A Tentative Toe Dip: #OpenLearning17

I just found out about #OpenLearning17: A Connectivist MOOC for Faculty Collaboratives. Since I’m already on a quest to learn more about open education as I revise one of my primary courses, I figured I’d give it a whirl. To be quite honest, I have no idea what a faculty collaborative is :). It sounds interesting though, doesn't it? Must look that up. 

In this week 1 video conversation between Gardner Campbell and Laura Gogia, the topic turns to what causes people who have not been involved in connected learning to jump in. Being on the precipice myself, I thought I’d reflect on that a bit.

gren sunflower calyx on wooden board

What’s stopping me from embracing openness in my teaching & scholarship?

One thing that has stopped me is the vulnerability of posting publicly online – by sharing blog posts (like this…yeek!), tweeting and such. I don’t necessarily want to deal with trolls or combative commenters, particularly when I am still learning my way around a new platform/field/concept. (This also relates to the whole ‘I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT so I should probably keep my mouth shut’ concept.) I know that I’m easily thrown off course and sensitive, and that’s one thing that holds me back.

Another daunting task is making connections online. Many of my “real life” colleagues and peers do not populate the same spaces as me online, and I’m not good about jumping in to conversations or groups in the virtual world.

(NOTE: I did actually comment on another blog as part of this course today. Super proud of myself.)

Lastly, it ain’t easy. In the sciences in particular, I feel like there are some limitations to openness that may not exist in the same way in humanities classes. I struggle with this. For example, students in my classes need to learn about kidney physiology because they could potentially be creating your meal plan when you’re on dialysis. When we have openness and choice, what happens if they don’t learn about the nephron? Is it entirely open if I insist that everyone have a basic understanding of the nephron? How do we have a single open class in a degree program that isn’t necessarily entirely open?

What pushes me forward?

1) I am nothing if not experimental. I love trying new things in my teaching and can see the possibility that lies in connectivist/open teaching practices.

2) I see the need for more affordable and accessible resources for my students, especially those who struggle to pay for textbooks and course materials and/or those who learn best by methods other than textbook readings.

3) I want to create open access resources, and want to learn more about what’s involved in that.

Note to My Future Self

In the reading for #OpenLearning17 this week – Fifty Shades of Open – the authors discuss the idea of open as participatory. If I’m reading correctly, they are saying that there is no reason to have open source, open access, open permissions or open whatever else if people are not going to USE that openness to shape the tool or resource into something new, something their own. The openness is pointless without people who have the desire and ability to manipulate and use the material.

This had me reflecting on the idea that if/when I create a truly open course, the students will need to participate in ways that may feel different or challenging to them. Most are not used to being asked to manipulate and transform material, but rather are accustomed to consuming it whole (absorption before digestion, one might say?). In the same ways that I feel challenged to post my thoughts publicly and to engage with others online in this course, students may feel reluctant and/or scared to engage in new ways in my theoretical future course.

I hope this is something I can keep in mind, even in ten or fifteen years when I will (presumably!?) be well-versed in the ways of openness.

Thoughts? Add your comments here. 

  • Hi, Camille. This journey you’re on and your open reflections about it are so inspiring. I can’t wait to work with you at MUIH, Keep up this important work!

    • Witt, hi. Thank you for posting. I’m so excited to work with you, too. I have a running list of things to speak with you about, actually :). Really looking forward to comparing notes and learning from you. Hopefully we can connect soon after you get up and running!

  • A quick hello! I wanted to stop by to say how much I love the beautiful photos on your site. I was wondering if you are the photographer? They are lovely, and as a reader they make me want to stop and stay for a while :). I also love the way you use different font sizes, bullet/numbers, shorter paragraphs…all of these things are *so* important when writing on the web in terms of readability/accessibility. Reading on a screen is different from reading on a page…and you’re a natural :). As you know (because you watched the video :)), I am here in the #openlearning17 community to help as everyone takes their tentative toe-dips into public learning and scholarship. I think you are off to a wonderful start and I look forward to reading more in the future. Please let me know if I be of service related to anything specific.

  • Hi Camille,

    We met at the DPL conference here in Fredericksburg (thanks for the recommendation of HAPS – a proud and active (ish) member now!). Your thoughts that science is more difficult to do ‘openly’ is a near universal sentiment! I’ve thought about this quite a bit, and have squared it this way: Though the facts and figures of science are (mostly) set in place for a reason, the philosophy and openness comes from our method of conveying the information. I think that the ‘daunting-ness’ of many science disciplines (esp. physiology and biochemistry) comes from the tenacity with which ‘we’ hold on to the old-school method of lecture, lab, exam, repeat. New ways of conveying this information – there is a national initiative (or was… I imagine things are in flux) to incorporate more active learning (shameless buzz word, I know) techniques into our classroom – are always being sought, implemented, then kept or thrown out.
    So perhaps this is where ‘open’ can come into science. Not in debating scientific fact directly, but sharing (and yes, debating) the best and most innovative ways to convey the complex information of science disciplines with an effective, convincing, and friendly demeanor.

    • Parrish, hi! I’m hoping to go back to the DPL this year & to HAPS in SLC – maybe I’ll see you there? I agree that much of the openness in our field can and should come from different pedagogy. I’m intrigued by the idea of badges as a way to mark progress & allow flexibility biochem/phys, although I think the 15-week semester constricts the possibilities. The PBL model used in some med schools is also intriguing, although like the badging model I’m not sure that it can be executed successfully in a single course v. an entire program…

  • Hi Camille,

    Steve Greenlaw (pedablogy.org) messaged me on Twitter and said “wow, what a first post–you’ve got to see this!” And I have to say that he was 100% correct. Your “thinking aloud” voice is insightful and welcoming. Your thoughts have helped bring some things into focus for me as well, particularly your key insights into the “Fifty Shades” article. I’m so glad you’re with us! Welcome!

    • Thank you! That was so kind of Steve, whose blog I am looking forward to exploring, and of you to head over here with a warm welcome. It makes a difference.

  • Welcome Camille! I love your post, because you most of the concerns people new to open education have. Don’t worry about presenting great insights; instead, please ask questions about anything you don’t understand. (Hint: Good questions are often more useful than good insights.) It’s great to have another scientist join the course. Final point: There is no one way to do open. I don’t know of anyone who goes cold turkey/totally open the first time out of the box, nor is that necessarily correct for any teacher in every context. Experiment and see what works for you, and if you make students a little uncomfortable along the way, that’s how real learning takes place.

    • Steve, thank you for your kind words & encouragement! I appreciate the reminder that it’s not necessary to jump in with both feet right out of the gate.

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    Camille Freeman (she/her)

    Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist specializing in fertility and reproductive health. I faciliate the Monday Mentoring community of practice and offer continuing eduation programs for highly trained herbalists & nutritionists. I'm also a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating.