Open, open, and student privacy

Something in our discussion during the November meeting of the Teaching and Learning on the Open Web group sparked a realization. While I have experience and understanding around how students share their names/identities in certain types of open pedagogy assignments, there are others in which I’ve taken a less guarded or measured approach to student privacy. I should pause for a moment and share that I’m approaching this work from the perspective of an instruction librarian who is embedded into courses to provide research support and information literacy instruction. My teaching takes the form of both in person and online workshops in Canvas.

Okay, back to thinking about open pedagogy assignments. The more I thought about it, I realized I could group these types of assignments (at least as I’m currently familiar with them) into two different categories:

Open with a Capital O –  These types of open pedagogy assignments have what I think of as guardrails, have student buy-in and understanding of the concept of open, and allow options for different ways for students to identify themselves. At UW Bothell, our Head of Digital Scholarship Denise Hattwig has done a lot of work to bring these types of assignments to UWB classes, including the creation of a Canvas activity that allows students time and space to deliberately consider how they wish to identify themselves with their open work. Here are some examples of the outputs of students who created these types of Open assignments:
• BCUSP 100 SPLOT site Becoming a Learner
• BEDUC 210 SPLOT site The Toolkit
• GWSS Class Badass Womxn in the Pacific Northwest Zine

On a related note, I presented about this uppercase Open type of work with colleagues Denise Hattwig and Alyssa Berger at the OpenEd conference this past November. Our presentation focused on how undergraduate students feel about open pedagogy projects, with data both qualitative and quantitative coming from the Canvas learning activity that Denise designed. One takeaway is that when students have the chance to think thoroughly through what open work entails, most of them are willing to attach their name to it publicly.

Student quotes about open learning. "“I feel empowered to contribute to an open project and put my work out there for other people to see... On the other hand I feel nervous putting my work out in the public on a subject matter I am just starting out in learning. Overall, I think an open project will push me further into my research experience.” “Contributing to an open site helped with my confidence. It made me get out of my comfort zone which I think broke a barrier in a way. It made me realize I shouldn’t be afraid to express myself.” “Originally I felt a little hesitant. I feel still that my knowledge is limited, and I guess I worry about publishing work that I may later disagree with. That said, thinking more about my goals and beliefs about the culture of education and university work, I hope that the work I do now will continue to spark self-reflection and that I can take an iterative approach to my development of ideas.”

Open with a lowercase o – I think of this lowercase o open as the sharing we may ask students to do more casually – using tools like Padlet, or social media sites, or class blog posts, or…? In my experience at least, I ask students to use tools like Padlet to offer a space beyond Canvas where students can see their classmates’ work/responses and learn from them. It’s a tiny version of a classroom conversation, which often isn’t practical or possible in a learning management system (at least from a librarian’s position in the course). But others may have different reasons for using tools like these. Do you want students to create a space they can share with future employers? Interact with people outside of the classroom? There are many possibilities! But I don’t often consider any guardrails for these kinds of assignments/activities, and wonder if/how I should. At the very least, how should I present them to students?

I raised these ideas and considerations with our group during our December meeting. The discussion was fascinating, as usual, and I greatly appreciated all the ideas, suggestions, and questions that came up. UW Bothell teaching professor Dr. Sarita Shukla noted in her meeting reflection: “How can we narrate a bit more about the spaces we are trying to create by using open tools and open work so students can see our thinking: Why do open work?” Another idea that stood out to me was related to the goal of what we’re often trying to do with the lowercase o open assignments: building a course community.

This is an important goal for most educators, but various aspects of course delivery and design can get in its way. One meeting participant noted that she uses Google Docs and Slides to create spaces which allow students to see their peers’ work but aren’t open to the whole web. In my meeting notes, I jotted: “A closed Google Doc allows students and instructors more vulnerability but also the ability to share/see each other’s thoughts.”  UW Bothell professor Dr. Becca Price noted: “I realized that I prefer open [ed note: lower case o] and shared platforms for the courses I’m teaching now, because I’m really working on building relationships with and among individuals in the course, and not as concerned with Opening student work to the world.” Building relationships with and among individuals seems like a pretty great way to create a classroom community to me;  let’s make sure we tell students our goals along the way!

These are some of the thoughts of the OpenEd session participants.


Made with Padlet


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  1. Pingback: 23/24 All Wrapped Up – Teaching & Learning on the Open Web

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