Does Open equal authentic?

So, how do I feel about Open Education?  Quite frankly, I love it!  

There’s always some flexibility in what I learn, how I learn it, and who I learn it with…but wait, let me clarify a little.

I am an adult learner, meaning I chose to be here and I want to learn.  The sometimes ‘unstructure’ of Open Education, to me, is exciting, challenging, and a way for me to discover what I am passionate about (in a somewhat directed way).  In addition to that, I get to learn from others’ perspectives while I am considering my own (which I would argue, helps me to better understand what I am learning about in ways that I might not otherwise).  Additionally, it is the ‘unstructure’ in the forums and postings that really broadens my understanding of the topic.  When classmates aren’t all answering the same questions in the same ways on their postings, and instead are considering it from a perspective that is meaningful to them, the breadth and depth of learning increases greatly.

As an adult learner, I have also experienced classes done through a Learning Management System  in my experience, these classes have been done with a ‘one size fits all’ mentality (everyone do the exact same readings, answer the exact same questions- in this many characters or less, and respond to 3 of your classmates thoughts).  For me, as an adult learner, I DON’T need someone to control how a discussion flows.  I don’t need to be limited as I am trying to acquire (and make meaning of) new information.  I want as much information as I can find, I want to understand how others understand the information, and I want to engage in meaningful interactions as I am piecing my understanding together.

That being said, am I against LMS in a K-12 setting?  Absolutely not.  There is something to be said for scaffolding and teachers having the ability to organize and manage courses (and students) as they learn to maneuver the online space (and their digital footprint).  

Does that mean that forums in K-12 settings must all be contrived and controlled?  Does that mean that students should all read the same material and respond to the same questions and a set number of people?

Maybe it’s just me, but that kind of seems like it’s on the lower end of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Additionally, I’ve been there as a student, and I don’t think it is as authentic or engaging.

via Flickr

Can conversations in ‘closed online spaces’ be authentic for K-12 learning?

I think there is absolutely potential for this to happen, but it depends on the systems you choose to use, how you set the space up, and as a teacher, the amount of control you are willing to give up.

For instance, can we implement SeeSaw and open the space to families? Can we connect two or more grade 6 classrooms (in the same school or not) to collaborate on Google+ community?  These can be ‘closed’ forums that still allow for an audience and interactions (even beyond the walls of our classrooms).

Also, as the instructor/facilitator are we giving one black and white question to consider for the post?  Are we giving multiple options of things to consider?  Do the questions we pose have a ‘right’ answer?  Are we limiting how much our students have to say about a topic (ie. 250 words)? Are we dictating how many interactions they need to complete in a week, or are we allowing them to respond to the things they connect with?  
There’s always more than one way to solve a problem (or explain your thinking), and as teachers I think it’s our responsibility to let students find their voice.   


16 thoughts on “Does Open equal authentic?

  1. Amy, I like how you describe LMS as a “one size fits all” mentality. I think that there are a lot of people that like rules. The one size fits all model allows people to not be surprised, have clear boundaries and expectations as well as it allows them to stick to the syllabus. It is a truly safe place to be. On the other hand there are those that like freedom. challenge, surprise and the ability to go beyond the syllabus. I agree that closed online spaces have potential for authentic learning and discussions. By considering the questions you posted (at the end) authenticity can be achieved.

    1. Thanks for your input Benita! I agree, some like ‘rules’ and ‘knowing’ how to achieve a ‘good’ mark. But I would argue that wanting to ‘check off boxes’ so you know you will get a good mark does not equal authentic learning, it is more about marks than it is about the understanding. That’s why I call it a ‘one size fits all’ mentality. I see it as: complete these tasks, give the ‘right answers’, the teacher holds the key to the knowledge and you need to demonstrate their understanding to get a mark…

      For me, those spaces are not about students thinking and understanding, it is about the teachers. That’s why I think when an LMS is set up with the constraints and perimeters, it can’t be called authentic. (That being said, it’s not using an ‘open’ format that will cause it to be authentic either!)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    2. Thanks Benita! I had a response all typed out to you, and it just disappeared, so I’m going to try again!

      While I agree that the closed LMS I experienced can be a safe space for some (they know what is expected of them to get a ‘good grade’) I would argue that those situations are more about getting the ‘right answer’ (as determined by the teacher), which is NOT authentic learning, it is simply about getting all of the things checked off the list that an instructor expects in order to get a good grade – not to develop a true understanding of something.

      Additionally, I don’t believe that going ‘open’ in your course ultimately leads to an authentic experience just because it is open. Which is why I think there is potential to have authenticity in a limited space, but it depends on how it is designed, implemented and facilitated.

      Thanks for sharing your insights on this!

  2. Great post Amy. I agree with you 100% that we are able to learn so much from our peers in the open spaces we take part in through this class. I love your idea of how to broaden the audience of a closed system by combining classes.

  3. I think that open and closed forums have benefits and advantages. I think that you have raised a good point in discussing the different age groups that one might be more appropriate for. The closed format is probably best for younger students and I think it would be an awesome idea to combine multiple classes so that students can discuss with others outside of their classroom. I don’t think I would be comfortable having an open forum even with high school students. I think it would depend on how active it is and who it is open to. I worry about trolls and other negative issues, but that being said I have my students blog publicly and we have yet to have any negative experiences (other than spam comments). The negative issues do provide teachable moments though.

    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective Ashley! I’m wondering if you could elaborate about what makes you hesitant to go open if blogging has been positive and successful? I’m wondering if (aside from trolls) there are reasons that are preventing it?

  4. Great post Amy! I completely agree that a lot of it comes down to control. When we let go of some control, experiences can become more authentic. Thinking back to my online experiences, when it becomes more controlled (i.e. discussion forums with very closed questions), I don’t believe the knowledge exchange to be authentic. However, blogs like this, where it is more open and free, where the teachers have a little less control, the exchanges are more real and meaningful. There is also a definite differences between the learners – be they in elementary, middle, high school, or if they are adult learners. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Liz, ironically, I think I thrive as a teacher when I am in control! I have often wondered if I feel strongly that we should scaffold young children in their online learning through closed platforms simply because I’m not ready to give up control… I think there’s a big possibility that this is the case (as I’m pretty sure young students are more than capable of posting!)

  5. Great post Amy! Your post this week really deepened my understanding of the concept of open education! Thank you for sharing your experience working with both open and closed forums. I too am enjoying the concept of open education! I am beginning to realize how much more I am learning from others, beyond my own perspective!

  6. I agree with you; open does not necessarily mean that it’s authentic. I’m looking forward to trying an open class to see if what I think will work in theory actually works in practice. Thanks for this post!

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