Sharing my approach to leadership as an open practice

photo 2It’s been nearly a year since I wrote my first post on leadership as an open practice, inspired by the 2015 OER conference. So in this post I want to reflect on how my experiment is going, what progress I have made and what’s next.

Where it all began…
In April last year, I wrote : “I’d like to try and adopt open practice in my role and connect with others who do the same. Like teachers, researchers or developers who share their practice and resources openly, I’ll try to follow their example. To make my work, which is mostly about leadership, governance and management in Learning Technology, an open practice.”

Putting the experiment to the test
Since then, I took part in the #rhizo15 course/community and the #blimage challenge, I have shared a number of conference presentations and blog posts about CPD, policy and current issues. I have been building and sharing my CMALT portfolio (specialist area: leadership as an open practice) and reflected on different aspects of open practice.  This blog has become a really helpful tool for engaging with different aspects of the work I do, share my thoughts and reflect openly. It’s certainly prompted me to do more thinking in the open and has resulted in many conversations and comments that have been helpful and stimulating (thank you!). It’s also motivated me to engage with others’ blogs and outlets, reading and commenting or contributing in turn. Sharing the template for how I built my CMALT portfolio with Google Apps is another example of this approach in action. My original aim was to share, connect and engage more openly and I think that aspect of my open practice has definitely developed.

Difficult aspects of leadership as an open practice
Although it has been hugely rewarding, leadership as an open practice has also been quite challenging. While I have certainly started to find more like-minded professionals in similar roles there have been many more false leads, e.g. blogs that are more marketing than sharing, open-sounding practice that leads to pay-walls and a definite reluctance to connect beyond networking for fear of loosing some sense of being ahead, of having the edge over others in leadership roles. At times when political or economic turmoil threatens funding or jobs open practice seems to become a lot more difficult and far less popular for people in similar roles to mine.

It has also been difficult at times to manage different aspects of my practice when my ‘day job’ as a CEO comes into contact with other work I do. When I contribute to a discussion or a twitter chat I try and make it clear whether I am representing the organisation I work for or whether I am participating in a less formal capacity, but it’s not always easy to make these distinctions. On the other hand there are real advantages to having the chance to get involved with research or practice in a more hands on way and it helps me be better at the work I do as a CEO.

With managing different identities also comes being a woman and a leader in Learning Technology and this is probably where my experiment has delivered the most rewarding examples and connections. Through a wealth of media I have become more familiar with the work other women do to drive forward technology in learning and teaching, from writers and IT Directors to CEOs and teachers both younger or more experienced than me. While in my  experiences day to day there is still a long way to go to achieve equality for women decision makers in government, industry or funding bodies my growing network makes me feel hopeful.

Take away’s
So, one year on, what are my take away’s from this experiment in leadership as an open practice? Here goes:

  1. Will I continue? Yes! It’s been such a rewarding experience, stimulating and challenging that I will definitely keep going;
  2. What’s the best bit? The freedom that an open approach help me establish, the prompts to follow whatever I was curious about and the generous feedback from peers;
  3. What’s the worst bit? For me at times lack of peers in comparable job roles who are interested in open practice;
  4. What’s next? On a practical front, more #rhizo16 this year, some opportunities to speak at events or contribute to other projects, making more of an effort to communicate and connect with others… and hopefully to become better at leadership as an open practice.

Your thoughts?
Over the past year I have had many comments/conversations prompted by blog posts or tweets and it’s been extremely helpful. So if you have any comments or feedback on my approach to leadership as an open practice or your own experience, share it below or tweet me @marendeepwell.

#OpenEducationWk: Openness for eternity?

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Open Education Week 

It’s #OpenEducationWk and I’ve been inspired by activities and blog posts from across the community, including a special edition of the #LTHEchat (helpful intro here) and a number of webinars organised by the ALT Open Education Special Interest Group (including a preview today of the OER16 Open Culture conference coming up in April). Seeing so much commitment to and enthusiasm for scaling up open practice and resources has been a joy – but it’s also made me think about sustainability in the long term.

Many of us have plenty of problem solving to do right here, right now – and planning for the long term is not often a top priority. When it comes to creating open educational resources or sharing open practice it can be hard enough to do in the first place without thinking about how sustainable a particular piece of work might be when someone comes across it in 10 or 20 years. One of the immediate benefits of sharing something can be the feedback from colleagues, the conversation and knowledge exchange it stimulates and the connections we build through them. So our networks grows bigger and stronger and become more sustainable.

But what about our resources we share? What about them in the long run? In Learning Technology in particular many are fond of big sweeping statements (see Audrey Watter’s Hack Education project for an eye opening reality check) that make it sound as if a project or initiative solves a particular problem once and for all (and for everyone). Hyperbole along the lines of “no more textbooks – EVER” or “the END of the universities” makes it sound like we operate only a stone’s throw away from #edtech nirvana over the horizon. But without the right meta data, without considering interoperability, without updating and re-sharing things much of what we create remains useless to others. Enabling others to find and make sense of resources or assess their usefulness in their context is challenging while looking for what you need often leads to broken links, missing licences, taxonomies that only make sense to those who designed them and repositories that have long since fallen into dis-use.

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Image source

Institutional structures, if they support openness, can help with some of these issues while we have access to them. But when jobs change, people move on or institutions evolve these internal structures can become inaccessible.  Like the huge aircraft boneyards that become material metaphors of the age of air travel, our open landscape has its own spaces where all the dead OERs reside. When the lifespan of open resources is so limited the investment they represent also has limited benefit. Particularly when it comes to publicly funded resources there is a lot more we could do to ensure that what funding there is has an impact beyond its immediate beneficiaries.

This is why policy is so important. The work Creative Commons are leading in the US for instance (here is further info about their #GoOpen campaign) or the work of the Open Education Consortium help create robust ways to enabling open practice, create and share open resources at scale – to ensure sustainability in the long term. When institutions embrace openness, like the University of Edinburgh has done recently by adopting a new OER policy, they bring us a step closer to making openness sustainable in the long term.

Which brings me make to where I started: openness for eternity? How can we make it work in the long term? Make sharing openly sustainable, scale-able and useful? From the global movement via national and institutional policies to individual practice it is a formidable undertaking. Weeks like this, #OpenEducationWk, show that we are making progress.