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FAQ: Open-Source Learning

  • How can I get involved in Open-Source Learning?
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    What is Open-Source Learning?

    Open-Source Learning is an emerging educational practice that allows students to use the internet, social media, and interdisciplinary inquiry to create and manage their own learning experiences that can be shared online with everyone.

    The term “Open-Source Learning” was coined for this context in 2009 by David Preston, Ph.D., a teacher who developed the principles and techniques that are being used in a growing number of K-12 schools and colleges.

  • Open-Source Learning can augment and complement existing curriculum and structure, or it can be used independently to provide the framework for any learning experience.

    Why is Open-Source Learning needed?

    The problems of K-12 education in the United States are significant and without easy answers. We spend billions on schools every year, but the problems with our educational system continue to deepen.

  • The single most important problem is that the traditional K-12 system does not meet the needs of today’s learners. Indicators ranging from student loan debt to increased crime and suicide rates make this all too clear. We must do more to support our young people today so that they will thrive in the world as it is evolving.

  • What are the origins of Open-Source Learning?

    After working in journalism, higher education, and management consulting, Dr. David Preston began teaching high school courses with three goals in mind:

    1) Focus on enhancing student-centered learning, instead of teacher-driven instruction and institution-centered testing;

    2) Open the historically closed classroom system to integrate current culture and digital tools;

    3) Empower learners to actively collaborate in designing, leading, and documenting their learning experiences.

  • In 2011, Dr. Preston presented a talk entitled “The Open-Source School” at The Institute for the Future, a think tank in Palo Alto, California, that introduced the concept of Open-Source Learning.  He began sharing the idea of Open-Source Learning at conferences and teacher workshops.

  • Dr. Preston’s concept of Open-Source Learning won the California Dream Award for envisioning the future of learning in California.

  • What are the core practices of Open-Source Learning?

    Analyzing the processes and outcomes he used with his students, Dr. Preston identified three key qualities that define an Open-Source Learning environment in which teachers and learners can achieve extraordinary results:

    First: Shift from a traditional closed classroom system that isolates students, and move to an open system that allows students to interact with experts and information to share their work and other resources.

    Second: Use the internet and associated devices to amplify learning that creates immediate value for learners who create their own information, and share it online with others everywhere.

    Third: Empower students to critique, modify, and share every aspect of the learning experience, including tools, strategies, and the curriculum itself.

    How is Open-Source Learning different from other educational philosophies?

    Many philosophical approaches have been used to define practices, schools, and movements. Open Learning, Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, and even the maker movement are based on shared principles that may also be found in Open-Source Learning.

    Three key characteristics make Open-Source Learning distinct from other approaches:

    1. Open-Source Learning builds with the learner.

    Each Open-Source Learning experience is personally customized by the learner that begins as a Big Question that becomes the basis for an interdisciplinary exploration. From there, Open-Source Learning experiences often bring together multiple subject areas and disciplines, as well as learning techniques that range from rote memorization and behaviorism to deep learning and critical thinking.

    2. With Open-Source Learning, the opportunities for students are endless.

    In Open-Source Learning, each participant has the power to choose what to investigate and how to go about it—to choose the methods and tools work and reject those that don’t. The choices themselves represent opportunities for critical thinking, discovery, and reflection on how we learn and communicate most effectively.

    3. Open-Source Learning does not require changes in school culture or resource allocations.

    Teachers and learners in any educational environment can embark on an Open-Source Learning journey and invite others to review the process and content as they create it.

    Even in the most traditional, rigid classroom, students can create blogs, websites, or social media presence for their Open-Source Learning experiences and invite an online community to critique or support that enriches the process. And Open-Source Learning creates opportunities for traditional performance evaluation of objective production.

  • Open-Source Learning is all-inclusive, and happily coexists with any educational approach.

  • What are the methods and tools used in
    Open-Source Learning?

    In Open-Source Learning, each student works with the guidance of a teacher-mentor to develop an interdisciplinary learning journey around a big idea or question.

    Students design their experience by working with many tools, especially resources in the digital realm such as internet content, online organizing tools (calendar, project management, and collaboration), 3-D printing, and mobile devices.

    As their projects develop, students deepen their involvement by sharing information online that also empowers others.

    Open-Source Learning can be employed without significant cost.  Anyone can learn and use the core values and strategies of Open-Source Learning.

    Why does Open-Source Learning work?

    Open-Source Learning empowers students as they take responsibility to work in partnership with teachers and develop their own learning experiences and interdisciplinary inquiry.

    Instead of the typical classroom exchange between teacher and student of one-way information delivery with little opportunity for exploration, an Open-Source Learning environment is interactive, enlightening, and produces tangible results for students that are available online in perpetuity.

    What types of activities define Open-Source Learning?

    Any teaching environment — whether the classroom, the workplace, or at home — may be considered Open-Source Learning if it:

    • Is collaboratively constructed
    • Is customized to the learner
    • Is interdisciplinary
    • Provides open access to every available resource
    • Enables the use of modern and traditional tools
    • Encourages divergent thinking
    • Increases engagement and social entrepreneurship
    • Requires learners to think analytically, creatively, and collaboratively
    • Challenges students to create value through learning by sharing

    Is my classroom already an
    Open-Source Learning Network?

    It may be! The Open-Source Learning community is open to all — if you practice elements of the activities that define Open-Source Learning, please share your story and your contact information here. We’d love to hear from you, and your peers can learn from you.

    This website will soon feature knowledge-sharing opportunities and other way to become involved with your peers in Open-Source Learning.

    What do students produce with Open-Source Learning?

    Creative output produced by students through Open-Source Learning includes online essays, blogs, audio-visual works, graphic presentations, reference material, remixes, games, collaborative ventures, and software applications.  They have also been known to lead adventure expeditions and fly airplanes as part of their Open-Source Learning experience.

    The Open-Source Learning approach has been implemented as a combination of classroom interaction and online work, and in completely virtual settings.

    What are the pedagogical benefits of
    Open-Source Learning?

    Class evaluation has shown that students who study in an Open-Source Learning environment are more likely to apply for scholarships and register for Advanced Placement courses and exams.

    The tools and techniques of Open-Source Learning train students to be innovators, and help them build positive online presence – essential skills for progression in 21st century academics and careers.

    What are the results of Open-Source Learning?

    1. Students in an Open-Source Learning environment report overwhelmingly positive appraisals, higher levels of participation in classes, and deeper and more engaged involvement in individual studies.

    2. Course follow-ups show that Open-Source Learning generates enthusiasm among students — including many who are often hard to engage in traditional classroom or online settings.  As a result, Open-Source Learning produces significant improvement in academic achievement.

    3. Open-Source Learning builds skills and literacies that are increasingly relevant in the workplace, society, and educational institutions. These skills include: knowledge of technology and networks-as-social-systems, collaboration, creativity, communication, critical thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

    4. Participants emerge from an Open-Source Learning program with records of assessment and work portfolios that tell a more compelling story than traditional grading or diplomas.

    Can Open-Source Learning be assessed within the current educational structure?

    Yes. Open-Source Learning creates opportunities for traditional performance evaluation of objective production, including formative and summative tests; and alternative assessment of portfolios, which can include a variety of artifacts, such as trans media presentation of content, and the student’s choices related to platforms, media, and design.

    Open-Source Learning generates data that can be analyzed more effectively and usefully than traditional school tests. If you are a researcher and would like access to Open-Source Learning Network data, contact us here.

    Is state-of-the-art technology needed for Open-Source Learning?

    No. All you need to get started with Open-Source Learning is learners. You don’t need the latest hardware or software.

    The key to building an Open-Source Learning environment is the ability to broaden your thinking about how to apply the tools and techniques available to you. If you have access to the internet, and you would like to learn more are willing to learn about the methods that define Open-Source Learning (see the types of activities that define Open-Source Learning above), you are already on your way to creating an Open-Source Learning network classroom.

    How can I get involved in Open-Source Learning?

    You can join the growing community of Open-Source Learning advocates by connecting with us here.