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.
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?
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.
Reading posts on variations of Creative Commons licensing by Alan Levine, Doug Belshaw , and Maha Bali really made me think about our practices of licensing, copyrighting and attributing creative works, particularly of what we share as ‘knowledge’. Alan describes the various CC licenses he has used for his photos on Flickr, and the trials and tribulations he encounters in trying to apply CC0 to all of his images on Flickr. I had to check what CC0 was:
” Once the creator or a subsequent owner of a work applies CC0 to a work, the work is no longer his or hers in any meaningful sense under copyright law. Anyone can then use the work in any way and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, subject to other laws and the rights others may have in the work or how the work is used. Think of CC0 as the “no rights reserved” option.” Creative Commons FAQ
Doug Belshaw explains why he has applied CC0 to all of his work (including his doctoral thesis) that is under his control. Maha Bali, whilst acknowledging that CC licenses can be ignored, reveals how her approach to licence choice is contextual.
Thinking about my own practice, I publish this blog as CC BY-NC and try to publish my research writing in Open Access journals. Having said that, the last two articles I wrote with colleagues as I was retiring were published in closed journals, since those were the most beneficial for my co-authors still subject, unlike myself, to the Research Excellence Framework. So my approach to copyright and licensing is also contextual. If asked do you publish openly? my answer would have to be – Yes, but it depends.
I am always interested in looking at historical accounts to try to understand innovation. Bijker(1995) was one of my teaching resources, with the story of the emergence of the popular style of the bicycle being a good classroom story to explore. Audrey Watters has argued powerfully that 21st Century ‘innovators’ in Educational Technology ignore/distort history in an attempt to big up their products and services.
Then I remembered reading about 19th century industrial innovations that relied on sharing rather than protection and secrecy. In looking for this, I didn’t find my original reading but instead found a very interesting article about the Cornish Pumping Engine (Nuvolari 2004). Nuvolari contrasts the ‘heroic narrative’ where individuals are credited with inventions with ‘collective invention’, an incremental approach where the contributions of individuals can remain anonymous. For example, we all ‘know’ that James Watt invented the ‘modern’ steam engine that helped to bring about the Industrial Revolution. Nuvolari’s case study examines what happened in Cornwall, a remote area of England, in the 19th century mining industry which had memories of a bad experience in the last quarter of the 18th century with the more fuel-efficient patented Watt steam engines, needed to address flooding in their mines. The business model that Boulton & Watt established with Cornish mine adventurers was royalties based on hypothetical fuel efficencies of the Watt engine as compared with the earlier Newcomen engine. This model was unsatisfactory to the mine adventurers not only for business and economic reasons but also because Boulton and Watt’s refusal to license the design prevented Cornish engineers from improving the engines to suit local circumstances. Watt’s patent hampered engine innovation in Cornwall (and elsewhere) and the 19th century started with a dearth of progress.
“This situation lasted until 1811, when a group of mine “captains” (mine managers) decided to begin the publication of a monthly journal reporting the salient technical characteristics, the operating procedures and the performance of each engine. The explicit intention was twofold. First the publication would permit the rapid individuation and diffusion of best-practice techniques.
Secondly, it would create a climate of competition among the engineers entrusted with the different pumping engines, with favourable effects on the rate of technical progress.“
Lean’s Engine Reporter continued until 1904 and was accompanied by a steady improvement in the thermodynamic efficency of Cornish engines. Cornish adventurers were driven by pragmatism rather than an ideological attachment to open knowledge. I can recommend reading Nuvolari’s case study as it questions the standard historical account of the ‘golden boys’ role in the Industrial Revolution and the role of patents in stimulating innovation, and draws attention instead to innovation’s incremental, anonymous reality that occurred in a variety of social, geographical, legal and economic circumstances.
Nuvolari also hints at the central nature of patents with frequency increasing with proximity to the Patents Office.
So what have I learned?
I have already started to think about the personal is political in relation to Open Educational Practice, and have long observed (from my gendered lens) restricted narratives and dialogues even within open educational communities , see this post from 2011. Cornish mine adventurers had pragmatic reasons for challenging patents and promoting competition between engineers, and will no doubt have operated within class structures. If we want to promote Open Education that challenges structural inequalities of class, gender and race, we need to acknowledge these inequalities and be alert to where heroic narratives obscure structure inequalities in the cause of ‘innovation’ and profit.
The OER17 Call for Contributions is about to be released but we already know something the theme of the 2017 conference, entitled The Politics of Open, chaired by Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski. OER16 was my first OER conference and I loved its friendly atmosphere, and of course I learned a lot too. The theme and chairs of OER17 were announced at the end of OER16, and I was thrilled at the boldness of the topic. From what I know of the OER community, we will rise to the challenge.
I have been thinking for some time about the topic of my own submission to OER17, and in preparation for writing it, I started to think of the different flavours of ‘political’ that are important to Open Educational Practice (a concept explored so well by Catherine Cronin, in her 2016 keynote). The theme of the conference is broad enough to welcome many different perspectives in policy, organisational and societal contexts, and is sure to include fun too.
My first thought was about openness in politics, and I found http://openpolitics.org.uk/ , and from there to http://www.rebootdemocracy.org/ . I wonder if there will be submissions that are specifically about political systems but it’s not really where I think I can best contribute. The conference themes include policy and practice in local and wider contexts, organisational politics, and issues of equality and participation. I think my contribution will look at digital literacies but I am starting by looking at how I can frame my thinking.
I am interested in approaches to openness that are contextual, and don’t expect openness to automatically remove existing structural inequalities. For the Networked Learning Conference this year, my contribution to a symposium with Catherine Cronin and Laura Gogia included this digital story that hopefully illustrates my approach.
As I develop my abstract for OER17, my challenge is to present my ideas in a meaningful way for the audience (assuming it gets accepted). The phrase ‘the personal is political’ popped into my mind and I decided to refresh my memory of what it meant. Carol Hanish wrote an article originally published in 1970 in Notes from the Second Year: Women’s Liberation. Carol’s article was renamed by the book editors as “The Personal Is Political”, and it has had widespread traction over the last 46 years. Reflecting in 2006, Carol said
“It challenged the old anti-woman line that used spiritual, psychological, metaphysical, and pseudo-historical explanations for women’s oppression with a real, materialist analysis for why women do what we do. ” from 2006 Introduction
A materialist analysis of Open Educational Practice seems important to me, revealing lived experiences and informing possible collective responses, beyond an idea that the political is personal. I am still homing in on my specific topic for my abstract but I feel sure that the feminist perspective of ‘the personal is political’ can help me explore the politics of Open Educational Practice.
The first presentation was by Lucy Crompton-Reid and Josie Fraser @josiefraser who spoke about the roles of Wikimedians of Residence and models for bringing Wikipedia/Wikimedia into schools, encouraging young people to become producers as well as consumers of knowledge.
Kamil Liwowski @kasliwowski firstname.lastname@example.org spoke about public domain projects in Poland and the difficulties for information seekers searching for the open versions of public domain materials that were often encountered first as paid-for content, not just by individuals but also by public institutions.
Teachers may be looking for images that aren’t photos and are free to remix – within 5 seconds. Searching within different collections tends to throw up 1000s of images, making it difficult to choose, sometimes encountering login barrier. Projects work on how to assist teachers on how to encounter and explore the massive, rich digitised cultural connections in contrast with wikimedia resources, located in context, or via bloggers and other social media publishers who act as content curators.
Campaigns are needed to promote what is available and how to use it: also open policies in cultural institution
Subhashish Panigrahi @subhapa , who works for Wikipedia in Bengalaru, India characterised knowledge as something that starts open and becomes increasingly restricted by copyright. Subhashish contrasted Indian government approach to data and resources as copyright by default with other countries such as UK. This approach increases administrative workload.
He encouraged us to consider life without OER , highlighting the Galleries, Libraries Archives and Museums (GLAM) movement that aims to digitise content for cultural studies. GLAM has shared learning and methodology that is also a resource. GLAM has its own formal training that could be documented better to improve practice across countries. OER movement works by collaboration across individuals and institutions.
Sara Thomas @lirazelf , wikimedian in residence has been working across museums and galleries
Scotland’s Museums and Galleries have a national strategy and the project has played a part in fulfilling the strategy. There have also been unforeseen outcomes, including working with educational institutions as well as cultural heritage organisations. They found that participants increased in confidence in working in open knowledge, and will be interested to do more work in future.
I looking to the future, Sara thinks we need to have courage and to keep helping people in the sector, but the future holds hope.
Catherine Cronin’s keynote was the first session at the OER16 conference and was live streamed with a video recording here in case you missed it, and an audio recording here, if you like to multi-task.
Catherine started a conversation around the subject of the keynote more than a month before at her blog and #OER16 on Twitter, indicative of her commitment to open scholarship. The conversation attracted 27 comments so the engagement long preceded the actual keynote.
She started her keynote by situating her own scholarship within a network of scholars, many of whom were in the room (or on the #OER16 hash tag), and acknowledging earlier scholars like Mary Somerville and other influences such as poetry e.g. @byleaveswelive. Catherine spent a few minutes promoting networking by encouraging us to talk with someone we didn’t already know.
Catherine showed mural that evoked the popular movement around the Irish marriage referendum #marref and the role of social media in this movement, encouraging people to vote, and even come home to vote from all parts of the world.
This was an example what Henry Jenkins called the participatory culture that has its own practices
interpretations of Open – educational practices, educational resources, and admission to education e.g. Open University and
levels of Open – policy/culture, values, practices and activities
She acknowledged work done by Richard Edwards; and by Sava Singh, Jeremy Knox, Suzan Koseoglu and others speaking at #OER16.
In her PhD research, Catherine has come across how important it is for people to balance privacy and openness. Openness is personal – with decisions to be made about whether to share , with whom, as whom, and what to share.
One question probed whether or not Open Educational Practices are moving apart from the Open Educational Resources in the title of the conference. Catherine saw her input as equalising the emphasis rather than eliminating the importance of the content/ resources.
Another question asked about the permissive nature of multiple definitions of openness and stressed the importance of freedom flowing from open. Catherine stressed the importance of context, in exploring who may be left out.
“Move from access to equity and justice” McMillam Cottom, 2015. The last questioner homed in on the issue of Open Textbooks and their role in such a move if used to deflect funding in public education.