Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Dangers of Using the Term "Pre-Teaching"

Pre-teaching as a “thing”

After having read The Dangers of Pre-Teaching I feel there is more danger in just using the term pre-teaching the way it is commonly used. The word pre-teaching currently does not seem to be trending any one particular direction and appears limited to mainly being used in the United States, according to Google Trends. But clearly, for many, pre-teaching is a “thing”: search pre-teaching and Google preteaching /pre-teaching for how it’s used over the web.  The first definition of the term, interestingly enough, comes from outside of the US, by the British Council: “Pre-teaching is the teaching of the language learners need before an activity”.

Some argue that pre-teaching does have some limitations...

What is the point in pre-teaching?The dangers of pre-teaching
It really can break the flow of a lesson.Pick out every single unknown word in the text and pre-teach it, turning pre-teaching into a main event where a random list of vocabulary is presented one after the other with no context (because the context would come later in the form of the reading/listening text!)
Learners often seem to look a bit bewildered at why 4 seemingly random words are being taught.Pick out words that students already know and teach them.
I’m just not convinced it actually helps learners read better or develop strategies to deal with text.Pick out words that are so obscure and useless that students would probably never encounter them again.
Don’t think of white bears! What are you thinking of now? If you highlight some lexis before moving on reading work, is there not a risk you actually distract from this work by drawing attention to difficult items? (This can be Tolstoy or Dostoevsky’s contribution to ELT…)Pick out words that might be in the text but don’t really have much to do with the main message of the text.
If done badly, it’s seriously counter-productive and can lead to boredom, disengagement, etc.Pick out words that can easily be guessed from context and co-text when the students actually begin listening/reading.
It’s not how we read in real life – this is hugely important: just who is going to pre-teach some selected items for learners when they read in the real world?
Selecting the words necessarily involves assumptions about the learners. How do you know they won’t know that word? Why do you think they don’t? What if they do?
And it also involves assumptions about the usefulness of the items – would you pre-teach “lusophone”, for example, in Dubai?
It’s not appropriate for every receptive skills lesson but is often presented as such cf. when I did CELTA years ago.
It can distort the focus of the lesson from a reading skills development one to a lexis learning one.
If you’re ‘demanding high’, why not just let the learners get on with it and come back to lexis, etc., after the reading stages of the lesson (more on that below).
It may hinder learners’ developing “word-attack skills”, to borrow Christine Nuttall’s term (anyone else actually see a text being knifed by Nuttall there?), such as working out which words are important/can be ignored, inferring meaning, etc.

So, based on the definition and limitations listed above, pre-teaching appears as a distinction between two different types of teaching/learning activities: some sort of behavior that enables the learner to better perform some “main event”, or performance/activity that comes later.  This leads me to a philosophical analysis of the word, pre-teaching and why the word just gets in the way, regardless how one feels about any of the limitations listed above.

Philosophical Analysis of Pre-teaching

The prefix pre- means earlier than, before, in advance, beforehand, etc. (Merriam-Webster). Teaching is defined as something taught; of, involving, or used for teaching: teaching materials; teaching methods;  the act or business of instructing; etc. (worknik). So, pre-teaching is something (other than teaching) that occurs before the act of teaching.  Yet, the term pre-teaching is typically used to mean, “pre-teaching teaching” as in,pre-teaching refers to the teaching of certain skills that would be needed for a lesson. This is sometimes done in a session prior to the actual class, and can be helpful for students who might struggle to follow a lesson” (para. 4)... “It is important to point out that the main event in question here is the task: and that may be a listening task, a reading task, or a group task that involves speaking and writing. The main event is NOT the pre-teaching of lexis (or it won’t be called ‘pre-teaching’. It’d simply be teaching)”. (para. 7).

Let’s unpack a bit more… the notion of task can have a variety of meanings but usually refers to either task-based learning (as a series of tasks) or a quite different idea as in the case of a performance task (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005).  So from the beginning, there are several ways to interpret any pre/post-types of teaching or learning.  Moreover, when saying that “Pre-teaching refers to the teaching of…” something, basically this means that pre-teaching is... well, teaching.  What is, then, “pre-teaching teaching”?  How can this be a “thing”?  Can pre-teaching teaching occur before the class, but not always?  Can it occur during the class as well? Can an educator pre-teach and teach at the same time?  What specific behaviors by a teacher are associated with the act of pre-teaching?  And how do these behaviors differ from the act of (regular) teaching?

In The Dangers of Pre-Teaching, the term pre-teaching is used 15 (out of 18) times as a noun, as in “What exactly is pre-teaching?” (para. 3).  I have the same question actually. On three occasions, pre-teaching is used as an adjective, as in pre-teaching stage. As an adjective, pre-teaching makes perfect sense, like when we refer to other non-teaching behaviors or concepts: pre-teaching activities, pre-teaching methods, pre-teaching materials, pre-teaching behaviors, etc.  Again, pre-teaching in the nominal form remains odd.

Learning Trumps Teaching

In English language teacher training, we spend a lot of time helping teacher trainees to develop their knowledge about how languages are learned, their pedagogical skills and related theoretical knowledge base, and their English proficiency skills.  We promote reflective practice so that they become more autonomous in learning how to develop not only on their own but through reflective practice through the interaction with other teacher trainees and in-service practitioners.  But in doing so, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that what the learners do is more important than what the teacher (trainer) does.

The problem with the term pre-teaching is that it is more representative of a different type of learning than any specific type of teaching.  It shifts the focus from learning to teaching, which at best remains vague, at worst, a mistake.  Learning vocabulary before a performance task is an enabling act.  All learning is just a string of enabling acts (or behaviors) that connect what one knows and can do already to something new (or something they don’t know and/or cannot do).  Pre-learning is not a thing, just as pre-teaching is not a thing.  Students and teachers both teach and learn throughout the educative experience, becoming less dependent and more independent, on to becoming more interdependent as the learning trajectory unfolds.  Any value in what is referred to as “pre-teaching” relates primarily to trying to understand how one type of (learner) behavior might enable a different type of behavior, and so on.  

To conclude, we seldom think of pre-teaching a child to play baseball, pre-teaching a child to learn how to swim, pre-teaching a child to play basketball, etc.  If I help a child with her free throw shot, I’m not pre-teaching the athlete to become a better basketball player… it’s just a teaching moment, and more importantly, a learning opportunity to see how being a better free throw shooter leads to becoming a better overall player.  

By the time a learner is ready to perform the "main event", the instructor is no longer a "teacher" (i.e., didactic instructor), but rather a facilitator or coach.

Agree or disagree?  Is the idea of "pre-teaching" just a substitute for "didactic instructor"?  Or something else? Leave your comments below.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Transparent Educative Experiences (#OpenEdMOOC)

In week 4 of Introduction to Open Education, the objectives are as follow:

  • Evaluate models of content creation and settings in which each is preferable

  • Explore the process of finding, assessing, and integrating OERs

Keeping these objectives in mind, I thought about presenting a slightly different perspective to a few points being made this week.  My points relate more to the first objective listed above: to evaluate models of content creation and settings in which each is preferable.  I would like to reference mainly Downes’s video and Wiley’s OER-Enabled Pedagogy.

Authentic vs. Non-Authentic Materials

The takeaway I get from Downes’s comments for this week is that there is a difference between what I would call authentic vs. non-authentic materials.  Downes argues for authentic materials - those created for real-life situations and not necessarily for teaching and learning purposes - to be used in a communicative context where interactions occur for a purpose.  He contrasts this with those non-authentic (didactic) materials that presumably are open educational resources (OERs) that are designed for teaching and learning purposes only.  Question...
Can OERs be authentic?

I agree that the educative experience is more important than the course content, teaching materials, or technologies alone, but how much weight do course content or teaching materials, etc. have when compared to the overall educative experience?  From a planning standpoint, what comes first, the experience (or performance) itself or the OER?  Should I assume that content creation relates to what teachers create for teaching and learning purposes and not what students create as learning outcomes?  Or perhaps both?  I wish I could substitute this paragraph with answers to these questions, but I can't at this point.

Choosing between authentic and/or non-authentic materials will depend a lot on the educational setting: teacher preferences and past experiences, group and individual profiles, school policy, availability of materials and technology, and overall culture. Thus, the original purpose of the OER or material, object, etc. is of lesser importance than how the OER is ultimately used (modified, mixed, distributed, or retained) given a new context. Perhaps it’s the learning outcome that matters more than whether the material is authentic or non-authentic (or open or not).


Wiley came up with the term OER-enabled pedagogy because others could not reach a consensus on the meaning of terms like open pedagogy and open educational practices. But is reaching a consensus on how a community defines a term all that important?  I bet many taking this course have different definitions for MOOC, OER, open pedagogy, open educational practices, and even OER-enabled pedagogy.  Here are a few questions to illustrate this point:

  • What is considered massive?  Does a course have to be "massive" to be beneficial?  (MOOC)

  • What aspect(s) of the educative experience remains transparent: curriculum, assessment, instruction, student outcomes, etc.?  And transparent for whom: teachers, learners, community, local, global...?  And for how long and where? (MOOC)

  • Should authentic or non-authentic materials be used (see above)? OERs in the abstract (artifact) or those used in context (artifacts defined within a particular educative experience from both the learner and instructor perspective)?  (OER)

  • What remains transparent, teaching or learning practices?  Didactic materials (both OERs and Non-OERs), course content, learning processes, learner-produced products, or learning environments? (open pedagogy/open educational practices/OER-enabled pedagogy)

For this reason, I think it's helpful not to reach a consensus on these definitions because it forces educational stakeholders to use these terms by describing and explaining the unique contexts with which they are used.  Semantics (the meaning of words) really depends on pragmatics (how words are used).

If it had to choose a term, OER-enabled pedagogy, open pedagogy, or open educational practices, I would go general: transparent educative experiences. Let the context dictate the meaning.


The first learning objective for week 4 - evaluate models of content creation and settings in which each is preferable - I find much more challenging than the second - explore the process of finding, assessing, and integrating OERs.  Any "model" of content creation would depend on school policy and (educator) culture, student body and culture, curriculum, assessment, instruction, and available resources like technology, etc. Before considering any "model", what's most important is that educators who are attempting to become more open, have various entry points possible.  For instance, perhaps it does not involve any OERs at all, simply sharing a teaching or learning experience that was challenging or successful might be the first step in becoming more open. This might later include adapting or adopting OERs as part of everyday practice... and so on.  Given this scenario, it's hard to look at this process as a particular "model" - but I could be wrong.  This is my current mindset as I continue to read and write about this topic this week.

Note: Images above show how I decided to gather my thoughts yesterday that led to this post: iPad Pro using Google Keep to take notes while watching YouTube videos in split screen.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

OERs and Open Education: An Open Invitation (#OpenEdMOOC)

For week 3 of an Introduction to Open Education - #OpenEdMOOC, I decided to extend an invitation to my colleagues at the Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes to consider open educational resources (OERs) and to share how they might impact their own teaching practice.  I chose to share this video via Yammer and to also upload it to Microsoft Stream which both form part of an intranet for sharing and communicating within the institution.

This video was produced using LumaFusion on an iPad Pro before being uploaded to YouTube and Internet Archive under a Creative Commons license.

Friday, October 20, 2017

3Ms to Writing #WhyIWrite

Since today is the National Day on Writing (#WhyIWrite), founded by The National Council of Teachers of English, I thought I'd share why I write.

The reason I write is to have the opportunity to think deeply about a subject, then share it with others.  I write to record ideas so that I can draw on them later, although admittedly, I seldom do. As an educator, I write to direct, facilitator, and coach others in finding ways to develop their own writing and learning processes as well.  I write to connect with others.

To this end, I share a recent writing topic my composition students and I discussed this week: the 3Ms to writing.

Matrix of Ideas

When writers begin reviewing the literature, having a matrix of ideas (claims) and sources can help organize one's ideas around a thesis statement.  A matrix provides an easy way to see how claims from various sources compare and contrast with each other, and can show any ideas that lack sufficient support. Students have a tendency to rush to judgment when it comes to deciding whether there are enough sources or not to support a claim, so typically I provide students with a variety of free online databases for finding articles and discuss how a Boolean search using proper search terms can be useful as well. If the learner has thoroughly looked through the numerous free online databases available and has tried differed search terms, the learner and I make a joint decision in shifting the topic (thesis statement) to one that is more feasible.

Mind Map

Once the matrix of ideas has been completed, then the writer is ready to complete a mind map (or outline) that provides a visual representation of how the ideas will be organized.  Claims (premises) that align with the thesis statement are presented in the mind map with corresponding evidence (sources found in the matrix) so that writers are thinking about coherence before creating the first draft. Typical organizational patterns that occur at the essay, section, paragraph, and sentence level include chronological, temporal, spatial, process, general to the specific, abstract to the concrete, theoretical to the practical, least important to the most important, to name a few.

Another way to look at the mind map is to create a visual for choosing the overall reasoning pattern for linking premises to a thesis statement.  Typical reasoning patterns include the following:

  • One-on-one reasoning

  • Side-by-side reasoning

  • Chain reasoning

  • Joint reasoning (Machi & McEvoy, 2009).


Based on the mind map, the writer now is ready to begin developing the body paragraphs by respecting the predetermined organizational and reasoning patterns that are most appropriate for a particular thesis statement.  The MEAL plan assures that each body paragraph is properly developed by including a topic sentence and supporting sentences that provide evidence and explanation of claims (see also PEEL).

When writing an academic essay, consider the 3Ms, in the order presented above.  It can become counterproductive if a writer begins doing a mindmap if a research matrix has not already been considered.  Similarly, writing a first draft (using the MEAL plan for body paragraphs) without having an idea of how the essay is to be organized can result in major draft revisions that can become frustrating for the writer.

Happy National Day of Writing!

Photo attribution

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Open Education as a Precursor to Making Learning Personal (#OpenEdMOOC)

For week 3 of An Introduction to Open Education, I read, My Personalized Learning Experience (Week Three), after being prompted to do so from a recent Twitter exchange:





Personalized Learning, Differentiated Instruction, and Open Licensing

I have always been interested in how others see personalized learning and differentiated instruction in combatting “traditional” teaching methods.  Lifeexamined22’s post does not mention differentiated instruction, but instead addresses “personalized learning” - as a reflective process - which I would like to follow up on here.  I have spoken about the notion of personalized learning on prior occasions.

Why am I shifting away from traditional education and towards personalized learning?

Moving away from a traditional education is, generally speaking, a good thing... I’m just not sure how “personalized” this process ends up becoming simply by giving students choices in how they engage in their own learning trajectory. Teachers may employ a teaching approach that allows learners to choose between content, process, product, and/or environment, but the actions learners take represent any learning strategies employed to make decisions and to develop skill sets for a particular purpose. Making learning personal, then, is a collection of personal learning strategies intentionally imposed by the individual (or network), for the individual (or network), through a growing level of self-awareness as to how to best engage with ideas, materials, and others (a PLN).

Setbacks and Opposition

It’s possible that “setbacks” come from learners being inexperienced and unaware (i.e., metacognitive unawareness).  When using ICTs or social media in unfamiliar (learning) contexts, it’s possible that initially, students feel distracted, which can hinder the learning process for a period of time.  But it's never just the technology.  Technology often brings new forms of communication or engagement that is uncomfortable for the learner but still may be beneficial.  Technology can promote new relationships with other people that may be different in how ideas are exchanged and what additional ideas (concepts, conflicts, etc.) emerge.  When evaluating setbacks, consider the entire PLN as a whole since technology (materials) is only part of the issue.

If students are missing the lecture-based classes, it could be simply them getting used to a new way of learning.  It could be they were given no choice in the removal of the long lecture.  It could also be that a dynamic lecture - a talk broken down into shorter segments followed by some brief activity - works for some and not for others.  Regardless, the professor is not attempting to “personalize” learning, but rather is trying a new pedagogical approach that might (or might not) impact a learner's self-awareness of a PLN (i.e., making learning personal).  Stated another way, teachers cannot personalize learning for students; students can, however, become more self-aware of their own PLN that serves a particular purpose (e.g., learning objectives/outcomes).  Teachers can help learners develop this metacognitive skill through ongoing, transparent communication.

The best way to analyze student success is to understand the decisions and actions they took that led to some favorable outcome.  Students become aware of what they did and did not do, and teachers become aware of their part in this process and what they could have done differently.

Moving away from traditional methods of teaching (which is not all bad) has more to do with differentiated instruction (i.e., understanding the impact of student and teacher decision-making processes), awareness of one’s PLN, and personal reflection, and happens best when education remains open.  Transparency of teaching and learning occurs when stakeholders understand and engage with OERs and how they function throughout the network: 5Rs, Creative Commons, and Public Domain.  Understanding licensing is the foundation of making learning personal (as opposed to personalized).

Photo Attribution

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Creative Commons and More (#OpenEdMOOC)

Below, I address copyright, public domain, and creative commons by discussing the following points, thinking mainly within the context of formal education:

  1. Effectively argue why protection of “intellectual property” is important and useful

  2. Explain the purpose of copyright (in the US)

  3. Critically evaluate the degree to which current copyright law appropriately balances limited incentives to creators and free public access to their works

  4. Define the public domain

  5. Describe the three components of a functioning Commons (An Introduction to Open Education).

Copyright (points 1, 2, & 3)

A copyright can be defined as “a government grant giving the copyright holder exclusive control over the reproduction of a literary, musical, or artistic work” (McAdams, 1995, p. 241). Clarkson, Miller, Jenna, & Cross (1992) define copyright slightly more broadly as “an intangible right granted by statute to the author or originator of certain literary or artistic productions (p. 162). They go on to state that any works created after January 1, 1978 remain protected by copyright law up to fifty years after the author’s death; publishing houses retain copyrights for a period of seventy-five years from the date of publication or a hundred years from the date of creation, whichever is first; and works by more than one author retain copyright protection for fifty years after the death of the last surviving author (p. 163).

Regarding international protection, if any American writes a book, his or her copyright in the book must be recognized by every country that has signed the Berne Convention of 1886 (Clarkson, et al. 1992).   As of September 2016, there are 172 states that are parties to the Berne Convention, which includes 170 United Nations member states along with Holy See and Niue (Berne convention, n.d.). However, a solid international system of protection for intellectual property still is lacking and must rely on national legal systems for protection and proof of infringements, which still can be difficult to enforce (McAdams, 1995).

The government sees intellectual property as a form of wealth.  Like other forms of wealth (e.g., patents, trademarks, etc.), intellectual property then should have certain protections by law.  “Laws protecting patents, trademarks, and copyrights are explicitly designed to protect and reward inventive and artistic creativity” (Clarkson, 1992, p. 161). Thus, writers have the right to earn a living if there is a demand for their artistic creativity.  If writers did not have this right: that is, they were not allowed to copyright any work whatsoever, there would be less incentive for creating the work in the first place.  There remains an ethical and legal obligation for recognizing and protecting one’s original work when it comes to the creation of intellectual property.

Current copyright law does provide a defense for those who have unlawfully use copyrighted material.  Under the “fair use” doctrine (i.e., the Copyright Act of 1976), copyrighted material may be used if the following are considered:

  1. “The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;

  3. the amount and substantial it’s of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work” (Band & Gerafi, 2013, p. 68).

Later, the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act, signed by President George W. Bush on November 2, 2002, improved the Copyright Act of 1976, and applies to 1) institutions which are accredited as a non-profit educational institution, 2) the use of works as part of mediated instructional activities, 3) the use of works limited to a specific number of students enrolled in a specific class, and 4) the use of works either for ‘live’ or asynchronous class sessions.  If these criteria are met, then...

  1. instructors may use a wider range of works in distance learning environments;

  2. students may participate in distance learning sessions from virtually any location; and

  3. participants enjoy greater latitude when it comes to storing, copying and digitizing materials (The TEACH Act, 2011).

The 112 Congress of The United States provided further details regarding the TEACH Act depending on the particular purpose and context.

Although these provisions allow some flexibility in how copyrighted material may be used, copyrighting material is still limited when it comes to the use of textbooks and making education more open overall.  Distance learning environments under the TEACH act would need to be closed and restricted to a rather small group of learners to the extent that it ends up being virtually the same as a small face-to-face (more traditional) classroom scenario.  For this reason, alternatives to a more open learning environment are needed in order to make learning more equitable.

Public Domain (point 4)

“The term ‘public domain’ refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws” (Welcome to the Public Domain, 2017). Basically, no one owns a piece of work, nor can they ever own it... the public owns it.  Works in the public domain are the most open and flexible since permission is not required (nor is giving attribution) to reuse, revise, remix, and/or redistribute the work.

Creative Commons (point 5)

Under a Creative Commons license (CC), one can use the work of another without getting permission, as long as attribution is provided (i.e., giving credit to the author, creator, etc.).  Work under a CC can be for commercial or non-commercial purposes and CC can be applied to work that cannot be modified (i.e., non-derivative) or which can be modified.  Some work under CC can only be used if subsequent licensing respect the original CC type while other cases allow subsequent CCs to vary depending on the discretion of author(s).  A list of the CCs are as follows (most to the least open):

  • CC0 = Public Domain

  • CC BY = Creative Commons

  • CC BY SA = Creative Commons Share Alike

  • CC BY NC = Creative Commons Non-Commercial

  • CC BY NC SA = Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share Alike

  • CC BY ND = Creative Commons Non-Derivative

  • CC BY NC ND = Creative Commons Non-Commercial Non-Derivative (Creative Commons license, n.d.).

In summary, the three components to a Creative Commons license are 1) commercial vs. non-commercial, 2) share alike vs. non-share alike, and 3) derivative vs. non-derivative. It's worth noting that work in the public domain may be grouped and licensed together under a Creative Commons license (Welcome to the Public Domain, 2017).

Reaching out to the community...

  1. Regarding Americans and copyright protection covered by the Berne Convention, I assume expatriates (Americans residing outside of The United States) would enjoy the same protections?

  2. If anyone has a direct source listing the Berne Convention member states, please share by leaving a comment below.

  3. Admittedly, most of the sources in the copyright section are over 20 years old, so if any corrections are needed, please leave a comment below and changes to this post will be made.


I am not an attorney (nor do I play one on TV - smile), so when making decisions about copyright and related protections, please seek the advice of a professional.  Although I feel that Creative Commons license is generally the best option for promoting open education, information in this post is for informational purposes only.  Making specific decisions about the best license will depend on the purpose and other considerations related to one´s own teaching and learning contexts: audience, distribution channels, local laws, etc.


Band, J. & Gerafi, J. (2013). The fair use/fair dealing handbook. Retrieved from

Berne convention. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 8, 2017, from

Clarkson, K., Miller, R., Jentz, G., & Cross, F. (1992). West’s business law: Text cases legal and regulatory environment. New York, NY: West Publishing Company.

Creative commons license. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 8, 2017 from

McAdams, T. (1995). Law, business, and society. Chicago, IL: Irwin, Inc.

Welcome to the Public Domain. (2017). Retrieved from

Photo Attribution (Select image.)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Finding Flow in #OpenEdMOOC

Whenever I begin a MOOC, it usually takes a few days to find flow - with #OpenEdMOOC, I'm getting there.  A bit of context, I am taking the course for credit (edX), but only enter to make sure I'm meeting course requirements.  I spend most of my time outside of edX because engagement feels more natural.

Here's my current work flow:

  • Respond to any Twitter notifications related to the course.

  • Refer to static note in Evernote with a clipping of course readings, etc. (An Introduction to Open Education). This allows for easy access since I spend most of my day in Evernote.

  • Check Twitter hashtag feed and respond directly when inspired to do so (try to do this at least once per day). This includes retweets, favoriting, quoting, and replying.

  • Check Twitter hashtag feed of any blog posts that are of interest.

    • Using Evernote, will share selected text from blog posts, leave a remark, and post to Buffer account to schedule future tweet.

  • .Publish to blog any initial ideas based on weekly topics.

  • Enter edX to post any links and contribute to discussions as required.

So far, this is working for me, although still just in week one.  Will see how it goes...

I am curious how others manage work flows for #OpenEdMOOC.

Image Attribution

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Why Open Matters (#OpenEdMOOC)


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Openness in education matters because it reveals how actors within a group or network interact with each other. Instead of thinking philosophically about what the term means, defining openness within a particular local context helps determine specific relationships between individuals, materials (i.e., objects, technologies, etc.), and ideas. Hatakka’s (2009) discusses obstacles teachers face at the university level when OERs are considered. This is likely to be the result of possible power relationships between those who make decisions about didactic materials and those who do not; relationships between ideas that teachers might have about what content should be included in the classroom; and which technologies should or should not be used to access certain content or contact with other individuals (e.g., relationship building). How open content is, then, depends on how purposeful human relationships remain, how transparent processes are, how accessible tools or technologies are, and how the integrity of ideas get shared among individuals.

As a matter of degree (ontologically speaking), openness is a result of a learning trajectory - one that can grow or diminish based on a continuous flow of associations between ideas, materials, and human relationships. Siemens, Downes, and others have mentioned connectivism (or connected knowledge) in similar terms (Connectivism, 2017), but I see openness (as a network) through the same lens: a historical context to understand purposeful (social, material, and ideational) associations occurring at any given time. Understanding current associations and their histories can yield insights into any future directions of openness.

Example A

Teacher A gets criticized for using too much technology in classes with students and when assuming leadership positions with (teacher) colleagues. Students don’t see the reason for using technology and colleagues have been just fine over the years working the same way (without technology) to “get the job done”. Technology (an attempt to work more openly) just seems like more work on top of an already busy work schedule.

In this example, openness matters because it forces students and colleagues to address all relationships between individuals, ideas, and technologies. In doing so, complaints extend beyond just being forced to use technology but may reveal other possible issues (and possible solutions) that plague the need for change. Thus, understanding openness makes it impossible to only blame technology without understanding the broader perspective, say relationships between teachers and administrators and certain ideas related to curriculum, assessment, and instruction.

Example B

Teacher B is not allowed to use open educational recourses (OERs) in classes because they are viewed as invalid and unreliable. Instead, the curriculum committee decided that the institution should adhere to (an expensive) textbook as the primary source of course content for the duration of the term.

Compared to example A, which is perhaps more of a communication problem, openness (and related issues) in example B is likely to relate more towards issues of power and prestige (politics). Teacher B may avoid employing OERs (or even learning about OERs) for fear of facing consequences if not complying to current institutional policies.

Openness matters because it forces educational stakeholders to address matters of equitable teaching and learning processes from multiple perspectives. It makes transparent how individuals engage with each other and the relationships they form; the ideas that are being shared between social relationships; and the where, when, and how these social relationships form based on the technologies and spaces that facilitate such awareness. Transparency helps to understand what openness is, and it helps to understand how the network forms. If there is any uneasiness about open education, it stems from confronting issues that naturally emerge from a continual sharing of ideas and experiences throughout the network. Hence, terms open and closed networks then fall on opposite ends of a dynamic and complex continuum. Depending on the context, an open network could be both a positive and negative pursuit (and vice versa). Are schools ready to go open? How might instructional leaders prepare teachers, students, and parents to be more open? How can schools evaluate whether becoming more open is effective, efficient, and engaging? One can agree that working towards becoming more open is a good thing while at the same time realize jumping suddenly into open territory without a network that is prepared for it can have a negative effect.

Openness matters because it becomes an exercise in exploring Wiggins and McTighe’s (2005) six facets of understandings: one can explain, interpret, and apply; one has perspective, empathy, and self-knowledge. To understand open education is to be able to utilize these six facets within specific contexts, and then share this knowledge with those from different contexts so that the generalities of openness in the abstract don’t become a distraction.