Category Archives: Open education

Remixed or Registered: Open Education

During last week’s class I kept making the connection with open education and pharmaceutical companies. What drives the development of new drugs? Corporations fund research, this results in life saving/life changing medications to be created.  Companies then charge for this medication to cover costs and make a profit (a lot of profit).  This money is then used to fund more research and create more lifesaving/life changing drugs. To ensure that those with less financial means can access those drugs, governments limit the amount of time companies can maintain patents on those drugs.  It then becomes public and any other company can make cheap replicas.  The initial run of medication encouraged by capitalism promotes innovation.  That is the idea, but obviously it is not that simple.  What about those that died because they were sick during the initial patent?  What about those that still cannot afford the pills after it is in the public domain? What about those that could survive with the latest version, but their insurance won’t cover this new pills cost?

Photo by Pixabay on

Now let’s look at textbooks.  Companies are paid by governments to develop academic documents.  Those companies then charge schools to pay for said textbooks. Updates do not make financial sense and schools will not pay for those updates because the initial costs of those books was so much. Jump ahead 12 years and we are using science textbooks that reference someone training for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics or the very current use of space shuttles.  Budgets are cut, publishers do not receive the funding, and new books are never made.  Teachers then take resources they can find, try to update and provide students with current information and are sued for violating copyrights.  We have been given the medicine and it is better than nothing, but it’s years past the expiry date. Our patients, our students are now suffering.

Photo by cottonbro studio on

We are in a world where we can take information and “remix it” to suit our classrooms needs. We no longer have to rely on that pharmaceutical medicine, that Pearson textbook.  Lawrence Lessig’s analogy of an airplanes flight path not violating trespassing laws is an interesting take on this remixing that we are doing. While educators may not be manipulating a piece of pop culture, we are manipulating research, texts, and a variety of other resources that are stamped with a circled C or R.  But how many of us have left the textbooks all together and now create our own resources from bits and pieces we have found online? How many of us share those resources? How far do we share them? In this way we are making our own open education, however it is within the confines of our institutional walls. I have not uploaded my ELA lessons, but maybe I should.

With access to the internet I have millions of lesson ideas to go through. I did not need to pay a fee to use them, or request them as part of a yearly order. I did pay to be educated on how to best use them, but some could argue that a few YouTube videos and some volunteer time in a class could have done the same thing.

I am currently using the next version of a textbook for math. MathUp is an online resource. It can be updated easily and I can decide what to use in the same way I could choose questions or chapters to assign from a textbook. To suit my needs I have begun to “remix” it. I take sections and images and compile them into my own lesson. Sometimes I follow the proposed outline, sometimes I abandon it entirely. Despite this, it is not open education. My division pays a fee to access this program, just as it paid for textbooks in the past. If I upload my version of these lessons I would be violating copyright laws; even though large sections are not recognizable from the program itself. I am soaring far above the ground, but I am trespassing.

A “remixed” Mona Lisa. Photo by Yaroslav Danylchenko on

So when do we abandon this? Open Education requires (as discussed in last class) an economy of sharing. Have we reached the point where we no longer need companies like Pearson to develop programs? Do we need them in the same way we rely on Phizer? Is the answer funding through taxes? In some ways what teachers are doing is exactly that. We are paid through taxes, we develop lessons and programs, we pass on those lessons to others. They in turn develop them and pass them on to someone else. But I feel like there is something missing. What is driving innovation? Is it an intrinsic need to share and do better? Do we need that first patented pill? Do we need that copyrighted textbook? Do we need that original song to mash up?

I’ve rambled on, but this is where my brain goes with Open Education. It seems like a dream at times and others it feels like we are already there.

Photo by Nadi Lindsay on

open education, capitalism, corporatization, and the sask dlc

Prior to our presentation from guest speaker Alan Levine (AKA Cog Dog) this week, I wasn’t sure what ‘open education’ meant or what it entailed. I figured it was an approach to education, or a tangible ‘thing,’ but now I understand it to be a mindset. Alan described it as a belief that education should be fully accessible to everyone. As a teacher in the public education system, this is something I wholeheartedly believe in.

One of the videos I watched from this week’s resources was “Why Open Education Matters,” which discussed why free public education is important. While this video was short and sweet, the onslaught of thinking I had as a result was quite the opposite – so buckle up! My thinking went in two directions as I viewed this video:

  1. The Sask DLC and Corporatization of Education

Warning! Controversial Topic Alert!

Since attending STF’s Annual Meeting of Council and the Rally for Public Education at the end of April, issues surrounding the newly-minted Sask DLC have been a hot-button topic on my mind. Many of the logistics of exactly how the Sask DLC’s courses will roll out in the fall are still unknown and a ‘grey area.’

At first glance, one might think that the Sask DLC is a great example of open education, as students can access an array of unique courses in an online format to make them more accessible. However, each school division is only being given a certain number of spaces for their in-house students to take Sask DLC classes. If a student does not get one of these (limited) spaces, they can still take Sask DLC classes IF they want to pay $500 per course.

Disappointed and frustrated doesn’t begin to describe how I feel on this subject. Currently, my school division (and many others, as I understand it) has an abundance of in-house online course offerings for our students. Going forward with the Sask DLC, students who want to take extra online classes that are of interest to them or fit better into their schedule are going to have to pay tuition? This is no longer free, public education but a private corporation that is profiting (on top of being funded $57 million dollars from the government for its start-up).

I could go on about this for quite a while (and even did some fact-checking and sharing on a Facebook post of mine on the topic, which drew some questions from a Facebook friend this week – I am trying to embody being an activist on my social media!), but in the interest of your time and the length of this post, I will just end by saying that I found the Sask DLC to be an interesting case study to consider in relation to the tenets of open education.

2. Capitalism and Putting Monetary Value on Education

While listening to the aforementioned video and contemplating free education, I thought: “But the education I’m getting as a graduate student has worth and value, and I feel it has been worth the literal price I’ve paid for it.” Then my train of thought went to questions such as: “Do we want all education to be free?” “Would education have less value or reverence if it didn’t cost a lot?” “Isn’t part of the incentive to finish/do well in university classes due to the money you are shelling out?”

Then I caught myself and realized I was thinking with my Western, capitalism-steeped brain.

(Sorry to get deep into scholar mode here – I’m concurrently taking my capstone synthesis course and we have done a lot of discussion on Western thinking, capitalism, democracy, colonialism, and the like) The instinct to put monetary value on everything (including knowledge and education) is a Western, capitalistic practice. I instantly balked at the thought of free university education because I have been conditioned to think that way. In our culture, obtaining a university degree is a symbol of status and post-secondary education is correlated with a price tag. You pay the big bucks to (hopefully) make the big bucks and get prestige in return. Yet, there are many countries that offer free post-secondary education. In these places, education is not tied to monetary value but its inherent value to better society.

During Alan’s presentation, the question of “Why don’t teachers like to share?” came up a few times. I think our Western views are creating a lot of this resistance to open education. Until we have some cultural shifts and truly see education as a common good with intrinsic value, things will remain largely competitive and corporate, rather than collectivist.

In Conclusion

At the outset of writing this post, I am left with many questions about open education and how it interacts with the realities of our current education system. However, I do have a better understanding of what open education is and what it values. I believe it is a beneficial mindset that fosters sharing, remixing, and constant improvement. That being said, the current state of our Western society and rigid, compartmentalized education system, in many ways, goes against this and is perhaps what makes open education difficult to grasp or envision. It is my hope that we will continue to see open education become a reality in our province and our world – it might just take some time and a lot of mindset shifting.

(My apologies that this blog post came out quite formal-sounding and scholarly. I just finished writing my final reflective paper for my master’s program, so I think my brain is still in that mode. I appreciate it if you read to the end and were willing to engage with a post that was a bit more cerebral than a typical blog usually is!)

If anyone has feedback or opinions on any of this, I would love to have an honest conversation with you! Sound off in the comments!

Until next time,


The World of Social Media: A Personal Reflection

small snippet of desktop game minesweeper

As a Cusper, I feel that I had the benefit of growing up in two world. In my early years, social media was particularity non-existent. As a family, we had the very typical early 2000s computer room with a monstrous desktop computer that connected to dial up internet. On this computer was nothing that 5 year old me ever cared about outside of Microsoft Paint and Minesweeper, which I had no idea how to play, I just liked the idea of it. But as the years wore on, it became clear that I was growing up along side and with technology and social media.

My friends and I often call this era of social media the “wild west” – an experience that isn’t just unique to my friend group. When I say social media in this context, I am not talking about Instagram, TikTok, or even Facebook. I am taking about open chat forums and questionable websites. But nevertheless, we survived to see the rise of modern social media.

The first form of social media I remember using was, of course, MSN Messenger. MSN played a significant role in my early childhood, but particularly from the ages of 10-13. I remember these days with mixed emotions. I often joke that I would pay the MSN gods any amount of money to get my old chat logs back, but as I reflect on my actual true experience, I remember is just how ruthless we were. It was in this era of my life that I truly began to understand cyberbullying. MSN was the first time I was able to speak to my friends behind a computer screen and this opened up an uncharted world. While I do look at this era of my life in relative fondness, I do believe that it would be a disservice to not at the minimum acknowledge that damage that undoubtably came from the platform.

person on phone waiting for others to like their social media posts
Social Media and Likes

It wasn’t until I was in high school that I feel social media, as we know it today, really began to take off. It was during my high school years that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and AskFM began to take off. It would again be a lie for me to say that social media, especially during these years, was only positive. I spent far too much time as a teenager worried about what I posted, if I sounded cool enough, and fixate on how many likes I did (or did not) get. In many ways I was consumed by social media and the serotonin it gave my from insist social gratification. At the time, I don’t think I saw an issue with this mentality. As an adult, however, I can very much see the negative impact that this had on myself growing up.

As I got older, however, I have very much seen a shift with my relationship with social media. Now I am the first to admit that I spend FAR too much time on my phone. I have every form of social media that one could possibly have. And, I have a particular proclivity to spend an hour (or multiple) scrolling through Tik Tok.

I, however, am a self proclaimed social media lurker. I rarely post on social media anymore. For example, my last Instagram post was from August of last year and before that I had not posted since August 2019. I do use Twitter and Instagram stories more regularly, but overall I like to take in what I see on social media and leave it at that. I have found that keeping a more private online presence has very much helped myself personally to shed the idea that I had to please everyone.

Professionally, however, I am more open to posting. I have had a Twitter account since the 2010s. During high school I would use Twitter to do whatever – I honestly can’t even wager a guess to what I posted, but I’d imagine it would be some sappy song lyrics and a joke I got on Google. When I started my teaching career, I cleaned up my Twitter and I have been using it semi-regularly to post student projects, school events, and anything related to teaching. In the day to day of teaching it is hard to keep up sometimes, but I do hope that in the future I can work to increase my social media presence.

TikTok has also played a surprising role in my career as an educator. Now, I have never posted on TikTok, but I spent an obscene amount of time scroll through videos upon videos. And in reflection, I have gained a great deal from the platform. I am 100% the person that says “I was doing some research” or “I just saw that…” when discussing global political, current affairs, or classroom pedagogy. In reality, my research was TikTok. I do, however, have to remind myself that not everything I see on the internet is true, but overall, I do honestly feel TikTok has made me a better person – but don’t tell my students that.

Overall, my journey with social media has been long and winding. It has had its up and its downs, but my life right now would be vastly different if social media didn’t exist.

Thanks for reading!

Write a blog post that addresses the following questions and/or statements: Describe your relationship with social media. How has social media affected your personal or professional life in positive and/or negative ways?