Thinking toward an open pedagogy
I’ve been involved in a number of “next generation” social software discussions recently, working toward real models of the conceptual idea I mentioned from Stephen Downes presentation—that we are moving from a centralized, LMS focused environment to a student-centered online learning arrangement. I’ve been trying in my mind to tie these discussions down to how the models might be used to teach the introductory fiction writing materials than have become the OpenFiction Project.
When I first taught with the materials as a distance learning course, they were framed inside an LMS (first BlackBoard and them WebCT), but the materials themselves were built into a stand-alone web site mostly because those systems were awful at managing large amounts of text content, and also because I didn’t want to build my content into a school-owned system. This happenstance made it relatively easy for me to reincarnate the materials as tOFP.
tOFP has now grown into something beyond simply course materials—it’s an embodiment in cyberspace of my professional and creative interests that includes not just course materials, but also my resume, my notebook (this blog) and spaces that invite (mostly unsuccessfully so far) participatory interaction from others with similar interests. It is a playspace that allows me to explore the new tools becoming available on the web in the contexts of OER sharing and creative writing.
I haven’t taught since coming to MIT in January 2003, and I find myself wondering more and more how I might wed this new open resource that is tOFP with actual teaching in a classroom environment. I don’t think I’d go back to teaching pure distance learning courses, as I really enjoy the classroom and live instruction, but I do think the course might well be taught in a hybrid fashion, with reduced seat time. I can see sort of the general outline—no LMS and as open an environment as is practical, allowing the learning to be transparent to unenrolled visitors, inviting some external participation; a process that leverages students’ existing digital lives rather than asking them to replicate them in a closed system.
Right now the direction I’m thinking is a mashup of tOFP with the tools that students already use—blogs sites, MySpace, etc—such as David and Stephen Downes are discussing. Some students obviously won’t be using these tools, so they’d have to start. But the question is, how these tools come together for a class? Do individual participants aggregate related materials via rss readers? Is there an intermediate open platform that draws together resources created and identified by participants? A carnival model? What are the opportunities and challenges in each?