True openness

A blog post about open scholarship and the connections I made from there have inspired me to write about the meaning of openness in open scholarship. Steve Wheeler says:

A new breed of academics is emerging in the digital age. They are the researchers and teachers who freely share their knowledge and studies online. They are circumventing traditional approaches and discovering new ways of sharing their work. They are the open scholars.

Veletsianos and Kimmons (2012) offer a similar perspective in their article Assumptions and Challenges of Open Scholarship:

[Open scholarship] might include such activities as open teaching, the production and dissemination of open educational resources, publishing in open access journals, keeping a professional blog, and sharing of research data in online venues.

So, basically, open scholarship means we (educators) share our work or teach online and engage in dialogue through Twitter, blogs, social networking sites and so on. Both descriptions align with my previous post on open educational practices.

But I started thinking a little differently when I read something else by Steve Wheeler, a comment on true openness:

True openness is where content is shared freely, all work is attributed fairly, and where educators also open themselves up for dialogue, collaboration and constructive criticism. True open scholars are those who have aspirations to be global educators, promoting free learning for all, reaching out and connecting with other educators and learners everywhere, with the aim of participating fully in their worldwide community of practice.

I agree with Steve Wheeler that open scholarship “is a state of mind” and requires an open attitude to engage in “dialogue, collaboration and constructive criticism” in every aspect of scholarship, from teaching to research. So does open scholarship require access to technology and basic digital literacies as a prerequisite for practice? I don’t think so… That would limit the potential and sustainability of open education; openness should be a worldview for an educator more than a technological possibility (although I love the possibilities).

I don’t think we can talk about “true openness” or that true openness should be a target to reach on the openness spectrum – for example, should we all aim to be global educators? Also, the extent to which we participate in open scholarship is sometimes not a conscious choice. Sometimes it is just part of who we are, so change in practice requires a significant change in identity (how we see ourselves in relation to others) first. Open scholarship doesn’t have to be the same thing for every scholar.

My context? For me it has mostly been about transparency and connectivity (all rely on technology because of circumstances = phd mum). The most challenging part of it all is forming balanced open relationships. Sometimes I don’t know what to make of a Twitter conversation. Sometimes (I think) I send a friendly e-mail to somebody I’ve met online and get a one word response back. Sometimes I regret my tweets, sometimes I mull over a word for days. I’m still trying to make sense of all of this (the open world) and embrace the uncertainty as much as I can.

Thoughts on open scholarship

Reflections on a Twitter conversation, stretched wide out in the open, but also enclosed with a group people that I feel connected to, that I know I can trust. We talked about threshold concepts and third spaces of learning, and Laura brought up the concept of heterotopia:

The idea of being in a space that is neither here nor there then reminded me ofย  an #et4buddy experience. Let me give you a little bit of background first. Et4buddy is a virtual buddy program first piloted in #et4online in April. Here is the vision of the organizers, Maha and Rebecca.

During pre-selected conference activities (such as social events), the virtual buddy program partners a few virtual conference participants with participants who are physically at the conference. The partners connect using video conferencing, allowing the physical participant to share the experience with the virtual participant. The goal of the program is to enhance the conference experience for both the virtual participant and the physical presence participant.

I thoroughly enjoyed the #et4buddy program, met some great people–both virtual and onsite–on Twitter and also on hangouts. Maha and Rebecca were fantastic–Maha even invited me to a hangout just so that we would know each other better!

The highlight of the conference for me was a #et4buddy chat with Gardner Campbell. I had some questions in mind aboutย  “technology of emergence” vs “emergent technologies,” something Dr. C. discussed in his plenary talk “Thought Vectors in Concept Space” earlier in the morning the same day and couldn’t wait to talk to Dr. C about them. But at the same time I felt a bit shy and uneasy about being present “out in the open.” But I joined the hangout, asked my questions to Dr. C… and it was great. I just can’t describe the experience here. My experience in Turkish schools taught me to follow hierarchy and build it, even if doesn’t impose any structures on me. But here I was talking to somebody influential in the field, asking some basic questions and getting answers. A picture I saw some time after the event struck me. A picture of Gardner and Rebecca sitting together right outside a conference room–Rebecca smiling, Gardner looking carefully at the screen in front of him. Where was I? Were they really there when we had the chat?

Ahh, it’s the feeling of heterotopia, thank you Laura for helping me name my heterotopia-ish musings. I thought I was “in the zone,” but that’s not a good descriptor, is it? Reminds me of urban city zones and busy commuter trains..

I appreciate the #et4buddy opportunity… and the care… and the laugh, just like the conversation I had with my Twitter buddies tonight. I also think #et4buddy helped me normalize the feeling of being neither here or there. It’s just life, happens to many of us. It’s not a big deal.

Anyways, I tweeted:

And I mean it. Why would I go to a conference only to present a PowerPoint and listen to other PPTs? Why would I go to a conference if nobody is going to ask me any questions about my work, question it, and make suggestions to look at it from a different perspective? I’ve been to conferences where I almost begged for a discussion (in whispers). One time a friend commented that I liked asking questions (after listening to presentations). Here is my response after almost 3 years: How can you sit down for 20 to 30 min. listening to somebody talk about something and not have a single question! Is that even possible?

Need to get back to the #et4buddy experience. Maha commented on my tweet saying:

If #et4buddy is a movement, it’s certainly a postmodern one with no manifesto on how things should be like or should proceed (and I’m sure even if they had a manifesto it would be an editable Google doc.). Just a shared vision which grows organically into something larger with participation and activity. It’s the movement we all create by open and connected scholarship, by sharing, practicing, demanding, and deviating away from the rigid structures in educational research. It is part of the movement which also created and supported the Hybrid Pedagogy (peer review is a collaborative process), #eMOOCs2015 (a flipped conference), #tjc15 (a journal club open to everyone) and VCU‘s connected courses (healthy mix of formal and informal learning, caring instructors). I’m sure there are many others out there, but I can only count the ones that I’m familiar with. It’s not one thing, or a handful of things: it is the combination of hundreds of thousands of blog posts, tweets, open events, hashtags, journals, organizations… Let me also give you two very recent examples:

1. I blogged about reflection, asked to be challenged, Mariana took up on the challenge, found an article for me to read, but she didn’t have access to it, so Laura requested it through an interlibrary loan (she really did that), scanned it and sent it to me. I’m still thinking about how to respond; I asked for a challenge, I got one.

2. I started following VCU’s course CMST 691: Collaborative Curiosity: Designing Community-Engaged Research (referred to as CEnR in the course), because they are doing some really good stuff and I want to learn more about participatory approaches to research. I had a question about the method, posted it on Twitter and got a response from Valerie Holton on the same day. Valerie is the Director of Community-Engaged Research at VCU. She follows me on Twitter but we’ve never met in person. I’m not one of her students. I don’t know much about CEnR. But Valerie takes the time to respond to my question and her response encourages me to think about ways to conduct ethnography using CEnR.

Open scholarship, as many of us experience on social networking platforms, is significant and I think its meaning will be unpacked in years to come. If you are in education and if you’re not engaged with open scholarship (even if that means simply lurking) you’re missing the conversation and the opportunity to shape it in more productive and ethical ways.

Now I feel like writing more on the ethics of open scholarship, but will stop here and leave that to another post:)