The template I created is not for a class I have taught before. Rather, it is for a new course I am designing this summer: EGL 204: Introduction to Literary Interpretation and Argumentation. I have decided to apply an Open Pedagogy philosophy, using lots of OER and reusable assignments.
I have aligned the assignments to the English Department’s Learning Objectives. I have also incorporated assignments that will create materials that future students can use and then improve in later sections of the course.
The assignments include using YouTube, publicly available digital archives, open wikis, and reflections and comments upon them. The students will, hopefully, be engaged in the course as content curators and creators, just as I, the instructor, will be.
I am truly intrigued by David Wiley’s concept of reusable vs. disposable assignments. Although I haven’t used this terminology, I have eschewed “single-use” assignments in the past. I have had students write public blogs and I even had a class create a website with short essays on improving writing; that assignment was so long ago, I can no longer access it because the server is gone. But it’s a relatively new idea to me to use artifacts my students create in my own future classes.
Next semester, I will be teaching an introductory course for English majors. This will be my first time teaching the course, but it certainly won’t be my last. So anything created in the course is something I will be able to reuse myself in future courses. That’s a very intriguing idea.
Ordinarily, I would have students create blogs that respond to course reading, and I might even create a Twitter chat with them–to both provide a new forum for communication, and also to study how that forum works as an interpretive text. But I think I will also create some assignments that will encourage students to create knowledge resources that I will be able to use again the following semester.
I have searched and searched, and there is no appropriate textbook for this class. There are some texts that have some useful information, but not enough. I think I will use this class to create the text WITH the students that I wish existed. We can search for and then incorporate some OERs that already exist. Then we will add to them to make our own OER and contribute that to the field. Students will enjoy creating a truly valuable resource and I will have that truly valuable resource to use, remix, and reassign the following semester. In this way, I will be, as Robin DeRosa has said, “Harnessing the Power of Open”!
Ask students to create tutorials for concepts that require several steps, or for ideas that can be better described by students.
Lessons Learned: Provide a clear prompt that prioritizes learning a process over creativity. Tutorials full of flashy music, fancy acting with little guidance, or overblown graphics can be less helpful in the long run.
How this exemplifies Open Pedagogy
The assignment above is all about encouraging learners to create content that will be directly useful to others and then sharing that content. Learners become teachers, and teachers–and other learners–can use the materials in any way they see fit, including by revising or remixing them. This is very much exactly what Open Pedagogy is all about.
My Adapted Assignment
I teach an online course called, “Reading Social Media,” an upper-division English course that I have opened to non-majors. Many students in fields such as business, marketing, journalism, communication, and even psychology are interested in taking this course. Some of those students do not have strong backgrounds in academic writing, which is required for the course.
The course requires at least three Discussion Board posts per week, and those posts should include substantial references to course readings and respond directly to other students’ posts. Many of the course participants have a lot of trouble meeting these requirements. I have tried explaining and modeling good Discussion Board posts, but still a number of students don’t seem to “get it.” Perhaps Open Pedagogy can help.
I would like to have a few students who write strong posts create brief tutorial videos in which they talk about how they write their posts. What do they think about? How do they relate their thoughts to the readings? How do they adapt their thoughts to responses to other students’ posts? Perhaps these students will have some good ideas about how to explain and demonstrate expertise in post writing.
This is really a pretty simple assignment, but I can see it being really useful, not just for this course but for many courses that use Discussion Boards. And, each time I teach a class, I can ask more students to contribute videos. Of course, we’d open them to use by any teacher or student via Creative Commons, as long as the students are willing.
At its heart, Open Pedagogy is an attitude. It is about making deep learning available to all. “Deep” learning means that the learning is rigorous and that learners are assumed to be bright, motivated, talented people who not only consume knowledge but can also create it and share it usefully and creatively along the way. “Availability” is an essential part of Open Pedagogy because exclusionary knowledge is just that: exclusionary. For knowledge to be its best self, it must be open to all. Knowledge must be shared, enhanced, transformed, applied, remixed, and more. Open Pedagogy means knowLEDGE becomes knoWING (credit: Catherine F. Smith); knowledge takes flight, it lives, it grows. And the learners do as well, in a shared intellectual enterprise.
Why is Open Pedagogy important?
Open Pedagogy makes knowledge better, as explained above. So it’s good for all of us and for the future of humanity. It is also tremendously important for learners (again, all of us) becuase it makes knowledge available to all. Not only are resources available through OER, but the development, enhancement, and sharing of knowledge are open. So learners also become curators and creators of knowledge.
I have never been as good a student as I was when I started teaching. Teaching and learning are complementary actions. Open Pedagogy brings all the intellectual benefits of teaching (broadly defined) to learners. And both learning and teaching improve.
What is the potential impact of Open Pedagogy?
There are several important potential impacts that I can imagine.
Knowledge materials will increase in quantity and quality.
With so many learners creating new materials and then sharing, remixing, revising, and redistributing them, there will be exponential growth. Each learner’s talents can be added to each resource, and–like a Darwinian garden–the most valuable resources will be developed and shared. And, multiple versions of these materials will emerge. Some will prioritize visuals or sound or logical explanation or narrative or more; as many different kinds of learners adapt the materials, there will be that many forms of them. Poor resources (one hopes) would fall away as few would adopt and share them.
2. More people will become learners.
Open Pedagogy will encourage more people to act as learners, as the resources will be available to all and those resources will be so diverse, more kinds of learners will be drawn to them. This, in turn, will increase the number and quality of resources, which will again attract more learners.
3. Exclusionary forms of knowledge will fall away.
The best resources will be available to all, and proprietary knowledge will be less valuable and less common. There will always be a place for private knowledge, but it will become less and less valuable and will function only temporarily, as OER continue to develop and grow.
Predatory publishing will diminish. Corporations that charge exorbitant fees for resources will be unable to complete with OER that are just as high quality, if not higher. And, outlets that purport to be high-quality but that are simply publication mills for desperate academics will become unnecessary.
What are the future directions for Open Pedagogy?
There are limitless directions for Open Pedagogy. Hopefully new technologies will make the generation of creative, high-quality resources even easier, so that learners in all places and at all levels can have the opportunity to create. Even very young learners can come up with good ideas that “experts” may not have considered. I would like to see templates for books, infographics, blogs, websites, and other genres made very easy to share and use. Social media will be an engine for the spreading of OER and learners everywhere will have the ability to create and revise them in interesting ways.
Only blind profit motive, nationalist sentiment, and similarly selfish attitudes, and habit & tradition can stop Open Pedagogy from reshaping education as we know it.
What are your hopes for education, particularly for higher education?
Being somewhat immodest and pollyanna, my hopes for education is that it will make the world a better place. I try teach students skills and knowledge that I hope will allow them to make their lives better and that will inspire and enable them to make their worlds better for themselves and those around them. Because I teach future and in-service teachers, I spend a great deal of time on the value of education and because I teach English, I also spend a lot of time on effective communication. Putting these together really leaves a lot of room for students to decide what they wish to do with their education. I consider our profession an ancient and important one. We have inherited thousands of years of tradition and knowledge that it is our responsibility to learn, pass on, and improve.
What vision do you work toward when you design your daily professional practices in and out of the classroom?
My vision is active, engaged students. They learn best when they are doing. I often establish a class project that requires small group work and reporting out to the class in some manner (presentation, Google doc sharing, etc). I want students to develop independent skills to assert themselves and their knowledge in ways they think are best. Deep reading, thinking and confident effective communication are the kinds of skills I seek to help students build for themselves.
How do you see the roles of the learner and the teacher?
Even since I was a high school teacher (1992-1996), I saw my role as a teacher as a “learning coordinator.” My work as a teacher only mattered in how it helped students learn, and ultimately, students are the only ones able to make themselves learn. And, they are always learning. It’s just that good teachers get students to focus their energies on productive learning. Students are there because they want to get something from education. That’s something I greatly prefer at the college level: students are there by choice. There’s a motivation we teachers can tap into that will encourage students to work hard and learn as much as possible. Developing as many ways to “tap” students’ motivation is a big part of our jobs as teachers.
What challenges do your students face in their learning environments, and how does your pedagogy address them?
My students face many challenges. Time is probably the biggest challenge. Many students must work or choose to work in addition to attending college. And, many of them also take as many credits as they possibly can in order to “graduate as soon as possible.” This time-crunch, often self-imposed as a result of social pressures, forces students to be as efficient as possible and often do only as much work as is required. I try to ensure that the minimum requirements for my class will still result in very productive learning for my students. I am also pretty flexible with deadlines, as long as students don’t fall too far behind to catch up.
Expense is another issue. I am working to use more OER in my classes. Having taken the OPEN SUNY courses in those areas has helped a LOT with that.
Technology management and distraction is also a major challenge–one I did not have as a student. I build technology into my classes, and rather than freak out if a student is checking their email in class, I try to talk about how to effectively manage such distractions.
This list of challenges could go on and on and on. That’s one of the reasons why teaching remains such an absorbing profession!
I have been using Twitter for over 9 years now (@Klind2013) and while I originally used it similarly to how I used Facebook, I now use it almost entirely to speak with professional colleagues. I still somewhat begrudgingly use FB to communicate with relatives, friends, old schoolmates, and some colleagues, but Twitter has become my professional go to.
At this point, I have just over 2600 followers. Not many in the great scheme of things, but it is a robust professional network that I thoroughly enjoy. When I have questions about my teaching, like I did in one tweet from summer 2018, I get great responses.
The tweet at left received enough likes and retweets to make it onto almost 10,000 Twitter followers’ feeds and resulted in 44 really helpful replies. Here’s a list of the suggestions I got.
I also follow over 3500 other people, and from those I follow, I get some great information. I find Twitter to be a wonderful source of:
National and local news about teaching
Links to blogs about teaching reading and writing
Interesting opinions from informed experts
suggestions for books and articles to read
So, how does one develop a good Twitter professional network? I’ve got 5 suggestions.
1: Follow Authors You Like
Many authors of literature, nonfiction, and professional work are on Twitter. Just look them up on the search bar at the top of the platform and open up their handle, just to be sure it’s really them–or their official Twitter handle, if they are very popular authors. Then hit “follow.” Now your feed will include anything those authors tweet. Just to get you started, below are the handles of some authors of professional work in English and literacy instruction that I get a lot of good information from. Follow them and then look at their feeds and followers to get more suggestions of people to follow.
Once you have a Twitter handle of your own, you can start tweeting. To gain a professional following, tweet quotes or suggestions from professional work, and include the handle of the author and the author’s publisher in that tweet. This is a great way to keep track of your own reading, take notes of major points, and to simultaneously suggest reading to your professional colleagues. Recently I read Carol Jago’s latest book, and I tweeted some quotes from them. Here’s one:
Carol Jago retweeted some of my tweets, and guess what? Her 23,000 followers saw it. Many of them followed me, and I then I followed many of them. Her publisher also retweeted these posts to their 36,000 followers. What’s nice about this, is that the followers of Heinemann and Jago are mostly teachers. So my tweet isn’t just scattering to the four winds: it’s most likely going in to the feeds of those who would be most interested in it–and thus most likely to be valuable to my professional network.
3: Follow Professional Organizations: International, National, and Local
Many professional organizations and publishers now have Twitter feeds. Look them up and follow them. Some are obvious, such as @ncte. But there are also dozens of NCTE state affiliates, and I follow many of them, not just my home state affiliate. Journals also have twitter handles, so look them up, too. Again, be sure to check the lists of followers on these handles, too, and you’ll find even more interesting colleagues to follow.
4: Like, Retweet, and Reply
It’s absolutely, entirely fine if you never tweet at all. Lurkers on Twitter are completely welcome, and in fact, no one really knows you are there. But, it’s easier to build a professional network if you also tweet at least once in a while.
It’s good to like tweets for two reasons: 1) It helps to spread that presumably useful tweet to more people; 2) The twitter algorithm will note your likes and use them to suggest others for you to follow. A nice thing to do is to retweet other people’s tweets. Be sure you generally find the tweet useful, so people will come to think of you as someone who curates valuable professional information for them.
5: Look for Twitter Chats
Twitter chats are conversations that occur via Twitter. They take at least two forms. The ordinary twitter chat usually lasts an hour and people all tweet together in answer to specific questions at the same time. “Slow Chats” occur over the course of days or a week, so the participants chat in answer to specific questions over time. Either form of chat is equally useful. You may participate in a chat or watch it unfold as it’s happening, or you may go back and read all the tweets later.
Here are a couple of chats to look at: #NCTEchat, #DisruptTexts. Again, consider following those who participate in the chats, especially those who tweet interesting and provocative things. And look at their followers for more suggestions.
Enjoy Your Crowd
The benefits of a good professional network are inestimable. We get great information; we get a head’s up on new programs and initiatives; we can look over the shoulders of truly innovative teachers; and, we have colleagues who get our in-jokes and don’t need us to explain our frustrations. Finally, it’s a blast to go to conferences and see–in living, breathing, walking flesh–someone you’ve gotten to know on Twitter.
One of the most fun things about blogging are the statstics you get from the blogging program. I use WordPress, and get lots of data. Here are some interesting points from 2018.
My blog received 2802 views from 2028 different people. (Some look more than once on the same day, I think.) Of those views, almost 2400 of them were from the United States. But the others were from 68 other countries. Most of the other countries only represented one, lone view on my blog, but a few countries showed more interest.
This international reach is very cool and only something that has become possible recently.
Also, 29% of my readers read my posts on Sundays, and many of them read it at about 11 am–which is good because they’ve probably already had coffee.
Top Blog Posts
The most popular post I wrote last year was about a new rubric criterion I discovered to help improve my students’ writing and my reading experiences. That received 898 views and it got some buzz on Twitter.
Now that 2019 has begun, I am hoping to write more posts. I’m off to a good start, having published a handful of posts in the last month. I also hope to make my posts shorter. They gone up by an average of 150 words. Better to keep the posts around 500-600, rather than 850 and up.
It seems the teaching profession has enjoyed a bit of a comeback this year, both in numbers of students entering the field and the general reputation of teachers among the public. Let’s hope those trends continue. Issues of social justice in education, particularly regarding students and teachers of color and their histories, cultures, and well-being, seem to have taken a very positive step in prominence. And, the need for students to effectively learn how to read, write, speak, and listen remains as important as ever–if not more so. More teachers seem to get that some of the old chestnuts (content and method) don’t really work anymore in our technology-rich, rapid-paced economy and diversifying culture. And, more topics of social importance (fiscal inequity, environmental responsibility, sexual consent, white privilege, sexual identity, activism, and more) seem to be receiving far more attention by the profession. Great!
Now a couple of years over 50, I am also sensing that while I remain somewhat of an educational leader and influencer, there are younger professionals whose innovative, new voices are making great strides for our field. I can help amplify those voices in my work, and I hope to increase my ability to do that as I continue to develop my own voice and ideas.
Finally, some advice for you: Twitter. Teacher twitter has become an amazing space for ideas, challenging questions, and fantastic advice. If you’re not there, get there. Follow me at @Klind2013, and then look at the educators I follow. They are terrific. Far too many to mention here. Once you’re on Twitter, check out #DisruptTexts; the four women who founded this conversation have really started something.
Happy New Year!
By most measures, 2019 is going to be a very, very interesting year–politically, financially, socially, judicially. Good luck and happy days to you all. If we keep our students’ learning at the center of our work, we’ll never step wrong!