Open Academic Practice – How open are you?

This was a question that I asked FSLT13 participants this week in a synchronous online session that I was invited to run. I suggested that we place ourselves on this grid, according to whether we consider ourselves a lone academic or an open scholar and whether we make limited use of digital technologies or extensive use of them. This was the response.
how open are you 2
Given that FSLT13 is principally for people new to learning and teaching in Higher Education, but also for anyone who has an interest in learning and teaching in HE, the outcome of this activity is not really surprising. Whilst the majority of people in the session felt they are making good use of digital technologies, not everyone feels they are working as open academics, and as one participant pointed out the notion of ‘openness’ can be context dependent.

The invitation to run this live session was good for me. It forced me to consider how open I am. I decided to try and depict this graphically by using characteristics which have been discussed by Terry Anderson and Martin Weller (see references at the end of this post), scoring myself out of 10 for each characteristic and generating a radar graph. This was the result.
Characteristics of an open academic
It is fairly obvious from this that there is room for more openness in my academic practice, but that would mean increased contribution of OERs and shared outputs, increasing my online network and mixing personal and professional outputs. To be honest, I am hesitant to do any of these things. I can just about keep up with the online network I have, my outputs would have to be of significantly higher quality for me to feel confident in pushing them out there, and there’s no way I want to share aspects of my personal life with people I don’t know. So that leaves me with being more adventurous with new technologies, which I could/should do, and maybe that would increase my confidence with sharing outputs and thus increase my online network.

Given how many years’ experience I have had of teaching and learning on and offline, it is easy to see how becoming an open academic can be daunting. I have in the past discussed the ‘tyranny’ of openness  and the fact that regarding openness as some sort of moral imperative can be unhelpful.

I haven’t changed my views on this, as I don’t think we can force people to be ‘open’. But I do think it is worth reflecting on Terry Anderson’s comments that

‘…successful educators share most thoroughly with the most students’

‘…expertise is non-rivalrous … it can be given without being given away’

In other words openness can be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat.

But ultimately openness is an individual dimension as Carmen Tschofen and I discussed in our paper – Connectivism and Dimensions of Individual experience (see reference below).

These were the ideas (and there were more), that we discussed in the live session, a recording of which has been posted on `YouTube’. I will now try and address my reluctance to share outputs by posting this here  – and hope I don’t live to regret it 🙂

It took me a while to relax (I still find it difficult to talk to an invisible audience), but once I got going, I enjoyed it. However, despite all my preparation and determination to be sufficiently organised to be able to follow the chat at the same time as speaking, I still didn’t manage it. So apologies to those whose questions went unanswered.

Finally I was really interested to see this response to aspects of the session from Steffi in her Week 1 reflection

The rewards of open practice come in reciprocity, alternative perspectives and opportunities for dialogue. Thanks to FSLT13 participants and team for this opportunity.

References

Anderson, T.  (2009).  Association for Learning Technology Conference, keynote presentation.  http://www.slideshare.net/terrya/terry-anderson-alt-c-final

Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar. How technology is transforming academic practice http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781849666275

Tschofen, C. & Mackness, J. (2011). Connectivism and Dimensions of Individual Experience. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1143

The Academic Identity of the Academic BEtreat

Connecting with BEtreaters in Grass Valley

I have been on the Academic BEtreat all week (today is the last day) and realize that I am not at all clear that we have a common understanding of what we mean by ‘academic’ on this BEtreat. What does it mean to be an academic?

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, there is a wide mix of people on the BEtreat – 16 of us in total.

  • Some have openly said they are not academics.
  • Some are as interested in the process of the BEtreat as in the academic content.
  • Some are more interested in the application of the ideas surrounding communities of practice and social learning theory, to their practice (be it in business or academia) than discussing the theory.
  • Others feel that they have come to the BEtreat to discuss theory and feel short-changed if we are not doing that.
  • What is a superficial activity for one is a meaningful activity for another and vice-versa.

The BEtreaters seemed to have come to the BEtreat with specific expectations related to their personal understandings of what an ‘Academic’ BEtreat might offer.

I have looked up the word ‘academic’ as a noun in the dictionary and here are two definitions.

  • A teacher or scholar in a university or institute of higher education
  • An intellectual

Well we are not all teachers in the BEtreat, and I think this probably applies to scholars and intellectuals as well. I wouldn’t count myself in either of those categories.

But looking up the word ‘academic’ as an adjective yields many more definitions. Here are some:

  • Belonging to or relating to a place of learning
  • Of purely theoretical or speculative interest
  • Having an aptitude for study
  • Excessively concerned with intellectual matters
  • Conforming to set rules and traditions
  • Theoretical or hypothetical; not practical, realistic, or directly useful

This is a strange list and makes me think that it’s not helpful to think in terms of academic or not an academic – but maybe more useful think about academic behaviours or academic identities.

I wonder whether if the BEtreat had had a different name,  it would have attracted a different group. For example:

  • Educators’ BEtreat
  • Learning, Meaning and Identity BEtreat
  • Learning Theory BEtreat
  • Social Learning Capability BEtreat
  • Cultivating Communities BEtreat
  • Pedagogy BEtreat …….

…… and so on. How much difference does the name make to who is sitting round the table?

When I signed up for the Academic BEtreat, my expectations were guided by the outline on the Academic BEtreat workshop.

The “academic Betreat” is open to researchers, lecturers, doctoral students, evaluators, and others involved in teaching and research. We envision a small group of 10-20 people, face-to-face and online.

This BEtreat is an invitation to come together and explore key concepts and issues in social learning theory. We take time to go deep into the questions brought to the table by everyone. We discuss concepts and methods, analyze frameworks, and compare theories. People will have a chance to discuss their research with the group and get some help on their work in progress.

Despite the clarity of the BEtreat outline, I know that some people think they have had too little theory, some too much, or some people think they have had too little application to practice and some too much and so on. It’s impossible to please all the people all the time, but it’s interesting to consider why mismatches in expectations occur.

I hoped to have in depth discussions about learning and I have more than enough to take away with me. It’s been exhausting – but time very well spent 🙂

Onliners’ view of Grass Valley BEtreaters

#fslt12 Week 2 is underway

There is loads of great discussion on the FSLT12 MOOC Moodle site  and there have been a number of fascinating blog posts which have been aggregated on the FSLT12 MOOC WordPress site

As with all MOOCs – even if you have plenty of time – it’s difficult to keep up with everything – if possible at all. A couple of my colleagues have both in the past, when I complain about feeling overwhelmed, reminded me of the importance of not trying to cover everything, but focussing on the bits that interest me and following those through. Good advice, but often easier said than done because its ALL interesting 🙂

Click on the diagram to see the course schedule more clearly

Last week the focus of the FSLT12 MOOC was on reflective practice and this generated wonderful examples of reflective writing in practice, not only from those participants being assessed. These can be found in the Moodle site and on various blogs. There was less discussion of open academic practice (which was the parallel theme for last week), but I’m sure that will be sparked off by Frances Bell’s presentation tomorrow

Frances Bell, “The Role of Openness by Academics in the Transformation of their Teaching and Learning Practices.” Wednesday 30 May 2012, 1500 BST 

Link for the session here

Check your time zone here

Frances has asked that we do some reading before attending the session. See The Role of Openness by Academics

A parallel theme this week is the Teaching of Groups and discussion has already got going in the Week 2 Moodle forums  in response to Mary Deane’s audio about this in relation to Belbin’s team roles

What are your personal experiences of group work and how do you manage group work if using it as a teaching strategy? If you are interested in these questions, then do join the discussion.

Finally, a new activity starts this week. This will be explained in the second half of the live session tomorrow, but there is also information about it on the Moodle site

There is so much going on that I will definitely be filtering and carefully selecting the threads I want to follow this week – but the good thing about MOOCs and open courses is that the information remains online long after the course finishes, so hopefully allowing time to fill in the gaps later.

Scholars’ participation and practices online

This is the title of George Veletsianos’ talk to Week 33 of ChangeMooc.  George is asking questions which are directly relevant to the Mooc that I am planning with colleagues from Oxford Brookes University – George Roberts, Marion Waite, Liz Lovegrove, Joe Rosa, and Sylvia Currie from British Columbia.

I like the way George has related his post to ChangeMooc to previous speakers in ChangeMooc – Howard Rheingold in Week 15, Tom Reeves in Week 23 and Martin Weller in Week 3. It seems that there is a growing awareness of the issues he is raising, namely:

What are the opportunities and difficulties, for scholars, associated with open sharing of knowledge and practice?

In our First Steps in Learning and Teaching MOOC (#fslt12) , we will be encouraging people who are new to learning and teaching in Higher Education to engage in open academic practice. I will be interested to see what responses we get to this. Will we only have people sign up for the MOOC if they are already comfortable with working openly online? What about the people who are not only new to learning and teaching in Higher Education, but also new to ‘openness’ online?

Martin Weller in his talk to the HEA Workshop held at Oxford University the other week –  said that ‘Openness is a state of mind’.  I agree – but for a novice this openness must be much more difficult to achieve. The risks to reputation, career, credibility and so on, must be much greater.

George Veletsianos’ topic this week is an important one for anyone working in Higher Education, or thinking about working in Higher Education. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend the live session, but I will listen to the recording with interest.