Having students be advocates in their own learning, asking questions, and making connections to experts or others that are interested in a topic are just a start. In taking students to Europe on a tour of World War sites, I had the opportunity to invite a Holocaust survivor to Skype into our classroom and share her story. As a group, we had read her two books on the experiences she had at Theresienstadt, a concentration camp, and we arranged a question and answer period with her during the school day. To top it off, she happened to come to Regina and we were able to take some students to meet her face to face. The learning that those students experienced could never be replicated by me talking, them reading or us watching a video. What if every student could connect to an “expert” or someone who has spent their lifetime investing in a particular hobby and learn from that person? What if they could ask their questions to someone who was present at an event? This may not be plausible for all situations but there are many where an expert can take a lesson from “blah” to amazing in no time at all!
What about the dangerous side of the internet? The side that may harm our students? I agree with Nam that our students are vulnerable and we need to understand that there are those online that do wish them harm. Some of them (or their parents) may value their privacy of not being on the internet, such as Joe mentioned in his blog. Not only do we need to be aware of those who may try to physically harm our students, we need to be aware of trolls and cyber-bullying, not just from the outside but from inside our classroom as well. The key to supporting our students is to ensure that we start their “open education” with digital citizenship.
Digital citizenship encompasses all the ways that we interact with others, either actively (commenting, posting, sharing) or passively (viewing) online. Coralee found a great image that describes the aspects of digital citizenship below.
By ensuring our students have a deep understanding of what it means to be a digital citizen, we are teaching them how to interact and how to protect themselves online. It is not enough to teach students the aspects of digital citizenship, teachers need to model this and hold true to their teachings, not being afraid to talk about the repercussions of those that were not acting safely and encourage conversation about issues such as cyber-bullying and how to prevent it.
Overall, is having our students learn in the open worth it? I would answer a definite yes. Not all teachers may feel comfortable with using open education at young ages but, in looking at educators such as Kathy Cassidy, with the right framework and planning, I think that it is always doable. I think the key is to start slow and gradually add to your reptoire of teaching tools.
Have you integrated different types of open education in your classroom? What types of activities have you used? Let me know!