Flipped learning – why openness matters even if you think it doesn’t

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, we've been working with the Flipped Learning network in the US. My colleague Bea De Los Arcos, has a good post about FlipCon, their annual conference. As I argued, Flipped Learning has the whiff of a commercial brand about it, but that I felt it was a useful approach for many teachers. And as Bea notes, the enthusiasm of teachers who Flip is notable, and that is surely a good thing.

In my Battle for Open book I make the argument that the direction of openness is important to all of us. But I think it's sometimes hard to make that connection to practice beyond the world of open education itself. The direction of Flipped Learning offers one such example I believe.

We've found that there was a high level of adaptation of OER by Flipped teachers, but that the range of sites they use is quite limited (YouTube, TED, Khan academy dominate). To me this suggests a picture that teachers are (obviously) time poor, so they like convenient solutions. Flipped Learning itself can be seen as a convenient solution to blended learning, and the collection of resources at somewhere like Khan is again a time-saving, convenient approach. But having found resources, teachers want to be able to blend and adapt them. We've also found support for the 'openness as virus' theory in that people tend to become likely to seek out other open resources, become aware of CC licensing, etc.

Now, given the pressure on teachers, and the desire for a convenient solution, wouldn't it be great if someone came along and offered a really good collection of resources for Flipped Teachers to use (maybe allied to the Common Core), combined with advice on how to Flip, a platform, and so on? Well, look here, Pearson have partnered with the Flipped Learning network and are offering a course on how to Flip. As it says "Contact your local Pearson Account Executive and get flipping today!"

Now, there's nothing wrong with this, in the same way that commercial companies offer solutions based on open source software, it can be part of a healthy ecosystem around the subject. But it doesn't take too much imagination to see how Flipped Learning could become a Pearson trademark, and a solution offered by them to schools. And then all sorts of things stop happening – the freedom for it to develop in a manner led by teachers, the inclination to find resources beyond those provided by Pearson, and perhaps most significantly, it stifles teachers becoming part of the broader, open community.

I think this example will be telling. For many teachers in the Flipped Network, open education isn't a primary concern, for instance they may not be aware of the term OER. But it is a substratum which allows them to operate in the manner they like. Before they know it, this openness could be undermined and replaced by a packaged, proprietary solution, and they won't even know what theyt've lost. That is why I think the battle for open is significant for all of us in education.

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