Random Encounters: Thinking Beyond the Totality

Image of a solar eclipse during totality.

This post involves a bit of Frankenstein thinking, because two — seemingly unrelated — posts I came across recently made connections for me. Let’s see if I can explain why I think they’re connected. TL;DR: While I have gigantic respect for both authors of these posts, I think both ask us to view things too generally, without paying attention to details that matter.

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From 5R Permissions to 5R Practices

Image of an open safe deposit box.

I’ve been working with open resources for some time and have recently wanted to make a profound shift in the way I think about open permissions, or “the 5Rs” (Retain, Reuse, Remix, Revise, Redistribute) as they are known. TL;DR: Let’s move away from thinking of the 5Rs as qualities of artifacts and instead think of them as tools we use in the activities of opening knowledge practices.

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Opening Public Institutions

Close up of an open door in golden light, where one can see the lock and both knobs.

While every Open Education conference I’ve attended has been fantastic, #OpenEd17 was by far the best yet for me. It wasn’t just that there were great presentations (there were), and it wasn’t just that so many great people were there (they were, tho some were missing), nor was it the way we connected beyond the event (we did) via Virtually Connecting, the remote participation during the How can we destroy the open education movement? session, or what we hope is a way to keep the conversations going annotating together. What made #OpenEd17 so great was the way that the conference, some fortuitous conversations, and my own thinking came together so powerfully in a way they never have before.

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Opening the Citizenship Commons

Painting of a sheep lamenting the death of a lamb surrounded by crows.

As a part of participating in the #OpenEdMOOC, we’ve been asked to reflect on copyright, the public domain, and the commons and I’m inspired to link these topics to the thinking I’ve been doing on opening knowledge practices (OKP).

One of the fundamental assumptions I’ve been making is that OKP must be centered in public institutions like schools, colleges, universities, research groups, libraries, and maybe in some cases, nonprofits. Why? Because — at least in the US — only public institutions have both the track records to house persistent practices and are mostly aligned with the values that infuse OKP — in their missions if not always in their practices. For-profit, commercial organizations may certainly make invaluable contributions to OKP, but have not shown themselves to have the lifespans nor sufficient alignment with OKP values to be primary stewards.

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Who needs digital skills?

A lot of Lego people sitting in Lego bleachers.

Everyone, that’s who.

A central premise of opening knowledge practices (OKP) is that everyone benefits when people augment their literacies, skills, identities and communities with digital practices. I’ll say it again: everyone benefits — not just practicing individuals, but society as a whole. Just like everyone benefits when people learn to read and write.

So OKP is more than yet another call for technology education or job training, it’s a call to open knowledge practices as widely as possible, for people of all ages, in all stages of life or lines of work, whatever their existing literacies, skills, identities and communities.

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