The beauty of open education

This video made me remember a conversation I had with my husband about encyclopedias, two nights ago. In the 80s, encyclopedias were sold door to door in Brazil as well as in other parts of the world. Textbooks and encyclopedias were the main sources of knowledge available at the time. Encyclopedias were outdated mainly because families would rarely buy a new collection if they owned a full set. There were no encyclopedias in my house. So, I had to go to the school library to borrow an encyclopedia for my research papers. I never took them home though since they were super heavy, and I usually needed less than 1/4 of a page for my homework. As with many companies, Britannica also had to adapt to new technologies and no longer sells encyclopedias door to door.

Last weekend, my nephew, who is in grade 10, was telling us about his sociology class. His professor gives students the topic, and students need to find the content online and answer some questions on the topic to discuss in their next class.

Encyclopedia_Britannica_(crop).jpg
Image by WestportWiki

Wait! I had to go to the library and borrow one of those heavy books to do my homework, and my nephew is not only allowed but required to use the Internet to do his homework? My young self would say, this is not fair!

Let’s do something together! Let’s pretend we do not have access to the Internet, but we all have encyclopedias on our home shelf, and our professor, Dr. Couros, asks us to do some research on “open education.” We all would open volume XVII of our encyclopedia collection (or another volume, if you have a collection older or newer than mine), look for the term “open education,” and COPY the definition. After little effort and little knowledge acquired, our homework is ready.

I was going to link the definition for “open education” through the online Encyclopedia Britannica, but, to my surprise, I can’t find the reference for this term there! What? What is the goal of an online encyclopedia if it does not include current and important words and terms? Not satisfied with this, I tried to find a definition for “digital identity.” Okay, forget the online encyclopedia. At least they know that Trump is the 45th president of the United States. :|

Now, back to our reality. Dr. Couros gave us some web links to videos on open education and the culture of sharing. Some of us will watch all the videos, others will watch some of the videos, and few students will search for extra sources on the topic. We will all write about this on our blogs, read and comment on each other’s understandings of the topic, and be ready for the discussion on the topic in our next class. This activity will be possible through access to interesting and diverse resources, more knowledge will be acquired (if compared to the knowledge found in encyclopedias), and the beauty of learning and sharing through collaboration will happen. As the Brazilian singer, Gilberto Gil, said, “collaboration is the nature of creation; [and] creation is a chain reaction”. My blog post is a creation based on my reaction to all the sources I read and watched before writing it.

My #eci831 classmates and I collaborate to online conversations and the creation of knowledge through our course blogs. The chain reaction is created when we link previous work to our posts, and when we read and comment on each other’s blogs. Do you remember when we were asked to disable comment moderation on our blogs? I thought about this when I was watching Lawrence Lessig’s TED talk and his explanation about the trespass law. Is comment moderation a way to try to protect our land (blog)? If we cannot control “who flies over our land” (reads our blogs), why do we think we can control what people do with the content we share online? We better learn what, how, and when to share.

And if you are like me, still learning to navigate this open education world and sometimes unsure about the repercussion of your blog posts or tweets, don’t worry; we will learn how to stop being passive consumers and start being the collaborators. As Ze Frank and lots of other people collaboratively sang, we’ll be fine; just breathe.

Just an update: this is Britannica’s response to my tweet:

Do you think my tweet was a way to collaborate with Britannica? Hopefully, after my public tweet, there will be a definition of “open education” on their website. :D

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