From Open To Connected

cc-header1It’s been gnawing on me over the last couple of years that in our haste to open up schooling, we may well have missed the greater and more important aims that “open” strives toward. And while there’s no way to protect words from being twisted or co-opted, the phenomena of “openwashing” and the long long O in MOOC are troubling indicators that what initially seemed to be the language of openness may have fought shy of the question of what the openness was for. How otherwise to explain a world in which broadcast lectures are touted as innovations or disruptions?

Not that higher ed itself has not had its own complicity in the process, given that our practices of scaling and isolation have modeled much of what we see in the “content delivery” model of online learning.

I tried to explore some of these concerns at Open Ed 2012 in Vancouver in a talk I called “Ecologies of Yearning and the Future of Open Education.”

The yearning I tried to evoke is part of the higher aims I keep trying to articulate. Although I understand the ironies within and around E. M. Forster’s famous epigraph, I cannot help subscribing to the imperative:

“Only connect.”

So I’m honored to be part of a Connected Learning Alliance initiative called “Connected Courses,” and to be one of the facilitators of the “metacourse” that debuts in September. The course is completely open–but it is also about opening. The course is free in that participants do not pay tuition–but it asks for commitment, for participation, so that the free course can be truly freeing. Together we will explore the idea of connected courses, the ways in which connected courses can be built, and most importantly, why connected courses matter.

In fact, we start with the why, as you can see on the Connected Courses syllabus.

Just a few days ago, VCU’s first cMOOC, “Living The Dreams: Digital Investigation and Unfettered Minds,” concluded its formal work as a course of study for the summer of 2014. The connections, however, persist within the larger and more important paradigm of connected learning. That’s the goal, now and always: “Only connect.” This moment may be one of our best opportunities to reclaim what is best about higher education, and to recall higher education to its core mission and values. The task is fraught with many risks, and I’m not saying that connected learning is the only or even the ultimate answer–but this paradigm resonates so strongly with the reasons I became a professor in the first place, and the feelings of liberation and unbounded possibility that I felt when I began using the Web with my students twenty years ago, that I am invigorated and newly hopeful for the next part of the journey.

Check out Switch on your electric blog. Turn up your radio and let us hear the song.

Caravanistas, I salute you. Turn it up!

5 thoughts on “From Open To Connected

  1. I cannot express how your post made me feel. You’ve written so eloquently and yet so simply, and I love how you go from open to opening, from free to freeing, unpacking with simplicity what these words are supposed to mean but are often NOT used as such in the discourse.
    What resonated with me most is this: that this paradigm (while not perfect) resonates with the reason you became a professor. It helped me realize, too, why the paradigm resonates with me; it’s the reason I became an educator. It’s the kind of education I value. Looking forward to learning with you and about you as well 🙂

  2. Don Burrows once told the story that he was travelling in Germany without speaking German. A busker was playing violin. Don stopped and took out his clarinet and they played for hours sharing a language.

  3. “Just talk about what’s most pressing in your mind” , that was your advice 12 hours before I had to speak at the connected courses meet at a moment where I was lost. Thank you. I am working hard to build something on that foundation for our class and hope it will be appropriate.

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