The Promise of Open Learning

Open learning uses open education resources that are free to share, access, and collaborate.  It allows the students choice, which is motivating and helps them see relevance in their topic. In an open learning environment, students learn through experience. Open learning is constructivist and connectivist in nature and it places an emphasis on learning as a process of connecting information sources and concepts (Graham et. al., n.d.). In his TEDTalk, Erik Duval (2013) adds the idea that students take responsibility over learning and interact in the open—with others across the globe. Graham, et. al. (2013) says “learning and knowledge rest in a diversity of ideas”

Promises of open learning include teaching students relevant skills, offering students choice, helping to meet the CCSS and Alaska State Standards, and offering tools to students so they can collaborate with others.  Students need different literacy skills to interact in an open learning environment (Graham et. al., n.d.). These are skills that the students would use in their every day life which would help them see connection and relevance between their in school and out of school lives–making it a very motivating factor for students. Not only is seeing relevance motivating, but so is student choice. In open learning, students are offered choice over their learning. Erik Duval (2013) in his TEDTalk says, “What happens when you offer people responsibility for learning?. . . They start acting responsibly!” Students taking responsibility for their learning is a great promise of OL. Duval (2013) adds, the focus wouldn’t be preparing for a test. The focus would be the process of learning.  Students are taught to collaborate and interact with others, connecting ideas and information in their construction of knowledge.

David Wells (2013) also discusses a promise of open learning as using open technology resources to meet a portion of the CCSS (which also applies to the Alaska State Standards. He says the standards “just beg us to use open tools and be collaborative.” He urges teachers to use a variety of open tools and to teach in an open and collaborate manner.  At the second grade level, the Alaska State standards (2012) mention technology in 6 standards.  The Alaska State standards expect second grade students to use technology in the following ways:

1. “Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot” (RL2.7)

2. “Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, headings, charts, bulleted or numbered lists, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.” (RI2.5)

3. “With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.” (W2.6)

4. “Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., read a number of books on a single topic to produce a report or visual or oral presentation; record data from science observations).” (W2.7)

5. “Retell or describe key ideas or details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.” (SL2.2)

6. “Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories or recounts of experiences when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.” (SL2.5)

How do we use open learning concepts in a primary classroom to meet these standards? I am very interested to hear any ideas you have!

Pam Bloch and Joanne Finnigan from Jericho, VT share ideas on David Wells’ (2013) presentation. They used Google Docs with grades 3 and 4 with a interdisciplinary research project. Students had to collaborate and research using open tools. These teachers gave their students choice within boundaries. The choice within boundaries is huge for me. I’d have to structure the environment to make it successful.

When thinking of applying open learning to a second grade classroom, some current ideas I have are:

  1. Using guest speakers via skype or video clips
  2. Pen pals using a blog or wiki
  3. Flat Stanley Project using a wiki or blog
  4. American Hero unit:  posting presentations for other classrooms
    1. also wondering if there’s a way to have 2nd graders be successful in using Google Docs to make and collaborate on presentation
  5. Even Khan Academy has applicable tools for 2nd grade students!

I am very interested to hear what you would add to this list 🙂


Dept. of Education and Early Development (2012, June).  Alaska English/Language Arts and Math Standards [PDF document].  Retreived from:

Duval, Erik (2013, Jun 8). Open learning analytics: Erik Duval at TEDxHowest . Retreived from:

Graham, et. al. (n.d.) Open learning in k-12 online and blended learning environments. Retreived from: Online_and_Blended_Learning_Environments

Wells, David (2013, Oct 25). Writing: It’s about collaboration and sharing . Retreived from:

6 thoughts on “The Promise of Open Learning

  1. aletakmay says:

    Hi Kayla,

    Connecting information and connecting ideas from open learning sources and collaborating with others to construct group projects are ways of motivating students to delve deeper into learning. That is a good point about how we need to offer students choice and that learning needs to be relevant. I think it is so true that if students do not see how their learning in school connects to outside the school, we are really missing the point of education. Wow, it is amazing how even in second grade, students are expected to participate in shared research; according to the Alaska State standards. Retelling and describing key ideas will come naturally as students talk to each other in shared research. This prepares them to teach other groups in the class.

    I think your ideas for second grade applications to open learning clear up how it is certainly possible to start young. Using guest speakers through Skype or video clips is perfect—especially when I consider how difficult it can be to schedule people to come in and talk to a class. I think the Skype idea would be especially good so kids can ask questions immediately. But with a video clip of someone local, students could write questions in groups and mail them in to the presenter.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. edtech133 says:

    I love how you brought in the state standards and some practical tips for teachers! Honestly, at my site I see very little being done with technology outside of the curriculum that is already in place. There is one teacher who uses Skype and is currently using shared googledocs to monitor her students process as they write their papers. She is able to comment and chat with students, offering tips, encouraging them to continue, and scaffolding their learning. This is an impressive tool that is underutilized. It is such a powerful tool, that allows the students to collaborate and move outside of themselves. To discuss, dialogue and process information.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. akmathteacher says:

    Very interesting idea I had never thought of “The focus would be the process of learning. Students are taught to collaborate and interact with others, connecting ideas and information in their construction of knowledge.” It never occurred to me that with open learning we would be teaching and giving students skills on how to learn.


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