Open learning is described as learning that occurs in a shared and transparent manner in which others can reuse, revise, remix, and/or redistribute the evidence of learning with others (Wiley, 2009). While its implementation in US schools may be a fairly new thing, open learning or open classrooms, have been in use around the world with great success for decades (Cuban, “The Open Classroom – Education Next”, 2006). Over time there has been positive results in this pedagogy in equipping students with a real-world preparation focused on 21st Century Skills. Students are able to synthesize, analyze, collaborate, and discuss ideas and dig deeper into their learning than traditional methods. When it comes to Open Learning the promise of self-directed, self-paced learning is attractive to many because there is nothing holding the motivated learner back. Open Learning allows students to gain access to “experts” in various fields and to collaborate with peers and others to help further their learning. Also, Open learning allows teachers the ability to focus their class time with students who need help and provide valuable one on one instruction to students.
In order to cultivate an open learning environment the learning community needs to provide some crucial support. Proper technology and connectivity are at the heart of an Open Learning facility. Flexible educational policies and classroom environments are also needed to facilitate open learning. This may be a school day structure with flexibility to it or even a calendar that is not necessarily constrained by specific grading periods. Once you provide students with the required flexible framework for learning to take place, they will have the freedom to become masters of their own learning. Since students have the freedom to own many of the decisions regarding their learning they will be curiosity driven to learn more and more. Students may not start out to study the multiplication of fractions, but throughout the course of their projects they will uncover these challenges and will need to devise solutions to unforeseen problems. Authentic learning takes place when these roadblocks are encountered and students are challenged to overcome them in order to complete the larger task.
What will an Open Learning classroom look like? Take a look here:
Another promise of an open learning environment is that student will have access to information and experts that they never would have in a traditional classroom. When you have a classroom without walls you are able to open up learning opportunities for students from around the world, providing them with a global learning perspective. As teachers we can bring in experts in various fields into our classroom but we also should recognize that we are creating a classroom full of “experts”. The doors for collaboration, and peer instruction can open as students master various skills at differing paces. Students are eager to share their knowledge with their peers, knowing that the student they are helping may be of assistance down the road.
A final promise from an Open Learning classroom is the opportunity to provide 1 to 1 learning to your students. Flipped Classrooms and other blended learning models allow students to receive individualized attention from their teachers. When using direct instruction a teacher is trying to always dance the delicate balance of challenging the top students and not leaving other students behind. With Open Learning, teachers have the opportunity to assess how they can use their precious contact time to reach and inspire the most students. “One of the big decisions teachers face is to look at what is currently working in your classroom and what would be best offered digital” (“Blended Learning: Resource Roundup”). When challenged to think this way I realize that there is much content in my classroom that I address with the whole class when I could use that time more beneficially with class discussions, simulations, and 1 on 1 conversations.
The question left for many teachers is how to transition from traditional learning environments to Open Learning. “Both traditional and progressive ways of teaching and learning need to be part of a school’s approach to children. Smart teachers and principals have carefully constructed hybrid classrooms and schools that reflect the diversities of children” (Cuban, “The Open Classroom – Education Next”, 2006). By moving toward an Open Learning environment I am able to reach out and make the greatest impact to the most students and best equip them with 21st Century Skills.
Blended Learning: Resource Roundup. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/blended-learning-resources
Cuban, L. (2006, July 6). The Open Classroom – Education Next. Retrieved May 24, 2015, from http://educationnext.org/theopenclassroom/
Graham, L., LaBonte, R., Roberts, V., & O’Byrne, I. (n.d.). Open Learning in K-12 Online and Blended Learning Environments. Retrieved May 24, 2015, from http://www.academia.edu/10311797/Open_Learning_in_K-12_Online_and_Blended_Learning_Environments
Wiley, D. (2009). Defining “Open”. Retrieved July 5, 2014 from http://opencontent.org/blog/ archives/1123