Open Way LearNing

Transforming education through collaboration, freely exchanged knowledge, & innovation

Open Way Learning (OWL) offers a set of principles that can transform schooling through leveraging the power of open communities. It is a framework that encourages educators to create, tweak, and share best practices to help education keep pace with a rapidly changing economy, society, and environment. OWL encourages educators to prioritize shared vision, distributed leadership, collaboration, freely exchanged knowledge, and innovation in creating customized solutions for their learning communities.

This website provides resources to help educators practice Open Way Learning, while also helping people connect with the OWL community.

OPEN UP, EDUCATION! The Definitive Resource

Would you rather people saw you as open or closed minded? The answer should be obvious. Why is it then that we tend to allow our legacy systems in education to be closed, when they clearly don't enable the same level of performance as open ones. This phenomena is well-established in education, where many educators tend towards isolation, in-fighting, and hoarding resources from each other. Meanwhile, students often lack a clarity of purpose in terms of how what they are working on relates to things they care about in the wider world. Stuck inside an unengaging status quo, many students see "doing school" as irrelevant to their interests and ambitions. This book is the antidote to this closure: from the classroom to system-wide policy. It is a call-to-action for educators who want to become relentless collaborators networked with professionals in and outside the school. They are then poised to quicken the pace of innovation through accessing the endless supply of free knowledge available to them. This is the definitive resource on how to create an “Open Way Learning” ecosystem in your school, district, or region.

"Everyone wants to talk about educational hot topics, like teacher performance and teacher retention, but it's hard to find people who will actually listen. Which is exactly what we need to do. We need to go to the experts, the source - the teachers themselves. It is vital that we create meaningful ways to give our best teachers a voice to impact school level and district level decisions that are happening. Not only does Open Up!, Education create a better strategy to address challenges, it creates more buy-in and engagement which always produce better results."

Dan Swartz
Managing Director, Resolve Talent Consulting, LLC

"When we actively share models of teaching and learning as 'open,' our ideas become scalable through replicability and adaptability. We share new ideas with others, excite them to iterate upon what we've created, receive feedback in direct and indirect ways, and hone our own thinking and communication to be better teachers and learners. It's an explosion of energy that starts with sharing to create a collective genius that benefits all of us, and we are lucky to have Ben and Adam lead the way by sharing their ideas and curated models."

Tim O'Leary
English teacher at Middlebury Union High School and faculty member of "What's the Story?" The Vermont Young People Social Action Team

"Shift of power from those in charge to all in charge. 'Open Way Learning' leverages the community to create and refine the tools, while putting the users in control of how to apply them for maximum impact. It's a radical shift in ideology and a prescription to fix a broken system. This book highlights how open source principles have become so well established in the tech industry and why they're destined to catch on in education."

Jeff Astor
Computer Science Teacher, Alliance Cindy and Bill Simon Technology Academy High School, Los Angeles, California

"'Open Way Learning' offers an intriguing solution set to the unique challenges of the 21st century education system. Grounded in their experiences running a cutting edge academic program at Tri County Early College, Ben and Adam lay out an easily accessible playbook for anyone interested in transforming their classroom."

Jeff Milbourne
PhD, Program Evaluator, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA and former Senior Policy Advisor for US Congressman Michael Honda (CA-17/Silicon Valley)
More Praise for Open Up, Education

Join the Network

Open Way Learning has partnered with two dynamic organizations to grow the OWL community: Become part of an online community of educators committed to the principles of Open Way Learning by joining Curio and tagging #OpenWayLearning as an area of expertise. You can also take a deeper dive into the key elements of Open Way Learning through the online learning platform Odigia, where participants will develop a customized OWL Action Plan that can help them adapt and implement an Open Way Learning culture in their own learning community.

Open Way Learning ingredients


Creating innovative teaching and learning environments requires an intense level of collaboration organized around a crystal clear shared vision. Radical collaboration that relies on a diverse set of perspectives and the collective creativity of the entire learning community - students and faculty - as they bring creative prototypes to bear on the often messy challenges we deal with in education. This also applies to modified governance frameworks where distributed leadership is highly encouraged by using teacher-powered schools frameworks.

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Free Knowledge

We learn more from each other and are able to respond to the needs of our learning community when information is open. The information age has changed the paradigm regarding the acquisition of knowledge. No longer dependent on formal institutions, today’s learner can easily find what she needs, when she needs it. Rather than fighting this current, educators need to learn to leverage it by shifting away from hoarding tendencies, shifting from being “teachers” to “learning guides,” and encouraging open, transparent sharing in their classrooms.

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The challenges facing our world demand innovative thinkers that use creative problem solving to tackle messy problems. But the term “innovation” has been thrown around so much that it has lost its potency. Open Way Learning focuses on true innovation that thrives in an environment of radical collaboration and open, freely exchanged ideas. It is within this environment that educators and students are able to use the Design Process to develop continuous improvement mindsets that help them solve pressing problems in their schools.

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Open Way Culture

Open Way Learning is not a methodology that tends to work with "window-dressing" changes for your classroom, school, or district. It is a fundamental shift in culture away from the comfortable traditions that produce relatively predictable results that may be “good enough,” to a new paradigm that welcomes uncertainty, demands continuous improvement, and produces learners ready to take on the challenges in a rapidly changing world. It’s a compelling model for the pioneers ready to create change in an educational system that stubbornly resists it.

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Ben Owens speaking with Jan Smith of Red Hat about the power of Open at BestNC Excellence in Education Innovation Lab 2018

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