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06/03/2010

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david stong

I don't see anything wrong with living in a gated community; no one should be made to feel guilty for wanting to live where it's safe, well managed, and secure. The only problem is the fear of just coming clean and saying, "I live in a gated community" then being done with it.

But I guess you just did that.

Christopher P. Long

In the midst of a rather tense and difficult experience with openness on my course blog last fall, a wise colleague told me: "Sometimes closed is an iteration of openness."

When you said that, Cole, something shifted in my attitude about openness, which had previously been in line with what you articulate above as "Open wins, period."

I still advocate a very wide degree of openness for a variety of pedagogical reasons: to encourage my students to voice their arguments in public, to expose my philosophy courses to a wider audience, to engage people beyond my immediate classroom, to cultivate the capacity to respond to people with different perspectives, etc. However, given the limits of openness, including the possibility that destructive voices can threaten community and treat my students in unfair ways, I have come to recognize that having a closed, safer, place of dialogue is also vitally important.

I have always used the CMS to communicate assessment comments and grades to my students. This is clearly an important issue of privacy that allows me in my public communications with them (through blog comments and posts, tweets, etc.) to engage the content of their ideas directly. However, like you, I realize that sometimes a private space of communication can be crucial. When we were deciding how to handle the belligerent commenter on our blog, it was imperative that I could easily open a safe, closed digital space of communication among only those students enrolled in the class. This allowed us to talk among ourselves and decide how best to respond to what was happening on our public blog.

In that case and in many others, closed can be an iteration of openness.

Jamie

So.....keep an open mind about when things should be closed.

I do like the idea. I also think it is really important, in this bizarre existential way, to "be open about when you are closed" so your openness is something that is trusted. I think trust is an important part of all this, which I think Dave just more or less said.

david stong

I have to disagree with "Sometimes closed is an iteration of openness." It isn't. What's the motivation behind the label "Open"? If it's only rhetorical, the true intent is deceit and manipulation. If you need to have important parts closed, say so. You've chosen to do so with professional intent, need not make apologies, need not justify it, and certainly do not need to lie about your openness.

Open or closed, no one really cares; we are adults. What people care about is the deceit.

Cole

I do think closed is a part of open. You can't have one without the other sort of thing. I think the tension is in the desire to take advantage of the affordances of teaching and learning in the open -- and when you press that as a philosophical belief it is difficult to return to closed spaces. I've watched much of the larger edtech community press on the idea that if it isn't open (open tools, open source, open access, open blah) it is worthless. What I am working towards is figuring out what the middle ground is called ... I am also coming to terms with the fact that I have to see the other side of something I've worked against for so long and it is difficult. I don't think it is about being truthful or not, it seems it is just like everything else -- growing to figure out when open works and when being closed can provide a greater sense of openness. Maybe.

Matt Meyer

I think what you are getting at is not only this continuum of openness but also 'selective' openness. I think the concept of openness a few years ago was not just the act of openness but more likely an invitation to the growing digital world to participate in it. I think that what you see (and feel) happening is the rapid acceptance of that invitation that can make certain elements feel somewhat choked from sheer volume, especially from those in leadership who have only recently learned how to participate in the openness space. After all, when it comes to a work byproduct, in the end there is typically really just one person responsible for getting it out there. This also means there is only so much discussion, contribution, feedback, etc. that is manageable toward that end. As the openness party has expanded, the voices and freedom of contribution that come along with have created the inevitable problem of managing it. It's as if you're feeling a tipping point.

As I've come through the openness thing these past 18 months, I also find myself trying to figure out when it should be 'full throttle' and when I think it needs to be governed. I'm sure that the continuum of openness will soon have labeled categories, something like 'wide-community openness' vs. 'focused-community openness' with maybe a few more in between. In any event, I think you're at a point of needing to recognize how much openness any given event or situation requires or should be given, providing it and most importantly managing it.

Cole

I think you are hitting something important here in that as people catch up our ability to filter the noise goes down. The more voices at the party the harder it is to focus ... especially if everyone isn't prepared to find ways to manage all the noise. I hate the idea of managing the idea of openness, but I also recognize there will probably be a period of time when that will have to be the norm. What I love about this conversation is working through the nuances of the idea of openness ... maybe we are all still working to understand what each of us means?

Bryan Alexander

In practice, most of us are living daily in a world of "[y]ou can't have one without the other sort of thing." Think email, Web-based banking, a blog post edit box, network admin tools - tons of closed stuff. At the same time even the most Amish of us are searching with Google, buying stuff on Amazon, being written up somewhere - out there on someone else's server, maybe the open web.

I think part of the charge we feel when celebrating openness in education (not just ed tech) isn't a description of an ideal state, but the delight of opening up closed stuff, or sharing things in the open Web. That's a different beast than, say, asking people to open all tenure decision files.

Plus there's the Apple aspect here... but that'll take more time than I have right now to address.

Matt Meyer

I was thinking about this issue this weekend as I was doing some political reading. I think very relevant parallels can be made between the issue of openness and our very own representative democracy in the US. By design by our founders, at the core of our political system is an effort to manage everyone's 'voice' into a coherent position that is then contributed to the legislative conversation, which of course has it's own conversation dynamic at that level. I see two ways of thinking about this: 1) What would Jefferson and the founders have done differently given today's communication technology? and 2) is there anything we can learn from the basic model of our representative democracy in relation to applying and managing openness?

Cole

Those are really interesting questions, Matt. I would love to be teaching a political science course with someone to explore those in detail. Can you imagine mashing up history with today's context? I could see that as being amazingly compelling as student. I wonder if our own democracy is now crippled by the unwillingness to be truly transparent? I see the corruption in our system running the decision making in this country and none of our "real" media outlets doing a damn thing about it. It is a shame when the Daily Show is one of the best sources of information and the only real watchdog to all the crap that cable news spews.

I do at times really wonder what Ben Franklin would think of the world we now live in and the world we have created. I think he was the one who said something to the effect that "we've given you a republic, if you can keep it." I am really not sure we've held onto that. I hate to say it but I don't think that is the fault of technology, I think it is the fault of an apathetic population and a system polluted by corporate interest. No matter how you slice it, they are killer questions to explore.

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