The Open Learner #h817open

“Alphabet Blocks” by PMillera4. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND
“Alphabet Blocks” by PMillera4. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND

In 2006, my institution took part in a joint Higher Education Academy (HEA) and Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) venture called the e-Learning Benchmarking and Pathfinder Project (HEA, 2008). Our project was called Digital Experience Building in University Teaching (DEBUT) (Westerman & Barry, 2009) and we had identified quite early on that digital literacy was going to be rather important. In 2011, JISC had funded a £1.5 million Developing Digital Literacies Programme, so it was clearly something that the UK HE sector felt was important enough to throw money at it.

Anyway, back to our project, we soon discovered that the term “digital literacy” was (and still is) a highly contested term that was open to interpretation, though for the purposes for our project we adopted a definition that was initially proposed by Martin & Grudziecki (2006) as part of their Pan-European DigEuLit Project (Martin, 2005):

… digital literacy is the awareness, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital tools and facilities to identify, access, manage, integrate, evaluate, analyse and synthesise digital resources, construct new knowledge, create media expressions, and communicate with others, in the context of specific life situations, in order to enable constructive social action, and to reflect upon this process. (Martin & Grudziecki (2006)

In Europe, the term “digital literacy” is currently going under the new moniker of “digital competence” (Ferrari, 2012). There is a lot of currency at the moment in trying to define, or at least, suggest a set of precepts that underpin this nebulous “digital literacy” term (Jenkins, Clinton, Purushotma, Robison & Weigel, 2009; Belshaw, 2011; Newman, 2012), so much so that there has been an argument for:

… a much broader reconceptualization of what we mean by literacy in a world that is increasingly dominated by electronic media. (Buckingham, 2008:88)

So, in the world of open education what would a broad set of open learner literacies begin to look like:

  1. Online Identity – The open learner develops and maintains an online identity which is both centralised (e.g. WordPress blog, Gravatar) and distributed (e.g. YouTube, Flickr, SlideShare, Scribd), but can be propagated, or aggregated, (e.g. FriendFeed) across a variety of preferential services and platforms enabling the learner to build upon relationships and their personal reputation.
  2. Connecting with Communities – The open learner actively engages and communicates within online communities,or networks, of open learners and peer groups (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+) where they will regularly participate and contribute to that community, thus enriching the collective with resources, ideas, materials and discourse, as well as cultivating an online presence and reputation within those online communities. The engagement can be collaborative, connective and/or co-operative. It can also be off-line (e.g. Public Lectures) and organised through meet-ups (e.g. MeetUp, FlashMob).
  3. Reflective Practitioner  – The open learner is able to reflect upon their learning objectives and decide upon courses of action that will either remedy or enhance those outcomes. The reflective activity could be solitary or informed from discussions with the wider community of learners through a process of peer-review.
  4. Critical Filtering – The open learner would need to be able to critically consider the content that is available to them and be able to filter and make sense of the overflow of information that is available on the Internet, either through technological tools (e.g. Feed Rinse, Google Alerts) and / or metacognitive skills and strategies (e.g. advanced keyword searches, quick reading).
  5. Knowledge Prosumer – The open learner is both a consumer and producer of knowledge and information outputs and artefacts. The open learner creates and contributes to open learning materials and resources (such as videos, podcasts, slidecasts and documents). This materials will be shared and disseminated through openly accessible repositories (e.g. YouTube, SlideShare, TED-Ed, Cloudworks, Connexions, Jorum, SlideWiki). An open learner may wish to contribute towards open scholarship, so may well pursue additional open publishing avenues.
  6. Online Rights – The open learner is sensitive and respectful to their own online rights, and that of others. Outputs created by the open learner would need to shared and published using an open licence (e.g. Creative Commons, GNU Free Documentation, Open Games Licenses, Free Art License, GNU General Public License, BSD License). This would inform others who wish to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute the creative and intellectual outputs and artefacts of the open learner.
  7. Privacy and e-Safety – The open learner ensures that their online privacy and identity are safe and protected. Where appropriate the open learner may wish to seek the advice of expert others (e.g. Online Privacy Foundation, e-Safe Education) and in the spirit of openness to share good practices with those within their learning communities.
  8. Confidence in using Current and Emergent Technologies – The open learner should be aware and confident in using a range of technologies that can be used to support the learner through the development and maintenance of a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and through the development and regularly contribution towards a Peer Learning Network (PLN). The open learner should critically evaluate the appropriateness of such tools which supports or facilitates their learning.
  9. Advocacy of Open Standards and Formats – The open learner will support and engage with open standards and formats that support and facilitate their learning and that of the community of learners through open education resources (OERs) (e.g. Khan Academy, Jorum, MerlotOpen Courseware Consortium), massive open online courses (MOOCs) (e.g. OLDS MOOC, MOOC MOOC, DS106, Change MOOC), open source software (e.g. OpenOffice) and curriculum (e.g. Wikiversity, Common Curriculum, Open Learn), open accreditation (e.g. Open Badges).
  10. Advocacy of Lifelong and Life-wide Learning – The open learner will embrace a positive attitude towards further personal and professional development through lifelong and life-wide learning practices. Not only adding to the enrichment of their own learning but contributing towards the enrichment of other open learners.
  11. Sustainable Futures – The open learner is concerned, therefore, with providing the skills, concepts, tools and critical thinking abilities to ensure that their own and that of the community of learners can understand the challenges of an uncertain and fast changing world and respond in an appropriate manner to redress the problems that threaten our common future. Thus emphasising a cross-disciplinary and integrated approach to developing the knowledge and skills needed for a sustainable future, as well as a critical approach to understanding, and where rational, supporting the changes needed in values, behaviour, and lifestyles.

My top eleven list could be applied to all learners. The fundamental difference between a “learner” and an “open learner” is the way that the “open learner” embraces, endorses and advocates the “open movement” in their personal and professional educational development.


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2 thoughts on “The Open Learner #h817open

  1. I love your list of the literacies and glad to see the ideas about reflective practitioner in there… also liking the concept of prosumer
    I will be citing you in my TMA !!

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