some thoughts from #OER24 – howsheilaseesIT – Education News

some thoughts from #OER24 – howsheilaseesIT – 24 Global News | Education News

Was the plane landing in the snow early last Wednesday morning, after some signs of warmer, spring air finally arriving, a sign that this year’s OER conference was going to be dealing with a mass of contradictions? Or it that just part and parcel of our everyday life now?

Anyway the sun did come out, and as ever the atmosphere at OER24 was warm, welcoming, open, critically informed. Thanks to Tom Farrelly and Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin for chairing another successful conference and to all the committee, ALT staff, and MTU staff and student helpers for all their contributions.

This year I have not been writing here as much as previously but the OER conferences always provide me with inspiration to write something here. This year I’m not going on a flight of speculative fiction like last year, rather I’m going to try and set out my stall for some small acts of critical resistance. So, are you ready? Then let’s begin.

GenAI loomed heavy over nearly every session I went to. It was also a key theme of the presentation I gave with Keith Smyth and Bill Johnston. We were fortunate that our presentation came after the amazing keynote from Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz. It’s no surprise that two leading open scholars would provide such a rich contextualisation of their own open practice but of the situation we all find ourselves in just now. You can read the essay that accompanies the keynote here and watch the recording here.

It does feel like everyday we are at not just a crossroad, but a precipice of climate change, political polarisation, war, famine, and general f***ed-upness. – or as Laura and Catherine more politely called it, the polycrisis . But despite all that, big tech companies are still feeding us the narrative that things can change for the better through AI, that once again technology will save us and keep the shareholders and “the markets” ticking along nicely and keep the rich rich and the rest of us in our place. We just have accept GenAI in education and do our best to re-frame what we do, how we “know”, it’s not going back in the box now. Or do we?

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Catherine and Laura’s keynote was in many ways a call to arms asking us all what can we do, individually and collectively to meet the many challenges facing open education.

The way GenAI tools distort the 5 R’s of OER (retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute ) is quite a challenge to open education. Do we need OERs when we can just prompt AI to create something new, without having to worry about pesky copyright and citation? Now I’m not going to get into the copyright debate here (I don’t have the time or the knowledge) but Jisc has just published its “An introduction to copyright law and practice in education, and the concerns arising in the context of GenerativeAI” which is a good starting point.

From a personal point of view, one of the reasons I try to use and share OERs is not just about altruism (tho’ that is part of it), from a more practical and selfish perspective, if I release something with an open license I get attribution; if I share it through an open repository I can access that resource anytime, anywhere. If find and use an openly licensed resource I can see who has created it, I acknowledge them. I don’t just extract and move on.

In our talk we looked at a number of issues around critical pedagogy and AI, and how critical pedagogy could help us to address some of the challenges of AI and open education. How can we create alternative, meaningful narratives to challenge the Big Tech narrative? Some great work is already being done by many scholars ( shout out to Helen Beetham here and her imperfect offerings), but we need more porosity or leaky stories. Many of my friends don’t know about the environmental and human costs of AI, in fact some of them actually think “the cloud” is actually in the clouds, not on the ground using up masses of water and electricity.

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In education it does seem that choice around using AI systems is increasingly disappearing. Whilst there is much great work going on around how to use these systems more critically (here and here are examples), maybe we should be thinking a bit less using the systems (and help to train the algorithms with every prompt we enter) and more about critically engaging with the terms and conditions of use (again a point highlighted by Laura in the keynote). So whilst many institutions are developing policies around use of AI, and publications such as the EU Ethical Guidelines on the use of AI and data in Education with sets of questions, the questions are really aimed at quite high institutional levels. I’m not sure if I could use them meaningfully. They are aimed more at awareness raising, many of them starting with “are teachers and students aware of . . .”. Which is fine as a starting point, but what level of “awareness” is really needed? What level of awareness do I need, do students need?

If (as someone mentioned to me at the conference) that they were “made aware” of MS Copilot being introduced the day before it went live, do they have time to even consider the implications for them, their work, their intellectual labour? Are the algorithms is it using transparent and explained in plain English? How are its “efficiencies” defined, and measured in the context of admin processes, learning and teaching etc? When you leave an institution, do you have a the right to withdraw your data from the copilot data set? Who/what is monitoring the outputs that the system is returning for accuracy? Is this just another version of a big system extracting our knowledge, and charging us to repackage it and sell it back to us?

I don’t know, maybe there are answers to these questions. But if there aren’t, surely this is where open educational practice comes into its own by providing the space to have discussion based on these types of questions. A form of Freire’s culture circles perhaps? And then share outputs (perhaps some standard questions that individuals could ask their institutions or use themselves to help navigation through Ts&Cs of any AI powered system) as OERs. These spaces, questions, outputs, could help us develop some small acts of critical resistance that just might help us collective create some new, open narratives and give us some hope for the future.

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painting of Freire with various quotes added, from our OER presentation slides
What would Paulo think?

If you are interested in taking this further or have any other ideas, then please do let me know in the comments or by email and we can try and start to do something.

One final point about #OER24. It gave lots of us a chance to say thank you to Martin Weller for his work in open education. As you may know, Martin is leaving the OU and stepping down from the GO-GEN network in June so this was his last appearance at #OER in that capacity. I’m sure he will be back! But I just wanted to thank Martin for his open scholarship and practice. Through his blogging, not just writing but commenting on others blogs, he has opened so many doors for people like me to to engage with open education. Martin also took a bit of a chance and invited me to give a keynote (my first) at the OER15 conference. I’ll always be grateful for that opportunity. I wish him all the best for the next phase, and I have a sneaky suspicion open-ness will still be part of that.

-24 Global News | Latest International Breaking News Today | Education News
#thoughts #OER24 #howsheilaseesIT

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