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Bringing open schooling to life - how Make it Open is different

The EU project Make it Open has started out with an ambitious task to develop and implement a transformational approach to learning for educational institutions through what is known as “Open Schooling”. Last month in spokes we highlighted how science centres can better connect with schools through Open Schooling.  In short, Open Schooling allows for purposeful collaborations to take place between schools and their wider communities addressing relevant local challenges and promoting an active global citizenship attitude for teachers and students. More can be read here.  

However, creating these “transformational approaches” in education is certainly not new. When engaging with different governmental policies, academic literature or conferences you will often be presented with a collection of new approaches to education, for example, technology-enabled active learning, precision pedagogy, digital education ecosystem, service-learning - the list continues. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as this shows a clear appetite for change in education and a desire to expand our view on what education could look like. 

So, how is Make it Open’s approach different to these other pedagogical approaches listed above? The difference lies in its creation, whereby teachers, policymakers and parents shaped its DNA makeup. We got in touch with Forth to find out more, a think and do tank based in the United Kingdom, who led the work on building the foundations to this transformational approach.

“Grounding Make it Open in reality”

To ensure Open Schooling is achievable and interesting for users to adopt, Make it Open ran over 10 workshops across 5 countries, which included over 60 people from teachers, policymakers, local governments to parents. This, as Forth said, “made sure Make it Open is grounded in reality”. The objective here is to make Open Schooling accessible, so to immediately launch into creating programmes without fully understanding the current outlook from the perspective of the user (teachers, families etc.) would be risky. 

These workshops followed a service design approach, which as Forth said is a method that  “pushed us to think deeply about need and to focus on qualities like usability, desirability and effectiveness before thinking about the component parts of a programme. This stopped us from falling back on conventions, and creating things because we think we should”.    

The core ethos of service design is to “respect users as experts in their own experience and equal contributors to the design process”, encouraging user ideas, needs and concerns to flow easily. The process is fundamentally collaborative which “felt like a good match since Open Schooling is such an outward-looking and relationship-based pedagogical approach”. 

In the early stages of these workshops, it was evident that Open Schooling was not widely understood as a term, which as Forth explained “was heard loud and clear” and has “haunted them ever since”, as this alone sets such a fundamental barrier to adoption. However, knowing this barrier was necessary as this set the tone and structure for the tools that Make it Open will produce. Coming soon are a set of downloadable information packs which will be available on the Make it Open navigator - a virtual tool that you can use to help set up and plan your own Open Schooling project. These downloadable packs have been designed to “speak to new entrants as well as those who have experience with Open Schooling”, as explained by Forth. Within these packs users will be able to find: 

  1. An introduction to Open Schooling with frameworks and clear guidelines
  2. Open Schooling case studies such as the one from a school in Israel
  3. Support in planning your own Open Schooling project

In the end, these workshops not only informed us of what we had to do to make Open Schooling more accessible, they also allowed us to work with teachers, parents and policymakers in building a framework for Open Schooling that worked for teachers and students, because as Forth said, in the end, “everything should benefit the learners and it should also mean teachers feel more confident in adopting open schooling [...] resulting in more creative and sustainable open schooling projects”. Achieving this will also ensure benefits trickle down to parents as well as the local community. 

Want to be involved in Make it Open?

If you are based in one of these countries and know and work with a school in your network who you think would be interested in being a part of this open schooling movement, pass on this article to them where they can leave their details to show interest in such a project. And maybe you can even be a part of their open schooling journey... 

If you want to know more about the project in general you can visit the Make it Open website or get in contact with Andrew Whittington-Davis (ajwhittingtond@ecsite.eu). 



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