I am not sure what kind of post this is – a somewhat interesting note about the history of collaborative learning, authorship, and open practices. I am looking a bit into the history of collaborative learning as part of a deeper dive into open education practices. At the same time, I am reading a copy of “Shakespeare’s Beehive.” Sadly, it is not about Shakespeare’s coiffure choices. It is about this dictionary that these two book dealers found on eBay that they think the weight of the evidence strongly suggests that this book might be Shakespeare’s dictionary. It is an interesting book with compelling arguments, but I digress from my digressions.
Why the strange title? The dictionary is called an “alvearie” by its author, John Baret, because he sent his students out, like little bees, to comb the libraries looking for instances of particular words and then coming back and adding those citations to the dictionary. According to Wikipedia, “The materials for the volume were gradually collected during eighteen years by Baret’s many pupils, and he entitled it, on that account, an ‘Alvearie,’ or beehive. Every English word is first explained, and its equivalent given in Latin and French. Two indexes at the end of the volume collect the Latin and French words occurring in the text.” This is an important work, whether or not we have Shakespeare’s copy, because this dictionary is still used to trace the meaning of Elizabethan words and phrases that are now obsolete.
But I am also interested in that method of writing – many contributors over 18 years. Think of how many lifetimes it would have taken to create that dictionary without the assistance of the students? When many readers and thinkers are looking at a problem, we are able to take advantage of the diversity of perspectives that provides. This is also one of the reasons why students authored work is so helpful – it is authored by the intended audience! This is what makes open pedagogy so powerful: it is an opportunity to include a wide-variety of view points, backgrounds, and perspectives in the on-going work.
Some of these practices are nothing new. Collaborative learning, farming work out to grad students, cobbling the work of others into a new text, is not new. What is new is the open licensing that allows the work to continue long past 18 years. With open licenses and open pedagogical practices, we can do this in a thoughtful and intentional way to not just produce a product, but further the work of collaborative learning itself.