Well, I'm back. Kind of. It's been a pretty rough time for me personally, and so over the course of the summer, I had to let a lot of things "go" in an effort to focus my energies.
But I miss taking the time, even if only sporadically, to write about what I am thinking about or experiencing "professionally" (whatever that means). And, this semester I am fortunate enough to be teaching a First Year Seminar at the University of Guelph alongside my "official" role on campus. The course, "Fake News, Digital Literacies and C.R.A.A.P." is designed to interrogate various information literacy paradigms toward practice of the fluencies required for evaluating "truth" online...all the while skill-building toward competent, inclusive and safe web participation.
So when I saw the Ontario Extend 9x9x25 Challenge on Twitter, I thought, "what better way to start writing again!?"...and so here I am. See you all in October!
I recently had the pleasure of co-facilitating a session at the Creative Commons Global Summit in Toronto. Alongside a formidable group of Ontario educators, and including one honourary "open ranger" from British Columbia, we facilitated a storytelling session as a means to identify themes in our experiences working in the "open". At conferences where we may only know a few people at the outset, storytelling provides an intentional opportunity of pause to make connections and expand our networks.
During the session, participants were invited into groups, and each group member spent 5 minutes sharing their story, while the other participants practiced active listening. We then spent some time as a larger group identifying common themes in our experiences. Lastly, we ended with a discussion of good practices in terms of sustaining our connections beyond the scope of the session. As we ended, participants recorded a single action that they hoped to take over the course of the summit toward practicing care, reciprocity and collaboration. Go forth Rangers, it was fun!
Also, thanks to UnSplash, our slides were beautiful.....
Long time no post....but I have had a few proverbial balls in the air of late. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Creative Commons Global Summit for the first time, and I find the best way to get the most out of any conference is to take a few days...or in this case a few weeks...to think about the experience and then at least *try* to get some of those muddled thoughts out, to synthesize and make meaning from the experience.
This has been a hard post to write. See what I said over there --> "messy thinking, free writing" - I'm not sure why this one feels so difficult. Perhaps it is because I have so much going on in my brain - not about the Summit per se, but ALL OF IT. So, as I have said, bear with me.
It was my first time. I was late. I missed the first keynote, and all of the feelings that might have come with participating in the opening. The first thing I noticed was how BIG it felt. Not big by conventional conference standards - definitely not in the way that other conferences feel - no big hall full of vendor pitches (thought I am still confused by Top Hat guarding the door at the entrance to the main room). But I immediately felt lost. And this is in NO WAY a comment on the organization of the conference - Terry and Mari - they did an amazing job.
More, it was just about me, trying to find my place in the fray.
I have been reflecting on the fact that we so easily find our people in these moments. We gravitate towards those that we know. But, one of my most meaningful, albeit short and ostensibly superficial, exchanges of the whole weekend happened in the first 5 minutes. I went to the washroom to gather myself and chatted along with a woman who had travelled from Kenya. Tracey. We talked about the weather. It was her first time in Toronto. In true Canadian fashion, I apologized. I wish that I had connected with her again. But instead, I looked for familiar faces, and so I worry and wonder if I missed out on all of those other connections, and an opportunity to follow up on that first conversation over the next few days.
"Design is Everything"
I have been thinking a lot about how we "design" the conference experience. And, I am certainly no expert. But, a few things here. First of all, it seems that most conferences are still stuck (?) on the same old formats. Keynotes, (even one of the keynotes introduced her talk as the "I hate keynotes, keynote"), panels, formal presentations...
And, all of this is perhaps "okay". But, I have been thinking about the ways that this feels "othering" to those in the audience. And, so why is it if we know that active inquiry, active learning, and communities of practice are the best way to engage and learn, that we are not seeing more of these types of formats at conferences?
And while I am pretty certain there were no "assholes" at the CC Summit, the point remains that if we still only have a few people speaking from the front of the room, no matter how critical and awesome they might be, it still might get in the way of establishing a culture of care and community.
In the first session I co-facilitated, "Common Connections: Finding a Home on the Open Range", along with other Ontario educators (and our honourary Open Ranger, British Columbian co-facilitator, Rajiv Jhangiani) we wanted to foster a different environment, where folks could sit in small groups and discuss their experiences. It was only upon arriving at the room that we realized that we had been assigned to a space that felt a lot like a mini lecture hall. Rows of chairs facing forward, no tables or collaborative spaces. We did it, and it was fine, but...
The next day, I had the pleasure of helping Rajiv facilitate a session called "How Might we Destroy the Open Education Movement: An Interactive Discussion about Ethics, Inclusion and Equity" The presentation was originally conceived by Christina Hendricks and Rolin Moe for #OpenEd17, but unfortunately neither could attend the Summit. If I hadn't been facilitating, I would certainly have attended because the session invited participants to challenge the work.
By employing two Liberating Structures, TRIZ and 1-2-4-ALL, attendees were asked three vital questions:
1. If we were invested in ensuring Open Education is not open, what actions would we take?
I found the session to be a-buzz with conversation. We even had a commercial publisher in the room. And, given my day job, this kind of facilitation felt completely natural to me. It wasn't until about 10 minutes in that I realized that this wasn't entirely comfortable for everyone. It was Jess Mitchell (who I immediately had the biggest academic crush on, for reals, she is amazing) who voiced that she was struggling with the format, and got me started in considering the design.
Later, (and we both left the session a wee bit early for our V-Connecting session) we discussed what it means to be so structured, and what it means to be unstructured. Jess noted an important point - if we are asking folks to collaborate on something, to make human connections, but then we throw a Google Doc up on the screen, what primacy is placed on the screen versus the humans at the table? Where is the balance? As she noted, "design is everything".
Recently, Maha Bali delivered a keynote for #unicollab2018 and in her slides I found this...The Tyranny of Structurelessness, and I am still ruminating...
Stay Critical. "How to Break Open"
In the themes that emerged from the session above, it was clear that indeed ethics, inclusion and equity need to be at the fore across this work. Discussions about exclusion permeated the conversations around the tables - whether it be by publishing only in English, keeping students at a distance, or ascending only the same established voices at our conferences or online - it seems we have a pretty clear idea of what won't work.
The session reminded me once again, that we need to be thoughtful. In all of our conversations, all of our design decisions. Every. Single. One. How can we ensure that our connections place emphasis on all of the humans in the room (and those joining us remotely for sure). If we have this understanding of how we might break the movement, why are we still making some of these "mistakes"? As a person somewhat (2015) new to the "movement" (is there a movement?), I find that we are perpetuating some of the same structures that we would otherwise claim to resist.
I volunteered for the opportunity to join the "Humans of the Commons" facilitated by Loup Design and Innovation Group, to answer a few questions at the Summit. I didn't know the questions going in, and so my answers were 100% from the gut. When they asked (10:10), "What do you perceive to be the greatest threat to the Commons", I answered "Ourselves".
What I was trying to say - perhaps not eloquently, is that we need to stay critical. At the Summit, Chris Bourg delivered a provocative keynote, reminding us that we are not neutral.
This work is most definitely already happening. This is not a new idea. One only needs to read some of my colleagues' recent posts, here (Sheila MacNeill), here (Lorna Campbell), here (Tannis Morgan) from #OpenEd18 to see this. I was reflecting on how at #OpenCon my eyes were opened to new perspectives, how transformative the final "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion" panel was in provoking me to check my own internal biases, and to step outside my bubble. Indeed, reading thispost from Lorraine Chuen (as sadly I also missed this session), I realize I still have a lot of learning to do.
We all do. And so how can we move away from asking a few select "experts" to sit at the front of the room on the panel? Yes, their voices are important. Their work is laudable. They are probably amazing. But they aren't the only voices in the room. How can we do better? Who else might keynote? What can we do instead of a keynote?
A lot of folks seem to be referencing that "collaboration moves at the speed of trust" (Covey, 2006) of late. I am left reflecting on how we can build trust to ensure that our collaborations are not only more successful, but also more diverse, equitable and inclusive. How can we design our experiences in such a way that ensures this? If there is one thing I know, it is that I LOVE the community that is "open". But we can do better. We need to keep actively working at building connections and community.
And so after the summit, I found myself again asking, "whose voices am *I* missing"? How can I make sure that "next time" I will seek out Tracey? Who can I work with to ensure a multiplicity of lenses and experiences? What actions can I take to practice care, reciprocity and improved collaboration?
What will my contribution be?
POSTSCRIPT: We hosted our annual conference this year, "Teaching and Learning Innovations" and the theme was "Diversity and Inclusive Approaches". I was struck by how many of my colleagues noted that they were overwhelmed to hear some of our other colleagues, particularly POC, and especially WOC, discuss their experiences on our campus. And so, I realize, this work can start at "home", in my local context. We can all make small contributions in this way.
We are three days in to #engageMOOC. And already, I have so many thoughts and questions floating around it my mind. Mostly, questions. The conversation so far has been multi-faceted. An invitation to think about the #Antigonish2 movement (original AND present); a provocation in response to comments from John Parry Barlow (from 1995): ""It’s not that there’s anything particularly healthy about cyberspace in itself, but the way in which cyberspace breaks down barriers. Cyberspace makes person-to-person interaction much more likely in an already fragmented society. The thing that people need desperately is random encounter. That’s what community has." (which I won't write about here, but spoiler, I love random encounters...except online); and reflective thinking about interviews on the work of the The Highlander Center, and Black Community Education in Jim Crow South. More, there was a synchronous online chat on YouTube day 1, and so many thoughtful blog posts since (here, here and here - and it's only been 72 hours!). Seriously, read these thoughtful and beautiful pieces of writing, don't just take my word for it.
And so it is hard for me to organize my thoughts. As I have already shared in the online discussion forum, and on Twitter (the irony), I feel overwhelmed sometimes by the thought of joining the conversation when it is mediated in a digital space. "I am so much better in person". Especially when so many of these communities seem to be so tightly knit. How does one weave herself in? How does one contribute? And more, be heard? Even if her thoughts are not as articulate or well-formed as the next person. And especially when the inclination is to lurk. Should I be braver?
And so this is where I am at....these few days in -
During the YouTube chat on Monday (Feb. 12, 2018) there was discussion about what differentiates "deliberate care" (my words), versus "participation", "engagement" and/or "action". I found myself sketching the most rudimentary of visual representations on a scrap piece of paper during the conversation. There is nothing revelatory here. But still, I think it demonstrates how I think of these "definitions" as an circuitous map. One informs the other, and then the other, and then perhaps they change direction. And while I did appreciate the opportunity to "engage" in real time, I also found myself wondering if we were spending too much time on definition. We are all here. We all care. We are all engaged. We are all participating. So, what's our action?
Yes. Perhaps we are not there yet. I know, 72 hours. But, just putting it out there.
I was struck by the interviews mentioned above. When Rev. Allyn Steele discusses the vernacular for social justice movements -
Words we use these days or what people will call Popular Education in which case everyone's a learner everyone's a teacher, so there's no real emphasis placed on expertise in terms of like one person having all the information about a particular social or economic or cultural issue. Rather the idea is that everybody has expertise of their own lived experience and the idea behind the educational processes is to bring people together to share those experiences, figure out what the patterns are that are connecting those experiences, adding some information that might be theory driven or it might just be new information that people didn't have before because someone else has it and they can introduce it to help explain the situation in a different way, and then coming up with a plan of action for how to address it, and then doing that and then coming back together and starting the process all over again and we call that a popular education spiral.
And, in what felt like a reverberation from Ash-Lee Woodward Henderson, was the reminder that "deeply listening" is at the core. Especially as a person mostly privileged - not in a position of precarity nor a marginalized "voice"....how can I better listen? How can I better amplify the voices of others?
All of this brings me back to #Antigonish2, but also my own big question. One of the things I love about #Antigonish2 is the layers. The idea of a digital network, followed by institutional capacity-building, followed by study clubs....except I am not sure that "studying" is quite enough...though also I recognize I am simplifying the suggestion....obviously if we all are better prepared and work toward the "hands-on opportunities to develop the practices and literacies needed by critical citizens
and consumers in an attention economy" (Stewart, 2017) we will naturally identify our actions.
A few years ago I was invited to participate in a charrette in my community on the issue of food (in)security. As I have already shared on Twitter, a comment made by Nick Saul, in the early days, before this community gathering, was particularly clear -
And so we created a "container" as described by Ash-Lee Woodward Henderson. A temporary "bumping space". Could this be a model for "study club"?
Perhaps there are a few ways that a charrette can be facilitated, but in my experience, and recognizing that not everyone will be comfortable with grabbing the mic, this is what it looked like -
An open invitation was extended to community members for participation. We had a full room that crossed a variety of identities. We all arrived and the "deliberate care" was palpable in the room. We were invited (but not pressured) to approach the mic and express our purpose/idea/frustration/connection/question/deliberate care to the room (and again, realizing this is not a place of comfort for all).
Following this, we wrote down these thoughts on a piece of paper and stuck it to the wall. A "dot-mocracy" followed. And then, in small groups, we set about trying to address the purpose/idea/frustration/connection/question/deliberate care. It felt a little like a tech-sprint, but it was in no way technical. Just working in community, in diverse groups, deeply listening, to try and problem-solve, or at least suggest possible solutions to our shared concerns. What I loved about this model, was the diverse groups we found ourselves in. And, that built-in was in invitation to move between groups to find your deepest care. And, that the goal of the day was to take some kind of tangible action.
And so I wonder. How could we replicate this experience in a digital space? As mentioned by Ash-Lee Woodward Henderson, how can we leverage social media channels to better organize in a meaningful way in beloved community? How can we ensure that all voices are heard, and amplified? What action will we as a community take? This is what I am interested in exploring.
It all started with a tweet....
My employment history is somewhat interesting. As I have shared before - I am a recovering textbook sales rep. I worked for a large higher ed textbook publisher for almost 7 years, in between having babies, and because I had been recently laid off and needed a job as I had just purchased my very own "Money Pit". I am now an Instructional Technologist working with a team of Educational Developers on a campus in Ontario. I am also an #openadvocate (circa 2015), an #OEORanger (Open Ranger with eCampus Ontario) and a member of the #OpenRebelAlliance (#OpenCon).
I won't rehash the reasons I loved/hated by job in publishing, only to say that there were reasons that I loved *and* struggled in my job (see previous posts). A colleague (bless) recently said to me, "don't worry, you are on the good side now", and I had to sit with this for a second, If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that *many* folks working in higher education publishing are extraordinary, caring and smart people. We all have to pay the bills you know? I also ran into a friend (faculty, textbook author) last weekend. She is writing a new edition. She loves her subject matter. She cares about her students. She is a fantastic teacher. She writes for a major higher ed publisher - a textbook for a large first year class offered at pretty much all 4-year schools. She got into it for her care of the aforementioned. And because until recently we didn't have a widely-known, supported alternative model in Canada. And because "open" does not equal "free" when it comes to labour. We all have to pay the bills you know?
But the system is broken, even if the people are great.
Just to say this...that today, after many years of NOT repping for a publisher, I had my first formal-ish conversation with faculty about #OER (as opposed to off-the-side-of-my-desk, informal, pipe-dream conversation). It was exhausting. I learned a lot. And despite the tweet that I referenced above, it all felt a little too much like "sales".
And perhaps that is because our institutionalized systems are outdated. The "reward" system (T&P) hasn't changed much (at least at my institution) and so as much as we revere open, it doesn't change the practicalities on the ground overnight. Nothing revelatory here. But our faculty need it to be (somewhat) easy. Perhaps this is why so many open advocates focus on textbooks. It is the gateway drug. The entry point. But if we focus there, then aren't we actually perpetuating existing systems? And while our instructors want to "do the right thing" for their students, and "adopt the new campus priorities", they also want to know who to call when they need help and support (in this case, the question was easily answered). They want to know if this will this be more than a passing phase, one that will actually be recognized and rewarded in a way that matters (not so easily answered).
There were a few other smaller questions -who else has adopted this resource? who has reviewed this resource? when is the next edition due? what do we do about these spelling mistakes? this figure is terrible, how can we change it? (and more practically) how big is the test bank? are there media assets? - some easily answered (adapt/remix of course!), others not. These are questions that have become enculturated in the process, in this focus on content, not practice or pedagogy.
Many other questions were not as easy to answer, no matter my role. How can we ensure that the adoption of OER is less work (or at least the same work) and not more? How can we reward the labour that (might) go into such a change?
And these were instructors who DO philosophically believe in the advantages that OER provide in terms of access and equity. But they still only have "60 hours in a week". They still need to understand how this will be valued by the institution.
And so while this is a fairly simple reflection on the challenges that are ahead...and while some of these questions have been asked (and answered) in other provinces...I am feeling a little bit "new" today. How do we a/effect real change that is recognized and rewarded for the betterment of our students AND our instructors?