Honorary Life Membership of the Association for Learning Technology

Left to right: Maren Deepwell (ALT CEO), Josie Fraser (Senior Technology Advisor, DCMS), Martin Weller (Professor of Open Education, Open University, and President of ALT).

I’m thrilled to have joined the list of luminaries including Diana Laurillard, Seb Schmoller, and Malcolm Read who have been awarded Honorary Life Membership by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT). ALT has played such an essential role in my development as a professional, and enabled me to meet and connect with so many amazing people (some of whom I’m looking forward to ending up in the edtech retirement castle with).

Thank you so much ALT!

ALT awards Honorary Life Membership to individuals whom ALT believes have made an outstanding and sustained contribution to the advancement of ALT’s aims for the development of learning technology in a regional, national or international context through research, practice, policy-development, leadership, or a combination of these.

During this year’s Annual General Meeting on 6 September 2017, Josie Fraser was recognised for her outstanding contribution by being awarded an Honorary Life Membership of ALT. Josie Fraser is a member of the UK Government’s National Technology Team, based in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and Chair of the Board of Trustees for Wikimedia UK. She previously worked for Leicester City Council, on one of the UK’s largest and most accelerated school building programmes, and led on all aspects of technology for the programme. She also created the award winning DigiLit Leicester project to support and develop staff digital literacy.

Professor Martin Weller, President of ALT, commented, ‘What I most admire about Josie is that she really gets stuff done. In fact, if there was an ALT award for getting stuff done, she’d be a prime candidate. From setting up schools, chairing conferences, getting the UK ed tech blogging scene up and running, advising on cyberbullying to chairing Wikimedia UK,  it makes the rest of us look rather complacent. She has been hugely influential in the UK ed tech scene and has an international reputation as a thoughtful, practical, caring voice in ed tech.’

Reflecting on the award being made to only the second female recipient, with Professor Diana Laurillard being the first, Dr Maren Deepwell, chief executive of ALT, added, ‘Honorary Life Membership of ALT is designed to recognise individuals who have made a big impact over a long period of time, individuals who are role models and influencers with a vision that shows the path forward. Josie’s work spans different sectors, policy makers and practitioners across the UK and sets a hugely inspirational example of how the potential of Learning Technology can be harnessed to change things for the better. I am proud to see our community recognise her leadership and her achievements now and those yet to come.’

Speaking about the award, Josie Fraser said, ‘I’m overwhelmed to be honoured by ALT in this way. ALT sets the benchmark for professional practice in the field of educational technology, not just in the UK but internationally – so this is pretty much the highest accolade I could hope for. I’m extremely grateful to ALT for all the support the organisation has provided me with throughout my career, and to the wider ALT community for being a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. I’ll do my best to live up to the significant expectation the award confers, and continue to champion the ways in which educational technologists can help make positive, life-changing differences to people’s experiences of learning and education.’

A message from Josie Fraser, new Wikimedia UK Chair

Josie Fraser at the Wikimedia UK 2017 AGM – image by John Lubbock

Cross-posted from Wikimedia UK.

I am delighted to have become the new chair of Wikimedia UK at today’s AGM. I was initially elected to serve as a trustee in July 2015, and re-elected to serve a further term last year until 2019. Over the last two years I’ve been privileged to be able serve the organisation through both the formal duties of a Trustee and as a volunteer. In addition to my main Board duties, I’ve been a member of the Governance Committee and the Partnership Advisory Board, and have helped organise education conferences.  While this may sound a little dry to those of you who aren’t keen on committee work, it’s been a delight and a pleasure to belong and to contribute to the community. Our volunteers, staff and trustees are a fascinating and constantly inspiring group. I get to work with an expert Trustee team and CEO that share a strong sense of responsibility and professionalism, and are as thoughtful as they are fun – a rare combination. I’m honoured to have their confidence.

The passion and commitment to openness which permeates our whole community helps make Wikimedia UK one of the leading organisations in the global Wikimedia and open knowledge movement. It’s been a privilege to support the work of members, volunteers, and employees in realising both the organisation’s potential and our collective vision to make the world a fairer place by providing free access to unbiased and reliable knowledge to all. The global communities that support Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects are a powerful force for social good, benefiting people and communities worldwide every day.

Michael Maggs has been a consistently excellent Chair since 2013, and a hard act for anyone to follow. He’s provided fair, intelligent and debonair leadership, and I’ll be working hard to do him justice. I’m incredibly grateful – as is everyone who gets to work with him – for his sterling commitment to the charity, and very happy that he is willing to continue to support us as a Trustee and to mentor me.

I look forward to continuing to meet and get to know more of our community, and to contribute to the growth and visibility of our amazing organisation and people as Chair. If you haven’t already, do take a look at the 2016-17 Annual Report to see some of what we have achieved in the past year.

Waves not Ripples: Reflections on #OER17

Brian Lamb tweet on #oer17

 

I’m starting with Brian Lamb‘s tweet, good grief – I’m even blogging a reply to Brian Lamb’s tweet, because it highlights one of the things that worked best about #OER17. It’s fitting also since Brian was one of the original EdTech edublogging crew (along with Alan Levine, Darcy Norman, Scott Leslie, Scott Wilson, Barbra Ganley, Jim GroomBarbara Dieu and a host of others) who inspired and encouraged me to work openly and blog as part of my edtech practice back in the day (13th March 2004!). It’s always gratifying to give back to the community, and to support the lighting of many fires. I love the conference functioning as a distributed, open platform, rather than a localised, time-limited event.

Catherine Cronin has just noted “many OER17 participants have remarked and/or written about the conference focus on criticality, equality, social justice” – and it was this conscious focus that I believe cleared the decks for the kind of discussion and thinking we’ve seen. The conference clearly signalled not only the legitimacy of experience within the field, but also the essential role that diversity of experience in relation to the practice of open education plays. Being open depends upon it. This idea isn’t anything new, but by making the political so explicit #OER17 was able to benefit from the years of work and thinking that preceded it – from open education practitioners and communities globally in general and from ALT‘s OER conference series in particular. Thank you everyone!

Two questions

Looking over the conversations from and around OER17, these are two of the questions I’m asking myself:

  • One of our aims – and the title of OER15 – was ‘mainstreaming open education’. Obviously many of us see this recognition and understanding of open education within general society as desirable. Many of us have argued that Wikipedia represents a fundamentally mainstream positioning of OER and open education practice – even if the majority of beneficiaries don’t recognise it as that or have ever heard of an open licence. There was acknowledgement at OER17 that OERs can be created and made use of as much by political extremists than every other group.  There is an understanding that OER doesn’t magically equal social good (and subsequently, a lot of attention given to open practice).  If it is a broad aim of the open education movement to enter into the mainstream, and given that we know the mainstream is a frequently inhospitable place, with arguably large parts of it currently characterisable by widespread backlash to social justice gains – what do we mean when we say we want to mainstream OER? Is it an inherently de-politicising (in the Cixous sense) move?
  • 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?

I’m excited to see that our opening keynote Maha Bali is running an open hangout on the 24th April asking What is Open Pedagogy?

#OER18

I think one of the reasons #OER17 did so well in terms of attracting papers and discussions that fit the themes was because although our themes were broad, they were very clear. I’m a big fan of this kind of scaffolding. In terms of #OER18, a focus on learners is really welcome and useful for all of us. There was just criticism that learners were missing from #OER17, so I’m really excited to see how the new co-chairs, David Kernohan and Vivien Rolfe build on previous conferences to ensure learners are centre stage. I’m really keen to see some focus on open educational resources and practice in relation to disability – I’ve been to some great sessions at previous conferences, but we didn’t focus on this as strongly as we could have this year.

I’ve updated the title of the blog post to reflect a phrase Teresa MacKinnon used in the our followup webinar, describing #OER17 as “causing waves not ripples”.

Critical open educational practice in a time of walls and borders

As well as having the privilege of co-chairing OER17, I was also fortunate enough to share a panel on day one of the conference with an amazing group of women. Sheila MacNeill, Frances Bell, Vivien Rolfe, and Kate Bowles, are all familiar names within the education technology and open education worlds. As I also mentioned in the introduction, the panel was also supported by Catherine Cronin, who was with us in spirit, and delivering a parallel open praxis workshop with Caroline Kuhn.

Staying open: sustaining critical open educational practice in a time of walls and borders ran under the conference participation & social equality strand.

The session looked at keeping open practice open, in a time of rapid electoral shift away from the ideals of transnational cooperation, and the widespread manipulation of anxiety in relation to migration as well as of austerity budgeting, and the expanding precarity of labour. The panel invited attendees to join us in developing tactics that will sustain ethical open practice, supported and framed by five x five minute provocations.

Between us, we covered a lot of ground, taking a range of approaches. Kate Bowles wasn’t able to be with us physically, but was well represented by Frances Bell who read her provocation on desire lines and path making beautifully.

Vivien Rolfe (who will be co-chairing OER18) looked at how open relates to the focus on excellence, impact, metrics, performance indicators, market development and brand management in institutions, and asked ‘what can the Five Rs learn from the 3Rs?’

Sheila McNeil looked at the comfort and discomfort of open practitioners and practice within open and closed digital spaces, following up her reflections of the session and conference in this powerful post.

Frances Bell used a video story to ask how open are our research and education practices, looking at whether open access journals, blogs and web pages address or dissolve power relations. 

I looked at the issue of structural inequality and violence against women in online environments, delivering a five minute version of the notes I’m sharing here. My aim was to convey how violence against women and girls exists on an ordinary, everyday spectrum, that implicitly curtails engagement and speech in online spaces.

Open Educational Practice: recognising structural violence against women & girls (VAWG) online

Conversation and connections are critical to online communities and engagement in open practice and activities. What can we learn from present-day political attacks online, and new forms of censorship? What is acceptable and non-acceptable, and how might this translate to an effective way forward for the open movement?

Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) is a form of structural violence which reproduces and perpetuates structural inequality.  It intersects with, and exacerbates, other forms of discrimination, including racism, agism, disabalism, classism, and heteronormativity.

The continuum of VAWG includes includes sexual harassment, sexual violence, coercive control, intimidation, humiliation and threats. It directly and indirectly limits and regulates the lives of women and girls. VAWG is detrimental to feelings of safety, physical and psychological health and well-being, and has negative social and financial impacts.

“Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) is already a problem of pandemic proportion; research shows that one in three women will experience some form of violence in her lifetime. The new problem of ‘cyber VAWG’ could significantly increase this staggering number .”

UN Broadband Commission (2015)

Violence Against Women and Girls Online

Online violence also reinforces and perpetuates systemic gender inequality, as forms of abuse are enacted and extended into digital spaces, and as new variants of abusive behaviour are developed in relation to the affordances of digital environments, applications, and systems.

The United Nations 2015 “wake up” report estimates that 73% of females worldwide have endured online abuse. Online VAGW limits speech, social participation, and digital inclusion. It “can have adverse impact on the exercise of and advocacy for free speech and other human rights.”

“Failure to address and solve cyber VAWG could significantly impede the digital inclusion of women everywhere, putting women at increasing disadvantage for being excluded from enjoying the benefits of ICTs and the Internet.“

“With the proliferation of the Internet, online violence against women has taken on a global dimension. Online crimes are not a ‘first world’ problem; they seamlessly follow the spread of the Internet.”

UN Broadband Commission (2015)

Violence Against Women and Girls – a normative cultural backdrop?

VAWA takes place within contexts where women and girls are disadvantaged in a host of ways:

  • Global inequality in girls access to education and literacy
  • Global internet user gap – this has increased from 11% in 2013 to 12% in 2016. Highest in Least Developed Countries (31%) and Africa (23%), but rates remain higher for men than women in all regions. (UN, 2017)
  • Rapid adoption of technologies by abusers – the swift and continuing growth of technology-facilitated domestic violence
  • Growth in individual and orchestrated attacks on feminists and women speaking out about issues concerning women
  • Lack of acknowledgement that a lot of what we talk about online positions the subject (‘deafening androcentrism‘)

OER & VAWG – working in the open examples

There are a range of direct examples of the ways in which online violence against women impacts all of us trying to work equitably in the open:

  • Educators, researchers, students and civilians talking about gendered issues in public networks – wether they identify as feminist or not
  • Wikipedia editors & subjects. Given the critical cultural importance of Wikipedia, underrepresentation of women both as editors and women as subjects is a politically urgent issue.
  • The personal and political cost of the tidal wave of false equivalency arguments relating to gender inequality from trolls, misogynists, and the naive.
  • Openly accessible feminist research, or research which focuses on girls and women

VAWG is structural violence

“For it matters to us what is said about us, who says it, and to whom it is said: having the opportunity to talk about one’s life, to give an account of it, to interpret it, is integral to leading that life rather than being led through it…part of human life, human living, is talking about it, and we can be sure that being silenced in one’s own account of one’s life is a kind of amputation that signals oppression.”

Lugones & Spelman (1983)

Taking action – the good news

What works:

Addressing the issue of violence against women challenges, rather than reinforces, established gender roles in most places.

“Countries with the strongest feminist movements tend, other things being equal, to have more comprehensive policies on violence against women than those with weaker or non-existent movements. This plays a more important role than left-wing parties, numbers of women legislators, or even national wealth.”

“International and regional treaties were most influential in countries with strong domestic feminist movements. Feminist activists magnify the effects of treaties in local contexts by drawing attention to any gaps between ratification and compliance with goals for equality…Treaties give normative leverage to national civil society organisations…International treaties alter the expectations of domestic actors and strengthen and even spark domestic mobilisation.”

Weldon & Htun (2013) 

VAWG increasingly recognised as reinforcing and perpetuating systemic discrimination and structural violence (‘a cause and consequence of gender inequality’), and online abuse is increasingly recognised as a part of this continum of violence.

Laws are being introduced to address the specific forms VAWG takes online – for example, ‘revenge porn’ laws, helplines, training

Many kinds of online abuse and discrimination are now illegal, but hard fought for laws and rights will be eroded if abuse is normalised and accepted. Silence on issues relating to discrimination and hate supports the normalisation of abuse, which in turn effects what reasonable behaviour is.

References

Combatting Online Violence Against Women & Girls: A Worldwide Wake-Up Call UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development Working Group on Broadband and Gender 2015

Feminist mobilisation and progressive policy change: why governments take action to combat violence against women S. Laurel Weldon & Mala Htun Gender & Development Volume 21, Issue 2: Feminist solidarity and collective action 2013

Fighting for recognition: Online abuse of women bloggers in Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States Stine Eckert, New Media & Society 2017

Have We Got a Theory for You! Feminist Theory, Cultural Imperialism and the Demand for “The Woman’s Voice” Maria Lugones & Elizabeth Spelman 1983

Misogyny on Twitter Jamie Bartlett et al, DEMOS 2014

Online Abuse of Feminists as An Emerging form of Violence Against Women and Girls Ruth Lewis, Michael Rowe and Clare Wiper 2016

Technology-facilitated abuse: the new breed of domestic violence The Conversation UK 2017

Working Group on the Digital Gender Divide Recommendations for action: bridging the gender gap in Internet and broadband access and use UN Broadband Working Group on the Digital Gender Divide 2017

Practical information & advice

Crash Override Network

Crisis support and assistance to the targets of online harassment

Heartmob

Real-time support for people being harassed online

Trollbusters

Global, collaborative campaign for journalists, bloggers and publishers that are under attack

 http://wmcspeechproject.com/online-abuse-101/

Information about violence against women online

 

#OER17 Opening comments

OER17 Welcome slide

Notes from my opening comments:

Alek and I are delighted to welcome you all, so hello to everyone who is here with us on site, everyone who is attending the conference at distance, everyone who is experiencing the wonder of #oer17 in real-time, and everyone who is joining us from the future. We’re delighted to be part of a conversation with you all that is going to help shape the direction of the global open education movement.

On the 20th of April 2016, we announced the theme of OER17 would be ‘the Politics of Open’, in all of its aspects. In between then and now, #OER17 has become probably one of the most timely education conferences of the decade. This has quite a lot to do with Brexit (the UK’s referendum vote to leave the European Union) and the election in the US of Trump, but it’s not only because of these events. It’s also got to do with the ambition and the maturity of open education – where we are as a community and a movement. And it’s linked to the ongoing persistence of structural inequality – which isn’t at all new – and the emergence of the web as an everyday space.

I’m sharing a quote from American feminist activist Jo Freeman, who was writing 40 years ago, in the Tyranny of Structurelessness, about the ways in which organisations and movements are always structured by power relations implicitly.

“For everyone to have the opportunity to be involved in a given group and to participate in its activities the structure must be explicit, not implicit.”

If we fail to acknowledge these relations explicitly, we mask power – we fail to acknowledge what is actually going on . And similarly, I’ve included a quote from French philosopher Hélène Cixous

““I’m not political” we all know what that means! It’s just another way of saying: “My politics are someone else’s!”

Typically the politics of organisations and movements that emerge without scrutiny are mimicking and adopting the existing forms of discrimination. So this conference is a really important and timely event for us collectively to explore, reflect on and challenge issues of diversity, equality and inclusion, both within the community, within our community, and in relation to the work of that community.

You can see a round up of the responses to #OER17 over at the conference website.

You can view the ‘bookend’ blogposts to this one from my co-chair Alek Tarkowski: Politics of Open: five ideas for the OER17 conference

And you can join the #OER17 organising committee online at our follow-up webinar on 20th April 2017.