Learning about Learning


I can’t believe this course is over and thank you Deborah L Gabriel for telling me about it and inviting me to the G+ Open Education community.

For the final activity we had to create a video or use another tool (avoiding just plain text) and reflect on what we have learned in this course, covering one of the following elements:
What aspect of openness in education interests you most (and why)?
What the future direction of open education will be in your opinion, justifying your answer.
Your experience of studying an open course versus traditional, formal education.

For me, it was interesting to find out that traditional academic literature and debate is being produced on open education. I had taken a number of MOOCs and read articles about the whole phenomenon, but I had never realised that it was starting to become “mainstream”.

The aspect of openness that interests me the most is it’s connection to social media and online communities. I like the idea of people being responsible for their own learning and I would love to see this developed in high schools. I have already talked about my feelings on how important online communities are for support, PLN and learning. I think open learning is exactly what social media was made for. Open learning and social media foster creativity, connectiveness, collaboration, and a love for learning.

I don’t think open learning will be a disruptive technology for a little while time, but I think it will start to be woven into the fabric of traditional education. I also think it will begin with higher education and high schools will eventually follow.

Schools and educational institutions are already realising the importance of open education and social media. I have seen an increase in the use of Twitter and Facebook for learning as well as blogging, Skyping and students being allowed to collaborate on projects. The human race is changing in many ways and the way we learn is one of them. Can you imagine sitting in a class of 40+ learning facts by rote and spending the day reciting them back at the teacher? As an adult learner you wouldn’t return and as a child you would most likely disengage and stay that way. But it wasn’t so long ago that this was normal. As technology and the world around us changes surely our brains and methods for processing information also changes. I blogged about this after reading an article about the possibility of Google making us stupid. Education is becoming open in so many ways. Not only through the use of technology and social media but also through efforts to engage learners and recognising that there are different ways to do this. Technology and social media is one of the main drivers for this change.

I consider myself as a born again learner. I used to love learning stuff when I was younger and was a voracious reader. I used to like making my own skin creams using natural ingredients, drawing the human skeleton from books, learning about animals from documentaries, about nature when on walks on the beach or countryside, cooking from recipes, and picking up bits of a language when on holiday abroad. But I didn’t really like school (apart from art and sport). I hated maths, grammar, standing up in class and cramming for exams. This Ted talk by Ken Robinson sums it up for me.

This paper, The Traditional University is Dead: Long Live the Distributed University, by Steve Wheeler makes for interesting reading and I agree with the section on the “regurgitation” of information.
For me, open learning is giving me the chance to learn in a way that works for me combining formal with creative learning. I listen to lectures and complete assignments and I like the formal structure which includes deadlines. But I can get my creativity fix by joining online communities, writing blogs and creating and maintaining a supportive and dynamic personal learning network. It’s like a two tier learning system, each tier complementing and supporting the other. This form of rhizomatic learning is something we looked at as part of the course and I have also previously blogged about it.

I personally feel that open learning will continue to grow and start to form part of a new approach to education (not sure if that will happen in my lifetime but at some point). What is crucial is how open education is managed. We need to make sure that it stays open and free/affordable where possible. It has to ensure that it doesn’t become too “mainstream”. I don’t mean this in terms of being available to all but in that it doesn’t try to become what our current education system is today. We can’t afford to lose the ethos of the early days of open learning. I have included a link to my Prezi presentation, Openness in Education. I learnt about Prezi from someone on my online leaning community! Thank you to the Open University for providing this course and to the G+ and Blogging community that took the time to read and comment on my activities. I enjoyed reading, and learnt from, all the posts and blogs I read, so thanks for sharing.


  1. johnbaglow says:

    Nat, I enjoyed working with you on the MOOC. What are you /we going to do with it? Do stay in touch!

    • Nat Nelson says:

      I want to put it somewhere but I am still not sure how. Can I just add it to the G+ group you created? I enjoyed working with you too and good luck with the rest of your course.

      • John Baglow says:

        The G-Group would be fine. What are you doing next?

      • Nat Nelson says:

        I know it’s simple but I can’t picture it. Do I just copy the work we did and paste it as a post? I suppose I am over thinking it! I am doing intro to International criminal law, Inspiring leadership through emotional intelligence, and intro to psychology. I dropped the ancient Greeks and human computer interaction. And I am just finishing philosophy and Internet history, culture and security. When do you finish?

      • johnbaglow says:

        Hello Nat! I’m just writing my final OU assignment. I’ve written a report about feedback using audio-visual technology and now I have to come up with a few ideas for disseminating it. I shall use WordPress as one and maybe a screencast as another. Any ideas.
        Are you still as energetic as you were a few months ago?

      • Nat Nelson says:

        Hi John. I am still energetic. Just doing other courses which are less communicative. I am about to start some education type courses so expect the energy to be cranked up a gear. Well done on reaching your final assignment. I agree WordPress is the best but also G+, and Twitter. I would be interested in seeing it when it’s ready. Let me know if I can help with anything else.

  2. Nat, thanks for the mention, but mostly thanks for a comprehensive summary of the entire course. OU would smart to use this post in future open ed courses. Thank you for being an important part of my PLN, I hope to continue learning from you. DG

  3. Hi Nat, I’m so glad you found it a useful experience – it was a bit of an experiment. And thanks for contributing throughout the course. I think your comments re open learning are right – we’re not sure where it’s heading, but it’s better to be on the bus!

    • Nat Nelson says:

      It was worth the experiment. I would definitely do this again. All my previous MOOCs had been with Coursera, so it was nice to use someone else. The tools I have gained will last a lifetime. Thanks again.

  4. Hi Nat. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on open education and for the extra resources. I was especially taken by the term “creativity fix” that you use in your post. I think this is a very good description of the type of engagement and learning you can get from online collaboration in and across various social media. Hope to stay connected 🙂

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