Something Opened

This is the final blog post associated with INTE 5320 Games and Learning during the Spring 2016 semester. Future posts about open web annotation and playfulness will now appear at PAHSIT. Moving forward, this blog will feature an occasional post about game-based learning, and will then reboot for the Spring 2017 iteration of CU Denver’s Games and Learning course. As for this post, no rambling thoughts, no media, no hyperlinks – just a few brief notes of appreciation and provocation. Thanks to all who were game this semester. – Remi

What began in early January as an experiment in open pedagogy and learning turns toward an official conclusion with the door ajar. While INTE 5320 Games and Learning ends this coming Saturday, May 14th, something has opened and persists as an untidy though delicious mess. Torn wrapping paper is scattered across the floor. And some gift – unwrapped, exposed – appears unfinished, a nascent form humming and still hungry.

Rather than debate some definition or benefit of open education among changing learning landscapes (a task for which I’m severely under-qualified), and rather than parse my students’ learning this semester (something I welcome, yet will require many months to respectfully engage with nuance), and rather than advocate particular forms of pedagogy as so-called best practice (something that is pretty useless), I offer three observations as a reflective practitioner. I’ve taught over 20 different courses online over the past seven years for three different institutions. This semester was different, and here’s what I’ve learned:

Open experimentation is social and invites reciprocal networking.

My experimentation with open pedagogy – and my attempts to guide students’ learning with/in and across open platforms – was a social endeavor that invited reciprocal networking. Should this come as a surprise given the socio-technical affordances of Hypothesis, Twitter, and blogging? Probably not. Nevertheless, I am deeply grateful for the participatory connectedness that defined our learning this semester. The generosity of those who were officially enrolled in this graduate course, of those who played along with us in games and chats and flash mobs, of those who boosted signals and challenged presumptions and provided feedback, you have all liberated community and connection from the constraints of static noun and re-imagined each as dynamic verb. Thank you.

Open education is contested and invites the (re)negotiation of power.

My embrace of open pedagogy and students’ open learning was not synonymous with free – as in free labor, or free of tension, or free from responsibility. Rather than some intellectual exercise in an unbounded and unaccountable education, I have learned that open pedagogy and learning is a step into ever more contested terrain. As a designer and facilitator, open pedagogy required my persistent recognition and (re)negotiation of power. My intersectionality privileges me as someone who can work in the open, who can be critiqued publicly, and who can leverage institutional supports while simultaneously speaking (at times) against those very same forces. This is not the case for all educators. This is certainly not the case for all learners. Moreover, I am more aware that certain privileges are amplified when moved into the open. I contend that open pedagogy demands a public responsibility to manage – through failure and shared insight – the extent to which authority is debatable, ideally less reified and pushed toward a state of decomposition and transformation.

Open education is improvisational and invites ambiguity.

My experience with open education was improvisational and invited ambiguity. I humbly suggest to other educators that such an approach moves from scripted planning to emergent activity, from teaching a course to orchestrating experiences, from assessing objectives to glimpsing expertise, and from expecting conformity to honoring curiosity. If this past semester was open source(d), then our code features a byline of shared authorship with chapters yet to be written.