Open pedagogy and open resources, curiouser and curiouser . . . #YearOfOpen

Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English) (Alice in Wonderland)

I have to confess to feeling a bit like that during last nights #YearofOpen hangout on Open Pedagogy.  There was such a great line up of people in the hangout space, and an even greater line up joining via YouTube and Twitter, that every time I spoke I think I ended up forgetting what I really wanted to say. Those who teach the basics of the economy and those who often explain to students how to create a decent pre written essay were sharing great ideas that appeal to the entire pedagogical community.

Since the end of the chat and most of today I have been having the reflective, “I wish I’d said that” thoughts.

One thing that we touched on which really resonated with me is the importance of open (support) networks, open collaboration, and open communities which was raised by Mike Caulfield

David Wiley proposed that the open pedagogy was somehow seen as more exciting than OER and he felt quite sad about that.  Open pedagogy and practice was in some way the new “shiny” thing was sparking peoples interest. OERs are just boring now.

I don’t think it’s that binary. But people do get bored with things. If you have been at the cutting edge of innovation once whatever the shiny thing is becomes mainstream it can lose some of its sparkle.  There are lost of people who like to be at the cutting edge all the time. For me the loss of that initial sparkle is actually the most exciting part of any innovation. Helping people see the potential of new “stuff”, and watching them go off in directions I couldn’t have thought of is one of the best parts of my job.

What I think is happening is now that OERs are becoming mainstream we need to explore how they are actually being used and created. That naturally leads to open practice. The reflection and articulation of that practice through  pedagogical frameworks in HE is a natural evolution imho.  However pedagogy brings with it a set of assumptions and privileges, particularly in relation to higher education.  Exploring practice then is perhaps a more equitable and meaningful starting point.

During the hang out, Robin de Rosa  made some really excellent points about the need to leverage open in terms of infrastructure to ensure access to public education in the US context. I think we have the same concerns here in the UK. Open infrastructure isn’t just about technology though undoubtedly that is a very important part. It’s also about people and practice, the sharing of the where, what, why, when and how we use that infrastructure in our practice.

The conversations and bonds that open (as in open in the web) networks forge are hugely important and for me. They form a significant part of my open practice and my open infrastructure.  As we all struggle with increasingly closed political environments we need to fight for open conversations and sharing of ideas and practice.  These are things that don’t need to be openly licensed but form an increasingly important layer around, above, below, alongside licensed OERs.

This morning I did an interview with another open education researcher Helen Crump. It was very timely  happening just after the hangout.  Helen’s areas of research is around the notion of self OER and we discussed how I felt that manifested in my interactions with open scholarship, education, practice and networks. I truly believe that people are educational resources, and the some of the best resources that we have. We can’t forget that.

I have really struggled with open this year as I shared in this post. Being able to tap into my network (which is full of some fantastic open researchers and practitioners) has helped keep me sane;  allowed me to be able to be part of a workshop session at #oer17; kept me informed about new work, and examples of practice – all of which I can store until I can find a way to (re)use.

Open pedagogy, practice, OERs are equally boring.  It’s the connections, confidence, increased access to, and extension of knowledge that open education and open networks create that are exciting.

Many thanks again to Maha Bali and the #YearofOpen for organising the hangout which you can view below. Maha has also started curating a really useful collection of recent blogs posts and conversations around this issue of open pedagogy – well worth exploring and bookmarking if you are at all interested in this evolving discussion.

Categories: open education, pedagogy, Uncategorized | Tags: #oer #openped #YearofOpen | 2 Comments

Thinking about open pedagogy


(image via unsplash)

The question “what is open pedagogy?” is this months  Year of Open  perspective.  A really rich variety of voices have shared their views on the site. They are all worth a read.

As the waves of #oer17 are still washing over my brain, I’m not sure I really know, the answer to the question, but I have been thinking a lot more about over the past week or so. Partly because of the really excellent presentations, discussions and reflections at and after the conference and partly because of some other discussions and definitions that have been causing some healthy (maybe slightly heated) discussions in certain quarters. (See this post for a summary of the whole “he said, he said” thang).

Maha Bali has also organised  a google hang out on Monday 24th April which I’m taking part in, to try and unpack the question and maybe get a bit more “she said” into the discussions too!

I have equal feelings of  excitement and fear about the session. I am excited as I think it’s really timely,  and I admire and respect all the participants. Coupled with that I have a bit of the old imposter syndrome creeping in in terms of thinking “wtf can I bring to this party?”

However, as someone who self declares as an open practitioner, and as I pointed out way back in my #oer15 keynote, someone who is from the middle of the mainstream in the UK HE sector, then I think that actually my take on this is actually quite important in terms of the widespread adoption and understanding of open education, open resources, open pedagogy and for me the most important, open practice.

Whilst I fully recognise the need for definition and rigour, I also am very aware of the pragmatic needs of practice.  So I was a bit concerned with my relationship and practice in terms of the 5 R definition of open pedagogy from David Wiley.   Partly I think that is because most of my practice isn’t content (book) based. A lot of it is actually about giving people confidence to try new things, to share their practice and resources.  There are, as Maha and I have been chatting about in our prep for the session, some things you can’t put a license on.

So whilst I  strive to meet the 5 Rs  I can’t always meet all of them. So if I am not practicing open pedagogy does that mean I am not an open practitioner is the questions circling through my brain? If I am having doubts then how the heck can I extent, support, be part of an open education community in my institution and beyond?

After a small cry for help on twitter I was pointed to this article on  Attributes of Open Pedagogy by Browyn Hegarty which probably resonated more, and articulated some of my challenges particularly around the overlapping nature of the 8 attributes discussed in it.

My #Iwill message from #oer17 was to be “be generous, inclusive and extend notion of open hospitality in everything I do”.   But in our definitions of open pedagogy are we inadvertently being exclusive? Josie Fraser highlighted some very pertinent questions in her reflections on #oer17 post,  I can’t put it any better than this (thanks Josie)

I’m suspicious of the current distinction between open pedagogy and open practice, and in particular, how little explanation is being given to the privileging or even just use of the term pedagogy over the term practice. Is the use of pedegogy being used as shorthand for educational practice? Is it being used to underline the importance of formal education, or the primacy of teaching? Why not open heutagogy? Is it being used as a form of interpellation, a signal to include and exclude specific groups within open education? What is wrong with ‘practice’? How do we benefit from continuing to insist on a break between theory and practice, or theory and politics? Is this distinction as harmful as the disavowal of the relationship between the personal and the political?

It should be a very interesting discussion on Monday – more information about how to join in is available here.

Categories: open education, Uncategorized | Tags: #yearfofopen #oer17 #openeducation #openpedagogy | 4 Comments

Now I am ten (in twitter years)

(My first tweet)

James Clay wrote about his 10th twitter birthday recently, and this week I have reached that milestone too.  10 is quite a milestone, it’s double figures, it’s a decade, it’s 38.2k tweets – multiplied by 140 that’s a lot of words, 3,330 followers.  Like James my use the service the has evolved over the years.  From the initial what’s this all about, to the fun of connecting, using hashtags, archiving and swirly twirly diagrams.

On reflection it has been a bit like growing up. Starting out as a baby trying to figure this new, 140 character, slightly random connections, world out. Then toddling along and finding new, useful things (hashtags, swirly twirly SNA); figuring out how and when to use it in a way that worked for me. How to balance work, learning, v the Eurovision song contest.  Finding my voice, making my rules  about language, tone, open-ness. From about 5 years old  starting to pull back a bit, reclaiming my weekends and non work time aka using Instagram to share pictures of food and other random things instead. . .

I think Twitter is now a habit for me.  Whilst I don’t like many of the changes it has brought in over the years it does still offer me a connection and conversation channel other services don’t. I  still don’t want or need the service to recommend anything to me.  I really dislike the web interface now – it’s too much to see every second the number of new messages. I prefer the ipad/iphone app and the serendipity of scrolling through. That gives me a feeling of being a bit more in control. I’ve never really felt the need to trawl back through twitter – if I miss a tweet, I miss it. If it contains something important to me the message will get to me in some way or via someone else – probably via twitter.

I am obviously aware of the negative side to twitter, the trolls, the bullying, the commercialisation. However I do still think that just now, for me the advantage outweigh the disadvantages. If we all retreat from twitter then the bullies and the advertisers have won.  At the beginning of this year I blogged around some of the reasons  I am still on twitter

For me, Twitter has always been about the conversation, about making, sustaining and developing connections. My professional life has been greatly enriched through the many conversations and connections I’ve made using the service. And I’ve always been careful to draw my own lines around my personal and professional use of the service.  Using Twitter has also helped me to open up some of my practice around learning and teaching.

After last week’s OER17 conference I have really been thinking open hospitality.   I have no illusions about my influence and visibility (pretty tiny), but if I wasn’t on twitter a large part of my professional practice would disappear. It’s maybe too easy for those of us who have easy access to this type of service to abandon it with out thinking about the luxury it is.  Though after reading this post from Jim Groom maybe I am going to have to rethink my whole approach to open – but that’s for another post.

My OER (open emotional response) to #oer17

That was my response to the #Iwill challenge given as part of the final plenary session at the #OER17 conference this week.  Starting with the end in mind seems apt for a post reflecting on the conference.   But how did I get here? Why did I end up selecting generosity, inclusivity and hospitality?  There are plenty more that are still swirling round my brain.

I think the answer is these are things that I think I can do, and in doing so can maybe start to address some of the bigger issues politics, power, criticality, definition and action that wove their way through all the presentations, discussions and conversations over the two days of the conference.

Thanks to Kate Bowles and her contribution to the panel session I took part in, the importance of hospitality needs to be highlighted.  If we want to extend practice to embrace open then we need to provide hospitable spaces – both physical and digital. Spaces that are welcoming, where you can choose where and when to enter, that make you  want to explore and more importantly want to stay, come back to and bring others along.

I think we are all a little bit (and a times quite a big bit) guilty of presuming hospitably in our open spaces without really considering how they are experienced by others. What we might assume is an open, hospital place because we know how to navigate it, can actually appear to be quite hostile to those who don’t come from our context, who aren’t privileged to our understandings of how those spaces work and how to interact within them and with “us”.

There’s an old saying in Scotland that describes the difference between East and West (Glasgow/Edinburgh). In Glasgow people will say “come in, you’ll have your tea” and in Edinburgh “come in, you’ll have had your tea”.  There’s a subtle but important difference in terms of hospitality which, never mind the geographical stereotypes,  we all need to be mindful of. Open spaces, even with appropriate open licenses, can be appear to be scary, at times aloof and distance, places you enter with a bit of trepidation or just by pass all together.

As an example from my personal experience,  I had until this conference, always felt a bit like that about Virtually Connecting. Although open, it just seemed to me  a bit of a space for “those and such of those” the great and the good of OER, and those that were involved in what I call “proper” researchers.  However, as I have previously explained, I did end up joining one of the sessions at the conference thanks to the hospitality of Autumn and Maha pre, during and post conference.  That hospitality extended the digital open space in this reflection on user perceptions, to an invitation to participate and to the warmest, welcoming hospitality in the open physical space of the conference.  That little experience of open hospitality is what we all need to ensure we all continue to foster.

Maha is probably one of the most hospitable and generous people I have the privilege of knowing. However in her opening keynote she made a really important point about generosity the need to think very carefully about what we give.  As Maha pointed out, if you are hungry but have no teeth and someone gives you an apple, that apparent act of generosity can actually cause anger, hurt and show lack of understanding of context.

So as I try to be generous I will now make a more of a concerted and explicit effort to ensure that my generosity – in whatever form it takes – is appropriate and inclusive and given with understanding and care.  This may take some time and I might not succeed all the time but I will try.

I really hope that all of the people who attend the conference both physically and virtually found it to be an open, hospitable and generous. But if they didn’t we need to know why so we can change things.

Another issue that bubbled throughout the conference was that of definition. What does open education actually mean? Have we created our own open silo, with our own cozy spaces and discourse? Why aren’t all educational systems (from nursery to universities ), governments fully embracing open-ness?  Many of the reasons of course echo the theme of the conference “the politics of open”.  I’m sure they will be reflected on far more eloquently than I am able to today over the coming weeks but if you want a bit of a taste just search for #trexit.

What is sure is that we need to keep extended the conversations, sharing our research, our practice, working with organisations like wikimedia to extend open knowledge creation and sharing, and seriously think about more creative forms of activism as described by Diana Acre in her inspiring keynote. We need to allow others to help us define open. We can only do that if we work together with our wider communities to keep extending our hospitality and giving people appropriate, inclusive safe spaces to learn, share and grow.

There is so much more I need to reflect on but for now this is about as much as I am capable of.  I’ve been trying to find an image to use that sums up hospitality, but they are all just so culturally bound it doesn’t seem quite right in this context but I think hot beverage is almost universal  . . . once again thanks to the Unsplash community for the generosity of their open images.




The comfort and discomfort of working and in open and closed spaces #oer17 #critopen #femedtech

#OER17 is rapidly approaching and I am really looking foward to attending the conference. I am always aware of what a privilege it is to be able to attend conferences. This year it that privilege has been highlighted by the uncertainty of institutional support for me to be able to attend (budget cuts are getting deeper) but perhaps of more relevance, my own uncertainty of having any work to present that would be of any relevance.

Happily on this occasion both uncertainties have been overcome, and I am really thrilled to be part of a (quite fabulous) panel with Josie Fraser, Frances Bell, Viv Rolfe and from a distance Kate Bowles.

The title of our session is:  Staying open: sustaining critical open educational practice in a time of walls and borders

What it’s about: What are the prospects for sustaining a generous and critical practice of open educational practice and open research in these times, one that can address the pressing challenges of the emerging political formations that govern higher education? By staying open, can we find effective means to challenge the new politics of normalisation? What are the challenges and privileges of open practice under austerity and precarity? What kind of refusal does open practice now represent? And what tactics work at the local level, in institutions whose strategy for open is driven by the promise of reputational gain? (read more here)

We hope to foster a critical discussion through a series of questions and provocations.

The theme of this year’s conference “the politics of open” couldn’t really be more timely. Like everyone I am used to working with the “p” politics within my (and indeed any) institution and sector, however since the vote for Brexit and the election of Trump  “P”olitics has impinged on my practice and well, my being in a way I’ve not been aware of before.  I have always taken a pragmatic approach to open education, and OER. My politics of open have seemed to naturally fit with open educational practice, more than open educational resources.

I have always supported the need for closed spaces as well as open ones (check my OER15 keynote for more).  Over the past year I have become increasingly uncertain about my own ability to be open. This is partly due to some of the work I have been involved in which has had to be done in closed spaces and it not quite being at a stage to share in any open sense. But also due to me not actually knowing what to say in relation to wider, world events.  It’s not quite “not yet-ness” but there is something resonates with that concept in how I am coping with the challenges I face and my ability and inability to work through these in open and closed spaces.

In turbulent times it is easy to retreat into closed spaces, keep your head down and just try to get on with things, keep away from the increasingly loud negative and disturbing aspects of social media. Work with those closest to you and find comfort in a mutual solace in the things that really your own colleagues only really understand in terms of internal politics.

My provocation for the session is around exploring open and closed behaviour in relation to the Visitor and Residents methodology.  I could take comfort from the veneer of open-ness that one interpretation of my mapping offers.  In reality it is actually quite discomforting. I’ll hopefully be able to articulate this more succinctly in the session.

Lately, I often feel I don’t actually have anything worthwhile to say . Then I remind myself that I have a moral obligation, particularly from my western European, white, middle class position of privilege to continue to use my access to any platforms to continue to speak out – even if my voice is really, in the grand scale of thing, just a squeak.  Keeping my personal politics and Politics separate is increasingly difficult. I often ask myself is there is a new  level of risk? Where are my boundaries in this? Should I be deleting my tweets or be willing to live with higher risk of mis-interpretation?

Openness and sharing is part of me, of my practice. I find it very unsettling to be constrained to working in closed spaces yet conversely as I described I can derive comfort from it.

Despite the madness social media still offers me many wonderful opportunities for connecting and sharing.  In fact only this morning it reminded me of this paper from Jen Ross and Amy Collier on Not Yet-ness. It keeps me connected with fellow souls, it allowed for an initial germ of an idea for the conference to take shape and grow.  Over the past weeks I have to thank Kate, and then Frances for introducing me the concept of the hospitality of open-ness.

I find being an open practitioner  a struggle.  It’s a constant internal and internal battle, I struggle with not being a “proper” open researcher, a “proper” creator of OER, my own imposter complex, and the joy of being able to share lots of “stuff” openly.

On reflection I think I actually need that uncertainty. Open education gives me many anchors not least from the inspiration I gain from the wider open education community.  I have gained so much solace, strength and solidarity from the conversations I’ve been having as part of planning for the conference.

As part of our pre-panel discussions the notion of elephant trails or desire paths arose. These are the trails that mark the shortest route between spaces. Interestingly they are usually only one person/animal wide but many, many people can use them. I creating my revised V&R map, it seems all my open desire paths lead me back to my blog, to twitter, to open-ness.

I’m looking forward to the extending this conversation more at the conference, but if you have any thoughts, dear reader, then please share them with me.  In the meantime here’s one of those random, motivational quotes that found me in a waiting room on Saturday.


Categories: open education, Uncategorized | Tags: #oer17 #critopen #femedtech | 2 Comments

#101 open stories – my story

101 open stories is a great idea organised by a fantastic global team of open educational researchers and educators to amass some open stories during this year’s open education week.

It got me thinking about my OER story or stories. Where to begin? I wish I had the time and the ability to weave a tale worthy of Scheherazade. One full of poetry, wishes, fantastic voyages and the odd djinn.  One that would keep Vice Chancellors awake till just after the midnight hour (aka TEF/REF/NSS results publications).  One that would entice them to fully embrace open education. However,  if I want to get something done this week  all I can do is share my experiences and some reflections my open journey so far.

My involvement in the open education world has been quite long and varied.  It started during my time at Cetis. We were supporting open standards and open source, had been part of the whole learning object thang,  so OERs and wider open educational practice were a natural addition to our remit. I was involved in our first OER briefing paper, was one of the first OLNet fellows back in 2009 when I went to Mexico to the OCWC conference to find out more about that community.  I probably should do a time line of open stuff I’ve been involved in . . .

I think my open story is very much an evolving, personal one.  Open practice has become an increasingly important part of my working life. I’ve never been “hard core” open, in the sense that it’s never taken up 100% of my time. Even back when I worked with Cetis I wasn’t involved directly in the support of the Jisc/HE OER programmes, I was of course influenced by them and did try to filter the open element to other Jisc programmes I was involved in at the time.

Sharing has always been at the heart of my professional practice. When we were made to blog at Cetis it actually opened a whole new level of professional interaction and personal reflection for me.  At the time I didn’t really consider this as open practice, but now I really do.  Openly sharing and reflecting has connected me to so many colleagues across the globe.  That has been equally rewarding and enriching. It has lead to conversations and sharing of practice and ideas.  This open story of mine  probably hasn’t  changed that much in the last two years.

I think that my experiences of open learning has been, to use a phrase I don’t really like,  “game changing” for me. Back in 2011/12 in the heady days of MOOCs I probably signed up for a few too many of them but I really wanted to understand this aspect of open from a learners point of view. I still am a recovering Mooc-aholic. I still slip off the wagon now and again, but it’s not the same as the it was back in the old days . . .

My experience as an open learner really helped me to focus and reflect on my own approaches to learning, my own practice in terms of my approaches to learning design, to learner engagement, to peer support, to assessment. In fact all the things I do now as part of my job.  It also introduced me to another set of fantastically diverse, open learners and educators. People like Penny who is one of the organisers of the 101 stories project.

Open-ness is now a habit for me. It’s part of my practice, but it has natural (and at time imposed ) peaks and troughs. Not everything can or should be open. I often find it a struggle to keep open on my agenda. I’m still working out my own praxis with open-ness.  am doing this through the work of many open education researchers, people like Catherine Cronin whose work provokes and inspires me, and leads me to many others who are working in this field.

Open education isn’t a fairy tale, but it does confront some vary salient, moral and ethical issues around education.  Including but not limited to: who can access education and publicly funded resources/data/research findings.  What rights do staff have over materials they produce whilst working for institutions?  Open-ness doesn’t automatically lead to a happy ending.  It has many twists and turns, just like the stories of the Arabian Nights. It might be a bit like The Force in Star Wars, surrounding us and binding us. . . but that’s a story for another day.

Today as the UK takes a leap into the unknown and to closing of borders and creation of barriers, we need open stories more than ever. We need these stories to permeate, to keep open on the wider political agenda. To keep people talking about open, in the open.

I look forward to watching and learning from the #101 stories and hope that if you have read this you might think of sharing your own.


Not so much the a case of the wrong trousers, more like a wardrobe malfunction my story for #oer17


Nb this is not a picture of my wardrobe!

I’m really looking forward to hearing the keynote from,  and meeting in person, Maha Bali at #OER17.  As part of her preparation for the conference Maha has been using her blog to share ideas and to get contributions and stories from the wider community.  I did something similar when I keynoted at OER15 and it was incredibly useful).

To try an encourage some more sharing of stories, Maha has written a lovely blog post called Fixing the shirt but spoiling the trousers. I love this idea:

“There is a part of my keynote where I plan to refer to an Egyptian expression, which, literally translated, means “when you tried to fix the shirt you spoiled the trousers” (must remember to say trousers not pants in the UK or they’ll think I mean underwear). It conjures up an image of comedy of errors or such, where trying to fix a problem creates new problems.”

Like many people I often think that parts of my working life are bit like a comedy of errors – sometimes all you can do is laugh at some of the absurd situations that arise. However in relation to open-ness I have to confess that recently I have had feelings more akin to a Shakespearean tragedy ( well maybe not quite that dramatic but you’ll  get the idea from this post)

I commented on the post “somtimes feels like I have a wardrobe full for OER but nothing to wear”.  I am want to qualify that a bit more.

I really try to be an open practitioner, I make an a concerted effort to share my work, reflections etc via my blog. It’s probably my main open outlet.  In my institution we have an OER policy, great support and guidance for  creating and sharing OER , a growing OER repository (mainly due to the perseverance and hard work of Marion Kelt in our library).

However recently despite having all this support I don’t seem to have been making any kind of meaningful contribution either through sharing of OERs or reflections rants about open practice.   I do feel it’s kind of like opening your wardrobe, which is full of cloths but you still can’t find something/anything to wear.  That can be (well, for me anyway ) a pretty demoralising experience.

However, to extent the wardrobe metaphor a bit further as OER17 draws closer, I am finding a couple of things that I’ve forgotten about and on trying them on have started to feel much better dressed.

A case in point is Virtually Connecting. I have been aware of this great open, extension to conferences, for a while now, but haven’t ever participated. Partly because I have been fortunate enough to have been at many conferences in person, and partly because I didn’t really think it was “for the likes of me”.  It’s for “proper” researchers.

However on reading, and commenting on the excellent reflective post on the paradox of inclusion  from Autumn Caines about the history and some recent evaluation of Virtual Connecting,  I am changing my mind maybe it is for “the likes of me” after all. I am looking forward to participating in my first VC session during OER17.

I might not be able fully dressed in open everyday, but I am stating to feel better about my wardrobe options and choices and not worrying so much about wearing the wrong trousers.