The busyness of the day settles into my body as I turn toward the CN Tower and make my way, slowly, back to Union Station and the train that will take me west(ern) bound. I mindlessly traverse the cityscape. The chance to turn off my thinking brain is a welcome change of pace.
I’ve been at the inaugural Open Education Ontario Summit at OCAD University. All day long I’ve been busy turning over all kinds of big questions around Open Educational Resources, pedagogy, practices, policy, the 5Rs… the list goes on.
Having attended the day, I’ve been officially dubbed an ‘Open Ranger’.
[Insert originally evoked imagery here – Power Ranger, Lone Ranger, Loan Arranger]
As chuckle-worthy as the title might have first been, I’ve been tossing the idea around all day. The label of Ranger is more intentional, I think, than a simple way to brighten up a day-long conference. It served as a way for a small community to become acquainted, bonding over a shared identity. As we traverse the new terrain of open education, we’re going to need community, certainly. Championing the kind of shift that open culture calls for is akin to forging a new path. Every once and a while it will be nice to come back to base camp and regroup with likeminded people. There’s a whole wide network of people who are doing all kinds of creative things to support open education. If someone’s not already working to a solution on a problem you’re facing, then at the very least, there will be understanding folks ready to empathize and lend an ear.
Rangers are guides. They anticipate the pitfalls yet know the summits and how to reach them safely. They are adept at navigating, reading the signs, acting on intuition. They are well equipped and ready for anything – there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing (Alfred Wainwright). As a new idea, open educational practices require small through to major shifts in thinking and action. A ranger’s navigational skills will come in handy for acting strategically and thoughtfully to anticipate the future possibilities of open education from individual course activities through to institutional policy.
Finally, A park ranger is a steward. They are a keeper of knowledge and practices that protect the land, it’s terrain, and inhabitants. They are part of an ecosystem that serves to protect and educate. Open education values a freedom of sharing. A choice to exercise autonomy over corporate structures of ownership and control. In a society so often focused on the bottom line, commodification, and a preference toward the disposable, a spirit of openness is one worth protecting. Yet, it seems, there are more misconceptions than there are people ready to buy-in to the idea of open with both feet. And so a ranger is that of an advocate, willing to be the keeper of the knowledge and the practices that will not only protect open but enable it to thrive through sharing it with others.
All in all, I’m wearing that Ranger cap with pride.