One year after #2016DML

tl;dr: I am giving a brief update on what happened to the ideas I was kicking around in my #2016DML Ignite Talk about refugees hacking the education system. I am also briefly describing a class in which students and refugees tell stories and share their perspectives.

One year has passed since my trip to #2016DML and my Ignite Talk. Lots of things have changed for me personally since then and, more importantly, not many things have changed in the way that refugees’ access to German higher education is designed. What has changed, though, is that fewer people make it to Germany and, to many, the perceived urgency of finding ways to integrate them into the education system has lessened a bit. This is not to say that nobody is working on that, not at all, it is rather becoming the ‘undercover operation’ that it has been before 2015. Some organizations, Kiron for example, have gained some ground. Mostly, however, it is left to the federal states and the universities to organize the efforts around studying in Germany. And that’s a good thing, I think. This is exactly the kind of problem that should be solved by society, its democratic organizations, its elected officials, and with tax money. On the other side, this makes changes in the information ecosystem hard to push for, difficult to implement. We’re still talking about a massive bureaucracy organized mostly by PDF for download.  Continue reading →

A new project and some grounding principles

tl;dr: I was going to outline ‘Vodafone Create’, a project that I have been working on over the last couple of months but this post turned more into a compilation of my own ground rules of project design than into a project report.

I started out this year with the prospect of a couple of new developments. Professionally, the biggest step was that I quit my gig at the Hamburg University of Technology by the end of last year to shift my focus a bit. At that time, I was still hopeful that new beginnings at Leuphana University would occupy my worklife for most of the time. Those plans did not come through but I remain employed there with a 50 per cent position at the Digital School.

I always like to have one or two projects on the side (podcasting and occasional Virtually Connecting plus X) and it was by some lucky coincidence that another door opened while bigger visions and strategy at my university were being shredded.

I had been working as a freelance consultant / project manager earlier in my career and I never really shut that down completely even though my tax accountant – I am lazy and incompetent with my personal accounting, bookkeeping and the like, and giving this to someone for a fee might not be economically reasonable, but mind-soothing on many levels – hinted at the idea of shutting this down to save money and time at every occasion.

By the end of last year an acquaintance who now works for Vodafone Germany’s department for Learning and Capability Development got in touch. We started talking about my ideas and experience in the realm of connected learning, team and project based learning online, peer feedback and many other things. We talked about the ideas and concepts that were being developed at Vodafone Germany, latest achievements and some of the challenges they had. A consensus emerged that, by working together, we would both learn and move out of our comfort zones to some extent and we started to work on a concept for training and learning that would encompass technological developments, social and societal issues as well as ‘new’ management techniques, creativity techniques and team work. At some point we needed a project title: Vodafone Create. Continue reading →

Lending Perspectives

tl;dr: Chris Gilliard asked if I would share my impressions of the first part of his and Maha Bali’s #DigPed closing keynote. It grew just a little longer while I was writing the email, so here’s a short blog post.

Just to set the scene: I was watching the recording after #DigPed Institute happened. During those days, I was not able to follow the twitter stream, Virtually Connecting or anything else for that matter. The closing keynote was the first thing that I took a look at.

Closing remarks or keynotes should respond to the events of the respective event or conference. It usually says something about the event (or the one doing the keynote) when a response, a reflection or even a slight change in the once thought-through slidedeck does not seem necessary.

This can happen in a rather dull, recitation-ish way. The audience is taken from day 1 to day 2 to day 3 of the conference sequentially. Sometimes, closing remarks will tie together the workshop sessions, the keynotes and evening events so you can re-live your own experience of a conference. If you’re lucky, though, the person doing the closing remarks lends you their perspective, their point of view, to some extent. If that happens, it expands your overall experience of the conference.

As I said, I have not seen anything from this year’s #DigPed Institutes before I watched the closing keynote by Chris and Maha. As someone who follows Chris’ and Maha’s work – both have contributed provocations to #TowardsOpenness –  I was interested in what they would have to say after an intense week of #DigPed but the title “Praxis, Privacy, and Care in Digital Pedagogies” would have probably raised my attention anyways.

From what I can tell, Chris distilled some of the ongoing discussions during the Institute in a few clear statements, but also blended in his own personal background, his values and his focus of work. And for me, as someone who was not able to go to the event, this is great. It adds a bit of context to the descriptions of tracks and sessions, but also to his following ‘actual’ keynote, and it seems perfect to stumble into before watching some of the other recordings of the event.

I also learned about Amerigo Gazaway, the artist behind the music that is playing during Chris’ first couple of minutes (actually, at first I thought the music was coming from my own laptop and not from the recording of the keynote). However, my positive reaction to Chris doing this a bit differently might also stem from the fact that I am familiar with his work, his ideas and views on platforms, privacy, digital redlining and access to education – not sure how someone feels who lacks that background knowledge.

#DoOO is not an app and not a blog farm

tl;dr: I had the opportunity to propose a #DoOO project at my university and it failed to come through. Because apps.

Featured Image “Controls” by Alan Levine via Flickr under a CC-BY 2.0 license

In 2016, someone in the leadership of my university asked for my opinion: they were working on a funding application that was themed around the idea of an open, approachable university that is in exchange with its surroundings, its stakeholders, employers and businesses in the area, with society as a whole. Basically a ‘third mission’ application.

The application team members were wondering if I would be able to contribute an idea or a concept related to learning, teaching and digital technology that was in line with the idea of outreach and participation beyond our campus borders. Now, let that sink in for a minute: university administrators approached me. They were curious about digital pedagogy, about ways to enable interaction of students with the ‘real world’, and they were hoping to include a concept that fosters this in an application to the federal ministry. Not too bad, is it? Especially considering that my university does not have the more or less traditional tools and technologies in place that many (falsely, I would add) consider to be state of the art for digital teaching and learning practice. No LMS. Not really, anyways – we have a self-developed and self-hosted platform which students use to set up their semester schedules. It has some additional features, but that’s its main use.

Okay, so here I was in one room with university administrators. I chose the concept I was going to present by three main criteria:

a) The concept should scaffold ongoing, constructive and critical discussions around the different ideas of digital pedagogy, identity, teaching and learning among faculty and students.

b) I wanted to show ‘proof’ that what I was pitching had worked before elsewhere, that it had been applied.

c) Under no circumstances did I want to promote a centralized use of technology that follows ideas of control or restraint. (you may read “LMS” here) Instead, I was looking for something that provided students and educators with agency over their own digital identities and their learning and teaching.

Continue reading →

Conscious online learning design?

I am cross-posting something that I have written for the Towards Openness project. You can find the original post here on the Towards Openness page.

This post started as a message exchange with Kate Green. Kate and I decided to go beyond text messaging and write a blog post instead. Find her post here.

After #OER17 Kate and I started to talk about the next steps for our project Towards Openness. This is something that we do in our free time and I think we both see the value in that. We get to make of this whatever we find helpful for ourselves and for the community around ‘open’ and learning. But this lack of a pre-defined direction or goal can make some choices a bit harder. A very pragmatic example: find a tagline for the website. This is not too important to many. And I see their point when they say that a tagline, a font, or a color scheme is just polish. But especially a tagline will always be noted and perceived, consciously or unconsciously. It is included in link previews, it appears in all sorts of ways. We didn’t have a tagline until about a week ago. And I thought “let’s fill that gap”. I sensed that this might be an opportunity to think more closely about what we mean to do with Towards Openness, beyond a vision. A tagline should not be more than 6-7 words maximum and, by then, we had not tried to project our understanding of Towards Openness on half a sentence.

So I thought a bit about this and suggested “conversations for conscious online learning”. I sent it to Kate and quickly added “design” after I sent it, so that it read “conversations for conscious online learning design”. Kate asked what I meant by conscious, reminding me of the importance to try and dissect what we mean by the things we say. And here we go. We texted back and forth and concluded that this is worth a blog post. So here’s my shot at dissecting what I meant with that tagline:

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Public universities, management, expertise and trust

tl;dr: This post might turn into a rant but I hope it won’t. It serves as a valve for something I have been trying to say for quite a while now and I am not sure that I got all the nuances right. It is incomplete but I feel better now that it left my system.

During the last year, I have been working on a strategy for the small institution I work at. We had smaller and larger meetings with different stakeholders of our university. We had conversations with university leadership, external advisors and personal mentors, colleagues from other institutions whom we trusted. We worked on documents, agendas, and a vision. We worked to develop partnerships, we argued for budgets. It took time and effort but, in the end, we all were confident that we had found a goal worth working towards to, a feasible mode for operating without the implied understanding that our team members would have to work beyond their agreed-upon capacity. “No self-exploitation”, we said. A rare statement in academia these days. Partner organizations were prepared and looking forward to work with us, which is especially important for an institution that is part of a small to medium-sized university with limited budgets and experience. And the things that we would be working on were amazing, I haven’t been as enthusiastic about anything work-related for quite a while.  Continue reading →

Late first thoughts: #TowardsOpenness at #OER17

I am not sure why, but it took some serious licorice intake to overcome my inertia in order to write something reflecting the Towards Openness workshop I co-facilitated at #OER17. It might be that the impressions and ideas are hard to sort out, but you have to start somewhere. What this shows, though, is that we somehow seem to have hit a nerve. People I admire for their work have responded to the theme of safety in open online learning in ways that I would have never expected. We had provocateurs who took time and effort in coming up with mind-boggling provocations, we had fantastic onsite participants who came up with interventions to marvel at (find all resources on our website), Frances Bell and Jim Groom blogged about the workshop in retrospect, Bryan Mathers drew (Is that an accurate description of his magic?) a couple of images during and after the workshop. We had a Missed Conversation on Virtually Connecting with onsite participants, provocateurs and others who could not make it to our session (during which I accidentally set the frame to fixate on me, which only adds to the embarrassment of moderating an online session with people who are both smarter than me and are more eloquent conversationalists than I am). The twitter stream includes a wide range of educators. So this would be enough material, ideas and conversations to write plenty of posts about, which probably made it harder for me to start the first one.

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Holacracy to the rescue?

tl;dr: OER17 made me think about the way educational institutions, initiatives and networks operate. Holacracy came to mind and I try to evaluate its use for these kinds of structures.

As I pointed out before: OER17 has not come to an end yet. I keep on remembering conversations, re-reading session descriptions, browsing through project websites, and I still have to catch up on some blog posts.

One theme that continues to make an impression on me is that of ‘organization’. Jim Groom noted that this conference is not driven by vendors or , but by “the people who still have real skin in the game”. I agree with that and I think lots of these people are re-thinking the way they have been working, be it in individual projects driven by grants and project funding, be it as educators and researchers in educational institutions, as employees of some vendor, lobbyist group or association (or anything in between).

The idea of organizing ‘open’ seems strange and people smarter and more renowned than me have been trying to define and claim open education, specifically, over and over. However, organizations and the way they operate, the way they interact within and without, can be drifting or steered towards openness or towards closedness. A structure or an organization whose members try to do things in the open while the organization remains closed itself, will create tensions within and without of itself, which is why we included administration as a driver of openness in our OER16 workshop; see the Towards Openness page for some more details Continue reading →

OER17 has not ended yet

#OER17 does not feel like it has ended yet. Most of its attendees left the conference site last Thursday but you can still see vibrant activity on twitter, there are plenty of blog posts coming in and a work day (and then some) could easily pass by following these activities. I know from experience.

I talked about some of the sessions that resonated with me with Markus Deimann in our podcast (a record, we talked for over 2 hours) but I still have a couple more things to say or to expand on.  Continue reading →