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chapter 1:Introduction

We often wonder and dream of an alternative universe. What if the web got built by preschool teachers instead of on the libertarian dreams of young white men? What if it took bake sales to fund rather than the boom and bust cycle of buckets of venture capital? Robert Fulghum, in the classic, All I really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten wrote:

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

This, with our own utopian blinders on, we imagine would be a first design principle built into the web if a bunch of Head Start teachers had built the beginning . Meaning community, love, and learning would provide the infrastructure, the an ultimate truth in the Kantian vibe, of the web. In a sense everyone has always wanted this.

In the early days of the web the technology was built by “others.” It was the freaks, geeks, and misfits doing their identity work that built the platforms on the internet. They were stretching the canvas while painting. Today, however, we have lost our sense of agency. The identity worked that empowered a generation now gets sold back to users. Large multinational corporations suck up our personal data and sell it to third party markets. They get rights to all the photos and videos you share. Companies now own the identity work we do.

Learning, as it slowly responded to technology is no different. Universities too often do not see a learner but a data point. They look to technology as a means to cut cost and be more efficient. Meanwhile all the coursework a student completes and all the instructional designs of the educator get locked beyond silos that rival those of of social media corporations. You do not own your learning.

The web has reshaped the way we read, write, and participate as a society. The same transformation is occurring in education but a much slower rate.

We need a better way forward. We must embrace open pedagogy. It is our goal in this text to not define open pedagogy but provide a series of guiding principles that developed after years of research. If we want you to walk away knowing one thing its that open is an attitude. A journey. A noun, a verb, an adjective.

Undefining Open Pedagogy

In fact we will never truly define the term in this book. We are very good at telling you what open pedagogy isn’t. What open pedagogy isn’t is simply technology. What open pedagogy isn’t is free textbooks and course shells to replace adjunct faculty that once replaced tenured professors. What open pedagogy isn’t is a checklist of skills or competencies.

What we can not do, even after writing a book on the subject, is define open pedagogy for you. Instead we ask you to embrace the ambiguity (Belshaw, 2016) of the term, but we also invite you to join us and a crew of others who try to define open pedagogy all over the web. People are publishing pedagogical events and pushing them everywhere. Blog posts and videos fly through all the major social networks. Come hang out with us. Culture is something you build not inherit.

With the rise of what Manuel Castells and Gustavo Cardoso our called our networked society we need more than college and career ready. We should prepare self-programmable learners that are civic and community ready first. A focus on betterment of self and society will always open up opportunities in higher education and the job market. We believe the way to build and model the types of skills and dispositions needed for our world are best taught through open pedagogy.

One point will become abundantly clear in this book. There is a difference between using technology for instruction to integrating online learning into pedagogy. Yes new spaces such as hybrid and blended learning have developed to support learners but they need community more than content. In the first section of the book we try to bring this lesson home as we describe open pedagogy. We begin with a history of open, describe our principles of learning, and then define characteristics of spaces where open pedagogy thrives.

Case Studies of Open Pedagogy

Open pedagogy is more than “unleashing” the power of learning with technology. It is also about providing the opportunity for everyone to enter the new economy. As researchers who have studied the differences in both tech skills and access in a state with the largest income and achievement gaps in United States we know the diversity problem in technology occurs long before the Human Resource Department and we believe open pedagogy provides a path to getting more people of color into STEM fields.

In the second section of the book we highlight efforts to bring open pedagogy into the wild. We describe three settings an elementary classroom in Australia taking part in a global open pedagogy experience called #walkmyworld, a higher education digital storytelling class known as #ds106, and an open source informal learning space focused on building an alternative to the corporate web called #IndieWeb.

As we describe these three case studies we hope to highlight the thought leaders who embrace and help define open pedagogy. The characters are writing the scripts right before our eyes. We would like to acknowledge those who have helped to build the places we discuss in this book. These are our friends and mentors. In the second section of the book we share real life examples of open pedagogy. The stories we share were all collected as part of open research, podcasts or using material published on the hundreds of decentralized blogs. To those who shout the mission of open pedagogy from every rooftop we thank you for placing us, the learners, at the center of your instructional design.

Starting the Journey

While we conclude the book with a section on getting started this is not a story about technology. This is the tale of open pedagogy. Not a yarn of shiny new toys but of real people in digital places. We do our best to provide guidance as you begin to take the first steps of open pedagogy by creating a place online, network with other communities, and finally design a classroom built on open pedagogy.

It should also be noted that simply by adding technology to instruction this does not mean that all learners will be motivated or engaged. Integrating technology into the classroom should not drive instructional decision-making; rather, pedagogical goals and objectives should determine if a hybrid model is the best instructional design. Hutchison and Woodward (2014) argue that when incorporating any digital technology into the classroom, the instructional goal should be the first consideration. Your goals should also be the impetus for reflection after the tool has been implemented.

This can be true of open learning and pedagogical models. Educators must consider their objectives, learning outcomes, and most importantly your learners. Overall we hope to share why open pedagogy is the instructional model most effective for student learning and engagement. We believe that open pedagogy empowers the individual as a learner. The student owns their work. The students gets to decide when and how they want to share their work. Open pedagogy works when we as the students ourselves learn out loud. In many ways open pedagogy is held up by strong pillars of privacy and agency.

Open pedagogy provides an opportunity for sustainable transformation of some of the challenges that permeate teaching and learning in traditional contexts. Mainly by centering the design of learning on the individual while also aliging to values of a larger community. We have reasons for starting off every preschool day with share time. When you value the stories of those around you and provide them the space and agency to tell their tales not only do their skills grow but the world becomes a better place. We still dream this for the web.


  1. The Network Society From Knowledge to Policyby Edited by Manuel Castells and Gustavo Cardoso

introduction.txt · Last modified: 2020/11/29 13:36 (external edit)