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?


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”.

21 thoughts on “Waves not Ripples: Reflections on #OER17

  1. great post Josie and you raise some really important questions particularly around use of pedagogy and practice. I don’t know the answers but in my case I think they will fall out of my practice . . .

  2. Glad to see a critical examination of the word pedagogy. It seems to often get a pass by many, but I think it is important to question. Another issue with it is how higher ed basically has stolen it from elementary education. About 7-8 years ago at the Texas Distance Learning Association, and elementary education teacher was pointing out how those of us in higher ed so often leave them out of the conversation about education, as if learning only really starts in Junior High. She pointed out that we had even “stolen” their word – pedagogy: “It technically means ‘to lead a child’. Its our word for how we teach, but higher ed wants to steal it and make it their word.” I don’t really know how wide spread this feeling is, but the point still made me think. Why are so many in Higher Education so determined to use a word that originally did not apply to what they do?

    1. I remember you bringing this up awhile ago, Matt, and I know you recently blogged about your #OLCInnovate presentation and you use heutagogy.
      I was also talking recently w Christian Friedrich about how Germans tend to say didactics (and In English that means authoritative teaching but in German they don’t use pedagogy for highered). I don’t know if it’s too late to stop using pedagogy. I mean, critical pedagogy was originally about adults (and I assume the Portuguese to English translation from Freire didn’t go badly?) and now digital pedagogy and Hybrid Pedagogy – seems like it’s too far in?

      Josie’s note on open heutagogy is what struck me most in the post, and it’s what I tweeted…especially as we’re doing that hangout next week..

      The issue with using “educational practice” instead of pedagogy is… I actually think of them as separate things, and I also think of “education” as a more formal, institutional thing. Whereas pedagogy need not be. I do see how pedagogy vs practice foregrounds teaching, whereas I see practice as a broader term that encompasses scholarship and Teaching both, from an educational standpoint? I don’t know.

      1. I feel a bit guilty since I was using heutagogy as a bit of a throwaway example here (sorry heutagogy peeps). Matt – totally take your point about children and child focused education. My main objection is even blunter than the thoughtful points made here by you & Maha – ‘pedagogy’ as a word is alienating to many educators, who (rightly or wrongly) see it as belonging to a specific academic discourse/group rather than as directly applicable to their own work. I’m far from being anti-theory or against the need for specialist language but I’m worried that for many educators ‘pedagogy’ is a needlessly mysterious realm. We need to define & unpack it more. My heutagogy comment them is a bit tongue in cheek since it’s essentially replacing one little understood term for another even less popular one. But yes, I am trying to make the point that the use of pedagogy focuses us on a particular type of teacher-centric/led practice, so we need to be aware of that.

        Reflecting on Alek’s thoughts on silos and movement building, and Maha’s comment on the ways that ‘eduction’ is different from ‘learning’, maybe we need to move away from open educational practice and on to open practice?

      2. (I am actually replying to Josie’s 1.53 p.m. comment but have run out of indents – sorry to those of you reading this on a phone)
        I’m smiling reading Josie’s playful suggestion to rename the ‘thing’ as open practice as I know she isn’t an acronym grabber. The great thing about using the word ‘practice’ is that it has a rich heritage to mine – this podcast interview between David Gauntlett and Richard Sennett hints at that http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b010mrzc
        It’s great to read the history of OER conferences as I have only attended OER16 OER17. What I noticed was the reaching out to GLAM domains in 16 and in subject via ‘politics’ and venue (not a University) . OER in some ways depends on HE and formal education but can’t be constrained by it and craft and practice perspectives can help us look from beyond.

      3. Thanks for the link Frances. David Gauntlett was one of the first properly online theorists I came across, when I stumbled across theory.org.uk in 2000. The theory trading cards are still up! http://www.theorycards.org.uk/main.htm

        I think if we are going to use ‘open pedagogy’ then it has to be a distinct from both open educational practice and open practice. Take your point about the formality of education, but this kind of argument applies even more to how ‘pedagogy’ is used and understood (Simon Thomson in this thread provides a very handy overview of the functional use of pedagogy as a term within HE). I’m not opposed to open pedagogy (that would be foolish), but at the moment it seems to be a descriptor of a group of the people (mainly within HE) who identify their practice as specifically characterisable as open pedagogy, or feel that open pedagogy is the term which most closely aligns with their work. For me, it’s situated within the larger fields of open educational practice and open practice. I’m asking what is it we gain by the term, how is it different from open educational practice, and what it is we potentially lose. I’m well aware however that a lot of this discussion is fuelled by the different assumptions that people have about what words mean – e.g. Maha’s comment that she sees ‘pedagogy’ as less formal and institutional than ‘education’.

  3. Hi Josie, thanks for a great post — and for stirring the pot 🙂 I’ve been involved in several conversations about language and terminology in the past while: defining ‘open’, deconstructing ‘pedagogy’; discussing usage of open pedagogy/open practices/OEP, defining ‘networked learning’, etc. In one sense, sure, it’s semantics. But in another, we are struggling to define (or the opposite, trying to loosen strict definitions), to get our arms around what it is we are doing, what we are about, what we value. So, frustrating as this can be, I believe this is good work. I sense that universal agreement is beyond us at this point (as Maha notes). But if we can dig below the words to the ‘why’, then I think we are doing valuable work. What’s beyond this, I don’t know… but you’ve moved me to return to bell hooks (Talking Back).

    “The academic setting is separate only when we work to make it so. It is a false dichotomy which suggests that academics and/or intellectuals can only speak to one another, that we cannot hope to speak with the masses. What is true is that we make choices, that we choose our audiences, that we choose voices to hear and voices to silence. If I do not speak in a language that can be understood, then there is little chance for dialogue… We must be ever vigilant. It is important that we know who we are speaking to, who we most want to hear us, who we most long to move, motivate, and touch with our words.”

    1. Thanks for the comments, and the perfect bell hooks quote. Returning to one of the themes of this afternoons webinar – I don’t think that difference is a problem to be solved, rather it’s something that needs to be recognised. Universal agreement strikes me as a horrific thing! I was trying to get a bit at the work of acknowledging difference in my #OER15 keynote, where I talked about the impact of waves of people entering spaces at different points in understanding, and also at #OER17 when I talked about the importance of the ongoing discussion about licence types and appropriateness. I think hook’s ‘vigilance’ is a polite signal for how tiring the journey can be at points 😀

      If I have any, not regrets, but things I would do differently, about #OER17, one is the way we privileged the term ‘diversity’ over ‘difference’ in terms of the calls etc. I agree that digging below the words to the why is really important, but I also think that the words can be the why.

    2. Absolutely agree Catherine. Endless and repetitive though they sometimes seem, I think these discussions about semantics are necessary. Not in order to to arrive at “correct” “definitions”, not even to agree consensus, but in order to enable us to continually re-negotiate our own experience and practice with relation to others.

      1. Yes, without this how can we ensure newcomers get to contribute/be a part of the conversation? There is something gatekeeper-y about refusing to reexamine terms, and something more about preserving the canon than about mapping the landscape strategically in not acknowledging shifts & rifts.

  4. Josie,

    What a great post. I’d like to pick up on a couple of things.

    Firstly if we go back to OER14 when I was fortunate to be co-chair these were our conference themes:

    Building and linking communities of open practice
    MOOCs and open courses
    Academic practice, development and pedagogy
    Open policy, research, scholarship and access
    Students as users and co-creators

    As you’ll see the last one was focussed entirely on students, so I wouldn’t want people to think that the OER conferences had never considered or involved students in them. In fact OER14 saw the most funded student places on an OER conf & students (from Newcastle Uni) created much of the video material & helped with organisation during the 2days.


    However, I do think the role of students as users & creators of OER has dropped off the radar a bit so it will be great to revisit this at OER18. I also agree that inclusivity & accessibility are themes which need exploring in more detail.

    Secondly, the term Pedagogy. As Maha points out perhaps we’re too far down the road to change this, but when I was in a position to to consider a rebadge of my job title my DVC & I eventually went with Head of Digital Pedagogy. It was the Pedagogy element which gave us the most area for discussion, so we put it out to wider staff consultation. What we learnt from that was the following:

    Pedagogy was a recognised term that encompassed the understanding of both learning and teaching (and the inter-relationship between them)
    That heutagogy (and andragogy) were considered sub domains within pedagogy and so the term is able to encompass them all (although I know the purists will disagree).
    That the broad understanding of pedagogy is internationally accepted (within the English language context).
    That pedagogy was broad enough to cover both theory & practice.

    Thanks again for a great post, as often good blog posts do it offers up much food for thought.


    (Typed on my phone so excuse any typos).

    1. You are very kind! & thanks so much for bringing up and adding your experience of #OER14 – you are quite right to point out that the conference series hasn’t been lacking in focus and attention to the question of students, and #OER14 demonstrates what a difference the conference themes and focus actually make. Students and learners weren’t entirely absent from #OER17 of course – one of the lovely things was how many people brought their kids along. More of both the informal presence and the more formal focus would be great next year.

      I think that in the context of the academy pedagogy is an entirely appropriate term, for the reasons you outline here. My comment relates to the mainstreaming of the open movement, so what it is I’m challenging is the separation of the academic from the wider civic sphere – a concern with a long history 🙂

  5. Great post Josie, the theme of the conference was very timely of course in view of recent global political events. Open *is* political. It always has been, and more so now than ever. But I think there’s more to the timeliness than that, I think the conference theme gave people a necessary platform to bring their politics into the open. We’ve never really had an opportunity to do that before. I certainly felt that on a very personal and emotional level and I think that’s reflected in the waves that OER17 continues to generate. So yeah, thanks for giving us the opportunity to do that :}

  6. Lisa Marie Blaschke sent me the link to your blog and the discussion. Excuse me for butting in but when I see discussions about heutagogy I can’t help but be interested given my role in its development. I can see the sense in the argument above. Could I suggest, however, that when we talk about practice (and I think that’s what the ‘gogies’ are doing) how about we look at an evidence based practice-which is what heutagogy does. A practice based on evidence, in heutatgogy this is neuroscience. A practice based on how people really learn as evidenced by how the brain works. It is damning that neuroscience is hardly ever taught in teacher training programs yet it should be driving what we do in whatever ‘classroom’ we use-or should we really be saying learning environment.

    Let’s forget the debate about ‘gogies’ and focus on scientific evidence about how the brain learns. Seems much more practical to me or perhaps it is too pragmatic for some.

    Have fun.

    Stewart Hase

  7. In reply to Stuart, and coming in as a latecomer and a bit of an outsider to the conversation, I think this is all very important- reflection, naming, discussing. The terminology is something that people do need to understand, as Josie says – a gatekeeper to engagement – and we also tend to ‘own’ names and labels, especially if we are part author for them. I think it can perhaps be considered in a similar light to the recent OE17 themes, as a cultural communication and understanding that is deeper than the surface (or a definition) but embedded in tradition of specific practice. It builds on Matt’s comment about pedagogy being ‘stolen’ by higher ed, more than educators vs others as in the Bell Hooks quote – If you look at the way different disciplines discuss and define learning, they can be so different – thus Stuart’s valid neuroscience comment – and there is some need to understand the (almost culture of the) discipline to really get into the mindset that goes with the context and practice of definitions… sport, music, education, are different to business studies. It is important to define things, but also there’s the practical example of having curriculum as praxis… instead of a defined product. Personally, I would dislike being tied to a definition. I love climbing out of boxes. ☺

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