explorations in the ed tech world

same sounds-different meanings

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Decentralized structures and the innovation agenda

In a few of my posts on innovation, I’ve talked about the role that teaching and learning centres have in supporting an institutional innovation agenda, and where they can run into trouble.  In my last post, I argued that without proper prioritization, innovation can become an add-on watered down initiative that the centre is tasked with.

I also wrote in one of my earlier posts about finding  the innovators in the institution, who are likely scattered across programs and the importance of recognizing and building on what they are doing.  I’m essentially advocating for a bottom up and top down approach to innovation with a goal of healthy and meaningful convergence.

What if you don’t have a centre and function more as a decentralized structure? Can’t you just collect all the innovators and connect them with a community of practice and provide some funding?  Yes and no.  In my opinion, it depends on the level of institutional ambition for innovation.  Decentralized structures can work when projects are small in scale, don’t required specialized expertise, and economies of scale aren’t important to the institution.  They may provide Deans with more flexible resourcing and prioritization.  But they also introduce a certain amount of risk to the institution, and if innovation goals are ambitious, or if e-learning is being scaled up, there is a inevitable chain of events that follow.

First, as things scale up, Deans are tasked with finding more resources for people to bring on to support the activity. This almost always introduces a new silo structure within the institution and there is a limit to the roles and expertise you can bring on with the resources within a project, school or faculty.  The positions usually end up being the jack of all trades type, which can be quite efficient if your e-learning is of the bread and butter vanilla variety.  If the innovation agenda is looking for a significant shift beyond status quo, this type of structure becomes unrealistic to maintain since it is limited by the amount of resources and skills that can be obtained with those resources to meet the objectives.  Sometimes this gap is met with short term contractors (where collective agreements permit).  This can work if you have a long term relationship with the contractors, but again it introduces some risk and disadvantages. First, contractors aren’t always available when you need them. Secondly, reliance on contractors means you may be paying more and aren’t developing and retaining any long term, skilled capacity.

Eventually you may end up with 3 or 4 different mini and silo-ed centres scattered across the institution.  So what’s the problem?  First, you end up with a have and have not situation that begins to feel competitive over time.  Faculty or School A has more resources than Faculty or School B, so Faculty A can do more and scale up.  Importantly,  the silo centres, due to the minimal resourcing, are usually heads down in the day to day activities they support for the School or Faculty.  The innovation agenda of the institution (provided it’s been clearly defined) is no longer a priority.

It comes down to whose innovation agenda is it?  If it’s institutional, then you need a horizontal structure that works with Schools/Faculties towards that agenda.  If it’s a School or Faculty agenda, then the ambition will likely be smaller in scale  unless it has the resources to scale it up.  And if it’s a small institution with limited resources, it is very difficult to achieve economies of scale in a decentralized structure.

 

 

Prioritizing Innovation in the Organizational Structure

image from https://smithsmm.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/quote-featured.jpg It’s been a while since I wrote a series about the topic of innovation in higher education.  Here they are from 2015:

About those innovation jobs…7 Rules About Innovation

First steps in Creating a culture of innovation in higher education – Figuring out what innovation will mean

Removing barriers to innovation – the teaching and learning centre and third spaces

Some ideas for creating a culture of innovation

Considerations for ed tech and innovation

In preparation for being invited a second time (thanks Mark!) to facilitate a discussion on Institutional Organization and Support  in the Planning and Managing Technologies in Higher Education course,  I’ve found myself thinking about organizational structures and achieving higher ed innovation goals.  Since I lead a teaching and learning centre, I care a lot about the role a teaching and learning centre can have in innovation.  But I also recognize that sometimes centres can impede innovation and there are reasons why that happens.

For starters, teaching and learner centres generally exist to support some aspect of the academic strategy or plan.  But academic strategies have a 3-5 year life and centres generally outlive academic plans.  If a centre has been in existence for a while, sometimes it evolves into a well-oiled machine where program reviews, faculty development, and the support and dissemination of good teaching practices are all part of the centre’s activities.  These are bread and butter activities that indisputably support ANY academic plan and therefore the prioritization of these kinds of activities can go unchallenged. Staff in the centre were also likely hired based on their abilities to support  these things and the centre becomes very skilled at doing them.

Ambitious e-learning or innovation agendas can throw a wrench into the centre’s well oiled machine.  For starters, the ambition doesn’t always match the existing resources and centres may or may not have the right staff to lead or implement the innovation agenda.  Secondly, without clear direction and expectations from the executive, centres may be tasked with doing innovation in addition to all the other excellent work they are doing.    What results is an initiative or two added onto the centre’s existing activities without the appropriate ground work required to have long term, sustainable change.

I’m of the opinion that ambitious innovation agendas actually require sustained and dedicated leadership and groundwork.  I’ve already written about what this means in terms of high level steps.  Operationally, something like expanding or shifting the ed tech infrastructure (very important) at the institution to meet the innovation goals usually  requires countless meetings between the centre’s director and the CIO or any technology steering committees, stakeholders,  and the executive.  Since e-learning innovation usually (hopefully!) results in innovation in program delivery, there are additional tie-ins with registration, student support, faculty development, and learning design.

So what’s the problem? If you are a well resourced institution you can create a dedicated centre focussed on e-learning and innovation  (ideally one  that is not divorced from the core centre)  to take on the agenda until it settles into a new normal.  But many institutions can’t afford to do this which leads to the centre being overloaded and the innovation being water-down or slight variations of status quo.

This is where I think centres and institutions run into trouble.  The institution has a role in being clear on the priorities and understanding what activities in the centre need to be parked in order to achieve the innovation agenda.  This isn’t to say that one can’t bleed into the other…for example there will likely be a faculty development component to innovation but I think it’s unrealistic for less-resourced centres to be doing scholarship of teaching and learning, indigenization, internationalization, and e-learning innovation concurrently (several of which are popular items on academic plans these days) .  You run the risk of being a jack of all trades and master of none and you may end up a teaching and learning centre that appears to lack focus.

 

 

OER in other languages – a project update of sorts

It’s been 5 weeks since I started the Other Language OER site and what started as  part whim, part experiment, part inspired by following the #opencon stream, has evolved into an itch that that gets me on a daily basis.  My goal was to post one OER per week from another language than English but after 5 weeks there are 12 OERs in 12 different languages, one of them submitted by someone other than myself (thanks @tomonagashima !)

The background and rationale for the site emerged from some longer deliberations and an even longer one over here  and I get that it’s really a very limited audience who might be interested in this.  But I’m learning a lot in my almost daily practice which incidently  feels like a 15 minute treasure hunt I try and do first thing in the morning.  Perhaps the biggest learning is that the resource itself isn’t the most interesting thing, but it’s how the resource is found, accessed, and ultimately what can be said about the broader OER landscape that is most interesting.

The first few posts were focussed on the resource itself and I wasn’t too explicit about my intention for posting it.  But every post has an intention and observation, so in more recent posts I’ve tried to include those, since that’s the interesting part.

For example, my first post was text modules for a grad course on India and the World, and the purpose of starting with this one was to demonstrate that if you wanted to teach a course in say, Indian or South Asian politics, why not extend a search to include regions of the world where they might have a particular insight that might not be available or visible to us in English.  Similarly, if we covet the Finnish K-12 education system so much, looking for K-12 material in Finnish seems like a great way to extend a search and build on their efforts.  Of course, obviously its difficult to transport a Finnish K-12 textbook into our own K-12 curriculum. First it has to be translated. Then it has to line up with our curriculum.  But if the potential of OER is truly in the remixing and adapting, then we need to set aside the difficulty of translation and localizing from other languages and practice what we preach where it makes sense.  In some cases, especially where there are already resources that have been created by recognized experts in recognized countries, it seems ludicrous to even bother starting from scratch.

Of course, the 5 R’s tells us that an open license opens possibilities for new educational practices (OER enabled pedagogy if you will).  What are the practices we want to see?  First of all, I’d love to see K-12 open textbooks in Canada for reasons I expressed here.  Imagine if an open textbook on Canadian History, for example,  could be remixed (rewritten?) by Indigenous educators.  Or imagine if students had to compare the North American chapter of an open Slovenian Geography textbook with their own high school Pearson edition?

Textbooks aside, there are other things I’ve learned from these past five weeks, some of them more obvious than others:

  1. Google translate is incredibly helpful
  2. Some languages, despite have a large population of speakers,  turn up no open resources (eg. Swahili).  Admittedly, this could be the fault of the searcher.
  3. Large pdfs don’t translate easily, as Google gets overloaded
  4. Some languages produce better translations than others
  5. If you want your OER to be reused, or simply translated, it really needs to be provided in multiple formats and not in a proprietary package (e.g. i-books that don’t download). Also, when said proprietary package company disappears, what happens?
  6. When a course is all text, there’s a fine line between a course and a textbook. Point being, if looking for an open textbook a repackaged open course might do the trick
  7. There are some great resources on sites that are dying a slow death, probably as a result of short term funding.  Reusing and mirroring are important to maintain the life of these efforts.
  8. There are some fascinating cultural insights you gain from looking at OERs in other languages.
  9. Lesser used languages may have the most to gain from being more visible due to open licenses.
  10. There are no shortage of ancillary resources out there for the STEM type disciplines. Cf. German , Chinese, and Portuguese
  11. We really don’t need any more math textbooks- those seem to be the most frequently encountered subject in my searches
  12. Some countries are doing open courseware really well. C.f Delft (Holland) and Hokkaido (Japan).

A final shout out to Alan Levine aka  @cogdog for creating the SPLOT template I use to create the site. It really is the simplest WordPress site you can have, and by allowing me (and anybody else who wants to)  to quickly upload and publish without logging in and futzing around, it actually makes doing this on an almost daily basis a possibility.  If you want to test drive it, grab an OER in another language and submit it over here.

OER and the language problem (part 2) – the status and function rationale

Critical scholarship ought to analyse the strong forces that are at pains to create the impression that English serves all the world’s citizens equally well, or those who uncritically assume this is so, when this is manifestly not the case. (Phillipson, 2001)

 

In my first post on this topic I put forward some high level statements on why I think OER has a language problem.  The “problem” may largely be one of awareness and as the movement evolves into its adolescence I think it will be increasingly important to surface the intersection of language, OER, and social justice.

My specific concern is with the uni-directional nature of OER from English to other languages.  English as a language holds considerable economic and social power, which has obviously facilitated its emergence as a global language.  This emergence is perhaps neither good nor evil, but carries with it some consequences that are worthy of consideration and have been documented for some time.  The positions on this topic range from moderate to extreme, with scholars like Tove Skuttnab-Kangas dedicating decades to topics such as language rights,  linguicide and the consequences of colonialism to more functional perspectives such as WF Mackey’s framework for understanding prestige, function, and status of language in relation to language vitality.

I was a grad student of Mackey’s at Université Laval in the 90s when he was already well into his seventies.  Mackey ran a internationally well known centre on research in language planning but also had been an advisor to many nations on language planning and policy, and as the story goes, had played an important role in shifting Quebec from English to French in the areas of education, government and the workplace in the 60s and 70s.  What was interesting about Mackey was that he was very academic about his approach, adopting a neutral stance that leaned on the science of language planning, and thus avoiding the inevitably polarizing debates that occur when language planning or revitalization is a topic.

This seems like a good place to start in attempting to be critical about the uni-directional nature of OERs.

Language Vitality = Prestige, Function and Status

In Mackey’s framework, the vitality of a  language can be thought of in terms of three buckets – prestige, status and function.  As he describes it “the essential difference between prestige, function, and status is the difference between past, present and future”.

Prestige:  depends on its record , or what people think its record to have been.  In some cases this is largely symbolic.

Function:  what people can actually do with the language

Status:  the potential for people do do something with the language, eg. legally, culturally, economically, politically and demographically.

“The functions of a language, as defined as what one in fact does with it, can be directly observed in the language behaviour of the population of any area. The status  of a language can often be modified by changing its functions.”

So what does this have to do with OER and open?

Status is also “what one can do with a language also depends on what  is available in it – books, films, and other cultural products (cultural status)” .  Demographic status is important in the cultural production since it is tied to economic power to some extent.  This is how Mackey relates the two in relation to literacy (note – he was writing this in 1976)

 ” the production of reading material – books, newspapers, magazines – whether undertaken by the state or by private enterprise, is an economic undertaking.  Literate people who can afford to produce and market books in their language promote it’s usefulness in as much as people buy and read their products.  Being economically dominant, their language is likely to be that of trade, commerce and industry, and as such a valuable language.  The same people can afford to travel and to invest, thus expanding abroad both their activities and their language “

It’s interesting to consider this quote by replacing reading material with OER, and situating it in a context of knowledge production and digital divide.  Importantly, the more functions a language has, the more status it will have. This is not a problem per se, unless it is being done at the expense of the other languages, which some argue is in the case of English (more on this in Ingrid Pillar’s book, see also Phillipson ).  We see this in the growth of academic publishing in English (and resulting inequalities), the   growth and availability of English language university programs in nations where English is not the traditional language of higher education, or in the massive English as a Foreign language teaching industry –  all are evidence of an increase in the function and therefore status of English.

The critical question for the open movement to consider is what is gained or lost when we feed the function/status machine of English.  For example, is it a detriment to scientific knowledge or is it a response to an economic necessity?  Who benefits and who is left out?  Does open benefit when it is multi-directional or is the predominance of English as a global language facilitating our efforts? My assessment leans towards the former – hence this project on OER in other languages- but I’m aware more scholarship and discussion is required.  As a parting thought, consider Skutnabb-Kanga’s (2000) distinction between an diffusion of language paradigm and an ecology of language paradigm.

So What’s the Takeaway?

The story of French in Quebec in the pre-1960s revitalization is one of a local French majority where French lost status, function, and ultimately prestige to an English minority.  This was reversed through government intervention and language planning, but continues to be an area that English Canada has difficulty understanding but makes total sense from a Mackey framework perspective.   The important takeaway from this example is that the framework not only describes what is happening, but also gives us some mechanisms for shifting it if we choose.  We have some agency in the open community to care about language planning and insert it in our conversations about OER and social justice.

 

Language and the OER problem

I have about 3 posts I could write about this topic and eventually I might get to my 2 half-baked drafts and book reviews, but the topic is complex and multifaceted, so let’s see where this goes.

One of the shifts in OER movement that I’ve really appreciated has been the thread of declaring social justice as part of what we do in the OER space.  I’m hoping that as we evolve we can remember that social justice is inherently tied to language which has been so well argued in Ingrid Pillar’s recent book:  Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice.

OER has a language problem.

  1.  The majority of OERs are in English. This is both a barrier and an opportunity.

A major challenge for delivery of OER on mobile technology globally is that most currently available OER are in English, and learners in many countries do not read or speak English. However, some countries see students completing courses in English as an opportunity for them to learn or improve their English language skills. 

2.  It’s not as simple as translating from English to a local language.  This requires time, resources, and a fair amount of skill.

Revision also involves a substantial amount of thought into the process of localization. In the case of revision-as-translation, the linguistic concern is of primary importance. An often-ignored barrier to remix and revision is the English-language and western bias of the Internet and particularly OER.

3. A language problem was identified by UNESCO in 2012.

Encourage the development and adaptation of OER in a variety of languages and cultural contexts. Favour the production and use of OER in local languages and diverse cultural contexts to ensure their relevance and accessibility. Intergovernmental organisations should encourage the sharing of OER across languages and cultures, respecting indigenous knowledge and rights. (UNESCO, 2012)

4.  There are language technology limitations when it comes to OERs.

Connecting and creating resources depends on the availability of tools that have interfaces in local languages, which is not the case for much software. These are important barriers when considering who is remixing and the limitations a wide audience has in engaging in OER-related practices.

5.  We spend very little time searching, reusing, adapting ,and quite frankly, amplifying OERs that have been created in languages other than English.  No research to link to this, just an observation that is open to debate.

Fortunately, there are frameworks for looking at questions of language in relation to social and political contexts.  The one I’m most familiar with it W.F. Mackey’s which I recommend  as an easy to read introduction to his framework:  Determining the Status and Function of Languages in Multinational Societies.  This framework explains how #1-5 happens, and provides insight into how to shift it.

Ultimately, I’d like to put on the table two provocations:

  1.  Reusing and Revising OERs is an important proposition, but let’s not overstate the ease of doing this without considering sociolinguistic realities and the fact that this is currently a largely unequal transaction that favours English over other languages.
  2. Well resourced OER initiatives favour the creation and diffusion of OERs in English, as opposed to, for example, translating and localizing OER that originate in other languages.  Or supporting the language revitalization of lesser used, and possibly endangered languages as a result of colonization (e.g. indigenous languages).

A few moments from ICDE 2017 #worldconf17

I skipped Open Ed  this year to attend the ICDE World Conference  in Toronto.  The last time I attended ICDE was eight years ago  in Maastricht.  I brought my daughter, who was 5. She got sick in the bathroom 15 minutes before my presentation, then sat on the floor and did crafts while I presented.  (Somebody took  a photo of her which still lives in the conference archives. Check out that mom-purse full of kid stuff).  Of the things that I remember, the conference was held in a very nice venue but there was no food at all for the four days.

I  remember being impressed by how  it was very international.

Back to this year.  I’m not sure where else you can have the convergence of distance eduction, open education, OER, and online learning all at one conference.  I learned that ICDE has been around for 86 years which is quite remarkable and perhaps underlines the important roots of distance education.

I attended a session at every time slot, listened carefully, and with one exception, didn’t take any notes.  I’m left with memorable moments, although every session was excellent and deserves to be mentioned.  The organization was impeccable, the food was plentiful and delicious, and the hospitality was outstanding.  Maxim Jean-Louis stood at the exit of the conference and was there to personally shake the hands of all 1400 participants from 95 countries who attended. Very classy and an incredible act to follow.

For starters, I appreciated that most of the sessions I attended, including keynotes, were largely panels and no PowerPoints.  This was refreshing.  The Day 1 keynote panel resonated with themes of agency, equity, education for good (Stephen Downes wrote a great summary. The Day 2 keynote panel not so much. In fact, I felt like a toddler being chastised for not playing nice with the mean kids in the sandbox.  From this panel I remember that ‘students don’t care about privacy’, and that higher ed needs to talk and learn from private sector providers and training types ’cause they know stuff. (For the record, we regularly attend DevLearn, the most vendor driven corporate training conference I can think of, and most of us in the public higher ed sector have no doubt spent countless hours reflecting on tensions and questions of public and private).  A note for keynote speakers at international conferences – be careful about gross generalizations that are relevant to your national reality, especially if said keynote panel represents collectively one country.

I should add that the vastly different keynote panels was probably a stroke of organization genius in presenting us with two vastly different flavours of discourse. This is healthy, even if it made me uncomfortable.

Some other memorable moments:

I learned from a Stephen Downes presentation that he has a sense of humour that I really appreciate, even if I didn’t understand where his head was with AI.  He was very witty.

I attended a Tony Bates session on quality in online learning thinking I was already fairly knowledgable on the subject and ended up taking pages of notes. Tony has a great conference summary over here.

I learned that Brazil has an incredible website of more than 60 open, short course modules for continuing professional education for doctors, in Portuguese and Spanish.  Unfortunately, I’ve been trying for DAYS to get registered because one of the fields requires something called a CPF, but they have been friendly and are working on it.

I learned that Canada is falling behind in some areas I don’t want to mention here, but let’s just say that some federally funded health education projects are largely uninspired.

I learned that my former UBC desk mate, Adnan Qayyum, is a research rock star and now occupies Michael Moore’s former professorship at Penn State.  His comparative international education work is fascinating, and one of the tidbits I can’t stop sharing is that 50% of Russian Higher Ed students are in distance education.  That’s a lot of potential OER, if we can move to bridge the distance education as OER gap.

I learned that the ROER4D is a fantastic research project that I need to dig more deeply into and continue to follow.

As I do when I go to conference cities, I try and check out a gallery or two. I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario and got my fill of Group of 7, and ‘discovered’ David Milne. But a highlight was checking out the newly opened Galerie de Bellefeuille where the nicest private gallery employee I have ever encountered (thanks Ray!) led me around the works and pleasantly and unpretentiously chatted art.  This included pulling up Drake’s page on my instagram  to show me the bedazzled buddha he had purchased the day before.  In case you’re intrigued, it looks like one of these.

 

 

Looking back at a rejected ELI 2010 submission

In the spirit of ed tech history, I was reminded in a roundabout way of a rejected Educause submission Mark Bullen and I submitted in 2010. We’d been researching and writing about the absurdity of the Net Gen discourse for a couple of years by then, Mark’s Net Gen Nonsense blog was already a well established resource for collecting and disseminating on the topic, we had a peer reviewed article published, and more than an handful of presentations on the topic.  Interestingly, I recall that being on the other side of the Net Gen discourse fence felt like being the weirdo at a party full of cool kids, and I know that Mark had his share of fielding comments on the blog and even f2f at our institution in an environment where Net Gen, Digital Natives and Millennials were the rationale for pretty much anything ed tech.

At our own institution we had some lessons learned about Net Gen-ing  ($$$) your ed tech  infrastructure to respond to the Digital Native phenomenon.  So when the ELI 2010 call about Learning Environments for a Web 2.0 World came around, we thought we had something to share. End of story.  Historical artefacts below.

Our Submission

This session will focus on the importance of making evidence-based  learning environment design decisions. We will argue that key design decisions in higher education are increasingly being influenced by  unsupported claims about the nature of learners. These decisions can be costly, can alienate learners and instructors, and can have a negative impact on teaching and learning.

1. Learning environment design decisions should be based on sound  research

2. Educators need to be much more critical of claims about the nature  of learners and their needs

3.  Educators need to distinguish between the different types of  research (academic, proprietary, government) and understand the  implications of using these types of research

Understanding our learners is critical to making informed learning environment design decisions. However, there has been a largely uncritical  acceptance of the Net Generation discourse which suggests that today’s learners are fundamentally different than previous generations and that we  need to make radical changes to learning environments to accommodate  these differences. But an analysis of these claims reveals that there is little solid research-based evidence to support them. In fact, the sound research  suggests that generational differences are not significant. We will analyze the research and present data from an ongoing international research  project to argue for a nuanced approach to learning environment design.

Run, Computer, Run: The Mythology of Educational Innovation

 

When I was prepping my keynote for CNIE, I encountered some interesting quotes taken from a 1969 collection of essays playfully entitled Run, Computer, Run: The Mythology of Educational Innovation written by Anthony Oettinger.  There are literally no copies on the interwebs that I could find, but I was able to interlibrary loan a copy, ran out of time, digitized a copy, and in the interest of important history I’m sharing it here:   run computer run 1969.  I haven’t had to photocopy an entire book since about 1998, so the 25 minutes at the copier flipping pages and pressing the Start button 150 times may have been a bit tedious, and may have resulted in a few skipped pages.

I’m still going through this publication, but here are a few things I’ve noted:

I’m still going through this publication, but here are a few things I’ve noted:

  1. The Forward, written by Emmanuel Mesthene, Director of the Harvard University Program on Technology and Society, comes in at four pages and is a marvellous time capsule of ed tech in 1969.
  2. Chapter 4 is a surprisingly current and relevant description of the properties of educational devices,  which Oettinger positions as “devices in a broad sense, encompassing the poeple and the organizations serving as agents of change. Novelty  and glamor are not the only properties of educational tools worthy of note or sufficient to make them valuable for teaching.”  Oettinger goes on to outline some of these properties which include flexibility and adapatability, amount of resource required, reliability and maintenance, complexity, and so on.

The publication is a bundling of chapters and case descriptions coupled with observation and a bit of research.  Its thesis is somewhat clear, but there is lots of room for critique.  Fortunately, the book was considered important enough to result in at least eight reviews (of which six that I could actually access) that ranged from balanced and favourable (4) to mixed or scathing (2).

 

Norman Kurland Review

Peter Rossi review

Oettinger is still alive according to his wikipedia page, and I think it would be pretty fascinating to hear an interview on his thoughts on how far, or how little we’ve traveled since 1969.

 

Reflections on #OER17 – From Beyond Content to Open Pedagogy

By @choconancy Nancy White

In 2012 I attended the Open Ed conference in Vancouver , provocatively titled Beyond Content.  This was the same conference where Gardner Campbell captured our hearts with his infamous quote “this is not what I meant at all” , mirroring a sentiment that open was being co-opted by corporate interests and heading down a slippery slope of open-washing and dubious learner benefit.  But what also struck me about this particular Open Ed conference was that  the sessions weren’t really about Beyond Content in the way I had anticipated…the session archive shows that we were still very much talking about OERs, open courseware, and beginning to explore open textbooks. In other words, content was still how we framed open at this point in time.

Flash forward 5 years and I’m still buzzing from #OER17, a well timed conference framed around the Politics of Open. This particular event, with tightly and masterfully curated keynotes and sessions, was able to demonstrate without a doubt that we are beyond content.  The keynotes and sessions I attended fearlessly tackled a range of topics around open that I’m not even sure I heard the word OER once over the course of the two days.  There are already so many great summaries written up and collected over here, but it was the first time I felt that we were truly moving our conversations beyond content.

I, along with my colleagues who travelled from Mexico presented on an evaluation of a faculty development program – lovingly known as the Agora – designed around open pedagogy and it was fortuitous to catch a blog post by David Wiley and subsequent tweet storm prior to our last day, last session time slot.  David’s post outlines a number of good provocations about How is Open Pedagogy Different? but ultimately niggled me in a way I found difficult to articulate.  The crux of the argument was that the open pedagogy needs to be defined by the 5Rs, because if not, how was open pedagogy different from just plain old pedagogy.

Let me begin by saying that my own institution has benefitted greatly from OERs.   We participate in developing and reusing open textbooks and are three years into developing a Zed Cred/Zee Degree, we have adapted two CC BY courses provided to us from Athabasca University, and we have without a doubt been able to innovate because others have been willing to share their open content.  And we have to acknowledge that the 5Rs – which in my reading are framed around content but is something that is contested in in the tweet storm – provide good clarification for what open is in the context of OERs.

But I had to ponder whether OERs and the 5Rs have anything to do with open pedagogy.   In other words:

  • Is content essential to open?
  • Can you have open pedagogy without OERs?
  • Is content what defines pedagogy?

And if we do assume that OERs are essential to open pedagogy, can we ever really move Beyond Content?

Back to our open pedagogy presentation.  The Agora design process was focussed on what an open design would actually be a means to which can be summarized as:

  1. Open as a means to facilitate a faculty culture of collaboration across the university and across disciplines
  2. Open as a means to connect with a broader, global community
  3. Open as means to challenge and expand existing understandings of student centre learning
  4. Open as means to challenge ways of doing, in this case,  the options and possibilities of digital technology and mobile learning
  5. Open as a means to make the lives of faculty easier in their pursuit of better teaching and learning
  6. Open as a means to create a sustainable approach to faculty development

Ultimately we did create content that fits quite nicely with the 5Rs, but the goal of our open pedagogy design process was not to create OERs as a means towards or even as an essential component of open pedagogy. The Agora was alternatively all of the ‘isms –  behaviourism, connectivism, constructivism, constructionism – but the ism doesn’t really matter.  Importantly, the open pedagogy design was at times technology-enabled and at times it didn’t use technology or the internet at all.  OERs didn’t allow us to practice a different pedagogy, rather the open pedagogy of the Agora was a bricolage of activities and practices that at times resulted in OERs and at times didn’t.

If OERS and open content is a way for us to open the door a little bit more, then great. But it’s not the only way to open, and is not even a requirement in my view.  And if I took anything away from #OER17, it’s that there are so many directions to explore, critique, challenge when we talk about open.

 

 

 

 

Hello my name is…at #OER17

I’m travelling to #OER17 today for the first time, and I’ve got a lot to be excited about.  Aside from occasional stopovers in Heathrow, it’ll be my first time back in the UK in about thirty (!) years, the conference organizers have put together an all female keynote lineup (!!), and the sessions around the theme of the Politics of Open look amazing and are right up my alley (!!!).

As a pretty regular attendee of open events here in Canada and beyond, I look forward to seeing many familiar faces and people I consider colleagues.  But there are so many more that I see on Twitter but have never met, or see on Twitter and never get a chance to connect with at other events. And I suspect that there are so many I’ve never seen but should meet.  I’d like to take a step towards changing that at OER17.

I’m pretty introverted (as a I suspect many ed tech people tend to be) and I’ve been told that I don’t always give off a come chat with me vibe.  But here’s the thing…if we haven’t met, I’d really like to meet you. If you are interested in critical conversations about open, I’d like to meet you. If you are working with open in an non-English language context, I’d like to meet you.  If your non English open activities have been adapted or translated into English contexts, I’d like to meet you.

See you soon!

 

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