M. Deiman, R. Farrow: Open Education and Bildung (BD(14)

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Aus Markus Deimann und Robert Farrow: Rethinking OER and their Use : Open Education as Bildung. In: The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Volume 14/3

The open education movement (OEM) is often thought to have grown out of the open source movement in software development. Open-source software is published with a licence that makes the code available to those who would modify, port, adapt, and share it, and was largely developed in response to the software monopolies that developed through the 1980s. Wiley (1998) coined the phrase open content to describe analogous intellectual properties which are not licensed under conventional copyright restrictions. With the explosion of internet technology over the last twenty years, it has become increasingly easy to share knowledge and information. This had led to new pedagogical possibilities, particularly in the field of distance education.


The Concept and History of Bildung

At the end of the eighteenth century, a conceptual transformation took place in Germany leading to the birth of a new value idea: Bildung. This means that during this time a significant extension occurred so that Bildung from now on signals a new value of its own:

"Whereas Bildung was previously a synonym for Erziehung (from erziehen, to 'educate', 'bring up') and was related to Enlightenment [Aufklärung] the idea now encompasses all this and is elevated into the region of culture [Kultur] and 'humanity' [Humanität] more generally." (Dumont, 1994, S. 82)

A classical definition states that Bildung is to be understood as a free, dialogical, and dialectical interplay between the individual and the world which allows and supports the individual’s self-realization. Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767 to 1835) coined the expression of a "connection between our ‘I’ with the world in the most general, most lively and freest interaction" (Wellmon, 2010, S. 255). It is thus a "process in the course of which specific human beings acquire the general characteristic human features" (Menck, 2000, S. 93). This process is a never-ending attempt to be able to live a "good life which was regarded as a fundamental right for every human being.

"Erziehung" erfolgt zu einem bestimmten Zweck, z.B. zur Einsicht in die Vernunftordnung. In "Bildung" fehlt der Autoritätscharakter. Die Anlehnung an Physiologie legt nahe, dass es sich um einen natürlichen Vorgang handelt, der allerdings von der Natur des Menschen geleitet ist.
"So holt er, auf eine künstliche Weise, in seiner Volljährigkeit seine Kindheit nach, bildet sich einen Naturstand in der Idee, der ihm zwar durch keine Erfahrung gegeben, aber durch seine Vernunftbestimmung nothwendig gesetzt ist, leiht sich in diesem idealischen Stand einen Endzweck, den er in seinem wirklichen Naturstand nicht kannte, und eine Wahl, deren er damals nicht fähig war, und verfährt nun nicht anders, als ob er von vorn anfinge und den Stand der Unabhängigkeit aus heller Einsicht und freiem Entschluß mit dem Stand der Verträge vertauschte." Schiller zum Spieltrieb (BD14)
Zweimal "Naturstand": als initiale biologische Entwicklungsbasis und als selbstbestimmte Idee. Eine Integration der Herkunft in die Zukunft. Das logische Muster verläuft so: Ein Zustand X wird zunächst von einem Zustand Y unterschieden und dann in den Zustand Y einbezogen. Ein Bergbauernkind braucht Skis zur Fortbewegung und nützt seine Fertigkeiten im Abfahrtslauf. --anna (Diskussion) 09:06, 27. Nov. 2014 (CET)

According to Eldridge (undated) the first references occur in theological debates of the 16th century where devout Christians were encouraged to ‘cultivate’ (Bildung) themselves in the image of God. Later, philosophers of biology used the word to refer to the inherent potentialities that might explain the development of an organism as it interacts with its environment. Mendelssohn (1997, p. 314) went on to use the term to describe the unfolding of one’s potential in a general, cultural sense. By the 18th century ideas about developing potential were infused with the political and philosophical ideals of the Enlightenment.


In the late 18th century Herder construed Bildung as a kind of natural unfolding which was to be understood culturally and aesthetically. Herder’s place as the forerunner of geisteswissenschaftliche Pädagogik (hermeneutically-inspired education studies) is based on his insistence that man’s creative and intellectual capacities need to be developed if we are to live virtuous lives. Eldridge suggests that Herder’s conception of Bildung is one which replaces academic philosophy with philosophical anthropology. Bildung thus conceived treats criticism and reflection as much a part of human reason as natural science, but without the same manipulative attitude toward the world that one might associate with utilitarian or positivist accounts of human reason (cf. Habermas, 1968).

Following Herder, Humboldt emphasized the unrestrained interplay between the individual and the world, an exchange through which the individual relates to the world in the most comprehensive, vital, and freest way possible. Self-development is not an adaptation to an external order but rather a cultivation of the inner life: a reflective, creative form of self-realization or self-cultivation which, crucially, is achieved in and through relations with others (Sorkin, 1983).

Reflexion auf die äußeren Umstände und auf sich selbst. Was ist darin leitend? Im Begriff der Reflexion ist keine weiterführende Richtung enthalten. Es wird so getan, als ob Reflexion für sich genommen schon Selbstverwirklichung wäre und diese in sich selbst ruht. --anna (Diskussion) 11:02, 4. Dez. 2014 (CET)


This sense of going beyond existing structures has remained a constant theme in the humanistic tradition. It should be noted that the pedagogical, biological, cultural, and aesthetic elements of Bildung have been controversial ever since Herder’s proposal. Since the focus is on the potential for human development, it has functioned as something of a blank canvas for a range of thinkers interested in education (Horlacher 2004, p. 424). Discourse around Bildung is thus always and necessarily mediated, necessarily unresolved, dialectical, and open.

Daraus, dass "Bildung" eine leere Projektionsfläche ist, folgt nicht, was man damit macht. Speziell nicht die genannten Qualitäten der Vermittlung, Dialektik und Offenheit. --anna (Diskussion) 11:02, 4. Dez. 2014 (CET)

Bildung and Contemporary Education

In order to clarify the conception of Bildung put forward in this paper, theories of transformative learning which are more familiar to most of the readers may be helpful in explaining some of the core features. As defined by Mezirow (1997, S. 5) "transformative learning […] is the process of effecting change in a frame of reference". Of critical importance in this definition is the term "frame of reference" which is stated to be "[...] the structures of assumptions through which we understand our experiences" to selectively shape cognitive, conative, and emotional processes.

Furthermore, it is assumed that a frame of reference is a relatively stable construct working like a critical lens and sets a "line of action". Modern theories of Bildung (Marotzki, 2003) build on the frame of reference and claim that there are many grand transformations in the society (e.g., digitalisation, globalism) which require a new transformation of the frame of reference. As we have seen, it is now a common practice to “hack” education, that is, to retrieve materials from open repositories all over the world or to collaborate with others in MOOCs. Traditional practices that have been obtained throughout formal educational settings have insofar offered little to help learners with orientation in open complex environments. Bildung may thus be understood as a way of reconsidering learning practices in a way which is appropriate to the challenges of modern education.


How can Open Education Benefit from the Introduction of the Theory of Bildung?


... openness does point to a critical aspect in theorising Bildung which goes back to the classical writings of Humboldt. He and his contemporaries outlined the notion of Bildung being related to the world to enable the individual to have all the experiences that contribute to becoming a fully developed human being. This was based on a subject-object-dualism that claims that the state of an inward harmony can never be fulfilled without a connection to the external world by engaging and interacting with it and by leaving one's mark. This is a distancing and reflective process. Openness is thus important as an unrestricted access to the world constitutes the precondition for Bildung to take place. This typically takes a form where the person is confronted with a diverse array of (often challenging) experiences which then can be transformed into an integrated self:

The person can ... never gather himself enough in the whole human race. The more diversity he transforms into the whole, the richer, and the more powerful and successful he will be. The impact of the multifaceted relations provides him the diversity. The more he opens up (toward the world), the more new sides (and multiple abilities) he can possess, and the more active his inner activities can be so as to develop individually and to combine all together to a whole. (Humboldt, 1797/2002, p. 346, our translation)

Obviously, Humboldt’s work is rooted in Idealism and unconcerned by technical issues like access to educational materials and learning on a massive scale. Given the aspiration of theories of Bildung – to capture the contemporary condition – it seems warranted to focus instead on the notion of openness as an enabler of Bildung. Moreover, it can be argued that Bildung and openness are kindred spirits because both share certain moral values around humanity and enlightenment (Deimann, 2013). From this expanded perspective, Bildung can be described as a complex process of interaction between the individual and the world based on a well-grounded understanding of the importance of openness: (1) the person is provided an unrestricted, open access to digital artefacts representing the diversity of the world and (2) the world is given traces and manifestations expressing the human spirit that are added to the world's open database.

Der Subjekt-Objekt-Dualismus und die idealistische Perspektive seiner Überwindung im weltoffenen Individuum wird das Verständnis von "open educational resources" an die Seite gestellt. "Offenheit" impliziert ethische Vorannahmen über die Qualität des Menschseins. Die nachfolgenden Beispiele versehen Projekte am Internet mit der Aura des klassischen Bildungsbegriffes. --anna (Diskussion) 11:02, 4. Dez. 2014 (CET)

We see today the emergence of many technologies which strive to support these processes. For instance, the OER Evidence Hub developed by the Knowledge Media Institute and the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University under the auspices of the Open Learning Network aims to provide an environment to systematically interrogate the open education movement on what are the people, projects, organizations, challenges, solutions, and claims to scaffold the movement. In a similar vein, the OER Knowledge Cloud has been established to identify, collect, preserve, and disseminate available documents of enduring value to researchers, industry, government, scholars, writers, historians, journalists, and informal learners.

Open education and Bildung can both be linked to the broader context of web literacies, that is, the abilities to utilize the Web in a way to get the most out of it for personal development. Mozilla Foundation recently issued a paper which defines the four basic web literacies (2013):

  1. Exploring - I navigate the Web while learning, questioning and evaluating what it has to offer.
  2. Creating - I create things with the Web and solve problems while respecting the work of others.
  3. Connecting - I communicate and participate appropriately in one or more Web communities.
  4. Protecting - I protect the Web as a public resource for free expression.

This framework resonates with previous attempts outlining the potentialities of digital learning environments for Bildung (Marotzki, Nohl, & Ortlepp, 2003), which states that first and foremost information has to be transformed into knowledge – an understanding that is reflected in the open education movement by the shift in focus from OER to OEP. (i.e. "open educational practices" anna) Secondly, knowledge should be reflected upon considering a number of factors, including (a) its emergence and constitution, (b) its scope, (c) its justified utilisation, (d) and with reference to the articulation of one’s own position (with regard to the reflected knowledge) in public space.

We can see some similarities here with the connectivist approach for understanding MOOCs (Downes, Siemens, & Cormier, 2013) and other forms of open education, which may be simplified as entailing four steps: aggregation, remixing, repurposing, and feeding forward. However, being focused on the distributed nature of knowledge and cognition this approach neglects to describe the specific procedure that takes place during the process of personal self-transformation. Despite the ways in which transparency and openness to criticism are encouraged in open learning (Smith & Casserly, 2006) much of the content of these personal transformations remains opaque or not well understood. While in a typical MOOC the learner is committed to open up materials from a technological and idealistic standpoint, Bildung elaborates on the importance of openness from a philosophical point of view, providing a way for learners to understand and influence their own intellectual development.


In a similar and parallel vein, open education has emerged as a new paradigm of social production in the global knowledge economy (Peters, 2008b) to challenge existing forms of teaching and learning. In the networked, digital world – and especially in the future – the sheer volume and diversity of content can be overwhelming, what Weller (2011) has referred to as abundance of knowledge in need of pedagogy. Evidently, one of the biggest hurdles for the learner in this kind of online environment is the ability to orientate oneself. There has already been a debate on the increasing information overload that has begun in the so-called knowledge society (Marotzki & Jörissen, 2010). There is a distinct difference between knowledge of how things can be better produced, more efficiently (Verfügungswissen) and knowledge of why or for what reason things are done or produced (Orientierungswissen). Both forms are inversely proportional: Whereas Verfügungswissen is easily accessible due to open formats and open archiving, it does not, however, contribute to an increase of Orientierungswissen. Furthermore, it exacerbates its acquisition. In this context, Bildung is seen as a critical factor for establishing competences that help people to navigate through open, complex worlds by relying on their own creativity and reflection to arrive at deeper understandings of their own educational experiences.

Bildung as Theoretical Framework: MOOCs, Communities,and Literacy


How can learners (and teachers) orient themselves in a MOOC environment when many of their preconceptions about the learning process are based on “closed” institutional models? We propose to frame the question in terms of a new kind of literacy that is informed by theories of Bildung. MOOC learners must take responsibility for their own learning and development to a degree that is arguably greater than that of typical higher education students. They must therefore be relatively more autonomous in some ways than typical college students.

Müssen sie schon vorweg autonomer sein, damit sie von MOOCs profitieren, oder lernen sie Autonomie durch MOOCs? Hier wird für den Lernerfolg eine Souveränität vorausgesetzt, die das Ergebnis des Lernprozesses sein soll. --anna (Diskussion) 11:02, 4. Dez. 2014 (CET)
"A new educational paradigm? MOOCs are totally open for everyone who has access to the internet and enough time to participate. So far so, good. But who will benefit? It seems that those who meet the standards of discussion and the hidden requirements [of the presenters] can exchange and enhance their knowledge. Those who will not reach the academic level set by the organizers will remain lurkers who can only profit in discussing with the those in the crowd that can argue at the same level. But they cannot increase their skills. What’s that good for? The courses silently separate the elite from the mass. It looks like democracy but is quite the opposite of [real] teaching." MOOCs_(BD(14)

Often serving many hundreds of thousands of students, MOOCs are often assumed to improve access to education. Though there are undoubtedly large numbers of students enrolled on such courses, it is too early to say whether we should really think of this as widening access to education. The MOOC model may be understood as a very large scale process of information assimilation with standardised assessment. In some ways, these could be seen as the worst aspects of mechanical learning brought to a massive scale.

To avoid this kind of charge, most MOOCs rely on peer assessment of graded work and lively forum discussion to create communities and support structures that can replace classroom interaction and a personal relationship with an instructor.


As McAuley, Stewart, Siemens, and Cormier (2010) found, student dropout in MOOCs is much higher than in traditional courses. Whether the majority of students feel that they get value from participating in a MOOC remains an open question. As we have seen from our overview of Bildung-theoretic perspectives, Bildung offers a way of making sense of (and informing) this kind of activity by providing an account of what meaningful interaction within a MOOC might look like: an activity which emphasizes curiosity, imagination, passion, and creativity in order to encourage authentic and personal forms of learning through open communities. There is a striking similarity between these digital learning activities and events that took place during educational journeys described in a literature of its own: bildungsroman (often translated as the coming-of-age novel).


Betreff Bildungsroman

Folgewirkungen des literaturgeschichtlichen Terminus.


The Bildungsroman Project

Basically, the current intellectual vogue measures violence as though it were a generic ingredient external to the story, like salt in a recipe for stew. But there are different kinds of violence, because the context of a story shapes the meaning of every element within it. For instance, even in typical, blood-soaked gangster dramas of the Martin Scorsese variety, horrific and brutal acts of violence are usually presented within a larger context of familial tensions, greed and vanity, the yearning for identity, etc. In that sense, "Buffy: the Vampire Slayer" is more intrinsically violent than something like "Goodfellas". In the latter, violence is mostly a practical consequence of running an illegal business, whereas in "Buffy", violence is the animating force behind everything we see, baked into the narrative's bones. Moment-to-moment, the story may shift its focus to a budding romance, a thorny moral dilemma or a bittersweet lesson about betrayal, but it all occurs within the context of a bloody, protean war in which our heroes serve on the front lines. In some ways, you might say that violence itself is the context of BtVS. It is the mythic thread from which the bildungsroman of the Buffyverse is spun. Rules of Engagement: Violence and Hyperreality in the Buffyverse



The present paper has attempted to provide a theoretical base for an educational field that has gained enormous attention over the past years. Developments have been closely related to and thus mediated by innovative ICT. Consequently it has become challenging to keep track of the accomplishments of the open educational movement. Besides the consequences for practitioners (e.g., difficulties to find appropriate OER materials) there is also a significant downside with concern to scholarly work. As long as there is no solid theoretical foundation, the movement is in danger of becoming weakened, which was the case during the earlier open classroom movement in Germany that exploited openness as a buzzword during the struggle for more educational innovations and thus failed to be recognised as an influential field. To bridge this gap, we have introduced the theory of Bildung which roots in philosophical and theological thinking (self-cultivation).

We have briefly reviewed subsequent history to demonstrate how education has benefited from Bildung. With the recent advent of innovative ICT, media has become a core subject for Bildung. There is significant potential to elicit or encourage Bildung through the use of OER, such as through providing open access to a rich base of materials from various cultural contexts. In this process of engaging with multiple and complex resources it can be assumed that a transformation of the way in which the individual is approaching learning is likely to happen. We explored this through the context of MOOCs and argued that Bildung can provide a useful contribution to understanding and maximising the value of open education. The beliefs and values associated with Bildung – including autonomy, critical reflection, inclusivity, and the rejection of commercial imperatives – are suitable for providing a theoretical framework for OER as well as providing a critical lens through which to assess contemporary educational models in practice (e.g., Lessman (sic!), 2006).

The commercialization of higher education threatens to conflate education and learning, and learning experiences are often treated as isolated consumer choices. We need a framework like Bildung to analyse changes in education, helping us make decisions about the kind of educational culture to which we aspire. Overall, Bildung is more reflexive, more critical, and more open than didactic models of education or traditional theories of distance learning. There are good reasons to think that it can provide the open education movement with an improved philosophical and pedagogical foundation.