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Tag: open education

Thinking critically about women & care relative to openness #oer17 #critoep #femedtech

This week I attended the #OER17 conference where the theme was ‘The Politics of Open’, followed by a BERA EdTech SIG seminar entitled ‘Critical and Theoretical Approaches to EdTech Research‘. Both events were superb in terms of their scholarly engagement in the topics of open ed, edtech and their critical, political and (inter)disciplinary aspects. What’s more, it was quite startling how much synergy there was between the two events, both of which have started me wondering about the role of women, or feminist perspectives, and the theme of care relative to openness and edtech.

There are many reflections and curated resources coming out of #OER17. Indeed, I was going to write a reflective summary of the event myself. However, the tweeted snippets below prompted me to focus my reflection quite specifically on one aspect i.e. women, and/or feminism relative to openness, edtech, critical theory and political activism.

Quite honestly, reflecting back, it hit me hard in the face that so many of the voices at #OER17 were those of women.

Yeah, why were so many of the voices at #OER17 those of women?

The 3 keynote speakers were women; the plenary panel comprised 3 women and the sessions that I picked out to attend, now that I look at it, were all made up of women (yes, all!!). Indeed, a FemEdTech initiative was launched at OER17. I have to say that although I was vaguely aware of this, I hadn’t specifically planned to go along. It just so happened that my lunch buddies were going, so I tagged along. I understand feminist critiques of power and issues of gender inequality but TBH I’ve never really identified myself to any great extent with the feminist cause. For me, class struggle has always seemed to override it. Consequently I’ve not paid as much attention as I ought to feminist issues or politics. Recalling Maha’s keynote, and in light of some further thinking, maybe OER17 has just provoked that particular seed with a little more intent.

The Twitter conversation continued: it was wondered about the perceptions of others who attended the conference, particularly those of male participants/attendees. And that maybe my perception was a reflection of my network after all.

So, still scratching my head, I decided to check this out against the conference programme. As a crude measure, I simply tallied the number of male and female names listed against each session in the programme.

The figures go someway to validating my perception. Looking at the OER17 programme, women outnumber men in the open space. They outnumber men in all categories except, wait for it…. ‘policy and practice’. Interestingly, women significantly outnumber men in both the categories of ‘institutional/organizational politics’ and ‘participation & social equity’.

I’m not sure what the figures tell us, or if it’s anything surprising. However, the other thing I noticed is that openness is being shaped by a discourse of care, or things related to caring, which again has female connotations.

It was in an all female panel session that the idea of hospitality as a value of openness was put forward, and that advocating for openness might best be served from a position of empathy and care. The theme of care seems to be coming widespread across the discourse of openness. Rob Farrow’s OER17 provocation mentioned openness and the ‘ethics of care’ and David Wiley has also highlighted the relationship between open education and generosity and care:

Both education and openness, in their deepest and truest senses, seem to converge on relationships of generosity and care between human beings. I think that’s important. It has implications for the future of open education, which to be true to both “open” and “education” needs significantly more intellectual and financial investment in understanding how to enable and support the development of these relationships of generosity and care.

Indeed, Martin Oliver’s BERA keynote was entitled ‘why should we care?‘ It’s not so much ‘why should we care?’ because that’s not hard to answer, rather it’s why are open educators being summoned by a discourse of care, and to what ends? Why is it that critical or emancipatory approaches to edtech are also being called for using the language of care?

In one of her sessions, Laura Czerniewicz asked “what is it we’re not seeing?” I wonder too, and I wonder where it is we need to look and from what position.

It can’t be denied, there was much delight at OER17 regarding the critical turn that openness appears to be taking. Yet, as was noted at the plenary, it’s OK to talk the critical talk, but now we’ve got to walk the critical walk. I’m re- reading Stephen Brookfield’s ‘Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher‘ at the moment (in fact an updated edition was released this week). It’s stirring stuff and quite sobering in equal measure. It talks about ‘difficult conversations’ and a ‘loss of innocence’. Therefore, given that power can operate through discourse and the disciplinary effects we impose on ourselves, it would seem that matters raised here might just apply to one, or both, of those categories.

Either way, it looks like I’ve gotten myself a bonus OER17 #IWill. That is, #IWill engage critically and earnestly with feminist approaches and concerns relating to openness and edtech. So, who’s with me?

Image: https://pixabay.com/en/heart-care-medical-care-heart-1040227/

Body Combat: Metaphor for Open Ed Practice & Critical Advocacy #OER17 #101openstories

Just wondering what’s body combat? Click here

I’m really looking forward to attending #OER17 next week and participating in the conversation about openness in education, particularly as there’s an emphasis on critical perspectives. The conference theme is ‘The Politics of Open’.

This couldn’t be better for me, as I’ve recently set my cap at doing a PhD study that takes a critical look at aspects of open educational practice (OEP). Although I’ve followed the event over the last few years, it’ll be the first time that I’ve attended in person. However, I don’t think I’ll feel like a total ‘newbie’ because to some extent I already feel part of the ‘open community’. Notwithstanding the fact that I’m based in IET in The Open University and four fellow PhD colleagues will be presenting, plus the entire OER Hub team, also based in IET, it’s because, as an open learner, I’ve already blogged, Tweeted and hung out with a number of individuals who are attending the conference. Plus, there’s so much pre-conference interactive engagement on social media that I’ve been introduced to even more like minded ‘open peeps’. There’s a creative media challenge, questions and hashtags and, get this, the keynote speaker, Maha Bali, has been preparing her keynote in the open through a series of blog posts, which she tantalizing pulled together in an #OpenEdSig webinar earlier this week. I strongly urge anyone to watch it as it serves as a REALLY powerful example of what it means for someone to be open ‘as a way of being’, and to engage in open, networked and participatory scholarship.

Which kind of brings me to my research interest, as well as nicely setting up this post as a contribution to the #101openstories project that launched this week. The project invites personal stories about openness, the aim of which is to

help us all get to know each other, share ideas and engage in conversations and identify opportunities to support each other and collaborate. These stories will help us learn with and from each other and grow individually AND collectively.

My open story is that I was hooked through participation in the whole cMOOC phenomenon, to which this blog stands testament. I’m wholeheartedly a product of innovative open educators who dreamed, and dared, to open up learning for all on the web, well, all like me any way 🙂 As such, I feel indebted to these educators and to the network that formed part of this experience, such that I’m interested to learn more about the Open Education and the OER movement and to advocate on its behalf. However, I must essentially be something of a skeptic because I always need to examine things critically, that is, to consider matters of power and to look for hidden assumptions. I know open education is contested, with it increasingly being seen as a response to pressures of neoliberal economics and austerity (Jones 2015). MOOcs being a case in point. Like Martin Weller (2014) says, there’s a ‘Battle for Open‘. Indeed, OER17 is a response to this.

The idea of openness as ‘a way of being’ is very appealing to me. I mean, there’s just so many people out there who seem to approach teaching and learning in this way – sharing openly and transparently as a means of democratizing knowledge. So when I recently discovered the concept of self_OER put forward by Maha Bali and Suzan Koseoglu at OER16, and its references to openness as a ‘way of being’, I was immediately intrigued, especially as they posed the question: how might the processes and products of open scholarship align/intersect with the goals of open education? It’s exactly this that I hope to take up. However, baring in mind that openness is contested, which is evident in the battle metaphor, and which, to be honest, seems to imply institutions, corporations and generally all things big and organized, I was wondering if a metaphor that specifically speaks to the individual open practitioner might be more helpful, body combat!! That’s right, a martial arts inspired mind set.

I recently started going to body combat fitness classes (no, that’s not me in the video) and I can’t help thinking that as open educators and researchers we might benefit from developing our practice, metaphorically, along these lines. Release the inner warrior to fight off the co-option of open, or ‘open washing’.

As Stephen Brookfield (1998) says, critically reflective practice

makes us more aware of those submerged and unacknowledged power dynamics that infuse all practice settings. It also helps to detect hegemonic assumptions – assumptions that we think are in our own best interests but that actually work against us in the long term (p. 197).

Open education has been critiqued for not engaging critically with aspects of power (Bayne et al., 2015; Knox, 2013), and where it has engaged, it has tended to focus on hegemonic aspects of sovereign power, and failed to take account of disciplinary aspects, or ‘technologies of the self’, whereby individuals constitute themselves within and through systems of power, which might seem natural but are either enabled or constrained by the techniques available in the associated discourse (Foucault, 1998). You can see why I’m intrigued by the the concept of the self as OER. The research I’m formulating is not to intended  to expose contradictions and pull the rug from under the feet of those engaged in open education, far from it, rather it’s to suggest something akin to collective self-examination, or a SWOT analysis, one that takes account of all aspects of power. I’m interested to become a better informed open practitioner and to advance the ‘true’ goals of open education. Therefore, extending the martial arts metaphor, I see critical investigation and a body combat mindset as presenting a way of becoming a ‘black belt’ advocate for open education. What do you think?

I look forward to participating in the conversation at OER17 next week and to developing my research ideas further.

References

  • Bayne, S., Knox, J. and Ross, J. (2015) ‘Open education: the need for a critical approach’, Learning, Media and Technology, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 247–250.
  • Brookfield, S. (1998) ‘Critically reflective practice’, Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 197–205.
  • Foucault, Michel, et al. (1988) Technologies of the self: A seminar with Michel Foucault. Univ of Massachusetts Press.
  • Jones, C. (2015) ‘Openness, technologies, business models and austerity’, Learning, Media and Technology, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 328–349.
  • Knox, J. (2013) ‘Five critiques of the open educational resources movement’, Teaching in Higher Education, vol. 18, no. 8, pp. 821–832.
  • Koseoglu, S. and Bali, M. (2016) ‘The Self as an Open Educational Resource [1091]’, #OER16 [Online]. Available at https://oer16.oerconf.org/sessions/the-self-as-an-open-educational-resource-1091/.
  • Weller, M. (2014) Battle for Open, Ubiquity Press [Online]. Available at http://www.ubiquitypress.com/site/books/10.5334/bam/.

Destination Open: weaving my own way and building my own place

Well, I’m glad to say I think I’m making progress on my quest to more fully understand the notion of open and the triad of open-related courses that I’m weaving my way through seems to be shaping up nicely as I undertake my ‘Grand Tour’.

In my previous post, I thought about what openness means to me because, like digital literacy, ‘open’ is another one of those unhelpful ambiguous terms: used across contexts, meaning different things to different people. For me, I said openness was a way of being, a way of being a learner on the open web. I’d heard openness being described as a way of being before but I was unable to attribute the phrase or elaborate on what was meant. Fortunately, my readings quickly remedied this and I became acquainted with Cameron Neylon who draws attention to ‘being open‘; that is, being open as opposed to simply making open resources. He goes on to say that being open is about embracing a particular form of humility; it’s about embracing the idea that as a creator despite being supremely knowledgeable about your work, you can’t predict the use and application to which your work might be put. Further still, it’s about accepting that by working openly vital contributions and insights may come from unexpected sources. I think being ‘open to unexpected uses’ is something that the field of open research is grappling with as it considers the ethics bound up in such a position. Well, that’s what I’m picking up as I dabble in the Open Research MOOC from the OER Research Hub.

Used across contexts, meaning different things to different people
Used across contexts, meaning different things to different people

Meanwhile, over in Stanford’s Open Knowledge MOOC I was reminded that open, or more specifically ‘open content’ is the

attempt to appropriately adapt the logic of “open source” software to the non-software world of cultural and scientific artifacts like music, literature, and image […and higher education?] (Wiley, 2009),

which links nicely back to Cameron Neylon’s piece where he explains that the Open Source community is not just amenable to encouraging the unlimited use of resources thus maximizing their potential use (and their unexpected use), but they’ve also gone further in developing mechanisms that support the ability of anyone to contribute to projects. He explains, and this is where it gets interesting,

you don’t just throw the code over the fence and expect a project to magically form around it, you invest in and support community creation with the aim of creating a sustainable project. Successful open source projects put community building, outreach, both reaching contributors and encouraging them, at their center.

This is where it gets interesting because that’s what seems to be happening over in Connected Courses. Here, the pre-course weeks were dedicated to ‘Blog Talk’ and the nuts and bolts of getting participants’ blog sites syndicated and connected to the course hub, such are the practicalities of this distributed mode of delivery. However, this group of educators,

a collaborative network of faculty in higher education developing online, open courses that embody the principles of connected learning and the values of the open web,

are keen to dig deeper and support others in the whole area of open/connected learning and the tools and infrastructure that’s required to run these types of courses. Consequently, they’re not only modelling this stuff, but they’ve made available a series of resources and are willing to support anyone willing to have a go at hosting their own site and developing their own course, or learning community. So that’s just what I’ve been prompted to do. I’ve signed up with Reclaim Hosting and I’m now, as Howard Rheingold puts it, well and truly ‘Under The Hood: Where Technology, Pedagogy, and Power Meet‘.

blog talk
Building and supporting the connected courses community.

I’ve posted links to the resources below and you can view my Storify “Creating a Learning Environment with Open Source Tools” to see how helpful these folks are and what it’s like working in the open and building a community. Incidentally, and just to underscore the reason why going down the self-hosted route and developing your own webs skills is a good idea, I actually wanted to embedded my Storify in this post, like I’ve done before, but discovered that WordPress.com and Storify no longer have the same arrangement, so I’m at their mercy in terms of what I can do and how much control I have on such platforms.

Links to resources:

Connected Courses Documentation Wiki
http://docs.connectedcourses.net/

Under The Hood: Where Technology, Pedagogy, and Power Meet – Howard Rheingold
http://connectedcourses.tumblr.com/post/97092652075/under-the-hood-where-technology-pedagogy-and-power

Building with Howard: How to Create a Learning Environment with Open Source Tools Pt 1
http://media.umw.edu/podcasts/reclaim-hosting/building-with-howard-how-to-create-a-learning-envi

Building with Howard: How to Create a Learning Environment with Open Source Tools Pt 2
http://media.umw.edu/podcasts/reclaim-hosting/building-with-howard-how-to-create-a-learning-en-2

Building with Howard: How to Create a Learning Environment with Open Source Tools Pt 3
http://media.umw.edu/podcasts/reclaim-hosting/reclaim_3mp4

Building Connected Courses: Feed WordPress 101
http://cogdogblog.com/2014/07/14/feed-wordpress-101/

Feed WordPress 101: The Basics
http://cogdogblog.com/2014/07/14/feed-wordpress-101-the-basics/

Feed WordPress 101: Installing and Setting Up The Machine
http://cogdogblog.com/2014/07/16/feedwordpress-setting-up-machine/

Feed WordPress 101: Feeding The Machine
http://cogdogblog.com/2014/07/17/feeding-the-machine/

Feed WordPress 101: Some Feed Magic
http://cogdogblog.com/2014/07/24/wordpress-101-feed-magic/

Feed WordPress 101: A Few More Tricks For Your Site
http://cogdogblog.com/2014/07/28/feed-wordpress-101-more-tricks/

References:

Neylon, C. (2013) Open is a state of mind. Science in the Open. Available at: http://cameronneylon.net/blog/open-is-a-state-of-mind/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ScienceInTheOpen+%28Science+in+the+open%29

Wiley, D. (2009) Defining “open”. Iterating toward openness. Available at: http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/1123

Image source:

by Opensourceway  https://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/5009661706/sizes/o/

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