On January 27, 2017, the AACU Virginia Faculty Collaboratives Experience (#OpenLearning17) teamed up with Twitter Journal Club (#TJC17) for a synchronous reading & discussion of Jeffrey Pomerantz & Robin Peek’s 50 Shades of Open. Through serendipitous networking (thank you, Phil Edwards), author Jeffrey P. discovered the event and made himself available to provide additional background, resources, and insights into the nature of the article and the concept of open (Thank you again, Jeffrey!).
A diverse group participated, tweeting in from Mexico, California, Texas, Washington, New Mexico, Pennsylvania North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia. The Virginia institutions of higher education represented during the event included University of Mary Washington, James Madison University, George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech. (*Disclaimer: This may not be comprehensive).
Tweets came in from both hashtags, but due to time constraints I’ve focused on only on tweets that included the #TJC17 hashtag. We were active in this space, tweeting approximately than 300 times in less than an hour. Many participants were so engaged in the conversation that they continued to talk with each other (and with the hashtag) well after the event was over. Days later, pieces of the conversation are still being retweeted by people who were not involved in the original conversation.
I’ve lightly organized these tweets (bearing in mind I collected only those from the #TJC17 hashtag) into conversational threads and storified them, here.
Loosely, conversations emerged around the following themes:
- The stability and evolution of ‘open.’ While some participants focused on the stability of the meaning of open through the years, others focused on how the ever-changing world has led to different and more nuanced uses of the word. The concept of valuing a thing for what it is versus valuing it for how it can be used…it came up again and again in different ways throughout the conversation.
- Marveling over all the types of ‘open.’ Many participants hadn’t thought about all the contexts of open before reading this article; they mentioned which ones struck them as particularly interesting or new.
- Implications of ‘open skies.’ Of those new ways of considering open, the “open skies,” took on a conversational life of its own. The participants touched on tensions between friendly and open skies: hospitality, use, ownership, surveillance, and accessibility.
- ‘Open’ in terms of accessibility and use. General agreement that once we take accessibility for granted, our focus turns almost entirely to how we are able to use that which is accessible. Some participants reminded us that accessibility is still a huge issue for many people. We must balance our focus on accessibility and use.
- The source code of pedagogy. In many ways the heart of the conversation. In what started as a reference to open software, some participants wove through the concept of education as ‘made’ and codified…codified in ways that can potentially be shared, remixed, and reused. We moved past open-as-availability and into the realm of open-as-transparency, allowing for links across theory, practice, and learner’s goals.
- The commons. The commons conversation moved through references to the commons, most notable for the number of outside references that were added to the overall conversation, as people shared their favorite authors and resources with each other.
- Connecting ‘open’ to liberal education. This conversation is worth reading in whole from the storify. Gardner Campbell asked: “How do you think 50 shades of open connect w ideals of “mind-liberating education,” aka “liberal learning”? The article’s author, Jeffrey Pomerantz, responded: “Short answer? I think openness is not necessary to liberal learning but sure helps. Liberal learning must aim for self-sufficiency in the student. Openness encourages exploration.”
- The Twitter Journal Club experience (a meta-commentary). Some people watched the stream with an eye for meta-analysis and commented on it at regular intervals. When I say “most people,” I mean mostly me, and it was the preliminary work for this post. However, it also included people talking about other activity on the hashtag, their learning experiences, and their physical surroundings.
Participants linked this event to the following entities:
- To peers
- Maha Bali . Maha has been developing a large network of people and ideas around “open” in preparation for an upcoming keynote on Open Education. This includes a hypothes.is version of this article
- Jesse Stommel. Jesse is the director of University of Mary Washington Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, Digital Pedagogy Lab, and Hybrid Pedagogy. He says a lot of things about open.
- #HortonFreire. Refers to an open online book club started by Bryan Alexander that is reading Horton & Freire.
- To resources
- To philosophers & disciplines
- H. Jenkins
- E.P. Thompson
In terms of my own experience:
For critics who say nothing can be learned in this sort of chaotic, unscaffolded digital environment, I point you to the summary and analysis above. For those who were disconcerted by the porn bots sharing our hashtag (yes, #TJC17 must mean something else…to someone), well, honestly, I loved it – absolutely loved it. We do not own hashtags – hashtags are open or shared resources. I can’t think of a better way of demonstrating the concept of openly shared resources than academe sharing a hashtag with porn bots. Furthermore, as I was discussing with Gardner Campbell after the event, the strangeness of such a juxtaposition can be liberating, if you let it be so.
The freewheeling thinking associated with Twitter Journal Club will always be one of my favorite approaches to informal knowledge construction. I realize that it isn’t for everyone, nor does it fulfill every scholarly need. However, we cannot spend our days approaching scholarly articles in the same way, from the same direction. We need to mix up scholarly thoughts, challenge them, throw them against the wall, enter into them with our minds open and academic defenses down. Twitter Journal Club offers me – and presumably those of us who keep coming back – that opportunity. I always emerge feeling rejuvenated, connected, and even more curious than before. For me, this is what a joyful approach to liberal education looks like.
Featured Image by Jon Eric Marababol