June 5, 2019

Alt-Ac, 5 Years Later

I was reminded today that five years ago, I officially received a job offer to join CELT at the University of Kentucky, kicking off my Alt-Ac career as a faculty developer/academic technologist. Morehead feels like another lifetime ago, not five short years. I have (finally?) settled down and found

The #UWinToolParade: Open Pedagogy as #OER

I have a new project I’m really excited about. Even if it kinda goes against just about EVERYTHING I’ve said about tech in education over the past, uh, decade.It’s a Tool Parade. At least on the surface. I’m marshalling the #UWinToolParade with three – soon to be four – brilliant and creative B.Ed students at […]

A Deeper Dive into the Health of the Internet

The Mozilla Foundation recently put out its 2019 Internet Health Report, and I kept meaning to dive in a little deeper to understand some of the trends of online activity, if only to better comprehend the world in which my young students are moving into (or are already immersed into). You can access the report, […]

The Future of Ed Tech in Higher Ed when Open Source is a Radical Solution

Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to be a keynote speaker at the Open Apereo 2019 conference. This is the first time a keynote I’ve done has been recorded so I’m posting the recording as well as the text script (even thought I diverged from it on occasion). I have nothing but huge gratitude to all the wonderful organizers and people I met at the conference in LA and I sincerely hope that our complementary worlds of open education and Apereo will overlap more in our future activities. It is a great pleasure to be here today, not only because I am a huge admirer of Apereo but also because I understand what it is to have this privilege of being here as a keynote.  This is my first time at Apereo, having only discovered its existence this year, so I thought it would be helpful to know a few things about me.  I am an accidental technologist; a mom of a teen and preteens (so pray for me for the next 5 years); a mountain biker (but as I recently discovered watching some video of me, I’m really slow); a former ultimate frisbee player; a romance novel fan (and I thank the people at Smart Bitches Trashy Women for not making me feel bad about that); sometimes painter, and a Vancouverite.  I am also a proud member of the #femedtech community who are doing amazing work surfacing and bringing critical feminist perspectives to educational technology.   This year I’m working with BCcampus as a researcher in Open Education Practices and who have been generously supporting not only research on how institutions are getting to open in our sector, but also the role of open ed tech in open education practices. Open education practices is the umbrella term for teaching and learning activities that included creation, use, and reuse of open education resources such as open textbooks, open pedagogies and the sharing of teaching practices. Open textbooks are textbooks that have been funded, published, and licensed to be freely used, adapted, and distributed.  Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others. Open Education is part of a broader ecosystem of open (Open Education, yes, but also Open Access, Open Science, Open Data, Open Source, Open Government). It’s been such a delightful year working with BC campus and specifically the open textbook team and I’m so incredibly grateful for one of the highlights of my professional career. I’ve spent the last 10 years in senior administration at the Justice Institute of BC where I am the Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning, & Innovation and where I am responsible for the ed tech and innovation strategy.  Today, I’d like to talk about how open ed tech infrastructures need to be part of our institutions if we care about open education practices and ethical ed tech futures.  I’m aware that I’m speaking to a room of IT specialists, educational technologists, administrators working with open technology and some of what I talk about today may already be old news to you, but I hope that it will underline the importance of the work that you are doing. In BC it is customary for us to begin with a territorial acknowledgement and I would like to acknowledge that the land on which I work and live is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.   Through the excellent resource Nativeland.ca I learned that the LA region is the traditional territory Gabrielino/Tongva (Tongva) peoples.  In looking to learn more about this indigenous past and present, I came across this website which describes a project that aims to map Indigenous Los Angeles through a storymapping project with youth, community leaders, and elders from indigenous communities throughout the city. It’s a fascinating website and I urge you to dig into it. Territorial acknowledgements provide us with the opportunity to reflect on our histories and the erasure of those histories.  My work is at the intersection of ed tech, innovation, and open education and a couple of years ago I became interested in these histories, in particular the time period of the 1960s to 1980s.  I guess you could say that I’m at that age where new things sound like old things and I wanted to check my assumptions. This took me on a fascinating (but by no means comprehensive) journey into old academic journal articles and I’ll share a few gems with you.  a.     “institutions are like blobs of jello: they absorb attempts to change their shape” . My personal favourite comes from an article called Radical Innovation in a Conventional Framework: Problems and Prospects. 1977 b.    Next, we have the familiar trope of disruption, 1960s style: “ there is a chorus of exhortations – articles beginning ‘Higher Education should’ or ‘must’”. This one is from 1967 – Innovation: Processes, Practice and Researchp.38. c.     This last one is most relevant for the topic of the presentation today:  “The development of new technology for education raises the question of control. Large corporations have entered the education field. They view the reluctance of some educators to commit themselves to the new media as a sign of fear of change.”  This one is from an article called Technology and Education: Who Controls. 1970 Of course, finding so many familiar tropes in the literature of the 60s and 70s left me with questions.    How do we move towards new ideas without using the past as a check and balance? I should point out that Audrey Watters has for a long time been an important critic and in 2013 was lamenting the ignorance of ed tech history by venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, invoking the image of zombie ideas that can’t be slayed unless we pay attention to the past.   “But then again, when we don’t pay attention to the past, we can’t ever quite slay the zombie ideas. We build and move forward quite blindly”.    When I called this presentation “The Future of Ed Tech in Higher Education When Open Source is a Radical Solution, I’ll admit it was a bit tongue in cheek.  For me, the biggest innovation to happen to higher education isn’t ed tech – it’s the creation of the open university system in the late 60s and 70s.  If you are familiar with the UK Open University you may know that Canada created three open universities built on the OU UK model between 1970 and 1978, and I’ll share with you the goals behind one of them, TÉLUQ, Canada’s French open university. These were articulated in 1970: a.    — Lifelong learning b.     — Real accessibility for all. c.      — Social development. d.     — Needs of working population. e.     — Greater mobility of knowledge. f.      — Wide use of new media and techniques. g.     — Rethinking the learning situation. h.     — Taking account of people’s prior life experiences. i.       — Reduction of unit costs You can see that this is an incredible list, and it took advantage of a new structure, the model of the OU UK, to shift towards a future that aligned with the social justice ambitions of its time, and one of those ambitions –  accessibility – meant the open university was available for everybody. Today, 70% of enrolments at TÉLUQ are women and approximately 50% would not be attending university if TÉLUQ wasn’t an option.   I’ll also mention here, that currently of the 10 most enrolled universities in the world, 4 of them are open universities, with Indira Gandhi open university topping the number one spot at 3 million students. (NB: in the video recording, you can see that I say it has 35 million. This was from an inaccurate source – In the video I question this number because that’s equivalent of Canada’s entire population.  2 other sources put it at 3.5-4 million, so 35 million is a huge error and I’m correcting it here.)  So the impact of this new structure, in terms of accessibility for all, is profound.  Ed Tech Absurdities  The importance of new, or alternate structures guided by social justice ambitions and frameworks is the point of my presentation today, but first I’d like to share some stories about current realities that I call ed tech absurdities.  As the person responsible for the ed tech strategy and the designated business owner of several ed tech tools I have the dubious pleasure of being the primary contact for our vendors.  About 2 years ago one of our most boring but nonetheless important ed tech tools was being upgraded and the vendor wanted us to move to their full featured cloud version from our self hosted version.  BC student data privacy laws used to be quite strict and moving to a US cloud wasn’t an option. But as you can see from this email excerpt, the core features we needed would no longer be included in the self-hosted version, unless of course we wanted to sponsor its development.   I have reviewed your XYZ requirements with our leadership team.  Unfortunately the cost to add XYZ to the On Site platform is estimated to be upwards of $120,000.  Therefore the decision has been made to not offer it as a feature for On Site unless someone is willing to sponsor the development.  There is a chance a government agency might sponsor, but it is not certain and not in the near future.  This was my response:  I should let you know that we have a robust open source ed tech software infrastructure within our province that is currently piloting an open source alternative to XYZ.  I have to be frank and share that even if we had the 120k , I would likely invest that money in providing an open source solution to our consortium of 25 post secondary institutions rather than  build out your product at our expense which is hardly a value proposition for a client. I’ll get back to the robust open source ed tech infrastructure later but first I’d like to share another absurdity. My institution uses a piece of software for our health programs that I’ll call ABC software. ABC software costs about 30k/year at about 100$ per student. The last time I queried about it, there was very little user satisfaction with the tool but there also weren’t any other viable options.  Incidentally, this tool is used in the same kind of program across at least 10 other colleges and unis in Canada. Is it naïve to think that the 10 or more institutions could pool together to create a more satisfactory – and perhaps open source – tool? The inevitable response to this is it isn’t the job of institutions to get into the software game, they aren’t equipped for it, they aren’t software companies. But of course, this simply isn’t true WebCT being the most famous Canadian example, having been developed by a UBC faculty member in the late 90s.  In fact, my own, very small, low resource institution created a fantastic piece of software but this leads me to my third ed tech absurdity.  In 2010 we began creating Praxis, an online system for synchronous scenario based learning, which is primary learning methodology that we use at JIBC. The last time I did a search it was still the only one of its kind in the world and we created it because nothing else was out there, not because we wanted to get into the software game.   Here’s a sidebar: I’m regularly courted by ed tech vendors and have told them repeatedly that we would love to use their products if they would only create the ones that we need. The last time an LMS vendor visited, I even took them on a tour of our experiential learning spaces, explained the kind of teaching and learning we…