OER17 some thoughts

I wrote a heck of a lot of thoughts into my notepad of what I wanted to write about, but I think the read time could amount to ~10 hours… So here’s a snapshot of thoughts right now. They aren’t complete by any stretch, but I have to get something down now before a new week of madness begins.

The Gift of Giving: power and vulnerability

In her keynote Maha talked about giving gifts as a kind of paradox, that we jump to assumptions of what someone wants or needs: “let me get that for you,” she said as she opened a door for someone with walking difficulties assuming that they would require help.

This really stuck with me. On the train back from London I was thinking back to a pre-conference workshop I attended at DML 2016 that focused on ‘brokering’ and the politics of power. At OER17 I found myself in an unusual position of ‘power’ where I was brokering introductions and ideas between people. I have been so used to being brokered (as a subject of brokering) than being a broker, particularly in these circles. I also found myself witnessing an act of brokering which I knew was intended as being supportive and enabling, but knowing the brokee (is that even the right term?) I could see that this was an uncomfortable encounter. I don’t have answers; brokering is important, but it’s highly political.

But then of course, as educators we broker all the time. We broker learners to new knowledge and networks. By proxy, learners are made more vulnerable. Which naturally leads me to inserting this:

I was honoured to be part of this conversation around vulnerability; how we recognise it and how we support it appropriately. A presentation that resonates with me is Tanya Dorey-Elias’ who shared her project “When in Needed Help“.

“The blog site whenIneededhelp.com is an attempt to create the safest possible space to gather the stories of marginalized people who have reached out for help to police, social agencies and other governmental and non-governmental organizations. It is possible that not all of the stories will be positive. The sites goals is to empower newcomers to the community to hear the voices of others to know they are not alone, and to share their stories if and when they are ready.

Using the SPLOT Writer tool (Levine & Lamb, 2015) as a starting point, the site was then modified to further simplify the required fields.  All requirements to share any identifying information (names, emails or IP addresses) was eliminated, providing a high level of anonymity if desired. We have also tested the site to confirm that it can be accessed by users from secure browsers.”

Her project is absolutely underpinned by openness, but equally leverages technology to support privacy and safety. Tanya was telling me about how she reconfigured the time-out time on the form to better support the TOR browser. I’m excited to follow-up more on this project throughout my PhD that is centred around vulnerable online health communities.

The notion of the ‘gift’ and ‘giving’ was a powerful thread that ran through the conference. I heard about projects that were supporting students to give back to Wikipedia (through language translations) and to the local community.

In the closing plenary, we were all asked to share what we are going to do after the conference:

Other musings…

First of all, I was humbled with feedback from both my talk on #PrivacyUG and the workshop on Towards Openness that Christian Friedrich and Markus Deimann co-facilitated with me. I have some further reflections to make on both of these, but I’m going to have to save them for other posts. 🙂

The timing of OER17 was actually a little tricky for me: on the Friday I had to hand in a paper I’ve written about using participatory design to co-create an OER. That OER has been made on a WordPress site and not in a built system like OER Commons. Irritatingly, I sat at the conference worrying whether this was the ‘right’ decision, whether this means it’s less open because perhaps fewer people will be able to find it – unlike classes like DS106 and Phonar, this project does not have public online conversations around it. And then, thankfully, a post-conference debate has emerged around permissions of openness. Although the resource might be less discoverable, at least for now while I figure out an action plan, I know that it embodies other elements of openness and I feel okay about that again.

Openness isn’t a race or a game. In fact, just like privacy or security it’s about weighing up opportunities and risks. I alluded to in my talk that while I reaped the affordances of open and connected learning through open courses Picbod and Phonar, I recognised the risk of sharing certain stories and I actively thought carefully about what was open, closed, private and public.

Finally, I really enjoyed this week; seeing some old faces and many new ones. I am thankful to be part of this community both f2f and online (through Virtually Connecting, Twitter etc.). I am also very excited about the OER18 theme that centres around the learner (being one myself, I am bias) so I can hear from others. I must admit though, I am a little gutted that it’s not “be less pigeon, be more goat” – just think about the awesome stickers Bryan Mathers could design…


4 comments on “OER17 some thoughtsAdd yours →

  1. Thanks for your reflections. Now I’m even more sorry that I missed your workshop. I have just finished editing the keynotes that I had planned to live blogs, and I came across what she said about privacy/openness when she “emphasised that Open as a political act does not mean that Open is in opposition to Privacy.”
    I am fascinated by the tensions, productive or otherwise, between private and public that are played out on ‘open’ platforms like Twitter. I see Twitter’s relaxation of the length of DMs as probably economic – more content to mine. Private convos can support people under attack or otherwise vulnerable in the public sphere but they can also reinforce filter bubbles. I can see you are doing great work in this area.

  2. Thanks for the kind words and so happy to have had the chance to chat a bit. I also look forward to following up on your work with vulnerable online health communities. Anecdotally at least there seems to be a lot of overlap between these types of vulnerable communities.

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