Open project practices – participating in makerphysics

For those of you not aware, I’ve been working with Piotr Mitros on this idea of encouraging a community of physics educators (and other educators) to co-create a MOOC that can help people prepare for university level physics. We are one week in at this point, and as this is a pilot, it seemed like a good time to reflect on some of the practices that might encourage people to participate as effectively as they can… both for the health of the project and the value of the participant.

Give yourself permission
I’m increasingly starting to realize that one of the biggest impediment to any project is that people don’t believe they have permission to do things. Questions like ‘what am i allowed to do” and “what does success look like” are good indicators that people are comfortable participating openly. If you are participating in an open project there is a subtle balance between the organizers and the participants in this regard. We need to make an effort to give people the structure and the room to participate, but, in the end, the participants need to take on the authority themselves.

To be successful in an open project you need to give yourself permission to be a contributing member

Blind sharing
In our course, we have hard core physics educator/programmers who’ve made excellent physics thingies in the past. We have other people who are pure educators without a scrap of physics understanding… and lots in between. Everyone has a role that is valuable. Some people can code, and don’t have new ideas to share. Some people have lots of ideas, but too many of the same ones. Some people just like to work with other people. The trick is, we never know what piece is going to be important. So you need share ideas/thoughts/code as you have them. It is next to impossible for you to know before you’ve shared whether it’s going to be useful to someone else.

Ideas are the lifeblood of open projects. Share them as you have them. Even if your idea doesn’t go forward, it often leads others to new ideas


Engage with ideas

There are two sides to this sharing business. If you see a good idea, say so. If you see an idea that you don’t agree with, disagree with it (professionally :) ). It is much more rewarding to share ideas when someone else is commenting on them. The platform we are working in has both comments and ‘+1′ functions available. Use them as you can. The more interaction we have, the better the ideas tend to get.

Engage with other people’s ideas, it makes them better. It also makes things more fun for everyone

Feedback to the organizers
The reason for running an open project is to get to work with lots of people. If something about the course is bothering you, or stopping you from participating… let us know. You are the reason we’re here. We don’t always know when something is broken, and are more than willing to engage with suggestions for improvement

Let the organizers know how you’re doing, both for what’s working and what isn’t working for you

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3 thoughts on “Open project practices – participating in makerphysics

  1. “one of the biggest impediment to any project is that people don’t believe they have permission to do things”

    My experience as well, especially if the behaviour involves an act that has traditionally been frowned upon in education. I’ve seen this often when it comes to working in a wiki where people are hesitant to change someones work when, in fact, the essence of working in a wiki is exactly that. Being overly explicit about what is allowed is a very good instructional strategy.

  2. Hello there, Dave! I really liked the giving yourself permission portion of your post. It may seem obvious to some, but it’s actually not that obvious to more folks than we would like it to be… Steep hierarchy has made that to people. People sometimes feel unworthy or undeserving of having an opinion without being afraid to be scolded or something… You know, if there’s one thing I like about how you express yourself in these matters is how open and straightforward you are. Add-play-to-your-day moment: where you read ‘open project’ in the summary bits, read ‘life’ instead. Pretty cool.

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