Open as a Practice

I have been to a couple of events lately where I have been introduced as an OER expert. While this fuels my ego, it is uncomfortable because I see myself, not as an OER expert, but as an OER practitioner and advocate.

I have been reflecting on this idea of experts vs. practitioners. Wondering what makes one an expert in a field? I prefer the term practitioner because it means that I am constantly in the practice of Open, meaning I haven’t figured it all out, I am continually in practice.

When I look out into the field of Open and take note of my mentors (Mary Burgess, Kim Thanos, David Wiley, Nicole Allen, Cable Green,  Paul Stacey, Richard Sebastian, David Ernst, Sarah Cohen) I notice that they are all in the practice of open. They work at it EVERY DAY and yes sometimes they fail and sometimes they succeed, but what matters is that they continue to practice open. Practicing open means to be in the practice of sharing (processes, information, knowledge, resources), as well as to be in support of one another. To practice open means to be open advocates of each others work regardless of the “open silos” we put ourselves into.

Practicing Open and being practitioners of open, means in my view, to support the notion that open is an ecosystem. Whereby the Open Ecosystem is comprised of open access, open data, open education, open government, open licenses, open scholarship, open science, and open source software.


An Ecosystem is defined as a “system, or group of interconnected elements, formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment; thus they interact as a system”. The key part of the definition is “interact as a system”. But what I see out in Open Ecosystem, what seems to be a reality we don’t often speak about, is that sometimes we do not interact as a system. If we continue to place aspects of our ecosystem in a pecking order or one versus another, we are not acting as an ecosystem. We are not interacting with one another to change our environment, i.e. to make open the default. For example ,I sometimes hear the statement or phrase, “open pedagogy vs. open textbooks”. What I don’t understand is why we create these distinctions that one is better than the other when we are all a part of the ecosystem, and in particular the sub-ecosystem of Open Education.

Our open ecosystem will be effective and enduring when we all practice open, when as leaders, mentors, and advocates of open we acknowledge that we are a series of interconnected elements that work together to make open the default. We may fail at times, but we get back up and practice again, and through practice we will see success.
Rather than case ourselves as experts  in the ecosystem let’s regard ourselves as practitioners. Let’s constantly be striving for improvement and practice our philosophy of open; sharing, improvement of access, better student learning outcomes, academic freedoms, increased knowledge.


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