Igniting Book Nerds To Meet #OER #wshetc15 Tech Geeks

Are you familiar with the Ignite format? It’s 20 slides in five minutes. And, let me tell you, they are hard to do well. I had a lot of friends in the preso audience, so they were very supportive. When you prepare for Ignites, you think about what you’re going to say, practice, and then you stress about the five minutes for days. It’s about timing, organization, brevity, quality transitions, and the substantiation of your ideas. The things I’m really quite awful with in my personal life, truthfully.

For the #wshetc15 conference; I had applied for an hour. It ended up that I got 20 minutes paired up with Christopher Soran, the Interim (still) eLearning Director at Tacoma Community College. He should have had the entire time, really. If you are interested in OER at the community college level and you live near Washington State, stop reading my blog and look up Tacoma Community College, Quill West, Christie Ferroro, David Lippman, and Lumen Learning. Right now. Click away and do some research.

If you live far away from our great state, then put “Open Education” or “Open Learning” in your favorite search engine or check out the writers on the e-Literate blog–that’s where I started.

I am a teacup Chihuahua among the New Foundlands in this movement, but I think I can help the newbies with little inspiration. You know, the rest of us. The folks trying to parse it all. And all of the people I have referenced above, they care quite a bit about people like you. Like us. Like your teachers. Like your students. Especially your students. Don’t be shy.

In May, I am going to be presenting at the NISOD conference in Austin, TX and if you see the names Kim Thanos, Lumen Learning, or anyone from Tidewater Community College, go see them! Geez, I hope they don’t schedule me at the same time because I want to check them out. See you there. I’ll be front row all fangirl style. Hopefully in some new bitchin’ cowgirl boots.

My 20 minutes preso needs to become an hour, so I want to think about it here while it’s still on my mind. While I have so many emails from folks interested in what I did. What I said. How I said it. Thanks kittens, you’re the best.

Here’s my link to the #wshetc15 preso http://bit.ly/EvCCOER

I’m recycling this book nerd, tech geek title a bit this season mainly because it sums up my recent experience explaining to people what I’m up to. What I care about. What I’m passionate about. Obsessed with. FanGirl about. In love with. All that. Bleeding heart? Sure. I’ll own that. Here’s my NISOD blurb:

In my work as the Director of E-Learning (tech geek), people are often surprised to learn that my background is in English Studies (book nerd). Learn during this session how open educational resources (OER) provide pathways for student-centered success while fostering collaborative professional development among faculty members. The presenter [will share] strategies learned from starting a small grassroots OER movement on her campus that will help you avoid common pitfalls and failures.

So first of all, I’m going to keep the post-it note brainstorming. I’m a big fan of using post-it notes to collect ideas from people. Ideally people would Tweet, but they don’t, so I give them old fashion post-its. On one side, I ask them to write what their barriers are for implementing OER on their campuses. They usually jot down ideas quickly. I sometimes have to stop them because it depresses me how much they are writing. This usually only takes about 90 seconds. Then I ask them what they would do on their campus if nobody could say no to their ideas. If they could do whatever they want OER-related is best but you can dream big. Imagine! Time and money aren’t barriers. Everything you say will get a “Yes, and…” response. All green lights. Go. What would you do?

Think about that for a second. You have to dream big. The glass isn’t half-full, it’s overflowing! (Hopefully, says my stomach, with anything but birthday sambuca).

Here are some of thoughts people wrote down:

More time to share ideas ideas and methods with peers/faculty get support time/students create OERs/nobody pays for a textbook/high-speed internet for all of students and faculty/get more librarians/laptop checkout for all students/fund faculty professional development/show OER courses in class schedules/work with my departments to create OERs that we would then share with the world/every major learning activity would have the commonly expected outcomes documented/combine departments under the same people in ed tech who get things done/fire non-tech anchors/free on-demand printing/free online homework modules/require non-commercial textbooks/all students have good tech access/all courses would use 100% online resources accessible globally at no cost to students/implement a streaming solution/students would help build content/pay faculty to write texts/academic tech teams expanded/add instructional designers/more eLearning people, IT folks don’t get it/more time to share/more time like this/more time to dream/more time to think

I’m going to pull a few of these out to disagree with not because I think they are fully wrong; I just need to make a couple of points. This will help me with my future preso. I’m not looking for a fight. These sentiments above are from somebody’s dream, so I don’t want to kill anyone’s creative idea. George Siemens’ keynote made me think about things that I should worry about in Ed. Tech. After all, I did ask people to write on paper at technology conference, who knows. Maybe they are worried about something like me in Ed. Tech leadership. Whatevs.

The ideas below—I don’t want these ideas mixed up with my OER crush–I’m worried about that. If the OER movement was a dude that I had an endless crush on, these ideas would not help him put a ring on it. They’d chase him away. They’d chase him into another woman’s arms. He’d start having doubts. It would be over before it even got started.

1. faculty & staff get their COLAs from the last 7 years 

  • Yes, I get it. Believe me, I get it. The recession has sucked the lifeblood of The People. My household routinely struggles to pay The Man. I bought into the idea that going to college was going to help me get into another tax bracket. Well, it did but didn’t. In fact, I’m worse off than anyone ever in the history of my family only my bookie is the federal financial aid system, not some mafia slime ball who made money off of me gambling. It’s cool, Big Fed Vinnie is only going to take a percentage of my income for the rest of my life. He won’t come hunting for me to blow out my kneecaps. Let me be very clear, I know how money changes everything. I learned that from Cyndi Lauper. But here’s the thing, the minute you start talking about labor and COLAs, you get away from talking about student success. Yes, I know they are intertwined. We know that. We just have to think about the folks that don’t get it. Talking about COLAs makes the dream about you, and OER is about students. Not about institutions saving money. Not about your paycheck. That’s a different discussion worth having.
  • Here’s my dream response: Be very careful with talking about labor and OER as a cost-saving measures for the institution. The taxpayers continue to defund us. OER, my crush that I hope to marry, is about students. Repeat after me: It’s about students. It’s about students. It’s about students. Yes, I do. Until death do us part.

2. laptop checkout for all students

  • This is a very noble idea, and Project I-DEA in Washington State is trying to address this very issue. When I was a student, I’m sure my grades suffered because I had to write my papers in a computer lab. I didn’t have my own computer until graduate school (thanks, Mom & Dad & your credit card). Here’s the thing: my community college is losing money out of the nose from our netbook library check-out. Our students who disappear take them with when they drop out, and sadly, many of them do just that. We spend a ridiculous amount of resources  trying to recover those cheap netbooks. I’m not sure it’s worth it. Like poor students need another avenue to ruin their credit.
  • Here’s my dream: We collect data from students when they register so we can figure out what technology they do have. How many with smartphones? How many with tablets? How many with nothing? I’ve had students living out their cars yet they’d email me with iPhones. So we need to be smarter about how we reach students with technology. We don’t know what they have and don’t have. At least that’s the case on our campus. I don’t want to mine the data to sell them stuff; I just want to know what they use to connect to the Internet. If you have ideas, I’m all eyes and ears.

3. free on-demand printing

  • No. This is not it. Yes, some students still want print. I get it. I like books. I like love letters written by hand. I love art made on paper. I print out knitting instructions. I get it. I keep notebooks. Allowing people free access to printing, however, allows them to make copies of things they don’t really need. Have you seen a forest clear cut lately? I ride my bike in an “active timber forest” weekly and I see slash and burn timber harvest practices. Free printing has a cost; you just may not see it everyday.
  • Here’s my dream: Teach students how to read in the digital space. Help them understand how to be careful readers on the screen. Show them how to be scholars on the screen. You do it, right? Why can’t you teach somebody else how to do it? I’ve worked on a Paper-Free Project to help teachers learn how to teach their students this skill. Contact me. I’ll give you everything I’ve created by electronic file. You print it out and we’re no longer friends. I’ll send Big Fed Vinnie after your kneecaps. 

4. pay faculty to write texts

  • No, this is not the right verb. Use “curate.” Here let me rewrite your sentence. Pay faculty well to curate texts in their discipline that they will share with their colleagues. Telling faculty to “write” a textbook will chase them into the arms of Big Publisher. Pay them to collaborate together, and you will get results. Encourage them to write/think/collect/research/talk together and things will get started. Show them what is already out there. Tell them, yes, you can do this. Tell them yes, you’re the one. I want to put a ring on it.
  • Here’s my dream: We stop pressuring faculty to do this implementation quickly. Right now. Super fast. Hurry. It’s got to be fast. The top-down administration call-to-action is a failure. Right now I have a two-quarter plan that I wish was a year, but I can’t afford to pay teachers that long. If you have no money, then ask your teachers to focus on their courses three weeks at a time. Revise and remix a bit at a time. In a quarter system, you’ll have one OER course in a year. It can work. That’s how I did it.

5. more eLearning people, IT folks don’t get it

  • On my worst days, I rant about the same thing. But it’s not altogether true. The best of IT folks get it. We’re wrong together on this one. This is where we need to own our failure, eLearning and IT. This is where we’re like a bad marriage. We’re the Capulets and Montagues preventing Romeo and Juliet from saying things like this about Ed Tech.—Romeo: Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again. Juliet: You kiss by the book.” 

It’s got to stop. I dislike the overused “silos in education” argument because I think we should really call it what it is in IT and eLearning. It’s a turf war. We suffer from a turf war mentality involving money, equipment, and labor. It’s a turf war that’s not about students, teaching, and learning. It’s a turf war about us. We’re blocking Romeo and Juliet, let’s face it.

6. show OER courses in class schedules

  • Yessy Yes Yes! This is a movement that has to come from the students. The old guard faculty–the red lights to all things innovative and fun–kill this momentum. The students have great power in what the endlessly cool Amy Collier called “NotYetness.” We need to teach students to advocate for themselves that the NotYetness is blocking their potential. Hurting their future. Harming their options for learning. Killing their love of learning.
  • Here’s my dream: I want to the students to hack the system–don’t worry IT folks, I’m not advocating that they break into the bloody network. Relax. I want them to create their own class schedules. Do some research. Maybe there is an eLearning Director or a faculty member who knows every single course that’s OER on campus. I bet she’d give you the list. I bet she’d teach you how to figure it out. I bet she’d teach you how to use social media to market your ideas to other students. Here’s another thing: People who design class schedules would be all over this labeling if we would just let them do their jobs. Their jobs get stifled by the same red light faculty. Maybe those faculty need to visit red light districts…wait, hold on. This is a family blog post.
  • Here’s another dream: Faculty start marketing their own OER courses. Students Google you. I did it when I was in grad school just a few years ago. Wouldn’t it be nice if the students found out if you have chili pepper on rateyourprofessor and that you use OER in your courses? Now that is hot! Market yourself, faculty–It’s super easy to set up on Canvas, Twitter, or on WordPress. I’ll help you do it. Contact me. Wouldn’t it be nice? Maybe if we hope and dream it might come true. We could be happy. We could be married. Wait. You get it. I somehow arrived at a song. It’s time to go. And who doesn’t love Pet Sounds?

But that’s a little too upbeat for such a rainy day in the Northwest. I’m going to settle in with some moody beardy Bon Iver, my dog, some books, the fedwiki, and coffee.

All the best with your dreams, readers, thanks for sharing yours with me.

Notice how I didn’t want to talk about the barriers? I have them too. Me, too. Me, too. Me, too. Yes, me too. Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.

Moody beardy, save us:

About Alyson Indrunas

Always learning about instructional design, educational technology, professional development, adult education, and writing.
This entry was posted in All The Things. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Igniting Book Nerds To Meet #OER #wshetc15 Tech Geeks

  1. gz says:

    Long, thoughtful piece with tons of specific details, ideas, and reflections. Nice blend of reflecting on conference and moving forward with how to apply it. Loaded with energy, too!


  2. awilliams53 says:

    Right on target about OER, showing them in class schedule or somehow letting students know up front so they can choose. And, more so, right on target about figuring out how to structure the pay to encourage faculty to curate OER and combine their classes across campuses, colleges, nationwide, world wide, throughout the solar system. Nice post, Alyson.


  3. John Farquhar says:

    Similarly, I’m hoping to take action on two possible efforts: a student-funded OER project, and a long-term laptop loan program based on financial need. And, I too, feel that when I remain committed to student needs, everything else should fall into place.


    • I’m really excited to see what you can make happen up there on Sehome Hill, John. The student-funded movement from the Tacoma CC model is a superb one. We aren’t able to make that happen because we pay a faculty stipend for OER adoption. Student funds can’t pay faculty, and rightly so, but I’d like for there to be a better understanding of the overall investment for the students and the institution. The word “stipend” gets everyone’s attention in the worst way. It’s not just a way for faculty to make extra money, in fact, I’m sad to report that faculty “lose” money when you cost out their hourly time investment. My co-chair and I are hoping to make an appeal to our Board of Trustees to see if they will fund a larger scale project. We’re short on data, but we have student support.

      As for the laptop loan program, my Cosmetology program is doing something pretty brilliant. They have moved to an OL textbook (and eventually OER, yay!) so they “require” students to purchase an iPad that they then use for all of their coursework. Students purchase the iPad as part of their “kit of required materials” and therefore they can use financial aid. Right now, low-income student have so few dollars left once they pay tuition. This “requirement” has helped students get the technology that they need during their coursework. This is a great workaround for programs who funds students based on required materials in the course syllabus.

      I was hitting dead-ends on ideas when I watched my hairdresser use her iPhone to take my debit card and thought, “Wow, all of our students could graduate with their own cash registers.” I pitched the idea to my Cosmo faculty and they loved it. They use the iPad for consultations and portfolios. Students can start making money as soon as they are certified, and the teachers are having a lot of fun teaching with iPads. This is a model that could work in any discipline with some clever thought, I think. The Cosmo iPad success is featured in our annual report, see page 12 https://www.everettcc.edu/visitors/profile/annual-report
      I’m really proud of them!


  4. Christie Fierro says:

    A lot of great info! I am excited to collaborate with those outside of WA too! Mentor Phil Venditti says, “Sharing is caring, and shouldn’t we all care?!”


    • Christie,
      Love that Phil! What a teacher leader. Shares so much I wish I could keep up.
      Loved seeing you via video with Chris’s presentation. Your voice for adjuncts adopting OER is something that makes my heart sing. You know their struggles and you have so much advice for folks who can’t choose their textbooks. I always cite your experience as an adjunct. I was lucky to be in departments that let me do what I wanted. Their positive position on academic freedom helped me transition into ed. tech, so I am eternally grateful to my English department peeps. They were true mentors like Phil. Lucky us, huh?


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