Another fine mess.

Dr Chuck Pearson

I need excuses to try new things, or: Saying Hello to #OpenLearning17

with 3 comments

I’m getting ready to go to bed, honest.

But before I go to bed, I need to thank Autumm for reminding me of what I heard at OpenEd – that #OpenLearning17 is a thing, and is happening, and I’d fully intended on being a part of it.

Even as I’m still getting my arms around this demanding new job in this demanding new place, I am going to take a few hours of my time this spring to (attempt to) keep up with this and make a few public comments along the lines of this here syllabus. I have plenty of good reasons – nah, let’s be real, excuses – for doing so:

1. I’m still an Open Education neophyte. I threw in a couple of last-minute assists towards one open educational resource in particular that I love a lot, but OER are one thing; that’s not fully shifting your attitudes towards the classroom or your methods of teaching to give the learner more control and to give you less. I want to see more of what my peers at other institutions are doing.

2. I speak for two groups of faculty that don’t tend to get a whole lot of attention in these dialogues.

  • I’m science faculty, and historically physical science faculty (although I seem to be focusing a lot more on biology these days, darn that cross-disciplinary doctorate) and I’ve had roles in pre-professional education and pre-professional advising in particular. Premeds get a very precise list of courses they have to take to prepare for a very precise standardized exam that plays a very outsized role in their admissions process. Other pre-professionals (pre-dentistry, pre-optometry, pre-pharmacy) have different precise demands. The things asked of those teaching and advising those students don’t tend to get associated with “student agency.” How do we take well-defined – even overly-defined – curricula and bring open attitudes towards our work there?
  • I’m employed at a private (or, to use the industry euphemism, an “independent”) institution with less selective admissions in the Central Appalachians. When you think of private colleges, you think of places that have large endowments and a wealth of resources – environments that I have never worked in.  And when you hear of institutions tending towards open access, you think community colleges or regional state universities, not privates. The vast majority of my students are either local or are student-athletes drawn from a wider region (but still generally East Tennessee or border counties of nearby states). There are a lot of faculty like me, but I don’t hear too many of the voices like mine among the open education community. How do we take our rurally-educated, tradition-conditioned students and reveal the possibilities available to them?

3. I’ve had an occasion or two to start conversations locally about what Open Education is and how to go about implementing it – despite the fact that, at present, I’m not really anything that resembles a role-model. (This semester will be, I fully hope, my last pass at teaching organic chemistry for some time. Am I having my students purchase access to a vendor’s proprietary software so I don’t reinvent the wheel for a class that I may never teach again? You betcha. There’s open practices, and then there’s essential laziness, and I am fully embracing the latter right now.) I need more deliberate ideas for how I go about becoming somebody who has practices that can be pointed to, especially if (as above) I’m constructing those practices specifically within that premed-education context.

4. I still have a ton of thoughts throwing around my head about my fall, and everybody’s fall in particular, and a really stupid election, and a really amazing conference, and these people who have come into my life both locally and internationally and have been inspiration and dedication and love. I’m not going to get them out without a framework. This is a nifty and relevant framework. Let’s go, then.

5. OMG YOU MEAN I MIGHT GET COACHING FROM @GOOGLEGUACAMOLE WELL THAT’S ALL THE EXCUSE I NEED RIGHT THERE I AM IN AND I MEAN I AM ALL IN YOU GUYS

So, #OpenLearning17, then. I’m going to speak up, and probably be kind of dumb doing so, and probably leave myself open to be shouted down a bit. That’s fine. I have a lot to learn.

Be patient with me. I will be listening.

But first, sleep.

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Written by chuckpearson

23 January 2017 at 04:11

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3 Responses

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  1. I’m a newbie, too! I’ve also been struggling with some of these same ideas when it comes to open education when teaching the sciences. (I teach physiology to students who will be sitting for nutrition/dietetics licensing exams.) I’m using a publisher’s homework program in one of my courses right now for the same reasons: partly due to the effort involved in finding an alternative, and partly because it’s actually quite good. Much better than anything I could create on my own. At the same time, I recognize the financial burden it places on students and the limitations it places on my teaching. Hoping to switch to OpenStax A&P soon, and there’s so much else to consider. Thanks for sharing your ideas. Looking forward to seeing how things move along.

    Camille Freeman

    23 January 2017 at 20:52

    • This might be the most substantive comment ever on thishere blogspace! :)

      I can’t recommend the work of the OpenStax folk enough – the capacity to remix the text and revise for specific needs on the back of a well-established textbook is so, so wonderful. I don’t know the A&P text specifically (because once you get more sophisticated than a single cell I start to get dumb…I embrace my “accidental biologist” identity) but I’ve only heard good things.

      Follow along and please keep me honest…

      chuckpearson

      24 January 2017 at 11:36


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