Tag Archives: oer18

A free thought from a free thinker⤴

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I came across this interview with the Fabulous Janelle Monáe just after the OER18 and FLOSS UK Conferences, when thoughts about openness, privilege and whose voices we allow to speak were very much at the forefront of my mind, and I really loved this quote:

“We have to really think who we’re endorsing, we really have to think about what it means to freely think, if it’s at the expense of the oppressed.”

I’m taking this quote completely out of context, but the point stands I think.

See also:

“I’m a free thinker and here’s a free thought: I think that if free thinking is rooted in the oppression of minorities, of black people, of the LBGTQIA people, of immigrants of women, then I don’t fuck with your free thoughts.”

It’s all about the shoes!⤴

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Of course conferences aren’t just about keynotes, they’re also about shoes!  As my colleague Anne-Marie noted in her excellent overview of OER18: Sharing a few notes on #OER18 

My colleague Lorna Campbell was the first keynote of the conference “The Long View: Changing Perspectives on OER”. Weirdly, it was all about shoes. But then she spoiled it by getting all political. Typical.

This is the best summary I’ve read of my keynote yet. The shoes in question were these shoes; Backlash by Poetic Licence.

I bought them especially for the conference, because look! They’re nautical and they’ve got little anchors all over them! How could I resist?

And it seems that no one else could resist them either because this tweet now has a completely ridiculous 15,670 impressions and 968 engagements.  Which is about 15,600 impressions more than anything else I’ve ever tweeted :}

How the hell am I going to top that next year?!

OER18: Listening to the voices⤴

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I always struggle a bit when it comes to writing OER Conference reflections.  I come back from the event buzzing with so many new ideas and connections and often with strong emotions too, and this year was no exception.  So before I go any further I just want to say a huge thank you to Viv Rolfe and David Kernohan for co-chairing such a thought provoking conference and to ALT for supporting such a welcoming and inclusive event.

The theme of OER18 was Open For All and the conference encompassed discussions around marginality, inclusivity, diversity, identity, decolonisation, and respect.  It was truly inspiring to hear so many new voices; Momadou Sallah‘s keynote on developing counter narratives of disruption and resistance through open practise was joyful, challenging and thought provoking, and it was a privilege to hear bold and articulate voices from the global south such as Pritee Aukloo and Taskeen Adams.  Other highlights for me included my colleague Anne-Marie Scott’s moving and sensitive talk on using open licensed images and Wikimedia Commons to raise awareness of Phoebe Anna Traquair’s culturally significant and deeply affecting murals  painted for the Mortuary Chapel at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, Ewan McAndrew’s stories of student empowerment through engaging wih Wikipedia, and Nicole Allen gathering global voices to critique and contribute to Capetown +10. In such a packed programme I missed many more amazing sessions, particularly  Maha Bali, Catherine Cronin, Christian Friedrich, Christina Hendricks, Taskeen Adam, Jamison Miller, and Sukaina Walji’s conversation about ethics, epistemology, equity and power, and Nick Baker on inclusivity, diversity and what openness means to non-Eurocentric cultural groups. I hope my opening keynote, a personal reflection on the history of the OER Conference, helped to set the scene for these discussions and provide some context for where the OER Conference finds itself today, and where it might go next.

These themes of diversity and inclusion will be front and centre at next year’s OER19 conference which will be co-chaired by two women who have been a continual inspiration to me; Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz.  The theme of OER19 will be Recentering Open: Critical and Global Perspectives, and Catherine stressed the need to focus on moving beyond hero narratives and including marginalised voices.

And that’s where I want to pause.

We talk a lot about diversity and inclusivity in the open “movement” (and there’s a contentious phrase in itself) but too often the narrative we hear is still dominated by white male voices from the global north.  Some of those voices are not ones that I identify with, and I am uncomfortable being part of any community or movement that includes them.  Personally I really don’t care how significant a contribution an author such as Eric S. Raymond has made to the open movement if he also espouses views that are intolerant, racist, sexist and homophobic. We all understand the distinction between free as in speech and free as in beer, but surely we also understand by now that freedom of speech does not mean freedom of consequences?  Too often there is a painful lack self awareness and self reflection in these hero narratives and the definitions they espouse.  I find it ironic, for example, that one of the tenets of the Open Source Definition is “no discrimination against persons or groups”, when the community and tech industry discriminates massively against women, people of colour and other marginalised groups.

In his keynote on the history of the open source and open content movement, David Wiley said “not everyone can and will contribute, but that’s okay”, and while that is true on one level, there is an important discussion to be had here about structural inequality and discrimination. The questions we should be asking ourselves are what are the barriers that prevent some people from contributing, and what can we do to remove those systemic obstructions? How can we lower the ladder again, so to speak. And to me this is what openness is about, the removal of systemic barriers and structural inequalities to enable everyone to participate equitably, and on their own terms. It’s not easy to move beyond these dominant narratives when they are so all pervasive that we barely recognise them for what they are, and it’s not easy to hear the voices that they marginalise, but I have every faith that next year’s conference, under the guidance of these two amazing women, will meet these challenges head on.

CC BY @ammienoot https://twitter.com/ammienoot/status/986979802149244928

Phil Barker and Sheila MacNeill have also written excellent blog posts that reflect on similar issues; #OER18 Open to all but beware the wingnuts and Open Chasms – definitions dividing or uniting the open community? Some thoughts from #oer18.

 

Open Education Week and USS Strike⤴

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This week is Open Education Week and it’s normally one of the busiest weeks of the year for me with lots of events, webinars, blog posts and tweets lined up. This year however my calendar is empty and I’m watching fabulous open education events all over the world going by on my twitter feed without retweeting a single one.  Why?  Because although open education is a deeply held personal principle for me, it’s also a large part of my job and I am currently on strike as part of the University and College Union’s (UCU) industrial action to defend our right to a fair pension.  I had really hoped that the strike would be over in time for Open Education Week, but unfortunately UUK are dragging their heels in an unforgivable fashion, so I’ll be maintaining my digital picket line for as long as it takes.

That doesn’t mean I’ve completely put open education on the back burner though.  I’ve been thinking a lot about my OER18 keynote and these strikes have really helped to focus my mind because at the root of this dispute is the belief that we all deserve to be treated fairly and equitably, and fairness and equity are among the founding principles of open education.

There is one event I will be participating in this week though.  The ALT Open Education SIG have helpfully re-scheduled their OER18 Conference Preview webinar for Friday 9th March (13.00 – 14.00) when the strike breaks for a day.  I’ll be joining my fellow keynote speakers to give a brief introduction to some of the themes I’ll be addressing in my talk.  I’ll be keeping things informal as I won’t be able to prepare slides in advance due to the strike action, but I certainly don’t think I’ll be short of things to talk about.  Come and join us it you can.

Changing Perspectives on OER⤴

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In case you missed it, this blog post outlining my OER18 keynote appeared on the conference website last week.

Being invited to keynote is always a privilege, but I was particularly honoured to be asked to present at this year’s OER18 Conference in Bristol, not least because I’ll be following in the footsteps of the three inspirational women who presented last year’s keynotes; Diana ArceMaha Bali and Lucy Crompton-Reid. You see, OER is my conference, I’ve attended every single one since the conference launched at the University of Cambridge in 2010, and in 2016 I had the pleasure of chairing the conference at the University of Edinburgh with my inspiring colleague Melissa Highton.

To my mind, the success of the OER Conference has always been founded on its willingness to examine and renegotiate what “OER” means, and this is one of the themes I’ll be exploring in my keynote.  And by that, I don’t mean defining the specific attributes of what constitutes an Open Educational Resource, I mean critically reflecting on what openness means in relation to education at different points in time and from different perspectives, because as Catherine Cronin reminds us in Open Education, Open Questions, “openness is a constantly negotiated space”.   Open education looks very different to each and every one of us, and our perspective will depend entirely on where we are standing and the privilege of our vantage point.  And of course it is inevitable that our perspective will change as our roles and careers develop over time.

Gabi Whitthaus has already written a thoughtful personal reflection on her journey through the OER conferences and, like Gabi, the changing themes and fluctuating interpretations of “OER” have influenced and reflected my own development and perspective as an open education practitioner over the last decade.

In my current role I have the privilege to work with a great team of people at the OER Service at the University of Edinburgh, an institution with a strong commitment to openness and a vision for OER.  This commitment is squarely aligned to the University’s mission to provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students, and to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing. During my keynote I’ll be exploring some of the ways that the university encourages learners to engage with and co-create open education through a wide range of initiatives including internships, playful learning activities, Wikipedia in the classroom assignments, and outreach and engagement courses.

I strongly believe that engaging learners and equipping them with the digital skills necessary to participate in open education is key to ensuring that OER and open education is collaborative, diverse, accessible and participatory. Because ultimately that is what openness is about.  Openness is not just about attributes, definitions and licences, openness is also about creativity, access, equality, and inclusion and ultimately it’s about expanding access to education, supporting social inclusion and enabling learners to become fully engaged digital citizens.

When the conference first launched eight years ago, I approached open education and OER from a rather different perspective.  In 2010 the JISC / HEA UKOER Programme was well underway and the first OER keynote was presented by JISC’s Executive Secretary Malcolm Read.  At the time, I was working for the JISC Innovation Support Centre CETIS, where I led the team that provided strategic and technical support to the UKOER Programme.  My focus then was on how we could harness lightweight web technologies and new Web 2.0 platforms to create a sustainable OER infrastructure without relying too heavily on the monolithic systems and formal education technology standards mandated by previous programmes.

Two years later in 2012 I sat in the audience with my colleague Joe Wilson, then Head of New Ventures at SQA, and listened to Sir John Daniel, talking about the UNESCO / COL initiative Fostering Governmental Support for OER Internationally, one of the outputs of which was the influential Paris OER Declaration. In a rather roundabout way, that keynote and the subsequent Declaration inspired us to launch the Open Scotland initiative and, together with colleagues from across the open education community, to draft the Scottish Open Education Declaration. And it was through this initiative that I started to re-frame my perspective on OER and open education in terms of personal ethics and the wider policy landscape.

2012 was also the year that the UKOER Programme came to an end and the education technology sector in the UK faced an unprecedented and prolonged period of change and restructuring. Many predicted the demise of the OER Conference at that time, particularly when open education discourse was increasingly becoming dominated by commercial MOOC providers and their promise to disrupt! education.  However, far from being swept side by the avalanche, the OER conference continued to thrive and to push the boundaries of open education to incorporate open pedagogy, policy, research and practice, and when ALT stepped up to support the event in 2015, its future was assured.

While it is crucial that we continue to critically negotiate and reassess openness, it is also important that we don’t lose sight of some of the fundamentals of open education.  And I would argue that one of those fundamentals is that publicly funded educational resources should be freely and openly available to the public.  As open education discourse shifts to focus on open policy, open practice, open textbooks, one might be forgiven for thinking that open educational resources are done and dusted, but that is very far from the case and this is another theme that I want to expand on in my keynote.

In addition to expanding its focus, the OER Conference has also made real and tangible efforts to expand its community, and to ensure that the event is diverse, inclusive, accessible and welcoming.  The conference has become increasingly international and has gone to significant lengths to ensure that it really is open and accessible to as diverse a community as possible.  ALT is to be applauded for its commitment to providing a wide range of channels and opportunities to enable colleagues to participate in the conference virtually and remotely, and the event has not shied away from asking difficult questions about who is included and excluded from open spaces and conceptualisations of openness.

One perspective that has sometimes been missing from open education discourse is the voice of the learner.  That is not to say that the OER Conference has not made an effort to ensure that the student voice is included and represented.  Two officers of the National Union of Students have presented keynotes; Toni Pearce at OER13 (standing in for Rachel Wenstone) and Wendy Carr at OER14.  However I’m particularly encouraged to see that this year’s conference is squarely addressing learner inclusion by focussing on how open education and open practice can support learners, foster learner diversity and inclusion, and help students develop important digital literacy skills.

At the University of Edinburgh, students have always played a key role in shaping the institution’s vision of openness.  Together with senior colleagues within Information Services, it was the Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) that provided the initial impetus for the development of an OER policy at the university, and in 2014 EUSA’s Vice President for Education, Dash Sekhar, attended the conference in Cardiff along with colleagues Melissa Highton and Stuart Nicol to talk about this student-led OER policy.  I’m delighted that EUSA’s current  Vice President for Education, Bobi Archer, will be attending the conference this year, and several of my Information Services colleagues will be coming along to present papers highlighting innovative and creative examples of student engagement across the university. Edinburgh’s vision of openness encourages both staff and students to engage with the use and creation of OER and open knowledge, to enhance the quality of the student experience while at the same time making a significant, contribution to the cultural and digital commons.

Over the years, my own journey as an open education practitioner has followed a similar trajectory to the OER Conferences; my focus has shifted from national technology strategy, to institutional policy and practice, and personal ethics and politics.  One thing that has not changed however is that I still believe passionately that open education and OER are necessary to provide diverse and inclusive education and to ensure that education really is Open to All.

CC BY City of Glasgow College

OER 18 Keynote⤴

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I’m absolutely delighted to have been invited by co-chairs Viv Rolfe and David Kernohan and the Association for Learning Technology to present one of the keynotes at the OER18 Conference in Bristol next year. The theme of the conference is Open for All and I’ll be talking about how we can engage students in open education, why we need policies to support OER, all wrapped up in a personal reflection of what openness means to me.

Opening OER16, CC BY SA 2.0, Anna Page.

We all have one conference which is our conference, the one event we never miss year after year, where we go to recharge and reconnect with our people. For me that conference has always been OER. I’ve never missed an OER conference and it’s been a real pleasure to see how the event has grown and developed over the years, under the careful guidance of ALT.   So it’s a real honour to be invited to present a keynote at OER 18, particularly as I’ll be following in the footsteps of so many inspirational women who have had such a profound influence on my own career as an open education practitioner; Maha Bali, Catherine Cronin, Josie Fraser, Melissa Highton, Sheila MacNeil to name just a few.

Thanks to everyone for all the enthusiastic and supportive messages on twitter yesterday, I’m on annual leave this week, so I missed the actual announcement!  As soon as I get back I’ll look for forward to talking to you all about what we as open educators can do to ensure that education really is Open for All.

 

OER18 Call for Co-Chairs⤴

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Ever dreamed of chairing an OER conference?  Well now’s your chance! Last week ALT announced a call for co-chairs of the OER18 Conference. ALT are seeking two people with

  • National/international standing in the Open Education field.
  • The commitment and vision to make the conference a success.
  • The capacity to chair a major international conference and its programme committee.
  • Enthusiasm and experience of working with the Open Education community and ALT.

Planning and organising the conference will be undertaken by the Conference Committee supported by ALT staff. You can find out more about this exciting opportunity and how to apply here and if you’re wondering what it’s actually like to co-chair an OER Conference, here’s a few words about my own personal experience…

Since its inception in 2010 the OER Conference has always been one of the most important and enjoyable events in my calendar.  I’ve always thought of OER as being “my” conference, it’s where my community, my colleagues, all the people I admire hang out.  And more than that, it’s where we all come together to share our practice, our experience, our love and criticism of openness.

Last year I was immensely privileged to co-chair the OER16 Open Culture Conference at the University of Edinburgh with my inspirational colleague Melissa Highton.  Hosting the conference reinforced Edinburgh’s strategic commitment to open education and we were delight to welcome delegates from the Wikimedia community and museums, libraries and archives domains.

On a personal level it was a wonderful opportunity to shape the direction of this increasingly international conference, to develop my own open practice and extend my network of peers.  It was an immensely rewarding experience to work so closely with ALT and a wide network of willing volunteers, and I can’t speak highly enough of the support they provided in planning and running the event.  And last but not least, it was also an enormous amount of fun! From start to finish, from planning the bid with Melissa, to handing over to the OER17 chairs after our closing keynote, it was all a hugely enjoyable experience.

OER17: The Politics of Open  is now just a few months away and with Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski at the helm, it can’t fail to be a fabulous and ground breaking event.  Just think…you could be next.

Never underestimate the amount of fun you can have co-chairing an OER conference!
Image by OER16 keynote Catherine Cronin. CC BY SA.