California love

Reflections on 2017 Open Education Conference and #OpenEdMOOC Week 2

This post is serving two purposes. It happens that #OpenEdMOOC and #OpenEd17 overlapped this week. For one thing, I’m keeping my MOOC completion dreams alive. On the other hand, the overlap of these two open ed events has resulted in a confluence of ideas + an effort to come away with a clear idea of where we are all headed. And, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I think that is as true for those who have worked in Open Education for decades as it is for those who are just poking our noses in now.

In her closing keynote, Cathy Casserly encouraged us to welcome dissent. To keep the conversation challenging. My colleague, Terry Greene reflected on the echo chamber effect of the Open Ed conference a few days ago. Cathy and Terry were saying the same thing.

The most challenging conversations I had were outside of scheduled programming. These conversations were with people who had seen Open Education grow and flourish. There were many fond references to the old days: there were only 20 of us! We only needed half a room!

This all sounds so great. It must have been liberating and energizing to be on the edge of something impactful. And, maybe the path appeared clear and straight for the most part.

I’m not quite sure how the original Open Ed thinkers see the world now. I thought the Cengage announcement would provide the perfect conversation starter, but it hardly came up. And, when it did, the reaction was something like this: commercial publishers are taking up OER development. Isn’t this what we wanted?

I wasn’t around in the early days, so I can’t answer that question.

No matter what side of the non-commercial licensing debate you fall on (shout out #OpenEdMOOC, that’s me applying Week 2 learning), there is one truth that needs to be restated:

Publishers serve themselves: we serve the public

When I say “we” I’m speaking from a public-sector vantage point. That includes, at the very least, anyone who is paid, in whole or in part, from public sources. There are many more people who do not fall into this definition but maintain this value.

I started to explore some of this thinking in conversations that I had throughout the conference and the reaction was mixed. There were references to ‘the market’ and altruism. The implication was that institutions and educators do not have the ability, or the desire, to mimic commercial publishing processes.

I totally get it. I am a slave to reality in most things.

But, I can’t quite shake this feeling: we need to believe in our public institutions and the people in them.

The wonderful thing about academics it is that they are independent thinkers. This makes them a bit of a nuisance in the publishing process. No two chemists will agree!

Two chemists only need to agree if you are asking them to collaborate as authors in a textbook. Yet, we know that the days of the textbook are limited. I heard this over and over at Open Ed.

If we give our educators the tools to create, adapt and repurpose their own teaching resources this becomes a non-issue. It may be messy. It may be something to celebrate. It might just mean that those two Chemists are fully invested in their thinking and their teaching.

We need to empower our educators. We need to give them opportunities to engage directly in the development of their teaching resources. This is the only way that open pedagogy happens and that the culture of higher education shifts. It is not by outsourcing the open publishing process. The process matters. Doing the process matters. A healthy commons depends on it. Because the commons is not a thing, after all, it’s a process cultivated by the community (David Bollier).

I am lucky enough to have a garden in my house in Toronto. I grew garlic this year and my garlic-pride verges on embarrassing.

This is what I have noticed: I plan exactly when and how I’m going to use my garlic. Really carefully. And, I celebrate the result. It’s just better.

I think this might be true for all things that we put a part ourselves into.

7 Replies to “California love”

  1. I believe in garlic. Every recipe I try seems to always use an insufficient amount of garlic (just one clove, WTF). Like public service, you cannot have too much garlic.

    Yours are beautiful!

  2. This is a thoughtful reflection, Lena. We are certainly entering a new era and it takes time to adjust. During my first career working in integrative medicine, there was a “us vs.them” mentality among many of my colleagues, as I see in the open movement. I eventually learned to shelve that viewpoint and approach each person I met – on both sides – as a valued colleague. It made for a more interesting and enriching work life, and education for both parties.

    1. Thanks Lauri – your feedback is really appreciated. One of the things that I value about the Open Ed community is this willingness to have the conversation. Agree that we need to nurture and reward that willingness to reach out to each other.

  3. Hi Lena,

    That’s an insightful reflection and I enjoyed reading your blog post. Thanks for sharing.

    For me “Publishers serve themselves: we serve the public” sums up the message. For some time, I’ve been suggesting that open education is a cultural change from sharing to LEARN –> Learning to SHARE. (The latter is easier to achieve when underpinned by the values of education as a social good with a healthy dose of the essential freedoms which underpinned the success of the Free Software Movement).

    Keep blogging – this is good stuff!

  4. Totally agree – it’s the process that matters – because the process depends on intention – openness and building up the commons (as opposed to profit 🙂 ) Great to see this. Thanks Lena (and that’s some fine looking garlic you’ve got there- your pride is well warranted)!

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