The Paradise (hopefully not lost) of #OER17

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.

Opening up Wikimedia Content and Communities #OER17 Keynote

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Lucy Crompton-Reid, the Chief Executive of Wikimedia UK, and Karaoke Queen, introduced herself to us, revealing her broad experience, and enthusiasm for Wikipedia.

Lucy was very happy when Jim Groom made this statement at OER16

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She is passionate about the use of Wikipedia and associated projects in education, formal and informal. Education is a natural home for Wikimedia, and Education is a key part of Wikipedia’s strategy.

Lucy showed a  video from a Wikipedia colleague

more background here.

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.

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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.

Lucy’s keynote is here.

[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.]

Hiding in the Open #OER17 Keynote

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Maha Bali describes herself as “open and connected educator, learnaholic and writeaholic” and you can find her on Twitter and at her blog.

Maha has modelled openness in the development of her keynote by blogging for ideas, sharing her slides in advance and adopting an inclusive approach through the process.

Josie Fraser introduced Maha as an open educator who models and personifies open educational practice.

Maha started by asking the audience to share how many OERs they had produced – quite a variety.

She then asked a series of questions that highlighted (without being too explicit) how openness might benefit, followed by a ‘meet your neighbour’ activity.

Maha used the Little Miss Helpful book to highlight the nature of ‘helping’ and how the helped relate to it – does the person on crutches want you to open the door for them? and does the beggar with no teeth appreciate the apple she is given. Maha and a member of the audience discussed the nature of intentions – whether we nurture our intentions properly, whether they include those we engage with.

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Maha went on to discuss Education funding as ‘foreign aid’, an interesting analogy.

You try to ‘fix the shirt but spoil the trousers’. Your intentions are good but what you help spoils something else. Maha included stories shared by others.

Christian Friedrich shared his stories about trying to help refugees and the unanticipated problems that arose.

Aleks Tarkowski talked about Creative Commons Licenses and the complexity and legal nature created mini-copyright police.

Maha then went on to talk about curriculum and how the hidden curriculum and the power relations that lie behind open relations in Egyptian HE.

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People with less privilege may have a different experience (and fears) of using CC0 compared with the  more powerful.

Maha looked at curriculum as content , using example of SOAS students who challenged a white privileged curriculum.

SHe also gave the example of the 2 versions of the 6 Day war in 1973 on English and Arabic wikipedia – same ‘facts’, different interpretation.

She compared cMOOCs and xMOOCs , usually in English, with Edraak a MOOC written in Arabic.

Maha went on to speak about Virtually Connecting that includes people who can’t be at the conference and to encourage face to face delegates to take away some of their experiences for the benefit of those who weren’t there.

You can watch the recording of the keynote here.

[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.]

#OER17 – a conference to attend

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I am a newbie to OER conferences, and #OER16 was the first I attended.  I loved it, and live blogged  and blogged quite a few keynotes and sessions. The picture above is of David Kernohan at Laura Ritchie’s Ukelele workshop at OER16. I really enjoyed this workshop that was so engaging, mentally and physically, that I couldn’t possibly have live-blogged it.

I am a fairly recent participant in OER conferences but for the second time, I have participated in planning and reviewing by being a member of OER17 committee. OER17’s theme is The Politics of Open, a topic that becomes more relevant by the day. I was intrigued when OER17was announced (thanks Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski) and inspired by the call to submit an individual submission and contribute to a joint one. My excitement was mounting: doing, thinking, writing,talking about open education/ resources in context was political. Then the abstracts to review arrived in my mailbox and I realised that if my sample was anything to go by, OER17 will be a very timely and significant exploration of the politics of open.

Cross-referencing the titles and programme
Cross-referencing the titles and programme

This week, the programme was published, and I have already started to think about which sessions I wish to attend. Obviously, I can’t decide until I can read the abstracts but I can already foresee some difficult choices. And then there are the corridor chats with the interesting people who will be participating.

All in all, I can’t wait for April 5 2017. Will you be there?

 

Processing our grief and looking to the future

Yesterday when I heard the EU Referendum result, my feelings moved from dread to grief, and I am hopeful that writing this post will be therapeutic for me. I’d be delighted if anyone wants to respond.  Part of my philosophy is that we can learn from mistakes so surely there is something to be learned from what I see as a colossal mistake, and is already seen as a mistake by some who voted for it . My social media streams have also contained expressions of despair and anger.  Whilst feelings of anger are part of the grief process, when they turn to blame that reifies complex explanations as simple binary truths, they can get in the way of progress. For me, it’s reasonable to question the Tory party’s decision to campaign a General Election on a platform that promised a referendum but when I hear the “old people did this to us” explanation, I worry that view will, in the long run, get in the way of making things better in future. Michael Rosen has a wry response to the old people issue.

Read this:

I am a lifelong socialist and voted remain. I am sad, disappointed and concerned that my view did not prevail. I am also sad, disappointed and concerned that the vitriolic bigotry on both sides of the referendum campaign, which was a significant factor in the outcome, continues today. We have Nigel Farage triumphalism , xenophobia and prejudice; but we also see some of my fellow Labour Party members,  pouring shame and self righteous abuse on the entire group of their neighbours who voted to leave. The oxygen of media and  social media  fans the flames of intolerance, inequality , fear and hatred. To combat these we need education,  empathy and dialogue, not bullying, misinformation and self appointed guardians of ‘the truth’. Now is the time for reflection and analysis. With recognition of the reasons for the EU exit , we can form the basis for a convincing strategy to create a fair, inclusive , prosperous and peaceful world – we have more things in common than divide us .

by email from my dear friend and sister-in-law Patricia Whaley

Pat’s email was so welcome to let me know that someone else was concerned about how we can learn and make change, without despising those who voted Brexit. Understanding why they did would be a good start. I was partially disconnected from the EU Referendum campaign because we were on a month long trip in our motorhome and so I missed much the UK media coverage of the campaign. The day before we returned home, we heard the shocking news of Jo Cox’s murder, and learned more about how inspirational she was a human being and as a politician. Some of the most touching tributes were from constituents who gave testament to how she listened to them and did her best to solve their problems. If some of those constituents voted Brexit, I think she would have listened to them and talked to them, rather than condemning them.

My reflections started with trying to think what was good about the referendum, a thought experiment:

  • It’s good that there was a high turnout whether or not we like the outcome. My idea (pipedream) of a functioning democracy is one where voters have access to a range of views supported by accurate information, vote for politicians who have integrity, and then we all abide by the will of the majority, whilst working honestly to change that will if we think it is wrong.  I hope that the Labour Party will focus effort on finding out why some of their traditional vote turned out for Brexit, rather than blaming its leader. I found these views from Hartlepool, where there was a 70% vote for Brexit, were painful to watch but enlightening.

Rather than decrying areas of the country or age groups as ignorant and racist, let’s listen to people and find out why they fear immigration and feel so let down by the establishment. I have heard often this week that not all Brexit voters are racist but all racists would vote Brexit, aimed at those considering voting Brexit – but now a majority has voted Brexit so what can we learn from that? Spoiler: don’t blame the voters.

  • It seems likely that more young people are voting than a few years ago and also that more young people voted Remain. That is great but the whole picture is unclear and more complex than it may at first appear. This article makes use of a comparison of Census and EU Referendum data (interesting but not definitive) and a widely circulated Lord Ashcroft Poll. It’s wise to treat the latter source with caution I think, since its funder has his own agenda. Newspaper articles (quietly) acknowledged the Lord Ashcroft Poll source (how could they resist it?) but the path from this dodgy poll to the ‘truth’ of ‘older people denied younger people their wishes’ ran across those newspaper articles and then across social media with disconnection from the sources. I enjoyed this widely circulated comment from the Financial Times but wondered what was the source of this articulate commenter’s assertion

Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles, and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors

The commenter pointed out that we live in a post-factual democracy and that’s a matter of concern.  I don’t know if there is reliable data on if and how people voted by age group but we do know turnout and outcome by area, and that can give us food for thought.

I am thrilled by the thought of young people becoming more politically active and want all of us to be able to access reliable information.

In a phone call this morning, Pat Whaley (who lives in Middlesbrough where there was a high Brexit vote) reminded me that Cameron inaccurately blamed the EU for UK government inaction to save the Redcar steelworks.   People can only make their minds up on the information available to them, and in a confusing situation will go with their gut feelings, voting Brexit against the government or because they have been fed propaganda about immigration or for other reasons.

Mariana Funes shared a 15 minute video aimed at US viewers that managed to convey the contradictions and misinformation of the Brexit case in a humorous #NSFW fashion.

That’s an interesting intersection of traditional media (TV programme) and social media (Youtube channel shared via Twitter/Facebook) but the complexities of social media bear closer inspection.

I think we can be fooled by hearing what we want to hear within our filter bubble/ echo chamber

Facebook’s algorithms tend towards reinforcing certain themes within a social group.

I have done a lot thinking and quite a bit of writing about social media in the last few years and polarisation has been a theme.  I quoted David A Banks in this post

Just like its government equivalent, voting on social networks is also a nice way to give the illusion that anything and anyone can succeed on merit while actually maintaining the status quo through sociotechnical structures. Tech entrepreneurs deploy voting to show allegiance to their fantasy of a color-blind and genderless meritocracy, predicated on what PJ Rey has shown to be an outdated and debunked notion that the Internet allows us to transcend race, class, and gender by entering a space of pure information. Popular posts are good, the logic goes, because only the best makes it to the front page.

But on social media, the manipulation of what we see is not only determined by our up/down voting, liking or favouriting but also by the hidden algorithms (aimed at maximising social networking systems’ revenue) as they shape what we see and from whom, based on their advertisers interests.

Not surprisingly, social and traditional media are commercial activities, and this can present conflicts for their consumers and producers, not just in terms of what they contain/ share but also how that content is presented. I think that means we need to hold them to account.

So what about the Brexit voters? My social media filter bubble doesn’t contain many who argued for leaving the EU. Some them will have turned to the Sun and the Daily Mail and what did they find? Exaggerations and lies – epitomised by the slogan encapsulated on the Brexit Bus neatly retracted on the day after polling to save excessive spending in a new government perhaps.

At this point, it’s a struggle not to dash my head against the kitchen table, so let’s try to think of how things might be different.  The people of Liverpool, sometimes decried, set us a great example of how to deal with media lies over the Hillsborough football stadium disaster. When confronted with the lies propagated by the Sun and other newspapers, many of the people of Liverpool campaigned for justice, only exposed 27 years later,  and they boycotted the Sun. So ordinary people can challenge the establishment and the media and get some sort of justice, eventually by working relentlessly and defying establishment and media lies. Let’s challenge traditional and social media to be the media that we want and resist them being immovable objects that manipulate what we can learn from other people.

My hopes for the future:

  • That within and without political parties, we can achieve a healthy democracy where people are politically active across the spectrum of listening, learning, organising, campaigning, challenging government and politicians, and of course voting.
  • That traditional and social media wield their great power with integrity and respect, and that we are knowledgeable and aware enough to challenge them when they fall short of this, and to appreciate how our own views may be shaped by media, overtly and covertly.
  • That we question the emerging binary culture that seems to be partially fuelled by media and tackle  complex issues with provisional solutions. Let’s resist polarisation, and find our way forward with “education, empathy and dialogue, not bullying, misinformation and self appointed guardians of ‘the truth’” as Pat Whaley says.

I am very pleased to see that some are planning positive futures here and Progrexit.

Update:

At the time I wrote this post, I had done a little research on Lord Ashcroft Polls but I am slightly embarrassed to say that I took the yougov poll at face value – yougov sounds so official. Yougov use Active Sampling from their pool of responders and claim that even though the polling is online, it’s not biased. See what you think. They seem to have a good track rate of predicting election results but I still have a little prickle at the back of my neck.

Technology and Change in Education #ED1to1 #TJC15

Link between #TJC15 and #Ed1to1

I have arrived at #ed1to1 ( a twitter chat organised by Bon Stewart over 3 days) via #tjc15 (a monthlyish one hour twitter chat organised by Laura Gogia about a journal article). The framing article for #ed1to1 is (25 years ago) The First School One-to-One Laptop Program  by Audrey Watters.
I didn’t know the first one to one laptop scheme was 25 years ago. I remember using a similar case study for teaching systems implementation in the late 1990s, and interestingly, the school concerned was also a religious all girls school.
Then I got to thinking about Project CEIBAL that seems to be still going strong* after 8 years in operation. I was very impressed with the vision and scale of the project when I saw Miguel Brechner speak about it at ALT-C 2011 and will be very interested in its longer term impact and what can be learned from the project.

This is a 15 minute (10 minutes presentation followed by questions) video where Miguel outlines the project as one of social inclusion  He shows clearly that this was not just a project about the laptop but also included the network infrastructure, support, evaluation and sustainability.  CEIBAL sees pedagogy and enabling teachers and students as at the heart of the project. The laptops used were from the OLPC project, a global mission to give every child a laptop that has itself been criticised for its relevance to poor countries.  What interested me about CEIBAL was that it acknowledged the wider context of change, as this description of the historical educational context in Uruguay shows. Watch this 45 second clip to get a sense of this.

What the laptop program described in Audrey’s article and Project CEIBAL seem to have in common is that they are driven by a commitment to universal and relevant education. In the case of Uruguay, from 1876 education was decreed mandatory, secular and free. Even though many religious schools are no longer free (and were never secular), they can often trace their history back to a commitment to educate working class children. This account of the early history of education in my own home town shows nuns living and dying in similar conditions to those they were trying to help.

I don’t have enough information to really compare these two projects but I admire them. Philosophical/political commitment can be an effective driver and good evaluation can be a gift to future projects (unless you are a disruptive innovator of course).

Education has always been a means by which lives can be improved, and technology has a complex reflexive relationship with changing lives and organisations. In my own old-fashioned way, I am interested in the role of social justice and context in the promotion and use of educational technology.  It’s less than a panacea and more than a business opportunity to my way of thinking.

*It’s difficult to get up to date information in English and this source questions the impact and use of the laptops in Uruguay http://www.humanosphere.org/social-business/2014/09/nail-one-laptop-per-child-coffin/ though I note blogger source works for a bank.

Looking backwards, looking forwards

I am on a bit of a “Back to the future” theme at the moment and so when I volunteered to interview for the current purposed campaign, I decide to do a bit looking back as well as forward.

The instructions were:

For our next campaign we want to you to spread the Purpos/ed message by asking somebody two questions and recording their answers:

A) How should we educate people in the future?
B) What do we need to be doing now to enable that?

We’d like people to use Audioboo to record audio for these.

I interviewed my friend Marian who left school at 14 1/2 and, as an added bonus, her partner Ray  arrived part way through the interview.  Unfortunately we had barely got started when the 5 minutes were up but here is the first part of our discussion http://audioboo.fm/boos/388699-interview-with-marian-and-ray.

The sound quality of the last part is not improved by the dog barking in the kitchen – Billy wanted to see Ray too.

After we had run out of audio boo, we had a really interesting discussion, covering the following points.

  • at the time Marian and Ray left school, jobs were in abundance (contrast that with now) but it wasn’t possible for either of them to stay on past the school leaving age even though they regret that now
  • they both learned a lot in their workplaces but have also learned other things e.g. Ray learned to play the guitar through a correspondence course
  • they don’t have access to the Internet but are beginning to be interested though starting digital photography and hearing so much about it

I am very interested in how the generation approaching retirement can gain access to the Internet, learn how to use it and learn through using it at a time in their lives when they will have more free time but less money.  As NIACE tell us,

“Those who are not online are older, in lower income brackets, and are less likely to have formal qualifications. It is estimated that households can save around £500 a year by being online, and one in three internet users say they use the web for learning and finding information online.”

When we are thinking about the purpose and future of education, let’s not forget about the generations who missed out the first time around and are in danger of missing out on new ways of learning.

The purpose of education

Education, 1890, by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Tiffany Studios

What is the purpose of education?

Well, of course that raises more questions:

What is education? I refer you to the stained glass window above see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_%28Chittenden_Memorial_Window or my interpretation that it is an activity involving serious angels and though which light can shine.

Whose purpose are we talking about? Well I think we just have to agree that there is a variety of purposes, and I’ll say more about that later.

Why are we asking the question?

Purpos/ed seems to about working to raise the position of education on the political agenda.  It also seems to be located within the learning technology community. This suggests to me that educational funding is seen to be under threat and that the role of technology in education is important.

Fred Garnett referred us to Mike Wesch’s inspirational ideas on the need for educators and learners to (re)gain a sense of the purpose of education. Stephen Downes and Lou McGill showed how educational system can go awry.

Ewan McIntosh persuaded me that we should be “giving up the artificial reins we as teachers, parents and governments use to strangle those passions and the  creativity that lends itself to their growth.” Other contributors stress the need for passion and creativity, and the agency of learners (and teachers).

My own view

Passion about solving the current problems in education and excitement about the possibilities offered by web and network technologies can tempt us to think that current educational systems can somehow be replaced by technology.  This could be a risky experiment!

Conscious of a slightly anti-teaching tone creeping into debates about networked learning, I ran an online seminar where participants explored the role of teachers in learning networks and what happens when they disappear. My conclusion was that good teachers know when to disappear, or give up the artificial reins.

My two applications did not result in a National Teaching Fellowship but the reflective writing I did for them helped me develop my philosophy of education, based on my experiences as student, mother, teacher and researcher in secondary, further and higher education. So I do believe that thinking about and questioning the hows and whys are very important parts of education.  Education is in constant flux: within families, institutions, networked publics.  Keri Facer stressed the “urgent need to have a serious public debate about the purpose of education that builds bridges between students, educators and the wider public”.  Perhaps the purpose of education is to construct a participatory dialogue about the purpose of education: a dialogue that makes a difference to what learners experience throughout their lives.

Education has four pillars: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be.  I believe its impact depends on its ability to enable all of us to shape it.  Purpos/ed is doing a great job of involving educators in the dialogue – the next challenge is to involve the learners.