Open Ed & Free Hugs

I should have stood on the summit offering free hugs – wish I had thought of it sooner. At the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education,(CNIE) Conference last week I was able to take in keynote presentations from Rory McGreal and Tannis Morgan which addressed the concepts of ‘innovation’ and ‘open’ in higher education. Not new concepts in education but they can feel just as awkward as standing in the street offering free hugs.

The conversations we had at CNIE have started me thinking about the purpose of ‘innovation’ and ‘open’ as concepts in education. The keynote presenters placed these two concepts in a historical context which reminded me how ideas cycle through education over time.  The move to open education is not new, nor is the idea of innovation (Tannis Morgan “Innovation in Higher Education and Other Blasts from the Past” CNIE presentation May 2017).

What do free hugs have to do with open education? Do you remember the original video of Juan Mann who stood on a busy street offered free hugs to passersby 

This act touched a lot of people inspiring the Free Hugs Movement which says a lot about the isolation that can be felt in our communities and about the value of human connection. The same impulse toward connection and similar benefits are possible in the move toward open education which values free resources available to all without payment, without discrimination, without control over what may be done with the materials shared.

These are good and valuable reasons to move toward open educational resources. It may feel uncomfortable, slightly worrisome and possibly inappropriate. Kind of like standing on a street corner offering free hugs – when you share your work, ideas, and resources in the open (even online) you have to brave the criticism and judgment of passerby’s.

For me, the discomfort of extending open education to include the broader philosophical and pedagogical positions is also worthwhile. It is not just resources that need to be free. Free and open pedagogy needs to extend to autonomy & interdependence; freedom & responsibility; democracy & participation (Paquette, 1979). This is much more ambitious and challenging goal. We can start with artifacts and Creative Commons (CC) copyright but let’s keep sight of the bigger view of open education and free hugs.

Claude Paquette’s 1979 article on open pedagogy:  Claude Paquette “Quelques fondements d’une pédagogie ouverte.” Québec français 36 (1979): 20–21


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