Open education is one of those things that I can’t help but love. The idea that information, resources or research should be locked down and accessible only to a privileged few is fundamentally opposed to my personal opinion that education is a basic human right that should be available to everyone.
I have learnt A LOT from people generously sharing their time, their research or their resources with me. Whether I was working with a mentor teacher who freely allowed me to use their resources, gathered through years of hard graft and experience, or jumping online to seek the combined brain power of my PLN, I learn every day from others. I stand on the shoulders of giants. I have been fortunate. I could have been born in any country, at any time, but I happened to be born in a country where education was freely accessible to both boys AND girls, and to parents who valued education and made sure I worked hard at the best school they could afford for me to attend. I completed not one but multiple University courses (a Bachelor of Business, Grad Dip in Education, Grad Dip in Religious Education, Grad Cert in ICT in Education and a Master of Education in Teacher Librarianship) which I could afford because the government provided student loans, which I have now paid off. I continue my education via a well developed PLN and participation in Moocs such as Open Network Learning and E-Learning and Digital Cultures and now I have begun a Doctorate in Education, where I am studying how social media might enhance teachers professional learning, so I can hopefully contribute something back. I know that not everyone has these opportunities. Some girls are born where education is just not an option for them. Some countries have education systems that are so unaffordable that it is out of the reach of many. I also realise that not everyone is academically inclined, and may want to pursue some other type of learning, such as an apprenticeship or trade. The point is that if you want to learn, you should be able to.
When I have not been a student at University (which is only short periods of time!!) I know that I can access some (but not all) research databases through our State Library (YAY SLQ!!). However, much knowledge is locked down in these databases, and not open unless you are participating in a Uni course. This isn’t right. Research in these databases has been written by academics who were probably keen to share their learning and findings with as many people as possible, and Journals and Database suppliers charge exorbitant amounts to provide access to such a select audience. I am so happy to see the proliferation of Open Access Journals, and to find that a growing number of researchers/experts/writers/academics are sharing their work using Creative Commons licencing to receive attribution while allowing their work to be freely used.
Universities like Athabasca are leading the way in exploring models that are open and accessible, providing flexible learning that takes advantage of the affordances of technology and reflects the complexity of life in 2016. Professors like Dr Alec Couros are modelling ways to be an open educator, and Dr Doug Belshaw leads the way in finding how we can use creative tools like digital badging to recognise learning in different ways. Being open is about understanding that while we might work hard and want to receive recognition for our work, the best form of recognition is when someone takes our work and uses it in a way we never imagined. It is about changing our mindset about ‘how we do things’ and accepting that in a world where we can never ever know everything, learning and knowledge have fundamentally changed.
I know that it isn’t as simple as all this. I realise that this is a complex, huge issue, and that the world won’t change overnight. However, I do believe that if we share just one thing as often as we can; a tweet, a blog post, a photo, a discovery – we can all contribute to bringing this change about. If we ask the question ‘How might we…’ when next we find ourselves in a meeting, or raise the idea of publishing using Creative Commons, we have made a huge contribution.
The world is a tricky place. Let’s all work together to make it that little bit easier to understand by making education open, so that we all have a chance to learn from each other.