Tag Archives: open practice

Open Practice and Invisible Labour⤴

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This piece was originally posted on femedtech.net.

Something has been niggling at me for ages now. Something about digital labour and open education. I’ve been struggling to figure out how to frame this and what I’m trying to say, but Martin Weller’s thoughtful blog post on gatherer calories and invisible artefacts and Frances Bell’s subsequent comment gave me a starting point.

On the blogging calories front, there have been 6 guest OER19 posts so far, with 11 authors, all women

Catherine Cronin has eloquently reminded us that openness is a continually negotiated space, a constantly negotiated practice. We all experience openness differently, from different perspectives and different positions of privilege and discrimination. For some of us, open education is part of our job, for some it’s our research, our field of study, for some it’s a philosophy, an ethos, a personal commitment, for some it’s political. For many it’s all of the above.

I am privileged to be able to work in the area of open education and I also regard myself as an open education practitioner. My open practice is expressed in different ways; I read, I write, I comment, I blog, I participate in the femedtech network, I contribute to Wikipedia. It’s a practice that extends far beyond the bounds of my job and I have no complaint with that, quite the opposite in fact, I appreciate this blurring of my institutional role with my personal commitment to openness. That’s part of my privileged experience of openness. However the blurring of these boundaries also raises issues of digital labour.

We all have a deep personal commitment to our practice, to equity and openness, we all want to be good citizens of the open community, making a positive contribution to the commons, but when do the hours that we willingly devote to open education start to become unacknowledged, invisible digital labour? And as both Frances and Martin have pointed out, so often those that go the extra mile are those who are marginalised in some way, women, people of colour, early career researchers, those employed on precarious contracts. At what point does personal commitment become unwitting exploitation of labour?

These are problems that exist right across academia of course and open education is far from immune. How much does the open community rely on invisible digital labour? How far does it exclude those who are unable or unwilling to contribute their labour for free? And how do we mitigate this?

This thread from @HEreflections1 caught my attention on twitter last week:

One of the most pernicious aspects of stress, anxiety and burnout in education is that it often starts with individuals who work longer hours through enjoyment and an ethic of care. But at some point the organisation captures this as core work which has to be done.

As a result the enjoyment, the agency is lost and the stress begins to grow, leading eventually to hate and/or exhaustion in some cases. And it creeps up on people so that they blame themselves. This is the failure of the system, and any discussion of well-being or

expert groups focusing on happiness misses the point completely. What starts with dignity and vocation is smashed by performativity, by human as resource, and by an inability to see education as a community.

The point that particularly struck me was this:

What starts with dignity and vocation is smashed by performativity

And this was echoed by Laura Czerniewicz during this week’s OER19 preview webinar when she cautioned that

“Good intentions can undermine themselves with unintended consequences.”

When so much of our open practice is mediated through social networks there is sometimes a pressure to always be “on”, to always be commenting and contributing, to always to be seen to be doing. And it was this that prompted me to ask this question in our femedtech OER19 Open Space

If there a performative aspect to openness, what does it achieve and how?

I don’t have an answer to this question, and I’m not even sure I know where I’m going with this yet, but I do think we do need to be able to balance our agency as open practitioners and citizens of the global open education community with cognisance that it is our digital labour that sustains that community at both the personal and institutional level.

Blogging to Build your Professional Profile⤴

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Last month the University of Edinburgh rolled out a new centrally supported Academic Blogging Service, which provides staff and students with a range of different blogs to support professional development and learning, teaching and research activities.  The service has already been hugely successful, with almost 200 new blogs created in the last four weeks.  My colleague Anne-Marie has written a lovely post about the service here: A month of Blogs.Ed

I’ve been blogging for more years than I care to count and my blog has been hugely important in supporting my career and my professional practice.  So much so, that I reflected on the significance of my blog in my CMALT portfolio, which is also hosted here, and I presented about Using WordPress to build an online academic identity at last year’s PressED Conference.  So I was really pleased to be asked to develop a new digital skills training workshop on Blogging to Build Your Professional Profile to support colleagues at the University.

Because we like to practice what we preach, I’ve created all the workshop resources on a WordPress blog running the SPLOT theme developed by Alan Levine.  The SPLOT was Anne-Marie’s idea.  I’ve been a fan of SPLOTs for a while but this is the first time I’ve used one and I think it’s the ideal format for presenting online resources like this.  The workshop covers using blogs to build your professional profile, writing for blogs, group and syndicated blogs, privacy, openness, copyright and licensing, and amplifying your blog with social media. It also includes practical guidance on setting up a blog on the new blogs.ed.ac.uk service, provides links to additional training courses running by the University, and examples of some fabulous professional blogs to provide inspiration.  There’s far too much material here to cover in a one hour workshop, but the beauty of the SPLOT format is that workshop participants can access all the course materials at a single URL, work through them at their leisure, and refer back to them as needs be.

And because we believe in spreading the love and supporting OER and open practice, all the workshop materials are CC BY licensed so you’re welcome to take them away and adapt and re-use them.  All the lovely header images are from a collection of  Architectural Drawings by William Henry Playfair, and they’re available under CC licence from the University of Edinburgh’s Image Collections.

If you’ve got any comments or feedback on these resources I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Blogging to Build your Professional Profile

thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/professional-blogging/

Open Pedagogy – A view from a distance⤴

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I’ve been thinking on and off for the last few days about the fascinating discussions going on around Open Pedagogy. Maha Bali has curated a diverse and thought provoking series of posts on the topic here and has organized a hangout to discuss What is Open Pedagogy? later today. Other than commenting on a few blog posts here and there, I haven’t contributed much to this debate and it’s taken me a little while to figure out why.

To some extent this is bound up with a post I wrote last week What do you do? That post is an off the cuff reflection prompted by my first attempt to make a start on my CMALT portfolio, but it does relate, if only tangentially, to the question of open pedagogy too. I think one of the reasons that I’ve felt slightly distanced from the open pedagogy discussions is that to my mind pedagogy is intrinsically bound up with the theory and practice of teaching and although I’ve worked in Higher Education for years, I’ve rarely been involved in teaching and I have never considered myself to be a teacher or an academic. This is one of the issues I was trying to grapple with, all be it facetiously, in my What do you do? post. I’ve very rarely taught staff or students, though I do hope that people have learned things from me along the way. I do help to support teaching and learning, but even then, I’m several steps removed from the pedagogy and the teaching process. I don’t do teaching so I’ve always felt I don’t really do pedagogy either.

What I do consider myself to be is an education practitioner. I participate in the process and practice of education and hopefully, some way further down the line, this contributes to teaching and pedagogy. Perhaps more importantly for my own personal and professional identity, I see myself as an open practitioner. I try very hard to practice my profession in the open, I try to learn from other open practitioners, I try to listen and learn and engage, and I try to be guided by the principals of openness and inclusivity.

This is why I identified so strongly with the questions Josie asked in her blog post Waves not Ripples

“I’m suspicious of the current distinction between open pedagogy and open practice, and in particular, how little explanation is being given to the privileging or even just use of the term pedagogy over the term practice. Is the use of pedegogy being used as shorthand for educational practice? Is it being used to underline the importance of formal education, or the primacy of teaching? Why not open heutagogy? Is it being used as a form of interpellation, a signal to include and exclude specific groups within open education? What is wrong with ‘practice’? How do we benefit from continuing to insist on a break between theory and practice, or theory and politics? Is this distinction as harmful as the disavowal of the relationship between the personal and the political?”

Josie’s questions also called to mind the point Amber Thomas made in her wonderful blog post Perhaps I’m not one, which I linked to from my earlier post. Amber’s blog post is primarily a reflection on what makes a learning technologist, but she also includes this thought, which still resonates with me three years later.

“And another thing: I’m not an academic and I don’t teach. I consider myself to be a para-academic. (Like a paralegal, or a paramedic ). I have a particular skillset which has a place in universities. I’ve lost count of the number of sessions I’ve been in at elearning conferences over the year where the presenter asks “how many people in the room actually teach?”. Cue a few hands raised and the majority looking down at their feet, embarrassed, as if the 5/10/15 years experience in education counts for nowt. Universities are multi-professional places and learning technologists, in all their flavours, have a rightful place at the table. People like me shouldn’t have to pretend to be something we’re not.”

Like Amber, I’m not an academic and I don’t teach, so I’m not sure how much I can contribute to discussions about pedagogy. It’s not that I’m disinterested, far from it, it’s more that when people talk about pedagogy is often feels like they’re talking about something I don’t do, something I haven’t thought deeply enough about.

Of course that may simply be a massive misconception on my part, but there’s no denying that I tend to feel I have more to contribute to discussions about open practice, policy and politics than discussions about open pedagogy. Josie asks whether open pedagogy is being used as a signal to include and exclude specific groups within open education. I’m not sure I would go as far as to say that I feel excluded, but I do feel slightly distanced.

I don’t know how to draw this post to a sensible conclusion, because I don’t really know if I have one, but I suspect I’ll continue thinking about these issues of identity, experience, inclusion and exclusivity for some time to come. And perhaps if I can joint the hangout later today I’ll find out whether there is anything I can contribute to the discussions about open pedagogy, and whether this feeling of distance is just a misconception on my part after all.

A view from a distance