Mary Susan McIntosh and the Women in Red

I was chuffed to discover today that English Wikipedia’s main page features a link to sociologist, feminist, and campaigner for lesbian and gay rights Mary Susan McIntosh.  It’s always great to see women featured on Wikipedia’s main page, which is viewed by around 4 million people, but I confess to being doubly pleased because I created the article on Mary at a recent editathon to mark International Women’s Day here at the University of Edinburgh.  This editathon was facilitated by Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence here at the University, and Ewan was also instrumental in nominating Mary to appear on the main page.

Wikipedia 11 May 2017

Only last week I had been complaining on twitter about the lack of gender balance on English Wikipedia’s main page which happened to feature 18 named men but only 4 named women that particular day. The main page changes on a daily basis but you can see the edition from 4th May on here.

WikiProject Women in Read

Of course this is not particularly surprising; Wikipedia has a well known problem with gender imbalance, only 16% of biographical entries on the English Wikipedia are of women, and the main page is a pretty accurate reflection of this imbalance.  The Wikimedia Foundation and the various Wikimedia chapters around the world, including Wikimedia UK, are well aware of this problem and are attempting to address it through a range of projects and initiatives.  WikiProject Women in Red raises awareness of this issue and aims to turn red links blue, by creating new biographical articles about women who are referenced on Wikipedia but who do not have their own pages. And here at the University of Edinburgh, one of the objectives of our Wikimedian in Residence is to encourage more women to get involved with editing Wikimedia.  Ewan regularly runs editathons focused on addressing the coverage of articles about women in general and Scottish women in particular.

Before I went along to the International Women’s Day editathon, I confess knew nothing about Mary Susan McIntosh, I picked her name at random from a list of “Women in Red” because she sounded interesting.  It didn’t take me long to realise what a hugely significant and influential woman Mary was.  In addition to being one of the early members of the UK Gay Liberation Front, and sitting on the committee that lowered the homosexual age of consent in the UK from 21 to 18, Mary published important research arguing that homosexuality should be regarded as a social construct, rather than a psychiatric or clinical pathology.  Mary’s paper The Homosexual Role helped to shape the concept of social constructionism, later developed by Michel Foucault.  Mary’s contribution to shaping this important philosophical construct has of course been largely overlooked.  My Wikipedia article barely scrapes the surface of Mary’s life and academic career and her important contribution to social theory and political activism.  I hope to do a bit more work on Mary’s Wikipedia page sometime in the future but it would be great if there are any philosophers, sociologists or critical theorists out there that could help with editing to ensure that Mary gets the recognition she deserves.

International Open Science Conference report

A brief report on the International Open Science Conference held in Berlin in March, presented at the University of Edinburgh Open Knowledge Network event on 28th April 2017.

The Open Science Conference held in Berlin in April was the 4th international conference sponsored by the Leibniz Research Alliance and it grew out of the former Science 2.0 Conference.

The stated aim of the Open Science Conference is to bring together three communities; the research community engaging in open science, the library community and the computer centres who maintain and run the infrastructure.  Participants included researchers, librarians, practitioners, politicians, and other stakeholders.  Many of the delegates I spoke to were librarians and and it was interesting to note that many of them were familiar with the work of the Digital Curation Centre here at the University, and spoke highly of the service they provide.

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CMALT – Advice from the community

Last week I wrote a reflective blog post about starting out on the CMALT journey, What do you do?, and was delighted to get lots of really helpful practical input from the ALT community on twitter.  I’ve captured the advice and discussions in a Storify here Starting CMALT – Advice from the community so I can look back on them and in case they’re of use to others. Here’s some of the highlights.

Matt Cornock had useful advice on completing Section 3 if you’re not in a teaching role.

Phil Barker kicked off an interesting discussion about how long it takes to complete a portfolio.

Working together with a colleague seems to be a good way to make progress

Kate Mitchell was particularly interested in the tensions of our role:

While Martin Hawksey may have blow my cover 😉

Open Pedagogy – A view from a distance

I’ve been thinking on and off for the last few days about the fascinating discussions going on around Open Pedagogy. Maha Bali has curated a diverse and thought provoking series of posts on the topic here and has organized a hangout to discuss What is Open Pedagogy? later today. Other than commenting on a few blog posts here and there, I haven’t contributed much to this debate and it’s taken me a little while to figure out why.

To some extent this is bound up with a post I wrote last week What do you do? That post is an off the cuff reflection prompted by my first attempt to make a start on my CMALT portfolio, but it does relate, if only tangentially, to the question of open pedagogy too. I think one of the reasons that I’ve felt slightly distanced from the open pedagogy discussions is that to my mind pedagogy is intrinsically bound up with the theory and practice of teaching and although I’ve worked in Higher Education for years, I’ve rarely been involved in teaching and I have never considered myself to be a teacher or an academic. This is one of the issues I was trying to grapple with, all be it facetiously, in my What do you do? post. I’ve very rarely taught staff or students, though I do hope that people have learned things from me along the way. I do help to support teaching and learning, but even then, I’m several steps removed from the pedagogy and the teaching process. I don’t do teaching so I’ve always felt I don’t really do pedagogy either.

What I do consider myself to be is an education practitioner. I participate in the process and practice of education and hopefully, some way further down the line, this contributes to teaching and pedagogy. Perhaps more importantly for my own personal and professional identity, I see myself as an open practitioner. I try very hard to practice my profession in the open, I try to learn from other open practitioners, I try to listen and learn and engage, and I try to be guided by the principals of openness and inclusivity.

This is why I identified so strongly with the questions Josie asked in her blog post Waves not Ripples

“I’m suspicious of the current distinction between open pedagogy and open practice, and in particular, how little explanation is being given to the privileging or even just use of the term pedagogy over the term practice. Is the use of pedegogy being used as shorthand for educational practice? Is it being used to underline the importance of formal education, or the primacy of teaching? Why not open heutagogy? Is it being used as a form of interpellation, a signal to include and exclude specific groups within open education? What is wrong with ‘practice’? How do we benefit from continuing to insist on a break between theory and practice, or theory and politics? Is this distinction as harmful as the disavowal of the relationship between the personal and the political?”

Josie’s questions also called to mind the point Amber Thomas made in her wonderful blog post Perhaps I’m not one, which I linked to from my earlier post. Amber’s blog post is primarily a reflection on what makes a learning technologist, but she also includes this thought, which still resonates with me three years later.

“And another thing: I’m not an academic and I don’t teach. I consider myself to be a para-academic. (Like a paralegal, or a paramedic ). I have a particular skillset which has a place in universities. I’ve lost count of the number of sessions I’ve been in at elearning conferences over the year where the presenter asks “how many people in the room actually teach?”. Cue a few hands raised and the majority looking down at their feet, embarrassed, as if the 5/10/15 years experience in education counts for nowt. Universities are multi-professional places and learning technologists, in all their flavours, have a rightful place at the table. People like me shouldn’t have to pretend to be something we’re not.”

Like Amber, I’m not an academic and I don’t teach, so I’m not sure how much I can contribute to discussions about pedagogy. It’s not that I’m disinterested, far from it, it’s more that when people talk about pedagogy is often feels like they’re talking about something I don’t do, something I haven’t thought deeply enough about.

Of course that may simply be a massive misconception on my part, but there’s no denying that I tend to feel I have more to contribute to discussions about open practice, policy and politics than discussions about open pedagogy. Josie asks whether open pedagogy is being used as a signal to include and exclude specific groups within open education. I’m not sure I would go as far as to say that I feel excluded, but I do feel slightly distanced.

I don’t know how to draw this post to a sensible conclusion, because I don’t really know if I have one, but I suspect I’ll continue thinking about these issues of identity, experience, inclusion and exclusivity for some time to come. And perhaps if I can joint the hangout later today I’ll find out whether there is anything I can contribute to the discussions about open pedagogy, and whether this feeling of distance is just a misconception on my part after all.

A view from a distance

“What do you do?” – Starting out on CMALT

“So what do you do?” can be a bit of a difficult question to answer when you work in the domain of learning technology.  And depending on which area of learning technology you work in it can be a harder question to answer for some than others.  My default answer tends to be “I work at a University” followed by “I work in education technology”, often with the added explanation “It’s about the use of new technology in education.”  “Open education” tends to get you blank looks outwith academia (now there’s a topic for discussion), and thank god I don’t work in “education technology interoperability standards” these days.

My family have defaulted to telling people that I’m a spy on the basis that they don’t actually know what I do, other than travel a lot and disappear for days at a time. It’s hard to argue with them tbh.

Lorna Campbell – Spy

Sometimes I think it’s easier to explain what I don’t do; I don’t teach, I don’t do formal academic research, I’m not a programmer, I don’t develop or implement systems, I don’t provide help desk services, I don’t run the VLE.   I do manage projects and provide advice to colleagues. I provide input to policies. I support networks and disseminate practice.  I write a lot, talk a lot and present a lot.  I facilitate events and chair conferences.  I sit on boards, steering groups and executive committees. Maybe it is easier to tell people I’m a spy.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this is that after months of procrastination, I’m finally making a start on my CMALT application.  I had hoped to do this towards the end of last year but two new projects took precedence, so CMALT went on the back burner.

I had mixed feelings about CMALT for a number of years, primarily because for a long time I didn’t really seem to fit any recognisable definition of what a learning technologist is.  I tried to explain this anxiety in a blog post I wrote in 2014 Thoughts on ALT’s CPD Rebooted.  That post also refers to a brilliant piece written by Amber Thomas Perhaps I’m not one,  which I identified with strongly at the time, and still do.  The main point I was trying to make in CPD Rebooted was that formal certification can be difficult for people whose roles don’t neatly fit into the kind of boxes that make up accreditation frameworks.   This is doubly true for those on short term contracts, who have to jump from project to project and rarely have much time for formal CPD.  I ended that blog post with a question I asked on twitter:

Things have changed a lot for me since 2014, both professionally and personally.  Our understanding of what it means to be a learning technologist has matured and become more inclusive, and although contracts in higher education have become increasingly precarious, I’m very lucky that my own employment situation is more secure than it was three years ago.  In fact I’m incredibly fortunate to work for an institution that not only allows dedicated time for CPD but that also actively promotes and supports CMALT membership. Information Services at the University of Edinburgh offer bursaries to enable learning technologists to become Certified Members of ALT and my colleague Susan Grieg supports colleagues to help them prepare their portfolios.

Having spent the day pouring over the CMALT guidelines I can see that ALT have worked hard to create an accreditation framework that is as broad as it is inclusive.  However I’m still sitting here sifting through projects, webinars, presentations, papers, twitter conversations and reflective blog posts wondering how the hell I’m going to fit all this into that. How on earth can I demonstrate an “understanding of my target learners” when I don’t actually teach?  Of course the answer is that I’m going to have to think creatively.  I may not have a teaching role, but hopefully all those webinars and talks and blog posts do help my peers and colleagues to learn and to develop their professional practice.  I’m still at the stage where I’m struggling to fit my experience into the CMALT framework, but hopefully if I keep thinking about it and reflecting on what I actually do, it will all start to fall into place.  Having access to the CMALT Portfolio Open Register is already proving to be enormously helpful but I’d be very interested to hear how others have approached this.

Organising my CMALT portfolio like

(Belatedly realising I have no idea how to licence memes….)

OER17 – Open Education in a time of Trump and Brexit

As well as my paper (The Distance Travelled) and lightning talk (Shouting from the Heart) at OER17, I also took part in a panel session organised by Jim Luke: Open Education in a time of Trump and Brexit.  The panel featured video provocations from Robin DeRosa, Nadine Aboulmagd, Chris Gilliard, and David Kernohan and responses from Jim, Martin Weller, Maha Bali and I.

The aim of the panel was to “provide different perspectives on the relationship between Open Education and the political changes represented by Brexit and the Trump election” and to address the following questions:

  • What challenges do these political movements pose for Open Education? What opportunities?
  • Open Education movement has largely embraced values of inclusiveness, sharing, connectedness, equity, voice, agency, and openness. How might these values be furthered under these new regimes? How might these values be hindered?
  • Will our work in the open education movement change?
  • In what ways can we shape the future of the Open Education Movement?

I don’t think any of us quite knew what to expect from the session, but we had a really lively and wide ranging conversation with some brilliant contributions from the audience including Helen Beetham, Audrey Watters, Laura Czerniewicz and Sheila MacNeil.

All the videos and materials created for the session are available from Jim’s website here Open Ed, Trump, Brexit and there’s a Storify of tweets here #Trexit.  Huge thanks to Autumn Caines who periscoped the whole session: #oer17 safety in open online learning, and to Bryan Mather’s for capturing the discussion.

@bryanMMathers, CC BY ND

OER17 – The Distance Travelled

Reflections on open education policy in the UK since the Cape Town Declaration

Paper presented at the OER17 Politics of Open conference.

2017 has officially been designated the “Year of Open”.

The Year of Open is a global focus on open processes, systems, and tools, created through collaborative approaches, that enhance our education, businesses, governments, and organizations … Open represents freedom, transparency, equity and participation … During the Year of Open, we want to capture and display these efforts to increase participation and understanding of how open contributes to making things better for everyone.

This initiative is backed by many of the major international players in the field of open education, including Creative Commons, the Open Education Consortium, OER Africa, etc.

And the reason that this is the Year of Open is that we have a number of important anniversaries

It’s the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, and it’s also the ¨ 15th anniversary of the release of the first Creative Commons licence.

It’s the 10th anniversary of the Cape Town Declaration which laid the foundations of the “emerging open education movement” and advocated the development of open education policy to ensure that taxpayer-funded educational resources are openly licensed. And if you haven’t read the Cape Town Declaration recently, I can highly recommend revisiting it, it’s really quite inspiring and inspiring statement.

And it’s also the 5th Anniversary of the UNESCO Paris OER Declaration which, five years after Cape Town, strengthened this call by encouraging governments and authorities to open license educational materials produced with public funds in order to realize substantial benefits for their citizens and maximize the impact of investment.

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OER17 – Come and find me!

Image credit: Taro Taylor, CC-BY-NC,

The OER17 Politics of Open Conference is taking place in London this week, and I can hardly believe it’s been a year since Melissa and I chaired last year’s conference in Edinburgh!  As always, I’m looking forward to catching up with friends from all over the world and meeting some long standing online colleagues irl for the first time.  I’ve got several sessions lined up up over the course of the two days, so if you want to catch me, this is where I’ll be. Come and say hello!

Perspectives on Open Education in a World of Brexit & Trump
Wed, Apr 5 2017, 11:20am – 12:40pm
Panellists: Maha Bali, Lorna Campbell, James Luke, and Martin Weller

Like the Internet itself, the Open Education movement, including OER and OEP, has grown in a world of globalised capitalism that has been dominant in North America and Europe, and indeed, developed and growing economies. The Brexit vote, Trump’s election, and shifts toward nationalist-right parties elsewhere are changing the political landscape. At a minimum, the rhetoric of these movements, both in support and opposition, has altered public discourse and often attitudes toward higher education. These political shifts have complex and multifaceted implications for the open education movement.

This panel aims to stimulate deeper thought beyond our initial reactions to these political movements. We will provide diverse, multiple perspectives on the relationship between Open Education and the political changes represented by Brexit and the Trump election. Many questions arise, including:

  • What challenges do these political movements pose for Open Education? What opportunities?
  • Open Education movement has largely embraced values of inclusiveness, sharing, connectedness, equity, voice, agency, and openness. How might these values be furthered under these new regimes? How might these values be hindered?
  • Will our work in the open education movement change?
  • In what ways can we shape the future of the Open Education Movement?

The Distance Travelled: Reflections on open education policy in the UK since the Cape Town Declaration
Wed, Apr 5 2017, 1:30pm – 2:50pm
Author: Lorna Campbell

Ten years ago the Cape Town Declaration laid the foundations for what it described as the “emerging open education movement” and called on colleagues to come together to commit to the pursuit and promotion of open education and to overcome the barriers to realizing this vision.  Among the barriers the Declaration recognized were “governments and educational institutions that are unaware or unconvinced of the benefits of open education” and it went on to advocate the development of open education policy to ensure that taxpayer-funded educational resources are openly licensed.  Five years later, the Paris OER Declaration strengthened this call by encouraging governments and authorities to open license educational materials produced with public funds in order to realize substantial benefits for their citizens and maximize the impact of investment.

This paper will provide an overview of the advances and mis-steps in open education policy and practice in the UK in the ten years since the Cape Town Declaration, while comparing and contrasting the UK experience with developments elsewhere in Europe and North America. The paper will include a case study on the Scottish Open Education Declaration and the efforts of the Open Scotland initiative to lobby the Scottish Government to endorse the principles of the declaration and adopt open licenses for publicly funded educational content.

Virtually Connecting
Wed, Apr 5 2017
With Martin Hawksey, John Robertson and Lorna Campbell

End of day session, from 1730-1800. With onsite buddy Teresa MacKinnon and virtual buddies Nadine Aboulmagd and Simon Ensor.

Shouting from the Heart 
Thu, Apr 6 2017, 11:40am – 12:40pm
Author: Lorna Campbell

This lightning talk will be a short polemic reflecting on political and personal events that have led me to both question and strengthen my commitment to open education over the last two years.  These include the detention and disappearance of Syrian open knowledge advocate Bassel Khartebil, and the project that created an open book dedicated to his life and work The Cost of Freedom: A Creative Enquiry.  The privilege of co-chairing the OER16 Open Culture Conference. The result of the UK’s European Membership referendum, announced the day after a meeting of European colleagues to discuss how we could work together to join up open education policy and practice across the Europe.  The appointment of the first Gaelic language Wikimedian in Residence by Wikimedia UK and the National Library of Scotland. The surge of horror and shout of rage following the results of the US presidential election.

My response to these disparate, seemingly unconnected events was to write, to blog, to try to find words to make sense of events and my reaction to them, and to reassert my belief that we have a moral responsibility to work together to improve education opportunities for all, not just the privileged few.

I can’t promise this talk will be neutral or balanced, but it will be honest and from the heart, and ultimately it will be open.

EDEN Webinar – How To Be More Open: Advice for Educators and Researchers

It’s Open Education Week and I’m delighted to be participating in a special EDEN webinar on How To Be More Open: Advice for Educators and Researchers.  I’ll be joining Fabio Nascimbeni, Catherine Cronin and Chrissi Nerantzi to discuss a range of questions including:

  • Why should I be more open in my practice and profession?
  • How do you practice openness (as researcher, teacher, student)?
  • How do we deal with the “publish or perish” reality?
  • What if my institution doesn’t allow me to be open?
  • I want to be more “open” as a teacher, researcher, or student. Where do I start? Advice from panelists.
  • What platforms/environments do you recommend in supporting my practice as an open academic?

The webinar, facilitated by EDEN Vice-President Lisa Marie Blaschke, takes place on  Wednesday 29th March, 14:00-15:00 CET and you can register here.

Crossing the Field Boundaries: Open Science, Open Data & Open Education

Last week I was invited to speak at the International Open Science Conference in Berlin which this year had a special focus on OER.  My talk featured a case study of the University of Edinburgh’s Geosicence Outreach and Engagement Course so I’d like to thank Colin Graham and all those involved in the course for allowing me to present their inspirational work.

This talk focuses on the interface between OER, open data and open science and our experience at the University of Edinburgh of promoting open education through the School of GeoSciences Outreach and Engagement course.

The title of this paper, “Crossing the field boundaries”, comes not from the domain of GeoScicences though, but from Maryam Mirzakhani, professor of mathematics at Stanford University and the first female winner of the Fields Medal.  In a 2014 interview Maryam said

“I like crossing the imaginary boundaries people set up between different fields—it’s very refreshing. There are lots of tools, and you don’t know which one would work. It’s about being optimistic and trying to connect things.”

A Tenacious Explorer of Abstract Surfaces, Quanta Magazine, August 2014

I am not a mathematician, or a scientist, but I do have some experience of crossing field boundaries, and since open education is all about breaking down boundaries and cutting across fields, this seems like a nice metaphor to hang this talk on. Continue reading