Open, invisible, biased, performance – some more thoughts on open space #oer19 #femedtech

It’s been great to see more posts coming through on our openspace site this week. Firstly Martin Weller reflected on the invisibility of women in society and notions of invisible labour. Lorna Campbell picked up on this in relation to aspects of open practice, and the untended consequences of open practice being exploited,

“when do the hours that we willingly devote to open education start to become unacknowledged, invisible digital labour?”

When so much of many people’s open practice is mediated through online networks, Lorna ends her post by linking it to one of the questions for the open space session at the upcoming #OER19 conference.

“If there is a performative aspect to openness, what does it achieve and how?”

Education in its traditional form, is highly performative. “Good” teaching is often compared to the traits of acting and entertainment. When so much is time is centered around presentation, performance becomes a key element. You need to engage your students for an hour so you have to be entertaining, make eye contact, keep the people with you, make ’em laugh. We all remember that great lecturer/teaching who kept us all entertained. Presenting at conferences has a performative aspect to it too. We all want to engage with our peers and our performance in sharing our research, knowledge, practice is a key part of that. Sharing with our peer group can be nerve racking process.

I remember way back in the early days of learning objects, working with school teachers and trying to engage and support them to share their resources. A really common response was, this all seems great, but no-one would be interested in what I do. The same response applies to open educational resources. However, as I and millions of others know when you share openly it is amazing just how many others are interested in what you do. But it can be daunting to put yourself out “there.” Of course, it is challenging for many to actually get “there” particularly if you are not from the Global North, are a woman or are part of any minority group – or harder still if you are all three, never mind the wider questions Lorna raises around invisibility of labour.

On reflection, I am now asking my self just how important is the performative aspect of my of open practice, through blogging, sharing OERs , presenting at conference such as OER19?

Through open practice, I have gained a level of recognition across and within communities that I can’t imagine having been able to do without access to readily accessible (sometimes open, sometimes not quite so open) online spaces and networks. I’ve connected with people who have made me change my practice, to make me more aware of diversity and the need to constantly challenge bias, and dominant forms of authority.

My open practice has been a way for me to circumvent institutionally controlled spaces. But how much control do I really have over the spaces my open practice is instantiated? My open practice is something I want to share on multiple networks but by doing that my practice, my artefacts and the data trails that they create potentially become part of multiple data assemblages that can be viewed and used in other ways. Those ways most likely being driven by AI algorithms with their inherent bias towards the dominant white, male western point of view.

I’ve been thinking about data surveillance and network control a lot, inspired by this post and the papers it cites, by Anne Marie Scot. In Bentham, Deluze and Beyond: An Overview of Surveillance Theories (2017), Galic, Timan & Koops provides an excellent overview of the main survilliance theories relating them to our networked age and notions of data assemblages. They also point out

The expanded ‘network control’ should not be perceived as a purely negative concept, but as one that also offers possibilities for entertainment, pleasure and counter-power, and moreover, one that also facilitates de-territorialised forms of resistance . . .

Allowing people see our open practice, finding spaces to can help to build on this notion of resistance. Anne Marie also pointed to another paper, Ways of being seen: surveillance art and the interpellation of viewing subjects (2018) by Torin Monahan, (another fascinating read) which considers ways to rethink our societies relationships with systems of control through art. It states

Contemporary ways of being seen undoubtedly possess objectifying and controlling valences, but they may also afford new forms of connections and ethical responsibility among strangers.

I believe that allowing my open practice to be seen has afforded me new forms of connections. Ground up networks like #femedtech are a way to extend the affordances of open, networked connections and hopefully extend collective, ethical discussions and action around feminist issues in education.

In terms of sustainability which Frances has covered so well here, I think we need to be comfortable with increasingly fluid spaces and we also need to find ways to access and build and share our own open data assemblages. That sounds great, but how we do that I really don’t know, but I suspect that someone out there just might, and yes, dear reader I am looking at you!

Some more unpacking of learning capture – process v product

As I’ve written about here and here, I’m leading a consultation exercise with staff and students here at  GCU around the potential for learning (as opposed to lecture) capture.  As we’ve been meeting with students and staff we have been capturing their feedback, thoughts and suggestions in a variety of ways.  Post it notes have featured quite heavily in this processJ You can see collated feedback from sessions so far in this padlet wall.

Students and staff both seemed to be enthused by the notion of learning capture and dare I say even excited at the prospect of developing an approach to capturing and sharing key elements of learning – not just recordings of lectures.

At a session with staff last week, I wanted to try and delve a bit more deeply t into some of the practicalities and challenges of capturing, sharing and curating.  So, adapting the trusty who, what, where, why and when methodology I came up with a model for participants to work through the life cycle of a potential “learning capture”. 

From our previous sessions we were easily able to share a list of things that are common place that staff/students had identified as learning capture. The idea was for groups to take one (or two or seven) of these and work through the model – critiquing it and what was involved at each stage.  

cycle model of what, how, who, when where, share
the basic model

Starting with what, which would be the what are students actually doing e.g. a Q&A session or a group discussion, how – how is this instantiated e.g a padlet board, who sets up the board e.g. staff or students?, when does the activity take place e.g. sync/async activity, where does it take place e.g in live session on campus, on the web, in the VLE, and share – where is the output shared, who shares it (again staff or students) and how long is it accessible for?

The 2 pictures below give an indication of 2 possible scenarios.

Q&A using padlet set up by member of staff
Student recording of in class group discussion

During the session it became apparent that quite a few members of staff really hadn’t considered how (or where) they share the outputs of learning activities,  A couple of staff members said they really hadn’t thought about reusing any student generated outputs with future cohorts, or about saving outputs anywhere else but the VLE and on their own PCs. The discussion had made them realise that it might be useful to share the learning capture of, for example an in-class quiz to test core knowledge and understandings with other colleagues teaching on the same module.  

Now, dear reader, you are probably thinking where is the why?  And quite rightly so. I was torn between what and why and decided to opt for the former as the later is really a key part of this whole exercise.  The share aspect was to explicitly get participants to think about where, how and for how long outputs were shared/available to both students and other staff.

Of course, one of the groups did bring it back into to their discussions (which was great).  

Their discussion, based on one of the groups regular teaching activities, really evolved in the importance of the process of learning rather than the final output itself, which has limited value if you didn’t experience the actual learning.  So they were then taken back to a wider discussion around activity (or learning)  design.

photo of group diagram with written notes
Photo of group output

As ever the discussions probably raised more questions than answers.  However, I think using the model has helped to unpack some of the key issues particularly around the importance of understanding and making explicit the process of learning. So I’m now thinking could developing and sharing a process where students had more of an  input into the decision of where and what was to be captured actually be beneficial in them understanding the learning process and develop greater understanding and agency of their experiences of learning.  That might be far more beneficial than thinking about any kind of product.

Open leadership – reflecting on my role as Chair of ALT (1)

Photo of my ALT C conference lanyard where I am call The Boss
It’s all about being The Boss!

Do you ever have those moments in conversations with colleagues about their working practices,  realise that you should actually be doing a bit more of what they are doing? Well,  that happened to me last week as I met with Maren Deepwell  and Martin Hawksey, ALTs senior management team, for their annual appraisals.   Openness is one of ALTs core values, we try to support open education, research and practice as much as we can.  Over the past year as we have transitioned into a fully independent, distribution organisation Maren and Martin started to openly share their experiences – of leading and managing a virtual organisation via a series of blog posts.

These monthly posts are now augmented with podcasts.   I feel that these posts are exemplary in terms of  open practice and open leadership.  The process of writing the post, planning, discussion, writing, recording are also becoming a really useful way for Maren and Martin to catch up and discuss a range of activities. They both really value the different space and focus that this somewhat experimental process has evolved into.  

During the appraisal I realised that I haven’t actually shared openly my experiences and reflections of being Chair of the Board of Trustees. So, I’m going to change that, and this year I am going to share more about my role and responsibilities

Part of my role as Chair is to contribute to “official” correspondence – yearly updates, the conference etc. You can find out about our governance on the website. But, well, it’s a bit dry, and doesn’t really give an insight into what Trustees actually do. I think that for members of ALT, the Board and it’s workings are quite remote and a bit invisible.

Being Chair does require more of a time commitment that a regular Trustee.  I have more regular contact with ALT staff, primarily Maren and Martin.  So outwith our monthly online GPC (general purpose committee) meetings I am kept up to date with more of the operational aspects of the running of the organisation. I also work with Maren to prepare the agenda and papers for our face to face Trustee meetings.

I see a key part of my role as Chair in providing support for our full time staff members and in particular our senior staff.  If our staff don’t have a supportive environment, then that could have detrimental impact on our wider community and the ability of the Association to continue to do the work that it does.

With the governance changes brought in last year, I am the first Chair to be in place for more than a year. One of the reasons for this change was to bring more continuity to our governance procedures. In a year you just get the hang of things and then you move on.  In terms of staff development,  having to have an annual appraisal with someone different every year is not easy for the person being appraised.  Context setting can take up most of the appraisal time instead of forward planning.

During this year’s appraisal with Maren it was really pleasing to see how greater continuity in this process has help Maren with her development goals.  It’s also been really rewarding for me as I can see how much progress has been made over the past year and what impact our appraisal meetings have had. They’ve been so useful that for the first time this year I had an appraisal with Martin, and then a joint appraisal with both Maren and Martin.

It’s sometimes hard to distinguish Maren and Martin from ALT, so a central focus for our discussions is how to allow their own voices to flourish and grow as part of their roles and responsibilities to the organisation. Over the past year, their joint leadership and management of the association had evolved into a really productive and significant partnership (exemplified but the joint blog posts)  allowing ALT to grow from strength to strength.  

Making sure our core staff are fulfilled and empowered is a key focus for me. Seeing how our staff (and the association) grow each year is incredibly rewarding, and one of leadership roles I cherish the most. 

Opening up space for diverse conversations #femedtech #oer19

On International Women’s Day, and during open education week I want to highlight an initiative that I am involved in for with a group of inspirational women, who are amazingly supportive colleagues and friends as part of the OER19 conference. The post below was written by Lorna and Frances and was posted as a guest post on the OER19 conference website early this week.

Finding space for diverse voices is core to #femedtech and so I hope that many people will use the space we have created to share stories, links, photos, videos sparked by the questions we are specifically addressing at our session during the OER19 conference. We also hope that this space will evolve and that others can use it to highlight their perspectives and voices.

femedtech Open Space

By Lorna M. Campbell, @lornamcampbell, and Frances Bell, @francesbell

One of the real strengths of the OER Conferences is that in recent years they have increasingly facilitated an ongoing critical discourse that seeks to question and renegotiate what openness means to educators, teachers and learners within different contexts and perspectives.  This discourse ripples out from the physical and temporal boundaries of the conferences in the form of blogs posts, twitter conversations, research papers and discussions that enable us to trace the evolution of narratives of open from year to year.  OER17 The Politics of Open explored the challenges current political movements posed for Open Education and how they might further or hinder values of inclusivity, sharing, connectedness, equity, voice, agency, and openness. OER18 Open For All sparked discussions around power and marginality, inclusivity, diversity, identity, decolonisation and respect, and these themes will be explored further during OER19.  When Co-Chair Catherine Cronin introduced the themes of OER19 Recentering Open: Critical and Global Perspectives at the end of OER18 in Bristol she stressed the imperative of moving beyond hero narratives and including marginalised voices.

These themes and values align strongly with those of femedtech, an open, inclusive and voluntary network of education technology practitioners informed by feminist principles.  Femedtech is committed to creating inclusive online spaces where marginalised voices can speak and be heard. We acknowledge that this is an ongoing work in progress and a learning experience for all of us.

With this in mind, the femedtech network will be facilitating an inclusive Open Space session around OER19 to explore themes and conversations that have emerged from previous OER conferences around power, marginality, equality, diversity and inclusion.  We’ll be seeking to question dominant narratives of “open”, explore whose voices are included and whose are excluded from our open spaces and open practices, whose voices we choose to amplify and whose are silenced. 

Questions we hope to consider before, during and after the OER19 session include;

  • How do we balance privacy, openness and personal ethics?
  • How do we mediate our place in the open community, aspects of which might conflict with our personal ethics?
  • Is openness an act of conformance and / or defiance? And are there performative aspects to openness?
  • Do we feel pressured to be more open than we are comfortable with, or do our boundaries constrain us?
  • How do we manage sustainable spaces for exploring challenging issues around open?

In order to facilitate these discussions and to ensure the widest participation from the community, we are building an online femedtech Open Space,, to gather stories, thoughts, reflections, responses and reactions, in the form of written content, images, audio, and media.  We welcome reflections on all aspects and experiences of openness from feminist perspectives and we encourage participants to raise their own questions and tell their own stories.  We acknowledge that our understanding of openness is highly personal and contextualised, and appreciate that there is no standard definition of openness to which we must comply.  In order to ensure that engaging with the #femedtech Open Space will be as widely accessible and inclusive as possible, participants are able to contribute to these conversations anonymously if they choose.   

Through the femedtech Open Space, we also aim to explore how we build our communities and practices here and elsewhere in the #femedtech network, and evaluate whether this is a sustainable model for growing the #femedtech community and network. Inspired by Dignazio & Klein (2018), we will develop our inclusive values statement iteratively in conjunction with activities on the Open Space and across the femedtech community. 

During the conference session, we will briefly introduce the Open Space for those who haven’t seen it before, and invite delegates and virtual participants to contribute and discuss their own ideas and reflections. We’ll summarise progress to date, invite feedback from session participants, outline future plans, and encourage participants to engage with others’ contributions after the conference. We also hope to encourage remote participation in the conference session.

We invite you to visit the femedtech Open Space to contribute your thoughts, reflections, comments, stories and ideas:


This is an extra-institutional project taking place within the broad venture of the femedtech network.

The femedtech Open Space is generously hosted by Reclaim Hosting.  Reclaim Hosting provides educators and institutions with an easy way to offer their students domains and web hosting that they own and control.   The site uses the open source TRU Writer SPLOT WordPress theme developed by Alan Levine and available on Github. 

Our Code of Conduct is adapted with permission from  PressED Conference run by Natalie Lafferty and Pat Lockley. It incorporates elements from ukmedchat and FOAMed and is intended to be interpreted according to feminist principles.

What am I giving up for Lent? Access to my data

photo of a pancake
Image: Sheila MacNeill (yes they are homemade, but not necessarily by me)

I’m writing this on Shrove Tuesday, the traditional glut of sugar, spice and all things nice like pancakes before the start of Lent. I’m not a particularly religious person, but I respect those who are. However as religious festivals such as Lent are increasingly becoming consumer fests it’s hard to be immune from some diluted aspects Lent. For me, and I suspect most people in my locale, that equates to giving something up. Generally giving up something pretty superficial like chocolate. Lent is really a time for reflection, penance and sacrifice . Giving up my almost daily twix for six weeks I feel doesn’t really quite cut it in that respect, which is why I don’t bother. But, this year I’m going to take a different tack.

Anne-Marie Scott (as ever) has written a really thought provoking post about surveillance in the context of education and educational data, and how students are ‘seen’ by institutions through data. That made me think about how I as a staff member could be ‘seen’ too. I’m still working through some of the research papers highlighted and there is another more serious post that is forming in my head around those issues.

At the end of the post Anne-Marie links to The Glass Room exhibition. I’d never heard of this but on looking – what a fabulous thing that is – and I do hope it does come to Scotland at some point. Following the links in it I came across the data detox site. Again something I hadn’t come across before, but I wish I had. It would have been so useful to share with students the other week when I was doing some sessions around online identity – c’est la vie. Anyway as I was munching through a pancake, I thought that what I would do this year is kind of a reverse type of Lent. I’m going to give up giving away my all my data.

Thanks to the data detox site I’ve installed privacy badger and HTTPS Everywhere to stop my complacency around allow browsers to collect and use my data to drive assumptions about me to advertisers. I’ve updated all my google settings and now need to move on to apps on my phone, and social media. The later will be difficult. I’m not having a total digital detox and I don’t want to not be on social media but I need to just double check all my settings.

Now, I doubt that this is going to have any impact on Google ads revenue, but it is certainly giving me a well need impetus to get my act together on where, what and how I share my data. On my own devices I feel a bit more in control, and hopefully for longer than the six weeks of Lent.

Conceptualising the digital university – sharing the testimonials

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

My fellow authors Keith Smyth and Bill Johnson and I have been delighted with the response to our recently published book Conceptualising the Digital University: the intersection of policy, pedagogy and practice. The download figures we can see from the website are very encouraging.

We are actively working on some open access papers around key themes of the book but whilst we are working on these and wait for reviews we know about to come out, we thought it would be good to share the testimonials for the book given to us by some respected colleagues who got early access to the book.

Our thoughts about the book have been influenced by many people in our community and over in Keith’s blog we are sharing the acknowledgements section in the book as a way of saying thank you again to many colleagues and friends who have been inspired, challenged and supported our work.

I read this book with a sense of both recognition and urgency. This is not a manifesto about utopian digital futures, but rather a provocative invitation to re-think higher education and its role in increasingly open, networked, and participatory culture. Written in a language of “hope and critique” (Giroux, 2011), the authors use the lenses of critical pedagogy and praxis to offer a compelling case for troubling the existing boundaries of universities – and thus for greater openness and democratic engagement within and beyond higher education. The questions and analytical frameworks proposed by the authors should stimulate much dialogue and debate by educators, academic developers, policy makers, and all interested in the future of higher education. A vital and timely book.  – Dr Catherine Cronin.

This timely work examines the power of the digital in context with what is hap- pening to education today, and in particular to Higher Education. Understanding education in terms of human development, it is comforting that narratives of education as a public good are being related through the digital. We live with the golden promises of technology to emancipate and extend social and intellectual benefits to the many, however this thinking needs to be matched with the practi- cal details whilst not shying away from critique of expanding a successful mono- culture. Just as with the industrial revolution before, our technology industries are proposing revolutions which lead us round the same circle, down the same paths of behaviour. Scrutiny of formal education reveals how learning has been commodified and narrowed; just as we have come to consume the natural world we have come to consume education. This book provides robust analyses and alternative envisioning to the consumption of education exploring how technol- ogy can be used as a tool to open up vital opportunities to everyone, as well as essential vistas to those in the academy if it is not to atrophy as an intelligent organ of human society. – Alex Dunedin, Ragged University.

This is a timely and necessary book. All universities are in some form negotiating their relationship with the digital context they now operate within – what does it mean for students, staff, ways of learning, methods of research and the role of the university in society. What and how should we teach in order to give students the appropriate skills to operate as effective citizens in a digital world? These are all questions which the higher education sector seeks answers for. The issue is that often the answers to such questions are provided by those with a vested interest – technology vendors or ed tech consultants. What this book does is place these types of questions within a meaningful and well reasoned framework. The book addresses this in three sections, looking first at the broadly neo-liberal context within which the digital university operates, and what this means. In the second part, how the digital university might be conceptualised and practically implemented is considered. Lastly, the authors address how such a digital university is situated within a social context. By addressing these elements, a comprehensive, critical and nuanced picture of the digital university can be established, rather than one determined by a technological perspective alone. It is therefore essential reading for anyone with an interest in the digital evolution of the university. – Professor Martin Weller.

We’ve been waiting for this: a book-length critique of the ‘digital university’ that gives full attention to the political context. Johnston, MacNeill and Smith explore the role that digital technologies have played in corporatising the academy, from the curriculum to learning environments, and from business models to terms of academic employment. They’re hopeful enough and engaged enough in the wider world to also show how alternative digital pedagogies and strategies might be pursued, reframing higher education as an open, critical and democratic project. Helen Beetham.