A Personal Reminder: The Joy of Open

Picture of young child intently looking at a laptop screen.  My friend tagged me in this very happy memory today which brought me great joy.  Seven years ago, I livestreamed my dissertation defense.  It was completely natural for me that the culminating moment of the dissertation journey would be open. I “exposed” my dissertation file before defending, I’d been blogging regularly since 2004, my practicum was (is?) a blog, I tweet – heck yes I was going to stream my dissertation! My committee was (I think somewhat hesitantly) agreeable (though the discussion of the results would of course have to be closed!) I think they were somewhat surprised when about 25 people showed up in person…and about 40 or so more online. While I was full of the requisite nerves, I was determined to approach my defense as a celebration, a community celebration.

About 4 years prior to this moment, I failed my dissertation proposal defense. It’s not a secret, but, not something I’ve really ever talked about openly before. This was one of those pivotal moments which I know fed into my personal desire to open up these “closed” processes of academia. Had I been able to attend a proposal defense before my high-stakes moment, maybe I would have done better? (We could talk a lot more about that experience, but, let’s move on…) By opening up my dissertation defense, a bunch of sweet little kiddos got to watch (a woman) achieving a dream (in person and online).  Fellow graduate students were welcomed into a space that is normally not open/welcoming so they could get a glimpse of the process.  I was elated that the college support staff I invited were there, there is no way I could have completed my PhD journey without them.  My students (many of whom watched from around the globe) got to see their teacher and mentor “on the spot.” My own dear teachers and mentors (from K12 onward) were also able to attend from afar.

Since I’m back in the classroom now, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to (re)articulate my own philosophy of teaching and learning (things like this are resonating with my thoughts).  Open is still at my core, and I’m inspired to continue sharing and working on, and in, open pedagogical spaces.

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