Thinking in the Open

Last week, when I wrote Thinking about Open, I was reeling from a number of discussion with colleagues where I felt like I was constantly bumping and nudging people while meeting them where they were. This was not a moment of epiphany, rather the tension around open vs.free, materials vs. strategies is one that has been woven through the Open movement in my experience. Serendipitously, Rajiv Jhangiani (@thatpsychprof) and David snow-dropsWiley (@opencontent) both posted discussions around the this theme last week:

Rajiv’s discussion, Pragmatism vs. Idealism and the Identity Crisis of OER Advocay, hit the issue I am struggling with dead center. David’s response, Evolution vs. Revolution,  illustrated the issue even further.   The two should be read together. I am by nature an idealist and revolutionary, but I tempered by my experience and my context.  The dichotomies that Rajiv sets up:  Evolution vs. Revolution, Resources vs. Practices, Idealism vs. Pragmatism are the ones I face and I appreciated the clarity of those categories. David’s advice about navigating through those is my current path.

In my study of leadership, Debra Myerson’s theory of tempered radicals  (sorry it isn’t open access) describes the dilemma those of us who are pushing revolutionary change in our organizations face. Tempered radicals are “individuals who identify with and are committed to their organizations, and are also committed to a cause, community, or ideology that is fundamentally different from, and possibly at odds with the dominant culture of their organization.”  I believe that all my colleagues would agree that student success is our business, so this open revolution is no so much at odds with the values of
the dominant culture, but it is at odds with the practices and lived experiences.  Meyerson’s research illustrates a number of strategies for being a tempered radical which I have found to be really helpful (and fairly common sense),. such as building broad relationships across the institution, developing discipline to manage emotional turmoil, learning how to advocate  within the cultural norms and connect objectives to mainstream values, and create small actions to gather and grow like minded individuals.  To do this I have been maximizing Robin DeRosa (@actualham)’s concept of Access as a nexus point between open and free or cost and pedagogy, with access being the place where open and free come together.

I do have to admit, though, that I chafe under the tempered part. I have learned how to explain in terms that connect to my audiences stated interests, but I feel compromised. Today, I received an email from a colleague alluding to being able to do her own thing once the restrictions on this project are over. The issue is that means going back to a closed, albeit low cost, text.  She will accept the free for now, and she totally recognizes the need to save students money, but the idea of open is lost. Maybe that will change once she really gets further into the project.

This weekend, Jim Luke (@econproph) picked up the discussion with The OER Content Trap. This discussion of shifting the focus away from the tension between free instructional materials vs. open pedagogy by stripping the idea of resources out of the concept is really intriguing. What do we get when we move away from resources? Jimg_0831im suggests we get to connections rather than product. I am looking forward to how Jim extends this idea– and I will be watching from afar as Jim and Rajiv flesh out their ideas at various international conferences.

In closing though, Jim’s concept of Open Education Communities or Connections feels right in terms of how to shift, and how to be a tempered radical around open.

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