Opening and closing OEPS but what/where now for open education in Scotland? #beopen

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image: If you look you can find wind swept Open Educational Practices all over Scotland by Ronald Macintyre and is licensed CC BY 4.0

An email this morning reminded me that the OEPS project has now come to the end of its three year funding period. I did virtually attend part of the final project meeting held  a couple of weeks ago in Edinburgh and just haven’t got round to writing a post about it.

I feel I need to write something. Not least because of this post I wrote 3 years ago when the project started.  In that  post was I fairly critical of the funding decisions around the project. If felt that in the midst of 1,000 cuts money was being given to the “haves” without any consideration for the “have nots”.

3 years on have I changed my opinion? Well, yes and no.

Whilst the project and the team – all of whom I like and have the lot of professional respect for – have done well particularly in engaging with third sector organisations with the concept open education and developing open courses. They have also:

worked with 68 organisations across Scotland, including universities,colleges, schools, third sector organisations, unions and businesses. It held 79 workshops, gave 44 presentations, organised four one-day open forums and one seminar and co-organised a two day symposium

I am slightly confused as to why all the project outputs including project reports  are now “courses” as part of a collection in Open Learn which I have to register for to access. I do hope the project website will remain so I can access the open resources created by the project there.  UPDATE 27.7.17 – you can “browse” the courses without the need for registering, but I still find the concept of project reports as a course a bit odd.

I like and support the list of recommendations in the final report, I do worry that there is now an ever bigger vacuum in relation to Government policy, funding and action around open education.

The first recommendation is one I whole heartedly support

Colleges and universities and the Scottish Government should consider formal adoption of the Scottish Open Educational Declaration.

Wouldn’t it have (and could still be) great if all the institutions on the project steering group could have done that as a commitment to supporting open education practices?  That might make the SFC sit up and take notice and also provide some national as well as institutional support, commitment and sustainability to help with the other recommendations.

However I fear that this project is going to be more of a footnote around OEP in Scotland than a rallying call to action which it had the potential to be. I fear a chance has been missed to help recognise and  give additional support and sustenance to the grassroots Scottish open education community.

The Open Scotland Declaration has been the inspiration for many other countries around the world as a basis for national policy. Indeed,  Joe Wilson reported early this year from the UNESCO European Regional Consultation on OER:

In terms of Scottish approaches,  the formation of Open Scotland and the creation of the Open Scotland Declaration has positioned Scottish Education as thought leaders in building both grass roots support for open educational practice and for encouraging policy shifts at national and institutional level and this is still garnering Scotland and Scottish education with global recognition.

So what now? The project has done some good work, there are more OERs, courses and awareness of open education but to (mis) quote Maha Bali (keynote speaker at the final project event), 3 years on maybe we need to be thinking more about notions of open tables.

Is the legacy of OEPS and its SFC funding one big open table that we can all contribute to and share  (an idea I took away from the  Porous University event co-hosted by the project)? Or is it a actually just a contribution to a bigger OU open table aka Open Learn?  Either way,  I think we all need to consider who and how these tables are supported and maintained  in order to move forward open educational practices in Scotland and beyond.


Helping young people gain the skills they need for a digital future: guest blog post for Parent Zone

One of the best bits about blogging is that you just never know who is reading your posts and where that might lead.  I was delighted earlier this summer when the Parent Zone editorial team got in touch with me to ask me to write a guest post for them about the digital skills and capabilities young people bring, and need to develop in Higher Education.  The post was published at the end of last week, and you can access it here.

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From the bell curve to the cyborg, designing anonymous learning spaces: reflections on #altc part 2

Broken Glass

Once again all the #altc keynotes knocked it “out of the park”. Three very different perspectives, approaches and presentations yet all three complemented each other beautifully. From Bon Stewart’s opening around the need to challenge the new norm(al) of ed tech and re-balance the bell curve tradition with more of Haraway’s Cyborg manifesto, to Sian Bayne’s thought provoking take on the need for anonymous spaces to fight back against data capitalism, to Peter Goodyear’s closing talk around the need to re focus the way we think about and enact the design of learning spaces, I got what you want from any conference – insight, challenges, and a fair  bit of chin stroking “hmm”.

Like many of the attendees (physical and virtual), members and extended community of ALT, I work daily in and around the the normal (aka controlled, monitored and managed) institutional learning spaces.  I also work/share/interact in a variety of online, non institutional spaces such as this blog, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn. Every day I move between some of the fuzzy boundaries between these institutional and corporate spaces. There is a core of “me” in all of them, but as with everything, “me” is very context dependent.

In my professional life, open practice is central to my own sense of belonging. That has been part of my educational and digital journey.  Being able to share in non traditional spaces has allowed me to develop my own sense of scholarship, and reflection. Whilst I really do believe that open educational practice and not just open educational resources can make a significant difference in terms of access to education and the growth and sharing of knowledge, I have always been wary of binary definitions and the either or choice of open or closed. During the conference I was reminded of this post I wrote a few years ago on that very topic. It heartens me to see that this is now being more recognised and spearheaded  through the work of open education researchers like Catherine Cronin whose research has concluded that open educational practice is a continually negotiated process.

However I am also cognisant that I work within a very privileged, western norm(al) context – with just the right amount of left wing intellectual beliefs, views and aspirations.  Open education can be a way to break down/across/beyond barriers but with the words of Maha Bali’s #oer17 keynote still in my head, we (and I mean we in the global north) need to be very wary of imposing our norm(al) through our “gift” of open education.  We need to do more to understand “other” sensibilities and contexts if  open education is to be an enabler of  the Haraway’s manifesto by way of  “uniting diffuse political coalitions along the lines of affinity rather than identity.”

But it’s that identity issue that is so problematic for the widespread adoption of open education.  Working in open networks is almost always predicated on identity. OERs are predicated on licences which provide various levels of identification. For many,  the notion of “putting yourself out there” is scary and a barrier to sharing.

I have always seen the need for parallel closed spaces with education, however Sian’s talk has made me consider the role and need for what she called “anonymous, ephemeral spaces” within an educational context. (see here for more).  As open becomes more mainstream will it be subsumed by the monsters of ed tech?  Does the open education community need to  be embracing and creating more anonymous spaces or is open really all about ego, identity and increasingly in this digital world, another gateway for data collection?

Sian reminded us that we need to start work with our students (and staff and the wider community) about data citizenship.  We need think of ways we can allow and embrace ephemeral spaces in education.  Not everything needs to be tracked, not all data needs to be stored, analysed and sold back to us and our students. Some times you just need a safe space to laugh and/or moan, where you don’t have to “be yourself” or perhaps the self people expect you to be.

As Amy Collier recently pointed out in her article on digital sanctuary we need to be asking

“What responsibilities do universities and colleges have in providing sanctuary for student data and for students’ digital footprints?”

I often find sanctuary in open spaces, but it is a constant struggle.

As an aside during the conference I had a conversation with Lorna Campbell about growing up in small communities where everyone knew everyone and what everyone was doing.  We both loved moving to the city and having that sense of anonymity – of people not knowing or caring or making assumptions about you.  I still value that. I am also aware now that the UK has a huge amount of CCTVs so I am being watched quite a lot. This again has pros and cons. Last week some kids threw a stone through my window, which has been a right pain and pane to get fixed. One of the first things the police asked was if there was a CCTV camera nearby – typically there wasn’t. So those kids can’t be identified through that, but I bet many, if not all of my near arguments with every type of self service checkout machine about “unexpected items in the bagging area” has caused much hilarity for many a supermarket security guard and has me marked (possibly quite rightly) as a bit of a mad woman. But I digress.

It’s all very complicated which has lead me again to Amy Collier and the work  she and Jen Ross did around  the concept of “not yet ness” – the need and value of “mess and complexity in digital education“.  In so many ways we are not there yet.

The final keynote from Peter Goodyear brought us back from the mainly digital spaces Bon and Sian highlighted to the physical space and the need to rethink how we are designing learning spaces. How we in education need to be thinking more about the complex ways we connect the physical space to the activities we are designing to the resources we are using.

Peter argued for increasing need for design thinking to help us understand the new landscapes we are creating between the physical and digital worlds. We need to understand more about what are students are actually doing when they learn to help them and us develop what he call epistemic fluency. Wouldn’t it be lovely if whenever new learning spaces are being designed activities were at the forefront instead of chairs and power sockets. . .

So much to think about I’m not quite sure how to end this post, but end it I must as my brain is starting to hurt.  Much, much more to think about. . .


Some of my #altc spaces and my new norm(al) (part 1)

This was my final thought at this year’s annual #altc conference. What a week it was in Liverpool.  The conference co-chairs Helen O’Sullivan and Pete Alston and their committee pulled together a fantastic three days where we it felt we truly did move “beyond islands of innovation” and really did explore the “new norm(al)”. I need a bit more time to fully collate my thoughts from the three amazing keynotes so there will be another post.

One of the overarching themes from the keynotes was space – formal and informal learning spaces, physical and digital formal and informal learning spaces and the myriad of social, open and closed spaces above, below, around them. I had a quite different conference experience this year as I interacted in a number of different spaces across the three days.

Of course I was there in the physical campus in Liverpool and in my “normal” conference mode twitter space. In addition,  I was one of the onsite buddies for three Virtually Connecting Sessions where I had the pleasure of being part of an extended conversation with each of the keynote speakers. They joined me and some other onsite delegates in a dedicated space beside the main lecture theatre where we connected with some virtual friends from all over the world.  What an absolute pleasure that was. ( I also had a bit of a fangirl moment of finally getting to meet Bon Stewart in person).

Being able to have a more intimate but simultaneously extended, international, diverse conversation really did bring another level to my conference experience. It was such a pleasure to be able to be part of an extended conversation around the questions, issues, and challenges that all our keynotes raised.  It also meant that on the final day, we were able to reclaim a bit of the q&a space that a fire alarm stole from the end of Peter Goodyear’s keynote.  The other great thing is that I (and the rest of the world) can go back and revisit those conversations to help reflect on the conference overall.  You can view all of the sessions from the Virtually Connecting Website.

I was also involved in a combined #altc #LTHE tweet chat, again with Bon and Sue, who joined James Clay, Debbie Baff and myself in the VC space.  That was another great extension of the conference to those who couldn’t be there in person. Though I did find it a bit meta to be in a room with 4 other people where we were all tweeting and not really speaking. I don’t know about you, but usually my tweet chat experiences are me on my sofa with my ipad being taken out of that space into the tweetchat space.  But it was great too and you can see the collated tweets in this storify.

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The final space I want to mention is that as of the AGM on Tuesday afternoon, I have moved into a new space with ALT as I am now Chair of the association. Having been Vice Chair for the past year, I have had a small taste of what this involves and I am really looking forward to this new role as we move towards realising the first full year of our new strategy.  Another new norm(al) space for me.

It is often easy to forget, particularly after a major conference, that ALT is actually run by a relatively tiny number of staff.  The commitment, vision, collaboration, dedication, humour and patience of Maren, Jane, Martin, Jane, Kristina and Tom ensure that ALT punches well above their combined physcial weight! Their work has made being an Trustee, Vice Chair and now Chair an absolute pleasure. They truly do serve our membership and our extended community well across many spaces.

Video blogging, playing with Lumen 5

At the #altc Scotland meeting in June, Joe Wilson used a video he created using the Lumen 5 service. It was a really nice addition to his presentation and I had a wee play with it, but didn’t really do much more. Earlier in the week , my colleague Marion Kelt mentioned that she had used it to create a post for the OEPS project so I went back and had another look.   I also signed up for their beta automated video service, called “smare templates” and the other day I got an automagically created video based on one of my blog posts.

It was quite interesting to see what the algorithms selected from the post. They kind of got some the good bits, but missed a bit of the context.  Maybe this is down to my own incoherence writing style. I suspect many of my posts are a bit illogical and I know am guilty of not proof reading enough. Mainly that’s because I want to get things published quickly.

I always think I should write a post, wait for a couple of hours then go back to it and edit. The reality is that  I  just want/ need to get things posted in a relatively confined time frame. As you know, dear reader, my blog is more a train of thought that a considered, scholarly work.

Looking at the text in the context of adding visuals to it, did make me think about what I had written a bit more. I didn’t write the post as a short video script or with visuals in mind, but selecting text for that purpose did make me edit a bit more, and wish that perhaps I had taken a bit more time on the original text.

I’m still in two minds about the service.  On the one had I do think it is quite “neat”, and a good way to re-use content like a blog post. On the other, if i wanted to create a video post I would probably have a different starting point, message to convey.  Whilst “smart templates” could save time is there the danger that they will just create a homogenized set of video resources?  AI ftw –  not! I quite like selecting my own images, text and music – you know actually using some of my digital capabilities. Which, ironically or possibly not, was the underlying theme of the post. The jury is still out in my head, but I will probably experiment a bit more with it.

Anyway  here’s my edited version of the video based on this post from the other week.

Getting set for #altc

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Only 4 sleeps to go until the biggest and best learning technology bash in the UK, the #altc conference starts in Liverpool.
The title of this year’s conference is Beyond islands of innovation – how Learning Technology became the new norm(al) , every day of the conference is jam packed with presentations and great keynotes.  This year’s conference co-chairs Pete Alston and Helen O’Sullivan and the conference committee have done a fabulous job.
Open-ness is one of the four pillars of ALT’s new strategy so, as ever, we are trying to open out the conference to those who can’t be there in person. All the keynotes will be streamed and then the recordings will be available via the ALT YouTube channel. A number of the sessions will also be lived streamed too – just look out for the YouTube logo beside sessions in the programme. And of course all our community will be active across a range of social media.  If this is your first time at the conference here is some great advice about making the most your time from James Clay.
Along with Martin Weller, I’ll be an onsite buddy for a number of Virtually Connecting Sessions – more information and the full schedule available here. Again all these session will be streamed and shared online after the live sessions.  On Tuesday afternoon there will be a special #LTHEchat session with Bonnie Stewart starting at 4pm – more info here.
There’s also still time to vote in the community choice award for the Learning Technologist of the Year awards – so please if you haven’t already, check out this year’s amazing finalists and get voting.   You can also listen to a bit more about the conference in two featured podcasts from Radio EduTalk.  Preview 1 and Preview 2.
This year is a very special one for me as I take over as Chair of the Association – more of that next week. I will be on the ALT stand every lunchtime so if you are there in person please come over and say hello.
I hope even if you can’t make the conference in person you can get involved at some level and be a part of what looks set to be a very fun and memorable conference.