Thursday, February 13, 2014

How To Have An Open Source Mindset

The whole concept of  "Open Source" technology came about because programmers wanted the ability to take existing computer programs and customize them, improve upon them and figure out the thinking behind the code to make their own programs better.  I have always looked at my own teaching from this mindset as well.  I spend time planning lessons and units of instruction that align to standards, that are integrated within strands of my content or across multiple content areas and are accessible to a wide range of students.  I can be better at lesson design if I have the chance to break apart someone else's work or to take an idea that worked in their classroom and build on it to make a new unit that will work in mine. So, I have always freely shared the work I do with others and in exchange, have grown as an educator because of opportunities I have had to work with and discuss lesson ideas with my peers.

I have been fortunate to have many colleagues throughout my career who shared this "Open Source Mindset."  One, who I still refer to as the "other half of my brain", looked at science lessons differently than I did - even though we taught the same course.  Frequently, we would find ourselves meeting in the hall between our classrooms because we each had an idea to share with the other at the same moment. Our teaching styles differed, but we each were better teachers because of our willingness to open our lesson planning books to each other and share our thinking and ideas behind the lessons - and how they worked with our students.  I still find myself emailing her when I hear an NPR story on the radio or read a science article that I think might be a good lesson starting point.

As a former technology integration specialist and now district level administrator, I have had lots of opportunities to work with a lot of different teachers on developing lesson materials.  Each conversation, each brain storming session, each lesson I have observed has given me new insights into my own thinking as a teacher - It is an opportunity to take out my own "teacher program" and reevaluate my thinking.  Is this new idea, concept, way of approaching something better than what I currently have in my "teacher programming" or can I tweak something in my own "program" to improve it because of an insight I gained?  Is there something in my current "teacher program" that I need to replace all together?  Think about becoming an "Open Source Teacher".  Don't keep your ideas, your strategies that work or your experience to yourself- open the classroom door and let them out! You may be surprised at what will come back in.

Resources for developing an "Open Source Mindset"

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading what you wrote here. It rekindled my curiosity about the interplay between discovery and sharing.

    The importance of sharing that you talk about cannot be overemphasized. And I think it is important to recognize that sharing didn't begin with the open-source movement, and to recognize how important it is to the information, knowledge, and wisdom available to us now.

    When Euclid shared his Elements, it ignited the development of geometry and a lot of other mathematics. This happens whenever and however someone shares their discoveries and insights with others. Fibonacci's sharing in Liber Abaci did the same for commercial arithmetic. Once Gutenberg's invention made books more affordable, sharing by Galileo and Maria Agnesi did the same for physics and calculus.

    Societies have established systems of copyright and patent to encourage sharing and to reward those who share with others. Institutions of learning: colleges, clubs, conventions, knitting circles, meetups— all kinds of gatherings occur to this end.

    Moments of individual discovery spark our enthusiasms, but we learn most of what we understand from conversation with others. Sometimes this is in person, and sometimes it is with what they have left us or sent to us.

    I would encourage anyone who finds the idea of open-source sharing exciting and intriguing to expand their vision of this process beyond technology and beyond gadgetry. For teachers, this could mean more visits to classrooms up and down the hallway to see what/how/when/why our colleagues do what they do. Sharing in meatspace adds many dimensions that can be absent from mediated communication such as prosody and voice. Socrates bemoaned writing itself as harmful to memorization necessary for fluency and the abstractions he pursued.

    So. In the past I've shared these pondering with many in person, and thanks to you am doing the same online now...hoping for another sort of conversation.


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