This week in EC&I 831, we were fortunate to have a guest presenter, Dr. Verena Roberts, speak to us about Open Educational Practice (OEP) and examples in a K-12 educational setting. Prior to this class, my knowledge and exposure to OEP was very limited, as well as my understanding of the concept in general. I am going to explore:
- what is open educational practice?
- what are the pros/cons of OEP?
- what should OEP look like in an elementary (primary grades) school context?
What is Open Educational Practice?
First, let’s consider Dr. Roberts’ very thorough definition:
Open educational practices (OEP) in K-12 learning contexts can describe an intentional design that expands learning opportunities for all learners from formal to informal learning environments. Individualized open readiness can be demonstrated contextually, as a result of teachers and students co-designing for personally relevant learning pathways where learners can collaboratively and individually share their learning experiences, that encourages communication of meaning through multiliteracies, that blends curriculum and competencies and that promotes community and networked interactions with other learners and nodes of learning from multiple cultural perspectives in digital and analog contexts (Roberts, 2019).
In Dr. Roberts’ presentation, she highlighted a few key elements in her definition: intentional design; expands learning opportunities; and formal to informal learning environments. Open educational practices focus on the process over product and the idea that learning happens everywhere. Furthermore, she discussed the importance of collaborative opportunities to create meaningful learning experiences that are personally relevant. Finally, learning takes place in a community of networked learners blending curriculum and competencies.
To try and wrap my head around OEP, I did some more research to understand the goal of OEP. Luckily OER Commons provided a specific definition:
The goal of Open Educational Practice (OEP) is to build the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that support and improve teaching and learning. Using open educational resources (OER) presents unique affordances for educators, as the use of OER is an invitation to adapt, personalize, and add relevancy to materials that inspire and encourage deeper learning in the classroom and across institutions. –OER Commons
This definition highlights how OEP can support teaching (as well as learning) and allow educators to differentiate open educational resources (OER) for their diverse student needs. The key factor here is that by adapting material, teachers are able to provide relevancy that will allow for quality learning experiences.
Although this is not a review of a specific Open Educational Resource, I found OER Commons to be very useful in my perusal of OEP. In particular, there is the ‘OER Commons Virtual Academy’ with a series a modules to help “advance your open educational practice”. I recommend checking this area out if you are not sure where to start or are new to OEP.
A few pros of OEP:
- ability to adapt material for relevant learning experiences
- collaborative learning opportunities
- high engagement among students
These are only a few of the positives of OEP, but they resonated with me as the focus is put on the learning experience of the student. This relates back to Dr. Roberts’ explaining a flipped learning environment – from formal learning to informal environments as a way to engage students and focus on the process rather than the product. Teachers are able to design learning opportunities with students using open educational resources. BC Campus Open Ed states:
When you use open pedagogy in your classroom, you are inviting your students to be part of the teaching process, participating in the co-creation of knowledge.
The idea of co-creating knowledge with your students sounds fulfilling and dreamy. But also a little “pie in the sky”, which leads me to some potential drawbacks of OEP.
A few cons of OEP:
- learning curve for teachers to understand how to use OEP with students
- limitations in certain classroom settings (ex. primary students vs. high school students)
In a small group class discussion, we talked about how exciting and meaningful these kinds of learning experiences would be with our students, but that the thought of using an OEP was a little daunting. It feels like it would be a lot of effort to get set up using OEP with our students, and as Loreli mentioned, teachers may not have adequate time to find good open educational resources. Teachers need to be very invested and see the potential benefits in order to take the time to learn and implement OEP. Furthermore, it appears to be difficult to find resources appropriate for primary students compared to the vast array available for middles year and higher students.
But, luckily Dr. Roberts introduced our class to her framework, Open Learning Design Interventions (OLDI) to facilitate this process.
What should OEP look like in an elementary (primary grades) school context?
OLDI (Roberts, 2019) takes place in four stages:
- Building Relationships
- Co-Designing Learning Pathways
- Building & Sharing Knowledge
- Building Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)
Using this framework, teachers can begin the process of incorporating OEP in their classroom. Dr. Roberts also explains that younger learners (up to age 11) experience a “Teacher-Led Walled Garden of Open Exploration”. This means the teacher helps provide different experiences for their students through inquiry-based learning opportunities. Some examples that could work for primary grades include: Skype in the Classroom, LiveArts Saskatchewan broadcasts and PenPal Schools.
Amanda tweeted asking her followers this question:
Elementary Teachers- What are some ways you use Open Educational Practices in the primary classroom? I’m on the hunt to find some good examples! I’m still learning about it, so I would love to hear about your experiences and have your input! Please RT. #eci831 #edtech @courosa pic.twitter.com/VdF6HhGUvf
— Amanda Brace (@amandajebrace) November 7, 2019
Including the image in her tweet helped show educators that they may already be using open educational practices without realizing it! Amanda has some great ideas of how to use OEP in the primary classroom.
While this is by no means an exhaustive look at OEP, it is a start and will hopefully encourage you to learn more about how you can include open educational resources in your teaching practice. We have to remember that our roles as educators are shifting to teaching students how to access, assess and apply knowledge by allowing creative learning opportunities. OEP is great direction to move towards if we want to continue to engage our students with personal, collaborative and meaningful learning opportunities.
Until next time,