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Tracker bikes and open degrees

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Tue, 10/09/2019 - 13:48
Style was everything…

When I was young, in the 70s/80s we used to ‘make’ our own bikes, which went by the generic label of tracker bikes. These generally consisted of a second hand frame, usually no gears, knobbly tyres, massive cowhorn handlebars, and short (or no) mudguards. They were cheap, individual and occasionally dangerous. The handlebars of one of mine sheered off at the base midway down a hill once, leaving me holding them helplessly waiting to crash (I often marvel that any child of the 70s made it to adulthood).

These largely died out with the advent of standardised versions, notably the Raleigh Grifter, and then the ubiquitous mountain bike. These, like mass produced skateboards, took their inspiration from the messy culture of home made, customised versions, which was often working class and innovated through necessity. The mass produced ones were in many ways superior, you had gears on the Grifter, they were more robust and you were less likely to die.

But the advantage of the DIY culture was a sense of ownership and individuality. When we would meet up no two bikes were the same. You would add tape, grips for the handlebars, spray it, but they also bore the scratches and dents of their history. Each was an extension of the owner’s personality. They were also affordable, and didn’t really require expertise – we weren’t bike nerds. The bespoke bicycle movement now is, I expect, a more expensive, and rarefied pursuit, and as bike production has become heavily industrialised, you can now buy a very good mass produced bike cheaply, so the need for the homemade version has dwindled.

I was talking about these to someone at ALT-C last week as a way of thinking about open degrees (it made sense after two beers). As I’ve mentioned I’m now chairing the open programme at the OU. This is an open choice. pick n mix degree programme, so students construct their own degree, choosing modules across disciplines. We’ve been looking at the module selection data, and I expected there to be a handful of dominant pathways but that is not the case. There are thousands of combinations, and students really are shaping degrees to suit their interests, circumstances, opportunities.

Now, like the tracker bike, any mass produced named degree with set choices may be superior in some ways, for example getting specific jobs. Although as this piece highlights, the large majority of employers are degree agnostic, so a specific degree may not be the boon many assume it is (unless it is very vocational focused). The open degree, like the custom track bikes are individual, each one reflecting the personality and the context of the learner. This allows for a greater sense of ownership over your learning. Additionally, one feature of our tracker bikes was that they were also very modifiable – you could add bits and change them over time because you weren’t locked in to the standard provider. The open degree similarly provides the framework for a learner to extend certain elements, and change them as they progress, often changing their plans in response to social or personal changes.

The meticulous informality of ALT-C

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 10:28

I was at the annual ALT conference in Edinburgh last week. I’m often slow to appreciate things, so I accept this is not a revelation to many, but one of the aspects of ALTC that has struck me over the years is the informality of it as an event. I go to many conferences which have very formal opening ceremonies, dignitaries speaking and a carefully represented hierarchy. This is often what people want, so I don’t knock it, but I appreciate the contrast that ALTC offers.

This informality is manifest in many ways. The keynotes included one of our own in Sue Beckingham, Jesse Stommel sitting casually on the stage and Ollie Bray getting participants to make lego ducks. The Gasta sessions were fast and fun with Tom Farrelly MCing. The catering, ceilidh session and networking were all relaxed. ALT’s CEO Maren Deepwell and the team are approachable, and very much in the conference.

All of these are signifiers, that the participants are the important element here and not merely vessels for the messages to be delivered. It makes it a friendly, inclusive, democratic conference, in my view and one that is not concerned with hierarchies and position.

This informality should not be mistaken for a laissez faire attitude. It is the result of meticulous planning by Maren, the ALT team, the co-chairs and committees. All of the things you want to run well, do so – sessions, AV, catering, rooms, timing, support, etc. But above this military planning there is the culture of informality, and this is itself a deliberate and carefully cultivated outcome. As ALT’s President I am also delighted that this meticulous informality provides a cover for my own shambolic chairing of AGM.

Monatsnotiz August

Markusmind personal blog of Markus Diemann - Tue, 03/09/2019 - 10:18

Diesmal habe ich schon etwas vorgearbeitet und meine unmittelbaren Erlebnisse vom Digital Pedagogy Lab 2019 an der University of Mary Washington in zwei Blogposts dokumentiert (englisch und deutsch). Auch nach weiteren zwei Wochen bin ich noch beeindruckt vom DPL und bestärkt, weiter an Critical Digital Pedagogy zu arbeiten. Das beginnt mit der (ernüchternden) Erkenntnis, dass es in Deutschland keine vergleichbare Community wie im anglo-amerikanischen Raum gibt. Schaut man sich die Prämissen an, wird es nachvollziehbarer:

  1. Tradition Kritischer Pädagogik: Ausgehend von Paulo Freire und Ivan Illich hat sich die Kritische Pädagogik weiterentwickelt und beschäftigt sich zum Beispiel wie Henry Giroux intensiv mit dem Neoliberalismus und dessen Auswirkungen auf das Bildungssystem. Auch die zunehmende Datafizierung in der Bildung wird kritisch betrachtet, allerdings (noch) als Spezialdiskurs, etwas bei der Sektion Medienpädagogik der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Erziehungswissenschaft.
  2. Digitale Praxis: Die „natürliche“ Verwendung digitaler Werkzeuge in unterschiedlichen Kontexten und das gerade nicht zum Konsum von Nachrichten oder zum Posten auf Social-Media-Plattformen. Hier sehen wir wieder einmal den Mythos „Digital Natives“: Es gibt nur eine sehr kleine Anzahl von Menschen (unterschiedlicher Altersgruppen), die mit digitalen Technologien und Medien souverän umgehen. Sie bauen Netzwerke auf und diskutieren sachlich, ausgewogen, kontrovers Bildungsthemen. In Deutschland fällt mir dazu das #Twitterlehrerzimmer“ ein, beim Hochschulbereich wird es dünn.

Während es für (1) und (2) durchaus Communities gibt, tummeln sich an der Schnittmenge nur wenige Menschen. Wer hier noch jemanden kennt, bitte bei mir melden :=)

Nach dem DPL ging es wieder zurück nach Hagen an die FernUniversität, wo Lehrstuhlaufgaben auf mich warteten. Ein (dauerhafter) Schwerpunkt ist das Vorbereiten und Schreiben von Anträgen. Bei einem Brainstorming-Workshop arbeitete ich mit einem Konsortium an der Ausrichtung eines möglichen Antrags. Hier war die Präsenz sehr hilfreich, während für die Nach- und Weiterarbeit digitale Tools hilfreich sind.

Für die niederländische Forschungsorganisation NRO durfte ich als Gutachter bei einem Call for Projekt Leaders dabei sein. Ähnlich wie beim BMBF war es auch hier zweistufig: Zunächst wurde eine Anzahl an Proposals zugewiesen, für die ich ein Vorab-Voting abgeben musste. Danach trafen wir uns in Utrecht, um darüber zu diskutieren und eine Auswahl an zur Förderung empfohlenen Anträgen auszuwählen. Das Verfahren war entspannter als in Deutschland was den Umfang an Einreichungen anbelangt. Die Diskussion war dagegen sehr ähnlich und fachlich-kritisch ausgerichtet. Angenehm empfand ich die geteilte Wertebasis mit den niederländischen Kolleg*innen, etwa bei Themen wie Datenschutz, Ownership oder offene Lizenzen. Interessant für mich war die innovative Ausrichtung des Calls. Es ging um Anträge, mit denen breitere Themen „in Auftrag“ gegeben werden sollten. Denn es waren nicht die typischen Anträge für 3-5-Jahre-Projekte, durchgeführt von den üblichen Verdächtigen. Sondern es sollten zunächst Project Leaders auserkoren werden, die dann im nächsten Schritt ein Konsortium mit einem weiteren Call ausschreiben. Dazu soll es auch einen sog. Match-Making-Day geben, was eine gewisse Offenheit für Interessierte bedeutet. Zuvor wird es Interviews mit den von uns ausgewählten Kandidat*innen geben. Danach kommt es zur Ausschreibung eines Calls, auf Basis der Ideen, die zuvor eingereicht wurden. (Ich hoffe, das war nun einigermaßen verständlich).

Im August habe ich schließlich mit einem neuen Buchprojekt begonnen und mir eine ehrgeizige Deadline gesetzt. Darüber schreibe ich dann mehr in den nächsten Monaten.

Theorie und Praxis digitaler Didaktik

Markusmind personal blog of Markus Diemann - Tue, 20/08/2019 - 16:02

Der Beitrag von Herrn Larbig „Was Tweets und Postings auf Facebook mit Strukturen der Bildung zu tun haben. Ein Versuch“ ist eine Analyse der Debattenkultur über „digitale Bildung“ der letzten 10-15 Jahre. Ausgangspunkt ist die Verschiebung von Kommunikation von Web 2.0 Instrumenten wie Blogs zu Plattformen wie Facebook und Twittern mit den dadurch verbundenen medientechnischen Implikationen. Was McLuhan vor vielen Jahrzehnten feststellte, gilt auch heute noch: „The Medium is the Message“.

Es sind aber nicht nur die Trolle und Hater, die auf Social-Media-Plattformen für eine Verrohung der Sitten sorgen, sondern eine generelle Oberflächlichkeit der Diskussionen. Am Beispiel des „Twitterlehrerzimmer“ versucht Herr Larbig dies zu verdeutlichen, da dort eher instrumentelle Fragen („Wie nutze ich Tool XY am Besten im Unterricht?“) gestellt werden und es weniger zu grundlegenden didaktischen Debatten kommt, die sich um das Große und Ganze der Digitalisierung drehen. [In diesem Zusammenhang wichtig sind die Hintergründe und die kurze Geschichte des „Twitterlehrerzimmer“, die Philippe Wampfler hier und hier sehr gut aufarbeitet.]

Fragen zur Didaktik würden so die Vermutung von Herrn Larbig oft als persönlichen Angriff (miß-)verstanden, der die Person in Erklärungsnöte bringt. So wie ich es verstehe, geht es dabei auch um grundlegende pädagogische Werte und Haltungen der Pädagog*innen. Hier scheint es eine Lücke zu geben, die von der Bildungswissenschaft nur zögerlich erkannt wird. Es fehlen bildungsphilosophisch und -theoretisch unterfütterte Angebote zur Orientierung für Lehrkräfte im Hinblick auf die großen Fragen. Diese betreffen nicht nur die Digitalisierung und dessen theoretischen Unterbau, sondern auch gesellschaftspolitische Aspekte wie Inklusion/Ausgrenzung. Es besteht also dringender Handlungsbedarf, der aber durch bestimmte Strukturen erschwert wird. (Das kann ich aus Sicht der Hochschullehre und am Beispiel der FernUniversität in Hagen nachvollziehen). Dagegen verspricht das Stellen einer Frage bei Facebook oder Twitter (#Lehrerzimmer) zumindest kurzfristigen, pragmatischen Erfolg. Damit bleibt aber die grundlegende Perspektive – Warum machen wir das? Wie soll die Bildung in 10, 15, 30, 50 Jahren aussehen? – wieder ausgeblendet…

Es ist eine merkwürdige Gemengelage, auf der einen Seite die „alten“ Strukturen von Bildungseinrichtungen und auf der anderen Seite Reformen, Maßnahmen und Initiativen zur Ausgestaltung der digitalen Transformation (ein Beispiel aus der Hochschullandschaft ist das Hochschulforum Digitalisierung).

Zwei Punkte möchte ich hier noch hinzufügen:

Es gibt einen begründeten pädagogischen Konservatismus, der sich insbesondere in der Beharrlichkeit der Verwendung von Lehrbüchern und Vorlesungen ausdrückt. Norm Friesen hat das sehr schön in seinem Buch „The Textbook and the Lecture“ herausgearbeitet. Er wirft die kontra-intuitive Frage auf: Warum bleibt so vieles in der Pädagogik unverändert/unveränderbar? Mit einer medienphilosophischen Perspektive zeigt er, wie sehr Pädagogik mit den grundlegenden Technologien Text und Schreiben verbunden ist. Hier liegen auch Begründungsmuster für die Zwecke von Pädagogik vergraben. Das heißt wenn wir mehr Klärungsarbeit investieren, was Pädagogik ist und leisten kann, lassen sich solche von Friesen aufgedeckten Zusammenhänge besser einordnen und es lässt sich gelassener und argumentativ gestärkter in den diskursiven Dschungel der Digitalisierung begeben.

Was ich kürzlich beim Digital Pedagogy Lab in den USA an Diskussionskultur erlebt habe (siehe hier meinen Bericht), hat mich angespornt, diesen kritischen Geist nach Deutschland zu übertragen. Stark inspiriert von der Kritischen Pädagogik werden Konversationen geführt, die konstitutiv mit den großen Fragen unserer Zeit verbunden sind.

Ganz in diesem Sinn darum auch meine Bitte um Kommentare, Feedback, Fragen usw. Seht ihr das ähnlich? Wie lässt sich ein grundlegender Diskurs vor dem Hintergrund der komplexen, widersprüchlichen Bedingungen unserer Zeit organisieren und führen? Welche Fragen sollten verhandelt werden? usw.

The VAR lessons for Ed Tech

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Tue, 20/08/2019 - 10:44

I’ll apologise up front that this subject probably warrants a deep dive into VAR (video assisted referee) history and the role of technology in sports, rather than some quick thoughts. But watching the roll-out of the technology at the Men and Women’s World Cup tournaments, and now in the Premier League, it strikes me there are some general lessons to be learnt. Both ed tech and VAR involve the application of technology to fundamentally human enterprises, with the intention of improving them for those involved. There are of course, many differences too, education is not the same as a ninety minute game of football, but at this very generic level there are sufficient similiarities to bear consideration (and apologies if football/soccer is not your thing).

Firstly, on a positive note, there are aspects where it does help. Goal line technology for instance has removed the infuriating disallowed goals when a ball has clearly crossed the line. These very practical applications of technology in education, such as being able to submit assignments online, or conduct tutorials at a distance are benefits that are tangible for students.

However, it also provides a false confidence around aspects that are not reducible to minute measurements. VAR decisions where a ball has brushed a hair on someone’s hand, or a player is offside by a fingertip may technically be correct, but really the game and the rules were not developed to be so finely measured. Analytics in education can similarly give us so much data about student performance that it provides us with a belief that we can pinpoint exactly how the student is learning, whereas the process is much more inexact.

It makes us consider the role of humans in the system. Arguably, the application of technology in cricket has been more advantageous, with Hawkeye and a developed video review system to support increasingly complex decisions for umpires. In this it is similar to education, if the technology is used to support the humans in the system, it can be beneficial. There is a danger though that VAR makes the data the most important aspect, the decision could go to an AI system, just as tuition could be deemed a task for AI.

Much like a lot of ed tech, VAR didn’t solve the problem in the manner people envisaged. There had been an increasing desire for video technology to be applied to football, to solve bad offside decisions, missed penalty calls, goals that should have been disallowed. “If only we had video technology, this wouldn’t happen!” everyone declared. And that is sort of true, but instead we have arguments about whether decisions should or shouldn’t have gone to VAR, and then whether the fine calls I’ve mentioned above really should have been given. The controversy has just moved location it seems. Like the original injustices, one suspects that roughly these things will even out. But it’s difficult to say that in the end it’s really been worth it.

VAR relocates the areas of concern – for VAR it becomes not so much was that movement legal, but what about that incident in the build up? It goes back up the sequence in the search for justice. In education, technology can make us focus on doing things that are measured by technology, say activity in online forums, but ignore things like mental health issues.

As a Spurs fan, I think the use of VAR to rule out any Man City late winner is to be applauded and should be made compulsory in all their matches, but overall there is a danger that VAR dehumanises aspects of football. The point of our enjoyment in sport is that it is not an exact science, it is undpredictable and conducted by humans. Technology can certainly improve it, but its application needs to be cautious and our expectations for its results need to be measured. It will not lead to a sporting nirvana devoid of errors. Enjoying and accepting the messiness of it is part of its inherent appeal, and so it is with education.

Want to be a paperback writer

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Thu, 15/08/2019 - 16:41

I’d been pondering recently that when I was young, my sole ambition was to be a writer. My fifth book is about to be published, I blog, I write course material, produce reports and publish papers. Writing is pretty much all I do, and yet I would never describe myself as a ‘writer’ if someone asked what I did.

Partly it’s because when I had in mind being a writer I dreamt of fiction, not ed tech books no-one reads. And also making my living from those books. But ambition is a peculiar beast, you get what you desire but don’t recognise it sometimes. I’ve managed to carve out a career which mainly revolves around writing, and yet ‘writer’ isn’t how I identify.

Then I read Kate Bowles piece today in which she reflects on the reasons she’s been finding writing difficult, and concludes that it’s because “I write too much of the wrong thing”, by which she means reports, proposals, updates – all of which “could fall into the sea tomorrow without loss”. I sympathise here – words are not a finite resource obviously, but our time is, and more significantly our intellectual focus to engage in writing. If you’ve spent all day writing bullshit words, then you’re used up for more writing, even if it’s writing good words. I suspect Kate may suffer from a higher quality threshold with her writing than most of us also, which makes it more difficult to just bang something out (witness my entire blog history).

I saw someone on twitter once comment something like “pretend you only have a handful of exclamation marks to use in your life, and allocate accordingly” (as an antidote to the fashion to add them to everything!). Thinking of writing similarly as a finite resource may not be a bad mental trick to deploy for yourself. Where are you going to use that allocation up today? Is that what you want to do?

This line of thinking also brought me back to some conversations we had on the back of Maha Bali’s post about whether we own our own domain, or merely rent it. Audrey Watters followed up on this, setting out how a domain of one’s own was about owning a space to write and think, “To own is to possess. To own is to have authority and control. To own is to acknowledge.” What Kate’s post reminds us is that a domain of one’s own is also about having your own space conceptually, and stylistically. As a writer that is essential.

In the days when I used to advocate for blogs unambiguously, I used to make the claim that they were a space where you retained much of the freedom to think and explore ideas which attracted you to academia in the first place. That claim is modified now by the more toxic aspects of online, but some such outlet is still required. It needn’t be public (some of the writing I enjoyed doing the most was when I kept a journal of being a father from when my daughter was 2 through to about 13, but I never wanted to share that), but there may be benefits in making it so. For one, it can make the need to allocate time to it easier or more valid – you are producing public outputs for all to see. And it helps shape the writing, and the connections – such as this one riffing off Kate’s post – make writing easier since you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting.

Maybe we’re pretty much all writers these days. If you described yourself as such, I wonder if we would treat that craft with more respect? Anyway, Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?

Digital Pedagogy Lab (english version)

Markusmind personal blog of Markus Diemann - Mon, 12/08/2019 - 23:49

In addition to my German blog post, here is my account for the Digital Pedagogy Lab (DPL) 2019 at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg.

As an educational scientist with a deep interest in Open Education (see here for example my piece on a historical reconstruction of Open Ed), I have thought about attending DPL for a couple of years. Recently I have been to the OER-conferences in London and Galway and I enjoyed the spirit and the culture of this community. So I was very excited about my premiere visit at DPL. From what I knew about DPL on Twitter, this is an event with a specific perspective linked to critical digital pedagogy. This is in contrast to the German communities where we have separate groups discussing either pedagogy and philosophy or digital transformation of pedagogy.

Prior to my attendance I decided to join the class on Pedagogy, Change and Agency offered by Naomi de la Tour from the University of Warwick. It soon became clear that the class was all about Critical Pedagogy in Action. So Naomi deliberatively tinkered with her role as a (formal) instructor and tried to give us space to share thoughts and ideas. Yet, on the other side there should be some sort of agenda or plan for the week, shouldn’t it? I felt an inner struggle between my latent expectations which centered more around the notion of digital and its impact of pedagogy. In this regard, Naomi’s ongoing questions „What kind of permission do you need for this?“ was very help- and powerful. So for me, I gave myself the permission to let it go with the flow in the class.

I soon got a sense of belongingness to the group which consisted mostly of US-based teachers. The poor working conditions in the US became also apparent for me in the wonderful keynote from Robin de Rosa. Her insightful perspective and in-depth analysis led to powerful recommendations for the audience. In Germany there are similar debates but the degree of neoliberal thinking is much more proliferated in North America. The critical feedback from one person after the keynote was also an indicator that the DPL-community is aware of the pitfalls of being too self-satisfied and enthusiastic. It is a constant struggle which pertains also to the entire DPL organization with its move to Denver.

Throughout the week in class, we maintained a discursive approach to pedagogy with intense discussion on the value and the potential negative side effects of being too open. There were many great references, examples and anecdotes so at one point we decided to set up a Google Doc as a manifestation of our thoughts. It is called The Anti-Manifesto Manifesto of Critical Education and it is open for everybody to learn from and to contribute to.

There is definitely much more to write about DPL 2019 but I wanted to bring out my impressions after a long, inspiring and rewarding week.

Digital Pedagogy Lab 2019

Markusmind personal blog of Markus Diemann - Mon, 12/08/2019 - 14:23

Direkt im Anschluss an die wieder einmal tolle HFD-Summerschool ging es für mich in die USA um dort am Digital Pedagogy Lab 2019 an der University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg teilzunehmen. Diese beiden Veranstaltungen sind durchaus vergleichbar, ohne hier eine Rangordnung zu implizieren. Es ist für mich ein Indikator für den Bedarf solcher Formate.

Aber was genau ist das Digital Pedagogy Lab (DPL)? Ich kenne es über Twitter durch Sean Michael Morris und Jesse Stommel, die beide für eine Richtung kritischer Pädagogik stehen. Sie nennen das Critical Digital Pedagogy, wofür es – soweit ich es sehe – in Deutschland kein Äquivalent gibt. Parallelen gibt es zur Reform- bzw. Befreiungspädagogik mit Paulo Freire als einem Hauptvertreter. Es ist ein herrschafts- und gesellschaftskritischer Ansatz und versucht Machtstrukturen aufzudecken, um so Veränderungen zu ermöglichen. Weitere wichtige Autoren sind Ivan Illich mit seinem Werk „Deschooling Society“ oder aus dem Bereich der Fernlehre Charles Wedemeyer mit „Learning at the Back Door“. Sie sind aus den reformbewegten 1960er und 1970er Jahren und bieten bildungsphilosophische Grundlagen, auch ganz ohne die heutigen digitalen Mittel. Wie wichtig solche prinzipiellen pädagogischen Überlegungen sind, zeigt das DPL. Denn entgegen dem Präfix digital geht es nicht um die bestmögliche Digitalisierung von Lernen und Lehren, sondern um kritische Reflexionen über die Auswirkungen der digitalen Transformation.

Etwa 200 Menschen trafen sich für eine Woche intensiven Austauschs (es gab für das Wochenende zuvor noch ein Camps, an dem ich nicht teilgenommen habe). Vorab konnte man sich für einen bestimmten Track entscheiden. Ich wählte Pedagogy, Change and Agency und wurde von Naomi de la Tour von der University of Warwick angeboten. Ich schreibe bewusst „angeboten“ anstelle von „durchgeführt“, da von Beginn an deutlich wurde, dass es um „Critical Pedagogy in Action“ ging. In unserer Gruppe war so viel Expertise vereint, dass es für Naomi wenig Sinn machte, hier einen Wissens- oder Kompetenzvorsprung zu konstruieren. Vielmehr ging es um Dialog und das gemeinsame Lernen und sich inspirieren. Das muß doch aber auch irgendwie organisiert werden, oder?

Eine solche Aktivität war, dass wir überlegen sollten, was für uns der Zweck von Pädagogik ist. Für mich war es:

1) Education is located in-between a triangle of history, culture and context. There is no outside of this triangle.

2) Education is part of human beings.

3) Education is a way of accompanying humans on their journey throughout life. Education is both visible (formal) and invisible (informal, non-formal). Education is focused on the purpose of learning. To help the we can fulfill our purpose of constant, life long learners.

Ähnlich waren auch die Ausführungen meiner Peers. Deutlich wurden für mich bestimmte Werte und eine Haltung, die das pädagogische Handeln leitet und rahmt. Hier hatten wir schnell Einigkeit und auch darüber, dass sich das gegenwärtige Bildungssystem, insbesondere in den USA, aber auch in UK und Kontinentaleuropa davon entfernt hat. Das zeigte die Keynote von Robin DeRosa deutlich auf, die sich mit den verschiedenen Public-Private-Partnerships im Hochschulbereich auseinandersetzte. Kurz gesagt geht es um die Aushöhlung pädagogischer Ideale durch strikt marktwirtschaftliche Überlegungen, die auf die Maximierung des Profits ausgerichtet sind. Es geht um viel Geld, so wie etwa bei der Kooperation der Arizona State University und dem Rise Fund TPG. Auf der anderen Seite ist die Situation der akademischen Mitarbeiter*innen seit Jahren sehr prekär. Die Arbeitsbedingungen sind durch Wettbewerb und ständige Unsicherheit geprägt. Das was viele Lehrende wollen, nämlich gute Lehre wird dadurch erschwert bis verunmöglicht. Darum war es auch für viele US-Kolleg*innen so wichtig und wertvoll, mit Gleichgesinnten beim DPL über die Situation zu sprechen.

Sean Michael Morris verdeutlichte die Besonderheit des DPL während einer Morning Intention (das ist ein 30 minütiges Format zum Einstimmen auf den Tag, der von Sean anmoderiert wurde und dann von einer teilnehmenden Person frei gestaltet wurde): Willing suspension of disbelief. Wie in einem Theaterstück oder einem Film lassen sich Menschen auf die fiktionale Erzählung einer gerechten, demokratischen und anti-rassistischen Pädagogik ein.

Doch zurück zu meinem Kurs „Pedagogy, Change und Agency“. Nach der Diskussion über die Werte ging es um unsere Intentionen. Hier tauchten dann Begriffe und Konzepte wie Community und Learning Environment auf. Allerdings nicht im Verständnis des direktiven und reduktionistischen Instructional Design, sondern als offener Prozess im Sinne des Beautiful Risk of Education von Gert Biesta. Wie sich die Werte (siehe oben) und Ideale einer solchen Pädagogik umsetzen lassen, haben wir intensiv während der Woche diskutiert. Es ist eine Binsenweisheit zu sagen, es gibt keinen Masterplan, aber genau so ist es. Ich denke auch weiter darüber nach, wie sich in meinem Arbeitsbereich Pädagogik offener, partizipativer, demokratischer und diverser gestalten lässt.

Für alle, die auch daran arbeiten, haben wir ein Work-in-Progress-Dokument The Anti-Manifesto Manifesto of Critical Education erstellt. Das ist ein Versuch, die vielfältigen Diskussionen während des DPL in einem digital-fluiden Format festzuhalten. Es ist auch eine Einladung zum Mit-Denken und Mit-Machen.

Montatsnotiz Juli

Markusmind personal blog of Markus Diemann - Tue, 06/08/2019 - 13:55

Ich bin dieses Mal etwas später dran mit dem monatlichen Rückblick, es ist bereits der 5. August. Das liegt wohl daran, dass ich wieder einmal quer durch Deutschland und der westlichen Welt gereist bin. Zum Zeitpunkt des Schreibens bin ich in Fredericksburg, VA beim Digital Pedagogy Lab an der University of Mary Washington (dazu mehr im August-Rückblick).

Gutachter-Tätigkeit

Ein Schwerpunkt meiner Arbeit im Juli war als Gutachter für die Ausschreibung des BMBF zu Digitalisierung II. Genauer gesagt geht es dabei um die Erforschung der Gestaltung von Bildungsprozessen unter den Bedingungen des digitalen Wandels (das klingt schön wissenschaftlich oder?). Beauftragt wurde ich vom deutschen Luft- und Raumfahrtzentrum (DLR), die für die gesamte administrative Begleitung der BMBF-Förderung zuständig sind. Ich habe mich über die Anfrage gefreut, auch wissend, dass es aufwändig wird. Zunächst bekam jede*r Gutachter*in eine Reihe von Skizzen zugeteilt, für die ein vorab Votum zu erstellen war. Anfang Juli fand dann eine zweitätige Sitzung in Bonn statt, bei der die Mehrheit der Gutachter*innen dabei war. Im Plenum wurden die Skizzen anhand des Votums besprochen und zum Teil auch kontrovers diskutiert. Da bei der Ausschreibung die Bildungspraxis eine wichtige Rolle spielt, waren pro Skizze auch jeweils ein*e Vertreter*in der Praxis dabei (zwei waren aus der Wissenschaft, was wohl zeigen sollte, dass die wissenschaftliche Expertise ein stärkeres Gewicht hat). Insgesamt war das Vorgehen sehr sachlich, kollegial und konsensual. Am Ende des zweiten Tages stand eine Liste an förderungsfähigen Projekten, die nun aufgeforderter werden, einen Voll-Antrag zu schreiben.

Ein ähnliches Verfahren bearbeite ich zur Zeit auch noch für die niederländische Forschungsorganisation. Die Gutachtersitzung wird Ende August stattfinden.

Bewerbungsphase

Aktiv war und bin ich in Bewerbungen, die ähnlich der Gutachtertätigkeit Zeit und Energie kosten. Die Herausforderung ist jedesmal, mich bestmöglich überzeugend zu präsentieren, ohne mich verbiegen zu müssen. So versuche ich die Themen für Vorträge meinen aktuellen Forschungsschwerpunkten anzupassen, so dass ich aus der Vorbereitung und dem Vortrag auch etwas ziehen kann für weitere Bearbeitung.

Promotions-Betreuung

Gefreut habe ich mich, dass ich mit zwei externen Promovierenden die ersten Schritte der Betreuung gehen konnte. Es ist spannend zu sehen, wie Ideen sich im Dialog entwickeln und verändern. Für mich wichtig ist es, ansprechbar zu sein, Struktur zu bieten und Raum für Diskussionen zu schaffen. Es ist eine gemeinsame Lern-Erfahrung, eine gemeinsame Entdeckungs-Reise.

HFD Summerschool 2019

Auch dieses Jahr war ich als Mitglied des Kernteams bei der Summerschool des Hochschulforum Digitalisierung dabei. Das Programm war gewohnt interaktiv, partizipativ und selbst-organisiert, wie mein Podcast-Mitstreiter und Summerschool Moderator Christian in seinem Juli-Rückblick treffend zusammengefasst hat.

Ausblick

Das Digital Pedagogy Lab veranstaltet dieses Woche das jährliche intensiv Seminar, bei dem ich das erste Mal dabei bin. Mehr davon in der nächsten Monatsnotiz.

Your house is a very fine house

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Tue, 30/07/2019 - 16:35

Generally I’m adverse to Twitter Quit Lit pieces (“How I turned off social media and learned to love life again”). I find them a) patronising (I’ve seen the truth and you poor suckers are caught in the trap), b) insulting and shallow (like when people live on minimum wage for a month and then make judgements about it) and c) egotistical (“I need to let my fans know I’m going offline, look everyone, I’m going offline!”). But with all that said, I have been thinking about social media usage, and taking more control over it recently.

As the world turns ever more into a bad parody of a satire written by a nihilist on acid, we all need to find ways of managing our own self care. Social media, and Twitter in particular, plays a not insignificant part in all this. You can only go so many days of being outraged 100 times before breakfast without it affecting you. One antidote to this is the more extreme full on quit, and I admire anyone who does that. But for many of us there is still value in it, and also a good deal of our professional and personal identity is wrapped up in those connections. So finding ways to manage it and make it a better environment for yourself are important.

With this in mind I am experimenting with the following:

Deleting Twitter from my phone – I tend to check twitter too much, and often when I should be doing something else (watching TV, listening to a conversation, walking the dog). So by deleting it that constant urge to check is removed, and by using Tweetdeck on my laptop, it places Twitter firmly in the ‘work’ category. I’m not removed from it but I have recategorised its use.

Muting words and phrases – Heidi Moore posted a pic of all the words she has muted:

Please feel free to adopt my "Muted Words" list. It's a vector for achieving some mild peace. pic.twitter.com/cvs3Z6K6nR

— Heidi N. Moore (@moorehn) July 29, 2019

You can do this via Settings – Privacy and Safety – Muted. She commented just how much it made her stream feel cleaner and less full of bile.

Blocking/Muting – I don’t get much hassle on Twitter (being a white male who writes about fairly uncontroversial stuff, I am not the recipient of regular death threats or unsolicited pictures of genitalia). But even then there are some instances I’ve had where people seemingly want to argue about something which is largely unrelated to anything I’ve written, but is clearly AN ISSUE for them. The sweet, sweet relief of just muting a conversation or an account is not to be understated. The aforementioned Heidi Moore has an ‘instablock” strategy for any jerks and enforces it rigorously.

Being fluid – you can mute, unmute, block, unblock, reinstall, etc. These are not permanent decisions. I have some misgivings about myself being over-zealous with muted words – could I really mute “Brexit” for instance? Would that mean I am living in a sanitised, detached version of the world? I haven’t muted that word yet, but there are days when I might. And that is fine. Which brings me on to the last tactic…

Taking ownership – all of these are really instances of one larger approach is that you can take control and shape your own social media environment to an extent. Educators often feel guilty about this, blocking people is not part of the socratic dialogue, and this sense of guilt is often used against them, so you’ll hear people reply “I thought education was about debate!”, if you’ve decided not to engage with their hot contrarian take. But don’t feel guilty, it is your space, and like a garden or house you construct it to bring you reward.

In general we have been learning how to use social media as individuals. It is now at such a pervasive and significant part of all components of society that turning it off is both difficult and not practical. But we can be more active in ensuring that our experience of it is better. The sort of social media training and development we give to staff and students needs to have this as a focus rather than increasing followers or brand. Because, as Lucinda Williams who I saw this week, puts it “I don’t need Donald Trump in my life”:

To re-know the known

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Thu, 18/07/2019 - 16:44

I’ve had a couple of experiences recently that have made the familiar be seen in a new light, which if not exactly as new, is certainly fresh. The first was watching the film Yesterday with my daughter. This is a cheesy, cliche-ridden rom com with all the usual Richard Curtis tropes (what is it with him and public declarations of love?). And yet, the basic premise – that everyone forgets the Beatles existed except the main character – is quite profound despite all the other stuff. It makes you, the viewer, also hear those songs as if they are new. Occasionally you might find yourself somewhere, a European city in the summer say, and a busker will be playing a Beatles song. And just for a second or two you hear it afresh before realising what it is, and in that moment you appreciate the quality of those songs. This is what parts of the film do and it is enhanced when watching it with someone who has an awareness of their music, but not a big knowledge of their catalogue.

The second experience was also film related. As many will know I am a huuuuuge Jaws fan. But I’ve not really seen it on the big screen, I was only 8 or so when it came it, and the first time I saw it was at a holiday camp when I was 11, projected onto a wall. I’ve seen it a couple of times in similar circumstances since, but it currently has a proper, digitally remastered, cinema release. Watching this very familiar film on a big screen was both an exercise in nostalgia (I wanted to cheer as “SHARK ATTACK” is typed out), and it also allowed me to see it differntly. For instance, in the scene where Hooper visits Brody with wine, I found myself watching Scheider open the wine bottle rather than Dreyfuss talking. It struck me that this was a brave directorial decision, because he has to cut the foil off, and uncork the wine, which could easily go wrong and ruin the scene, but it makes it very natural.

What both of these examples illustrate is the possibility to re-know the very well known. Jaws and Beatles songs are amongst the most familiar of modern cultural artefacts that it might seem impossible to find anything new in them. While walking the dog I have been pondering how these examples had some resonance with a couple of experiences with education recently (you are correct – there is NOTHING I won’t pressgang into use as a metaphor for education). As someone who has worked in higher ed, writes about ed tech, and through TEF and ALT has a reasonable (although not David Kernohan-level) understanding of the sector, higher education as a whole becomes difficult to see anew.

The first of these experiences is signing up for another course (in Classical Studies). It doesn’t start until September, so I’m trying to get up to speed, not having studied it at undergrad level. I’ve written before about the value in becoming a student again. One of these benefits is that allows those of us who work in education to experience it from a different perspective, both practically (what is it like to navigate university systems?) and emotionally (how does it feel to be out of your depth in a subject?).

The second is the experience of visiting university open days with my daughter who is in the process of choosing where to study. From these I have I have come away impressed by the resilience of the university system as a whole. Despite being a political football, having REF and TEF thrown at it, fees, precarious labour practices, the impact of new technology, and numerous metrics and policies it needs to support, the core offering of higher education is still attractive. I came away wishing I was studying these courses. None of this is to gloss over the issues in higher education, but rather to recognise that despite all of these, educators, administrators and all staff are still enthusing people to want to study. That is something to be acknowledged and cherished, and seeing the system from the eyes of a prospective newcomer to it made me appreciate that.

Both of these are about the HE system as a whole, but more local versions exist also. For example, we found that using OER caused educators to reflect on their own practice. In my 25 Years series, I argued that the shift to online made people question appropriate pedagogy, often for the first time in their careers.

via GIPHY

The benefit in doing so is to gain a different insight into your own practice, and in something as slippery and varying as education, that is always useful. My conclusion then is roughly twofold: it is possible to see familiar things anew given the right impetus; it is useful as educators to find ways of realising this within higher education. Mind-blowing, right?

Flexibility as a key benefit of open

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Tue, 09/07/2019 - 13:22

I was at a posh event in London last week, hosted by the Open University (I even wore a tie, people!). It was launching an OU report “Bridging the Digital Divide” which looks at some of the skills gaps in employment and how education can address these. It’s a good report, which avoids the trite “60% of jobs haven’t been invented yet” type statement and builds on some solid evidence.

As I chatted to Dames and Lords and fiddled with my tie, I reflected on that what is needed for many of these future employment scenarios is flexibility. This comes in various forms, and people often talk about personalisation but it is more about institutional and opportunity flexibility that is important. And this is where open education in its many guises has a lot to offer. I am not falling in to the trap of suggesting that the sole function of education is to gain or improve employment, but it is one aspect of the purpose of education. So, let me count the ways in which open education provides flexibility:

  • Mode of study – obviously one of the big innovations of the OU was to create a distance education, part time model that worked. Being able to study anywhere, and at your own time makes the whole prospect of study much more flexible. This is within some constraints, eg course start and end dates, assignment submissions, some collaborative activities. Complete flexibility may not always be advantageous but, this type of flexible mode opens it up to people who need to work or care and study simultaneously.
  • Pattern of study – as well as being able to study a course in a flexible manner, the period over which this occurs can be flexible in an open model. You can pause study, or just take one or two modules as you need. It is not a 3 year degree or nothing. However, if economies want this type of flexible learning then fee structures need to accommodate it, and our current UK fee system and associated metrics (eg TEF) is heavily geared towards the complete degree.
  • Degree structure – another aspect of openness is the Open Degree, whereby students can create their own degree structure, by selecting the modules they wish to study. In a shifting job market having a broad range of skills could well meet the needs better than specialisms.
  • Elements of learning – open education realised through MOOCs, OER and informal learning allows for a greater flexibility in what we recognise, different size chunks, and quicker responses.
  • Course production – use of OER & open textbooks to create courses, or accrediting MOOCs allows institutions to be more flexible in the courses they can provide, to suit changing needs.
  • Learner needs – while I am dubious of many of the claims for personalisation in learning, having multiple ways to approach a topic for many learners is undoubtedly useful. It has been prohibitively expensive to do this when you are creating courses from scratch (why produce three times the amount of content you need?), but entirely possible when you utilise OER.
  • Context – by using open content, it can be adapted by learners or specific communities to their context, which may well suit the needs of employers.

There are of course, many other reasons to study, and many other reasons to adopt open approaches, including learner satisfaction, performance, ethics, ownership, identity, dissemination, etc. However, if we constrain ourselves in this instance to look at the employment perspective then open ed makes a pretty good claim to being the route through which the type of flexibility we will need can be realised. In the new vein of open education however, the first three of these don’t really get mentioned, which is why I think we need to bring the strands of open ed together.

IET, the OU and identity

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Mon, 08/07/2019 - 11:46
We had cake!

This week we held a celebration to mark 50 years of the Institute of Educational Technology, and also to say goodbye to a colleague who has been immensely influential for me and IET, namely Patrick McAndrew. I’m going to work both of these together into a post about institutional memory, history and greek mythology.

First up, some history of IET. I’ve blogged this before, but in being asked to do a short presentation (see below), I reflected on how educational technology was not some after thought or something that grew out of interest after a few years. It was embedded and deemed essential to the OU from the outset. The recommendation of the consultants who advised on the establishment of an Applied Educational Sciences Unit in 1969 stated that “emphasis was laid upon creating a staff that incorporated not only academic personnel distinguished in their respective disciplines, but also staff with special skills in all the methods of educational technology.” Bear in mind this is not ed tech as we know it now, but paper, assessment, TV, summer schools.

What this highlights is how central educational technology is, and was, to the OU’s operation. Appreciating the significance of people who might now carry titles such as instructional designer, learning technologist, learning designer or educational technologist and placing them on an equal footing to academics was as revolutionary as anything else the OU did. Here is my presentation:

(brief) history of IET from Martin Weller

Now, a brief complaint – I joined IET from the Technology Faculty in 2002. Since then we have been reviewed five times, been put in with different units, had our name toyed with, our priorities changed. The initial aim for IET was very clear. The approval to make the applied educational science unit permanent as IET in 1970, stated that it would:

“A group of educational technologists has been established within the University to assist in setting up, refining and extending the unusual instructional system to be employed. The instructional resources at our disposal (written texts, radio, television, study centres, regional tutorials, summer schools, etc.) should be developed in due course to have the following characteristics:

They will all have been extensively tested and validated on representative samples of students and volunteers.

They will make provision for individual differences, by permitting some choice of route and rate towards the course objectives.

They will utilise the various media and supporting services to best advantage.

They will demand participation from the student, and will provide him with frequent assessments of his progress.

They will provide the Course Teams with continuous diagnostic feedback as a basis for remedial guidance, revision and recycling.

Not only is that a reasonably clear list of objectives, it would also be a pretty good set of actions for the Institute now. IET has (I think) an excellent reputation externally, and some of the best ed tech researchers in the country with expertise in learning analytics, AI, mobile learning, assessment and open education. But these continual reviews and restructuring play with that at their peril. They are also enormously time-consuming and distracting.

Amateur philosophy time!

Which brings me on to Patrick’s departure. Under the previous VC there was a voluntary severance scheme introduced. So toxic had the environment become under that regime that many people have availed themselves of it, even though things have now improved. So many of my colleagues and friends have left over the past 6 months that I wonder if I will be the only left sometimes – we are witnessing the equivalent of a Thanos finger snap on campus.

There is a thought experiment about identity that you probably know, namely the Ship of Theseus. Upon returning from his labours, the ship of Theseus is kept in the harbour as a monument, but it must also be kept sea-ready. So over the years, planks are replaced, until eventually no original planks remain. Is it still the same ship is the question? According to Aristotle it is, because its form and purpose remain the same. If, as the planks were replaced they had reshaped it into a tower, then it wouldn’t be. The rate of change may also be significant, because it happens gradually there is no definite point where it ceases to be the old ship and becomes the new.

The same is true of organisations (yes, people as planks). The OU of 2019 is still identified as the same organisation because its purpose and approach have remained the same, even if actual buildings and most personnel have changed. But also, there has been continuity in staff over this time. The radical removal of many key staff in one stage is not catastrophic, but it worries at that notion of identity.

This is not to set change and constancy in competition. Both are essential (the ship would have rotted and fallen into the harbour if those planks were not replaced), but we often fetishise change and downgrade constancy. I acknowledge that simply having been here a long time is not sufficient in itself, us old timers need to be contributing too – I’m not suggesting the OU pays me for sitting in a rocking chair and occasionally barking out acronyms of long forgotten projects (although I am game for this if they are willing). But at the meeting this week it was clear how much we haven’t recorded of things we’ve tried, what worked, how to get things done, etc.

My takeaway I guess is firstly be wary of the type of wholesale change culture that was undertaken by our previous VC, which caused so many people to feel that leaving was an option. You toy with the devotion people have to an institution at your peril, because once they give themselves permission to think about leaving, it becomes inevitable. Secondly, to recognise value in what you have, because as I concluded in my talk, if we didn’t have an IET we’d now be spending a lot of money to establish one. Lastly, don’t be dismissive if you’re the newbie, I was the young guy thrusting for change when I started but, someday you’ll meet your rocking chair…

via GIPHY

Monatsnotiz Juni

Markusmind personal blog of Markus Diemann - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 09:16

Der Juni war für mich ein intensiver Reisemonat. Anlass war das letzte Treffen des Ed-ICT-Netzwerks in Milton Keynes, UK. Über drei Jahre arbeitete ein internationales Konsortium aus Wissenschaftler*innen und Praktiker*innen am Thema Bildungstechnologien für Studierende mit Behinderung (den englischen Ausdruck disabled students finde ich besser geeignet, da weniger auf in der Person liegende Eigenschaften ausgerichtet, dafür auf Bedingungen der äußeren Umwelt und der Gesellschaft, mit denen die Person nicht optimal korrespondiert). Bevor das Symposium losging, war eine touristisch ausgerichtete Anreise über Aachen, Antwerpen, Brüssel und Gent angesagt. Mit der Fähre ging es nach Dover und dort auf die linke Spur Richtung London.

Das Symposium fand etwas außerhalb von Milton Keynes statt, was für jede*n, der/die schon einmal in dieser Stadt war, sehr nachvollziehbar ist. Zwei Tage wurde diskutiert, zusammengefasst und in die Zukunft geblickt. Als gemeinsame soziale Aktivität stand am letzten Tag ein Ausflug ins Computermuseum in Bletchley Park an. Von dort ging es direkt weiter nach Norden mit Zwischenstation in Leeds nach Edinburgh. An der Ostküste (Dundee, Aberdeen) nach Inverness, um am Loch Ness Ausschau zu halten.

Am Loch Ness entlang Richtung Glasgow führte der Weg durch das traumhafte Glen Coe in den Highlands. Schließlich ging es von Glasgow nach Kingston upon Hull zur Fähre Richtung Rotterdam.

Die nächste Woche begann mit einem Besuch beim mmb-Institut in Essen, um mich über die neuesten Entwicklungen von Bildungstechnologien im Kontext von Hochschule und Weiterbildung auszutauschen. Am Mittwoch stand das alljährlich Forum Open Education auf dem Programm, von dessen Teilnahm mich auch nicht (sub-)tropische Temperaturen abhalten konnten.

Hagen-Berlin-Hagen. Bei über 30 Grad. Und das alles macht ⁦@mdeimann⁩ für das #FOE19 pic.twitter.com/qZ7mhUE4Dn

— Christian Friedrich (@friedelitis) June 26, 2019

Ein anderes jährlich stattfindendes Event war das Magdeburger Theorieforum, dieses mal zum Thema Ethik und Verantwortung im Kontext der Digitalisierung. Mir gefällt das Format sehr gut, dass nur wenige Vortrag ausgewählt werden, die dann 45 Minuten Redezeit und ebenso lang Zeit für Diskussionen bekommen. Es antwortet damit auch auf das kulturpessimistische Narrativ, wonach wir durch das Internet, Web 2.0 und YouTube verlernt haben, lange Texte zu lesen oder philosophischen Vorträgen zu lauschen. Ich habe es als inspirierend wahrgenommen, mich in die komplexe Gedankengänge mitnehmen zu lassen und zu verstehen, wie Themen wie der Anthropomorphismus behandelt werden können.

Neben Reisen war ich hauptsächlich als Gutachter tätig, einmal für das Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung und einmal für das niederländische Pendant NRO.

Eine unerfreulich Meldung erreichte uns aus dem DAAD, dass der Antrag, den ich an der FernUniversität mit einem internationalen Konsortium einreichte, negativ beschieden wurde. Für uns aber kein Grund zum Trübsal blasen. Wir werden am Thema weiter arbeiten und ich hoffe dazu bald auch was veröffentlichen zu können.

Mit Sebastian Vogt, Professor für Medienproduktion an der Technischen Hochschule Mittelhessen, habe ich ein Konzept für eine gemeinsame Reihe skizziert. Sebastian macht sein Forschungsfreisemester bei mir am Lehrstuhl und wir wollen unsere Arbeit am Format des Bildungsfernsehens, was wir vor vielen Jahren am Beispiel von MOOCs begonnen haben, fortzusetzen.

Schließlich habe ich mit Dennis Clausen unseren Beitrag Digitales Bildungs-Ping-Pong für den GMW-Band „Vom E-Learning zur Digitalisierung“ finalisiert, der nun in den Druck gehen kann. Auch die Arbeit am Buch Corporate MOOCs ist nun endlich in den allerletzten Zügen und die Druckmaschinen können ihren Dienst aufnehmen.

Valuing emotional intelligence

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Thu, 20/06/2019 - 12:26

I have the real privilege of being the lead on the GO-GN project, which if you don’t know, is a global network of OER doctoral researchers. It is by far the project I get the most from, since you see the real impact it has on people. Our members often talk about how much joining GO-GN has meant to them, using phrases like ‘finding my tribe’, ‘feeling like a member of a family’, ‘I no longer felt alone’.

A very important aspect of GO-GN is helping researchers develop intellectually, such as selecting conceptual frameworks, refining their methodology, sharpening research questions, etc. But, as the quotes above indicate, as important (if not more) is the emotional component of the project. Recently our fantastic Project Manager, Natalie Eggleston, left the OU, and this has made me reflect on the significance of this role. I’m sure all GO-GN members would acknowledge how significant the contribution is of people like Nats, and also the members themselves who offer this support to each other.

GO-GN is a project that supports doctoral researchers, and it’s a cliche but nonetheless true, that a PhD is a personal journey. So maybe the emotional aspect is greater in our project than others, but I would argue that is a vital element in all projects. If you’re conducting a European research on, say, credentialing guidelines for informal learning across Europe, then the manner in which those project partners connect with each other will have a significant impact on the overall performance of the project.

Yet, emotional intelligence is rarely an acknowledged part of any project. In truth, it’s easier to replace me in GO-GN than Natalie. Part of the problem is that measuring non-emotional stuff is easier. This brings us back to the issue around recognising certain types of labour because we can measure them, and (surprise!) the work that is less well recognised is often more likely to be undertaken by women. What is the KPI for emotional support – Number of hugs given?

I don’t have a solution to this (that seems to be a common refrain on here), but I want to recognise the contribution of people like Natalie who are often not those listed on publications, and the significance of emotional intelligence in a project.

Open Unis & Open Ed

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Wed, 19/06/2019 - 11:05

Sometimes you read a post that encapsulates something you’ve been worrying at for a while. I had such an experience the other day when I read Tannis Morgan’s account of my own inaugural. In it, Tannis asks “But here’s the thing: how many people in the OER community in North America even know that Canada has three open universities, all of which were modelled after the UK Open University? And to what extent are open universities in Canada visibly inserting themselves into the broader open movement?”

The first part of her question is something I have asked more broadly on this blog. Or moaned about anyway, that the open ed movement as more commonly conceptualised in North America (OERs, Open textbooks, MOOCs) is largely ignorant of much of the open education movement that arose elsewhere in the form of open universities. But it is the second part of her question that struck home. Open universities globally have perhaps been guilty of being a bit aloof from engaging in the new emergent open education movement.

And there is mutual benefit in this exchange. For the OER/open ed movement there is much to learn regarding supporting diverse students, widening access to education (what is the aim of open ed after all?), developing education material that can be studied independently, understanding the needs of non-traditional learners, etc. But for open universities there is also much to gain. The new open ed movement has been more technologically driven, and the use of tools such as annotation, open textbooks etc can be used for traditional open ed students too. Similarly, there is innovation around open pedagogy, decolonising the curriculum, student agency, means of improving equity for students, and so on.

Bringing these two variations of open ed together more meaningfully then is worth pursuing. Tannis has done a lot of the heavy lifting in this area, but we can’t leave it all to her. This has helped me frame my own focus for the next phase of my work. As I mentioned an earlier post, I am now the Chair of the Open Degree Programme at the OU. This can be seen as old interpretation open ed, but I think it has potential to bridge into the new version also. Whether that’s the push for adoption of open textbooks, a domain of one’s own, open pedagogy etc in house is yet to be determined, but also the translation of open degree programmes in arenas where it could be a useful device. In short, I’m going to stand around at OpenEd/OER conferences with a badge saying “Ask me about Open Universities” and at Distance Ed conferences with one saying “Ask me about OER”.

Academicing with depression

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Tue, 18/06/2019 - 12:00

D and Me

I’m going to blog some thoughts on being an academic with mild depression – I have no framing if that constitutes a big revelation or a ‘whateva’ moment, but thought I’d write it anyway. I say mild, I know it’s not a competition, and I know people who have really severe, debilitating illness far worse than mine. While I don’t suffer from bipolar or to anywhere near the same degree as Carrie Fisher, I can relate to her statement that “Imagine having a mood system that functions essentially like weather—independently of whatever’s going on in your life.” While a bout can be caused by some (often trivial) trigger, it is soon not about that trigger, but rather an all pervasive degradation of mood, energy, focus. Luckily for me this period is rarely longer than a day or so, not prolonged, but could be deep when it came, and increasingly frequent.

Mine has always come and gone, I had been a pretty depressed teenager (but back then it was diagnosed as “being a miserable shit”), and while I’m of a melancholic disposition (I have the Joy Division & Smiths albums as evidence), I had mostly been ok through most of my adult life. In quick succession though I experienced divorce, combined with predictable mid-life crisis, living through Brexit crisis and then OU crisis, which led to a serious slump. I figured this was a reasonable, almost inevitable reaction.

But it persisted after the cause had faded and with increasing frequency and depth. I’m no expert but Yuval Noah Harari’s analogy in Sapiens resonated with me – we all have an internal air conditioning system (based on serotonin levels). For some people it ranges from 7 to 10, while others are set lower, say 4 to 6. This was what it felt like for me, if my normal range was, say, 5 to 8, it had now been recalibrated to 3 to 6. Then a couple of years ago it culminated when I found myself crying in Amsterdam Schiphol airport for no reason (although on reflection that may in fact be a perfectly reasonable reaction to Schiphol), and decided I should do something about it. I went onto some low dosage Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors. I appreciate that antidepressants are a contentious issue, but they worked for me. It felt like times when I might have previously gone into a spiral, my mood dipped down, bumped along the surface of that pit and then carried on.

But they made me kinda lethargic too, so I came off them at the start of this year. I felt my internal air conditioning levels had been reset. By the way, coming off them gives some trippy brain zaps for about a week. And mostly that’s been good, but I had a dip a few weeks ago, as if to just remind me “hey, I’m still here.”

Not so famous five

I believe that it’s different for everyone, and a lot will depend on individual circumstances, so this is no ‘how to’ guide. I deliberately haven’t made myself an expert in depression, so it’s just some tales from a sample of N=1. Here then are five thoughts on being an academic with this occasional problem.

I found that some of the bad stuff is also good – for example, the much talked about work-life balance, with people working at weekends being a contributory factor. That was true, I really needed to force myself to switch off. However, I have a pretty strong Protestant Work Ethic thing going on, so I feel guilty if I haven’t done the work I should do, particularly if that is a result of having a slow day due to depression. So sometimes, fitting in 3 hours on a Saturday morning clearing some tasks was a real benefit and alleviated rather than contributed to slump. It also made ‘having a slow day’ more bearable as I knew I could catch up, so I could afford to indulge it for a day often.

Now, let’s talk dogs, I had always loved dogs, but I didn’t appreciate how much of a boon they were. Seriously, dogs should be available on the NHS. The unconditional love is a much needed boost, but also, as a home worker, having a dog means I have to get out every day. With Teilo, my current dog, this is about 5 miles a day. The amount of times I have been heading for a slump, taken him out in the forest (often listening to a good audiobook) and by the time I come back, it has all shifted. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that my previous dog, Bruno, saved my life. But a dog is a commitment, so I would ask indulgence from work colleagues when I sometimes have to arrange things around my dog (I don’t like going away for more than a week for instance). I can see them thinking sometimes “it’s not a child, it’s only a dog for Chrissakes”. But it isn’t, he is doing so much more work than that, he’s putting in the hours.

Immersion in a self-enclosed, separate world was also hugely significant for me. In my case it was sports, and specifically, ice-hockey. I had an interest before then, but I really indulged it as antidote – getting a season ticket, travelling to away games, going on holidays based around it. I could make a case for why ice hockey in particular is the ideal choice, but in reality it doesn’t matter what it is – painting, music, ultra-running, volunteering – it just needs to have two components: to be entirely absorbing so you are focused solely on that enterprise; to be independent, hermetically sealed, so it stands separate from everything else. Sport is ideal at meeting these requirements – it is of course entirely trivial and pointless in the grand scheme of things, but yet if you are into it, then it is your sole focus for that duration and it allows for endless discussion, debate, and conjecture. It is also free from any connection to work or regular concerns – the people we have made friends with at hockey really don’t care about the venture capital ambitions of MOOC companies. And that’s fab.

Social media is another of those good/bad dualities. It’s been an enormous benefit to sometimes just pass an evening chatting to people online, and to have such a thoughtful, interesting network of people to make you see the best of life. But at the same time, you can start your day and have seen 50 things that make you outraged before breakfast, to which you are mentally composing responses and sustained imaginary arguments. That is a tough vale to climb out from for the rest of the day. So I have started to use with care, and sometimes mute people who are only angry, even if they are justifiably so, and I agree with them.

I’ve mentioned the drugs, and that is always a personal choice, but what going to the doctor (who was super understanding, thank you NHS GP), signified was a recognition to be proactive. Being British, male and of a certain age is a triple whammy of emotional repression, so doing something rather than ‘just getting on with it’, was a big deal. I felt better immediately after taking the first pill, and that isn’t really how they work biologically, so I know it was a psychological effect. Simply acknowledging that something could be done was in itself a cure, I’m not sure it mattered really what that thing was. Similarly, I informed a couple of line managers (who again were very supportive), and that act in itself was therapeutic. I never had to claim time off from depression (see the benefits of flexible working above, which I acknowledge is a huge privilege and many people don’t have the kind of work that allows that), but it was comforting to know that if I did, it wasn’t coming from nowhere.

All this offers no big insight I’m afraid, but for me that combination of making flexible work adapt to my advantage, having a dog, immersion into a separate world, judicious use of social media and the positive action of getting medication was an effective, if not foolproof, combatant. Mainly the dog though.

PS – I appreciate and understand that people can be sensitive about this, so just to clarify, don’t take the breezy tone of this piece to be an indication that either a) it isn’t a shitfest when it hits or b) I don’t take it seriously. It’s just how I choose to write about it.

Monatsnotiz Mai

Markusmind personal blog of Markus Diemann - Tue, 04/06/2019 - 15:08

Im Mai ist sollte eigentlich so langsam der Sommer beginnen, zumindest teilweise war das dann auch so.

Auch sonst begann es wonnig mit einer team-internen Weinprobe im Schloss Reinhartshausen im schönen Rheingau, die auf alle Sorten von Weißwein spezialisiert sind. So gestärkt konnte ich mich mit Elan auf alle anstehenden Aufgaben an der FernUniversität stürzen.

Aber auch darüber hinaus stand einiges an. Für das Hochschulforum Digitalisierung habe ich am Netzwerktreffen in Frankfurt teilgenommen und dabei meine ganze Kreativität für die Vorbereitung der im Oktober stattfindenden Jahrestagung einfließen lassen. Bei der Frage nach möglichen Besucher*innen der Tagung und ihren Wünschen und Erwartungen kam das heraus:

Danach ging es nach Magdeburg, wo ich als Dozent für den Weiterbildungs-Master Erwachsenenbildung ein Modul bestreitet. Zwei Tage ging es um Open Education in den verschiedenen Ausprägungen. Wie man das didaktisch aufbereiten kann, habe ich hier aufgeschrieben. Kommentare und Feedback dazu jederzeit gerne.

Der Besuch meines Podcast-Kompagnon Christian in Hagen war die richtige Gelegenheit, ihm endlich mein als Buch veröffentlichte Habilitationsschrift zu überreichen. Auch wenn er nicht ausschließlich wegen mir kam, so hatten wir doch eine schöne und produktive Zeit bei mir am Lehrstuhl (inklusive Podcast-Aufzeichnung für das Feierabendbier Open Education).

Einen kleinen Ausflug in die bildungsphilosophische Community habe ich mit dem Besuch bei den sog. Hamburger Disputen unternommen. Dabei ging es in Vorträgen und Diskussionen um Zukunftsthemen der Bildungsphilosophie, wobei auch Digitalisierung und Big Data zur Sprache kamen. Leider konnte ich nur an einem der drei Tag teilnehmen, so dass mein Fazit unvollständig und gemischt ausfällt.

In Bonn war ich dann für zwei vom Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung veranstalteten Formaten: Einmal das Vernetzungstreffen für die im Zusammenhang der Förderbekanntmachung Start MTI: Innovative Start-ups für Mensch-Technik-Interaktion unterstützten Projekte. Für die FernUniversität konnte das Vorhaben BoInHo2020: Entwicklung eines Bots auf Basis künstlicher Intelligenz für den Einsatz in der Hochschullehre eingeworben werden. Die zweite Veranstaltung war der alle zwei Jahre stattfindende Zukunftskongress zu Mensch-Maschine-Interaktion. Hier wurde aktiv gegen das Ersetzungs-Narrativ gearbeitet, wonach uns intelligente technische Systeme bald ersetzen werden und wir nicht wissen, was wir mit uns, wenn wir auf uns selbst zurückgeworfen sind, anfangen sollen. Stattdessen spricht man, wie etwas die Bildungsministerin in ihrer eher visionslosen Rede von Assistenz-Systemen.

Eine schöne Feier in meiner Heimat stand dann mit dem „silbernen Abitur“ an. Dazu lud die Schule alle Alt-Schüler*innen ein und bot einen Rundgang durch die runderneuerten Hallen, sogar Tablet-Klassen gibt es nun. Was wohl aus mir geworden wäre, wenn ich das damals auch gehabt hätte…

Zum Ende des Monats war ich nochmal in Bonn um den DAAD bei einem Seminar zu Digitalisierung und Internationalisierung mit einem Input zu unterstützen.

Open as in choice

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Thu, 30/05/2019 - 10:54


(Made with Bryan’s lovely remixer)

I’ve recently taken on a new role at the Open University, as the Chair of the Open Board of Studies. This means I’ve got responsibility for our Open Degree. When the OU was founded you could only get a BA(Open) – there were no named degrees. This was an explicit attempt by the OU’s founders to make an OU degree different not just in mode of study but in substance. Students constructed their own degree profiles, meaning our modules were truly modular, you could pick and mix as you saw fit. My colleagues Helen Cooke, Andy Lane and Peter Taylor give an excellent overview of the history, philosophy and approach of the open degree in this paper. The OU’s first VC put it like this:

Sure, most universities offer options and electives, but a truly flexible, open choice is very rare. Specialism is of course, a desirable mode of study in many areas. But the reasoning behind the original open choice was that the changes in society and work places in the 70s meant that a wide ranging degree was suitable for many vocations. If that was true at the founding of the OU, then it is doubly so now. While we should be sceptical of the “preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet” claims, it’s fair to say that flexibility and breadth of understanding will be useful attributes in an evolving, digital economy. Let’s take my own area (field/discipline/rag tag bundle of vaguely connected ideas) of educational technology. You can create a degree programme that covers much of what you want, but actually it’s a varied domain, and half of the work involves having an understanding or appreciation of the demands of different subject areas. So a degree that has rich, and unpredictable, variety in it might well be exactly what you want for an educational technologist. And that is increasingly true for roles that evolve around tech, but are not necessarily TECH.

It is often claimed that in order to solve the complex, ‘wicked’ problems that the world faces, such as sustainability, climate change, social inclusion, then interdisciplinary thinking is required. But our degree profiles continue to prioritise narrow specialisms instead of encouraging students to develop knowledge and skills across a range of topics. This gives them empathy with other viewpoints and a broader toolkit of conceptual models.

Perhaps more significantly than the employment argument though is that constructing your own degree profile and taking responsibility for your pathway gives agency to learners. George Veletsianos asks “in education, what can be made more flexible?”, to which I would respond the whole degree structure.

Coming to this from a broader open education perspective, I see the work of OER, open textbooks, open access and MOOCs as laying the necessary groundwork for a wave of more interesting exploration around what open approaches offer. Open pedagogy and Open educational practice are examples of this. I would argue that although it is already 50 years old, the truly open choice of the OU is another one and it’s time has come round again.

Attack of the Learning Engineers

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Wed, 29/05/2019 - 11:18

A term I’ve seen on the increase is that of “Learning Engineer”. Job descriptions using it seem to be pretty similar to a learning technologist, so maybe it’s just this year’s label. Saxberg asks “where are the learning engineers? The sad truth is, we don’t have an equivalent corps of professionals who are applying learning science at our colleges, schools, and other institutions of learning.” I get his point, what is the point of doing all this research into education if we just shrug our shoulders and go “it’s complicated.”

However, like others I have discomfort about the term. I was part of the ‘learning design’ field in the 00s, and I felt that ‘design’ captured some of the complexity around learning. Design is both a precise, technical approach but also a creative, artistic endeavour. This reflects the messiness of education, through which an educator is trying to devise an effective path for a learner.

Learning engineer has different connotations. It is in some respects an attractive term – who wouldn’t want to perfectly construct learning like a bridge from ignorance to knowledge as you reliably engineer a bridge across a river? This is not just about semantics however, but surfaces fundamental beliefs about education. For some it is a precise science, where education can be reliably and repeatedly constructed in the same manner for everyone. For others it is complex field where different approaches have desirable outcomes for some learners but not others and one that is continually negotiated. This dichotomy represents the manner in which education will be shaped in an AI/Data/Networked world. If the engineer perspective dominates (whether it is true or not is not that relevant, it’s whether the narrative becomes dominant), then education is something that can be reliably captured in algorithms. If the design perspective dominates then technology works in service to the human educator who seeks to adapt and modify educational experiences.

So, not to be overly dramatic (but yes, I am going to be overly dramatic), learning engineer vs learning designer represents the battleground for the soul of education. Choose wisely.

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