In early 2018, building on connections, in some cases friendship, and ideas, a group of women practicing and researching in educational technology launched femedtech – a feminist network for people working in education. It appeared via a Twitter account @femedtech, a hashtag #femedtech and a (now defunct website femedte.ch powered by WordPress) and was very much a volunteer effort. Our early vision for femedte.ch as a conversational space where people operated under their own identities within conversation proved difficult to achieve. Women (and most of our supporters were women) in educational technology, have many goals and challenges, and networking has to be done in the interstices of the daily struggle to do the work, look for the job and be the person who is and who looks after others.
This quote from the recent book created by many staff and students from Edinburgh University (and a few from elsewhere) captures gender inequality present in UK higher education.
The ivory tower, like other stately homes in the UK, might present a grand façade to the world but closer inspection reveals a dark, spidery basement full of inequalities. Men from disadvantaged social backgrounds might never make it to the ivory tower in the first place, and men who do get there are less likely to do well. Women students are more likely than men to suffer from mental health problems and encounter sexual harassment during their university lives, and even as graduates will earn less pay for the work they do during the course of their careers. Women staff are less likely to have permanent contracts, and considerably fewer of them ascend the career staircase of the ivory tower to professorial or senior management levels. Those who do make it there are paid less than men. The occupants of the ivory tower no longer sip port and think deep thoughts. Instead they drink Red Bull and fill in spreadsheets. They work long hours under stress to serve conflicting, crushing governmental agendas of excellence.
Femedtech has persisted in a quiet way on Twitter, and encouraged by support from people like Maren Deepwell, @femedtech and #femedtech have begun to grow by sharing the task of curating them for a two week slot. So why don’t you check out femedtech on Twitter, and think about whether you would like join in by reading, tweeting, re-tweeting or curating?
I approached the UCISA event (my first contact with the organisation) with a slight sense of trepidation, as I knew very little about Digital Capability and my presentation seemed a little different (well quite a lot different ) from others I saw on the programme. I decided to treat my role as providing a provocation for discussion on compliance and Digital Capabilities.
As I told the audience, I was relying on them to provide the knowledge of digcap. I was greatly helped by having attended a talk by Safiya Noble in Manchester last week, based on her excellent book ‘Algorithms of Oppression’, see links in presentation. I introduced the audience to earlier work on Resistance in Information Systems, that explored the more positive aspects of user ‘resistance’, see http://usir.salford.ac.uk/855/1/2004.2.pdf. I think we need to reinvent this in our changed landscape of technologies and platforms in use in learning and teaching.
In the event, my presentation connected to some of what Donna Lanclos said in her keynote about a practice perspective, and was kindly picked up by Farzana Latif in her talk later in the day.
Here is my presentation, and thanks to the audience for picking up the provocation and tweeting about it later.
But Iain McGilchrist’s view is that life is literally on its way out in relation to the way in which we live our lives and behave as social animals in today’s society. Birth, sex, the body and death are all suffering. Jenny’s post
Jenny’s own mother died recently and she says she hoped that this attendance on the course would provide some thinking space on this bereavement.
I have been profoundly moved by Jenny’s post and it got me thinking about my own experiences of death. My first significant bereavement experience was at 17 when my father died suddenly of a heart attack after returning from a walk. He was retired and when he died, I had been off school for four months with an illness that wasn’t life-threatening but required surgery (a few weeks after he died). During this time we got know one another even better, talking about ‘adult’ topics like the General Election that was held that year. After his death, this time provided many precious memories. The way I became aware of his death was my mother coming downstairs and asking me to phone for the priest (to give my father the Last Rites). I was shocked by my mother’s request and asked if I shouldn’t call an ambulance first. She asked me to first phone the priest and then phone for the doctor. Knowing he was dead, she rejected the drama of the ambulance, and attended to his and her spiritual needs first.
Next, I thought of the only two deaths at which I have been present. In 1981, I found out, relatively late in my pregnancy, that I was expecting 2 babies, one of whom would die before or shortly after birth: I have described the background in this post. I had 8 weeks to come to terms with the idea that I was carrying a baby I hadn’t known about and wouldn’t know for very long. I was very relieved that my baby Martin lived to be born so we could love him and say hello and goodbye to him. The unexpected event was the discovery that both twins had cleft lip and palates, and I spent the next four days coming to terms with what this meant practically in terms of feeding and in future surgery and treatment for the twin who lived. I very soon realised that Martin’s brief life and death really helped me to come to terms with his twin’s less serious condition. Martin had no aggressive medical intervention and I can honestly say that I regard being with him while he died to be a privilege. This was helped by the lovely agency nurse who cared for us all and allowed us to acknowledge his death when it happened.
I was also present at the death of one of my brothers a few years ago. He had a heart attack, was resuscitated and put on life support but tests revealed that he had suffered brain death. It was a terrible shock to his family and all of us, and I was privileged to be invited to be present when he died.
When I read what Jenny said about death, it chimed with my experience of my brother’s death surrounded by machines. They can intrude, I think- tolerable when saving a life but out of place in a death that is inevitable.
We hear about the sad cases of decisions on babies’ life support when they come to court. We don’t know how the medical staff and parents got to that point and it would be difficult to lay down rules I think. In an earlier draft of the this post I wrote “The less said about the obstetrician the better” but on reflection, I want to say more about the role of medical professionals in my experiences of death. I was, I think, fortunate that at my 30 week hospital check-up when the midwife detected more body parts than would be indicated by a single foetus, my double-barrelled name consultant was on holiday. The alternative consultant who supervised my scan gently helped me understand that though I would actually give birth to two babies, I would only go home with the one I had expected all along. In subsequent appointments , Mr double- barrelled name was reluctant to talk through the process of Martin’s likely life and death – it seemed to make him uncomfortable. He met me in the corridor after the twins were born, and spluttered something about ‘babies like that’ being put on ventilators in Liverpool, not something that I had ever requested. I was fortunate in already knowing and trusting the paediatrician caring for my twins, from her care of my first son, whose life was saved with a ventilator. It must be very difficult for medical staff to predict outcomes when a baby is born with a disease that reveals itself later, and life support may be given then turn out not to be in the best interests of the child. Parents will naturally and rightly want their child to have the best life possible and it may be very difficult to relinquish hope. Obviously, everyone wants to strive to heal a sick baby, but when healing is not possible, then quality of life becomes paramount. I really believe that the dignified life and death that Martin and we experienced is a beautiful thing but it was fragile and depended on enough of the right people being around.
In the case of my father’s death, my mother chose to avoid the medicalisation of my father’s death by not calling for an ambulance. Our GP arrived and certified my father’s death (though the Coroner’s office was later involved) without the need for him to be transported to hospital and medicalised in death.
How can death can be as good as it possibly can be in medical contexts?
There is a heroic narrative present in medical care that can get in the way of the humanity and trust needed for families and medical staff to act and make decisions on the care of the sick and disabled. Reading Jenny’s post, and reflecting on our experiences, it seems to me that not only can death be a friend to life but life can also be a friend to death.
#Femedtech is a hashtag on Twitter that can link feminists who practice in education technology (and that is an expansive category) and who have an interest in supporting each other and how things might be different.
Here is something you can do today and in the future – please tweet (including #femedtech) links to :
resources and examples that help us wrangle the tech in a feminist sort of way
research that casts a feminist perspective on learning technology
I gave (with the considerable help of the other participants in the room) a 20 minute presentation at ALTC 2017, in the Empowerment in Learning Technology Theme, here is the abstract and here is an autoplay version of the slides
There are some speaker notes here that indicate what was said along with the slides.
The presentation was in Elizabeth Gidney 1, 10.45-12.00 slot, Thursday 7 September.
I have really enjoyed writing the abstract and preparing the presentation for this ALTC conference, my first attendance since 2011, where I participated in a critical and enjoyable symposium with Cristina da Costa, Josie Fraser, Richard Hall and Helen Keegan. As I recall, there was lively debate, and that was my hope for the presentation. It was pretty clear to the audience what are my hopes and fears for learning technology practice. I acknowledge that many learning technologists will disagree with me and I hoped that those there will feel free to express their views. I want to hear them.
My current perspective on learning technology is focussed on informal learning from a largely extra-institutional perspective but via Chris Gilliard @hypervisible, I found a video about institutional adoption of technology that I hoped would provoke some interesting and diverse responses. Kate Bowles offers valuable reflections on the view of students implicit in this institutional case study.
I haven’t been able to find out whether or not Curtin University regards this application of HDS technologies as research or if informed consent has been obtained from staff and students. To me this seems like human research and deserving of the regulation demanded of academic researchers at Curtin and elsewhere.
Fortunately, my hopes were realised and the audience seemed very engaged with the video. A common reaction was that it was quite scary. Someone shared that they were involved in a similar project with secondary school students. Rather than using cameras and facial recognition, students carried badges thus enabling at least the possibility of them opting out.
Another participant pointed out when an institution has made a massive financial investment in technology and system, that can inhibit the expression of critical reflection.
Several participants felt that students seemed to lack choice.
Another participant told us that he was involved in a similar project using facial analysis but the difference was that since he works in veterinary science, the subjects were animals. This links back to my earlier comments on human research.
The final comment identified the dilemma for learning technologists in that their roles as technology advocates may clash with critical reflection.
My one-line message from my presentation is my hope that resistance is included in, or at least not excluded from, digital literacies. This doesn’t mean banning certain platforms or technologies but ensuring that the conversations happen about how they are used.
The week before OER17, I had responded to a request from #101openstories (still time for you to add yours too). In writing my open story, I realised that I became open, in the sense that it is generally meant within OER/Open Access/ Open Education Practice/ Open Pedagogy, by accident.
Writing my story, reading posts and commenting all added to my personal reflections on what open meant for me in my own practice as an educator and as a learner. I am not really interested in getting into a definition war about open – I am more interested in the relationship between the theory and practice of openness, and for me that predates my use of the Internet in education. One OER17 presentation that was particularly relevant to this issue for me was this one by Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewycz. Putting critical pragmatism in a reflexive relationship with advocacy is a powerful contribution, and leaves space for us to explore broader and older ideas. Viv Rolfe gave a presentation entitled Open but not for criticism at Opened16, and Dave Kernohan stressed the need to a community of practice to operate in part as a shared history of that practice (in order to combat ahistoricity) in his Opened15 presentation.
Eventually, I realised that #101openstories, David Wiley’s blog post were focused around #YearofOpen so I explored that site, interested to see that more active education was a claim for open pedagogy.
Around the same time Maha Bali, who also has a post at the Year of Open site, invited me to a hangout to discuss What is Open Pedagogy?. I was honoured to be invited but I am not a huge fan of Google Hangouts, and I think Maha understands that. The question of how we explore the meaning and practice of open in education is an interesting one and fortunately won’t be answered in the next two days 🙂
So distilled from my reflection and recent reading and thinking, here is my contribution to the #YearofOpen in the area of open in practice.
When I was commenting on on Tannis Morgan’s post I referred to the problematic nature of what I called Ground Zero approaches to Open. Afterwards, I was slightly worried that the use of the term Ground Zero might have been offensive in the light of its use in the context of the destruction of the World Trade Centre so I was relieved to find that it had a pre-existing meaning, as I had thought. I was very pleased to see the exemplar given for meaning 2 , a starting point or base for an activity ‘if you’re starting at ground zero in terms of knowledge, go to the library’.
Some writers like Tannis do look back in the literature to explore meanings of open in education prior to the Internet age. Because my own educational practice pre-dates the Internet, I thought it would be interesting to look back to see if I could find some of the sources that influenced my own HE philosophy/pedagogy in the late 1980s/ early 1990s https://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?q=Open+Active+Learning&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&as_yhi=1995 . Apparently a journal changed its name to ‘Open Learning’ in 1986 and there was argument over the misuse of terminology in 1990 so not much has changed. I realised that an important concern for me was the activity of the student, and I was able to incorporate new activities as opportunities for open web learning emerged.
As well as looking back, it’s good to look around too . I have worked with many colleagues who would be reluctant to openly share their resources according to 5 or even 6…. 25 Rs but would be open practitioners according to a less stringent orthodoxy. In terms of the scholarly literature, an example of something that fails the 5Rs but is hugely valuable source for theorising and practicing openness is the excellent Learning, Media & Technology Special Issue edited by Sian Bayne, Jen Ross and Jeremy Knox http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/cjem20/40/3?nav=tocList . Only one of articles is ‘open access’ but several of the others are available as pre-prints or by ingenuity via one’s network. Does that mean that the wealth of knowledge available by reading and discussing the articles should be excluded from consideration of OER and open educational practice. I don’t think so. I have been very pleased to some of the work cited in the OER community, notably in Catherine Cronin’s OER16 keynote but I always hope to see more crossover.
So I am recommending a healthy suspicion of Ground Zero approaches to Open (Pedagogy). For me they tend to suggest that we ignore what has gone before, and require signing up to tightly defined rules (that may change in future). Why should we be suspicious of these approaches? Firstly, the unenlightened who refuse, for example, to sign up to a particular version of a CC license may have a good reason for their decision, and why should it be imposed upon them? If we exclude people and their rich, lived educational practices, we may fail to learn from them as well as them learning from us. Can we afford to exclude valuable knowledge that falls outside the parameters of our particular ground zero?
We may need to look beyond what we see as our community, and go the the library.
I’ll be watching this at 9 p.m. BST today and on #YearofOpen hash tag on Twitter – maybe see you there?
This was a missed conversation for me in more ways than one. Although I attended OER17 in person, I had missed the original workshop as I was part of a panel running in parallel. And then I missed the first 12 minutes of the Google Hangout as I had connection problems but I am so glad I got there eventually as it was a lovely session. It was great to hear what participants had to say but I also loved the chat stream that was a missed conversation for people watching the video. I have just watched the video and I am missing the first 12 minutes of the chat stream from there 🙂
When I eventually joined the Google Hangout, and was invited to introduce myself, I explained that I am an Itinerant Scholar, having retired from Higher Education in 2013.
Here’s what I said as my introduction:
In preparation for this event, I read the abstract, blog posts and viewed the video provocations. I reflected on the process model
especially “Create and share a realistic or fantasy intervention/ prototype/ tool / process”.
My personal motivation, based on me tending to talk too much, was to participate differently in inclusive conversation. As well as changing my actions, I am imagining a counter to algorithmic shaping of conversation online.
First I thought of a human algorithm (or even humane algorithm). I like the human bit but think we can do better than fixedness of algorithm.
So this was my attempt to re-create the workshop activity and I came up with some heuristics, rules of thumb that I see as a concept, a broad guide, a space of adaptation and action.
I had started to think about these heuristics when participating in #tjc15 organised by the lovely Laura Gogia. The hashtag twitter conversation was busy and fast flowing so I tried to think of what I could do to have a meaningful participation.
In the Missing Conversations hangout, I concentrated on listening to the speakers and participating in the chat, both of which channels were very interesting, though those viewing the video, live or as a recording, couldn’t see the chat. Privacy, surveillance and sacrifice of personal data in return for ‘free access’ were all explored, and it’s worth watching the video, if you missed the session.
I find it difficult to separate the spoken contributions from the chat room, and in a way that is an example of the differential experiences that platforms such as Google Hangout can engender. Kate Green explained beautifully at 25.30 into the Hangout that she had to change her browser and cookie permissions so that participating in the workshop compromised her privacy strategies. This chimed with Chris Gilliard’s contributions (video and spoken) regarding the implications of surveillance capitalism.
Towards the end of the Hangout, I shared my heuristics for participating in a one hour synchronous conversation online, which are:
LISTEN – I minimise my speaking, and maximise my listening.
PREPARE – I research in advance and note THREE points that I might make/respond to.
WAIT – I make ONE of these points as a statement, being prepared to bring in the others in response, if relevant, within the flow of the conversation.
REFLECT – I reflect and report back via a blog post/ Twitter comments.
I don’t really think that these heuristics are sufficient to counter algorithmic and functional shaping of conversational streams in social media but they are my human shaping. Of course, we can also resist in other ways.
Last week I was lucky enough to attend OER17 an Open Education conference, The Politics of Open. When I heard at the close of OER16 that was the theme and that Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski were the Chairs, I was thrilled. I did wonder if that ‘politics’ aspect might be be off-putting for some. But the submissions that I reviewed engaged with the topic and were generally of high quality. I felt reassured and optimistic.
And it was a lovely conference (organised by the very lovely ALT) with so much friendliness and spirit and voices from beyond UK where it happened. I guessed it was going to be great from my experience on the planning committee and reviewing abstracts, but it really did exceed my expectations. And for that, I should start by thanking the Conference Chairs who came up with the inspiring Conference themes. The whole experience was invigorating, and I am still enjoying the space after the conference. There was so much going on at the conference, and is still happening, please check out hashtag #OER17 as delegates and hashtag attenders continue to share and engage. I have been able to get a flavour of sessions that I couldn’t attend because I was in another good session.
I blogged the wonderful keynotes, which were inspirational in different ways, and I had blogged in preparation for the conference check my tag. Feeling slightly dazed, I am reflecting and trying to fulfill my desire to contribute to OER17.
So let me think beyond the web links to the experience. This was a lovely conference from start to finish. The conference themes were inspirational: the keynotes were invigorating, they opened up thinking and generated some lovely abstracts and many beautiful presentations, lightning talks, workshops. The corridor/tea break encounters, the discussion within sessions, the social media exchange, the bowling and Karaoke on Wednesday night all contributed to my good experience of #OER17.
But a bigger question is how can this conference make a difference in a broader sense?
I can’t capture the difference it will make in terms of an organised movement but I suspect that it will make a difference, however small, to how people think and what they do. I saw a few glimpses of criticality being seen as powerful for change rather than as a negative approach. That gladdened my heart but what of all the things I didn’t see? I am scouring #OER17 tag and seeing more but there will be far more that eludes me and that’s OK.
I will share two experiences that I had and that are part of the difference OER17 made to me.
The first was that I plucked up my courage and sang (very badly) at the Karaoke on Wednesday. I chose Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, and hadn’t realised till then that it’s an anthem for Open.
They took all the trees Put ’em in a tree museum And they charged the people A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got Till it’s gone They paved paradise And put up a parking lot
The second was seeing Chris Gilliard’s provocation for, I think, 2 OER17 sessions. I love the thought that digital creations can flit across to face to face sessions and flit back to channels like Twitter and blogs. I love the way Chris performs his own and Shoshana Zuboff’s ideas in this video.
These are ideas that are already familiar to me, and that have informed my own work but Chris’s video triggers new thoughts. That’s part of the beauty of open in a digital age that we can engage with ideas through and about the means by which we share.
Lucy gave us examples of how Wikimedia is engaged in projects with schools, colleges, universities and libraries across the UK and elsewhere. Wikipedia can play a part in developing digital literacy.
She also highlighted the different activities that can be done in the different language instances of Wikipedia. The English Language one has over 5 million articles, while other languages have a need for content but that need offers opportunities to translate and recontextualise in young editors’ own languages.
Wikimedia are well aware of cultural and gender gaps, and works hard to address them, in order to diversify Wikipedia’s content and contribution.
Another strand of Wikimedia strategy is to advocate for change in policy and practice in institutions with whom they are involved, with the help of ambassadors eg Wikimedians-in-residence in universities.
Lucy emphasised that Open as a political act does not mean that Open is in opposition to Privacy.
She highlighted ways in which we, the audience, could get involved in events, joining Wikimedia, and attending the Wikimedia UK AGM. I attended last year’s AGM, and it was a great opportunity to meet people, learn at workshops and contribute to decisions.
The keynote was inspiring for those of us who were keen to learn more about Wikimedia through the sessions provided in the programme.
[I promised to live blog the keynotes for OER17 as I had for OER16 but my method depended on pictures from my phone being pulled through to flickr. The wifi at the venue wasn’t up to this so the post is a combination of live and edited.]
Diana told us that this demonstrated 2 things she has learned: that location is everything; and the need to participate by engagement and activism rather than photo-opportunity.
Diana gave an example of an art installation concerning Enron that she worked on right in the centre of the Financial centre. Some financial workers engaged with her, even bring their shredded documents!
Her next example was the project that refurbished 25 row houses in Houston Texas – most used by artists, and few as homes for battered women.
Another of Diana’s own projects was White Guilt Cleanup – cleaning up privilege, one white person at a time. White people could buy a White Guilt Offset Credit that would benefit their or others’ victims.
Diana worked with Indie magazine in Berlin to help them change practices through the project, and their joint work was successful in making change.
Diana has done different political Karaoke projects at Democratic National Congress, and a bar in Jerusalem.
Her takeaways were:
make sure you have local cooperation to work in their spaces
or bring them to your project
use Art projects as a Trojan Horse to make change where it matters
Conflict Kitchen in Pittsburgh only employs people and serves food from countries in conflict with USA. Waiters are trained in handling conflict/communication. The goal is to counter media narratives about conflict locations.
Sheila MacNeill asked about how we could harness Art in Education. Diana told of her experience mainly in after school activities, Higher Education being her least favourite area.
Bryan Lamb asked about people who may be using related techniques but for less than desirable purposes. Diana explained how Art can become a disruptor.
Muireann asked about the possibilities of OE researchers to spread their message, and Lucy described a political art installation in the House of Westminster that gave disenfranchised young people a voice in the right place to be heard.
This was a keynote that felt and looked to me like an art event – it was great fun to be there.
[I promised to live blog the keynotes for OER17 as I had for OER16 but my method depended on pictures from my phone being pulled through to flickr. The wifi at the venue wasn’t up to this so the post is a combination of live and edited.]