OpenFiction [Blog]

Distributed apprenticeship and OER reuse

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on October 11, 2005

So here I go, conflating my thinking on producer culture, comments by John Seely Brown and the challanges of understanding how OERs get reused by educators. Brown, in both his presentation at an Educause event and USU’s COSL Conference, discussed how some online communities of producers operated through what he described as distributed apprenticeship (I’m pulling the term from my admittedly shakey memory, but this is the phrase I took away). He gave open source projects as an example, in which people join the community by lurking on the periphery, learn from more established members of the community, and move to the center by making increasing valuable contributions.

I’m going to make the crazy suggestion that we think of the users of OERs not as an “audience” or “consumers” adapting content made avaiable for their secondary use, but as a community of producers creating educational materials that both help them to develop their understanding of their field and also help them communicate it to very specific audiences they serve. The point being that a large part of what they are seeking in OERs is not the what, but the how. How did this other educator approach the topic? What techniques were used to communicate the material? In what order were concepts presented? How do assignments build on one another? I know this specific content won’t work for my students because it has the wrong X, but I can create something like it with the right X, and learn something new about the subject and how to teach it as I do.

I’m sure there will be significant use in which content is repurposed directly or in modified form, and I’d guess over time, concensus will coalesce around formats and conventions that will make this easier. But too much thought about the what can push aside the how, and conversations I’ve had with educators from the Middle East and Asia indicate to me there is a tremedous amount of interest in how you foster creative and critical thinking. Sure, it’s nice to have the content, and know that it’s from a reputable institution, but schools want to know how to approach their students in ways that encourage more than rote memorization. In trying to make the what universal, I’m afraid we strip away some of the context that explains the how…


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