learning, teaching and research (archive)

ideas, notes, jottings

learning, teaching and research (archive) header image 2

The Open Scholar

September 21st, 2009 · 1 Comment · web 2.0

One of the most interesting presentations at this year’s ALT-C 2009 in Manchester was the 3rd keynote [slides] given be Terry Anderson. A major theme in his talk was to develop and promote the idea of ‘the Open Scholar’ to complement the accelerating development of both open education content and open learning platforms that potentially add a social and learning network layer to the available content. For me this chimed in very well with Graham Attwell’s impassioned statement of how Web 2.0 platforms and applications could be used to extend education much more broadly outside the confines and silos of formal education institutions during the opening discussion of the FALT09 prgramme. 

I have been thinking for sometime about what sort of useful role I could develop when I retire in a couple of years time that could capitalise on my experience as a teacher and researcher in sociology and who has for a number of years been trying to develop ideas about personal learning environments and networks for students that go beyond the confines of my HE institution and the short length of time they are with us. Both Graham and Terry have provided me with a focus and framework around which to develop my ideas and thoughts. As an experimental way to progress this I have started a Cloud called The Open Scholar where I will collect resources and notes and, hopefully, other colleagues in the open education and edtech community will share any ideas and resources they have or discover. I haven’t yet got my head round how Cloudworks is best used yet but so far it seems to be a sort of social resource aggregation platform with a commenting facility. It can operate as a hub to a network of relevant blog posts and resources where the discussion is dispersed across the listed posts and comments with additional comments on the cloud home page.

To start organising my initial ideas on what is the role of the open scholar I have tried to build on some of the characteristics of a putative open scholar that Terry itemised in his presentations. These are:

  1. Open Scholars Create
  2. Open Scholars Use and Contribute Open Educational Resources
  3. Open Scholars Self Archive
  4. Open Scholars Apply their research
  5. Open Scholars do Open Research
  6. Open Scholars Filter and Share With Others
  7. Open Scholars support emerging Open Learning alternatives
  8. Open Scholars Publish in Open Access Journals
  9. Open Scholars Create Open Access Books
  10. Open Scholars comment openly on the works of others
  11. Open Scholars Build Networks
  12. Open Scholars Lobby for Copyright Reform
  13. Open Scholars Assign Open Textbooks
  14. Open Scholars Induce Open Students
  15. Open Scholars support Open Students
  16. Open Scholars Teach Open Courses
  17. Open Scholars Research Openness
  18. Open Scholars are Change Agents
  19. Open Scholars Battle with Time
  20. Open Scholars are Involved in the Future

My teaching has been sociology at UG and PG level mostly though I have taught the old GCE ‘O’ level as well as ‘A’ level sociology and on various ‘access’ courses for mature students to gain entry to HE without the normal GCE requirements. In addition I have taught level 1, 2 and 3 courses for the OU. So for me the question is what can I offer as an open scholar who can provide support for learners who are interested in sociological ways of understanding the world they live in? In doing this is would undoubtedly be creating knowledge (1) in collaboration with other users of freely available content and resources (2). This process may well help develop new open educational resources of an informal nature (2). Given the tools I would be using – blogs, wikis, Ning, etc. – and the types of content sharing applications – Flickr, Slideshare, Cloudworks, etc. – I would be self archiving (3). Although it will be unlikely that I will have the resources, facilities or backup to do research I would be available as a resource for other researchers through my subject specific scholarship and experience (5). This experience coupled to reading others’ research may be applied to my own practice as an open scholar (4). As a ‘node’ within overlapping networks of open learners I will find, evaluate and recommend resources including other open scholars and learners (6). The communal filtering of resources and people will help develop the authenticity of materials and the informally accredited reputation of individuals. The support of open learning initiatives, tools and content would be achieved by the use and dissemination as well as their evaluation in practice (7). An open learning community, working in the spirit of mutual respect and support, would comment on each other’s work and ideas and encourage one another although to what extent and how this is done with open learners would have to be handled sympathetically and may require privacy at times (10). Open scholars would actively seek and nourish learning networks in order to develop the reach and relevance of their contribution, and their own continuing learning and development (11). To this extent open scholars need to make themselves visible, findable and approachable via profiles, metadata, and active engagement with potential and actual open learning networks. Extra-institutional open scholars will not have opportunities to use copyrighted materials ‘flexibly’ within the relative invisibility of the silos so will have to use freely available materials and will have a vested interest in promoting the liberalisation of educational and other relevant materials most of which are produced by publicly funded academics and researchers anyway and so should be available freely to the public (12). As with all support of learners, a key objective is to help develop the confidence and skills to become independent learners (14, 15). The skills of open learners are to a great extent those of the open scholar and the role of the learner and scholar become increasingly indistinguishable as the mutual benefits of collaborative learning develop. This suggests an important mentoring role for the open scholar and a ‘master/apprentice’ model, perhaps, that succeeds by making itself obsolete. The practice of the open scholar can promote a cultural change in that the dominant conception of education is challenged through example and effectiveness. This is achieved largely through the changes that open education can produce in the conceptions, values and attitudes of those that become engaged in it as open scholars and students (18).  Inevitably open scholars and learners are involved in the future as they are the harbingers and scouting parties for a sustainable and relevant education system that is becoming increasingly necessary (20).

This is a rapid response to Terry Anderson’s thought provoking outline role spec. for an open scholar. Much more could and no doubt will be said and written by others. The role will be developed in practice in tandem with the changing technologies, educational needs and diversifying student and learner constituencies. It seems clear to me that many edtech practitioners and associated academic staff are already engaged in these activities and already meet many open scholar criteria. There is no ‘Open Scholar’ manual or guidelines and it is up to the creative, imaginative and, to some extent, brave and bolshie, to just get on with it and, once again, reinvent themselves.


One Comment so far ↓

Leave a Comment