The Penguin and the Piper: Telling a different story

This post was originally posted on the Open.Ed blog

Today is Word Penguin Day so I took the opportunity to share some of my all time favourite open licensed images from the University’s collections on twitter; the famous pictures of the piper and the penguin.

These images were taken during the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition led by William Speirs Bruce in 1902 – 1904, and they are preserved among the papers of Spiers Bruce in the University’s collections.  One of these images had its own 15 minutes of fame several years ago after it was added to the Wikipedia article about the expedition and a twitter user noted dryly….

I also happen to use one of these images in my slides when I talk about the University OER Service as it’s a great way to promote the University’s open licensed image collections and a fun way to illustrate that the OER Service is composed of about one and a half people!

However these pictures also tell a different story. When I tweeted them, Malcolm Brown from the University’s Digital Imaging Unit contacted me to point out that the penguin is actually tethered to the spot with a rope tied around its legs.  The rope can’t be seen in most of the low resolution images shared on the web under open licence but it is visible in the high resolution scans.  Suddenly these fun images start to look rather cruel.

Image of piper and penguin in the Antarctic with rope visible. Image of penguin with rope visible around legs

This raises an important question about the ethics of sharing and reusing open licensed historical content.  As more museums, galleries and institutions open up their collections, all kinds of images that we might now regard as questionable at best or offensive at worst, are released into the public domain or shared under open licence. While I believe that it’s vitally important that public heritage collections are freely and openly available to the public, it’s equally important that we view these collections through a critical lens and that we consider the ethical implications of the historical images we share and reuse.

Obviously we don’t know what happened to the penguin in these pictures.  I hope it was released and was none the worse for its unexpected moment in the spotlight.  Learning more about this famous image has certainly made me think about how I use this picture myself, and whether I want to continue using it.  Perhaps now would be a good time to have another look through our image collections to see if I can find a different open licensed image to use on my slides.

2021 – Finding a way

At the end of each year, I used to write a round up of significant work and life events over the previous 12 months.  That didn’t happen last year.  Just getting to the end of the year felt like an achievement.  That was enough.  I’ve kept this blog ticking over for the last year, though I’ve written fewer posts here than in previous years.  It’s partly that I’ve been blogging elsewhere, on the OpenEd, Teaching Matters, and Open Textbooks blogs. But it’s also a question of bandwidth; surviving in the midst of a global pandemic, and taking care of those around you, be they family, friends, or work colleagues, takes up a lot of emotional energy, so there often wasn’t much energy left over to reflect on what I was actually doing.  I’m still committed to using this blog to share my practice though, so I want to end the year on a hopeful note with a blog post about all the things I’ve done that I didn’t manage to write about at the time, or that I only touched on in passing. 

Open eTextbooks for Access to Music Education

Fundamentals of Music Theory open textbook coverAt the start of the year I was awarded a University of Edinburgh Student Experience Grant, and together with Dr Nikki Moran and three brilliant student interns from the Reid School of Music, we undertook an experimental project to repurpose open resources from an existing MOOC and on-campus course to create a prototype open textbook, Fundamentals of Music Theory.  Working with Nikki and the students was a delight and we learned a lot about different publishing platforms and the process of editing and creating ebooks in different formats. My InDesign skills are basic at best, but my old HTML skills came in very handy!  We gave a talk about the project at the OERxDomains Conference, The Scale of Open: Repurposing Open Resources for Music Education, and it was great to receive such positive feedback on the importance of working together with students on projects like this. In his final reflection on the project our intern Ifeanyichukwu Ezinmadu wrote;

“This project has got me inspired towards creating an independent OER project in music theory based on the ABRSM theory syllabus. To achieve this new goal of mine, I look forward to deploying skills developed on this project such as collaboration, research, design thinking, and other technical skills. I will dearly miss the entire team that has made this Project a possibility – Lorna, Charlie, Nikki, Kari, and Ana – and I look forward to engaging with other opportunities within and beyond the University of Edinburgh to learn and contribute meaningfully towards music education projects.”

You can read more about the project on our blog here: Open eTextbooks for Access to Music Education, and download our open textbook here: Fundamentals of Music Theory.

Learn Ultra Base Navigation Upgrade

Another project I was involved in earlier this year was the Learn Ultra Base Navigation Upgrade project, which investigated the implications and feasibility of upgrading to UBN in advance of a full upgrade to Learn Ultra.  I’m not usually directly involved in supporting and delivering our Learn VLE service, but we were short handed so I was drafted in to do some of the project management. Although it was a bit of a steep learning curve for me, it was a really good opportunity to connect with colleagues who maintain and support the Learn Service and the Learn Foundations project, and it was interesting to have a preview of UBN and the functionality it provides. 

OER Policy update

On more familiar territory, I enjoyed working with our Education Technology Policy officer Neil McCormick to review and revise the University of Edinburgh’s OER Policy.  The University’s original policy was approved in 2015 and five years later, in September this year, our new policy was approved by Education Committee.  This new policy, which has adopted UNESCO’s definition of OER, strengthens the University’s commitment to open knowledge and achieving the aims of the Agenda for Sustainable Development.  You can read about the new OER Policy on Teaching Matters here: A new OER Policy for the University, and access the policy itself here: University of Edinburgh OER Policy

Open Education Global Awards

The OER Policy is just one of a sweet of open policies for teaching and learning that the University shares under Creative Commons licence, and we were delighted when these policies were awarded Open Education Global’s Open Policy Award as part of their 2021 Awards for Excellence.  Edinburgh rather swept the boards at the awards, also winning the Open Curation Award for our collection of OERs on TES Resources, co-created by GeoScience Outreach undergraduates and our fabulous Open Content Curation interns.  Melissa Highton won the Open Leadership Award, and Wikimedia intern Hannah Rothman won the Open Student Award.  We didn’t win the Open Resilience Award, but Charlie and I made a very cool video for our entry so I’m sharing it here anyway 🙂

ALT, Wikimedia UK, Creative Commons

I’ve continued serving as a trustee for ALT and Wikimedia UK and it’s always an honour to give something back to both these organisations, given their ongoing commitment to  openness, equity, community engagement and knowledge activism. This year I was privileged to sit on the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Awards panel, which is always an inspiring experience, and the recruitment panel for the new ALT CIO. I also stepped briefly into the role of interim Chair of Board for Wikimedia UK, when Nick Poole’s term came to an end and before our new chair Monisha Shah took up the role.  With my Wikimedia UK hat on, I contributed to the Creative Commons working group on the ethics of open sharing, chaired by Josie Fraser.  You can read the outputs and recommendations of this working group here: Beyond Copyright: the Ethics of Open Sharing.

Knowledge Activism

I made my own small contribution to knowledge activism at the beginning of the year, when the University’s Disabled Staff Network and Staff Pride Network decided to run an editathon for LGBT History Month, I suggested HIV and AIDS activism in Scotland as a topic. As a result of the HIV Scotland Editathon, six new articles were created and several others improved, making a significant contribution to representing the history of HIV and AIDS activism in Scotland on Wikipedia.  I created a new article about Scottish AIDS Monitor and I also wrote and article about Jill Nalder, the Welsh actress who inspired the character of Jill in Russel T. Davis’ drama Its a Sin. Later in the year, Gary Needham invited me to present a webinar on Knowledge Activism: Representing the History of HIV and AIDS activism on Wikipedia for the University of Liverpool’s School of the Arts.  Gary and I have a formative shared queer history that goes back many years, so it really meant a lot to me to be able to speak to him and his colleagues about the challenges of representing queer lives and experiences in this way. 

A different kind of knowledge activism was provoked by the BBC drama series Vigil, which opened with distressing scenes of a fishing trawler being sunk by a nuclear submarine off the West Coast of Scotland.  I certainly wasn’t the only one who noted similarities to the sinking of the fishing vessel Antares by hunter killer submarine HMS Trenchant off Arran in 1990, despite the BBC denying that the incident was based on any specific real life event.  At the time, there was no Wikipedia entry about the sinking of the Antares and HMS Trenchant‘s entry made only a veiled reference to the incident, so I fixed that.  It’s important that we remember tragedies like this and equally important that we remember who was responsible. 

And while we’re on the subject of activism and loss of life at sea, please consider supporting the Royal National Lifeboat Institution if you can.  Their volunteers risk their own lives to save those who find themselves in peril at sea, and they are facing increasing hostility and abuse for their selfless courage and humanity. 

COP26

Activism of a different kind was going on all over Glasgow in November to coincide with COP26.  I can’t say I’m hugely optimistic about the outcomes of the conference or the will of global leaders and developed nations to enact meaningful change to halt the climate crisis, however it was hugely inspiring to hear the voices of so many young indigenous community activists.  These are the radical voices we need to listen to and make space for.  Also kudos to my daughter for snapping what surely has to be the most accurate photograph of the conference and the crisis we face, when we joined the climate march through Glasgow on 7 November. 

COP26 Climate Crisis March, Glasgow, CC BY NC SA, Rhuna McCartney

Open Scotland

Another area where we’ve made less progress than I would have hoped is with Open Scotland.  As a purely voluntary initiative Open Scotland hasn’t been particularly active for a number of years now, but many of those involved are still supporting open education, open practice and OER through other initiatives and activities. We remain committed to the aims of the Scottish Open Education Declaration and we haven’t given up hope that one day, the Scottish Government will wake up to the benefits and affordances of sharing publicly funded educational resources under open licence.  In March this year, with support from Creative Commons, we made another attempt at engaging the Cabinet Secretary for Education with the the UNESCO Recommendation on OER and the Scottish Open Education Declaration, but again we were disappointed to receive a generic response from a civil servant.  At a time when inclusive and equitable access to quality education and lifelong learning opportunities has never been more important, Scottish Government’s continued failure to engage with open education and OER is disappointing to say the least. 

Hello Helo

On a more positive note, we got a new kitten this year.  This is Helo and he behaves more like a puppy than a cat.  He’s very cute, but he’s also an absolute menace.  My two long suffering adult cats are getting no peace. 

Helo, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

Home

I got home to the Hebrides in the summer for the first time in two years.  It was a joy to see family again and when I finally got to the beach (yes, that beach) I felt like I could breath again for the first time in months.

Traigh na Berie, Isle of Lewis, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

Hope

In what has been a difficult and challenging year on many levels, I’ve been privileged to continue working with so many kind, compassionate, fierce and committed open education practitioners and open knowledge advocates.  You give me hope. 

It seems fitting to end with a quote from the late, great bell hooks, whose courage and clarity touched so many and whose words provide hope for us all.

“My hope emerges from those places of struggle where I witness individuals positively transforming their lives and the world around them. Educating is a vocation rooted in hopefulness. As teachers we believe that learning is possible, that nothing can keep an open mind from seeking after knowledge and finding a way to know.”

~ bell hooks (1952 – 2021)

A Culture of Sharing: Strategic Support for OER at the University of Edinburgh

Many thanks to P-8 Digital Skills Project “Strengthening Digital Skills in Teaching”, ETH Zürich and ZHAW for inviting me to speak at their OER Conference 21. Slides and transcript of my talk, which highlights the work of Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, GeoScience Outreach students and Open Content Curation Interns, are available here.

Before we get started I just want to quickly recap what we mean when we talk about open education and OER.

The principles of open education were outlined in the 2008 Cape Town Declaration, one of the first initiatives to lay the foundations of the “emerging open education movement”. The Declaration advocates that everyone should have the freedom to use, customize, and redistribute educational resources without constraint, in order to nourish the kind of participatory culture of learning, sharing and cooperation that rapidly changing knowledge societies need.  The Cape Town Declaration is still an influential document that was updated on its 10th anniversary as Capetown +10, and I can highly recommend having a look at this if you want a broad overview of the principles of open education.

There are numerous definitions and interpretations of Open Education, some of which you can explore here.

One description of the open education movement that I particularly like is from the not for profit organization  OER Commons…

“The worldwide OER movement is rooted in the human right to access high-quality education. The Open Education Movement is not just about cost savings and easy access to openly licensed content; it’s about participation and co-creation.”

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Fundamentals of Music Theory – Adventures in open textbooks

Fundamentals of Music Theory open textbook coverLast week I was delighted to see a project that I’ve been working on since the beginning of the year come to fruition with the publication of the Fundamentals of Music Theory open textbook on the University of Edinburgh Library’s new ebook platform Edinburgh Diamond.  The open textbook was created by the the Open e-Textbooks for Access to Music Education project, which was funded by a University of Edinburgh Student Experience Grant. Led by Dr Nikki Moran and I, the project was a collaboration between the University’s OER Service, and staff and student interns, Kari Ding, Ifeanyichukwu Ezinmadu and Ana Reina Garcia, from the Reid School of Music.

The aim of the project was to explore the creation of an open etextbook using existing content from the Reid School of Music’s Fundamentals of Music Theory course. This course covers the fundamentals of Western music theory, from absolute basics to more advanced concepts, and provides learners with the skills needed to read and write Western music notation, and to understand, analyse, and listen informedly. The course uses content originally created for a successful Coursera MOOC, in addition to new materials developed more recently for an on campus blended learning course, addressing global decolonisation issues around music theory and music education. These high-quality resources were ideally suited to further repurposing to create an open textbook, increasing the use of this tried-and-tested content, and making it available to teachers and learners in an accessible format ideally suited to hybrid and online learning.   

The project provided us with an opportunity to evaluate a range of open textbook platforms and to gain valuable hands-on experience of the process and practicalities of creating an open textbook.  This experience is particularly valuable at a time when universities are increasingly moving from print to digital textbooks and are facing rapidly rising textbook licensing costs. Open textbooks have the potential to benefit the University by reducing textbook costs, benefit staff by providing access to easily customisable open textbooks, and benefit students by providing free, high quality digital learning materials. 

The project also enabled our student interns to develop valuable digital and copyright literacy skills including an understanding of open educational resources, open licenses and open etextbooks, familiarity with current etextbook applications, and experience of working with existing digital content and educational resources across a range of platforms. 

One of the first tasks undertaken by the project was to evaluate a range of different hosting options for our ebook; Manifold, PressBooks, GitHub and the University Library’s new ebook platform, Edinburgh Diamond, based on Open Monograph Press.  Balancing the pros and cons of each platform and considering the constraints of time and funding, we decided to publish our open textbook on Edinburgh Diamond. Open Access Publishing Officer Rebecca Wojturska, provided us with invaluable support in getting our textbook onto the platform and providing ISBN and DOIs. 

The project wasn’t without it’s challenges; the whole project had to be undertaken online due to COVID-19 restrictions, some of our student interns were working in different time zones, and I had no prior experience of producing the ePub formats required by the ebook platform, so it was a steep learning curve on my part!  I also had to dust off my rusty html and css skills which I haven’t used for years.  Despite the challenges, the project successfully demonstrated that it is possible to take existing MOOC and on-campus course content and repurpose it into an open textbook.

All in all, this was a hugely rewarding project, not least because of the enthusiasm and dedication of the team at the Reid School of Music.  It was a real joy to work with Nikki, Ana, Ifeanyichukwu and Kari.  One of the high points of the project was listening to our student interns presenting about their work at the OERxDomains Conference –  The Scale of Open: Re-purposing open resources for music education.  Our talk was really well received, with lots of delegates commenting on how important it was to hear students’ voices.  We learned a great deal from this small project and I hope that Fundamentals of Music Theory will be the first of many open textbooks published by staff and students across the University. 

Fundamentals of Music Theory is shared under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) licence and can be downloaded from Edinburgh Diamond in the following formats: Word, PDF, EPub (reflowable), ePub (fixed layout).  An HTML version will be available shortly. In order to make the open textbook as accessible and reusable as possible, users can download the book in its entirety, or topic by topic.

ISBN: 978-1-912669-22-6
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2218/ED.9781912669226

Header and cover image adapted from a free to use image by Geralt on Pixabay.

A new OER Policy for the University of Edinburgh

This post originally featured on the University of Edinburgh’s Teaching Matters blog. 

In September 2021, the University of Edinburgh’s Education Committee approved a new Open Education Resources (OER) Policy, which revises and updates our previous 2016 policy. Supported by the central OER Service, the policy encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience, expand provision of learning opportunities, and enrich our shared knowledge commons. Investing in OER and open licensing helps to improve the sustainability and longevity of our educational resources, while encouraging colleagues to reuse and repurpose existing open materials expands the pool of teaching and learning resources and helps to diversity the curriculum. As one of the few universities in the UK to have an OER policy, the new policy strengthens the University of Edinburgh’s position as a world leader in open education and reiterates our strategic commitment to openness and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Five years of OER at the University of Edinburgh

“Staff and students at The University of Edinburgh produce huge amounts of teaching and learning materials every year. The OER policy helps us to help you make them available for sharing with teachers and students all around the world.”

Dr Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal and Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services (LTW)

In the five years since the first OER Policy was approved, the quantity and quality of open educational resources produced by staff and students across the University has increased enormously. We now have a collection of thousands of media assets, hundreds of OERs, and dozens of massive open online courses that can be used, re-used, adapted and re-shared in sustainable ways. This includes almost 5000 open licensed videos on Media Hopper Create, 243 open resources and collections shared through the Open.Ed OER Showcase, 84 free short online courses, and 67 student-created OERs for school teachers on TES Resources, which have been downloaded over 60,000 times.  The OER Service has run over 230 digital skills workshops, employed ten student interns, won three awards, and our How To Guides have been accessed 109,502 times.

Policy Review

The OER Policy review and revision was undertaken by Neil McCormick, Education Technology Policy Officer, and Lorna M. Campbell, OER Service Manager, both based in Learning Teaching and Web Services in ISG. In reviewing this policy, we considered developments at several other UK and European universities with existing OER practice.

Some institutions mandate the use of a single central OER repository to curate, quality control and monitor the impact of the resources their faculty create. Here at the University we trust colleagues to quality control their own teaching and learning resources, and we do not have a central OER repository because they are often unsustainable, and it can be difficult to encourage engagement. Instead, the Policy continues to encourage colleagues to share their open licensed teaching and learning materials in an appropriate repository or public-access website so that they can be discovered and re-used by others. The OER Service provides access to many channels for this purpose, including the OER Showcase, the Open Media Bank on Media Hopper Create, the Open.Ed Shop on TES Resources, and various channels on Flickr, YouTube, and Sketchfab.  We also have an @OpenEdEdinburgh twitter account that we use to share news, highlight OERs created by staff and students across the University, and connect with the global open education community.

Some universities mandate that any resource considered for internal teaching awards must be open licensed. While we encourage all colleagues to share their resources under open licence, and the sponsors of awards to consider OERs in their award criteria, we didn’t enshrine this in policy.

A third approach adopted by some institutions is that any resource produced in cooperation with the central learning technology service must be open by default. This is often the case in practice here at the University of Edinburgh; the majority of the teaching and learning resources created with support from the Online Course Production Service for our free short online courses are open licensed and are available on Media Hopper Create. In addition, the OER Service’s digital skills programme helps to increase understanding of the benefits of using and creating OERs, encouraging open practice, and improving copyright literacy among both staff and students.

Policy Updates

Following current global practice, the policy has adopted a new definition of OER from the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Education Resources.

“Open Educational Resources (OERs) are learning, teaching and research materials in any format and medium that reside in the public domain or are under copyright that have been released under an open license, that permit no-cost access, re-use, re-purpose, adaptation and redistribution by others.”

The update also brings the OER Policy in line with our Lecture Recording Policy and Virtual Classroom Policy. With the increase in media being recorded, knowledge of data protection has become essential when creating and sharing open content. The policy clarifies what personally identifiable information colleagues should be aware of when creating open resources, including names, images, voices and personal opinions of individuals.

Policy Licence

As with our previous policy, the new OER Policy has been released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) to enable it to be shared, reused and repurposed by others.

Visit the University’s OER Service at Open.Ed to find out more about the new OER Policy and what it means for you.

Making Hybrid Meetings Work

Last weekend I joined Wikimedia UK colleagues for our first in-person Board meeting and away day since 2019. I say joined, but I actually dialled in remotely, while the rest of the Board met in person in London.  Much as I would have loved to see everyone, the Board away day is always a really stimulating and inspiring event, I didn’t feel comfortable risking the 7 hour train journey from Glasgow to London. Thankfully Wikimedia UK CEO Lucy Crompton-Reid was more than happy to accommodate remote participation and to run both the Board meeting and the away day as hybrid events.  This wasn’t entirely straight forward because as interim Chair of Board, I was chairing the Board meeting on Friday evening, and we had lots of group working and breakout sessions planned for the away day on Saturday.  With a little patience and consideration from everyone involved we managed to make it work though.  

Since we’re all currently trying to get to grips with hybrid working, I thought it might be useful to share some thoughts and observations on how to make sure everyone can participate in hybrid meetings.   

Good Practice is Good Practice

We’ve all got used to online meetings but hybrid meetings require a little additional planning.  The good news is that, in keeping with the principles of universal design, a lot of the things that really make a difference in running successful hybrid meetings are good practice for any kind of meeting.  Specifically:

Remind everyone to speak slowly and clearly.  This is helpful not just for remote participants, but also for anyone whose hearing is impaired.

Don’t let people speak over each other.  It’s very hard to follow the conversation if multiple people are speaking at once, and this can also discourage people from participating.

Make sure everyone has a chance to speak. If you’re chairing the meeting, make sure you give all participants an opportunity to contribute.  Don’t forget remote participants!

Technology

You don’t need a room with built in conferencing technology to run a hybrid meeting, though it can help. We made it work perfectly adequately with a laptop and Zoom. 

If you’re going down the laptop route, make sure you have a backup machine or two, as audio and connection quality might vary.

Allow extra time to get set up.  It will always take longer than you think!

If remote participants are joining via a dedicated laptop, make sure someone is watching it to catch chat messages or in case the connection drops out.

Audio and Video

Audio quality is much more important than video, if you’ve got low bandwidth or the connection is spotty, turn off cameras.  You might want to turn cameras on for introductions and then turn them off again afterwards.  You can also turn cameras on at periodic points, perhaps during breaks, so people can see each other without disrupting the meeting.

Use an external microphone where possible.  Laptop mics tend to be directional so only pick up those sitting directly in front of the mic.

If you have a screen you can project remote participants onto it, but again, it’s not necessary to run a successful hybrid meeting. 

Background noise has a big impact on audio quality and can make it very hard for remote participants to hear in room discussions. Minimising background noise is particularly challenging as a result of the ongoing COVID pandemic which requires rooms to be well ventilated. Opening windows or turning on air conditioning can introduce so much background noise that remote participants may struggle to participate.  However, the safety of the people in the room has to be paramount, so if possible, try to find a room that you can ventilate safely, without having too much impact on audio quality.  

Facilitating Hybrid Meetings

It’s useful for the meeting facilitator or chair to use a separate laptop from the one remote participants are dialling in to, so they can project minutes, documents, etc., if necessary.  This also means that someone other than the facilitator can reinstate the connection if it drops out.

If you want to capture group discussions, use a shared document projected on to a screen, rather than a flipchart. This enables remote participants to contribute and to read points captured from others.

Photographing card sort activities, flip charts and notes, and sharing the pictures with remote participants works perfectly well if you don’t have shared docs, Padlets etc set up.

Don’t forget to include remote participants!

And if you’re participating remotely…

Test your set up before hand if necessary.

Don’t be afraid to ask colleagues to speak up or to speak more clearly if you can’t hear them.

You may have to interrupt people in order to contribute to group discussions, as participants in the room won’t have the visual cues that you want to speak.

It’s much easier to participate remotely if you’re not the only one dialling in.  If you have multiple people participating remotely you can work together in breakout groups and use shared documents to capture discussions.

Hybrid meetings can really tiring if you’re joining remotely, as you may have to listen really closely to follow discussions in the room.

It might sound like a lot to think about, but with a little preparation, care and consideration it’s not difficult to run successful hybrid meetings were everyone has a chance to participate.

ALTC 2021 – Ethics, joy and no gobackery

This year’s annual ALT Conference was a bit of a different experience for me as it’s the first time in years that I wasn’t speaking or doing social media coverage, I was “just” a delegate among over 300 others, and honestly it was a welcome experience just to be part of that community and to listen to and learn from colleagues across the UK and beyond.  This was the first ALT Annual Conference to take place entirely online, and although I was only able to dip in and out over the course of the three days, I got a real sense of the buzz around the event.  It really did feel like a broad and diverse community coming together. 

With the launch of the ALT Framework for Ethical Learning Technology, ethics was a central theme that ran throughout the conference.  The Framework is an important and timely initiative co-created by members of the community and led by ALT Trustees Bella Abrams, Sharon Flynn and Natalie Lafferty. The aim of the Framework is to provide scaffolding to help learning technologists, institutions, and industry to make decisions around technology in an informed and ethical manner. This work is very much a starting point and over the next year, ALT will be gathering case studies and example policies from across the sector.  At Edinburgh, we’ve already submitted our open licensed Lecture Recording Policy as an example.  Speaking in a panel as part of the launch, Javiera Atenas suggested that we use the Framework as a starting point and urged us to go further than the principle of Do No Harm when it comes to gathering and using data.

Sonia Livingstone’s keynote also focused on the ethics of data use and the quantification and instrumentalisation of learning.  We operate in a system where learning is rendered invisible if it cannot be quantified, and increasingly we’re moving from the quantification of learning to the datafication of everything.   Sonia asked a lot of hard questions, including what does “good” look like when it comes to children’s data rights, and how do we ensure children’s agency and participation in the collection and use of their data?

Chris Rowell and Matthew Acevedo presented an excellent session on academic integrity and critical digital pedagogy from the forthcoming book Critical Digital Pedagogy – Broadening Horizons, Bridging Theory and Practice edited by Suzan Koseoglu, George Veletsianos, Chris Rowell. Matthew’s talk explored virtual proctoring, the Panoptic gaze, and the discourse of academic integrity. It was another thought-provoking session and I’ll look forward to reading the book once it’s published. 

Mutale Nkonde’s keynote explored the intersection of ethics and technology in her revealing dissection of the racist nature of the TikTok algorithm and the impact this can have on real lived experience.  We know that algorithms and technologies reproduce racial biases that exist in society, but we lack the literacy to be able to view and talk honestly about ourselves as victims and perpetrators of white supremacy. Mutale introduced the Framework for Racial Literacy in Technology which provides us with the means to talk about racism and algorithmic bias through cognitive, emotional and active lenses.  Mutale challenged us to ask ourselves, when we are creating algorithms, how can we optimise them for fairness and justice?  How can we make the lives of marginalised peoples better rather than promoting those who are already privileged?

As the parent of a teen who is a frequent TikTok user, Mutale’s talk left me with a lot to think about and discuss with my daughter.  At 15 she is well aware that TikTok is a massively racist platform and she knows that the way the algorithm pushes content to users can be extremely harmful.  In particular she highlighted the prevalence of content relating to self-harm and trauma dumping.  On the one hand I’m glad that she has sufficient digital literacy to recognise that the content she views is being manipulated by the platform, but at the same time it’s deeply concerning that harmful content is being pushed to users at such a young age.

Lou Mycroft’s keynote was one of the highlights of the conference for me.  I’ve been familiar with Lou’s work for a long time and have often seen the #JoyFE hashtag passing on my timeline, but this is the first time I’ve heard her talking about the philosophies and ethics that underpin this amazing collective.  In an inspiring and expansive talk, Lou explored an ethics of joy as characterised by Spinoza’s concept of potentia; by practising joy, we enact our power in the form of potentia.  Lou challenged us to use our potentia to drive change, and resist the fatal pull of “gobackery”, the gravitational pull of the old.  While Lou acknowledged that the ethics of accountability and KPIs will not be changing any time soon, she argued that we can have parallel values based on an ethics of joy, and urged us to put our core values into strategic planning, asking; What might assessment look like as a process of hope? What might induction look like as a practice of compassion? Or timetabling as a practice of equity?

One of the points Lou made in her talk, which stopped me in my tracks, was that right now Higher Education carries a burden of pain.  It’s true, we all know that, we all feel that pain every day, but to hear it stated so plainly was transformative.  However there is still a place for hope and joy.  In a sector that currently appears to be exercising all its considerable power to pull us back to old entrenched ways living, working, being, learning, we need to use our own hope and joy to keep driving change forwards.  To do that we need educator lead communities with explicit shared values and affirmative ethics.  I believe ALT is one of those communities, with its shared values of openness, independence, participation and collaboration.

As is inevitable with such a packed programme, and juggling the conference around existing work commitments, I missed so many sessions that looked really interesting, including several by colleagues here at the University of Edinburgh and one on Using OER to empower communities of undergraduate scholars by Carlos Goller.   I’ll look forward to catching up with the recordings of these sessions in the coming weeks. 

Right at the beginning of the conference, co-chairs Farzana Latif, Roger Emery, and Mat Lingard asked us when we first attended an ALT Conference or whether we were new to the event.  My first ALT Conference was in Manchester in 2000, where I presented a paper with Allison Littlejohn and Charles Duncan called Share and share alike: encouraging the reuse of academic resources through the Scottish electronic Staff Development Library.  It’s amazing to see how the ALT community has grown and developed over the last 20 years.  I look forward to seeing where the next 20 will lead us.

Enormous thanks once again to everyone who made this year’s ALT Conference such an inspiring and joy-full event, particularly the co-chairs, the keynotes, and of course Maren Deepwell and all the ALT team. 

ALT Annual Conference by Gloria Corra, winner of the #altc student competition at London College of Communication

 

 

M&M Podcast on Knowledge Equity

Earlier this week I had the very great pleasure of joining my colleagues Myles Blaney and Michael Gallagher for their fabulous M&M Podcast to talk about knowledge equity.  I’m a big fan of the M&M Podcast and knowledge equity is a topic that is very close to my heart so I really enjoyed the experience.

In a packed, half-hour conversation we covered everything from what knowledge equity means, improving knowledge equity through open education and co-creation, gatekeeping in open spaces, the impact of algorithmic bias, power, privilege and unconscious bias, learning from other cultures and knowledge structures, and what practical steps institutions can take to improve knowledge equity and inclusion. 

We also went off at a few tangents to talk about COVID vaccines, the historical repression of knowledge equity, how history is constructed and taught, acknowledging the legacy of Scotland’s colonial past, and confusing the twitter algorithm. 

You can listen to the podcast here – M&M Podcast 24: The one where we talk with Lorna Campbell, and like all good things, it’s open licensed of course! 

Knowledge Activism: Representing the History of HIV and AIDS activism on Wikipedia

This is a transcript of a talk I gave for the University of Liverpool School of the Arts “Making a difference in the real world” series. 

My name is Lorna Campbell, I’m a learning technology service manager at the University of Edinburgh and I’m also a Trustee of Wikimedia UK, and today I’m going to be talking about Wikipedia as a site of knowledge activism, the representation of queer and marginalised histories on the encyclopedia, and particularly the history of HIV and AIDS activism.  And I’ll also be introducing some of the people who have inspired me on my own journey to becoming a knowledge activist.Slides are available here: Knowledge Activism

First of all I’d like to start with a few acknowledgements.  I know acknowledgements usually come at the end, but as I’m going to be talking about the work of colleagues whose knowledge activism has been deeply inspirational to me, I want to speak their names up front.  So I’d like to thank

  • Áine Kavanagh, Reproductive BioMedicine graduate, University of Edinburgh.
  • Prof Allison Littlejohn, Director, UCL Knowledge Lab & Dr Nina Hood, University of Aukland.
  • Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence, University of Edinburgh.
  • Tara Robertson, Tara Robertson Consulting.
  • Tomas Sanders, History graduate, University of Edinburgh.
  • Sara Thomas, Scotland Projects Coordinator, Wikimedia UK.

Wikimedia UK is the UK chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation, the international not-for-profit organisation that supports the Wikimedia projects, of which Wikipedia is the best known.  Wikimedia’s vision is to imagine a world in which every human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.  This is not just a statement it’s a promise of inclusivity.

Wikipedia itself needs little introduction, the free encyclopaedia is the fifth most visited site on the internet, with over 6 billion monthly visitors.  English Wikipedia alone has over 6 million articles and there are an estimated 52 million articles in 309 languages supported by the site as a whole. 

Wikipedia is not just a repository of knowledge in its own right, it’s also a source of information for others services such as Google, whose 92 billion visits per month dwarfs Wikipedia’s paltry 6 billion. Amazon Alexa also draws much of its information from Wikipedia. Whenever you ask Alexa a question, there’s a good chance that the answer will come from Wikipedia.

In the global knowledge economy, knowledge is power, and Wikipedia is the largest repository of free, open and transparent information in the world.  Consequently, it’s perhaps no surprise that Wikipedia is censored to various degrees by numerous countries and regimes throughout the world, and outright banned by several including Myanmar, China, and Turkey. 

Having access to a platform where we can all access reliable, high quality information for free has never been more important in this age of disinformation, fake news, and government sanctioned culture wars.  How information is created and consumed matters like never before, and understanding how knowledge is created on Wikipedia can help people to understand how they consume and reproduce information.

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OERxDomains21 – All Change

OER21 BadgeThe OER Conference is always one of the highlights of the year for me. I’ve been privileged to attend every single one since conference launched in 2010 and it’s been interesting to see how the event has changed as open education has evolved over the last 11 years. My keynote at the 2018 conference focused on this evolution and explored how themes and trends around open education had developed, and the OER conferences had responded by become more diverse, inclusive, and international. This year the OER conference entered a new phase of its evolution with a new partnership and a new technology platform. OER21 was run in conjunction with the Domains Conference as OERxDomains21 and, instead of Blackboard Collaborate, the event used Streamyard, YouTube and Discord. The event was brilliantly co-chaired by Joe Wilson, Louise Drumm, Lou Mycroft, Jim Goom and Lauren Hanks.

I have to confess I didn’t know quite what to expect as the conference approached, for the first time in years, I wasn’t able to join the conference committee owing to other work commitments. Streamyard was completely new to me, and although I’m very familiar with Discord I was a bit conflicted about using it for work purposes, as it’s one of my main non-work channels; basically, it’s where I hang out with my friends on group chat.  In the event, the technology worked brilliantly, with unflappable support from ALT and the Reclaim Hosting team.   Proving the adage that a change is as good as a rest, the new platform encouraged all kinds of opportunities for discussion and interaction and lots of participants commented that the event had much more of a social feel than other online conferences. Discord really did have the feel of a physical conference space, where everyone came together to chat, share and hang out, and the live Youtube comment facility that accompanied the presentations and keynotes really helped to encourage discussion.  My only small regret is that with so much of the engagement happening across multiple conference platforms, there was less activity on the hashtags on twitter, which makes it a little harder to look back over all the discussions that took place.

It’s not the technology that makes the OER Conference such a special experience though, it’s the community, and this year was no exception.  I was really delighted to be attending with three student interns, Ana Reina Garcia, Ifeanyichukwu Ezinmadu and Kari Ding, to present a paper on our Open Textbooks for Access to Music Education project.  Our presentation got a really positive response and it was great to see how enthusiastically everyone responded to the students’ involvement in both the project and the conference.  You can find a transcript and slides, as well as more information about the project, on our blog here The Scale of Open: Re-purposing open resources for music education.

I also helped to facilitate an Open Space session with Jane Secker, Chris Morrison, Greg Walters and Sarah Barkala exploring the relationship between open practices, copyright literacy and the shift to online teaching. The Open Space sessions ran in dedicated Discord channels, and although the platform is ideal for group chat, participants were a little shy about taking the mic, and without an in-channel chat facility, it meant that there was less discussion than we’d hoped.  However we did collate some useful resources on a padlet around four key questions related to copyright law, literacy and open practice.

I had to dip in and out of the conference owing to a bit of a crazy workload and a lot of meetings, sadly that’s not something that even the best conference organisation can solve, however the new platform did make it very easy for me to catch up with sessions that I’d missed, which I really appreciated.  I made a point of catching as many of the keynotes as possible, and came away truly inspired. Three themes that emerged strongly across the conference were playfulness and creativity, equity and care, and acknowledging the labour of openness.

OER21 bingo cardCreativity and playfulness was very much to the fore in Laura Gibbs keynote #BeyondLMS: Open Creativity, Randomized which focused on the transformative power of encouraging creative writing on the open web.  Not only did Laura randomise her keynote slides she also let participants create randomised bingo cards so we could play along during her keynote.  Believe it or not, I was the first to get bingo! Though of course it’s the taking part that counts, not the winning 😉

Another of the creative highlights of the conference was Eamon Costello and Prajakta Grime’s mind expanding University V is alive! Now open to the closed, the cruel and the dead.  More of an incantation than a presentation, this incredible multimedia experience left participants challenged and bewildered. I missed the live performance but there was such a buzz about it on Discord that I dropped everything to jump over to youtube to watch the recording. 

A powerful ethic of care has been nurtured by the OER conferences year on year and it’s been humbling and inspiring to see seeds planted at previous conferences take root and grow.  Jasmine Robert’s keynote asked Open for Whom?: Revisiting the Global Commitments of Open Education and posed three key questions:

Jasmine reminded us that open is not always culturally appropriate in different cultural contexts and questioned the ease with which we assign authority to white men, while urging us to acknowledge and protect vulnerable scholars and people of colour who are doing the hard work of open scholarship. She closed her keynote by quoting bell hooks

“All the great social movements for freedom & justice in our society have promoted a love ethic. The testimony of love is the practice of freedom.”

And asking for “open education that is focused on a love ethic to move towards a path of global healing.”

In the Q&A session afterwards I asked Jasmine how we can work to ensure that the labour of care and social justice labour is fully acknowledged and more equally distributed?  She replied that we must begin by acknowledging how much we *all* benefit from social justice labour and care.

In the closing keynote, Rajiv Jhangiani also focused on the Curious Contradictions and Open-ended Questions of what it means to be open, who gets to decide what is open enough, and whether openness is always a good thing.  Rajiv cited an example highlighted by tara robertson of an instance where openness raised troubling ethical issues.  When the lesbian porn magazine On Our Backs was digitised and released under CC BY licence, women who had modelled for the magazine felt that work they had created for their own community had been appropriated for uses they had never intended and did not consent to. 

As someone who is passionate about knowledge activism and the representation of queer history in open culture, this really gave me pause for thought, particularly as I recently created a Wikipedia entry for another lesbian porn magazine Quim, which was co-created by a former On Our Backs photo editor.

Rajiv reminded us that:

“Openness can be leveraged for justice, but it can also do harm. Closed practices can also do harm, but there are times when closed is the empowered choice. Choice is key. We must serve justice, rather than merely being open.”

Another point Rajiv made that raised interesting questions for me was that “the OER Community is one where people are more comfortable to be vulnerable.”  This is certainly true, and I speak from experience, though of course we all have different relationships with that community and I wonder if we don’t always appreciate just how deeply uncomfortable vulnerability can make us feel, even within such a supportive community.  This had struck me during an earlier conference session where participants were asked so share, as part of a series of small groups discussions, stories of instances where care or equity had been lacking, and record them on slides to be shared with the larger group.  While sharing stories of this nature in a small group can be cathartic and empowering, it can be difficult and potentially risky for some to share examples from personal practice in public.  The exercise raised some interesting issues of power and inequity, points that the presenters acknowledged.  

For me, as is so often the case, it was Catherine Cronin who really captured the ethic of care that resonated at the heart of the conference by reminding us that

“Care without equity exacerbates inequality”.

To close I want to say a huge thank you to the teams at ALT and Reclaim hosting, the conference co-chairs and committee, and all the participants who made OER21 such a fun, engaging, thought provoking and empowering event.  And special thanks, as always, to Maren Deepwell who really embodies ALT’s commitment to community, care, equity and openness ♡