Defining MY open

Defining and Refining Definitions of ‘Open’ and ‘Fellowship’

Defining my open was shaped by the application video for the OEFellows with eCampus Ontario.

My notion of “open”, in reflection of my open fellowship experiences with eCampus Ontario, has shifted through multiple meanings and multilayered understandings, as suggested by Pomerantz and Peek (2016) in Fifty Shades of Open. For this and subsequent posts reflecting on my OEFellows journey, I will play with the word open to mean (a) physically open, as in a door is open; (b) open minded, as in willing to try new things; (c) open access, as in admittance but also available for use; (d) openly transparent, as in being able to view inside; (e) philosophically open, as in willingness to share, honesty, being collaborative; and (f) free, as in open for all (Pomerantz & Peek, 2016). While “open” in education does not need to be bound by digital production, that is one constraint I will impose on my story.

As I journeyed into open fellowship with the eCampus Ontario OEFellows, the many conflicting conceptions, definitions, and visions for open education erupted. These included:

  • open education resources (Bayne, Knox, & Ross, 2015; Rolfe, 2011; Weller, 2013; Wiley, Bliss, & McEwan, 2014);
  • open scholarship (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012; Stewart, 2015; Weller, 2011);
  • the open education movement (Alevizou, 2013; Bayne, Knox, & Ross, 2015; McAndrew & Farrow, 2013; Noddings & Enright, 1983; Rolfe, 2011);
  • open pedagogies (Armellini & Nie, 2013; Ehlers, 2011a; Cronin & MacLaren, 2018; Nascembeni & Burgos, 2016); and
  • open education practices (Paskevicius, 2017; Stagg, 2017; Veletsianos, 2015).

Exploring, Extending and Sharing

In reflection, I’ll focus on my open educational practices (OEPr) in collaboration with the OEFellows, and through eCampus Ontario projects and events.

open ranger badge

Just as the metaphor suggests, Open Rangers in Ontario education engage in exploration. It’s therefore appropriate that my journey with eCampus Ontario began with a day to explore open education as an OEORanger (#OEORanger) , which led me to apply and become an OEFellow, to further explore the many paths into the open education landscape. In becoming an OEFellow, I opened myself to opportunities where explorations often shift elements in my

From open rangers, to open fellows. My open journey in fellowship began just over a year ago, and continues to provoke new thinking about open education.

tweet image of first OEFellows meeting

As I began this journey I needed to find clarification and determined that my focus was in the area of open educational practices. I’ll differentiate open education practices (OEPr) from OEP which is commonly used for both open pedagogies and open practices. For me, OEPr includes more than the description proposed by Nascimbeni & Burgos (2016) that idenfities four areas of activity: (a) design, (b) content, (c) teaching, and (d) assessment. Paskevicius (2017) suggests that openness saturates all components of a teachers work, creating porous learning boundaries, while applying learning agency, and personally crediting knowledge acquisition. This conception of “open” is less like clothing to be worn or changed, and more like a skin that encompasses and open identity, and stretches with growth. These definitions step closer to my view of OEPr but are missing the elements of building a professional teaching identity, intentional equitable hospitality in networks, and responsibility toward others, thus shifting what it means to be an open educator closer to the ethos of Ubuntu, as shared in the next section.

My OEFellows webinar work with Jessica O’Reilly, Laura Killam, Marnie Seal, and Sarah Wendorf helped hone my understanding of OEPr.

I am compelled to share these moments of courageous action, of stepping out of my comfort zone, as well as the shifts from silent reflection to dramatic entanglements. I’m creating a counter-narrative to the institutional and educational stance of closed and walled spaces in which many select, or are bound, to teach and learn, in order to break from the limiting, closed, learning experiences within course learning management systems (LMS), which are found to predominate Canadian higher education spaces (Bates, T., Desbiens, B., Donovan, T., Martel, E., Mayer, D., Paul, R., Poulin, R., & Seaman, J., 2017; Lane, 2009).

Ubuntu, Connecting, and Community

“Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance.” (Eze, 2010, p. 190-191)

This perception of Ubuntu imagines the dynamic self-constitution results from the OEFellows journey, from an individual perspective into one where relationships influence and shift my sense of self. This is extended by the words of Roxa and Martensson (2009) whereby “teachers allow themselves to be influenced to such an extent that they develop, or even sometimes drastically change, their personal understanding of teaching and learning” (p. 547). My self-constitution as an open educator iterates as I engage in action and conversation, as I become influenced by others.

While reflecting on what it takes to learn, teach and work within open educational landscapes within a fellowship such as the eCampus OEFellows, I’m drawn toward James Paul Gee’s (2005) conception of affinity spaces. The notion of affinity spaces includes fluidity of participation, porous boundaries of spaces for engagement, actions within multiple groups at once, involvement in global networks, focusing on interests and passions, and gaining credibility through knowledge sharing. This vision fits the OEFellows journey, since my actions in fellowship with others in the eCampus Ontario digital spaces emulates affinity groups in its fluidity, porousness, multiplicity, passion based, and knowledge sharing dynamics. In this affinity group I ‘self-constitute’ as an open educator. I am but one dot within the shifting landscape of open education in Ontario, yet my voice is one that can shift the landscape for others. (Look for my name amid the Tags Explorer animation)


The theory of connectivism fits my image of the teaching and learning that I experience as an OEFellows within the eCampus Ontario community. Siemens (2006) states:

The act of learning … is one of creating an external network of nodes – where we connect and form information and knowledge sources. The learning happens in our heads in an internal network (neural). Learning networks can then be perceived as structures that we create in order to stay current and continually acquire, experience, create, and connect new knowledge (external). And learning networks can be perceived as structures that exist within our minds (internal) in connecting patterns of understanding (p. 29).

The four key principles of connectivism include autonomy, connectedness, diversity, and openness (Bell, 2011; Couros, 2010; Siemens, 2005; Tschofen & Mackness, 2012) as supported by emerging technologies that are shaping human cognition in the way we “create, store, and distribute knowledge” (Couros, 2010, p. 114).  My connected OEFellow network and eCampus affinity groups influence my knowledge construction and how I mobilize learning, thus influencing my OEPr.

The story I started when I shared my Open Story as part of the #OpenStories global project, will continue to share my narrative.

I will also refine and redefine my conception of open.

interlocking circles with text relating to open educational practices
I Teach Who I Am


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