(Open) Attitude is Everything, Part 1

Cross-posted at The Educators’ Cafe.

Time for change
After reflecting on the sessions I participated in, viewing the archives of the sessions I couldn’t participate in, reading blog posts, and skimming Storifys of #ETMOOC Topic #4: The Open Movement – Open Access, OERs & Future of Education, my brain is once again in a state of jumbled awesomeness.  As stated in the introduction to Topic #4,

…the Open Movement is an umbrella term that describes a number of overlapping and interrelated movements that, collectively, support the idea of a free and open society in the Arts, Education, government, computing/code, research, technology, medicine, copyright/copyleft, and other key areas.

In Part 1 of my reflection on the Open Movement, I will explore the trouble I am having separating my different roles in education as I navigate my way through this particular topic with a particular focus on higher education: 

1.  classroom teacher
2.  instructional technology specialist
3.  graduate student (until December 2012)
4.  parent

First and foremost, I am an educator, whether thinking about my role as a classroom teacher for 19 years or as instructional technology specialist/classroom teacher for the last 9 of those 19 years.  Sharing is part of my DNA.  I simply cannot imagine NOT sharing resources, lesson plans, ideas, or time.  I was an early adopter of education technology, and the Internet made learning and sharing so much easier!  I curated resources and shared them on my webpage (No judging…cringe, comic sans!  This is a an early version, my oldest site is no longer available.) as a resource for students and parents.  As instructional technology specialist, I took sharing to the next level by curating resources for the teachers, students and parents in the K-8 school in which I worked, however, that was part of the job description, or that’s how I understood the job description.  As Dean Shareski said, “Sharing = Accountability.” 

As a student until this past December, I experienced various levels technology integration during my MAT and PhD coursework, but I wouldn’t say I was exposed to open education.  I would venture to say that my experience was not that much different than most and having said that, I feel changes are inevitable for higher education.  George Siemens, in his Open Letter to Canadian Universities, states my fears regarding higher education so much better than I can:

I’m concerned that the ossification of higher education institutions, and a complete failure to build capacity for adaptation, will produce a bonanza for educational technology start-ups at the expense of the university’s role in society.

The current generation of leaders are overseeing the large-scale dismantling of the public university. Piecemeal outsourcing, growing prominence of adjuncts, and tendering key functions of the university (online course development), are creating a context where the university will no longer be able to direct its own fate.

As a parent of two young adults who each earned Bachelor degrees, one who graduated with no debt (state university), and the other with about $11,000 in debt (private liberal arts college), it is increasingly difficult to justify going back to school to earn an advanced degree when the careers they are interested in pursuing are changing at such a rate that their degrees could be obsolete by the time they graduate, not to mention the debt they would incur and the lack of job stability/opportunities in the current climate and foreseeable future.  In addition, there aren’t programs of study that adequately address or explore their interests.  Colleges and universities can’t keep up with the changing employment landscape.  This is where open education comes in by providing opportunities for people to gather and learn for the sake of learning, just as we do in #etmooc. 

The problem with open education at the higher education level is how do you prove your learning in these platforms?  Portfolio?  Badges?  Who is going to judge what a badge is worth?  Someone (sorry) mentioned something to the effect, ‘It’s not what you know, but what you do with what you know.’  Who is to judge?  Questions of quality abound!  I find the prospect of corporate funding of MOOCs extremely disturbing.  As Will Richardson recently stated in his post, We Need More Democracy in Education, Not Less, we need to protect our “freedom to learn…about the things we think you should learn in the ways we think you should learn them.”  It all goes back to the basic media literacy themes of authorship, format, audience, content, purpose, and eventual effects.  Replace the word ‘message’ with ‘course’ when considering the following media literacy questions:  Who created this message?  Why (profit? persuasion? education?)?  Who paid for this message?  How do you know? 

I know.  I’m sounding pessimistic and paranoid, which is out of character for me.  It’s just that I care deeply about education at all levels, but somehow what is happening (or not happening) at the higher education level is really bothering me.  Paul Signorelli was wrestling with open education and rhizomatic learning the other day and wrote the following that I think applies to learning at all levels:    

For at the heart of all this is a wonderfully philosophical question that also has tremendous potential repercussions for how we develop, deliver, and facilitate training-teaching-learning in our onsite-online world: what can we do to build upon the best of our traditional models of learning while incorporating the techniques and tools that are quickly becoming available to us, show no sign of slowing down, and may have evolved further by the time you’re actually reading this?

I know a lot of people feel we need to turn the traditional models of learning upside-down or throw them out completely.  Admittedly, the existing model is struggling to stay relevant, but exactly how do we reform our educational system?  Who gets to decide what changes take place?  Who will these changes benefit:  corporations, institutions, society, or learners?  In a recent post, Hacking at Education:  TED, Technology Entrepreneurship, Uncollege, and the Hold in the Wall, Audrey Watters offers the following review: 

But what happens, when we “hack education” in such a way that our public institutions are dismantled? What happens to that public good? What happens to community? What happens to local economies? What happens to social justice?

Harold Jarche wrote an interesting piece, Keep democracy in education, where he stated,

I think we may soon get invited to another shotgun wedding, this time between techno-utopians, with financial speculators as bridesmaids, and libertarians, who feel the state and teachers have screwed-up education. It’s education as socialization, but socialization to the dominant business paradigm.

Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest, what do you think:

1.  about the state of higher education?
2.  about open education?
3.  we can do to make education at all levels more relevant?
4.  about the corporatization of our educational institutions–from charters to universities?