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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).


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.


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.


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.


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.

— 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.


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…


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

— 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.

25 Years of EdTech book – website suggestions?

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Mon, 20/05/2019 - 16:16


As you may know, I turned my 25 Years of Ed Tech blog series into a book manuscript over the winter. This is my 5th book (does that make me ‘a writer’ now?), and like the previous two I wanted it to be published open access. Athabasca University Press were an open access publisher I had long admired but not worked with before, so I sent the manuscript to them. AUP work slightly differently in that it is not a book idea they are commissioning but rather publishing a completed manuscript – it’s akin to journal article publishing. The manuscript was sent out for review, and bar some minor amendments, has been accepted for publication! The two reviews were anonymous, but were very diligent and useful, so my thanks to whoever they were. Also thanks to George Veletsianos and Connor Houlihan for allowing a non-maple syrup drinker onto their turf.

AUP is open access, so the book will be CC licensed, the digital version freely available. I’m not quite sure when the publication date will be, we’re just finalising the process. I intend to create a website to accompany the book, and on this I’d appreciate any thoughts. I’ll host it here on Reclaim, and I expect it’ll be a plain WP site. Bear in mind, that it’ll be me doing it with very limited tech skills and zero design aesthetic. I’ve thought of a timeline, an annotatable version and maybe a wiki timeline version to allow alternative suggestions for each of the years. But I’d appreciate any thoughts on things that might be useful or interesting? Or WP themes, plug-ins, “Site under construction” gifs… that sort of thing. I found Anne-Marie’s advice on setting up a WP site very helpful.

Open Education in einem Zweitagesseminar

Markusmind personal blog of Markus Diemann - Tue, 14/05/2019 - 09:03

Für den berufsbegleitenden Masterstudiengang Erwachsenenbildung an der Universität Magdeburg bin ich im Modul 2 „Didaktik und Methoden“ als Dozent tätig. Als übergeordnetes Thema habe ich mich für Open Education entschieden und behandle das in einem zweitätigen Seminar.

Was ich da genau mache und warum, beschreibe ich im Folgenden. Zunächst die Rahmendaten. Das Seminar findet statt Freitags von 14:30 bis 19:00 Uhr und Samstags von 9:00 bis 15:00 Uhr. Es nehmen ca. 20 Personen teil, die in einem sozial oder pädagogischen Bereich tätig sind. Aus bisheriger Erfahrung weiß ich, dass zumeist wenig Vorkenntnisse zum Thema Open Education vorhanden sind. Das habe ich dann meist mit Input zu den Grundlagen zu kompensieren versucht. Ziel ist es, den Studierenden Open-Education-Perspektiven zu eröffnen, die für die tägliche Arbeit von Bedeutung sind.

Für das Seminar am letzen Wochenende habe ich mir didaktisch etwas anderes überlegt (inspiriert durch diesen Blogpost). Weniger Instruktion, mehr Konstruktion. Ich wollte, dass die Studierenden sich die wichtigsten Ideen zu den verschiedenen Open-Education-Ausprägungen (drei Phasen) selbst erarbeiteten. Wie im akademischen Kontext üblich, habe ich Grundlagentexte eingesetzt, die wir im Seminar gemeinsam gelesen haben

I. Phase Open Education in den 1960er und 70er Jahren

Textgrundlage: Hopf, D. (1976). Differenzierung in der Schule (Kap. 3.4 Offener Unterricht). Stuttgart: Klett.

II. Phase OER ab 2001

Textgrundlage: Kerres, M. (2019). Offene Bildungsressourcen und Open Education: Openness als Bewegung oder als Gefüge von Initiativen? MedienPädagogik 34, (Februar), 1–18. /110.21240/mpaed/34/2019.02.17.X.

III. Phase MOOCs ab 2008/2011

Textgrundlage: Drösser, C., & Heuser, U. J. (2013, März). Moocs: Harvard für alle Welt. Die Zeit. Retrieved from

Es handelt sich dabei um unterschiedliche Textgattungen, die jeweils unterschiedliche Perspektiven akzentuieren. Deutlich besonders beim Text aus DER ZEIT, der eine sehr euphorische Haltung einnimmt. So ergab sich insgesamt ein komplexes Bild. Wiederkehrende Fragen waren dann etwa Qualität oder Aspekte der Steuerung.

In der Feedbackrunde wurde zur Methode Textarbeit geäußert, dass alle Texte interessant waren, zum Teil aber zu lang. Eine Teilnehmerin hat deshalb auch das Lesen eingestellt und sich das Wissen in der Diskussionsrunde innerhalb einer kleinen Gruppe geholt. Ein von mir durchaus intendierter Nebeneffekt.

Insgesamt hat sich die Methode also bewährt. Das lag auch daran, dass im Seminar ausreichend Zeit für gemeinsame Lektüre besteht.

Deutschland, Land der Verbote

Markusmind personal blog of Markus Diemann - Thu, 09/05/2019 - 15:24

Vor kurzem habe ich den Satz „In Deutschland ist grundsätzlich alles verboten, was nicht ausdrücklich erlaubt ist“ vernommen und der ist bei mir hängen geblieben.

Heute habe ich mich an eine kleine empirische Überprüfung gemacht und bei mir die Straße runtergelaufen.

Es beginnt mit der Besonderheit, dass ich in einer Spielstraße wohne, die darum nur sehr eingeschränkte Parkmöglichkeiten bietet. Dazu kommt das für Innenstädte typische Vorrecht für Bewohner mit einem Parkausweis.

Weiter geht es mit einem Verbot zum Abstellen von Fahrrädern an der Wand. (Es gibt ausreichend Stangen in der Straße zum Abstellen der Zweiräder.)

Weiter geht es mit einer Variation des Fahrrad-Abstell-Verbotsschilds. Es ist etwas hübscher gestaltet und wirkt so (auch durch den fehlenden roten Rahmen und das fehlende Ausrufezeichen) weniger bedrohlich. Aber ein Verbot ist es trotzdem.

Dann haben wir ein Schild, mit dem das Abstellen von mehr oder weniger immobilen Gegenständen in einer Ausfahrt (wer kommt schon auf so eine Idee?) verbietet. Präzise wird beschrieben, dass die Einfahrt nicht unidirektional ist, um möglichen Missverständnissen vorzubeugen.

Beim nächsten Schild wird es weitaus bedrohlicher. Das Piktogramm verdeutlicht die ohnehin sehr klare Aussage zusätzlich. Bei Nichtbefolgen werden direkt Sanktionen angekündigt und offen gelassen, wie tief man in den Geldbeutel greifen muss.

Zum Abschluss meiner kleinen Studie dann ein Halteverbotsschild, das jedoch nicht exklusiv ist, sondern nur für die armen Menschen ohne Parkausweis.

Ich war erstaunt, wie vielfältig Verbote in meiner Straße ausgedrückt werden und auch darüber, wie wenig ich mir im Alltag darüber Gedanken machen. Selbst wenn wieder ein Strafzettel kommt, weil ich die präzis ausgeschilderte Parkanweisungen missachtet habe, ärgere ich mich nur kurz darüber.

A core of immutability

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Wed, 08/05/2019 - 16:47

As part of the OU’s 50th anniversary celebrations, they have a slot at the Hay Festival, and I’ve been invited to be part of the panel.

Sorry, I tried to play that cool, but as a book nerd – I’m speaking at the freakin’ Hay Festival people!

Anyway, the premise of the panel is what will education look like in 50 years time? That’s a ridiculous notion in a way, but it does allow us to talk about how things might change. I’m bringing the ed tech angle along with my colleague Eileen Scanlon, but I’m glad the Welsh Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, will be there also, as policy shapes this as much as technology (if not more).

It is a challenge to think about, because although I’m fairly sceptical about the claims of ed tech revolutionaries, it would be foolish to assume we won’t see some major changes in that time. Having just completed a look back over 25 years, I’m well aware of how much technology has influenced education, for good and bad. But I will preface any conjectures I make about future visions with the point I made in a post on the future of education, which is that in HE especially it is true that nothing much changes while simultaneously radical change occurs.

As it’s the Hay Festival there is a good analogy with reading to be drawn I think. If you were to look at reading 50 years ago and today, on the surface, nothing much has changed. It’s still someone (often) reading a paper book, in quiet solitude. And yet, it doesn’t take much examination to appreciate just how wholly different is the context within which that reading occurs. In terms of technology (audiobooks, ebooks), retail (Amazon, online, open books), publishing (self publishing, crowd funding), writing (use of blogs, fan fiction, online research) and dissemination (authors using social media, online accompanying material). The business of books and the society within which books exist is almost unrecognisable from 50 years ago.

So how to reconcile these two elements of seeming resistance to change and yet large scale innovation? I would suggest that both books and education have what we might call a ‘core of immutability’, that is some (perhaps indefinable) aspect at their core which does not alter. Indeed, this essence is part of the reason we hold them in high social value, they echo back through history, and evoke generally positive emotions. I can’t quite say what that core is, for both of them it is something around the individual focus on task that is conducted largely in the mind – the indulgence in what is essentially a cognitive art form. They are both fundamentally human – maybe AI can write decent books in the future, and maybe it can provide a reasonable level of support, but they could never quite capture that human element that is part of their appeal (or if they could, then the AI would be indistinguishable from a sentient being anyway).

Recognising, cherishing and protecting this core of immutability then allows us to engage in technological experimentation around it, without threatening to remove the essence that makes it valuable. That’s my pitch anyway.

By the way, did I mention I was speaking at Hay?

Monatsnotiz April 2019

Markusmind personal blog of Markus Diemann - Thu, 02/05/2019 - 14:21

Ich glaube, dass ich Gefallen an dieser für mich neuen Rubrik finden werde, da es tagebuchähnlich und öffentlich mir die Gelegenheit gibt, den vergangenen Monat nochmal Revue passieren zu lassen.

Bevor es losgeht, noch eine kleine Notiz für mich selbst, mit psycho-hygienischer Absicht. Ich sitze gerade im ICE 585 von Lübeck nach Hannover, pünktlich losgefahren, dann wegen Menschen Tieren im Gleis ausgebremst und nun eine Verspätung von 20 Minuten eingefahren. Hat auch was Gutes, denn dafür muss ich nicht wieder einmal in den Ersatz-IC umsteigen, sondern warte in der DB Lounge auf den nächsten, regulären IC, der dann auch durchfährt von Hannover nach Hagen.

Für mich ging der Monat mit einem kleinen Urlaub, ein verlängertes Wochenende in Paris, los. Dort konnte ich noch den Notre Dame in voller, wenn auch eingerüsteter Blüte bestaunen, bevor er leider ein Opfer der Flammen wurde. Direkt im Anschluss an die Rückkehr ging es für mich wieder zum Flughafen HH, um von dort nach Dublin zu fliegen, denn die OER19 stand vor der Tür. Ich hatte mich im Vorfeld dazu entschlossen, die Reise von Dublin zum Konferenzort Galway mit einem Mietwagen zu machen, verbunden mit einem kleinen Roadtrip. Ich bin schon mehrmals in Großbritannien Auto gefahren und einmal in Zypern auch mit einem entsprechend ausgestatteten PKW. So freute ich mich auf die Wiederentdeckung vorherig erlernter Fähigkeiten.

Das Auto nahm ich direkt am Flughafen entgegen, stellte das Navi ein und fuhr los. Mein erster Stopp war eine kleine Küstenstadt südlich von Dublin. Das Wetter war gruslig regnerisch und der Fahrspaß hielt sich für mich in Grenzen. Nach Fish-and-Chips-Kaffee-Pause verließ ich den Ort und fuhr nach Limerick, wo ich mir ein Zimmer für die Nacht gebucht hatte. So langsam wurde das Wetter auch besser und das Road-Trip-Feeling stellte sich ein. Am nächsten Morgen gönnte ich mir ein Full Irish Breakfast, das mich auch über den ganzen Tag tragen sollte.

Full Irish Breakfast

Ein sehr typisches Reiseziel für Irland-Touristen sind die Cliffs of Moher, die ich mir auch wieder (Erstbesuch 1993) anschauen wollte. Es lohnt sich wirklich, die Aussicht ist atemberaubend, was ich auch in einem Tweet zum neidisch machen verarbeitete.

Getting ready for #OER19 with the ultimate Irish experience.

— markusmind (@mdeimann) April 9, 2019

So konnte ich voll mit Irland-Impressionen in die zwei Konferenztage gehen. Praktischerweise gab es auch die Möglichkeit, kostenlose Parkplätze an der Universität zu nutzen, was mir die teueren Parkgebühren am Hotel ersparte. Auch sonst war die OER19 sehr gut organisiert und war trotz der höchsten Teilnehmer*innen-Anzahl aller Zeiten noch gewohnt familiär. Über die hohe Qualität ist schon mehrfach berichtet worden, ich stimme dem völlig. Es war eine überzeugende Mischung aus inspirierenden Keynotes und Sessions mit einem hohen interaktiven und partizipativen Charakter. Eine solche boten Jöran, Gabi, Sonja und ich auch an. Dabei ging es um die Idee der #untagetedopenness, d.h. den impliziten Vorstellungen über die Nutzungsmöglichkeiten, die wir uns bei der Erstellung von OER machen (siehe ausführlich dazu Jörans Meinungsbeitrag „Kann denn nicht ein einziges Mal jemand an die Lernenden denken?!“). Dazu haben wir im Vorfeld ein kleines Video produziert. Zu Beginn der Session wurde das Video ebenfalls präsentiert, was für eine heitere Atmosphäre sorgte. Das OER-Publikum ist aber auch sehr dankbar für solche Aktionen. Daran anschließend ging es um die Diskussion von drei Leitfragen – vor Ort und im Netz. Zusammengefasst wurde das mittlerweile in diesem Blogpost. Auch die Aufzeichnung liegt vor.

Der Talk „Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the learners? Helen Lovejoy und OER

Nach der OER19 war wieder ein kleiner Urlaub über Ostern in meiner Heimat der Kurpfalz angesagt. Ich nutze dies für die Lektüre des Buchs Utopien für Realisten des niederländischen Historikers Rutger Bregman. Dieser sorgte während des Weltwirtschaftsgipfel in Davos mit für den Mainstream provozierenden Äusserungen für Furore. Ich war entsprechend gespannt auf das Buch. Es hielt meinen Erwartungen nicht stand. Gut gefallen hat mir die historische Einordnung von politischen Konzepten wie dem bedingungslosen Grundeinkommen, da hier deutlich wird wie diskursiv solche Themen sind und mit welchen perfiden Mitteln versucht wird, die politische Mehrheitsmeinung zu drehen mit erheblichen sozialen Auswirkungen. Weniger gelungen fand ich dagegen, die auf die Zukunft bezogenen Teile des Buches. Hier fehlen mir überzeugende und klar argumentierte Positionen. Bregman verbleibt meistens im Ungefähren und zieht sich mit Appellen an uns alle geschickt aus der Verantwortung, die er mit Aktionen wie in Davos oder seinem Buch sich aufgebaut hat.

An der FernUniversität stand für mich der wie gewohnt abwechslungsreiche Lehrstuhl-Alltag an. Auch eine neue Episode des Feierabendbier Open Education habe ich mit meinem viel beschäftigten Kompagnon Christian aufgezeichnet.


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