Tag Archives: MIT

Examining Open Education

open lock

We Participate, Therefore We Are. ~ Brown & Adler

This past week, I had the chance to delve deeper into the idea of open education and open education resources (OER) thanks to both #ETMOOC and the #MediaLabCourse.

Before this week, I hadn’t spent much time considering the differences between “open” and “free” and the power they can bring to people around the world when they are combined together. Free is valuable for the accessibility it provides but open, I discovered, means much more than just making something accessible or available to the public. It also means providing transparency and the blueprint for how and even why something was created. This unique insight into how something was made (e.g., a website, a software program), allows users to make the transition from consumers to creators much more easily. Suddenly, the plans behind a product are not only visible but they’re also “unlocked” and available for re-mixing, mashing, and updating so that they can meet the needs of individual contexts and previously unimagined goals.

It’s quite literally like holding the “secret code” in your hands to a door you might never have known existed before and then being able to enter that code in, walk through the door, and start making changes to the entire architecture of a place, program, or site.

Of course, one of the benefits of the open learning movement and the open education community, is that you don’t have to walk through that door alone. It’s similar to the community that has evolved around #ETMOOC when we all walked through the “door” of this free, open course and began to collaborate together. You join a community of other users who have also entered into an open space and who subscribe to a philosophy of open, shared inquiry and peer-to-peer learning. One of the key takeaways from the open educator’s panel and the Open Learning session I watched was the value and power of the community.

These open source communities serve to provide a place for “legitimate peripheral participation” in the words of Brown & Adler, where the process of joining a community “counts” as learning and new students can “engage in ‘learning to be’ even as they are mastering the content of a field.” I find this so exciting and freeing – the idea that you can learn as-you-go without needing to start as an expert, with the expectation that you will fail sometimes, and you can do it among a community of new peers and colleagues who are eager to support your growth.

mozilla open school

One of the best examples I have found to help concretize and demonstrate open learning is the Mozilla project and specifically Thimble. I was excited to see all of the activity happening for Open Education Week including the launch of Mozilla’s Open Badge system. Of course, after I learned about it, I wanted a badge! So I started a Thimble project that I thought connected well with the open theme: Open Webville, which was created by the new School of Open. In the first project, you have a chance to play with the HTML code for a website while also learning about Creative Commons Licenses by adding new text and CC images.

To make my page, I had an opportunity to dive into learning about and researching Creative Commons (CC) licenses and also HTML and CSS code. Although most of the steps involved things I already knew how to do (e.g., use an href tag, find CC images) I loved the ability to click and learn more details about each piece of code and then add my own to add to it. For example from seeing the HTML in my own blog, I had put together that

  • (list item) is used for lists but I never knew that the
      tag above those meant “ordered list.”

remixed animal

Next, I tried out some literal re-mixing of animals to build a site about my fictional endangered species, the Enchidolmel. While making my page, I had the opportunity to re-mix code in a scaffolded environment, learn about new HTML tags and apply the knowledge I had learned/practiced while making my last page. I was also engaged in learning about real endangered species as I created my fictional animal and maybe most important, I was exposed to the idea that I can be a creator and re-mixer of websites. I was shown that I have the power to take code and images and hack them to create something new that makes sense and holds meaning to me and then I can share that with the world!

These are the types of activities that I think are vital for our students to experience. They hit on so many 21st century skills and breakdown barriers to learning, creation, publication, and sharing. I can’t wait to try another Thimble project … and collect some more badgesHave you tried any? Will you introduce this site to your students? 

Making New #MediaLabCourse Creations!

One of the things I was really excited about when I learned of the Learning Creative Learning course through MIT was the list of activities students would be asked to complete. Since I have just started exploring Scratch with the Super Scratch Programming Adventure! book (I’m only on Stage 3) I appreciated the opportunity to try using Scratch for a different purpose through this course. Likewise, I had emailed the creators of TurtleArt earlier this fall to ask for the software after seeing some project examples at a conference and I was excited to have a reason to try out the programming.

For the Scratch activity, we were asked to “create a Scratch project about things you like to do, then share it” in the course gallery. Below is my very quick attempt at sharing some things I like (technology/computers, beaches, playing and playgrounds).

Scratch Project

Learn more about this project

In week four, we were asked to “Create a project with TurtleArt, and reflect on any “powerful ideas” you engaged with in the process.” I spent some time exploring different TurtleArt commands but all of my creations felt pretty basic. Next, I considered starting from an existing project and then re-mixing it to make it my own, something that could tie into this week’s topic in both this course and #etmooc of Open Learning. I ran into some technical issues and wasn’t able to import any projects so I took some more time to just explore. Then, I decided to use the TurtleArt Cards to mashup some of the different projects into a new creation. I experimented with adding my own ideas along the way and eventually came up with what I called a Garden Maze.

TurtleArt

As I sat outside at a local park and finished reading Papert’s paper on idea power, I took in my surroundings – children laughing and climbing on various structures, sun shining brightly onto my iPad where I was reading, and city sounds whizzing by on either side. Ensconced in this little spot of nature within the busy streets of Philadelphia, I reflected on how valuable these safe spaces for play, exploration and discovery are for all of us in our development as thinkers and idea constructors.

To me, the idea of these spaces is powerful because they remain valuable across domains and it’s an idea that’s also fairly easy to understand, since most people have been exposed to some type of space like this during their lifetime. And of course, this idea is personal because it is something I have discovered through my own experiences. When I have the ability to help create a safe space for play, exploration, and discovery on my own (which for me, involves both quiet and noise, warmth and sunshine, people and solitude, time and a sense of freedom – to try, to learn, and to fail), I consistently engage with ideas in a more meaningful way. I am able to push myself to try new things, to test out Scratch and TurtleArt, even when I feel like I don’t know exactly what I’m doing.

park

Throughout my lifetime, there have been a range of people who have helped expose me to these types of spaces and scaffolded my understanding of them so that I could begin to construct my own understanding of what was necessary to create these spaces. Certain environments, like parks and playgrounds, have supported my experience in learning what these spaces can look like and the different components they often entail. When I think about Papert’s quote, that  “when ideas go to school they lose their power,” I think of the need to change schools and make room for the spaces I spoke of above.

Luckily, I seem to be one of many people who have seen this need and found power in the idea of safe spaces for exploration, discovery, and play (work) because the Maker movement is already working to bring Makerspaces to schools and communities. Hopefully, in time, these spaces will become more accessible and equitable so that all children can have places in school where they can play and explore resources that facilitate the empowerment of ideas again. Just as Papert was a proponent of integrating computer programming in school to help children carry ideas, I think it would be powerful to integrate makerspaces or any space that is safe for children to explore, discover, play/work, fail and try again.