I’m writing this from sunny Lisbon, where I’ve been at the Creative Commons Summit. I haven’t got the energy to capture all of the things I’ve seen and learned over the past few days, so check out my tweets from the event and the recording of a Virtually Connecting session I contributed to. Perhaps I’ll discuss it during the next episode of the TIDE podcast, as well.
It was great to catch up with Bryan Mathers, whose session on The Fabulous Remixer Machine was excellent. I used his ‘stamp’ remixer to create the image accompanying this post! I took photos of Lisbon too, some of which are here.
This is actually my second trip this week, as I took my son to the Lake District on Sunday evening. On Bank Holiday Monday we climbed Helvellyn and other peaks, as detailed in this post.
It’s actually felt like three trips. You can’t fly direct from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Lisbon, and I refused to pay the £350 that KLM wanted to fly via Amsterdam. Instead, I used routes recommended to me by Skyscanner to book two Ryanair flights on the way out (via Dublin) and flights via a couple of different airlines on the way back (via Faro). I took the opportunity of a five-hour layover in Dublin on the way out to make a quick visit to the Chester Beatty Library, including sampling the wonderful food on offer at its Silk Road Café.
I’m leaving Lisbon tomorrow (Sunday) and get back home in the evening. Next week I’ve got another conference in the form of Thinking Digital. It’s always one of my favourite conferences, which is handy as it’s held at The Sage Gateshead, which is a lot closer to home than some events I go to!
The idea is to tag five people who are ‘defenders of the commons’:
What are the virtues of someone who is an advocate for Creative Commons? How does what they do support the philosophy and spirit of The Commons? Think about what it takes to become this kind of person, and how we might wrap that into the Certification project.
It would feel like cheating to name three of the five as my co-operative co-founders (Bryan Mathers, Laura Hilliger, and John Bevan) so I’ve cast my net wider. Even so, it took me all of about three seconds to think of the people I’d mention! Do bear in mind, however, that these are five people out of perhaps ten times as many who I could have mentioned.
Alan Levine — it’s entirely fitting that Alan is a member of the #CCquest team, as in the 10 years I’ve known him, he’s been a living, breathing example of the power of working and sharing openly. An inspiration.
Audrey Watters — a tireless advocate of all things open, especially in education/technology, an important critic of the ‘Silicon Valley narrative’, and someone who tolerates bullshit less than anyone I’ve ever known.
Cory Doctorow — I’ve only met Cory a couple of times in person, but seen him speak many, many times. He’s one of the most eloquent speakers I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing, and his work actually goes even wider than ‘open’, encompassing the totality of our lives online.
Jess Klein — I had the great privilege of working with Jess at Mozilla, and still find it difficult to explain the range of her talents. She’s a designer, but also an educator, a facilitator, and a prototyper. And she does all of this in the open. Check out the Open Design Kit she recently helped put together!
Jim Groom — a legend in his own lunchtime, I rely on Jim’s company, Reclaim Hosting for this blog and my other presences on the web. He’s the force behind the monumental ds106, tells it like it is about making a living in the open, and great fun to be around, to boot.
We’d come up with lots of questions in our pre-planning meeting, as well as some aims for things we’d like to get out of the day. You can see our planning Hackpad here.
Once we’d all arrived and we’d figured out the tech to allow Laura to participate fully (which involved my ever-handy Sony XRS-11 bluetooth speaker) we dived straight into the principles by which we want to work. John, Bryan and I worked on a nearby whiteboard, while Laura took a photo of the piece of paper she worked on:
Riffing off Laura’s three-part structure, we formulated three questions to answer:
What do you do?
How are you different?
What do you create?
The answers to these are on the hackpad, but I’ll share where we ended up after much discussion around the second point:
Nimble / Limber / Acrobatic
Share all the things
Surplus, not profit
Old/new ways of doing stuff
We particularly liked the notion of being ‘acrobatic’ (although without using the metaphor of a circus). There’s something about it that suggests discipline with flexibility.
We spent some time both ‘silent hackpadding’ and discussing the questions we’d come into the day focused on, but this led quickly to considerations around tools. From that we found that a really nice metaphor emerged around tools in a workshop.
We used the improv approach of ‘Yes, and…’ to build out the metaphor. For example, tools both old and new sit alongside one another in a workshop; there’s times when you need to ‘sharpen your saw’; and there’s times when you know you haven’t got the right tool for the job, so you have to borrow one from a neighbour.
Thinking of our own tools, we had a back-and-forth about what we should use to collaborate. The tension was between wanting to use Open Source technologies wherever possible, and recognising that clients will not always have the skills or motivation to sign up to a new platform. In the end, we decided to abstract away from specific tools to think about the type of technologies we need:
Those with an asterisk* come with a one-click install process via Sandstorm.io.
Telling the story
Bryan had to head out at lunchtime, so Laura, John, and I dug into setting up Loomio and helping tell our story through a basic pitch deck. We used The Writer’s Journey, which is a modified version of The Hero’s Journey:
After about 45 minutes of hacking and a spectacular brain dump from Laura, we ended up with this. We need to get really clear on our single product for new clients: the Thinkathon. This is a one-day facilitated thinking session that helps clients untangle problems, provides them with a ‘shopping list’, provides clear next steps.
A combination of factors meant that we ended up about 4½ hours of time together today. Still, that was enough to get a significant amount of work done towards building weareopen.coop. Things we need to do next include:
Updating the website
Creating a compelling description of the Thinkathon
Setting up the tools we’ll use amongst ourselves and with clients
We’re open for business right now. Part of any new venture involves building the plane while you fly it; the difference is that we’re sharing that building openly. Get in touch if you think we can help you: firstname.lastname@example.org
While we could sit down and provide all of the content that we think would be appropriate for this course, we’re inviting the community to get involved with this project. All contributions will be, of course, celebrated and credited.
If you’d like to help out, there’s a call to action on each page that links to further information. You’ll need a (free) GitHub account to comment on the individual issues, but it’s all very straightforward.
While you can just sign up on the site to be updated as the work progresses, I’d encourage you to help us in creating a resource that will be useful to everyone in the Open Badges community!
With the exception of perhaps Snapchat, the extended moral panic around social media seems to be coming to an end. It’s therefore a good time to take stock of what the last ten years have brought us in terms of connecting with one another through technology – and how we might be best able to use social media for learning.
Interestingly, although new services pop up on a regular basis, it’s increasingly the case that social media incumbents quickly purchase their emerging competitors. For example, the messaging platforms WhatsApp and Instagram were purchased by Facebook, while Twitter has bought a whole host of smaller companies including TweetDeck and the video livestreaming platform Periscope. With the billions being spent in these deals, it’s worth remembering that there are a whole host of smaller, independent, open source alternatives out there that better respect your privacy (e.g. Telegram and Cryptocat).
Despite well-founded concerns around corporate and government surveillance when using social media platforms, there are nevertheless a number of unique opportunities that they provide. We should use these platforms with our eyes open, and encourage learners to do likewise. The following three advantages of social media presuppose teaching in a way that includes social media as part of the everyday learner journey.
1. Access to expertise
With the best will in the world, we as educators cannot be experts in everything we teach. One thing that social networks have brought us is the ability to follow the everyday work and contact people who, in previous generations, would have been inaccessible. Students can follow debates that public intellectuals and experts in a particular field are having today. This can lend a vibrancy and freshness to learning that textbooks and other ‘static’ media cannot provide.
This expertise can also be tailored. There are countless examples of experts leading and participating in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). What’s more, many of these experts, particularly in the field of education, are incredibly generous with their time, interacting with both teachers and students around the world. Social media has truly democratised access to expertise.
2. Developing professional networks
The equivalent of the ‘little black book’ from days past can now been seen as the professional networks built by an individual. Professional social networking is often seen as the preserve of sites such as LinkedIn but, increasingly, we’re seeing this as more than merely a graphical front end on an email database. There are other, more nimble ways of communicating. For example, ‘tweetchats’ around a hashtag are a way to bring together people interested in the same topic for a short and intense period of time. The best known of these are #edchat (global) and #ukedchat (UK-specific) but there a whole host of these listed in this blog post. Some are subject/stage-specific.
Professional networks are important for teachers, but they’re extremely important for learners looking for their first job, or those attempting to move into their next job. In a time of funding pressures and a focus on employability, introducing learners to professional networks is an increasingly-important role for teachers. Learning is about both what you know and who you know, providing the opportunity to translate knowledge and skills into action.
3. Teacher automation
While a phrase such as ‘teacher automation’ sounds somewhat dystopian, one thing that technology is particularly good at is freeing humans from repetitive, routine tasks. For example, Sian Bayne and teachers on Edinburgh University’s E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC created a ‘bot’ that was programmed to respond to very particular queries posed by students. Using the hashtag #edcmooc the bot responded in an ‘if this then that’ way to queries such as ‘When is the first assignment due?’
One of the biggest reasons teachers give for leaving the profession is administrative workload. If we can help mitigate that through the appropriate use of technology, then we should. Semi-autonomous agents (i.e. ‘bots’) provide one way in which we can shift our focus from routine and repetitive tasks towards thinking about learning in new ways.
From a ‘slightly odd’ thing to do ten years ago, social media has become one of the primary ways in which we interact with friends, family, peers, colleagues, and learners. The networks we use to communicate all have benefits and drawbacks, inbuilt biases and tendencies. However, the question is not whether we should use these platforms, but how.
The most forward-thinking organisations and institutions are thinking about the ways social media can simultaneously improve the learner journey, reduce teacher workload, and drive down costs. Doing so takes a change in mindset and having to learn new things, but as educators that’s exactly what we should be modelling to learners.
Note that the text of this version continues to be released under a CC0 license – meaning you can do whatever you like with it. Bryan’s drawings are released under a CC BY-ND license. This means that, while you can use them for whatever you like, you must attribute them (and you mustn’t change them).
Please, please give us feedback! You can do this via Twitter, in the comments section of this blog post, or by email. This can only get better when lots of people are looking at it and attempting to apply it to their context!
I’ve known Bryan Mathers for a couple of years now. We met through a shared interest in Open Badges and, during that time, I’ve seen him flourish as a visual artist. The interesting thing is that this is not his full-time job: it’s an interest of his that really impacts on his work.
Bryan kindly allowed me to interview him earlier this week to discover even more about what he does. You can listen to the whole 56 minutes of audio using the embedded player at the top of this post – or I’ve chunked it up in sections below! I think you’ll enjoy his insights. 🙂