There are many perspectives of openness, and the concept often relates to connectivity and free access to material when we discuss openness in the virtual space. An open access learning community often gives acessibility to material and knowledge without charge, and there are benefits from learning together in online collaboration. There is also a sense of freedom in being able to learn when and how one wants to. A number of people voice their thoughts on openness in a podcast about open education, moderated by Kiruthika Ragupathi (https://www.opennetworkedlearning.se/onl211-course-overview/onl211-topic-2-open-learning-sharing-and-openness/onl211-topic-2-event-discussion-webinar/), and it has been interesting to listen to these reflections.
One aspect of openness that is mentioned in the podcast is a flexible mind, or being outspoken about something. This is an area we also discussed in a recent webinar, where some participants mentioned limitations to openness, such as privacy, copyright and consent from others to use information or material. There are issues of misquoting or misusing material, and we can have a fear of losing control or being judged. This is something I can personally relate to. I have refrained from blogging about my teaching experiences, because I feel I have to be very careful about what I write about and how I write it. My job entails teaching future teachers, so we are constantly talking about the teaching profession. In some respects, I often feel I have to be a role model in these discussions. I am quite happy to share with my students if I feel something goes wrong or if I make mistakes, but I have to be very careful about commenting on my students’ participation or performance. Sometimes the line between my work and my students’ participation is a fine one to balance. I would like to openly blog about and discuss some dilemmas that I have, and issues that arise both for me and my colleagues. But I am afraid that my students will find my texts and interpret them incorrectly – or worst case scenario, identify themselves in my writing! Hence, I do not blog about the things that happen and reflections that I have. My openness is limited, perhaps by fear. I “cannot” write about how we struggle to address students’ lack of self reflection in courses that address the topic of self reflection (!), and how to best tackle the situations that arise. I “cannot” reflect on certain things, because that might come across as unprofessional.
I also don’t want to blog openly about the Zoom fatigue that I am experiencing right now. I will now, though. I have spent the past 13 months teaching online on a daily basis, and I have all my meetings in digital rooms. I sometimes have up to 200 people in Zoom in lectures, and some days I have up to 7 Zoom meetings scheduled in one day. I may have had a Zoom-free day back in January this year, but I cannot remember what that was like. I feel I am constantly checking my calendar and preparing for the next Zoom meeting, where a lot of energy goes into what I call “the black hole”. There is a constant focus on other people’s faces, without ever achieving real eye contact, and the amount of energy that goes into online sessions is draining, exhausting. I deliver, I listen, I produce, I assess. And I get very, very tired.
On the notion of openness, it is sometimes difficult to apply openness in an online community where you never have that personal chat without going into a breakout room or similar (and I do, of course, but it’s not the same). I don’t get the opportunity to connect with individuals, really, because I always have to address the individual in a smaller group, where everyone is listening. I cannot divide my students into individual breakout rooms without having a reason to do so. Hence, the small talk is lost on an individual level. There is a lack of openness due to the constraints from teaching online. I miss eye contact with people IRL. I miss the personal connections, and feeling the energy beaming back from participants in a physical classroom. I feel so very tired from 13 months of Zoom, from my kitchen, from my living room, from my “office” at home.
I will go into my 5th Zoom meeting today in about an hour’s time. This time with my ONL-group, and they are great. I sometimes feel a little guilty for already having spent all my “Zoom energy” in meetings and lectures throughout the day, as every ONL group meeting is at 8pm local time for me, but the openness in the group allows for us not to be “perfect”. I really appreciate that!