Teaching and Learning

Open Pedagogy Showcased @ BMCC

Since joining the BMCC Library as an Open Educational Resources adjunct last spring, I have been humbled to witness and learn about how faculty incorporate open pedagogy into their classrooms. Open pedagogy, which refers to a style of learner-centered teaching that “opens up” the creation of knowledge to include students, appears in courses and classrooms across disciplines. When people ask me what open pedagogy actually looks like, I often refer back to examples shared by faculty at the Open Pedagogy Showcase that took place during Open Teaching Week in March 2018.

At the showcase, BMCC faculty across departments shared their reflections on teaching with a pedagogical framework that encourages taking class assignments into the public sphere. Both Laurie Lomask of the Modern Languages Department and Brianne Waychoff of Speech, Communications, and Theatre Arts discussed the value of assignments that require students to identify and interview subjects related to topics explored in class. Laurie’s class about the Greater Antilles culminates in a final project in which students conduct oral history interviews with people of the Antilles diaspora who live in their own communities. Similarly, Brianne’s class publishes oral histories and digital stories to a course website accessible to the public. Importantly, assignments like these prompt discussions of consent and privacy in the context of publishing online.

In addition to oral histories, Brianne requires students to critically engage with Wikipedia as an expression of open pedagogy. Collaborating with CUNY librarians and Wikipedians Megan Wacha and Ann Matsuuchi, who also presented at the Open Pedagogy Showcase, Brianne’s students create their own Wikipedia accounts and learn how to edit and create pages on the free Creative Commons-licensed encyclopedia. Megan and Ann described their experiences leading such trainings, which are often open to the public and known as edit-a-thons.

Why edit? According to the campaign Art + Feminism, less than 10% of Wikipedia editors identify as women. This disparity reflects itself in the gross underrepresentation and general lack of Wikipedia articles about women compared to men, which is especially acute for women of color, trans women, and other people of historically marginalized identities. By engaging BMCC students in Wikipedia’s editing process, edit-a-thons invite students to both contribute their expertise and challenge white patriarchal hegemony in public resources such as Wikipedia.

While the aforementioned examples involve student work in digital spaces, instructors practicing open pedagogy may also create opportunities for students to present their academic work in person to their peers and wider community. Marilyn Rivera and Evelin Gamarra Martinez of Modern Languages discussed exactly this in their presentation about designing and orchestrating the November 2017 Modern Languages Symposium. Hosted at BMCC, the symposium served as a community event and opportunity for students to produce and publicly present works, both fictional and non-fictional, that held personal importance to them. Marilyn and Evelin celebrated their students’ hard work and transformations, such as overcoming public speaking nerves to falling in love with poetry. By supporting students in their personal and academic growth and encouraging them to share that growth and education with the public, Marilyn and Evelin exemplify putting open pedagogy theory into practice.

Overall, BMCC’s 2018 Open Pedagogy Showcase was a great success in that it brought faculty together across the CUNYverse to discuss the immeasurable values of opening up knowledge to a learning community. With rich discussion, vulnerable reflection, and brainstorming for the future, I left the showcase feeling hopeful about the possibilities of open learning and open knowledge. As the old adage goes, knowledge is power. And if we open knowledge, spread it around, and invite others to participate in its creation and engagement, the power of learners cannot be contained.

We have another opportunity to learn about and explore open pedagogy with our colleagues during the 2019 Open Teaching Week beginning on April 1. There’s a full line-up of activities, including several about open pedagogy. On Monday, April 1, we’ll have an opportunity to participate in a live webinar about open pedagogy, sponsored by SUNY and the Open Education Consortium. This will be followed on Tuesday, April 2 and Thursday, April 4 with an Open Pedagogy Showcase, where BMCC faculty will share experiences of open pedagogy in their classes. On Tuesday, April 2, you can learn how to create a Wikipedia assignment for one of your courses at the Designing Wikipedia Assignments workshop. Looking forward to seeing you there!


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