Convergence: Open Pedagogy and Complexity

IMG_7553I have been thinking a lot about #Openpedagogy lately, unsurprisingly, given the blogs, videos, conferences and twitter conversations that have been going on. In advance of the Year of Open hangout @Bali_Maha is hosting on Monday, April 24, I thought I would wade into the conversation as my own thoughts have been evolving.  In January, I wrote  Open Pedagogy #Unfinished as a starting place for conversations at my institution on #Openpedagogy.  I felt the need to have something concrete and explicit to start discussions with colleagues. I wasn’t so much trying to define #Openpedagogy as much as I was trying to surface my own thoughts on open. My thoughts were heavily influenced by the sources listed in the article (and too many people to name in this short post) as well as my own experiences in practice.

Serendipitously, last week, I had the opportunity to learn about David Snowden’s Cynefin Complexity model thanks to @keshleman.  I was still sorting out my thoughts on complexity and the Cynefin model around complexity when I started catching up on the bubbling discussions #Openpedagogy  (see here for a good round up by @Bali_Maha IMG_7863 ) created a bit of convergence for me.

Several things David Snowden said seem relevant in this discussion of #openpedagogy—and these are my very liberal, very surface thoughts generated by listening and thinking about all the complex adaptive systems theory I have been reading for my dissertation work.

  1. In a complex system, you cannot predict what will happen; you can only see the patterns retrospectively. (Traditionally, complex adaptive systems are constantly seen as moving back and forth between status quo or stability and chaos.) Ordered systems are predictable and cause and effect is knowable.
  2. Complex systems have unknowable, unpredictable (dark) constraints whereas ordered systems have fixed constraints. In complex systems, knowledge is ever adapting; there is more knowledge than we can fully articulate or know; in ordered systems, knowledge is hardwired into the system.
  3. Fixed or rigid constraints are bound to fail when their function or capacity is reached; in complex systems you extract heuristics from observing what works, and those heuristics become operating principles which provide resilient constraints that allow practice to continuously adapt.

Again this is a really cursory discussion of complexity and complex adaptive systems, but these ideas emerged in convergence with reading the discussions about defining open and the range of views about that have emerged since #OER17 and #OpenGlobal conferences.

It occurs to me that we tend to throw around the term pedagogy liberally, and I am not sure that everyone means the same thing by the term, and that a concrete definition with fixed requirements for open is bound to fail. We can perhaps only understand IMG_7874#openpedagogy in retrospect and in reflection. Learning is a complex process, and we should be discussing it in a framework of complexity, not in a fixed constraint, ordered system.  And yet, there is constant pressure internally in higher ed and externally about higher ed to treat education and learning as if it is an ordered system.

It is important, however, to articulate ideas about open and to examine practices in order to extract those guiding principles or heuristics which allow us to share and understand what we are talking about.   I think this is where @thatpsycprof is going in his post, Defintions vs. Foundational Values.
For me, my guiding principles for my #openpractice to encourage #openlearning are:

  1. Open practices emphasize connection and community enabled by technology.
  2. Open practices privilege access: access to content, access to learning.
  3. Open practices are learner driven.
  4. Open practices are creation oriented.
  5. Open practices promote serendipitous learning and innovation.
  6. Open practices emphasize purpose over specific technology.
  7. Open practices promote critical pedagogy.

I am not sure this is all yet, for me. I have pragmatic and political questions about the power and privilege in play in open systems. Open is great for people with positional power, but not so much for those without. I have questions about the role of digital citizenship.

So I think rather than pinning down the idea of #openpedagogy in a definition, into an ordered system, we need to keep the conversations going. Centralizing principles will emerge, but I feel the need to stay away from concrete definitions.


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