Tag Archives: Open Scotland

1. I get ‘open’, I really do…but why should I share anything when the enemy down the road gives fuck all?

2. I would, but that would mean asking other members of staff for their packs,… and they wouldn’t like that

At the end of November 2013 I unfortunately missed the rearranged JISC RSC Scotland Open Education event held at Edinburgh University.  Although it’s taken a bit of time to get this post online I was thankfully able to keep up with the discussion using the RSC’s YouTube Channel.

Open Scotland got the proceedings underway with a presentation that was shared between Lorna Campbell and Joe Wilson. Lorna began by providing some background to the work of Open Scotland and it’s clear to see that there’s a lot of encouraging activity in Scotland with the Open Knowledge Foundation, OBSEG and Scotland’s first Wikimedian-in-Residence. However, it was also made clear that open educational practices continue to be less embedded in Scotland than they are in other places, including England.

The second part of the presentation was given by Joe Wilson from SQA. Now, just in case you’re beginning to wonder, neither of the two statements at the top of this post came from Lorna or Joe, and they didn’t come from hecklers in the room either. They are instead out of the mouths of two lecturers working in  different campuses of the same Scottish FE college and were made in conversation with me during 2013.

Joe’s session was, in a way, a call to move away from politely nodding about the virtues of open practices to actually starting to do it. You don’t need to be a psychological genius to detect the frustration in Joe’s part of the presentation; and that frustration can be understood in the context of a recent JIME paper and blog post both written by Martin Weller. In these pieces Weller doesn’t argue that the battle for open is being lost, and that it desperately needs the Scottish educational establishment to provide a late cavalry charge to save the day: quite the contrary. Weller instead argues that the battle for open has already been victorious, and that the real battle is the one that will now determine the future narrative of open.
Now “if” the two quotations at the top of this post are in any way representative of what FE lecturers in Scotland actually think and feel about adopting open working practices then Joe’s frustration can hardly come as a surprise. But why should Joe be frustrated if the battle has already been won? Well the answer is that it’s been won elsewhere, and the battle to define open is being fought elsewhere.  In other words, the opinion of the Scottish educational sector won’t be heard because we aren’t present on the battlefield. You simply can’t be in the vanguard if you’re not on the battlefield: you can’t even be in the fucking rearguard.

And yet, as depressing as the two quotations from the lecturers are, I don’t think they are cause for despair. Both lecturers appear to want to share but are somehow restricted by ‘the other’. This reminded me of Lenin’s analysis that whilst capitalism predisposes the workers to the acceptance of socialism it does not make them conscious Socialists. I’ve re-worked this such that whilst there may be a general acceptance of open in the Scottish FE community it doesn’t automatically lead to open practices.

So,  what is to be done?

Open

Well, it’s definitely about empowering individuals at the grassroots with the pedagogic and technical literacies. But it’s also about the conditions that makes the use of the literacies possible. There needs to be a policy context.

What I think is significant about the lecturers’ statements  is the way that they both, independently, frame the resistance to sharing such that  in both cases, it’s ‘the other’ that prevents them. Whilst for the first speaker ‘the other’ is the college down the road, the competitor, the ones on the outside of the institution, for the second speaker the ‘other’ isn’t even on the outside of the same office, let alone outside the institution. ‘The other’ is powerful and pervasive.

Although not disagreeing with Joe that there remains in the dark Calvinistical soul of the Scottish character a lingering fear of change, but I would argue that instead of thinking of the lecturers’ words as reflections of an inner state I think we need to see their language as something as much more discursive.  Mills describes Foucauldian discourse as ‘practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak’, and so it isn’t about convincing these guys not to be scared or not be fearful but rather to put in place the practices that makes sharing, to borrow Lenin’s terminology, spontaneous.

Audrey Watters’ post Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2013: The Battle for “Open” is hugely significant because it reminds, or should remind, those involved on the side of open that the battle is not simply theoretical or moral, but political. In a 1982 University of Vermont lecture Political Technology and the Individual Michel Foucault identifies two not unproblematic forces at play in the modern state. The first is technological, in the sense of the practices through which the individual “man” either strengthens or weakens the state’s survival, and the second is the political, in the sense of the relationship between the state and it’s external ‘enemies’.
In his lecture, Foucault argues that

the practices of the state are embodied within its institutions

and the  use of “the enemy” in the first lecturer’s quotation shows, not just how deeply the institutions had embodied that ideology of Thatcherite competition, but also how effectively that rivalrous structure has, in turn, been internalised by their staff members. The dismantling of the Thatcherite/Conservative structure of FE college management was always explicitly one of Michael Russell’s political drivers for college regionalisation in Scotland. However as much as regionalisation and reclassification are to be welcomed they won’t, by themselves, bring about the institutionalisation of open practices.

In a way, this is why the Future Cities: Open Glasgow project is so important. Although the project isn’t educationally driven or minded, it does seem to indicate that certain open practices are starting to slowly filter down from central  to local government.  And yet, even if every local authority in Scotland (and there are enough of them) were to follow Glasgow’s lead (which they eventually will) it will still be necessary for the technological interests of the individual to align with the political interests of the institution, and the state. In the words of the recent Norwegian Government’s report ‘these must be connected together and clearly have the same effect’, (in Campbell, 2013).

by Gary Hamel
Open source is one of the greatest management innovations of the 21st century

This could be done by effectively re-licencing the educational resources produced by publicly-funded educational institutions. Copyright would no longer reside with the institution but would lie within the public domain. However, “if” the quotations at the top of this post are in any way representative of what FE lecturers in Scotland actually think then I’m not entirely sure that a change in licensing would quickly undo years of state-sponsored rivalry.

Maybe it could be more effectively driven in the way that Cable Green advocated in Washington State, such that public money would only be forthcoming if publicly-funded educational institutions adopted open practices that were genuinely beneficial to the public. So with the smallest rewordings of the Nordic OER Alliance’s ideas, Scottish FE institutions could continue to receive

  1. funding, if they invest in improving  the level of digital literacies of their staff which makes openness possible;
  2. funding, if their staff make available top quality open educational resources;
  3. funding, if they develop the infrastructure and pedagogy of online learning
  4. funding, if  the public derives benefit from their MOOCs

Only if an institution can demonstrate their openness should the institution be granted 100 pc of their funding allocation. By changing the funding nature of the political relationship between educational institutions and the state, this would, in turn, change the technological relationship of the individual to their institution. Whatever way it’s done, it needs done.

Acknowledgements

Campbell, L. ‘Norwegian Government MOOC Report and Digitization Programme’, Open World, posted 18 December 2013, http://lornamcampbell.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/norwegian-government-mooc-report-and-digitization-programme/, accessed 21 December 2013

Campbell, L. ‘Open Scotland’, Cetis Blog, posted 03 May 2013, http://blogs.cetis.ac.uk/lmc/2013/05/03/open-scotland/, accessed 29 December 2013

Custer, S. ‘Mike Russell, Scottish Education Secretary’, The Pie Newshttp://thepienews.com/pie-chat/mike-russell-scottish-education-secretary/2/, posted 30 November 2012, accessed 7 December 2013

Foucault, M. ‘The Political Technology of Individuals’ in Power: essential works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984 volume 3, (ed. J. Faubion) London, Penguin, pp.403-417

JISC RSC Scotland, Open Education Event, posted 29 November 2013, http://www.jiscrsc.ac.uk/scotland/news/2013/november/open-education-event.aspx#, accessed 14 December 2013

Lenin, V.I. (1902) What is to be Done?, (tr. Time Delaney), produced by Chris Russell for Marxists Internet Archive, http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/, accessed 21 December 2013

Kool Scatkat, ‘Open’, Flickr,  uploaded on 14 June 2005, http://www.flickr.com/photos/kool_skatkat/19287450/, accessed 02 January 2014 (CC-BY-NC-ND-SA 2.0)

Open Education event – Open Scotland, Slideshare, JISC Regional Support Centre Scotland, posted 29 November 2013, http://www.slideshare.net/rscscotland/openscot-jisc-rsc, accessed 14 December 2013

Open Scotland – Lorna Robertson [sic] (Cetis) & Joe Wilson (SQA) #rscopen, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jay46_G72Vg&list=PLc2anW26Q_I_7W8-fV75C2KIQc_JboIjA&index=1, YouTube, published 2 December 2013, accessed 14 December 2013

opensourceway, ‘Gary Hamel:  Open source is one of the greatest management innovations of the 21st century’, Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4371000486/, accessed 14 December 2013, (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Watters, A. (2013) ‘Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2013: The Battle for “Open”‘, Hack Education, posted 16 December 2013, http://hackeducation.com/2013/12/16/top-ed-tech-trends-2013-open/, accessed 19 December 2013

Weller, M.

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