A transcript of a recording/presentation found at: https://opened.ca/oer20/
[Brian Lamb] I don’t know. I don’t have any introductory music queued up yet. Maybe we’ll have some, maybe we won’t? This is our OER20 session being pulled together under rather odd circumstances. What have been doing you lately, Anne-Marie?
[Anne-Marie Scott] Well, I’ve been trying to turn an entire university’s administration into a virtual distributed workforce. Brian, what are you getting up to recently?
[B] Well, I’ve mostly been focused on taking a campus face-to-face university and put it online overnight. So yeah, kinda similar…
[A-M] There can’t be many other people in the world doing this at the moment.
[B] No. And if only there was some sort of conference gathering people that are all dealing with the stuff together, it would be very handy at a time like this. It just doesn’t exist.
[A-M] That’s pie in the sky thinking.
[B] So obviously we’ve been talking before and we’re going to try to cover some of the things we put in our abstract. But I think it’s also fair to say that the way things have gone, we are going a little bit rogue here. I think we’re going to talk a bit about what open ed tech is and with our group, the OpenETC… where we are at and maybe where we see ourselves going. Would that be a fair way to say it?
[A-M] Yeah, I think so. We talked as we anticipated this presentation, talking about how the OpenETC fills a gap for a number of institutions, that it’s about trying out a new model. And that it’s some kind of response to the idea that the sector can’t do for itself and needs disruption. But it does feel a bit weird to go through a series of really nice case studies of using our collective, collaboratively supported tools in this kind of weird pivot to a really conservative set of educational technology that we’ve all just made. So it feels like a… maybe thinking about how the OpenETC, reframes its offering to be relevant to the world we now live in, what might be our approach. Which probably takes us to the same places, but we frame them differently, right?
[B] And I think we are already a little worried about where are we going to find the time to keep doing this awesome thing? We all knew we loved it and we all knew it was very important to us. But I mean, that’s always been a conversation when our group… And I guess we should give a shout out to our colleagues in the founding group. There’s so many people that are part of the group, but the people that we wish had a little more time and headspace to join us. Tannis Morgan is doing other sessions here, Clint Lalonde, and Grant Potter of course. We’ve always, when we get together, as you know, we, we always say, “how are we going to carve time out? How are we gonna do this?” I think it’s going to be even more of a challenge in the coming year, although it’s never felt more important to me.
[A-M] Absolutely. And I think hopefully we’ve got some good news on that front in terms of a little bit of funding for how we proceed. But you know, again, the world has changed on us, so we’re going to have to look carefully at that.
[B] Yes. So just a little note about what this session is going to be… The core formal presentation is going to be essentially a 20 minute audio document. And we’re going to also point people to https://opened.ca/oer20 and we’re going to have some additional audio. We recorded a half hour of conversation yesterday. And we’re only going to use about five to ten minutes of it in this file. And we’ll also try to have some resources and links and things like that. So this is kind of like a podcast. Well it is, essentially and, but also, yeah, if people want to go a little deeper, please go to https://opened.ca/oer20
[A-M] So when I was thinking about “how do we re-frame the OpenETC”? Listening back to the previous conversation gave me a lot of fodder for this. How do we reframe the OpenETC? And why is it relevant given that we’ve just made this kind of pivot to expediency and gone for this really conservative set of ed tech. And I think there were a few things, and they’re kind of bulleted on the end of that picture I sent you. But the first was, we have seen the OpenETC provide things that people need right now that they can’t do by any other means. And that was your Law example. And then the bit about turnkey solutions — that’s the Clone Zone.
[AM] And then shared risk in economic times, which we possibly have in some of the other bits that we’ve already got. But it’s whether we want to state it more concretely. And then there was a final bit that kind of just crystallized for me as I was listening. The big thing is that the OpenETC is explicitly designed around sharing. And actually when you think about what we’ve just done over the last two weeks and how we’ve managed to do it. Yes, we may have retreated into fairly established, conservative technologies, but look at the sharing we’ve done as a community of practice. There’s no way we could have achieved what we’ve each individually achieved in our institutions without leveraging the support of that community of practice. How many people have curated lists of resources and shared out lists of resources online? How many back channels are there where we’re sharing some of the problems as we go? You know, how to deal with particularly difficult faculty or some of the concerns around technology. So this culture of sharing, and sharing as being a way of sustaining ourselves is never more important than in a crisis.
[B] It will be interesting to see how it fares over time. But to this point… because I think the future is just so unknown and things are going to hit us a lot harder soon, I think. But at this point I have been really, just really pleasantly surprised how resilient and dynamic our networks are, and our culture to this point as we record this end of March 2020 — I should say.
[A-M] – So when we’re gathered round that flaming barrel by the side of the canal, we can… I don’t know quite how we’re going to listen back to it without electricity.
[B] That’s true! Why am I even worried? Nobody’s going to be able to throw this in my face.
[A-M] We need to get this put on a wax cylinder.
[A-M] So tell us about cloning.
[B] Thank you. If I do get my head together on the OpenETC site, I’m hoping to do just a little five-minute demo showing some of this. One thing I do want to show, for example, is occasionally when back in the old days, we would occasionally get the opportunity to do a special project. So there was one special project, for example, where we created a web resource that was kind of like a deluxe SPLOT, where students could submit case studies related to local food production and food security. And, we used the Google API so that this stuff would get represented on a Google map that we can embed inside the WordPress site. It’s a really nice piece of work by Thomas Sandhoff to build it. And the professor’s name is Kathleen Scherf. And it was a nice project, something we’re very proud of. But one thing that I asked Thomas to do, and thankfully he had the time to do it, was he also created a generic version of the site where it didn’t have to be food security, it could be about any set of topics. But the plug-ins were all there. The configurations were all done, the connections were all there, the theming was done. And so what we’ve been able to do, and that’s the thing, it’s in the OpenETC site… We, for example, allowed a geography professor to go into that framework and she created virtual field trips, so there are students using it.
I think cloning, it’s one of those things I always want to talk about. I always get the feeling people don’t quite see how powerful it is because I think they think it’s just like having a SCORM package, this piece of content or this thing that you can just move from one place to another. But I think what’s powerful about it, at least when you’re inside a framework like WordPress, it’s so much more dynamic than that. And we can think of about the way we think of sharing content. We can actually share functionality and interaction patterns, and also be able to build on each other’s work so powerfully. And I have to say one of my initial motivations for wanting to work with the earliest people in the OpenETC, was I wanted to share a server with them so I could go copy their stuff. And so we’ve worked really hard on this notion of cloning. I think the way it works for most of our users is instead of them getting a “Hello World” website with a generic template and then having to figure out what theme they want, and figure out what plug-ins to turn on, and make the settings work… We’re able to give them a running start and get them 90% of the way to where they want that website to be. Because about 90% of our websites are about the same ten use cases. So I just think it’s a very powerful idea. And I think it’s one of those things. It’s not until you actually do it and benefit from it and you realize, oh my gosh, I just launched a site that would have taken weeks of development. And I just put it together in two hours and it’s running really well. I think that’s the power and you have to experience it.
[A-M] And I think it’s something when we think about the kinds of technologies that we have fallen back on, LMSs and videoconferencing and remote proctoring, and so on… When you think about the LMS… Many, many institutions have done LMS template projects to try and get some kind of running start with some kind of quality assurance baked in. But actually LMS’s are pretty bad at this. Yes, you probably can get a template. Can you get a series of templates? Can you get a series of templates that have rich preconfigured functionality? And can you give those to end-users to choose which ones they want? I mean, I don’t really know. You can get close to that, but I don’t know of any LMS that gets as close to what we’ve built with the open ed tech core space.
[B] I think you make a really interesting comparison too, because I think that maybe is another reason why people don’t quite get what’s so cool about cloning. You were mentioning templated LMS frameworks. That’s an attempt to standardize and lock people into certain patterns to protect them from themselves. And sometimes that’s not a terrible idea because it does simplify the process for people, because they know it’s like paint-by-numbers now and they can just fill in what they need. The thing that’s powerful about cloning is when we start — I’ll try to put a couple links that show this — when say we give a set of students a brand new ePortfolio template, I always tell them, I say “you’ve now got the minimum requirements to complete the technical part of this ePortfolio, all you have to do is put your materials in the places where it says.” And about half the students, that’s all they do. They don’t change the theme. They might change the header image or something, but that’s it. But then about half of them do something really different. They change the theme, they completely re-work it, they restructure it, they rebuild it. So this running start, because it’s an open framework that’s so flexible, the students get comfortable and they don’t stay within that template for very long, necessarily. At least half of them, which to me is a really significant proportion of them, given that most of them have never built a website before.
[A-M] And so that’s maybe more important because we’ve got to the point of the OpenETC… Because some of these systems on campuses weren’t doing what people needed. They didn’t give enough power to students to put their own identity or their own frame around their own work. They couldn’t do stuff necessarily in the open and for other people to observe and participate. We’ve taken a whole bunch of new people into the kind of starting space that started this journey towards the OpenETC. And you explained earlier that you’re already starting to see enthusiasm and excitement about the use of learning technology to teach in a campus-based context. Because people are seeing the ways in which it changes their relationship with their students, the kinds of interactions they have with students. So yeah, there are going to be a number of people for whom they’re wildly out of their comfort zone and something like the OpenETC will just melt their brains right now. It wouldn’t be appropriate. But there are a number of people whose appetite has been whetted and they’re going to want to proceed down this path and explore that new relationship they have with students, that greater level of engagement. Where do you go? The OpenETC has to reframe itself, in that space and on that spectrum.
[B] For sure. We’ve always talked about this being a challenge, but I think it’s even more important now, is how we make that potential visible to people who maybe aren’t intuitively comfortable with how online technology works. Or they don’t have a natural sense of how things develop and how to grow something. So how do we get them there? But I think that’s one thing that’s powerful with these clonable sites. It means that the first thing that someone is doing with their website, they’re usually writing right away, as opposed to spending the first five hours just trying to make the site not look terrible. And I think that changes that first impression that people get.
[A-M] I think it does. And I think it also speaks really strongly to this kind of underlying need for turnkey solutions. That’s why we’ve gone for the things that we already have on our campus and that we know how to operate really easily because they are turnkey solutions. We talked about that ability to flip a Moodle shell within minutes, no problem. You want an integration with whatever web conferencing tool we’re using, no problem. And we need to reframe or more strongly frame some of what we have in the OpenETC or in these clonable sites as that as well. But there are, I think, examples of the OpenETC infrastructure being used right now to do things that are highly relevant for which these kind of more conservative infrastructures just don’t work. And you told me a really great example from a law professor at your institution. Can you say more about that one?
[B] Yeah. Well, this is very early because it’s literally just started in the last few days. But we have a very inventive law professor named Katie Sykes at TRU. And she in the past has taught a course called Apps for Access to Justice. It’s essentially teaching students to build apps to provide simple legal guidance on common questions. And it works on the same principle like a lot of online tax software. It asks you questions and then it guides you through scenarios. And then it takes you to a place with some provisional resources or advice. So it’s not meant to replace a lawyer, but it’s just meant to kind of say, okay: this is the information you need, this is the kind of stuff that’s out there, and it guides you through that. It makes sure you can find what you need at least, or know if you need to talk to a lawyer or not, which is sometimes where it ends up getting too. So they’ve done this in the past, and she’s taught this course two or three times and some of them have actually gone on and this is what they do for a living now. They build legal apps. So she’s gotten the band back together with some of her best students from the past, or at least her keenest. And they started up a Mattermost space, and I’m privileged to be allowed to lurk in it. I’ve been watching them. They’re building app on COVID resources, things like guides for renters and guides for homeowners, for example, and various processes related to health care access and insurance and resources for business owners. And I think when some of the aid packages start to come out, there will be guides there too to help identify need and to help people find what they might be eligible for. I don’t know how far it will go, but it’s inspiring to watch. And to me that is open pedagogy at its essence. Like that. It’s the opposite of a disposable assignment. It’s people saying “we are going to gather together and in a way that used to be thought of as an educational simulation of some kind, we’re gonna build something because there’s a need.”
[A-M] And so using Mattermost for that, it’s really interesting to think about the number of software teams that operate remotely, which is how everybody is operating right now. To have that kind of rapid chat-based, collaborative environment. I think we all recognize that as being fundamental to underpinning some of this activity. And again, you’re not going to find that in an LMS,
[B] Yeah, if you just see the speed with which they pull things together too. Because Mattermost is kinda related to these tools like Slack. It’s configured for rapid development and iteration and getting work done. And it’s working out that way for my team, by the way. It’s really a trip to watch my team inside Mattermost pull things together rapidly where the process of identifying the problem and starting to get to work on it and then getting to a conclusion is so powerful, and people can see it happening out of the corner of their eyes. So they know this activity is happening, so wonderfully powerful.
[A-M] One of the things the OpenETC has provided BC with is a platform, in Mattermost, that is supporting that pivot to remote distributed working that nobody expected they would ever have to make. And I just talked at the start of this about trying to convert the whole of an institution’s admin to a remote distributed workforce. Just turn the office of the registrar into a distributed team. And we all talk about the pivot we’ve made to online learning. But actually we’ve all on top of supporting everybody else to make pivot also has to turn ourselves into distributed remote teams. So we’re doing that work for other people. At the same time, every way in which we operate has been disrupted. And I’ve seen in the chats on our OpenETC Mattermost install, various people getting in touch to say, can we have a channel, because suddenly the find themselves distributed and they need the comms infrastructure power for that.
[B] OK, we gotta just say goodbye. And I have a surprise for you as we’re going to say goodbye. I came across the coolest thing on the internet earlier today and I’ve been really wanting to tell you about it. So you know that Neil Young has his own website, right? It’s called the Neil Young Archives. And if you are a premium subscriber, which I am, you get access to all sorts of member-only recordings. And Neil has just dropped a brand new… it’s, what’s the word? It’s like an instant LP. It’s one of those ones where he just cranks it out. You know, it’s all improv that he probably just did off top of his head. And it’s about ed tech. He’s done an album called “Ed Tech”. It’s about open ed tech and it’s pretty amazing.
I’ll show you. It’s like it goes…
I am an open ed tech
I’m on the web
Gonna do that pivot
Gonna care for the students
Your LMS sucks!
And then later he goes…
You’re in your Zoom conference
You better put your password on
Someone gonna Zoombomb you
You got dickpics in your class
You got your attention tracking on
Attention tracking with the dickpic
[A-M] Do I have to become a premium subscriber to hear that?
[B] I’ll see if I can figure out a way to extract it… the DRM is pretty, pretty slick in there though. So we’ll see what we can do.