An Argument for Openness in Digital Media and Learning

The idea of "openness" in how we think about education and our digital world could lead to a better future.

Digital media and learning is making the rounds in the news this week. The New York Times published an article about the innovative school district in Mooresville, NC. In response to this article, many other sites have been discussing what makes this school district unique.

One such response article I found is from a site called ELearnSpace. In this article, the element of “openness” is valued as a critical element to rethinking education. This is a value that Mooresville embraces from the perspective of students having open opportunities and using innovation to spur academic success. The author of ElearnSpace, George Siemens, argues that

Openness has not been oversold and that increased openness (of content, teaching/learning, analytics, policy, data, and technology) is really the only path forward for reform. Systems can be closed and blackboxed only once they are working well and the context in which they exist is stable. When everything is in a state of flux, we need opportunities for ideas to collide, innovations to be shared, concepts to be rehashed and mashedup, and iterative improvements to occur. Education today – at all levels – faces the challenge of tremendous change and unstettledness. Rigid systems break in periods of flux.

In addition, what both articles seem to suggest is that with academics and learning there is power and value in collected information, especially with what is collected on your computer– or what George Siemens calls learning analytics architecture. So just as new forms of digital media and learning are creating open forums for communication, so should the information that is being collected within these forums be open to a larger community for analysis, and open to redevelopment. Perhaps in that way, the successes of schools like those in Mooresville, could be better assessed and their successes better understood. George Siemens outlines what the ideal points for an open learning analytics architecture would be:

  1. Algorithms should be open, customizable for context
  2. Students should see what the organization sees
  3. Analytics engine as a platform: open for all researchers and organizations to build on
  4. Connect analytics strategies and tools: APIs
  5. Integrate with existing open tools
  6. Modularized and extensible

FrameWorks suggests that the public and experts understand these innovations in terms of “education being limitless”, openness could become a part of this larger dialogue – although as noted below there are still barriers to changing the minds of many Americans. In our Digital Media and Learning “Map the Gaps” Report, we speak of the richness of the “limitless idea” that has the potential to bring openness into the digital media and learning dialogue:

The idea that opportunities for learning are “cross-contextual” and extend over space and time was an important element of the expert story. This understanding was also evident in interviews with members of the general public, although this understanding was compartmentalized and restricted in its application to thinking about “real world” learning. Understandings of school learning, unfortunately, were based on more bounded conceptions of learning space and time.

How would you translate the idea of openness in terms of limitless education to others? How can these ideas move the digital media and learning dialogue forward?



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