Friday, 14 September 2012

What is Open Learning K-12?

The terms we use, particularly for new ideas, can be confusing and mean different things to different people.
Here is one approach which I throw out for comment, particularly for the #oped12 MOOC.
In schools - that is K-12 or Primary/Secondary schools - students are taught in walled classrooms (literally and metaphorically), with a well defined curriculum/instructional plan, by a teacher who has control of the learning, the pace, the amount of scaffolding. This is "closed" learning.
"Open" is the opposite of this.
In this type of open learning in schools, we hope to have students devising their own learning, working together (peeragogy), not under the direction of the teacher, using technology (where age-appropriate) to extend beyond the classroom. And with an open scope.
The regular curriculum would remain, open learning sessions would be a small portion of the main learning experience, perhaps just initially, perhaps for a very long time.

Why have this approach? What do we hope to achieve? What will students achieve? Here is some information devised for students in 6th or 7th grade (Year 7 or 8):

Students are expected to:
  1. construct understanding and knowledge by defining parameters and sharing agreement with others;
  2. work cooperatively as part of a team;
  3. look for different interpretations and consider different solutions to problems;
  4. think from the perspective of others;
  5. communicate effectively;
  6. organise information and data;
  7. reflect on their discoveries. 
It is recognised that many of these aspects of learning are a feature of the established curriculum but they will be the main focus of, and will be explicitly promoted, in the open learning sessions.
Open learning sessions will set up a context and a task, and students will then design and evaluate solutions. They will work in teams and collaboratively. They will keep a journal of their work and ideas. They will be encouraged to think widely and consider different possibilities and perspectives. 

Examples of seed questions for open learning sessions:
  1. What do you know about your brain and how do you know it? Why does learning take place and how do you learn best?
  2. What is intelligence and how should it be measured?
  3. You have to send a message to someone in secret. How would you do it?
  4. Who should receive a kidney transplant when only one is available?
  5. What 10 things would the group take for survival on a desert island?
  6. What would you put in a box and send to another civilisation to explain what our civilisation is about?
  7. A meteoroid is heading to planet earth - what will happen, how would you prepare for what will happen, where would you try to go to?

(Thank you to the Open Learning team at the ABC and in particular Graeme Keslake for the student expectations and seed questions)

There are some very similar ideas to these - authentic learning and project based learning come to mind - but the emphasis here is on handing over the learning responsibility (perhaps gradually at first) to the student and peers.

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