What is Open Space Education?

Open Space Education (OSE) is a way of learning that has no set agenda.   Rather, it puts students in charge of what they want to learn and how they want to learn. OSE has developed a few loosely based frameworks that can make student-led, project-based learning easy and fun while retaining academic merit.  Our site allows members to create a profile and build a portfolio of work to share whether using the OSE framework or not. Here, members can also join groups for resource sharing and collaborative problem-solving.

Where did the name come from?

OSE is based on the concept of Open Space Technology (OST), created by Harrison Owen. Open Space Technology is a framework for workshops and conferences in which there is an end goal in mind, but no set agenda. Similarly, Open Space Education has no set agenda for what students must learn, how they must learn, where they must learn, or when they must learn.

What problem does OSE address?

Traditional education is not preparing our youth for the 21st Century and the impending climate crisis. Collaboration and teamwork, creativity and imagination, critical thinking, and problem-solving have been identified as requisite skills within the fastest growing job sectors of the 21st century. Yet, only 1/5 of low-income students can use abstract thinking skills and 1/6 can solve problems that require forward thinking. OSE offers an alternative to traditional education that focuses on student autonomy in individual work, media literacy and many other skills for the 21st century.

In addition to student preparation, OSE is attempting to address the issue of Climate Change.  The earth’s average temperature has increased by 1.62 degrees F since the mid 19th century due to increases in CO2. Current projections suggest the effects of climate change will be catastrophic to human life. Immediate action to the climate crisis is necessary.

Education must adapt to offer appropriate tools and skills for the 21st century AND to initiate solutions to this impending crisis. While progressive educational models and curriculum have attempted to address these issues independently, none provides an integrative solution to both problems.

How does OSE address this problem?

OSE offers students a platform to create and record student-led and project based work as well as resources to help them learn auto-didactically (self-taught).  OSE also offers opportunities to learn 21st Century skills in a collaborative setting, while solving some of the world’s biggest problems in social and environmental realms. 

OSE is a web-based educational app that will prepare our youth for the 21st Century and use education to inspire and implement solutions to the climate crisis. We are currently working on a blockchain and token aspect to further inspire and motivate our students as well as to decentralize the record keeping process.

How is OSE different than other programs?

There are schools which attempt to create a project-based, student-led learning environment or offer environmental education.  However, these are local public, charter, or private schools that require students to live in proximity to the school, to pay tuition, and to follow a specified curriculum.  There are online schools which also have the latter two caveats. OSE will provide a free online platform accessible to students from any location and outside of the boundaries of state curriculum. OSE will not be subject to regulatory standards of curriculum nor funding inequities. Record keeping and assessment can be revolutionized through decentralization. While separate from state control this interdisciplinary work can be tailored to meet subject and standard requirements within a locale easily, while simultaneously providing the opportunity for 21st Century Learning skills and solutions to the environmental crisis.

How can OSE benefit students?

Decentralization of education can improve quality and access. Moving from state to local control has been proven to increase efficiency, access to funding, stakeholder involvement and learning outcomes. However, most studies show that further decentralization is necessary and that communities and teachers need more control.  Test scores dramatically increase when teachers and students have more decision making power. Student accountability also improves with power.  Our model takes this decentralization even further than the community and teachers and places control in students and in the open source, open space marketplace. The competitive nature of the marketplace will drive innovation in students in the same way that it drives innovation in business.  This economics is necessary to create a learning environment that is both motivating and value driven.  This model places a higher value on work that is environmentally and socially responsible and work that solves problems.

How does OSE work?

OSE is just a term for education that has no agenda.  There is no specific way you have to do your open space work.  Many students are unschoolers, worldschoolers, or follow some sort of student-led or project based curriculum.  Students can upload work of any media type to their portfolio and write as little or as much as they choose about that work.

In addition to the free form “Open Space Projects”, we also provide a more structured format for project based learning called a “Learning Journey”.  This is a framework that walks students through the process of student led work and ensures that the work retains academic merit.

Learning Journeys can be of any length or of any depth, but generally they define something specific learned, as in one particular skill, topic, or experiential trip.    The 5-step Learning Journey process is very similar to what a graduate student might do when conducting research.  It begins with an inquiry into a topic or subject matter, involves a broad review of literature or the resources available, and finishes with an output or product of an academic or creative nature of the student’s choosing.  This output becomes part of the student’s body of work or portfolio.  There are no tests, quizzes, or grades with a Learning Journey.  You simply learn through the process, and then move on to the next journey.

Collaborative work uses the Action Learning Team Framework.  Students work together to solve real-world problems in areas of social and environmental justice of their own choosing, creating and implementing solutions designed by the teams themselves.

Can I use the OSE framework to receive credit for homeschooling or for graduation?

Homeschoolers can greatly benefit from using the OSE methods as a means of record keeping.  Particularly unschoolers, worldschoolers and other students who use adventure and experiential education as their way of learning will find the platform as an easy way to record these types of learning experiences. The program can be easily adapted to meeting your state or local requirements for homeschooling.  You will need to determine what those requirements are for your particular location.  For assistance in meeting your state homeschool requirements through OSE you may contact us at info@openspaceeducation.com

I’m a teacher/ educator.  Can I use OSE in my classroom?

Of course.  Those wishing to expand the model beyond a single student should check out the OSE classroom or school frameworks.  Creating an OSE learning experience for a group setting is exciting because it offers more opportunities than just learning through individual student work.  The OSE classroom framework involves a Learning Marketplace concept in which the students and teachers have a planning meeting to determine what classes, workshops, and trips will occur during each Discovery Cycle.  It is a very hands-on, democratic model for learning.

I want more information.  When is the OSE handbook going to be published?

Hopefully soon.  This will be updated as soon as more information is available.