Posts tagged "OpenEd"

Searching for Student Voices at #OpenEd16

I’m currently on a plane headed back to Oklahoma from OpenEd16. OpenEd brought the end of my pause from social media and a rejuvenation thanks to fellow attendees. Over the two OpenEd’s I’ve attended, Vancouver and now Richmond, the community has brought out the best of me and I deeply appreciate that.

The last activity that I participated in at the conference was facilitating a student panel on March’s Indie EdTech gathering and Indie EdTech projects including BYU’s APIs, Georgetown’s HowToCollege, and the EdSurge Independent, all of which seek to increase student agency. As Erika Bullock has previous said about the Indie EdTech conversation:

The room was full of professors, administrators, undergrad and grad students, techies, activists, entrepreneurs, and the conversations we had were engaging and challenging because of the many voices contributing throughout the weekend.

One thing I deeply appreciated about OpenEd this year was the student experience being at the center of the keynotes. Gardner Campbell focused on learning, insight, awe, and wonder. Sara Goldrick-Rab spoke about how the costs for education are simply too high, our financial aid systems are too complex/not meeting needs leading students to work multiple jobs, drop classes, and often live without adequate housing and food.

Both keynotes struck me in very different ways. Gardner took me on a journey of thinking what is possible in learning through struggle and insight. Sara was frankly a gut punch. I left her talk feeling helpless. And then I started to look around only to realize that the very voices that I would hope we could see amplified through open education simply aren’t represented in our conversations.

I’ve spent the last few months occasionally working alongsisde–not above–students. The HowToCollege project brought me to Georgetown for a couple of weeks this summer where I worked with Erika Bullock. Andrew Rikard and I started (and stopped) producing a podcast. Both attended the IndieEdTech gathering last March.

As I was attending a session that was led by my colleagues John Stewart and Keegan Long-Wheeler on gamified faculty learning communities (GOBLIN), an interesting question was asked about how you could possibly develop games at the quality level of the video games “are students are used to playing and expect” without spending millions of dollars on graphics.

A couple of agreeing questions trickled in. And then from the back of the room Erika answered the question by saying that she had a class project where they created games out of pen and paper based off of film narratives as a class assignment.

My my, how far off we can get. Video games ONLY if we can make them with EA Sports-level graphics that can be viewed on a virtual reality headset. But this happens so often because so often we put words in the mouths of students. Students only want virtual reality right? Because native!

But I digress. Unfortunately, this was the first I had heard a student at least identify as a student and give a perspective.

In fact, when Erika first arrived, we were grabbing lunch and she looked at me and said “Are their any other undergraduates here at all?” My guess is there were but we didn’t give them enough space alongside are conversations about open pedagogy (teaching) and textbooks (which, let’s be honest, starts with faculty).

By the way, I’ve come to recognize these more by hearing colleagues like Andrew Rikard advocate for this. It’s worth too recognizing the way he has opened many people’s eyes, including mine, to student voice and #stuvoice.

How could we partner with students to begin to tackle the very clear problems that Sara laid out about higher education? Where are they at our conferences? Where is their voice in our conversation?

So I want to press the panic button immediately. Let’s design course materials (I really hate to call what she does a textbook) alongside our students like Robin DeRosa is doing. Let’s take all the data about our students that we are so preciously holding onto and put it in the public for students and others to build on top of like BYU is doing. Let’s give them spaces to house their own data and build digital identities like Domains of One’s Own. Let’s fund student-developed projects like the mentorship platform project Erika is leading. Let’s have students have cross-institutional discourse about higher education like Andrew Rikard is doing with the EdSurge Independent. Let’s submit proposals so that we can present alongside our students. I promise. It’s the most rewarding presentation you’ll ever give.

Last, let’s stop treating them like lower tied citizens of our community and let’s treat them like equals. Because they deserve it. Let’s recognize how we are minimizing their voice in our conversations. And then let’s fix it.

Is That What We Meant?

I’m back in the heartland after a wonderful past few days in Vancouver for OpenEd. First, I want to give my deepest appreciation to David Wiley and team as well as the BC Campus for such being such accommodating hosts. The work that has happened over the last decade at BC Campus is nothing short of phenomenal. To get a quick recap, check out their slides from a presentation on Friday when they become available, which chronicled the evolution that brought forth the BC Open Textbook Project. I have mad respect for what they have done and thank you for sharing your city with all of us.

On Wednesday, I wrote a post on my Known blog that gave out APIs that I had built which contained every abstract for OpenEd since 2012. I originally built these because I was curious about the acronym “OER.” When did we go from “Open Education Resources” to “OER” and what is the acronym usually associated with? As a lot of my projects, I abandoned it before I made a ton of headway, but I encourage you to download the files and play with the data to do so (or use it, of course, however you would like).

As I left on Friday, I heard grumbling (some of it, admittedly, my own) that the conference felt very heavily focused on OER Textbooks. This gave me a good reason to revisit the data and see if there has indeed been a growing trend.

Year Total Sessions Abstracts Containing “OER” Percent “OER” Abstracts Containing “Textbook” Percent “Textbook”
2012 69 42 60.87 9 8.74
2013 103 67 65.05 27 26.21
2014 100 83 72.17 32 27.83
2015 123 84 68.29 39 31.71

As you can see, in 2012 “textbook” was one of many conversations that was being had in 2012 and made up less than 10% of the abstracts. There’s a clear moment though in 2013 where the abstracts that contain textbook grow three fold. This has only increased since and now makes up almost nearly a third of every session. Assuming there are four concurrent sessions at once, you are guaranteed to land on something about textbooks.

So what does this mean? While certain folks on Twitter may have caused a stir asserting that “OpenEd = Open Textbook,” it’s not necessarily a new trend. It may even be a positive result of a concerted effort towards a strategic goal for the OpenEd community (something desperately needed and a point that was hammered home by Michael Feldstein and Phil Hill in their opening keynote and further articulated very well in the new OER strategy document).

The tough piece to quantify is, of course, where the conversations diverge and what conversations occurred outside the formal structure. While this doesn’t really give you a sense for the collective conversation, this does give us is the dominate narrative the conference planning committee is building.

I’m not against a conversation about OER textbooks. I’ve attended OER textbook conferences. I’ve worked on large-scale class adoptions. I’m a fan. I’m not so certain though it needs to maintain such a dominant presence at this conference. David Kernohan and I were talking about this on Friday: at what point does their need to be a OpenEd OER Conference? Not necessarily to remove the textbook conversation from OpenEd but at least to make space for other flavors of Open Ed: pedagogy, theory, data, analytics, maybe even courses (dare I say MOOCs?).

That is not what we meant.

Michael Feldstein pointedly said this during his Virtual Connecting session that really stood out to me and I paraphrased below:

There was this pretty strong reaction in this community to what we’ll call “xMoocs” … There are plenty things to be worried about with xMOOCs. I’m not here to argue the virtues. Nevertheless, there is something there that can be legitimately defined as a new kind of “open” that I didn’t get a sense that, now there’s been some rich discussion about it, but at the time there was a pretty strong reaction of, “That is not what we meant.” And rather than, “Huh, that’s not what we were thinking of. What does that mean?” That’s a fine reaction, but I’m not ever sure I got an answer for myself for “Ok, well what is it that you meant?

Ok, well what is it that you meant?

I was reading a book on the plane ride home and tweeted this quote:

Licklider is known as one of the pioneer’s of the Internet and he is writing this pre-Internet. The visions that the Lickliders and Bushs and Englebarts had was not just access to information but re-conceptualizing how we interacted with information. And so here’s the question I want to ask: If OER textbooks are where the OpenEd community wants to make this the first point of attack, what’s next? Let’s assume a world where all textbooks are free. Did we win? Or did we just make the act of passively interacting with information less expensive? Is that what we meant?

My last session of OpenEd ended with this thought from Robert Farrow:

“There is no such thing as openness.”

To become more open is to remove restrictions that you’ve previously imposed. Before we commend ourselves too much for saving students money on a textbook, should we recognize the burden that we’ve allowed be imposed on our students for decades? Is that voice strong enough and does it apply further than textbooks in areas in which we are currently afraid to address? If OpenEd continues to be a conversation dominated by a specific theme, what conversations and themes are we suppressing and how ok are we with that? And, my challenge to myself as much as anyone else, is if this or that or the other is not what we meant, then what the hell is it that we mean?