DAVID WILEY: The topic of the course is openness and education. When you think about the word open and how it relates to your work, what does it mean and how did open enable what you are doing here?
GEORGE SIEMENS: One of the things that I've perhaps unintentionally been fairly aware of, even at quite a young age, was being perplexed at what I know in relation to what others know, and the gaps between what I don't know. And I've tried various times to try and articulate that.
I did sort of a self published text, Knowing Knowledge. It was an exploration of that. A prison article prior to that called "Ideas as Corridors."
But it was this fascination with, I know things that are different from what you know. How can we synchronize those for the benefit of both of ourselves? And it's a statement that I know you've made as well, but is this idea of an idea shared isn't an idea lost.
It's not like, I have a dollar. You have a dollar. And you say, George, give me your dollar. Now you have two. I have none. I have an idea. You have an idea. We share. We each have two ideas now.
And it's very, very simple. That's as complicated as the math gets with sharing. So from my view of openness, it's very simplistic. It's this.
If I have an idea to express myself, if I have an infrastructure to share what I know, and if there are corrective mechanisms within that infrastructure that provide feedback to the users of that infrastructure, that's all you need for global knowledge generation. There have been many illustrations of where this has happened.
You might recall well over a decade ago, about 15 years ago now, at the outbreak of the SARS epidemic. This was an example of networked global knowledge creation, and it couldn't have happened in closed circles. It was basically a group of scientists around the clock.
You'd have CDC in Atlanta would pass it over to an office in Winnipeg would pass it over to an office in Hawaii would pass it over to an office in Japan and China, and so on. So in a very, very short period of time, the nature of SARS and the coronavirus as its origin was solved globally through scientists sharing through networks.
So when you ask the question of why openness in this kind of a networked context, I think that's the heart of it. It's the ability to solve complex problems that are novel in our era, and we simply cannot solve them with a hub and spoke model of the expert. We need to solve them at this more distributor central approach.
So I think for my interest, especially around knowledge, is the ability to take advantage of what each person knows, and to surface that. For you to be able to declare, what does David Wiley know? And then for me to come along-- and you have to declare in something that's physically-- or something that instantiates it. It could be a blog post. It could be an image.
Once you've done that-- and it could be just as you're learning. You create an artifact. That artifact is a teaching instrument for me when I come across it.
I remember when you were first grappling with four Rs at that time, and I remember you wrote a post about, this is what I think the four Rs are. It was succinct. It was very effective.
I immediately integrated it into a course I was teaching at [INAUDIBLE] at that time. And then over time, as your thinking evolved, and seeing talks that you did-- you did a TEDx talk in New York, and in a few other areas, where you're talking about the imperative, the almost immoral dimension of teaching and learning, and openly, and so on.
And these kinds of activities kept going on. And I observed you grappling with this idea of openness, and rights, and permissions, and so on, and then eventually it became the fifth R. I had to update my syllabus.
But watching this process was fascinating, because it exactly exemplified the value of somebody who is learning transparently is a teacher, and that happens globally with networks. The problem is you have so many people turning transparently, you get a lot of garbage in there, and you get a lot of stuff that's not relevant. So then you need that feedback mechanism that helps to push things to the surface. So I think that's my vision for networked learning from MOOCs, and openness and education is that ability for transparency.
So, David, so far we've really started to articulate some of the ways in which open content makes education more affordable, more accessible, but it has a big impact on the practice and the experience of being an educator, namely there is a pedagogical implication to using open education resources. And I mentioned there was some benefits there that it avails it to the network experience, mainly now we can teach with members globally, students can learn, more agency is required on the part of students who are participating in that, and the list goes on.
What have you seen, though, that has changed pedagogical practice? If I'm an educator thinking, I think I'll teach online using open education resources, does this mean I have to rethink my entire teaching practice? Or what is that experience like?
DAVID WILEY: The short answer to that is no. It's very much like when you changed-- I think all of us at some point had one of those Nokia brick phones that then we switched from that to our first iPhone, or our first smartphone.
GEORGE SIEMENS: Tablet
DAVID WILEY: Yes, very good. When you make that switch, do you spend some period of time with that new phone only doing the things with that new phone that you used to do on your old phone?
GEORGE SIEMENS: Yeah.
DAVID WILEY: Because it doesn't occur to you that, oh, I want to take a picture, I should pull out my phone. That's not a thing that you do with a phone, right?
GEORGE SIEMENS: Exactly.
DAVID WILEY: So it takes you some time to understand what the new affordances are and to start to really appreciate and operationalize those. A lot of people, as they make the move from traditional learning materials to OER, keep using OER exactly the same way that they used the old materials before. And it's only after a semester, or two, or three, or maybe they're at a conference, so they hear somebody talk and tell an example of a compelling different way that they used OER, that they finally start to realize, oh, this is more than just a textbook. There are a lot of other opportunities here. I think that's actually the typical pathway is that as you adopt OER, you do exactly the same things with it you did before, and then over time, you start to expand out the pedagogical repertoire.
GEORGE SIEMENS: So with content, then is it easy? Let's say I wake up tomorrow morning and I'm like, you know what? This OER bug, I got it. I'm going to use it. What do I do?
So is it going to be easy? Am I just going to go find this land of honey and OERs, and I just kind of throw stuff together, and my kids will love me more, I'll have a happier marriage? What happens when you want to start using OERs?
DAVID WILEY: It depends on the discipline. There are definitely some happier marriage disciplines where there's been so much work done, so much raw material created, so many efforts to pull those raw materials together, where there is multimedia, and now there are quiz banks, and things like that, that you really can find somebody that you can essentially just adopt and use the same way that you did before.
And that would tend to be in lower level, higher enrolling, general education kinds of intro to psych, intro to soc, bio for non-majors, college algebra, US history, things like that. We start to get up into graduate level courses, or upper level 400 courses, there's been less work done, so it becomes more of a working hard to find small pieces that you're pulling together yourself. You're really designing things. Still I'm having a pretty heavy instructional design hand in how all that comes together, where it's just more work.
GEORGE SIEMENS: Yeah. And I think one of the things we're looking at this week in particular is partly, at least, finding the OER materials that we'd like to use on our courses. And one of your four Rs, the first one, is this idea of reuse, and it seems to me that it's easier to create OERs and just make them available than to actually reuse someone else's. And a little bit of that is, I think, a natural bias on the part of profs, which is, I know my stuff. I'll create it, and somebody else will reuse it. But that often doesn't happen.
But if I do want to get started, search engines? OER search engines? What would you tell a faculty member that comes up and says, I'd like to start using more open content in my course? Never mind that next stage, which is like you just addressed, the open pedagogy, the new teaching practices.
So you start somewhere, which most likely will be with open education resources. From there, as you progress down, it'll probably change how you teach, it'll probably have an impact on how you engage with students, and so on. It'll influence how you learn. But what would you tell a faculty member about starting points in this?
DAVID WILEY: With a specific faculty member, I'd ask what the discipline is, and then based on that answer, there are places they could go. But a general answer to that, there's probably four or five things that I would recommend in no particular order.
At the University of Minnesota runs a project called the Open Textbook Library. They have cataloged and indexed a large number of open textbooks. They've been reviewed, and those reviews have been put online. There are five-star ratings, plus some qualitative descriptions about the books. So that's a pretty big catalog, and it's mostly comprised of things that look like traditional textbooks. So you're not pulling pieces together. It's just a large slab of content that you can pick up and start to use.
Probably foremost in that collection is the work that's come out of OpenStax at Rice, who produced 25 or 30 complete textbook replacements. All of those are cataloged in the Open Textbook Library, so that would be one place to look if you're looking for something very textbook-like.
The course catalog on Lumen's website, on our website, is less textbook-like and more many resources from many places pulled together. They're video, simulations, things like that that wouldn't be quite as amenable to print maybe as what you might find in the Open Textbook Library. But again, things that have been pulled together by faculty, taught over several times at multiple institutions, well-worn, tried and true in that regard.
If you're a fan of Google and Google Advanced Search-- Google does so good in just its basic search. Not many people use the advanced search capabilities of Google. But if you type "advanced search" into Google, the first result will be Google's advanced search, and from there, you can do some searching that down at the very bottom, the last constraint, the last filter, is a Usage Rights filter.
"Usage rights" is the label. You can open that up and say, only show me things that are free for me to use, share, or modify. And that essentially then will tell Google to only give you search results that are Creative Commons licensed. So you can actually use Google to search the entire web of CC licensed material.
You will find a lot of material searching that way. And I've found that, typically, the best way to use that is if you have a class where you've got well developed learning outcomes. Stick the whole statement of the learning outcome in that search box, and then search that way. If you just search for photosynthesis, you're just going to find so-- you're going to drown in resources.
And then probably another place, particularly if you're looking for K-12-- also higher ed, but I think the site that does a nicest job on K-12 is OER Commons, which has some filters that let you search by grade level, by subject area, things like that. So a general answer, I think, is hard to provide, but that's where I would say to begin.
GEORGE SIEMENS: I think a teacher, when they start using OER, says, well, one of the things that starts to become important is the bridging language, or the glue, or whatever you want to call it-- if you use an entire text, of course, you're adopting a coherent, cohesive vi--
DAVID WILEY: [INAUDIBLE].
GEORGE SIEMENS: Yeah, in theory-- set of resources to teach or bring into a classroom. There's, I think, a fascinating relationship between how coherent the knowledge object is and its general reuse capability, meaning a textbook is pretty big. You adopt the whole thing. You're not going to just adopt one paragraph out of page 300 for an e-text.
When you have more granular objects, they have greater capability for reuse, because you can plunk them and move them in any part of the course. The difficulty, though, is that granular size also adds to perhaps a less coherent learning resource.
DAVID WILEY: This is what we used to call the re-usability paradox.
GEORGE SIEMENS: Yeah. So the difficulty with that-- actually, before we even go there, why don't you explain the re-usability paradox the way that you conceived it?
DAVID WILEY: Yeah, and it's very much the way you described it, just that there's an inverse relationship between the instructional capability of a resource, and by that I mean how much is actually capable of teaching. And that has to do with the amount of context in it and the number of examples that are given.
Maybe roughly think of it as its size and the ease with which it can be reused. So the larger, more robust, richer resources that can do more teaching standing alone are harder to reuse, while a single image of the Mona Lisa is really easy to reuse in thousands of places, but by itself doesn't actually teach you very much. So there's this inverse relationship between instructional function and ease of reuse.
GEORGE SIEMENS: So from a faculty or a teacher end, when you're deciding to use some open education resources in your course, the more granular you go, the more you will need to add that coherent narrative that pulls these pieces together. And I think from that end in particular, it is a good opportunity. You explore a range of different resources.
I had a colleague at Athabasca that was looking at teaching a green technologies course and did exactly what you suggested, decided to pursue Google and found a university that actually had a complete green technologies course 100% available online, it was openly licensed, and rather than produce the entire course, just said, we're going to do this, and just brought the whole course in.
DAVID WILEY: The permissions granted by open licenses are the escape hatch from the re-usability paradox. The re-usability paradox as it was originally conceived back in the old learning object days-- if you remember all of that fun-- assumed that you couldn't modify materials in any way. The assumption was everything was copyrighted, and everything that you could do was pick different resources and sequence them in different ways, and that was the total amount of control that you had over them.
But if you have a big resource that has some internal coherence, and it's openly licensed, now you don't have to make choices about, this big resource doesn't actually fit into my context, so I'll have to go find a different big resource that's better. You just open that resource up and make some changes to it internally to make it better fit your context. So openness really actually just gets you out of that re-usability paradox altogether.