Open leadership – reflecting on my role as Chair of ALT (4) – The strategic role of open #altc

In this, my 5th in the my reflections on my role as Chair of ALT , I wanted to share some of my reflections as we develop our new strategy.

This week I chaired another quarterly meeting of the ALT Board. The meeting took a slightly different format as the main focus of it was the development of our new strategy.

screen shot of strategy development timeline

The development of the new strategy started in September at our annual conference (add links) and we have had lots of community feedback through the Assembly meetings and our online suggestion box ( feel free to add your suggestions).

In preparing for the meeting, Maren Deepwell (CEO of ALT) and the staff team have been collating and mapping what has been achieved in the last three years.  As I have been reviewing the progress that has been made, it really struck me how openness has impacted on our core values from open licensing to open governance to open participation.

This openness has in turn proved to be a very successful way for us to grow as an an association and also to measure progress. Now, perhaps because the board were very “open” to the idea of open and open practice there wasn’t a huge debate about including open as one of our core values. ALT had already been openly licencing many of its outputs and had just incorporated the OER conference into our conference portfolio. So, we didn’t have to spend a large part of the last three years developing any new open procedures, or policies. Instead the last three years have focused on ALT becoming a fully independent charitable organisation. That is no mean feat in and of itself which I’m sure I will reflect more on too as part of this series.

Rather, taking an open approach first allowed our work from our governance structures and reporting to our openly available conference recordings, to be open and accessible in the most relevant way. 

Maha Bali recently wrote a really powerful post about openness and permissions. It’s really rich post but the notion of permissions really resonated, particularly technical permissions such as copyright versus the human aspect of open educational practice.

Open Educational Practices as a human endeavor is so much more than a technical permission. And I wish we would push this aspect of it to the background of details and instead foreground the other aspects relating to social justice, connection, and co-construction of knowledge in potentially equitable ways, for the interests of diverse people, and on their terms.”

I see the human endeavour, the connections and co-construction of knowledge as something ALT is really getting to grips with and succeeding with. Fundamentally we are all about supporting people, and developing our community. Whilst we endeavour to be as equitable as possible, there is still a lot work to be done. Part of that work is to recognise the cultural context of any UK based organisation, our colonial history, and our current realities in relation to discrimination, lack of diversity, that is part of our educational landscape.  That said, over the past three years I think the diversity of our conference keynote speakers speaks for itself.   

screen shot of ALT  conference keynote speakers

Our members are at the heart of what we do. That may seem like “stating the bleedin’ obvious”, but in many membership organisations there can be a gulf between members and management.  One of my key drivers as Chair is to make sure we keep that value at the forefront of all our work, so that everything we do shows value and supports the work of our (paying) members.   

Having open-ness as one of our core values has allowed us to operate and report really  effectively over the past three years.  We are sharing an ever growing set of resources with our members and beyond. At the same time the human aspect of our community continues to thrive through the work of our member groups, now working so well together through the ALT Assembly, and of course our conferences/events, blog, journal and mailing list. 

What is particular satisfying for me is that our open business model is something that has evolved and grown without us ever having to debate the value or risk of openness.  Through our working openly our staff benefit, our community benefits and it is providing us with a really secure foundation layer for our next strategy, the next 3 years and beyond.   

Stories of hope and healing, re-centering voices in the open stitching us all together: reflecting on #OER19

a bit of visual thinkery remixing

#OER 19 the conference that, according to the welcome message in the programme “goes beyond hero narratives”.   I wasn’t exactly sure what that the conference co-chairs Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz actually meant by that phrase when I read it, but now a few days after the conference I think I do.

The stories I heard, the narratives were not of the great, I am, look and me and do what I do kind. They were diverse, challenging, not perfectly boxed solutions. They were the narratives of humanity, the narratives of the forgotten and the unrepresented,  the narratives of critical hope.

We couldn’t have asked for a better opening keynote than the one given by Kate Bowles. Kate  threw her questioning, porous, complex quilt of the current state of education over Galway and so the stage was set for two days of untangling and re-tangling of the threads that bind us together.

Su-Ming Khoo’s keynote recentred us through her stories of culturally repairing pedagogies from the Raven creation myth to post WW1 facial surgery, to our current state of colonial entanglement. We cannot mask the past to make it tolerable, we need to make our repairs visible, to heal in the open. To gain inspiration from the Japanese art of Kinstugi – the art of the ‘golden repair’.

Both Kate and Su highlighted that they didn’t consider themselves part of the open community.  I hope they do now. Their open-ness and generosity of thought, care and criticality are at what lie at the heart of open education in my book. They may not be researching open in the way that the keynote panel of Taskeen Adams, Caroline Kuhn and Judith Pete are (I have to say that their panel was one of the most considered, diverse and yet cohesive I have ever seen), but they are definitely part of what I consider the open community to be.

The open community and open practice is a wide beach. One where I find my waves of open practice reaching at times fast and furious at others slow and shallow.  I always know how to find that beach.  

There was much talk about what exactly are the boundaries, the visible and invisible stitches that make up the quilt of openness.  Trying to recenter myself after the conference I truly believe that is is us, the people, the community who are the open stitches. We share(d) our wounds, we healed, we laughed, we gave each other hope.  As Kate Bowles reminded us of the words of Henry Giroux who said hope must be tempered by complex reality.  I think that summed up my experience at the conference.

From finding some creative time with Amy Burvall and Bryan Mathers to make a “zine”  which was full of hope;

A zine of hope from Sheila MacNeill on Vimeo.

to being in a room where it was standing room only to hear more about the emerging open space of the #femedtech community; to realising that at Una Daly and Jenni Hayman’s session around creating communities that I, and many others make and contribute to  communities around, under, above, around about the formal structures of our institutions; to being transported to Big Learning in the Northern Territories by  Johanna Funk; to the fabulous once-upon-an-open tale from Sarah Thomas, I found myself making visible and invisible stitches with everyone around me.

I was struck by the number of people I spoke to at the conference who said they didn’t really think they “did open” ( to paraphrase) but were finding themselves reflecting that many of the sessions they went to were resonating with their own practice. I remember at my #oer15 keynote, I encouraged delegates to be more open about calling themselves open practitioners.  We still need that today. If we don’t talk more openly about open in our day to day practice then we really are hiding in plain sight.

Open education can help us to make those golden repairs visible in our ever increasingly complex educational environment, but only if we keep telling and sharing our stories, keep participating and challenging the complex spaces we all inhabit and in turn providing hope for a better future for everyone. 

My open balancing act #oer19

How do we mediate our place in the open community, aspects of which might conflict with our personal ethics?

This is one of the questions in the #openspaces session at #oer19 this week. I don’t know about you but my open practice is always a bit of a juggling act. Questions of how much can I share, where should I share it constantly running around my brain.

As you know, dear reader, I recently wrote a book (with Keith Smyth and Bill Johnston). Open education is a big part of the book, but the book itself isn’t available openly. I wish it was.

That was, and continues to be a struggle in terms of my own ethics and practice. However, we couldn’t afford to make it open access, we didn’t have research/institutional funding to do that. What we did have was interest from a reputable publisher and that academic pressure (probably self inflicted) to get a decent publication. We do highlight in the book the irony of writing about openness in a non open way, and we are also working on a couple of open access papers right now to make more of our thinking available. In fact, I have decided only to write any follow up articles for open access journals now.

Is that a cop out or just part and parcel of my continuing negotiation with openness? Hopefully something to pick up at the session later this week.

This post is cross posted from the Open Spaces site.


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!

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.

Foraging for blog posts –

Photo by Erik-Jan Leusink on Unsplash

Trying to explain to people why you put an open license on something like this blog can be tricky if you don’t (like me) have a stock answer. This blog is openly licensed, I guess primarily as I feel that it is good practice and a “good thing” to do. Over the years, blogging has become a central part of my open education practice, and I have used a creative commons licence as a statement of that.

Last week, I took part in a seminar with our 4th year cyber psychology students who have a blogging assignment during this trimester. I was asked to share my experiences of blogging with the students. My colleague and open education advocate from our Library, Marian Kelt, also joined the session. Partly because Marion was talking about copyright issues including open licences, I did highlight that all posts on my blog are available via a creative commons license. However, I had almost become complacent about making sure that the open license was obvious to others.

I updated my site theme last year and didn’t actually realise the the CC license statement had inadvertently disappeared. That was until a couple of weeks ago when I got this tweet from Royce Kimmon

@sheilmcn Hi Sheila, I’d like to include two great posts from your blog (Kindness of blogging & Lecture capture…) in my open EdTech book , but I didn’t see a CC license on it. May I get your permission to do this? Thanks!— Royce Kimmons (@roycekimmons) 12 February 2019

What a great prompt to sort out that “oops” moment and get that CC statement back on the front page. It was also a great reminder of why open is good.

I know I don’t have the biggest readership in the world, that’s not why I continue to keep writing blog posts. I am continually surprised and thankful when I get positive reactions through retweets and comments (the ultimate pay back imho). So this request from Royce illustrated to me once more why open is a “good thing”.

One of the things I highlighted to the students last week was that the reason I have been blogging for so long (12 years and counting now) is that it gives me a place to express myself that I control. One that is free from the conventions of traditional academic writing. In many ways I do write “in the wild”.

I love the idea that anyone can stumble across my ramblings, or like Royce take a more structured foraging approach and create a book from a range blog posts and perspectives that are all openly licensed. Much simpler and quicker than a traditional, edited collection – though I’m sure it did still take a considerable amount of time in selecting and mixing together this collection. I’m included with a some of my blogging heroes so I am quite humbled to be included in Ed Tech in the Wild. A positive reminder of why sharing openly is good.

I also love this rationale for the book:

“In this volume, we want to bring these blog posts together for future reading and dialogue. Blogs don’t live forever, but their ideas can as we archive them and share them in helpful ways.”

Open Chasms – definitions dividing or uniting the open community? Some thoughts from #oer18

It’s often said that history is written by the winners. At this year’s OER18 conference all the keynotes took had a touch of history about them. Lorna Campbell got the conference off to a great start with her long view of changing perspectives on OER.  Momodou Sallah inspired everyone with his pedagogies of disruption, infectious activism and counter narratives, particularly around the history of access and control over and to, education and  culture in Africa. In the final keynote,  David Wiley took us through his potted history of open, open source, learning objects.

Much of what David spoke about resonated with me and the audience.  However as his presentation unfolded, and with the messages particularly from Momodou’s keynote talk the previous day still in at the forefront of my thoughts,  I was struck by the people he highlighted in his talk – predominately white, male, North American,  middle class, including some who hold some very unpleasant (to say the least) views on women in tech and gun ownership.

Early on in his talk David asked if there was/is going to be a split in the open community.  I hope there isn’t, but there are some gaping chasms. These chasms have nothing to do with the pragmatism versus practicality debate he spoke of. They are to do with who ‘wins’ the definition wars, the continuation of casual. everyday discrimination, exclusion and lack of/acknowledgement of counter narratives, and cultural sensitivity.

In tune with the 1980’s vibe let loose by the Reclaim Video folks, I can’t help but think of the classic 1980’s film The Return of the Jedi where Obi Wan Kanobi explains to Luke Skywalker that what what he told him about his father was the truth “from a certain point of view

For me, definitions particularly in education, are a bit like that. They are created, shared, debated based firmly on a certain point of view. This means that they all too easily can become, from a critical pedagogy point of view, symbols of oppression.

If am I told a narrative based on white, middle class, middle aged, North American males, I am immediately excluded (along with half of the worlds population).

If we don’t explicitly address diversity,  actively seek to include, support and embrace different voices, it’s not the difference between purists and pragmatists that will divide a community –  it’s who is included and excluded.  If your community doesn’t speak to me, then why should I become part of it, or defer and adhere to its definitions?

One of the joys of the OER conferences for me is that is a really powerful, hospitable space that brings together diverse voices to raise critically informed debate about open education.  It’s a space for people to come together and reflect on  what it means to be an open practitioner, what OER is in their context, and more importantly it can’t and can’t do.  Channelling the wonderful Dr Catherine Cronin  it’s not just open education practice that is a constantly negotiated process, it’s our definitions of it. They need to be open to negotiation and cognisant of context too. Surely that’s the way to engage, grow and sustain a diverse community.

Getting set for #OER18 reflecting on the #Iwill challenge one year on

Open Sign Board

As this year’s #OER18 conference approaches, like many other delegates of next week’s #OER18 I am getting prepared for my presentation, trying to decided what session to go to and all that general pre conference “stuff”.   I’m also reflecting on last year and in particular the #Iwill challenge that the closing plenary gave delegates in terms of their open practice, both in the room and online.

As my post last year shared I was really taken with the idea of open hospitality that Maha Bali brought up in her keynote.  My response to the #Iwill challenge was;

#Iwill bry to be generous, inclusive and extend notions of open hospitality in everything I do

So one year on, how have I done? Well I guess it’s all subjective . . . I still have the same concerns and struggles with being an open practitioner primarily around where, when, why, how can I be open.  I think I  have peaks and troughs of open-ness, sometimes I am open in a small institutional context, other times far more widely.  Next week will definitely be a peak and within the much broader open education community.

I am trying to embrace more criticality in my thinking about open education.  That is something that I will be presenting on at the conference with Keith Smyth in our session Open Practice and praxis in the context of the digital university.  But I do worry that we haven’t been as open in sharing this work as we had possibly hoped, and that we can’t afford to publish our  the book the presentation is based on via an open access route.

I worry that I haven’t been able to be as connected with other events, other colleagues recently, that I haven’t been able to keep up.  But that’s something we all struggle with and part of the reason I am so looking forward to the conference. It will take me out of my everyday works space, will make me think about “stuff” in different ways, will allow me to catch up with friends and colleagues old and new.

One of the things I wrote in my post last year, and something that again is always at the back of my mind, is that the conference is, and should be,  hospitable to everyone. I am very lucky in that I know so many people there that will be almost like coming home. However,  we all need to make sure that everyone feels welcome and at home. That’s what open-ness is about, it’s not about any one group of people it’s about everyone.  It is the growing community that is at the heart of the conference.

For those that can’t make the conference there are a number of Virtually Connecting sessions which once again I am going to be involved in.  My first experience of Virtually Connecting was at last year’s conference and it really has been such hospitable and generous space. I’m really looking forward to being involved again.


Reflecting on my not so active #openeducationweek week #hedigid

This week is open education week.  Every year I try to do something to mark the week. I usually try to organise something at work, or try to ensure we release some open resources. However this year, up to last night (Friday) I had failed to promote or engage the week.

This isn’t because I have had a change of heart about open education,  or that I don’t see the value of this global week celebrating the movement. It’s much more basic than that. I just haven’t made the time. Partly this is because I have been busy with other things at work and also in my non work life (buying and selling houses takes up a lot of time).

Hwever last night I did manage to take part in a slow (running throughout the day)  tweet chat organised by Laura Pasquini,  which is part of a series of open, collaborative opportunities for discussion Laura has instigated under the #HEdigID hashtag.

#hedigid chat logo

You can see a full list of the questionsand contribute to the discussion on twitter or here

In terms of question 1, the energy, affirmation and joy I got from connecting with a group of like minded, international colleagues pretty sums up a huge part of the benefits I have got from being an  open practitioner.

  • What are some of the benefits for being an open educator, scholar, and/or practitioner in higher education?

I do try to encourage my colleagues to be as open as possible, however my opening paragraph to this post I think starts to answer a bit of question 2.

  • What issues do academics and practitioners face, when being “open” in higher education? What challenges emerge when your teaching, research, or practice is open?

Sometimes I just don’t have anything to share or say. Like most people I have peaks and troughs of activity.  I am also very fortunate in that I have been doing lots of “stuff’ openly online for a while now so have an established network I can tap into (and out of) pretty easily.  That is still a challenge for many.

But as Sue said

But that does take time.  Again I  have been incredibly fortunate to have been sort of forced to  blog and  engage with online networking from over a decade now.  Through that I have found a voice, probably been able to punch way above my weight and been able to be a small part of a very large global conversation around open educational practice.

So in terms of Q7

  • How does being “open” influence graduate preparation (masters, doctoral, etc.) or early career professionals in your field or discipline? This might be related to digital scholarship and open practices on the social web (e.g. blogs, Twitter, etc.

Open-ness has given my voice, my opinions a space, given me freedom to be heard outwith  the confines of traditional academic publishing. Open has also allowed me to engage with “proper’ scholars/researchers (Catherine, Chrissi and many, many others) and allowed me and other to gain access to their research almost instantly and without additional costs. (NB there is a shoutout to another inspirational open educator, Lorna in this para too. )

Like any form of practice, open educational practice is an evolving state of being. It is my personal commitment that keeps me pushing on, and conversely it is that personal commitment that makes me worry at times that I don’t do enough, that I’m not visible enough.

Last night was like a getting a little recharge of my open batteries, getting a shot of the open juice. People connecting and sharing is at the heart of education (and life for that matter), open education allows me to do that in a much broader, collaborative, supportive way. So thank you Laura for organising and everyone I connected with last night for once again reassuring, challenging, inspiring and motivating me once more.

Crossing boundaries with #byod4l – some thoughts on sustaining and extending open: design, resources and practice

( Nerantzi, 2017)

This post is an attempt to try and sort our a stream of thoughts currently running around my brain after last week’s #BYOD4L event; after hearing Chrissi talking about open practice at this event also last week;  and some quick chats with my fellow #BYOD4L facilitators.  I’m also following Laura Pasquani’s current work in networked, digital academic life in HE.

I’m trying to make sense of what it is about #BYOD4l that motivates me, my fellow facilitators and the wider community to continue to participate.  There are many unique things about #BYOD4L, but at its heart is an open and flexible design based on open educational practice – the 5 C framework.

This year we extend the model slightly to add 5 more Cs to the mix to reflect some changes in practice and to extend the conversations particularly in the nightly tweet chats.  Every year we have a quick review meeting to see what we should update, but we haven’t (so far) felt the need to update the original content and resources. That might be down to lack of time, perhaps a bit of laziness? But also the fact that it all seems OK. That might change next year. However I think we are probably less concerned with the content as we know it is the community interaction that is at the heart of the week. So we tend to focus our attention on making sure that the synchronous bits are fully supported.

As #BYOD4L has evolved, it seems to me that the nightly tweet chats have become increasingly important. In fact, based on no real evidence whatsoever apart from my observed interaction, I think that for many this is their main contact with the event.

The community engagement is (perhaps) more important than the content/design of the day. Also the chats aren’t really so much about BYOD anymore, they seem to me (again without any empirical evidence) to be about practice and how we are all dealing with the many boundaries we have to deal with in (higher) education between personal/professional everyday practice, personal/institutional technology provision,  formal and informal academic development.  Hence the link with Laura’s work.

  • How does being part of a digital learning network support learning and development for higher ed professionals?
  • How are faculty and staff shaping their online identity and presence to share professional values, work, etc.?
  • How can does a networked community expand knowledge to enhance our roles on campus and the work we do?
  • Why might others higher ed professionals want to network with peers to scaffold their own career goals?

I really hope that I can participate in at least one of the slow tweetchats she has planned over the coming months. Not least to compare that experience with the somewhat frenetic hour long #BYOD4L ones.

We have 5 years worth of archived tweets now and  it would be fascinating and probably quite illuminating to do some proper SNA, textual analysis of the tweet chats – another one day job . . .

However back to motivation.  There is definitely something about the open, collaborative element of the event that provides my motivation to continue to be involved in the facilitation team. It also provides really accessible  routes in and out of my daily professional development and the support I provide from others within and outwith my institution. This is first year I haven’t actually organised some kind of CPD event in my institution around  #BYOD4L. That was largely  down to other work  commitments  during the week, and tbh lack of headspace for me to do that.

That said, despite it being a really busy week for me, participating and facilitating the week has really provided me with a much needed networked, community boost – another key motivation factor for continuing to be involved. The community interaction makes me think about “stuff” – particularly my own CPD and in turn the wider CPD provision I am involved in my institution,  in a different way. It’s also giving my blog a bit of an injection which is always good. (Well for me anyway, hopefully it is for you too, dear reader). #BYOD4l  allows me to cross many boundaries,  which links to Chrissi’s PhD research which specially investigated the:

benefits of crossing boundaries (i.e. open learning) in an academic development contextand proposes an alternative model to traditional academic Continuing Professional Development (CPD). It engages academic staff in experiencing novel approaches to learning and teaching and developing as practitioners through engagement in academic CPD that stretches beyond institutionalboundaries, characterised by diversity and based on collaboration and openness.”
 I’m really hoping that with the rest of my facilitation team we can explore this more and write up our experiences of not just open learning but the motivations, benefits and challenges of open facilitation using Chriss’s PhD (which I am really enjoying reading just now) as our theoretical underpinning.