What I have been up to in 2018

2018 has been a busy year for me. So much so, that I had to take some time off by the end of the year, a time I usually use to catch up on things. My task manager app has a designated list for this time of the year but most of the tasks on it have not been completed this time around. One of the items on that list is the 2018 year roundup blog post and I aim to set a checkmark by publishing this post. Here it goes:

Continue reading →

Giving to causes I care about – edition 2018

I haven’t written much lately. One of my habits in this season of the year is that I highlight some of the causes I support. I support some of these with monthly donations, some I give to only once a year. So here’s the short list. Let me know what I am missing.

Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte

Internet Archive

Audrey Watters

Wikimedia Deutschland

Mission Lifeline Search and Rescue

Pro Asyl

CORRECTIV

Header Image by Daniel Jensen via unsplash

How does one #BreakOpen?

I’ve been involved in the design and facilitation of two workshop sessions at the OER conference and the OEGlobal conference this year. Each session was meant to be accessible to on-site as well as to online folks. Almost ironically and due to the rather small capacity of the room that our workshop session was assigned to at #OEglobal18 in Delft, online participation seemed to present less obstacles to attendees than on-site participation. Some conference attendees even participated online from the hallways after being rejected at the door (apparently fire regulations are nothing to mess with). So, in some sense, we were able to provide a real-life example in our workshop.  Continue reading →

Is open the new organic?

I can’t believe that it is June already, this year has been quite hectic on my end. I started a new job at Wikimedia Deutschland, where I am part of an awesome team of people who work to open education, science and culture and make them more accessible to more people in society. Especially in the realm of education, teaching and learning, we are thinking about the role ‘open’ plays in enabling participation and representation on the web and in society in general. We’re also thinking a lot about the role digital literacy plays in this context but that’s too much for just one blog post.

I keep on coming back to one thought, which originally emerged in a conversation I had with Jim Groom during this year’s re:publica conference. We took some time to hang out over coffee and, given that we both like to talk, it was hard to find an end. As Jim writes, a true highlight of the conference. We also got to do Virtually Connecting session, which I enjoyed very much.

Anyways, here’s the thought and it probably is not that original: ‘open’ is the new ‘organic’! Continue reading →

What I have been up to in 2017

Writing a year-in-review blog post has not been ‘my thing’ so far but the end of this year does put an end to the job I have had for quite some time, so looking back seems like a good thing to do. Here’s a quick summary of what I have been up to in 2017:

Podcasting

I started recording the podcast “Feierabendbier Open Education” with Markus Deimann in 2016 and I came to enjoy this quite a bit. We record unprepared conversations about readings and developments in the world of education, technology and anything related. Over the year, it always struck me when someone at a conference or in a meeting would mention that they listen to our ramblings, that they felt that they were missing something when we could not record a new episode for a couple of weeks (on average, we have a new episode every two weeks or so). All in all, a lot of time goes into this, but it helps me clarify my positions, it helps me as a non-tech person to learn some new things and it connects me to others in interesting ways.

Over the year, we have published 27 episodes. An average episode lasts about 1 hour and 44 minutes. So, if you are new to this, there’s close to 50 hours of conversations between two German guys for you just from 2017.

If you are looking for more meaningful and prepared conversations in English, I was honored to be invited by Bonni Stachowiak to record two episodes for her podcast Teaching in Higher Ed. People like Gardner Campbell, Cathy O’Neil, Maha Bali, Chris Gilliard, Cathy Davidson, Kris Shaffer, Catherine Cronin, Clint Smith, Bryan Alexander and many other brilliant minds had been on this podcast so imagine my surprise when Bonni asked me. We recorded two episodes that you can listen to here and here. And please do me (and, more importantly, yourself) a favor and subscribe to her podcast.

Virtually Connecting

Another thing that I try and spend some free time on is Virtually Connecting. It’s hard to pick a conversation that stood out for me this year but it certainly was special to organize a first round of German-speaking conversations this year and the German community seems to have developed a taste for this. The sessions at #OER17 and the Missed Conversation (I will always remember it as the one where I managed to set YouTube to only show me during the whole recording…) we had after the TowardsOpenness workshop also seemed quite special for various reasons. Introducing VConnecting to the German community included writing about it for Synergie, an open access magazine by folks at the University of Hamburg. I make this claim like a broken record, but VConnecting enhances my conference experience on-site and online in many ways and I am glad to be a part of this community.

TowardsOpenness

In 2017, Towards Openness has become another side project of mine that I would not want to miss anymore. We facilitated two workshops, one at #OER17 and one at #OEB17 at two very different events. We had some very interesting provocations around the workshop themes and it is great to see how this sticks with people and follows them in their work. It felt weird and self-centered to do a 2017 year roundup conversation at first, but I have to say that this was one of the most energizing online conversations I was a part of this year. This would not be what it is without the people who recorded provocations, co-facilitated workshops, participated in them and blogged about them. A huge thank you for that!

Consulting

Starting this year, my ‘regular’ job at Leuphana University was reduced to a 50 percent position, so I had more time for other things. It was a great coincidence that, with the start of the year, the opportunity came up to work on a project with Vodafone Germany. I wrote about this in an earlier post (or at least I tried and got distracted along the way). I think we have built something of value and the feedback from participants reconfirmed what we noticed along the way: everyone involved in this project saw something special in it for themselves, felt attached to it and they want it to go on in some way. I hope we have a chance to widen participation a little bit over the next year.

Leuphana University

This was my last year at Leuphana University. I helped get Leuphana Digital School off the ground in 2012 and have been involved there ever since. Over the past years, we worked on connected learning experiences, collaborative, peer-evaluated and project-based learning in different online formats. In 2016, we worked with university leadership to develop a strategy for the university and its use of technology in teaching in learning. We made plans on how to involve faculty, staff and students. We came up with a strategy that allowed a small provincial low-budget university to both try new things and experiment as well as to integrate technology in its pedagogy and teaching where it seemed useful. We had plans for research and dissemination and we were ready to start first projects when our university leadership killed the whole idea only to start the strategy-findng-process all over again at the end of this year. I still have no idea what the reasons for all of this were but it made me reconsider my involvement there and, looking back now, I am glad that I did. Dec 29 was my last work day at Leuphana. Next up: Wikimedia.

Wikimedia

Starting next year, I will be joining Wikimedia Germany as “Education and Science Advisor”. I wrote about this in a short German post. I glad that this worked out the way it has. Wikimedia has its offices in Berlin which means I will be travelling quite a bit over the next weeks and months. But, more importantly, I get to work with a great team on things I am interested in. More on this once I am settled in.  As an exemplary employee, I am kicking things off there with a two week vacation so my first actual workday will be on Jan 15. This new job will still leave about two days per week free for other work and projects, so I hope I can continue consulting, podcasting, TowardsOpenness, VConnecting and many other things. But my primary focus will be on Wikimedia for the next months.

 

This year had lots of challenges for me, both professionally and in my private life. Looking back now, it seems like it all fell into place. I grew some more grey hair. I lost a very good friend. I moved in with my partner, I quit a job and found a new one, I got to travel to some conferences, I had the opportunity to meet and work with inspiring people. And it feels like 2018 will be both challenging and rewarding as well.

 

Header Image by Nathan Anderson via unsplash.

Giving to causes I care about – edition 2017

Last year, I published a short post about the causes I am giving to and I wanted to keep establish this small tradition. As I wrote last year, especially when you are not satisfied with the way things are going, you need to step up. Lots of people have done so in 2017 and I have tried to follow their lead a bit. This year, I tried to focus my donations a little more. Here’s the list of organizations that I have given to:

Internet Archive – when words and phrases are banned from government websites (I know this is not even close to news in most countries, but it does seem somewhat different when the “leaders of the free world” are doing so), when non-profits shut down from one day to the next and the documentation of their work is in jeopardy, then the work of the Internet Archive becomes even more important.

PRO ASYL works with refugees and steps in for human rights, especially related to migration.

Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte e.V. – the GFF was founded in 2015 and its work and approach are somewhat similar to that of the ACLU, at least that is what one of their more prominent supporters claims on their website.

Open Knowledge Foundation Germany – OKFN Germany has funded and supported very interesting work in the field of open, technology, learning and literacy over the year. Check out their projects, it will be interesting to see how they will move onwards over the next year.

 

Header Image “Bloody Moon” by Linda Xu via unsplash.

One year after #2016DML

tl;dr: I am giving a brief update on what happened to the ideas I was kicking around in my #2016DML Ignite Talk about refugees hacking the education system. I am also briefly describing a class in which students and refugees tell stories and share their perspectives.

One year has passed since my trip to #2016DML and my Ignite Talk. Lots of things have changed for me personally since then and, more importantly, not many things have changed in the way that refugees’ access to German higher education is designed. What has changed, though, is that fewer people make it to Germany and, to many, the perceived urgency of finding ways to integrate them into the education system has lessened a bit. This is not to say that nobody is working on that, not at all, it is rather becoming the ‘undercover operation’ that it has been before 2015. Some organizations, Kiron for example, have gained some ground. Mostly, however, it is left to the federal states and the universities to organize the efforts around studying in Germany. And that’s a good thing, I think. This is exactly the kind of problem that should be solved by society, its democratic organizations, its elected officials, and with tax money. On the other side, this makes changes in the information ecosystem hard to push for, difficult to implement. We’re still talking about a massive bureaucracy organized mostly by PDF for download.  Continue reading →

A new project and some grounding principles

tl;dr: I was going to outline ‘Vodafone Create’, a project that I have been working on over the last couple of months but this post turned more into a compilation of my own ground rules of project design than into a project report.

I started out this year with the prospect of a couple of new developments. Professionally, the biggest step was that I quit my gig at the Hamburg University of Technology by the end of last year to shift my focus a bit. At that time, I was still hopeful that new beginnings at Leuphana University would occupy my worklife for most of the time. Those plans did not come through but I remain employed there with a 50 per cent position at the Digital School.

I always like to have one or two projects on the side (podcasting and occasional Virtually Connecting plus X) and it was by some lucky coincidence that another door opened while bigger visions and strategy at my university were being shredded.

I had been working as a freelance consultant / project manager earlier in my career and I never really shut that down completely even though my tax accountant – I am lazy and incompetent with my personal accounting, bookkeeping and the like, and giving this to someone for a fee might not be economically reasonable, but mind-soothing on many levels – hinted at the idea of shutting this down to save money and time at every occasion.

By the end of last year an acquaintance who now works for Vodafone Germany’s department for Learning and Capability Development got in touch. We started talking about my ideas and experience in the realm of connected learning, team and project based learning online, peer feedback and many other things. We talked about the ideas and concepts that were being developed at Vodafone Germany, latest achievements and some of the challenges they had. A consensus emerged that, by working together, we would both learn and move out of our comfort zones to some extent and we started to work on a concept for training and learning that would encompass technological developments, social and societal issues as well as ‘new’ management techniques, creativity techniques and team work. At some point we needed a project title: Vodafone Create. Continue reading →

Lending Perspectives

tl;dr: Chris Gilliard asked if I would share my impressions of the first part of his and Maha Bali’s #DigPed closing keynote. It grew just a little longer while I was writing the email, so here’s a short blog post.

Just to set the scene: I was watching the recording after #DigPed Institute happened. During those days, I was not able to follow the twitter stream, Virtually Connecting or anything else for that matter. The closing keynote was the first thing that I took a look at.

Closing remarks or keynotes should respond to the events of the respective event or conference. It usually says something about the event (or the one doing the keynote) when a response, a reflection or even a slight change in the once thought-through slidedeck does not seem necessary.

This can happen in a rather dull, recitation-ish way. The audience is taken from day 1 to day 2 to day 3 of the conference sequentially. Sometimes, closing remarks will tie together the workshop sessions, the keynotes and evening events so you can re-live your own experience of a conference. If you’re lucky, though, the person doing the closing remarks lends you their perspective, their point of view, to some extent. If that happens, it expands your overall experience of the conference.

As I said, I have not seen anything from this year’s #DigPed Institutes before I watched the closing keynote by Chris and Maha. As someone who follows Chris’ and Maha’s work – both have contributed provocations to #TowardsOpenness –  I was interested in what they would have to say after an intense week of #DigPed but the title “Praxis, Privacy, and Care in Digital Pedagogies” would have probably raised my attention anyways.

From what I can tell, Chris distilled some of the ongoing discussions during the Institute in a few clear statements, but also blended in his own personal background, his values and his focus of work. And for me, as someone who was not able to go to the event, this is great. It adds a bit of context to the descriptions of tracks and sessions, but also to his following ‘actual’ keynote, and it seems perfect to stumble into before watching some of the other recordings of the event.

I also learned about Amerigo Gazaway, the artist behind the music that is playing during Chris’ first couple of minutes (actually, at first I thought the music was coming from my own laptop and not from the recording of the keynote). However, my positive reaction to Chris doing this a bit differently might also stem from the fact that I am familiar with his work, his ideas and views on platforms, privacy, digital redlining and access to education – not sure how someone feels who lacks that background knowledge.