In early 20187, 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.
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?
In 1996, I was lecturing in Information Systems in the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences at University of Salford. A colleague ran a Lotus Notes Server (under his desk as I recall) that hosted a Student Information System – and I had an account on the server for that reason.
And then – Lotus released the Domino server that transformed from just a Notes server to become an Interactive Web server ! What was posted on a Notes Server could be shared on the Web.
I had looked enviously at Universities that offered tilde Web spaces for staff and sometimes students, but had no idea how I could persuade IT Services, or learn HTML alongside all my other commitments.
But now, I had a user account that enabled me to create Lotus Notes databases that would allow students to access and engage with what I published on a MS Office template database. So I just uploaded Word and Powerpoint documents to Lotus Notes, and there they were – on the Web. OK so the urls were a nightmare, but I was sharing course resources openly. And I could sync the databases to my home computer, reducing my dialup charges.
My intention was that students could access resources but I soon realised that other educators were finding my stuff, and contacting me. This encouraged me in different ways: I adopted a more scholarly approach to citation/referencing in slideshows; and I was able to share resources as my network increased. Later, a colleague who joined us from another university told me how much she valued my stuff and we worked to create new web materials together when we team taught a large module.
I had also discovered the Notes Discussion template, and realised that I could set up Discussion spaces for students (and invite others) where they could have conversations that were shared but not in the public domain.
And then, an institutional reorganisation happened and I lost access to the Lotus Notes server and had to learn HTML in a month but that’s another story !
Hans Rosling, medical doctor, academic, statistician, public speaker and sword swallower, died yesterday 7 February. You can read more about his life and work at Wikipedia, but don’t forget to visit gapminder.org, set up by Hans Rosling, his son Ola Rosling and his daughter-in-law Anna Rosling Rönnlund. Gapminder.org models Rosling’s goal of active/ informed citizens/ learners engaging with data and questioning their assumptions.
Here is a brief video that shows Rosling’s use of visualisation – notice how he unpicks generalisation by pricking the China bubble at the end to show regional differences.
I heard the news of Rosling’s death on Twitter last night, where some of us were recalling his keynote at ALT-C 2008 , especially the stepladder teaching technology at 9.30.
Here is his explanation for the prevalence of ignorance that seems even more relevant in these days:
Why is there so much ignorance?
Statistical facts don’t come to people naturally. Quite the opposite. Most people understand the world by generalizing personal experiences which are very biased. In the media the “news-worthy” events exaggerate the unusual and put the focus on swift changes. Slow and steady changes in major trends don’t get much attention. Unintentionally, people end-up carrying around a sack of outdated facts that you got in school (including knowledge that often was outdated when acquired in school). The Ignorance Project
The gapminder site is a treasure trove of data, software and other teaching and learning resources and I played with one example of a chart by choosing Iran, UK and USA for comparison over the lifetime of the data (Scroll back to 1995 and press play). Did you see what happened to Iran?
Rosling was not without his critics but I would like to celebrate his contribution on the ground, in the classroom, and on the web. He entertained, he provoked thought and he gave us tools to help us understand and interrogate data.
Peter Riley explains the Kinder Scout Trespass that took place in 1932 as a protest against the permanent closure of all the wild uplands of Derbyshire for about 12 days of grouse shooting in the year. It has been described as “the most successful direct action in British history” Lord Roy Hattersley, 2007.
The other day I read a review by Billy Mills of the narrative poem The Ascent of Kinder Scout by Peter Riley. What Billy said made me think about the relevance of the Kinder Scout Trespass for us today and how the poem can help us understand more about the purpose and experience of education then and now. The pamphlet arrived in the post today to my joy.
Extract from Billy Mills’ review
These radicals, both working class activists and middle-class poets, had lived through one World War and its aftermath and were about to see a second. As the first generation to benefit from the 1918 Education Act, they had the tools needed to engage in a process of learning about power and its implications. As Riley writes early in this work, ‘The foundation of the state is not violence but education.’ This statement, apparently straightforward on first reading, gains in complexity as Riley questions the role and value of the state a few paragraphs later, concluding that it ‘makes everything possible, and makes strangers of us all.’
He also calls into question the value of education, specifically literacy:
They taught us to read and we thought we were so grand as to join heaven and earth. But all we did was wallpaper over the crack between myth and science and lose our homes. The farmer’s wife sang a truer song, told a sweeter story, of hope and despair hand in hand walking back into society.
This last word forming an integrative counterbalance to the divisive state. It is no coincidence that the verse excursus, which echoes the song Goodnight Irene, follows on immediately after the prose paragraph from which I have just quoted. This interlude sits in the twin shadows of war and emigration, of ‘promise betrayed’ and ‘all the bathos of the modern state’.
I know that comparisons with the 1930s are a little overblown at present but I found that the poem and review are very thought-provoking in my ongoing consideration of critical and digital literacy in public and open education. I submitted an abstract recently for #OER17, a conference with the theme Politics of Open. My abstract looks at the role of criticality in Open Educational Practice, and how paying attention to the sociomaterial, as Fenwick(2014) encourages students and educators, can focus on the political as well as the instrumental nature of education, and critique the digital tools and platforms through which it is increasingly mediated.
So here is my proposal:
What if the critical and digital literacies that educators and students practice and share could help focus attention on the wider implications of using proprietary social networking systems and other platforms in learning, and activism and education?
What if these literacies helped bring about a digital trespass that was more like the Kinder Scout Trespass than a concern of cyber-security?
I’ll leave you with the words of the late Ewan McColl in one of my Favourite songs The Manchester Rambler.
I’m a rambler, I’m a rambler from Manchester way
I get all me pleasure the hard moorland way
I may be a wageslave on Monday
But I am a free man on Sunday
I read two posts about in/exclusion recently : one from sava singh about cliquenomics; and one from Maha Bali on Intentionality, Community, and When Open Isn’t Open. I really like the way that sava captures an observational view of community and how it can include and exclude. She identifies that although people can have malicious intent, cliques can be a byproduct of our zeal for belonging
“clique economies” – exclusive clubs for the special few, the practice of which I will call cliqueonomics. sava singh
Maha has signalled her intent to focus on intentionality in her forthcoming OER17 keynote and seems to flag up cliques as having a power dynamic that intentionally denies access. She gives a comparison within VConnecting of the close-knit communities that form on Slack and the public Twitter and Google Hangouts. That caught my attention because I have done a lot of wondering about the relationships between behind the scenes and public interactions in general, and specifically relating to some current work on network-building. I think that a qualitative study from in-community and ex-community perspectives of this would be interesting and could contribute to critical perspectives on openness.
All of this made me think about some research that Jenny Mackness, Mariana Funes and I did that looked at qualitative contributions/survey data and quantitative activity data across different tech platforms on one MOOC. We found that community could be a confusing idea for participants who espoused heterogeneity and that platform design could also have an impact. We can think of intentionality as relating to the agency of individuals or as an emergent property of groups but if we take a post-human perspective on intentionality then intentionality and agency can be shared between humans and non-humans such as the platforms. I think this view could be helpful.
I am not really sure that participants who felt excluded by the lash up of individuals, groups and tech would feel reassured that this did not meet a particular definition of a clique. Like community, clique is a term that I use fairly sparingly now after some mixed experiences. Both terms seem to me to provoke strong emotions, and can get in the way of sustaining difference without exclusion. It would be good to look at cliques as something that we can all contribute to despite our best intentions and working on understanding what’s going on is a worthwhile enterprise.
This blog post started life as a comment on Martin Weller’s post about language and how it affects behaviour and thoughts in Edtech. The comment mysteriously disappeared as I posted it so I thought that I would repost it here and link from Martin’s post. The title of the post “Let’s think inside the box“ made me think about Blackboxing .
Whilst I agreed with many of the ideas in the post, Martin’s statement “But this post isn’t about politics” stopped me short. I wondered what those of us thinking of making a submission to OER17 would make of this. I have been puzzling for a few weeks about what politics can mean in the context of “The Politics of Open” theme for OER17, and I guess that others may be doing so too. I think that the concept of politics being broad and interpreted in different contexts will make for a great conference that enriches our understanding of Open Educational Practices and Resources.
So I would like to encourage Martin to think about how his post could be about politics and ‘fit’ OER17 – maybe even rework it as a submission 🙂 I was grateful to him for getting me to think about politics and language and my Scholar Google search turned up 2 corking resources.
My subject discipline was Information Systems (that bears some parallels to Edtech) and in our teaching, we included social and organisational aspects as well the technological ones. Ethics, gender and power were definitely on the curriculum. When we think about education and/or technology without considering the politics – global, national, organisational, personal, interpersonal – we are filtering our understanding and it’s no wonder that our noble aspirations don’t always work out as we would hope. This is why I think the OER17 theme is so exciting – it can help us expand our thinking and our practice.
The practical bit of this post is about my workarounds to get articles online that are behind paywalls. Scroll down a bit if you want to cut to the chase.
For about 30 years off and on I was affiliated to a university, and appreciated the access to books, journals and other resources that accompanied that affiliation. I used it daily in my teaching and research work. As a Masters programme leader in the early 2000s, I was tasked with interviewing a student who had been found razoring out an article from a print journal. I tried to convince her that her action was against a commons where many could share the same resource. I remember reflecting that this wouldn’t have happened if we had a digital subscription to that journal. But of course the library card or login that go with affiliation are the gate through which we pass for access to the institution’s digital library.
Since retiring in 2013, I have had to become much more inventive about gaining access to resources as I realised more sharply what I already ‘knew’. There is no single digital library: our personal digital library is shaped by our access and our practices. When affiliated, I found articles that I wanted to read that were in journals for which my university had no subscription. This is when I turned to friends affiliated to wealthier universities who might have access to the journal and be willing to share a copy. I also realised that Scholar Google and Google could also be my friends, turning up links to self-archived articles, dodgy uploads for class resources and links to institutional repositories. I learned much about the vagaries of copyright and licensing in my service as co-editor of ALT’s Research in Learning Technology, particularly during the process of transition to becoming an Open Access journal to fulfil ALT’s commitment to scholarly publishing. In my research for the editorial of the first Open Access issue, I learned that instead of digital libraries bringing cost savings that could be used to expand access and/or reduce institutional costs, expenditure on serials subscriptions increased.
Recently, archives such as academia.edu and researchgate provide spaces for authors to self-publish data or papers, and to self-archive their papers published elsewhere. My retirement has given me more time for reading and writing (and craft and gardening) but lack of affiliation has increased the challenge of access to articles locked behind paywalls. Over the last few years, I have moved to publishing in Open Access journals (where that also suits my co-authors), and most of my reviewing work is for OA journals or conferences.
Talking to Mariana encouraged me to blog how I engage with my unaffiliated digital library.
Apps, tools and buttons
There are quite a few of these – I have the Google Scholar button, Openaccess button (not currently working), and http://oadoi.org/ but I haven’t found that any of these add much to my usual approaches. For example, when I plugged in the DOI for Langdon Winner’s article “Do artifacts have politics?” here is what the app returned:
It’s true that the article is behind a paywall, but when I was looking for it a couple of weeks ago, I tried my Plan A, and it came up trumps.
I searched Scholar Google for the title, and here’s what came up. All 3 link to the paywalled version at JStor. The first and third also have a link to downloads of the JStor version. When I find an unofficial version such as these, I download the pdf and add it to my Mendeley library on my hard disk. The second link is to Google books which will persist but rarely has the full source.
If Plan A doesn’t work, then I try :
Google search for article title plus .pdf. This is the search for the Langdon Winner article. It turns up one of the articles from Plan A plus a scanned version. Sometimes Plan A or Plan B turn up links to institutional repositories. If the full paper isn’t there, many repositories offer the chance to request a copy from the author. I have other plans too.
If I have had no luck I search academia.edu and researchgate for the title. For the Winner article, there was nothing on academia.edu but Langdon Winner had uploaded it to Researchgate.
If I know the author, I will contact them directly by email, otherwise I ask a friend if it’s possible for them to share a copy with me. I wouldn’t then pass on this copy to others, as it often contains clues to who might have downloaded it.
There is also the Twitter hashtag #icanhazpdf that works by people sharing their request for an article and the Twitterverse responding. I have used this once.
Practices and Networks
My plans and friends serve me fairly well while we wait for universal Open Access. My personal unaffiliated digital library is distributed across the Mendeley on my hard disk, networks of open access publications and my friends who are willing to share articles from behind paywalls – I give thanks for all of those.
If you have any more ideas or comments please share them.
I should have mentioned that Caroline Kuhn reminded me of the Langdon Winner article in her comment here. It was really good to read it again.