Tag Archives: open education

12May/17

Conversations about Teaching & Learning

http://teachinginhighered.com/podcast/open-education-risks-rewards/

I’m a lover of a variety of podcasts — education, science, politics, arts & culture. I listen to learn, to laugh, to be moved (and, honestly, often to be transported elsewhere as I inch through another of Galway’s traffic jams). A wonderful find of the past year has been Teaching in Higher Ed by Bonni Stachowiak.

A recent episode with Clint Smith moved me immensely, and as a result I’m now reading Counting Descent. For this one podcast conversation alone I am grateful to Bonni. But there are others — Bryan Alexander and Mike Caulfield with their unique and expansive views of digital literacy, Bonnie Stewart on networked pedagogy and identity, Autumm Caines on digital citizenship, and deep considerations of teaching by Thea Wolf, Sean Michael Morris, and Gardner Campbell. I’ve many more episodes in the queue for listening.

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to record a podcast with Bonni, exploring open education and social justice and more: the episode was posted yesterday. Bonni made this such a wonderful, enjoyable experience. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of a much bigger conversation in this field – I learn from so many. So thank you, Bonni, for your kindness and generosity to me and to educators everywhere. You’ve sparked more thinking and conversations than you’ll ever know.

As for other podcasts, here are some that are on my phone right now:

…any other suggestions?

 

24Apr/17

Opening up Open Pedagogy

https://blog.mahabali.me/blog/whyopen/what-is-open-pedagogy-yearofopen-hangout-april-24/

Many thanks to Maha Bali for organising tonight’s Open Pedagogy Hangout. Maha has curated a number of blog posts about open pedagogy and also started a Google doc to collect notes, links, etc: http://bit.ly/CurateOpenPed. Thanks to all who have blogged and shared their thoughts. I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate and looking forward to tonight’s conversation very much.

I’ve blogged recently about my understanding of open pedagogy and OEP (considered together and separately) and also about how I’ve defined OEP (inclusive of open pedagogy) in the course of my PhD research. As I’ve explored both the history and current practice of open education, I’ve found it useful to note two broad strands of definitions of OEP/open pedagogy: those focused on OER (and the 5Rs) and broader definitions. I’m re-reading some of this work in preparation for tonight’s hangout. In reading some of my notes on the earlier open education literature, I’ve been drawn to particular ideas and quotes — not complete, not comprehensive, but catching my interest today. I share them here. (Please note: not all of these are available open source, but I will be happy to share PDFs with you if you’d like them.)

Postscript: I’ve made two updates to this post, 3 hours after first publishing it. Firstly, I’ve added a link to the Open practices: briefing paper (Beetham, et al. 2012) — a key source with respect to OER and OEP, mistakenly omitted in my haste earlier. Secondly, the list shared here is a selection of work published between 1975 and 2012. I’ve omitted later references as I don’t wish to pre-empt current thinking about this topic by those participating in tonight’s discussion and/or blogging about the topic this week. For current thinking by all engaged in this discussion, please see Maha’s curated list of blog posts and the Google doc — links at the top of this post. With thanks, as always, to Myles Horton and Paulo Freire: “We make the road by walking“.

Open education, open learning, open pedagogy, OER, OEP…

Open learning is an imprecise phrase to which a range of meanings can be, and is, attached. It eludes definition. But as an inscription to be carried in procession on a banner, gathering adherents and enthusiasms, it has great potential. For its very imprecision enables it to accommodate many different ideas and aims. (MacKenzie, 1975 in Keegan, 1990)

Open education in America is a manifest part of the liberal politics and the reform rhetoric that helped define an era in our recent history. The open classroom approach “arrived” in this country in the late sixties. As methodology, we primarily imported it from England, known widely as the Leicestershire Model, or the Integrated Day, or simply the informal classroom. A series of articles in 1967 by Joseph Featherstone in The New Republic ably publicized the innovative British practices, and educators like Lillian Weber made notable efforts to analyze and adapt them to American settings. (Mai, 1978)

Part of the problem of definition stems from the careless, if evocative, use of the term open by educators and the popular press to describe the wide variety of educational innovations which proliferated at the same time as open education classrooms were being developed. (Noddings & Enright, 1983)

Definition of open learning: increased flexibility and user choice over all aspects of the learning process. (Lewis, 1992)

The approach of the authors is based on the pedagogy of dialogue of Paulo Freire. Its aim is to point out some indications to establish a digital inclusion that transcends utilitarian limits and a merely operational access to machines and programs. That is, an inclusion that is also social, cultural, and political. (Corney, 2006)

New literacy practices are aligned with an “open pedagogy” that embraces collaborative knowledge creation, participatory education models, experiential practices, mentoring, and apprenticeships. (Corney, 2006)

The expanding global collection of open educational resources… contribute to making education more accessible, especially where money for learning materials is scarce. They also nourish the kind of participatory culture of learning, creating, sharing and cooperation that rapidly changing knowledge societies need. However, open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues. It may also grow to include new approaches to assessment, accreditation and collaborative learning. (Cape Town Open Declaration, 2007) www.capetowndeclaration.org

The historically more certain boundaries – where information and communications were controlled by universities – is being lost. Institutions are struggling to make sense of how to operate in this changed and permeable space. The mind sets and frameworks of references that we have used hitherto are no longer adequate. Many boundaries have blurred: virtual and physical localities, professional and social lives, formal and informal learning, knowledge consumption and production. (Armstrong & Franklin, 2008)

A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby experienced participants pass along knowledge to novices. In a participatory culture, members also believe their contributions matter and feel some degree of social connection with one another. (Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton, & Robison, 2009)

Open pedagogy’ approaches involving collaborative, co-productive and more ‘equal’ roles between ‘teacher’ and ‘learner’ than hitherto implemented are both possible and made more effective by social networking technologies and social networking environments. (Cullen, Cullen, Hayward, & Maes, 2009)

While acknowledging the potential value of content, we contend, however, that it is the opening up of educational processes, which we are calling Open Pedagogy (OP) enabled by the Web 2.0 technologies that are set to play the more transformational role in the collaboration between students and lecturers… Even if the technological infrastructure exists to allow materials to be a button-click away, unless lecturers are willing to share their materials or pedagogy, the technological affordance will remain unrealised… the sharing of the pedagogical process, what we see as ‘open pedagogy’. (Hodgkinson-Williams & Gray, 2009)

The concept of ‘open pedagogy’ (Hodgkinson-Williams & Gray 2009) is in line with Conole’s definition of ‘open educational practices’ (OEP)… “the set of activities and support around the creation, use and repurposing of Open Educational Resources. It also includes the contextual settings within which these practices occur”… The move to incorporate ‘practice’ in the definition signifies the acknowledgement that content disembedded from its context is difficult to adapt without some understanding of the pedagogical and epistemological assumptions underlying the creation of the resource. The latter are of particular import as different views on what is considered ‘worthwhile knowledge’ are likely to increase with the ready access to materials from different parts of the world. (Hodgkinson-Williams, 2010)

Open teaching is described as the facilitation of learning experiences that are open, transparent, collaborative, and social. Open teachers are advocates of a free and open knowledge society, and support their students in the critical consumption, production, connection, and synthesis of knowledge through the shared development of learning networks. (Couros, 2010)

OEP are defined as practices which support the (re)use and production of OER through institutional policies, promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path. OEP address the whole OER governance community: policy makers, managers/ administrators of organisations, educational professionals and learners. (Andrade et al., 2011)

Open educational practices, in light of JISC’s case studies and the Capetown declaration, seem to encompass all of the following: production, management, use and reuse of open educational resources; Developing and applying open/public pedagogies in teaching practice; open learning and gaining access to open learning opportunities; practising open scholarship to encompass open access publication, open science and open research; open sharing of teaching ideas and know-how; and using open technologies (web-based platforms, applications and services) in an educational context. (Beetham, H., Falconer, I., McGill, L., & Littlejohn, A., 2012)

 References:

Andrade, A., Ehlers, U.-D., Caine, A., Carneiro, R., Conole, G., Kairamo, A.-K., … Holmberg, C. (2011). Beyond OER: Shifting focus to open educational practices. Open Education Quality Initiative (OPAL).

Armstrong, J., & Franklin, T. (2008). A review of current and developing international practice in the use of social networking (Web 2.0) in higher education (Commissioned paper). London: Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience.

Beetham, H., Falconer, I., McGill, L., & Littlejohn, A. (2012). Open practices: briefing paper. JISC, 2012

Calder, J. (2000). Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 1(1).

Corney, T. (2006). Youth work in schools: Should youth workers also be teachers? Youth Studies Australia, 25(3), 17.

Couros, A. (2010). Developing personal learning networks for open and social learning. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emerging Technologies in Distance Education. Athabasca University Press.

Cullen, J., Cullen, C., Hayward, D., & Maes, V. (2009). Good practices for learning 2.0: Promoting inclusion (No. JRC 53578). Joint Research Centre, European Commission.

Hodgkinson-Williams, C. (2010). Benefits and challenges of OER for higher education institutions, OER Workshop for Heads of Commonwealth Universities. Cape Town, South Africa: Commonwealth of Learning (COL).

Hodgkinson-Williams, C., & Gray, E. (2009). Degrees of openness: The emergence of OER at the University of Cape Town. International Journal of Education and Development Using Information and Communication Technology, 5(5), 101–116.

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robison, A. J. (2009). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Keegan, D. (1990). Open learning: Concepts and costs, successes and failures. In OLNT’90 Proceedings. Curtin University of Technology, Perth: Australian Society for Educational Technology.

Lewis, R. (1992). Approaches to staff development in open learning: The role of a competence framework, Open Learning, November 2011, 20-33.

Mai, R. P. (1978). Open education: From ideology to orthodoxy. Peabody Journal of Education, 55(3), 231–237.

Noddings, N., & Enright, D. S. (1983). The promise of open education. Theory Into Practice, 22(3), 182–189.

03Mar/17

Open conversations at #OEGlobal & #GO_GN

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Day 1, Cape Town – Flickr CC-BY catherinecronin

I’m currently in the final year of my PhD research study/journey/adventure, planning to submit my dissertation at the end of 2017. Over the next two months, however, I’ll be mixing up my writing time with a few much-needed opportunities to engage with other open education practitioners and researchers – in places slightly more convivial than my usual writing spaces. 🙂

#OEGlobal and #GO_GN

Firstly, I’ve just arrived in Cape Town for the annual Open Education Global Conference and GO_GN workshop. A long-time follower of #OEGlobal, I’m delighted to be able to attend the 3-day conference here on March 8-10. That sponsorship is thanks to the GO-GN network, organized by the OER Hub at the Open University. I’ll join 14 other doctoral researchers in the area of open education for a 3-day #GO_GN workshop immediately preceding the OEGlobal conference. I look forward to meeting and exchanging ideas and feedback with a global group of open researchers – some of whom I already know and others whom I look forward to meeting. Martin, Bea, Rob and Beck promise a busy few days. We are ready!

In preparation for discussions over the next several days, I’ve shared a post-print of a paper based on the first phase of my PhD research study: Openness and praxis: Exploring the use of open educational practices in higher education. The paper will be published this year in The International Journal of Research in Open and Distributed Learning. I welcome any feedback and/or suggestions.

#OER17

I’ll also participate in OER17 in London next month, April 5-6th. The theme of the conference, “The Politics of Open”, resonates with many of our collective concerns right now, both within and beyond higher education. The programme contains a wonderful mix of sessions, focusing on issues including access, equity, balancing advocacy and criticality, working within and beyond HE structures, addressing politics at multiple levels, and moving forward in open education. I particularly look forward to the keynotes by Maha Bali, Diana Arce, and Lucy Crompton-Reid. I’ll be participating in a few different sessions. I’ll join Laura Czerniewicz for ‘Critical pragmatism and critical advocacy: Addressing the challenges of openness’, and Caroline Kuhn for a workshop on ‘Using the power of narrative research to illuminate open educational practice’. I’ll also partner with Muireann O’Keeffe and Laura Czerniewicz in a final plenary panel at the end of the conference.

Learning, Assessment, and Reclaim Your Domain

Last but not least, many of us in Galway are looking forward to welcoming Jim Groom on his first visit to Ireland. Jim will facilitate a one-day workshop at NUI Galway on Monday, April 3rd: Student as partner, producer and assessor: Exploring Domain of One’s Own. The workshop is part of a year-long seminar series sponsored by Ireland’s National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education. Jim has already blogged about his visit – and I will post again closer to the time. For now though, please check out the workshop description and Eventbrite link and consider making the trip to Galway, or following on Twitter on the day.

And now, first full day in Cape Town, I am off to meet Cheryl Brown, Laura Czerniewicz and many more of the wonderful team at CILT at University of Cape Town. Can’t wait…

Image: Day 1, Cape Town CC-BY catherinecronin

28Nov/16

Openness and praxis (at #SRHE)

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This blog post is a summary of my presentation at SRHE (Society for Research into Higher Education) in London on November 18, 2016. The event was organised by the SRHE Digital University Network, convened by Lesley Gourlay, Ibrar Bhatt, and Kelly Coate. The theme was Critical Perspectives on ‘Openness’ in Higher Education. Three of us shared our research: Muireann O’Keeffe, Rob Farrow, and myself. Sincere thanks to SRHE and DUN organisers for the kind invitation, to Muireann and Rob for their thought-provoking presentations, and to all who attended for sharing their ideas. Following is a short summary of my presentation.

I begin with a reflexive note. I first shared the above quote by Michael Apple during ALT-C in 2014, a conference held in the weeks immediately following the start of both the Black Lives Matter movement and Gamergate. We continue to live in uncertain – and for many, perilous – times. As educators, we face fundamental questions about education, democracy, and inequality. How are we developing digital and media literacies, data literacy, civic literacy, digital citizenship? What is the purpose of our work as researchers and educators? What is the role of higher education, and of public higher education? I am an open researcher as well as an open education researcher. I believe openness has the potential to increase access to education, to help to democratise education, and also to prepare learners in all contexts for engaged citizenship in an increasingly open, networked and participatory culture. But openness is not without risk. Openness can as easily exacerbate inequality as help to reduce it. We need more than good intentions. We must theorise openness and we require critical approaches to openness in order to realise the benefits in any meaningful way. This has been the impetus for my work and I begin my presentation with that reflexive framing.

[slideshare id=69215080&doc=catherinecronin-openpraxis-slideshare-161118000620]

The title of my presentation is ‘Openness and praxis: Exploring the use of open educational practices (OEP) for teaching in higher education’. I use the word praxis as Freire (1970) defined it: “reflection and action directed at structures to be transformed”. I’ll briefly describe the preliminary findings from Phase 1 of my PhD research study – a qualitative, empirical study exploring meaning making and decision-making by university educators regarding whether, why, and how they use OEP for teaching. It is a study not just of open educators, but of a broad cross-section of academic staff at one university. The purpose is to understand how university educators conceive of, make sense of, and make use of OEP in their teaching, and to try to learn more about, and from, the practices and values of educators from across a broad continuum of ‘closed’ to open practices. (A subsequent phase of the study will include the perspectives of students re: openness.)

Defining OEP

Overall, open education practitioners and researchers describe OEP as moving beyond a content-centred approach to openness, shifting the focus from resources to practices, with learners and teachers sharing the processes of knowledge creation. In their summary of the UKOER project, for example, Beetham, et al. (2012) explicitly define the project’s interpretation of OEP as practices which included the creation, use and reuse of OER as well as open learning, open/public pedagogies, open access publishing, and the use of open technologies. Ehlers (2011) defines OEP as “practices which support the (re)use and production of OER through institutional policies, promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning paths.”

Education researchers and practitioners have described and theorised some or all of the practices defined here as OEP using a variety of definitions and theoretical frameworks. These include open pedagogy (DeRosa & Robison, 2015; Hegarty, 2015; Rosen & Smale, 2015; Weller, 2014), critical digital pedagogy (Stommel, 2014), open scholarship (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a; Weller, 2011), and networked participatory scholarship (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012b). All are emergent scholarly practices that espouse a combination of open resources, open teaching, knowledge creation and sharing, and networked participation. I have drawn from research in all of these areas to inform my work.

I use the following definition of OEP in my study: collaborative practices that include the creation, use and reuse of OER, as well as pedagogical practices employing participatory technologies and social networks for interaction, peer-learning, knowledge creation, and empowerment of learners.

The study

The goal of this first phase of the research study is to understand why, how, and to what extent educators use, or do not use, OEP for teaching. The study was conducted at one university in Ireland: a medium-sized, research-focused, campus-based university offering both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Openness was not one of the mission statements or core values of the university at the time of this study. I conducted semi-structured interviews with 19 educators across multiple disciplines. Constructivist grounded theory was used for sampling, interviewing and analysis.

Summary of findings

  • A minority of participants used open educational practices for teaching (8 of 19).
  • All participants who used OEP for teaching described being open with students, i.e. being visible online and sharing resources in open online spaces beyond email and the VLE. Each has an open digital identity and shared at least one of these profiles with students as a way of interacting and/or sharing information.
  • A small subset of participants who used OEP for teaching chose not only to be open with their students but explicitly to teach openly, i.e. to create learning and/or assessment activities in open online spaces beyond the VLE. Teaching openly took different forms: inviting students to make connections, interact, and/or share information on social media (e.g. Twitter), creating courses in open online spaces (e.g. WordPress blogs), and/or encouraging students to share their work openly.
  • Participants across the spectrum of ‘closed’ to open practices cited both pedagogical and practical concerns regarding the use of OEP for teaching. These included lack of certainty about the pedagogical value of OEP, reluctance to add to their already overwhelming academic workloads, concerns about excessive noise in already busy social media streams, concerns about students’ possible over-use of social media, and concerns about context collapse, both for themselves and for their students.
  • While many participants who were open educators acknowledged potential risks to using OEP for teaching, they considered the benefits to outweigh the risks. According to participants who used OEP for teaching, benefits for students included feeling more connected to one another and to their lecturer, making connections between course theory/content and what’s happening in the field right now, sharing their work openly with authentic audiences, and becoming part of their future professional communities.
  • Few participants mentioned OER or open licensing – unsurprising, perhaps, in an institution without an open education or OER policy. This suggests, however, that the relationship between OER and OEP might be more complex than sometimes conceived. In addition to OER leading to OEP, the reverse also may be true: use of OEP, specifically networked participation and open pedagogy, can lead to OER awareness and use.
  • By building a model of the concept ‘Using OEP for teaching’, it emerged that four dimensions were shared by open educators: balancing privacy and openness, developing digital literacies, valuing social learning, and challenging traditional teaching role expectations. These dimensions were shared by many participants – however all four were evident in each of the participants who used OEP for teaching. (I’ll explore these dimensions in more detail in a subsequent blog post.)

Thoughts for discussion

Openness is situated and relational. This study found educators’ use of open educational practices to be complex, personal, contextual, and continuously negotiated. Recognition of these complexities and the risks of openness and OEP, as well as potential benefits (for individuals, not just institutions) should inform higher education policy and practice. A growing body of research advocating greater theorisation and critical analysis of openness and open education is useful here (e.g. Bell, 2016; Czerniewicz, 2015; Edwards, 2015; Gourlay, 2015; Knox, 2013; Oliver, 2015; singh, 2015; Watters, 2014). In addition, attention must be paid to the actual experiences and concerns of staff and students; qualitative empirical research is essential (e.g. Veletsianos, 2015). The findings of this study suggest the need for institutions to work broadly and collaboratively to design appropriate forms of support for academic staff in three key areas: developing digital literacies and digital capabilities; supporting individuals in negotiating privacy and openness; and reflecting on the role of higher education and our roles as educators and researchers in an increasingly open and networked culture.

The research study described here is limited in scope; it explores the experiences of a  relatively small number of academic staff at one university. However, it is hoped that the results provide a small contribution towards understanding how and why academic staff use open educational practices, as well as offering opportunities for further research and collaboration. This study comprises Phase 1 of my PhD research study on OEP in higher education. Two further phases building on this work are currently in progress. Phase 2 is a survey of all academic staff at the same university. And Phase 3 follows two open educators from Phase 1, as well as their students, in exploring how educators and students interact and negotiate their digital identities in open online spaces.

Many thanks. I look forward to continuing the conversation with you all.

References & links

 

srhe-selfie

thanks @muireannOK & @philosopher1978  🙂

01Nov/16

Exploring OEP at #NextGenDL

Today I’ll be joining educators and researchers from across Ireland (and beyond) at the Next Generation: Digital Learning Research Symposium in Dublin – we’ll be tweeting with the hashtag #NextGenDL. I’m looking forward to meeting scholars and researchers in the areas of digital and networked learning and open education to learn from one another, discuss the merits of different research lenses and methodologies, consider the collective challenges we face, and identify possibilities for future research and collaboration. It will be a privilege and pleasure also to hear keynotes by Sian Bayne, Grainne Conole and Paul Conway.

I’ll present a brief update on my PhD research study Openness and praxis: Exploring open educational practices (OEP) in higher education:

[slideshare id=67940748&doc=dcusymposiumpresentation-slideshare-161031220004]

..

This initial phase of my research has focused on how university educators make sense of and make use of open educational practices for teaching. The next phase of the study will explore how both staff and students enact and negotiate their digital identities in the open, networked spaces where they interact with one another. I’ll write a longer post on my preliminary research findings before presenting at the upcoming SRHE event on November 18th – Critical Perspectives on Openness in Higher Education.

I’m shouting out also to the OpenEd16 conference this week (wishing I could be in two places at once!). I’ll be tuning into the #OpenEd16 hashtag and plan to participate in at least one @VConnecting session. May the connections and conversations commence…

P.S. My track record of including *at least* one image in each of my presentations from the wonderful Alan Levine continues. Thanks @cogdog for that amazing sunflower (shared via CC0 on Flickr)… a gorgeous image to use to talk openness, learning, connection and vulnerability.

23May/16

#OER16: a critical turn

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 21.57.07

CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers http://bryanmmathers.com/participatory-culture/

I’ve been thinking about OER16: Open Culture since the conference ended just over four weeks ago. I’m reflecting now not just through the lens of those few weeks but also the other conferences and workshops which I attended immediately afterward, namely the C-DELTA project in Cape Town and the Networked Learning #NLC2016 doctoral consortium and conference in Lancaster. It has felt like a few months’ worth of sharing and discussing research and engaging in wonderful conversations condensed into a few short weeks – a great privilege. So, late as this may be, I want to share a few notes and impressions from these events, beginning with OER16.

As several others have already written, and beautifully (collection of blog posts below), OER16 was both enjoyable and thought provoking. I’ve long considered myself an open educator and I’m currently doing research in the area of open educational practices, so this is a community in which I feel at home. My main takeaway from the conference was that OER16, and the open education community more generally, is growing, changing and evolving. There was a strong strand of critical research shared and enthusiastically discussed during and after the conference.

My keynote: “If open is the answer what is the question?”

I was honoured to be asked to give one of the conference keynotes by the co-chairs, Lorna Campbell and Melissa Highton. I sometimes struggle with the idea of conference keynotes. I know that plenary speakers can be a powerful (and sometimes provocative) way of exploring conference themes. Yet I find myself wrestling with ways of providing that focus while also including other voices and perspectives, and including space for conversation and discussion. My approach for OER16 was to share my thoughts and questions in a blog post well before the event, inviting ideas, feedback and discussion. That post If ‘open’ is the answer, what is the question? led to several weeks of discussion before the conference; I shared this in the keynote. During the keynote I focused on 4 key ideas:

  • Noting the vital connection between networked participatory culture and openness, using as an example Ireland’s 2015 Marriage Equality referendum.
  • Exploring definitions, interpretations and levels of openness in education, highlighting openness as a complex phenomenon (technical, social, cultural and economic).
  • Arguing for the importance of a critical and reflexive approach to openness. Openness can help to address issues of access and inequality but it can also bias those already privileged. I highlighted work by Richard Edwards (2015), sava singh (2015), Laura Czerniewicz (2014), Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams (2014) and others who are doing critical research – including several people who also presented their work at OER16. (Full keynote bibliography included at end of post.)
  • Sharing work from my own PhD research. In my study of open educational practices in higher education, openness is characterised as individual, complex and contextual. For academic staff in my study, openness is: (i) closely linked with identity, (ii) negotiated continually and at multiple levels, and (iii) both a personal and collective decision.

Here is a Storify of tweets from the keynote, a video recording, and my presentation slides:

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Thanks to Beck Pitt for her amazing visual notes…

CatherineCronin.OER16

CC BY Beck Pitt (Flickr)

And thanks to Stuart Allan for his concise summary of the issues and challenges we face:

Having a clear, value-driven vision for openness based on ideas of sustainability, civic responsibility and social justice, as advocated by Catherine Cronin and others, represents the very best of what higher education can be (or should be). But when it comes to implementing this vision in a specific context, there are tensions at work between political values, educational aims and pragmatic concerns. These will have to be negotiated with courage and no little skill.

Presentations, workshops & keynotes

There were many, many dilemmas in choosing sessions to attend at OER16 – the programme was rich and varied. A few highlights for me were:

  • sava singh discussed her PhD research in a session entitled: Open Wounds: The Myth of Open as a Panacea – this work also is explored in some depth in sava’s recent blog post The Fallacy of Open. sava reminded us of some blunt truths about our own privilege as social media users, e.g. being an early adopter is a privilege; being able to complain about how Twitter “used to be” is a privilege. She highlighted the tension between the discourse of open access and reputational politics in academia. There is a growing ‘be open’ diktat in academia (e.g. for many PhD students) yet for individuals who are marginalised within higher education in various ways, e.g. by race, gender, precarious or otherwise low employment status, etc., sharing work and being open can be risky. sava reminded us to ask ourselves important questions about risk, power, inequality and surveillance when advocating openness.
  • Viv Rolfe and Dave Kernohan presented Open education: “Runnin’ with the Devil” (their presentation begins at 41 minutes), asking whether the open education community is being critical enough in its evaluation of its progress. Viv discussed her systematic review of studies describing the impact of open education on learning and teaching. Then Dave turned the focus to blogs – “I’ve heard it said that all the good stuff is published in blogs” – talking us through his process of generating semantic blog citation metrics. This is fascinating work which I hope Viv and Dave will continue to develop.
  • Sheila MacNeill and Keith Smyth shared the results of their ongoing collaboration in two detailed blog posts before the conference: Reframing Open in the context of the digital university – part 1 and part 2. In their work, Sheila and Keith use the concept of Third Space (neutral, collective, inclusive spaces) to theorise the Digital University. I’m particularly intrigued by the concept of digitally distributed curriculum which they are exploring in their work, and I look forward to watching this work as it develops.
  • I participated in a lively workshop facilitated by Christian Friedrich and Shaun Hides entitled: Are we openness ready? Towards an Open Learning Scale. The workshop built on work by FemTechNet and Liz Losh, which used rapid feminist prototyping to identify “drivers of openness”. Christian and Shaun began by sharing the thinking behind the six drivers of openness; then we identified three to develop further in a “maker-style” workshop – fun and thought-provoking.
  • I felt honoured to attend the session in which Margaret Korosec described the amazing Stolen Lives project. Stolen Lives is a collaborative open educational project with the aim of increasing awareness of modern-day slavery; as Margaret described, “using OER to combat modern slavery”. Facts: 35 million people are enslaved worldwide and there are 13,000 people in forced labour in the UK today. During two days in which inequality and social justice were invoked by many, this work is a touchstone for what is possible. This project deserves to be shared widely.

Finally, if you are at all interested in openness, OER and/or OEP, please do check out the blog summaries written by many (listed below) and videos of the excellent keynotes by Emma Smith, John Scally, Jim Groom and Melissa Highton:

  • Emma Smith, a Shakespearean scholar, spoke honestly and humbly about her ‘open’ journey. Beginning with the decision to record audio podcasts of her lectures for the sake of students who might miss a lecture, she moved on to the realisation that releasing her lectures openly had “completely transformed my teaching”. Emma’s CC-licensed podcasts “Approaching Shakespeare” are available on iTunes and on the University of Oxford website.
  • John Scally, National Librarian at the National Library of Scotland (NLS) spoke about the digital strategy of the library and the challenge of balancing tensions between preservation and access. John believes that the library needs to go further than widening access, however: it needs to promote equity.
  • After years of quoting Jim Groom in my own presentations, I finally got to hear him in person 🙂 (and meet his lovely family who had travelled to Scotland with him). As Jim describes in his own blog, he brought us on the magical, mystery tour that is DS106 and Reclaim Hosting. He lifted the focus from OER and even OEP/open pedagogy to open technical infrastructure. The keynote was an awesome summary of work done by Jim and a great many people whom he mentioned throughout – including DS106 students and participants. As Jim reminded us “most of the work that students have done [in DS106] is still there”.
  • Finally, conference co-chair Melissa Highton concluded the conference on a high note, speaking in her capacity as Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh. In her thoughtful and inspiring keynote, Melissa reminded us what it means to be open in an institutional context, highlighting the university’s OER policy: http://open.ed.ac.uk. She used the concept of ‘copyright debt’, analogous to technical debt, to make a strong case for open. Melissa’s take home message: “Not being open is a risk and not being open costs us money.”

OER16 blog posts

(apologies to anyone whose posts I may have missed!)

…and finally

Many thanks to Lorna Campbell and Melissa Highton, wonderful co-chairs of the conference and inspiring women in tech. Thanks also to the talented ALT team who supported us – before, during and after the event. Special thanks to Martin Hawksey and John Johnson, an incredible team; through their efforts the conference was made open via live audio and video streams, video recordings and audio interviews. And thanks to all who shared their work and participated in the conference; you made the two days very special…

Bibliography (from my keynote)

 

07Apr/16

Initial thoughts… Exploring OEP in higher education

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CC BY 2.0 woodlewonderworks (Flickr)

The working title of my PhD research study is Exploring open educational practices in higher education. I’m currently at a ‘pausing point’ between phases – so I plan to write a few blog posts to capture my findings and thinking so far and where I’m heading next. This is the first of those posts.

The starting point

I began the PhD journey wanting to find out more about what happens when students and educators meet, interact and learn together in open online spaces, beyond the confines of the classroom and the VLE. As defined by danah boyd, networked publics are simultaneously “spaces and the imagined collectives that emerge as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice”. So what happens when those collectives are comprised of educators, students and others – blogging and using social media tools (e.g. Twitter, Hypothesis, etc.), adapting, creating and sharing OER, learning together, and sharing their learning? As an open educator for some time I had joined my students in such activities and could easily describe my own motives and experiences, and share student work and reflections. But I wanted to learn more. What motivates educators to engage in learning and teaching in open online spaces? Why and how do students respond to and engage with staff (or not) in open online spaces? How do students and staff construct and enact their digital identities in networked publics? What learning happens in those spaces and imagined collectives? What else happens? How can institutions support staff and students engaging in open educational practices? And how are learning, and institutions of learning, being re-imagined as a result?

Translating this to a coherent PhD study took some time. 😉 I divided the research study into two phases. I’m close to finishing the first phase and preparing for the second. In Phase 1 I’m exploring academic staff meaning-making and decision-making regarding why, where, and how they interact with students online; their use of open educational practices; and the construction and negotiation of their professional and digital identities. It has been a privilege to explore these ideas with academic staff, and to develop a greater understanding of the complexities of these processes. In Phase 2 I will explore student perspectives also, i.e. whether, why, and how students engage with academic staff and others in open online spaces, and the construction and negotiation of their digital identities across online spaces and contexts.

The terms ‘openness’ and ‘open education’ describe a wide range of beliefs, practices and initiatives ranging from open admission policies to open educational resources (OER) and open educational practices (OEP). The broadest interpretation of open education is OEP. Education researchers across many domains have described and theorised all or some of the practices characterised as open educational practices using a variety of definitions and theoretical frameworks. These include open scholarship (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a; Weller, 2011), networked participatory scholarship (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012b), connected learning (Kumpulainen & Sefton-Green, 2012) and networked learning (Dirckinck-Holmfeld, et al, 2012). All are emergent scholarly practices that espouse combinations of networked participation, sharing and openness. For this research study, I’m using a broad definition of OEP which includes the creation, use and reuse of OER, open access publishing, the use of open technologies, open learning, and open/public pedagogies in teaching practice, with the goal of enabling learners and teachers to share the processes of knowledge creation (Beetham, et al, 2012; Ehlers, 2011).

Following are the main ‘raw’ findings from Phase 1, prior to further analysis and comparison with the literature.

Phase 1: methodology

The empirical setting for the study was one higher education institution (without policies regarding open education). Participants were members of academic staff, defined most broadly as those employed by the university whose responsibilities include teaching – regardless of their terms of employment, i.e. permanent, temporary or no contract; full-time or part-time. I felt it was essential that the voices of permanent as well as precariously-employed staff were included in the study. A constructivist grounded theory approach (Charmaz, 2014) was used for sampling, interviewing and analysis. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 members of academic staff. All 19 participants teach undergraduate students; some also teach postgraduate and adult learning students. None of the participants taught fully online courses; all teaching was face-to-face or blended learning.

Phase 1: interim findings

Among the 19 participants, fewer academic staff used OEP for teaching than for either learning or research. There were three identifiable categories of ‘using OEP for teaching’. In order of decreasing prevalence these were:

  • Choosing to be visible and share resources with students in open online spaces – These academics have open digital identities (e.g. Twitter, blog) and share these with students as a way of exchanging information and/or engaging in conversation. This was often, but not always, accompanied by the use of a module hashtag(s) to curate module-related resources and conversations.
  • Creating learning activities in open online spaces – These academics created open learning activities for students, e.g. inviting or requiring students to use a Twitter account, engaging in live Twitter chats during class, blogging and/or creating courses in open online spaces (e.g. WordPress blog with Creative Commons license).
  • Encouraging students to share their work openly – These academics encouraged students to share their digital media projects, e.g. in a public Facebook group.

Participants who used OEP for teaching described various pedagogical advantages of their open practice. These included students feeling more connected to one another and to their lecturer, students making connections between the course theory/content and what’s happening in the field right now, students sharing their work openly with authentic audiences, and students becoming part of their future professional communities. Many participants also expressed caution regarding the use of OEP for teaching. These included staff who did not use open practices, as well as those who did but who engaged in the practice while reflecting on both its risks and benefits. Participants who expressed caution discussed both pedagogical and practical concerns, e.g. lack of certainty about the pedagogical value of open practices, concern about students’ possible over-use of social media, worries about their own additional workload, concerns about excessive noise in already busy social media streams, and concerns about context collapse, both for themselves and for their students.

Using the constant comparative method of analysis, four interrelated processes were identified as being associated with using OEP for teaching: valuing social learning, balancing privacy and openness, growth mindset re: digital literacies, and challenging role expectations. All four processes were evident for each of the participants who used OEP for teaching. In addition to these, environmental factors operated as enhancers or inhibitors, strengthening or reducing the likelihood that academic staff may use OEP for teaching. Below is a short summary of each of these processes.

Valuing social learning

Many academic staff value social learning. Some participants explicitly identified their teaching philosophy as social constructivist, while others described moving away from lecturing, efforts to encourage more student discussion and engagement, the importance of creating a learning community, and engaging in co-construction of knowledge along with their students. Not all of these participants used OEP in their teaching; many created social learning activities in their classrooms and some also tried to do this within the VLE. While it was clear that all educators in this study who use OEP for teaching valued social learning, the reverse was not necessarily true.

Balancing privacy and openness

Striving for a balance between privacy and openness is a key factor contributing to the use of OEP for teaching. None of the participants said that they did not value privacy. However, those who engaged in OEP for teaching managed to strike a balance between protecting their privacy, to the level that they wished, and seeking to gain the benefits of openness for themselves and their students. Regarding privacy, most participants stated that they make a clear distinction between what is personal and what is professional and also that it is important to maintain a clear staff-student boundary. The definition and management of those boundaries varied widely, however.

Many participants reflected on their personal and professional identities/activities online, with some participants happy to blend the two and others wanting a clear distinction. Some participants, for example, worried about context collapse, i.e. mixing streams of conversations about work, family life, social activities, sports, politics, etc. For those participants who want to distinguish between their personal and professional online activities, the most challenging boundary to manage is often with their immediate colleagues. This was most often expressed as the dilemma: will I accept this friend request from my colleague/work acquaintance on Facebook? Across all participants, there was recognition that personal-professional boundary keeping is an individual decision. Participants who wished to maintain this boundary described various ways of managing it, e.g. use of privacy settings, maintaining different Facebook presences for professional and personal activities, using different tools for different purposes (typically Facebook for private/personal, Twitter for public/professional), or non-use of social media altogether.

Likewise, while many participants spoke of the importance of supporting students, most described the importance of keeping a staff-student divide, both online and offline. This was expressed most often as keeping a professional distance: “I don’t like being too palsy with undergraduates”; “it crosses the line of creating a non-professional relationship”. Participants offered different reasons for not wanting to interact with students outside the bounds of email or the VLE. Online boundary keeping was described either in terms of controlling what students might see (e.g. personal comments, family photos) or controlling what staff themselves might see (e.g. student comments). Again, across all participants, there was recognition that connecting with students on social media is an individual decision: “I have personal rules for that”; “there’s no hard and fast rules”. There was an overwhelming tendency by participants not to connect with students in private online spaces, but in open online spaces only – if at all. This was evident in the number of participants who said they do not friend students in Facebook, although some staff have created Facebook pages/groups (or professional Facebook profiles) to work around this. Twitter, seen as open and public, was considered more acceptable by some as a tool for staff-student interaction. Managing this staff-student boundary, as with the personal-professional boundary, was considered by many participants to be a constant challenge: “you’re negotiating all the time”.

Growth mindset re: digital literacies

Academic staff who value social learning and who balance privacy and openness might be predisposed to using open educational practices for teaching. However, another necessary factor is having digital literacies, or perhaps more specifically, having a growth mindset re: digital literacies. [I am not completely happy with this description at present, but it is a placeholder for now.] Having a growth mindset re: digital literacies includes being aware of a range of digital and open tools; understanding how to use various tools, both technically and pedagogically; keeping abreast of changes in the landscape of digital and open tools; and most importantly, feeling confident about learning and experimenting with new tools and new features. For the participants in this study, this expertise and confidence was often described in connection with peer support and/or professional development, either within or outside the institution (see Enhancers/ Inhibitors below). Having a growth mindset re: digital literacies relates to the previous process: balancing privacy and openness. Staff with highly-developed digital literacies are more likely to have the confidence and skills required to manage privacy settings, negotiate various social media tools, and operate with agency in complex social media ecosystems.

Not all participants with a growth mindset re: digital literacies used OEP for teaching. Some who are proficient users of social media teach their students about social media and digital literacies, yet choose not to connect with students in open online spaces. As one participant described: “I don’t mind if students follow me and if they find stuff that I’ve written online. But I just don’t encourage it as part of the teaching, or their relationship with me as their teacher.” Several participants did not have a growth mindset re: digital literacies – some said they lacked the time or inclination to keep abreast of the rapidly changing landscape of social media and open tools, others used a ‘digital natives’ discourse (Prensky, 2001). The digital natives discourse, i.e. believing that younger rather than older people tend to be experts in using social and digital media, has been discredited (Lanclos, 2016; White & Le Cornu, 2011), yet the narrative continues to resonate with many, including some educators and students. [Much more to say on this – will include in next blog post.]

Challenging role expectations

All participants who used OEP for teaching described various ways that they challenged  expectations of them in their role as lecturers. Many challenged their role as ‘the expert’ — or the sole expert, at least. These participants spoke of being learners as well as teachers and of seeking to create and be part of a community of learners.

“So instead of really only knowing you for 45 minutes twice a week for 12 weeks… at least they think, ‘oh, maybe she actually cares’, or ‘oh, I could actually ask a question if I needed to’. Whereas email, it takes a lot of nerve for a first year to write an email and send it to what they call a professor. They just feel inhibited no matter how nice you are. I think it maybe allows them to feel like you’re more approachable. And if nothing else, that would be good.”

“I do think in order for me to create the conditions that people can learn in, I have to create a community of people here. I have to make sure people are comfortable interacting with each other; I have to make sure they’re comfortable interacting with me. So that idea of a community of learning would underpin my philosophy of teaching.”

Enhancers/inhibitors to using OEP for teaching

In addition to the processes defined above, participants described various environmental enhancers and inhibitors which served to act as lenses to increase or decrease the likelihood that they might choose to use OEP for teaching. Enhancers included institutional support and/or recognition, professional development opportunities (within or outside the institution) and peer support (e.g. personal learning networks or PLNs). Inhibitors included stress or anxiety experienced by individuals, particularly in connection with their institutional roles (e.g. workload, departmental or institutional culture). [Very much more to be said here, particularly in relation to work by Richard Hall on ‘The university as anxiety machine’]

While this first phase of the research study has been focused on academic staff, the next phase of the study will be a smaller study engaging both students and staff to explore why and how they interact in open online spaces and how they enact and negotiate their digital identities in those spaces.

I’ll continue to blog as my thinking develops and analysis proceeds. I hope that this sharing of raw findings and thoughts might spark a few conversations – I’d welcome your feedback.

 

REFERENCES:

Beetham, H., Falconer, I., McGill, L., & Littlejohn, A. (2012). Open practices: Briefing paper. JISC.

Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructivist Grounded Theory (2nd ed.). London: Sage Publications.

Ehlers, U. (2011). Extending the territory: From Open Educational Resources to Open Educational Practices. Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning, 15(2).

Hall, Richard (2014, March 19). On the University as anxiety machine. Richard Hall’s space. [blog]

Kumpulainen, K. & Sefton-Green, J. (2012). What is connected learning and how to research it? International Journal of Learning and Media, 4(2), 7-18.

Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L., Hodgson, V., & McConnell, D. (Eds.) (2012). Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning (pp. 3-24). New York: Springer.

Lanclos, D. (2016). The death of the digital native: 4 provocations from DigiFest speaker Dr. Donna Lanclos. Jisc.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5).

Reed, P. (2013). Hashtags and retweets: Using Twitter to aid community, communication and casual (informal) learning. Research in Learning Technology, 21.

Rolfe, V. (2012). Open educational resources: Staff attitudes and awareness. Research in Learning Technology, 20.

Veletsianos, G., & Kimmons, R. (2012a). Networked participatory scholarship: Emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks. Computers & Education, 58(2), 766–774.

Veletsianos, G. & Kimmons, R. (2012b). Assumptions and challenges of open scholarship. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning,13(4), 166-189.

Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice. Basingstoke: Bloomsbury Academic.

White, D.S. & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9).

Image source: CC BY 2.0 woodleywonderworks (Flickr)

 

 

07Mar/16

If open is the answer, what is the question? #oer16

How would you answer the question above?

Please join the conversation by tweeting your response (using the #oer16 hashtag) or adding to the comments below.

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From the New York Public Library (public domain)

Whether we consider ourselves to be open education practitioners or researchers, advocates or critics, wonderers or agnostics, our motivating questions regarding openness are likely to be different. For example, you may find that open educational resources (OER) and/or open educational practices (OEP) help you to address one or more of the following (very different) questions:

  • How can I help to minimise the cost of textbooks?
  • How can I help students to build and to own their content and portfolios?
  • How might we support and empower learners in building their digital identities and making informed choices about digital engagement?
  • How might we build knowledge as a collective endeavour?
  • How can we broaden access to education, particularly in ways that do not reinforce existing inequalities?

Or perhaps you’ve found that OER and/or OEP lead to further questions, particularly about institutional policies and practices.

Along with many others, I hope to discuss some of these questions at the Open Educational Resources conference next month — #OER16: Open Culture. I’ll explore these questions, and others, in my keynote and in conversation with Lorna Campbell and Viv Rolfe in an OER16 preview webinar hosted by ALT later this week.

Have you found open practices to be useful, for you and/or for your students? What does it help you to achieve? If open is the answer, what is the question? What is your question? Please join the conversation.

Postscript 11-March-2016: Many thanks to all for participating in this discussion, both in comments here in the blog and on Twitter (summarised here in Storify). I look forward to continuing the conversation with you all at the conference.

Postscript 23-May-2016: I shared a summary of this discussion in my keynote at OER16 – links available here.

Image: public domain image from the New York Public Library

 

 

 

12Oct/15

Whither higher education? Considering big questions at #dlRN15

CC BY-NC-SA Mark Chadwick

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Mark Chadwick (Flickr)

As the terrain beneath and surrounding higher education shifts, what possible futures do you see? Are any of them beautiful?

How is, and will, higher education respond to the growth of participatory culture and openness across networked publics? How will issues regarding access to education, equity, agency, and ethics be addressed? Later this week, participants at the Digital Learning Research Network Conference Making Sense of Higher Education: Networks and Change (#dlRN15) will consider these and similar questions.

Bonnie Stewart, in her pre-conference post inequality & networks: the sociocultural implications for higher ed, asks some of the central questions which motivate many of us:

…is the digital helping widen participation and equality? Is it hindering? If the answer to both is “yes,” WHAT NOW?

While digital higher education initiatives are often framed for the media in emancipatory terms, what effects does the changing landscape of higher education actually have on learners whose identities are marked by race/gender/class and other factors within their societies? We’ll be sharing and unpacking some of the places we get stuck when we think about this in the context of our work as educators and researchers.

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in the conference, to continue conversations which form part of my ongoing work as an educator and researcher, but which also connect deeply with my values. I’m looking forward to the plenary panel discussions and keynotes and to meeting fellow educators and researchers who will share their work across the 5 conference themes: Ethics of Collaboration, Sociocultural Implications, Individualized Learning, Systemic Impacts, and Innovation and Work. As part of the Systemic Impacts strand, I’ll share interim findings from my study of educators’ use of online tools and spaces for research, learning and teaching: Unpicking binaries: Exploring how educators conceptualize and make decisions about openness. Here’s the abstract:

In the changing environment of contemporary higher education, open education claims are many, but studies that provide empirical evidence to support such claims are few. Evidence and theoretical frameworks are required in order for us to further our understanding of openness and associated constructs. This presentation will report early results from a study exploring how educators conceptualize openness and open educational practices, including why, how, and to what extent educators choose to use/not use open practices. The study is taking place at one higher education institution that currently has no policies regarding open education. The data for this first phase of the study, exploring the motivations and practices of educators, consists of 15 semi-structured interviews. A constructivist grounded theory approach was used for sampling, interviewing, and discourse analysis. The study aims to move beyond considering Open and Closed as binaries, or even as a continuum, but explores the contingent interplay between them. Analysis draws on recent work by Edwards (2015): “An important question becomes not simply whether education is more or less open, but what forms of openness are worthwhile and for whom; openness alone is not an educational virtue.” This study gathers and analyzes data from educators about meaning-making and choices regarding open educational practices with respect to environmental factors, systemic pressures, personal values, conceptions of privacy, and agency. It is hoped that this study will contribute to ongoing conversations and other research theorizing openness and open practices.

I welcome your thoughts on these ideas — before, during or after the conference. I’ll blog again after the session to describe the work in some more detail, as well as to share ideas which emerge in conversation with others. If you’ll be at the conference, I look forward to meeting you! And if you won’t be attending, but are interested in the conference themes, you can tune in via Twitter at #dlRN15 or on the conference Slack channels. If you’d like to join in the conversations virtually, check out the preliminary schedule of Virtually Connecting sessions from the wonderful @vconnecting team.

Image source: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Mark Chadwick (Flickr)

 

15Sep/15

Taking a broader view at #ALTC

CC BY-SA iliasbartolini

CC BY-SA iliasbartolini (London, September 12th, 2015)

Many of us talk of “blurring boundaries” in education — between online and offline, our classrooms and the world, formal and informal learning, the roles of learner and teacher, research and practice, etc. Yet at last week’s ALT Conference in Manchester, UK, another boundary was challenged. Thanks particularly to two excellent keynotes by Jonathan Worth and Laura Czerniewicz, we were invited to move beyond our immediate areas of focus as educators and researchers, and ask of ourselves: how can we renew the discussion and practice of education, particularly open/online/connected education, to address broader issues of injustice and inequality?

There will have been many experiences of ALTC. A few hundred people attended in-person and even more participated online — via the live stream, Twitter and/or Virtually Connecting. Maha Bali has written of her experiences at ALTC, Alan Levine of his story of connection, and Frances Bell of her experience of connection & disconnection. Some may view ALTC as a tech-focused conference, but this was not my experience. I attended for two of the three days and, as with any conference, could attend only a fraction of all the sessions. Yet the overall tenor of conference — judging from the two keynotes, the sessions I attended, and conversations with many others — was, to quote Donna Lanclos, one of people and pedagogy. And more than that, many speakers and participants discussed the challenging issues of power, ownership, agency and inequality with respect to further/higher education. In the face of current global humanitarian crises, these are urgent issues for us to address, both as educators and as citizens.

Jonathan Worth set the tone with his Day 2 keynote, acknowledging the vulnerability of learners and speaking openly of his own learning and vulnerability. Early in his career, Jonathan actively defended the copyright of his work. As digital photojournalism and the associated business models evolved, he began to see the difference between images (data, experiences) and photographs (physical artefacts). As he wove together ideas and stories, Jonathan drew a powerful connection between Photographers and Teachers. Both used to be considered one-to-many arbiters of meaning — but no longer. Yet both hold positions of relative power within Photographer-Subject and Teacher-Student relationships. As educators, we must acknowledge this and ask ourselves: “how can I empower people to tell their own stories?”. The most powerful part of this keynote was Jonathan’s honesty and humility about not only what he’s learned, but what he has yet to learn. His experience with Phonar helped him to realise that “learners together are more powerful than learners apart”, so he shared his questions with us, much food for thought:

IMG_6074

Laura Czerniewicz‘s keynote on Day 3 was one which I will return to again and have already shared with others. In Considering Inequality as Higher Education goes Online, Laura noted how inequality pervades the entire landscape and she challenged us to create more inequality-informed practice, research, policy and advocacy. Drawing on Robin Mansell’s definition of two social imaginaries and Therborn’s Killing Fields of Inequality, Laura built a compelling picture of structural and global inequality. We require shared solutions to the challenges of inequality — particularly in further/higher education where, Laura noted: “the brutality of competition has opened a new era of global apartheid”. There are no simple solutions. We must do no less than reclaim the networked society. Education must be de-conolonised, in both face-to-face and online spaces. We should strive for more equal partnerships between the global North and global South. Open licensing and open practices provide some of the tools for this, but our main work is developing a deeper understanding of inequality and committing ourselves to challenging it, in all our work.

I highly recommend reading Jenny Mackness’s post The Micro and the Macro of the EdTech World in which she reflects on both keynotes. There’s also an extended comment from Jonathan Worth here — well worth reading.

Though not physically present at the conference, the important work of Audrey Watters, Kate Bowles and Paul Prinsloo was discussed during they keynotes and throughout the conference, as well as a recent blog post by George Siemens — all highlighting issues of trust, care, and equity/inequality. Other conference sessions which touched on these themes included:

These were just a few of the highlights of the conference for me. I missed other sessions I would have loved to attend by Helen Beetham, Steve Wheeler, Terese Bird, Andrew Middleton, Paul Gormley, Sheila McNeil, Sue Beckingham, Chrissi Nerrantzi, and others. In-person, online, and hybrid conversations (looking at you, Maha Bali and @VConnecting!) enriched the conference in so many ways. Warm thanks to all.

Image source: CC BY-SA Ilias BartoliniOne world, Refugees welcome (Flickr)