Why Openness in Education: Activity 1

This post is the first in a new series of assignments for a free online course. This open course is called Why Openness in Education.

The first assignment given in this course proposed:

“Think back to a time when you learned something you really value from someone. Write a blog post in which you tell the story of that learning experience using the language of sharing instead of the language of education. What did the other person share with you? What did you share back with them? How many times did you iterate through this cycle of sharing? How was your relationship with the other person transformed (if at all) as you shared with them?”

The first experiences that came to me were from 1987, when I was in my second year of art college.

I was just beginning to see a world of computers, image-making, ideas, and visual communications opening up before me, and I wanted to learn about it. The Dean of Education at Emily Carr College of Art, Tom Hudson, asked me if I wanted to take part in special research project that would use computers to explore drawing systems for an education television series he was writing. I was eager to take an opportunity to learn something new, and to work with the head instructor on a one-to-one basis, so I said yes immediately. For an hour or so once per week, we sat at a Commodore 64 in one of the school’s small computer labs, using a small drawing tablet called a KoalaPad, and Tom tutored me.


Click to view a sample of my Visual Literacy image research.

We explored the basic  elements of point, line and shape, using the relatively crude consumer tools. Tom guided me in a process of making basic marks and lines in a sequential series of developments. He prompted me to place marks on the screen and be aware of their proximity, uniformity or spatial tension. With each little square point of line placed at a particular angle, I felt like I was learning something elemental and essential.

In that exercise, he shared his intention to guide me to see and feel elements of visual language. I shared my growing proficiency with the computer and my eagerness to learn. In Tom’s earlier career as an art educator in the UK, he had been one of a few progressive art educators who had been introducing aspects  of the Bauhaus basic course into British art education. Now, twenty years after those developments, Tom was exploring how computers could be used to explore the same principles. I realized that I was in new experimental territory, and I gave myself to the process of discovery, exploration and personal preference. I trusted that our sessions would lead me to some revelations.

As I became more familiar with this way of working and thinking, Tom encouraged me to experiment, explore and personalize more. We moved to the college’s Amiga computers and I used a mouse instead of a tablet. As I continued to complete hundreds of drawings under Tom’s encouragement and guidance, or on my own between classes, the digital drawings became valued research artifacts, evidence of the concepts and working process that he’d instilled in me, and also expressions of my learning and my personal explorations into digital marks and images.

Why am I taking this online course?

Partly because the theme, “Openness in Education”, is in my mind at the moment. I’m a user of Moodle, the most popular open-source LMS in the market today (as far as I know), and at Moodle Moot 2013 in Vancouver, I learned more about the Open Ed movement. I like the idea of free education, lifelong learning, and self-study, and I’ve been trying to stay abreast of the intersection between open learning and the increasingly commercial online learning market.

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