Education Opinion

When Teachers Demand to Be Co-Creators, Not Consumers

By Justin Reich — April 11, 2012 2 min read
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“How can we learn through construction rather than instruction? The best learning experiences are when people get together and build something” -Joi Ito

“We don’t want you to treat us as consumers, we want you to treat us as co-creators.” Vicki Davis

The richest exchanges on day two of the Hewlett Open Educational Resources Grantee Meeting came from those who challenged the fundamental premises of the meeting. In designing the meeting, Berkman staff imagined three groups: Learners, Facilitators (teachers, librarians, coaches, educators, etc.), and Builders. They assumed a kind of “supply and demand” model of OER where builders create stuff and distribute it to learners, sometimes through the mediation of facilitators (wholesalers, I guess?).

But the entrepreneurial educators in the audience, from Joi Ito of the MIT Media Lab, to Vicki Davis of Flat Classroom, to Jon Bergmann of the Flipped Classroom movement cried foul. “We don’t want to be the recipients of your pre-packaged learning objects,” they declared (I’m paraphrasing), “we want to be partners--along with our students--in co-creating the learning experience.”

To me, this is where the promise and potential of OER gets really interesting: Where we aren’t just creating videos and test questions and textbook chapters, but where we are designing platforms where students, teachers, curriculum designers, and technology developers can come together to shape learning opportunities drawing upon a rich wealth of existing resources and emerging media production platforms. Because we don’t educate students to be consumers, but to be the architects of their lives and our futures. Or as Joi Ito said, “We don’t give Nobel Prizes for obedience; we give Nobel Prizes for people who overthrow the current order.”

And as these educators staked their claim to a seat at the design table (and another seat on behalf of their students) there were plenty of nods in the audience, because lots of folks in the OER community are already inviting teachers and learners into real partnerships. I had lunch with Alfred Solis of the Buck Institute of Education, who is using Hewlett Funding to do a massive scaling up of their online PD around Project Based Learning. They are going to design courses that present projects to teachers that are about 65% finished, to scaffold teacher development as project designers and managers. I also ate with Mike Marriner of RoadTripNation, who is working to help teachers and students construct their own local road trips where they explore the different pathways that life offers to success and fulfillment. These are folks building curriculum development and professional learning organizations that imagine teachers as partners rather than wholesalers.

And the really cool part is this: when builders partner with teachers and students, those developers have the chance to learn from the insights of people in the instructional core. Put another way: when you empower the learners to be partners with the builders, then you create the opportunities for builders to be learners as well.

As always, follow me at @bjfr for tweets and updates, and go to EdTechResearcher.org for my papers, presentations, videos, webinars, and more.

The opinions expressed in EdTech Researcher are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.