Tag: open education

The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention

Thanks to John Burroughs for today’s title. For me, it’s an oblique reference to some of the situations I find myself in, both in my professional and personal life. After all, words are cheap and actions are difficult.

I’m going to take the unusual step of quoting someone who’s quoting me. In this case, it’s Stephen Downes picking up on a comment I made in the cc-openedu Google Group. I’d link directly to my comments, but for some reason a group about open education is… closed?

I’d like to echo a point David Kernohan made when I worked with him on the Jisc OER programme. He said: “OER is a supply-side term”. Let’s face it, there are very few educators specifically going out and looking for “Openly Licensed Resources”. What they actuallywant are resources that they can access for free (or at a low cost) and that they can legally use. We’ve invented OER as a term to describe that, but it may actually be unhelpfully ambiguous.

Shortly after posting that, I read this post from Sarah Lambert on the GO-GN (Global OER Graduate Network) blog. She says:

[W]hile we’re being all inclusive and expanding our “open” to encompass any collaborative digital practice, then our “open” seems to be getting less and less distinctive. To the point where it’s getting quite easily absorbed by the mainstream higher education digital learning (eLearning, Technology Enhanced Learning, ODL, call it what you will). Is it a win for higher education to absorb and assimilate “open” (and our gift labour) as the latest innovation feeding the hungry marketised university that Kate Bowles spoke so eloquently about? Is it a problem if not only the practice, but the research field of open education becomes inseparable with mainstream higher education digital learning research?

My gloss on this is that ‘open education’ may finally have moved into the area of productive ambiguity. I talked about this back in 2016 in a post on a blog I post to only very infrequently, so I might as well quote myself again:

Ideally, I’d like to see ‘open education’ move into the realm of what I term productive ambiguity. That is to say, we can do some workwith the idea and start growing the movement beyond small pockets here and there. I’m greatly inspired by Douglas Rushkoff’s new Team Human podcast at the moment, feeling that it’s justified the stance that I and others have taken for using technology to make us more human (e.g. setting up a co-operative) and against the reverse (e.g. blockchain).

That’s going to make a lot of people uncomfortable, and hopefully uncomfortable enough to start exploring new, even better areas. ‘Open Education’ now belongs, for better or for worse, to the majority. Whether that’s ‘Early majority’ or ‘Late majority’ on the innovation adoption lifecycle curve probably depends where in the world you live.

Diffusion of innovation curve
CC BY Pnautilus (Wikipedia)

Things change and things move on. The reason I used that xkcd cartoon about IRC at the top of this post is because there has been much (OK, some) talk about Mozilla ending its use of IRC.

While we still use it heavily, IRC is an ongoing source of abuse and harassment for many of our colleagues and getting connected to this now-obscure forum is an unnecessary technical barrier for anyone finding their way to Mozilla via the web. Available interfaces really haven’t kept up with modern expectations, spambots and harassment are endemic to the platform, and in light of that it’s no coincidence that people trying to get in touch with us from inside schools, colleges or corporate networks are finding that often as not IRC traffic isn’t allowed past institutional firewalls at all.

Cue much hand-wringing from the die-hards in the Mozilla community. Unfortunately, Slack, which originally had a bridge/gateway for IRC has pulled up the drawbridge on that front, so they could go with something like Mattermost, but given recently history I bet they go with Discord (or similar).

As Seth Godin points out in his most recent podcast episode, everyone wants be described as ‘supple’, nobody wants to be described as ‘brittle’. Yet, the actions we take suggest otherwise. We expect that just because the change we see in the world isn’t convenient, that we can somehow slow it down. Nope, you just have to roll with it, whether that’s changing technologies, or different approaches to organising ideas and people.


Also check out:

  • Do Experts Listen to Other Experts? (Marginal Revolution) —”very little is known about how experts influence each others’ opinions, and how that influence affects final evaluations.”
  • Why Symbols Aren’t Forever (Sapiens) — “The shifting status of cultural symbols reveals a lot about who we are and what we value.”
  • Balanced Anarchy or Open Society? (Kottke.org) — “Personal computing and the internet changed (and continues to change) the balance of power in the world so much and with such speed that we still can’t comprehend it.”

Openness, sharing, and choosing a CC license

The prolific Alan Levine wrote recently about licenses, and how really they’re not the be-all and end-all of sharing openly:

If we just focus on licenses and picking through the morsels of what it does and does not do, IMHO we lose sight of the bigger things about sharing our work and acknowledging the work of others as a form of gratitude, not compliance with rules.

[…]

Share for gratitude, not for rules and license terms.

I absolutely agree. The problem is, though, that people don’t know the basics. For example, sometimes I choose to credit those who share images under a CC0 licenses, sometimes not. Either way, I don’t have to, and not everyone is aware of that.

Which is why I found this infographic (itself CC BY SA 3.0) on Creative Commons licenses particularly useful:

cc-licencse-choo-choo-train

Sources: CogDogBlog / Jöran Muuß-Merholz

 

OEP (Open Educational Pragmatism?)

This is an interesting post to read, not least because I sat next to the author at the conference he describes last week, and we had a discussion about related issues. Michael Shaw, who’s a great guy and I’ve known for a few years, is in charge of Tes Resources.

I wondered if I would feel like an interloper at the first conference I’ve ever attended on Open Educational Resources (OERs).

It wasn’t a dress code issue (though in hindsight I should have worn trainers) but that most of the attendees at #OER18 were from universities, while only a few of us there worked for education businesses.

Shaw notes he was wary in attending the conference, not only because it’s a fairly tight-knit community:

I work for a commercial company, one that makes money from advertising and recruitment services, plus — even more controversially in this context — by letting teachers sell resources to each other, and taking a percentage on transactions.

However, he found the hosts and participants “incredibly welcoming” and the debates “more open than [he’d] expected on how commercial organisations could play a part” in the ecosystem.

Shaw is keen to point out that the Tes Resources site that he manages is “a potential space for OER-sharing”. He goes on to talk about how he’s an ‘OER pragmatist’ rather than an ‘OER purist’. As a former journalist, Shaw is a great writer. However, I want to tease apart some things I think he conflates.

In his March 2018 post announcing the next phase of development for Tes Resources, Shaw announced that the goal was to create “a community of authors providing high-quality resources for educators”. He conflates that in this post with educators sharing Open Educational Resources. I don’t think the two things are the same, and that’s not because I’m an ‘OER purist’.

The concern that I, and others in the Open Education community, have around commercial players in ecosystem is the tendency to embrace, extend, and extinguish:

  1. Embrace: Development of software substantially compatible with a competing product, or implementing a public standard.
  2. Extend: Addition and promotion of features not supported by the competing product or part of the standard, creating interoperability problems for customers who try to use the ‘simple’ standard.
  3. Extinguish: When extensions become a de facto standard because of their dominant market share, they marginalize competitors that do not or cannot support the new extensions.

So, think of Twitter before they closed their API: a thousand Twitter clients bloomed, and innovations such as pull-to-refresh were invented. Then Twitter decided to ‘own the experience’ of users and changed their API so that those third-party clients withered.

Tes Resources, Shaw admitted to me, doesn’t even have an API. It’s a bit like Medium, the place he chose to publish this post. If he’d written the post in something like WordPress, he’d be notified of my reply via web standard technologies. Medium doesn’t adhere to those standards. Nor does Tes Resources. It’s a walled garden.

My call, then, would be for Tes Resources to develop an API so that services such as the MoodleNet project I’m leading, can query and access it. Up until then, it’s not a repository. It’s just another silo.

Source: Michael Shaw

Image: CC BY Jess