Tag Archives: networked learning

15May/18

Privacy, openness, and contextual integrity – #NLC2018

CC BY-NC cartagenanyc (Flickr)

I’ve another blog post brewing from all that’s transpired in the past month, particularly the #OER18 and #OEGlobal Conferences, but today I’m presenting at the Networked Learning Conference and want to capture a few links here. I’ll be sharing some of the results from my PhD research, but want also to foreground work that has been instrumental in analysing one aspect of that work — balancing privacy and openness.

The work of all presenters here at #NLC2018 is available in the form of peer-reviewed papers on the conference website — a terrific resource. My session, titled ‘Balancing privacy and openness, using a lens of contextual integrity’ is available as a short paper and the Pecha Kucha presentation is on Slideshare:

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My presentation begins with reference to a symposium at the 2016 Networked Learning Conference — Frances Bell, Laura Gogia, and I explored synergies, differences, and bridges between Networked Learning, Connected Learning, and Open Education. We wrote separate, linked papers and facilitated an interactive workshop at #NLC2016 through the use of short video provocations and small group activities (link to presentation). At that workshop two years ago, there was lively discussion about the clear epistemological and practical connections between these three fields, but the sense that, at least in the research domain, those connections could be stronger and more productive. Here at NLC2018 I am hoping to see more evidence of those connections.

Following this introduction, I provide a short summary of my PhD research and findings (also shared recently at OEGlobal, links here) and then dive more deeply into the notion of privacy — its historical definition based on spatial distinctions and more recent conceptualisations related to context. I draw particularly on Helen Nissenbaum’s (2004, 2010) framework of contextual integrity to explore privacy, particularly the balancing of privacy and openness as described by academics in my research study. Nissenbaum notes that:

“What matters is not merely that a particular technical device/system is not overly unusual, but that its use in a particular context, in a particular way is not overly unusual.” (Nissenbaum, 2004)

Considering platforms as an example of technical systems shows how useful this theoretical lens can be in reframing discussions of privacy. Privacy is not a universal or binary concept; it is not simply about restricting or controlling the flow of information, but rather ensuring that it flows appropriately. Rights to privacy are contextual, i.e. related to activities, roles, relationships, norms, values, and power structures. When we invite students to engage in networked learning in open online spaces, for example, we invite many things. We invite the creation and enactment of digital identities — on specific platforms with particular value systems and surveillance practices (be they LMSs/VLEs, proprietary social media platforms, etc.). We invite interactions within and beyond our learning communities, with power relations seen and unseen, intended and unintended. Nissenbaum’s definition of privacy as contextual integrity provides a useful tool for exploring the concept of privacy with students, educators, and policy makers — as well as a useful theoretical lens for researchers.

Many educators use and encourage open, connected, and networked learning practices in order to engage with learners in the co-creation of knowledge, to facilitate learner agency, to reconstruct teacher-student relationships, and to facilitate students’ development of public/civic identities, practices, and networks. The motivating goal for many also is to increase access to education and to reduce inequality. In our increasingly open, networked, participatory culture of surveillance and distraction, all citizens require critical digital literacies, network literacies, and data literacies — as well as civic and educational institutions that work to ensure safety, fairness, and equity. I conclude the presentation with a slide combining the (CC-licensed) header image above and a quote from Audrey Watters’s brilliant 2017 post Ed-Tech in a Time of Trump:

CC BY-SA catherinecronin (Flickr)

I am grateful for the thoughtful and critical work of many scholars (educators, researchers, philosophers, and more) in the areas of networked learning, connected learning, open education, and digital and higher education for providing the theories, tools, and inspiration to continue this work.

References:

Bell, F. (2016). (Dis)connective practice in heterotopic spaces for networked and connected learning. Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Networked Learning. Lancaster, UK.

Cronin, C. (2016). Open, networked and connected learning: Bridging the informal/formal learning divide in higher education. Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Networked Learning. Lancaster, UK.

Gogia, L. (2016). Collaborative curiosity: Demonstrating relationships between open education, networked learning and connected learning. Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Networked Learning. Lancaster, UK.

Nissenbaum, H. (2004). Privacy as contextual integrity. Washington Law Review, 79, 119–157. https://www.scribd.com/document/54306009/Privacy-as-Contextual-Integrity

Nissenbaum, H. (2010). Privacy in context: Technology, policy, and the integrity of social life. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=8862.

Watters, A. (2017, February 2). Ed-Tech in a Time of Trump. Hack Education.

 

01Mar/16

#iCollab, communities and networks

Nurturing global collaboration and networked learning in higher education, an article based on our iCollab experiences, has been published in Research in Learning Technology today. The article was authored by Thom Cochrane, Averill Gordon and myself, three members of the iCollab community of practice – it is based on a presentation which Thom and I gave at the 2014 EdTech conference ‘Nurturing global collaboration’.

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[slideshare id=35266959&doc=nurturingglobalcollaboration-slideshare-140529103906-phpapp01]

In the article, we reflect on our experiences in iCollab, creating a global community of practice of educators and students which intentionally operates within and across networks.

The iCollab lecturers who initiated and facilitate the iCollab CoP share a common understanding of higher education students, in all their diversity. We recognise that students, as networked individuals, enter higher education with existing identities, networks and practices – both digital and embodied. We do not ask students to leave these at the door (or the virtual door, in the case of VLEs). Instead, we invite students to join a community of practice that is itself networked, to reflect on and develop their identities, networks and practices within the iCollab CoP and to the extent that they wish, in wider networks to which the iCollab CoP provides visibility and access.

Thanks to our #icollab colleagues Helen Keegan, Ilona Buchem, Mar Camacho, Bernie Goldbach and Sarah Howard – and to all of the students with whom we have worked – for ongoing inspiration and learning.

21Apr/15

Navigating across boundaries: openness in higher education #OER15

The OER15 Open Education Conference held in Cardiff last week may be over, but the reflections, connections, and tweets (#oer15) are still simmering. For a flavour of the conference, excellent summary blog posts by Marieke Guy (Window boxes, battles, and bandwagons) and Grainne Conole (The OER15 conference) are well worth reading, as is Viv Rolfe’s post (with screencast): Open education: sustainability versus vulnerability and Sheila MacNeill’s account of her excellent keynote: Airing my open washing. The title of my session at OER15 was Navigating the boundary between formal and informal learning in higher education. Following are the slides and a short summary. I’d welcome your comments, either here in the blog, on Twitter (@catherinecronin), or in the Padlet I created to gather feedback during the session.
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I’ve been a long-time advocate and practitioner of open education and now am engaged in PhD research in the area of open educational practices in higher education. Although the context of my current research is HE, I’m exploring learning beyond the bounds of the institution, focusing particularly on the boundary between formal and informal learning, and how educators and students navigate this boundary.

FORMAL & INFORMAL LEARNING

As networked individuals we continually engage in informal learning – any time, anywhere – based on our interests, our curiosity, and our passions. Through our informal learning practices we develop our own, necessarily personal, learning networks, communities, and identities. These networked and open practices often sit uneasily within formal education. As education professionals, many of us have found ways to integrate (to a greater or lesser extent) our open networked practices with our institutional roles. Bonnie Stewart has explored the complexities of this process in her recent PhD research:

… few scholars inhabit a solely digital, networked, or open educational sphere; many engage in networked scholarship while simultaneously working towards institutional academic goals and careers. This means navigating multiple sets of expectations and legitimacy standards at the same time, as well as negotiating institutional relationships with peers, superiors, and students for whom the participatory set of terms may be invisible or devalued. (Stewart, 2015)

But what about our students? How do students in higher education navigate these boundaries and complexities? Connected Learning is one approach that focuses on fusing informal and formal learning practices.

Connected Learning is a model of learning that holds out the possibility of reimagining the experience of education in the information age. It draws on the power of today’s technology to fuse young people’s interests, friendships, and academic achievement through experiences laced with hands-on production, shared purpose, and open networks. (http://connectedlearning.tv)

Although its roots are in the K-12 sector, #connectedlearning principles and pedagogies increasingly are being adopted in higher education. A recent example is Connected Courses or #ccourses, a course offered openly online in autumn 2014, as well as “an emerging community of practice tied to an open network”. Another example is the Academic Learning Transformation Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University, or #vcualtlab, with the tagline “connected learning for a networked world”. This concept is explored by Laura Gogia, graduate fellow at VCU ALT Lab in The case for connected learning. And, of course, an exemplar of open, networked and connected learning in higher education is DS106 at the University of Mary Washington, and the larger project around Reclaim/Domain of One’s Own. It was a delight to meet Brian Lamb at OER15, who spoke about some of this work: The spaces of open educational experience. All of these open, networked, connected learning initiatives are focused on learner autonomy, with students as co-creators of both learning spaces and knowledge. However, these examples are by no means representative of higher education practice in general. As part of the recent Visitors and Residents research project across multiple higher education institutions in the US and UK, David White, et al, found that many tutors, lecturers, and other members of academic staff are openly sceptical about the academic use and validity of non-traditional online resources such as Google and Wikipedia, and as a result students often mask their informal learning practices.

This furtive thinking and behaviour around open-web resources such as Wikipedia masks the level of use of non-traditional resources and also masks the methods learners use to increase their understanding of subjects… The point at which learning takes place is often not being discussed because either explicitly or implicitly learners are being told by their educational intuitions or perceive that the educational institutions view that their information-seeking practices are not legitimate. (White, et al, 2014)

When educators advise students against using ubiquitous open tools such as Google, Wikipedia, and social media, or do not engage with students to find out what tools they already are using, and how – for finding information, for sharing information, for connecting with others – a valuable opportunity is lost. Without acknowledgement of the actual learning practices of students (the “state-of-the-actual” as described by Selwyn and Facer (2013)), we cannot support students in connecting their informal/personal learning practices, networks and identities with their formal/institutional learning practices, networks and identities. Building these connections is an important step towards learner independence and autonomy, as described by Richard Hall:

Developing the connections between formal and informal learning networks and spaces moves us towards an acceptance of a personalization and ownership of the learning process that coalesces within a range of spaces, networks and applications. In this way, there is hope that learners can develop agile agency in deploying new learning or literacies, within new contexts, and as a result enhance their outcomes. (Hall, 2009)

Openness

At OER15, I posed a question: to what extent do openness and open educational practices help students to navigate the boundary between formal and informal learning? Within the open education community, and at a gathering such as OER15, there is a shared understanding not just of the signifier ‘open’, but of its educational value. This is also my stance as an open education practitioner. However, as a researcher, and indeed as critical practitioners with a goal of “mainstreaming open education” (the theme of OER15), we must be prepared to theorise openness and to engage with critiques of open education. I summarised a few definitions, interpretations, and critiques of openness in my presentation, before concluding with my plans for future research. As a starting point, four distinct definitions of ‘open’ (as in ‘open education’ and ‘open educational resources’) were identified:

  1. open access/admission – available to all
  2. free – available at no cost
  3. openly licensed – available in the public domain or with a Creative Commons license (OER)
  4. open educational practice (OEP), characterised by sharing OER and ideas, working across open networks, and supporting students in doing the same

These definitions can be seen also as successive levels of openness, with each level building on the previous ones. Only level #3 and beyond are considered to be truly ‘open’ within the open education community – as it is these practices which enable legal reuse and repurposing of resources by others (see the 5 Rs Framework). To claim to be open while continuing proprietary practices (i.e. definition #2) has been identified as openwashing by both Michelle Thorne and Audrey Watters, i.e.having an appearance of open-source and open-licensing for marketing purposes, while continuing proprietary practices. As a straightforward example, most institutional or xMOOCs use definition #2, while connectivist or cMOOCs use definition #3 . When considering claims or critiques about openness in education, it is essential to identify which definition or level of ‘open’ is being used to make the case. There are further complexities, however. In general usage, the word ‘open’ has multiple definitions (oxforddictonaries.com). One definition is as a descriptive adjective, i.e. ‘open’ defined as ‘available’, ‘accessible’, or ‘receptive’. In this case, open is not a binary construct; one can discuss a continuum of openness, i.e. the degree to which, or the conditions under which, something is open. However, another definition of ‘open’ is as a state. In this case open is a binary construct, defined in relation to its opposite: e.g. not closed, not blocked, or not restricted. So which definition is correct when discussing open education, open educational resources (OER), or open educational practices (OEP)? In practice, both definitions are used. Again, it is essential to identify the definition being used in order to understand and assess any claim or critique of openness. David Wiley, for example, rejects the open/closed dichotomy, espousing the continuous construct:

‘Open’ is a continuous, not binary, construct. A door can be wide open, completely shut, or open part way. So can a window. So can a faucet. So can your eyes. Our common-sense, every day experience teaches us that ‘open’ is continuous. (Wiley, 2009)

Yet, even among those who may agree that openness is a continuous construct rather than a binary state, there remain further differences. Richard Edwards has identified the interplay of openness and closed-ness in all educational practices, whether digital or face-to-face. A useful question to consider: do all forms of openness entail forms of closed-ness?

Openness is not the opposite of closed-ness, nor is there simply a continuum between the two… 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. (Edwards, 2015)

There are additional recent critiques of openness which I will explore in the course of my research, including Knox (2013) and Oliver (2015). All analyses will include an examination of the specific interpretation of openness being used, as well as the theoretical underpinning of the respective arguments.

MY RESEARCH

In my ongoing PhD research, I explore open educational practices in higher education. The two main research questions are:

  1. For all members of academic staff (full-time and part-time, permanent and adjunct) at one higher education institution: Why and how do academic staff use online tools and spaces (bounded and open) for research, learning and teaching?
  2. For selected members of academic staff who use open educational practices in their teaching, and their students: Why and how do students and staff interact in open online spaces in higher education, and how do individual students and staff enact and manage their digital identities in these spaces?

I await ethical approval for the study and am currently engaged in writing a literature review encompassing learning theories, open education, connected learning, networked learning, and Third Spaces — as well as searching for similar studies of academic staff and students. I will continue to write here in the blog to document thoughts and ideas, and to request feedback. Many thanks for reading this; your comments are very welcome. Postscript: Notably, each of the four keynotes at OER15 was excellent: Cable Green, Josie Fraser, Sheila MacNeill, and Martin Weller. All of these videos are available on in one playlist. Sincere thanks to the OER15 co-chairs, Haydn Blackey and Martin Weller for a wonderful conference and community gathering.

REFERENCES

Edwards, Richard (2015). Knowledge infrastructures and the inscrutability of openness in education. Learning, Media, and Technology (online). Gogia, Laura (2014). The case for connected learning. VCU ALT Lab. Hall, Richard (2009). Towards a fusion of formal and informal learning environments: The impact of the Read/Write web. Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 7(1), 29-40. Knox, Jeremy (2013). The forum, the sardine can and the fake: Contesting, adapting and practicing the Massive Open Online Course. Selected papers of Internet Research. Oliver, Martin (2015). From openness to permeability: Reframing open education in terms of positive liberty in the enactment of academic practices. Learning, Media and Technology (online). Selwyn, Neil & Keri Facer (2013). The Politics of Education and Technology: Conflicts, Controversies, and Connections. Palgrave MacMillan. Stewart, Bonnie (2015). Open to influence: What counts as academic influence in scholarly networked Twitter participation. Learning, Media, and Technology, 40(3), 1-23. White, David, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Donna Lanclos, Erin M. Hood & Carrie Vass (2014). Evaluating digital services: a Visitors and Residents approach. JISC infoKit. Wiley, David (2009, November 16). Defining “Open”. iterating toward openness. [blog].