What I have been up to in 2017

Writing a year-in-review blog post has not been ‘my thing’ so far but the end of this year does put an end to the job I have had for quite some time, so looking back seems like a good thing to do. Here’s a quick summary of what I have been up to in 2017:

Podcasting

I started recording the podcast “Feierabendbier Open Education” with Markus Deimann in 2016 and I came to enjoy this quite a bit. We record unprepared conversations about readings and developments in the world of education, technology and anything related. Over the year, it always struck me when someone at a conference or in a meeting would mention that they listen to our ramblings, that they felt that they were missing something when we could not record a new episode for a couple of weeks (on average, we have a new episode every two weeks or so). All in all, a lot of time goes into this, but it helps me clarify my positions, it helps me as a non-tech person to learn some new things and it connects me to others in interesting ways.

Over the year, we have published 27 episodes. An average episode lasts about 1 hour and 44 minutes. So, if you are new to this, there’s close to 50 hours of conversations between two German guys for you just from 2017.

If you are looking for more meaningful and prepared conversations in English, I was honored to be invited by Bonni Stachowiak to record two episodes for her podcast Teaching in Higher Ed. People like Gardner Campbell, Cathy O’Neil, Maha Bali, Chris Gilliard, Cathy Davidson, Kris Shaffer, Catherine Cronin, Clint Smith, Bryan Alexander and many other brilliant minds had been on this podcast so imagine my surprise when Bonni asked me. We recorded two episodes that you can listen to here and here. And please do me (and, more importantly, yourself) a favor and subscribe to her podcast.

Virtually Connecting

Another thing that I try and spend some free time on is Virtually Connecting. It’s hard to pick a conversation that stood out for me this year but it certainly was special to organize a first round of German-speaking conversations this year and the German community seems to have developed a taste for this. The sessions at #OER17 and the Missed Conversation (I will always remember it as the one where I managed to set YouTube to only show me during the whole recording…) we had after the TowardsOpenness workshop also seemed quite special for various reasons. Introducing VConnecting to the German community included writing about it for Synergie, an open access magazine by folks at the University of Hamburg. I make this claim like a broken record, but VConnecting enhances my conference experience on-site and online in many ways and I am glad to be a part of this community.

TowardsOpenness

In 2017, Towards Openness has become another side project of mine that I would not want to miss anymore. We facilitated two workshops, one at #OER17 and one at #OEB17 at two very different events. We had some very interesting provocations around the workshop themes and it is great to see how this sticks with people and follows them in their work. It felt weird and self-centered to do a 2017 year roundup conversation at first, but I have to say that this was one of the most energizing online conversations I was a part of this year. This would not be what it is without the people who recorded provocations, co-facilitated workshops, participated in them and blogged about them. A huge thank you for that!

Consulting

Starting this year, my ‘regular’ job at Leuphana University was reduced to a 50 percent position, so I had more time for other things. It was a great coincidence that, with the start of the year, the opportunity came up to work on a project with Vodafone Germany. I wrote about this in an earlier post (or at least I tried and got distracted along the way). I think we have built something of value and the feedback from participants reconfirmed what we noticed along the way: everyone involved in this project saw something special in it for themselves, felt attached to it and they want it to go on in some way. I hope we have a chance to widen participation a little bit over the next year.

Leuphana University

This was my last year at Leuphana University. I helped get Leuphana Digital School off the ground in 2012 and have been involved there ever since. Over the past years, we worked on connected learning experiences, collaborative, peer-evaluated and project-based learning in different online formats. In 2016, we worked with university leadership to develop a strategy for the university and its use of technology in teaching in learning. We made plans on how to involve faculty, staff and students. We came up with a strategy that allowed a small provincial low-budget university to both try new things and experiment as well as to integrate technology in its pedagogy and teaching where it seemed useful. We had plans for research and dissemination and we were ready to start first projects when our university leadership killed the whole idea only to start the strategy-findng-process all over again at the end of this year. I still have no idea what the reasons for all of this were but it made me reconsider my involvement there and, looking back now, I am glad that I did. Dec 29 was my last work day at Leuphana. Next up: Wikimedia.

Wikimedia

Starting next year, I will be joining Wikimedia Germany as “Education and Science Advisor”. I wrote about this in a short German post. I glad that this worked out the way it has. Wikimedia has its offices in Berlin which means I will be travelling quite a bit over the next weeks and months. But, more importantly, I get to work with a great team on things I am interested in. More on this once I am settled in.  As an exemplary employee, I am kicking things off there with a two week vacation so my first actual workday will be on Jan 15. This new job will still leave about two days per week free for other work and projects, so I hope I can continue consulting, podcasting, TowardsOpenness, VConnecting and many other things. But my primary focus will be on Wikimedia for the next months.

This year had lots of challenges for me, both professionally and in my private life. Looking back now, it seems like it all fell into place. I grew some more grey hair. I lost a very good friend. I moved in with my partner, I quit a job and found a new one, I got to travel to some conferences, I had the opportunity to meet and work with inspiring people. And it feels like 2018 will be both challenging and rewarding as well.

Header Image by Nathan Anderson via unsplash.

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:

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.

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 →

Online Learning and Safety from a Position of Privilege?

tl;dr: I listened to a podcast and it triggered a possibly flawed comparison to safety in open learning. And because I will be on my way to facilitate a workshop at #OER17, I thought I should share my thoughts in a short blog post.

I listened to a recently repeated episode from 2002 of This American Life, one of the podcasts I regularly listen to. The episode is called “Testosterone” and you can find it here. One part of this podcast contains an interview that producer Alex Blumberg conducts with a transgender man, Griffin Hansbury. They talk about perceptions of gender and sexuality and the unique point of view that Griffin Hansbury has with regards to gender stereotypes. As a small example, he claimed that now, that he is seen by other men as competition, other men tend to veer towards him regularly as if they were marking their territory on the streets. Some of them even body check him. Walking down the street as a man opened a small new world to him that most other men have always been aware of.  Continue reading →