Default to Open: Open Education, Open Government, Open Data, Open Web, and Open Source

My posts on boren.blog connect humane tech, tech ethics, tech regrets, indie ed-tech, open source, open web, open data, distributed work, backchannels, indieweb, neurodiversity, #ActuallyAutistic, the social model of disability, design for real life, behaviorism, structural ideology, mindset marketing, psychological safety, and public education. That jumble of tags is full of connections and overlap. It’s full of lessons on building for humans and the commons. I try to bring these communities together with my writing and sharing, because in connection there is serendipity, and we urgently need a lot of that going on between tech, education, and social model communities. I feel good and reenergized when educators, tech workers, and autistic and disabled people interact in threads I start. These moments are necessary and make a difference. Cheers for being in the space. Cheers for helping make the commons.

Open education, open government, open data, open web, and open source. These are the foundations of the commons. They should be public, taxpayer supported, and open by default. They should be informed by neurodiversity and the social model of disability because systems are better in every way when designed for real life, pluralism, and bodily autonomy.

Software and the internet are at their best when making human systems more inclusive, accessible, and transparent. In my estimation, the web and the open source stack that powers it were built so that public infrastructure, particularly education, could default to open.

We are responsible for humanizing flow in the systems we inhabit. We do that best when we default to open. This is our calling. Let’s build a tech and ed-tech that confront injustice instead of amplifying it. do_action.

For education to fulfill the promise of “free, life-changing, and available to everyone”, we need indie ed-tech and the social model. “We need to design learning where there is no option for oppression.”

One of the legacies of the counterculture, particularly on the left, is the idea that expression is action. This idea has haunted those of us on the left for a long time.

But one of the reasons that the Tea Party came to power was that they organized—they built institutions. So the challenge for those of us who want a different world is not to simply trust that the expressive variety that the internet permits is the key to freedom. Rather, we need to seek a kind of freedom that involves people not like us, that builds institutions that support people not like us—not just ones that help gratify our desires to find new partners or build better micro-worlds.

Source: Don’t Be Evil

It’s no secret people are more likely to trust the government and value what the government provides if their local government shares information and involves them in the decisions that affect their lives. And when government organizations do share data, best practices, and code, the government as a whole does better by its citizens. Everyone wins.

Source: Default to open · Code for America

Indie Ed-tech is infrastructure that supports scholarly agency and autonomy.

Source: A Journey to discover what is Indie Ed-tech | Heart | Soul | Machine

For his part, in that Stanford talk, Jim Groom pointed to 80s indie punk as a source of inspiration for indie ed-tech. “Why 1980s indie punk?” Groom explains,

First and foremost because I dig it. But secondly it provides an interesting parallel for what we might consider Indie Edtech. Indie punk represents a staunchly independent, iconoclastic, and DIY approach to music which encompasses many of the principles we aspired to when creating open, accessible networks for teaching and learning at [the University of Mary Washington]. Make it open source, cheap, and true alternatives [sic] to the pre-packaged learning management systems that had hijacked innovation.

The LMS is our major record label. Prepackaged software. A prepackaged sound.

Pre-packaged sound. Pre-packaged courses. Pre-packaged students.

If we don’t like ‘the system’ of ed-tech, we should create one of our own.

“Indie ed-tech” – what we’re gathered here to talk about over the next few days – is inherently ideological as it seeks to challenge much of how we’ve come to see (and perhaps even acquiesce to) a certain vision for the future of education technology. An industry vision. An institutionalized vision. Indie ed-tech invokes some of the potential that was seen in the earliest Web technologies, before things were carved up into corporate properties and well-known Internet brands: that is, the ability to share information globally, not just among researchers, scientists, and scholars within academic institutions or its disciplines, but among all of us – those working inside and outside of powerful institutions, working across disciplines, working from the margins, recognizing the contributions of those who have not necessarily been certified – by school, by society – as experts. Distributed knowledge networks, rather than centralized information repositories. “Small pieces, loosely joined.”

“Indie ed-tech” offers a model whereby students, faculty, staff, and independent scholars alike can use the “real-world” tools of the Web – not simply those built for and sanctioned by and then siloed off by schools or departments – through initiatives like Davidson Domains, enabling them to be part of online communities of scholars, artists, scientists, citizens.

Source: ‘I Love My Label’: Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound in Ed-Tech

Note: LMS = Learning Management System

We roil at the limitations and oppressive qualities of the LMS. But the problem here is not the LMS-it is that, despite our best efforts at creating other platforms, we still think through our own internal LMS. The problem is that whether we are using Blackboard or teaching in Canvas or building a Domains project, we are most likely not doing thinking that is liberative enough.

The point is not just about platform. The point is about praxis.

the LMS is an outlook, a standpoint, a conviction. Like it or not, it is in our blood as a product of our privilege and our educations. It is not a cage we put students in as much as it is an artificial playground over which we can be masters. It is, in fact, a learning space, but not for the content we put there; rather it is a space of enculturation into an oppressive educative model which each of us has born the weight of, and into which we each believe, to varying degrees, students should be baptized. The same is true of the classroom, the academy, the professional conference. These are spaces we understand, where we are not marginal, but where we can invite the marginal to participate, to become not-marginal. And this invitation to the middle is an act we say is elevating, is doing good.

There are multitudes of voices that we won’t hear because we do not feel safe in their spaces, on the margins. And safe, for educators, usually means expert, superior, capable, competent. When we enter the margins from our roosts in academe, we suffer the surrender of our confidence. In the face of what might be being created in the spaces we don’t occupy, our knees wobble.

By offering a room, we make ourselves the lessors. By making space, we claim space. “These are your walls,” we say. “These are your walls that I’ve given you. These are your walls to hang upon them what you would like. I have made them of plaster and drywall. I have painted them. I have put in the studs and I have raised high the roofbeams. But truly, this is yours. I have made you a space where you can be who you want to be.”

We need to design learning where there is no option for oppression.

Source: If bell hooks Made an LMS: a Praxis of Liberation and Domain of One’s Own

There are other considerations as well. How does this tool represent a politics of oppression-the surrender of privacy, data, authorship, authority, agency, as well as issues of representation, equity, access? Who owns the tool and what are their goals? How is the production of this tool funded? What influence does the maker of this tool have on culture more broadly writ? What labor is rewarded and what labor is erased? What is the relationship between this tool and the administration of the institution? Who must use this tool and who is trained to use this tool, and is that labor compensated? These are all important questions to ask, and the answers may play a role in the adoption of any given tool in a classroom or learning environment.

But in many cases, and especially with the LMS, adoption comes regardless of consent. In only a minority of situations are faculty and students part of the discussion around the purchase of an LMS for an institution. In those situations, we must abide by the use of the LMS; however, that doesn’t mean we must acquiesce to its politics or its pedagogy. In order to intervene, then, we must step back and rather than learn the tool, analyze the tool.

When we do that with the LMS, we find that its primary operation is the acquisition of data, and the conflation of that data with student performance, engagement, and teaching success.

Source: Reading the LMS against the Backdrop of Critical Pedagogy, Part One – OFFICE OF DIGITAL LEARNING

Previously,

Bringing Safety to the Serendipity in Digital Pedagogy

“That’s the piece that’s been missing, bringing the safety to the serendipity.”

Source: Closing Tabs, Episode 3: Teaching with(out) Social Media – UMW Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies

This is a very insightful conversation on digital pedagogy between educator Jesse Stommel and data scientist Kris Shaffer. I recommend adding their blogs to your feed reader. I really enjoy their writing.

The line “that’s the piece that’s been missing, bringing the safety to the serendipity” struck me as a great distillation of the challenge before us. Collaboration in an LMS—closed off from the greater internet and the creative commons—lacks the full potential for ”created serendipity”. Twitter is full of serendipity and the possibility for genuine connections, communities, and networks, but also white supremacists, trolls, and bots. There are an awakening and a counter-awakening messily battling it out in a corporate-owned commons incentivized by ads and exponential growth.

Opportunities for serendipity increase with bigger, more diverse networks…

The gospel of the new economy is the transformative power of a diverse, genuine network.

Source: Courtney E. Martin on the Coworking Revolution – Design.blog

Yet these seemingly serendipitous events, are also based on our willingness to create connections and be in the space, and to put in the effort in the first place.

I often tell people that if you start connecting with others in online spaces, you won’t just find great ideas, but the great ideas will find you.

Source: Created Serendipity – The Principal of Change

Today’s organizations must be able to unlock and engage both internal and external networks, in an effort to not only tap into a diversity of voices, but a diversity and divergence of thinking and ideas. These networks not only provide a platform for engaging an ongoing flow of the novel and new, they also create a cognitive space to play with ideas that often leads to not only the creation of new knowledge, but new actions and new ways of working.

Source: Networks: An Engine For Scaling Learning And Innovation (Part 3) | DCulberhouse

but those networks, in their current forms, are actively hostile to psychological safety.

There’s a term for this: psychological safety. The researcher Amy Edmondson demonstrated that teams can appear to be strong on the surface: people like and respect each other, and they get along well. Despite that, they may have an environment where everyone sits silently while the boss talks at them, or where people feel ashamed to be vulnerable and open up about their fears. They might all love hanging out together after work, but nobody can bring themselves to tell someone when they’ve got toilet paper stuck to their shoes. If we want a climate where people can accomplish groundbreaking things, we need to know our voice will be heard and where we’re not afraid to take risks.

The best jazz bands, like the best Google teams, provide the space to take risks. We already know jazz artists have hyperaware senses and can pick up on nonverbal clues. But everyone also gets a voice. In jazz, it’s assumed that unexpected contributions can come from anyone. Getting a “voice” also means every band member takes a turn soloing. Each player spends time as both leader and follower. Miles was always attune to the contributions of everyone. If he realized someone hadn’t had a solo in a while, he’d lean over to them and whisper in his gravelly voice that they should take the lead.

Followership in jazz is worthy of the highest respect-it’s known as comping.Comping is listening and responding without overshadowing. Followership needs to be active, not passive. It’s not about sitting back and letting someone else do all the work. You take an indispensable role in giving space, riffing, experimenting, and supporting. And yet leading and talking are more valued than following and listening in our work culture.

Source: Please Make Yourself Uncomfortable – What product managers can learn from jazz musicians – Ken Norton

I’m exploring micro.blog, IndieWeb, and indie ed-tech with that missing mix of psychological safety + serendipity in mind. Let’s build what comes next with the spirit of active followership and comping.

I can imagine this platform, or at least concept, being used in an educational environment, allowing students to easily engage with various feeds in a central space.

Source:  How-to micro.blog, a micro.guide – Read Write Collect

Often when I say that I think that the “Domain of One’s Own” initiative is one of the most important education technologies, I always hear pushback from the Twitter riffraff. “What’s so special about a website?” folks will sneer.

Well, quite a lot, I’d contend. The Web itself is pretty special – Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of a global hyperlinked information system. A system that was – ideally at least – openly available and accessible to everyone, designed for the purpose of sharing information and collaborating on knowledge-building endeavors. That purpose was not, at the outset, commercial. The technologies were not, at the outset, proprietary.

I’m pretty resistant to framing “domains” as simply a matter of “skills.” Because I think its potential is far more radical than that. This isn’t about making sure literature students “learn to code” or history students “learn to code” or medical faculty “learn to code” or chemistry faculty “learn to code.”

Rather it’s about recognizing that the World Wide Web is site for scholarly activity. It’s about recognizing that students are scholars.

And that’s the Web. That’s your domain. You cultivate ideas there – quite carefully, no doubt, because others might pop by for a think. But also because it’s your space for a think.

Source: Why ‘A Domain of One’s Own’ Matters (For the Future of Knowledge)

Jesse and Kris touch upon Mastodon, IndieWeb, and federation (including their limitations) as well as a number of other interesting topics in the episode. Highly recommended. Check it out.

Jesse and I have taught with Twitter for ages, often requiring students to create accounts, tweet about their coursework, even crafting assignments where a single tweet was the assignment. But we don’t anymore.

Why not? What do we do instead? How do we help our students navigate the world of public, digital scholarship in a world increasingly dominated by harassment, abuse, disinformation, and polarization? Well, for that, you’ll have to listen.

Jesse and I mention a number of tools, platforms, and services that we find useful in different contexts. As promised, here are links!

Jesse’s and Kris’s past class Medium publications can be found here: Introduction to Digital Studies and Modeling Music.

Slack is the online community space that we use regularly for our classes, especially (but not exclusively) online classes.

Kris’s (former) guide for public student writing (including Jesse’s Twitter essay prompt reworked for a music class) can be seen here.

Jesse mentioned Mastadon, a distributed social platform based on GNU Social.

A number of the tools Kris mentions for privacy and security can be found here. Kris also mentioned Keybase, a Slack-like, end-to-end encrypted communication platform that functions similar to Slack (though balancing increased security with less bells and whistles).

Source: Closing Tabs, Episode 3: Teaching with(out) Social Media – UMW Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies

See also,