Let me offer another scenario for academia’s future. As is usual with the scenario forecasting methodology, this is based on extrapolating from several present-day trends – here, several trends around open.
In the past I’ve called this “The Fall of the Silos.” It’s a sign of our urban- and suburban-centric era that this rural metaphor doesn’t get a lot of traction. It’s also possible that contemporary American politics leads many to embrace silos. So I’ve renamed the scenario “The Triumph of Open.”
tl;dr version – In this future the open paradigm has succeeded in shaping the way we use and access most digital information, with powerful implications for higher education.
Interested in making the internet and your preexisting website your personal/professional social media platform? Here are some of my favorite examples:
Greg McVerry, W. Ian O’Byrne, Kimberly Hirsch, Kathleen Fitzgerald, John Johnston, Aaron Davis, Cathie LeBlanc, and Dan Cohen
Take a look at IndieWeb for Education for more examples and details.
Ask us about the value of adding technologies like Webmention, Micropub, WebSub, and others to your personal or professional website to interact with others directly from a domain of your own on the web.
I’m Catherine Cronin — open educator, open researcher and educational developer in CELT (Centre for Excellence in Learning & Teaching) at the National University of Ireland, Galway. My work focuses on open education, critical approaches to openness, digital identity practices, and exploring the interplay between formal and informal learning. In my recently completed PhD, I explored the use of open educational practices (OEP) in higher education.
I am a member of the advisory board of the Open Education Working Group and a regular contributor to conversations and collaborative projects in the area of open education, within Ireland and globally. My academic background includes a BSc Mechanical Engineering, MEng Systems Engineering, and MA Women’s Studies (Gender & Technology). I’ve been involved in teaching, research and advocacy in higher education and in the community for over 25 years. Recent work, apart from my OEP research, includes creating an Open Education guidefor faculty and staff, collaborating to create the Equity Unbound curriculum, engagement in the global #icollab network, and facilitating workshops on open education, digital identity, and digital wellbeing for educators and learners in different settings.
Please click on the link to my Blog or Contact above – or join in conversation with me on Twitter at @catherinecronin.
The 5 R’s
I’ve seen the five R’s used many times in reference to the OER space (Open Educational Resources). They include the ability to allow others to: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and/or Redistribute content with the appropriate use of licenses. These are all some incredibly powerful building blocks, but I feel like one particularly important building block is missing–that of the ability to allow easy accretion of knowledge over time.
Some in the educational community may not be aware of some of the more technical communities that use the idea of version control for their daily work. The concept of version control is relatively simple and there are a multitude of platforms and software to effectuate it including Git, GitHub, GitLab, BitBucket, SVN, etc. In the old days of file and document maintenance one might save different versions of the same general file with increasingly different and complex names to their computer hard drive: Syllabus.doc, Syllabus_revised.doc, Syllabus_revisedagain.doc, Syllabus_Final.doc, Syllabus_Final_Final.doc, etc. and by using either the names or date and timestamps on the file one might try to puzzle out which one was the correct version of the file that they were working on.
For the better part of a decade now there is what is known as version control software to allow people to more easily maintain a single version of their particular document but with a timestamped list of changes kept internally to allow users to create new updates or roll back to older versions of work they’ve done. While the programs themselves are internally complicated, the user interfaces are typically relatively easy to use and in less than a day one can master most of their functionality. Most importantly, these version control systems allow many people to work on the same file or resource at a time! This means that 10 or more people can be working on a textbook, for example, at the same. They create a fork or clone of the particular project to their personal work space where they work on it and periodically save their changes. Then they can push their changes back to the original or master where they can be merged back in to make a better overall project. If there are conflicts between changes, these can be relatively easily settled without much loss of time. (For those looking for additional details, I’ve previously written Git and Version Control for Novelists, Screenwriters, Academics, and the General Public, which contains a variety of detail and resources.) Version control should be a basic tool of every educators’ digital literacy toolbox.
For the OER community, version control can add an additional level of power and capability to their particular resources. While some resources may be highly customized or single use resources, many of them, including documents like textbooks can benefit from the work of many hands in an accretive manner. If these resources are maintained in version controllable repositories then individuals can use the original 5 R’s to create their particular content.
But what if a teacher were to add several new and useful chapters to an open textbook? While it may be directly useful to their specific class, perhaps it’s also incredibly useful to the broader range of teachers and students who might use the original source in the future? If the teacher who forks the original source has a means of pushing their similarly licensed content back to the original in an easy manner, then not only will their specific class benefit from the change(s), but all future classes that might use the original source will have the benefit as well!
If you’re not sold on the value of version control, I’ll mention briefly that Microsoft spent $7.5 Billion over the summer to acquire GitHub, which is one of the most popular version control and collaboration tools on the market. Given Microsofts’ push into the open space over the past several years, this certainly bodes well for both open as well as version control for years to come.
A Math Text
As a simple example, lets say that one professor writes the bulk of a mathematics text, but twenty colleagues all contribute handfuls of particular examples or exercises over time. Instead of individually hosting those exercises on their own sites or within their individual LMSes where they’re unlikely to be easy to find for other adopters of the text, why not submit the changes back to the original to allow more options and flexibility to future teachers? Massive banks of problems will allow more flexibility for both teachers and students. Even if the additional problems aren’t maintained in the original text source, they’ll be easily accessible as adjunct materials for future adopters.
One of the most powerful examples of the value of accretion in this manner is Wikipedia. While it’s somewhat different in form than some of the version control systems mentioned above, Wikipedia (and most wikis for that matter) have built in history views that allow users to see and track the trail of updates and changes over time. The Wikipedia in use today is vastly larger and more valuable today than it was on its first birthday because it allows ongoing edits to be not only improved over time, but those improvements are logged and view-able in a version controlled manner.
This is another example of an extensible OER platform that allows simple accretion. With the correct settings on a document, one can host an original and allow it to be available to others who can save it to their own Google Drive or other spaces. Leaving the ability for guests to suggest changes or to edit a document allows it to potentially become better over time without decreasing the value of the original 5 Rs.
Webmentions for Update Notifications
As many open educational resources are hosted online for easy retention, reuse, revision, remixing, and/or redistribution, keeping them updated with potential changes can potentially be a difficult proposition. It may not always be the case that resources are maintained on a single platform like GitHub or that users of these resources will necessarily know how to use these platforms or their functionality. As a potential “fix” I can easily see a means of leveraging the W3C recommended specification for Webmention as a means of keeping a tally of changes to resources online.
Let’s say Robin keeps a copy of her OER textbook on her WordPress website where students and other educators can easily download and utilize it. More often than not, those using it are quite likely to host changed versions of it online as well. If their CMS supports the Webmention spec like WordPress does via a simple plugin, then by providing a simple URL link as a means of crediting the original source, which they’re very likely to do as required by the Creative Commons license anyway, their site will send a notification of the copy’s existence to the original. The original can then display the webmentions as traditional comments and thus provide links to the chain of branches of copies which both the original creator as well as future users can follow to find individual changes. If nothing else, the use of Webmention will provide some direct feedback to the original author(s) to indicate their materials are being used. Commonly used education facing platforms like WordPress, Drupal, WithKnown, Grav, and many others either support the Webmention spec natively or do so with very simple plugins.
One of the issues some may see with pushing updates back to an original surrounds potential resource bloat or lack of editorial oversight. This is a common question or issue on open source version control repositories already, so there is a long and broad history of for how these things are maintained or managed in cases where there is community disagreement, an original source’s maintainer dies, disappears, loses interest, or simply no longer maintains the original. In the end, as a community of educators we owe it to ourselves and future colleagues to make an attempt at better maintaining, archiving, and allowing our work to accrete value over time.
The 6th R: Request Update
In summation, I’d like to request that we all start talking about the 6 R’s which include the current 5 along with the addition of a Request update (or maybe pull Request, Recompile, or Report to keep it in the R family?) ability as well. OER is an incredibly powerful concept already, but could be even more so with the ability to push new updates or at least notifications of them back to the original. Having the ability to do this will make it far easier to spread and grow the value of the OER concept as well as to disrupt the education spaces OER was evolved to improve.
Featured photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash
I research and design educator learning associated with everyday digital media practices
I am an Assistant Professor of Learning Design and Technology at the University of Colorado Denver School of Education and Human Development. My research about educator learning and everyday digital media practices has been supported by a 2017-18 OER Research Fellowshipfrom the Open Education Group and a 2016 National Science Foundation Data Consortium Fellowship. I currently chair the American Educational Research Association’s Media, Culture, and Learning Special Interest Group (2017-19), serve as Co-PI of ThinqStudio, CU Denver’s digital pedagogy incubator, and am on the board of directors for InGlobal Learning Design.
Read about my featured research – how educators learn via open web annotation.
Watch a gallery of my videos – from conference presentations to webinars and more.
Learn about my keynotes – creative visual stories delivered before national and international digital media and learning conferences.
I earned my Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Education, my M.A. with the University of Michigan-Flint’s Technology in Education: Global Program, and a B.A. with department honors from Earlham College. I am a co-founder of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Innovation in Education, and – with colleagues from UM’s Interactive Communications and Simulations Group – have designed and facilitated educational technology partnerships in support of educator and youth learning on four continents (in Canada, the Czech Republic, Jamaica, Oman, South Africa, and Switzerland). I am an avid runner, and enjoy classic film, cooking, and hiking Colorado’s mountains.
For a bit more context on thisIndieWeb technology for online pedagogy., perhaps start here:
In the Interdisciplinary Studies program where I have begun working, we encourage students to go public with their work. It’s a common idea well beyond interdisciplinary studies: for students to feel more engaged with the work they do, to feel that what they are doing matters, they need to do that...
An interesting take on open pedagogy to be sure. On my own website, I often default to public without taking much thought for the difference between open vs. private–though to be sure I do have a lot of private posts hidden on my back end that only I or other invited guests can view.
This article is sure to be germane to those reading on the topic of Open and Privacy for #EDU522. Within that realm I have automatically defaulted to posting everything public, in part to act as a potential model for my fellow classmates as well as for how teachers and students in general could potentially execute on open pedagogy using an IndieWeb model built on webmentions.
While my website apparently gets about 400 views a day lately, I suspect it’s a very small and specific niche audience to the set of topics I tend to write about. Since I post everything that I post online to my own website first, I have a more concentrated posting velocity than many/most, but it also means that some specific topics (like #EDU522 for example) can get lost in the “noise” of all the other posts on my site. If one compares this to others in the class who’ve only recently set up sites which have less than 10 views a day likely, there is a marked difference in public/private for them. (The concept of “privacy through obscurity” similar to its predecessor “security through obscurity” comes to mind, but one must remember it only takes one intruder to cause a problem.) Of course this doesn’t discount the fact that one’s public posts today, which seemingly disappear from the immediate rush of information, may still be found in the long-tails of their personal data to potentially be found years hence. With recent examples of people being fired for Tweets they made years ago (often taken out of context, or with serious context collapse) this can be a troubling issue.
Some recent examples:
- Disney Fires ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Director Over Offensive Tweets1
- New York Times Editorial board hired and fired Quinn Norton on the same day because internet trolls created a digital effigy of her using old social media posts from years prior. Even more ironic, she’s written and extensively studied context collapse.2–4
Public figures and journalists5 are actively deleting their tweets as a result, though this isn’t really a new phenomenon as people know that employers and others can search for their old content. As Ella Dawson has indicated, “We’re all public figures now”.
I don’t suspect there may be anything too particularly controversial in my #EDU522 posts recently that I might want to make private at a later date following the course (or even delete altogether), but who knows? Perhaps the public thinking on these topics changes drastically and I would wish to make them disappear a decade or two hence? It’s definitely something worth thinking about.
One of the benefits of supporting many of the IndieWeb tools and philosophies is that I can quickly make my old posts private to just me and with syndication links on them indicating where I’ve syndicated them in the past, I could very quickly go to those silos and delete them there as well. Of course this doesn’t get rid of copies out of my control or in locations like the Internet Archive.
Within the realm of open pedagogy, IndieWeb technology (and Webmention), one could certainly default their classes websites to private or semi-private. The WithKnown platform may presently be the best one for doing such a thing, though there are a few hoops one may need to jump through to set it up properly. As a brief example, there would need to be a private class hub site on which the teacher and students would need their own accounts. Then, so that students might own all of their own work, they would need their own sites to which they might post privately as well. The hub and the students’ sites could then use the Known OAuth2 server so that students could post their work privately on their own site, but still automatically syndicate it into their account on the semi-private class website. Of course, even here a student is relying on reasonable data security for the semi-private class site as well as having the expectation that their professor, fellow classmates, or the institution itself wouldn’t put their semi-private data into the public sphere at a future date.
As a proof of concept and an example of this type of workflow, I’ll highlight two posts (though in this case, both public instead of private so that you can actually see them) which I’ve made on two separate domains both running WithKnown:
- A post on my personal website
- A syndicated copy of that post on a public and openly aggregated multi-user Known install
image credit (also used on Matthew Cheney’s original post): “Dundas Square in Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada” by Pedro Szekely, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Affordable education. Transparent science. Accessible scholarship.
These ideals are slowly becoming a reality thanks to the open education, open science, and open access movements. Running separate—if parallel—courses, they all share a philosophy of equity, progress, and justice. This book shares the stories, motives, insights, and practical tips from global leaders in the open movement.
It’s not just the book about which there’s so much to find interesting, but the website that’s serving it is well designed, crafted, and very forward thinking in what it is doing.
Networked Learning, Open Education, and Digital Polarization
Sharing Practices, Building Community
There are many ways to begin a discussion of “Open Pedagogy.” Although providing a framing definition might be the obvious place to start, we want to resist that for just a moment to ask a set of related questions: What are your hopes for education, particularly for higher education? What vision do you work toward when you design your daily professional practices in and out of the classroom? How do you see the roles of the learner and the teacher? What challenges do your students face in their learning environments, and how does your pedagogy address them?
“Open Pedagogy,” as we engage with it, is a site of praxis, a place where theories about learning, teaching, technology, and social justice enter into a conversation with each other and inform the development of educational practices and structures. This site is dynamic, contested, constantly under revision, and resists static definitional claims. But it is not a site vacant of meaning or political conviction. In this brief introduction, we offer a pathway for engaging with the current conversations around Open Pedagogy, some ideas about its philosophical foundation, investments, and its utility, and some concrete ways that students and teachers—all of us learners—can “open” education. We hope that this chapter will inspire those of us in education to focus our critical and aspirational lenses on larger questions about the ideology embedded within our educational systems and the ways in which pedagogy impacts these systems. At the same time we hope to provide some tools and techniques to those who want to build a more empowering, collaborative, and just architecture for learning.
A Keene State College undergraduate reflects on her experiences with Open Education:
So…for those of you just joining me on this 16 week journey through Tropical Marine Biology (and our 9 day trip to Turks and Caicos in 2 days), you might be wondering what all these blog posts are about, and why are we doing them? As a junior, and incoming senior studying Biology at Keene State College, several of my teachers have changed their teaching philosophy to open education. Open education is the philosophy and belief that people, even the world should produce, share, and build on knowledge that everyone has access to. It is believed that open education will promote a higher quality education and community that has been so limited by the textbook companies and licenses.
Nice student-written piece about open pedagogy within her biology program. Nice to see that the author has her own website where she also owns a copy of this article.
Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia
…it is okay.
YOU choose what YOU want to learn, and how YOU want to do it, and when YOU want to do it.
Don’t take for granted your education, and don’t let an individual, whether a peer, professor, or textbook company, have more control over your education than you do.
I’m Doug Belshaw, Open Educational Thinkerer. I help people become more productive in their use of technology.
I’m also a consultant through Dynamic Skillset, where I help people and organisations become more productive in their use of technology, and I co-founded a co-operative known as We Are Open which exists to spread the culture, processes, and benefits of working openly.
I’m following him via his own website, since he’s “off Twitter” and primarily publishing in his own space:
Just a quick note to say that my tweets during #OER18 don’t mean I’m “back on Twitter” (although thanks for the DMs!)
Also, as usual, I’ll be deleting my tweets next week so if there’s any photos I’ve taken during the conference you like, download them! (CC0)
— Doug Belshaw (@dajbelshaw) April 19, 2018
For others I’m following in Open Education: http://boffosocko.com/about/following/#Open+Education
The ideas of being independent and signed are inherently contradictory, and this contradiction is what makes indie hard to define. Its ephemerality gives it both a mystique and a resistance to criticism ― after all, you can’t critique what you can’t define. And thus, using the term indie is often a great marketing move. But it’s a problematic critical move.