Tolerance for Failure: Open Education and the Ethical Edges
Tolerance for Failure:
Open Education and its ethical edges
who is being left behind or slipping through the cracks?
how do we reconcile that?
Sr. Mgr. Research + Design
I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the traditional territory of Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee Peoples.
Today I’d like to talk to you about The Ethical Edges:
who is being left behind / slipping through the cracks? why?
how do we reconcile that? what is doing enough?
I am an American — I was struck by the practice of an acknowledgement of the traditional territory at the beginning of each meeting. It surprised me, I was surprised by
how it made me feel — connected to the land in a deeper way, tuned into the indigenous history on the land, and acknowledgement of that matters — maybe even more-
so and more accurately than Thanksgiving.
I’m going to do things a little bit differently today. Stick with me if at first it doesn’t make sense.
And let it wash over you and think about what sticks — it might be something I say that you disagree with. It might be something I say that makes you want to stand up
and yell HELL YES. It might be something that reminds you of someone or somewhere or sometime.
It might upset you.
Remember those barnacles that stick to you, because I panic during awkward silences. So if I ask you what your barnacles are later, I hope you’ll tell me…
I want to tell you some stories today. They are stories from my perspective and some from my life.
I’m about to talk a lot about black culture and indigenous culture in this talk —
- i still question whether I am the one to tell these stories or talk about these topics
- i don’t mean for you to compare the stories I’ll tell
i am telling this through my experience and perspective
I have thought a lot about this and am still uneasy, AND i think uneasy is where we need to be, together. Join me…
There are elephants in the room
Our world is ripe with inequities, discrimination, systemic biases.
The so called playing field is not level — all men and women are not created equal
Our unalienable rights of Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness remain in reach of only some
and so we have:
And our right to education is not universally enjoyed
some things aren’t changing
we’re still very much human
some of us are scared to say things loud and proud
some of us still have power
some of us still don’t have power
So, how does inclusion happen in this context? Where do we see it?
I argue we see it in each of us — in our intolerance for failure
What is your Tolerance for Failure?
What I mean by this is — at what point do we with eyes wide open, knowingly draw the line and say to ourselves, “that is the best I can do” or “that is enough” or “that is
as much as I can do.”
Who can we tolerate failing? We don’t ask the question that way very often… We often talk about who we can help. I want us to ask ourselves, who are we comfortable
The thing is, we all do this — we all draw the line — we all make a determination of what level of failure we’re ok with… we all do this, but we don’t talk about it.
We all make decisions every day — all day long. We design our fun, our lives, our priorities, our minimum, our maximum, our ethics — and therefore our tolerance for
How many design decisions did you make today?
- how much tolerance for failure do you possess?
- how many alarms did you set?
picture of alarms every 15 min on an iPhone
but this is the trivial — when we make decisions that impact others — the stakes are higher and the ethical implications are enormous
What is your Tolerance for Failure?
- Should we draw the line at race?
- I think Bob Casper, Laurel Traynowicz, and Michael Strickland are going to have something to say about this in their session today “Who you calling racist?”
- Should we draw the line at disability?
- Karl Nelson, Luis Perez, Lynn McCormack — also Cheryl Constantini — Melanie Morris — Joshua Mitchell, Michelle Reed — tell us who we are excluding by
drawing the line at disability
- Should we draw the line at a particular socio-economic status?
- pretty sure we can learn a lot about this today from Jacob Jenkins, Jaime Hannans, and Jill Leafstedt when they talk about Historically underserved groups (the
repeating cycles of exclusion)
- should we exclude certain geographies?
- global communities — the north and the south on twitter — Terezinha Marcondes, Diniz Biazi — tell us!
- How should we divide the world up and decide who gets access? English speakers, especially those in N. America?
- my dear Silvia, Yurgos Politis, Lizbeth Goodman, Cecilia Avila, Jorge Bacca, Laura Mancera — ¡digame las historias de los estudiantes!
Who is education
(context has ALWAYS
When we talk about education we often talk about it in the abstract. We are educators, we educate students, we do so in institutions for education.
I want to get in deeper to this — I want us to talk about the contexts we learn, teach, and grow in.
Let’s take a short journey together
In ancient Greece education was for wealthy men
The foundations of all thought (including Ethics) excluded anyone else (women, the poor, the middle class).
Most of us say education should be available to everyone, but we know it isn’t.
Obviously some progress has been made, visible when we see who has access to education now. But is it enough? How do we decide when enough people have access
Are we comfortable with 90% access?
What about 80% access?
I want to argue that while some of these question might make you uneasy, might make you squirm, we all decide where to draw the line everyday:
- in admissions decisions
- in class policies for attendance
- in the cost of textbooks
- in the cost of education
- in our own willingness to make alternative formats
- in the way we talk about students
- in the way we determine success
Apartheid was legal.
The Holocaust was legal.
Slavey was legal.
Colonialism was legal.
Legality is a matter of
POWER, not justice.
This is a slide that Jose Antonio Vargas delivered at DefianceML
This is a shocking slide — upsetting to many of us. PEOPLE draw the ethical lines, call them law, and do it as acts of power over another. Not good lines…
Seriously bad lines. We, people, are really bad at some other things too — I mean, we still get causation and correlation mixed up. We think tall people are more capable
than shorter folks.
We are a mess of fantastic uniqueness, gnarly biases, and a sense of being reason-driven. We’re so silly! And dangerous.
Who is education
And so I say, let’s take this short journey together through stories that occupy my mind. Where the lines have been in our recent past and where they are today…
The way things start
A few weeks ago some of you attended the Open Education Southern Symposium in Fayetteville Arkansas. A few hours away is Little Rock where my parents now live.
It was there in September 1957 that the Little Rock Nine, a group of nine African American students enrolled in an all white, public school. The Governor of Arkansas at
the time deployed the Arkansas National Guard. The President of the United States had to intervene and the students were escorted to school by the US Army.
The students were tormented, bullied, harassed — for years… not for a day or two… for years. How was their experience with education? What did they learn?
If you drive about 6 hours north and a little east you get to my hometown in NE Missouri. I grew up not far from the Mississippi River, in rural farmland.
To give you a sense of the community — the local high school would clear out of young men during the harvest and at the beginning of deer season. And when I think
about my childhood there, I think about Cliff
23 years after the Little Rock Nine Cliff was in kindergarten with me. It was 1980 and he was the only black child in our school. In our first week of kindergarten, Cliff was
called the N word. I think about his mother who had to give Cliff ’the talk’ — no, not the one about the birds and the bees… it was the one about being a black boy and it
came early — WAY before the birds and the bees. I think about him in his home before the school day begins, reaching for his favourite hoodie sweatshirt, pausing,
remembering what this culture thinks of black boys in hoodies, and then taking it off for a more “appropriate” shirt. He was in my school, in my grade, in the room next
door. My mom was his kindergarten teacher.
Where is Cliff now? What was his experience with education? Why am I here and he isn’t?
Little Rock Nine
Lines are a matter of
These are lines folks — they are the lines that we as people have drawn historically.
The changing of an ethical line (by force) in one case…
The reassertion of that old line 23 years later in my kindergarten class
This is getting heavy… let’s take a step back.
Mules from Supai carrying U.S. Mail containers by Elf [CC BY-SA 3.0
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
I have micro-obsessions — I always have. I went through a US postal service obsession a few years ago; lately i’ve been obsessed with making the perfect hamburger; I
got really into the dividing and the recombining of the Mama Bells and Baby Bells in US telecommunications history, I want to spend some serious time this fall learning
to tie different knots, and I went through a Nicola Tesla AC/DC moment (so, being here on top of Niagara Falls is pretty sweet — this is where the war happened AC beat
DC; Tesla beat Edison and the rest is electrical history).
But the micro-obsession I want to talk to you about is the deep, dark path of ethics I’ve been wrestling with forever.
Why some and not others?
Why this decision and not something else?
Why are we happy with the line here and not there?
I recently re-watched the Ken Burns documentary called ‘The West’. And it led me down a deep, dark path of ethics.
"Education is your
greatest weapon. With
education you are the
white man's equal,
without education you
are his victim and so
shall remain all of your
lives. Study, learn, help
one another always."
- Chief Plenty Coups
The film might as well have been called, “the systematic eradication of the Native Americans.”
This is a quote from Chief Plenty Coups, a Crow who said
”Education is your greatest weapon. With education you are the white man's equal, without education you are his victim and so shall remain all of your lives. Study, learn,
help one another always. Remember there is only poverty and misery in idleness and dreams - but in work there is self respect and independence."
But education wasn’t really available to Native American kids. Their education came in experiencing the killing off of an entire buffalo herd so a tribe would be dependent
on government food/handouts and would agree to move onto designated reservation land; the signing, breaking and rewriting of a treaty every year that gave them less
and less. Children separated from their families and forced into schools where they weren’t allowed to speak their language or reference their culture.
And this isn’t just old news.
and mother of
five, has lived
tap water since
the age of 16.
About an hour from where we are is the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation’s Reserve in Southern Ontario. This is IO-KAREN-THA Iokarenhtha Thomas, a
university student and mother of five, who has lived without running tap water since the age of 16. Her children lack access to things commonplace elsewhere, like
toilets, showers and baths. For washing and toilet usage, they use a bucket.
I’m looking forward to Johanna Funk telling us more about marginalized indigenous communities (in Australia in her talk) — listen to her stories this week.
I’ve often been interested in social and political messes — in edge cases. I studied philosophy in undergraduate and graduate school. But there was something I didn’t
feel I was getting in 20 page essay assignments about the nicomachean ethics. So, I went downstairs (literally into the basement in my school’s library) ‘inappropriately’
squirrelled myself away in the Music Library — micro-obsessing about Dylan and Baez and Vietnam, don’t even get me started with Woody Guthrie and the dust bowl…
I think I need to go to Emily Cox’s presentation on transforming an intro to music industry class… Emily, we don’t know each other yet, but you might be uniquely able to
help me with my micro-obsession with music.
The basement, the music library — it led me to learning about New Orleans’ native sons (the Marsalis’, the Nevilles), the music up and down the Mississippi (Muddy
Waters, Old Man River) — I was procrastinating horribly — learning a TON. And my grades were lower every Spring Term because the New Orleans Jazz Fest and finals
week would often overlap.
No, I’m not a musician. I didn’t study music. I happened to go to school in New Orleans…
And these diversions in the basement music library brought me to further rabbit holes of wonder…
I swam around in culture, and art:
Baez and Martin Luther King
Alvin Ailey’s Revelations
and I’m pretty sure this background education made me obsess about Beyonce Coachella 2018 even more!! I can’t wait to read the dissertations that are going to come
out of that performance.
Art and the social and the political and the educational and music — all together.
There was no class for this, there was no major. I wanted to drink in all the stories I could find and follow them until my next micro-obsession kicked in. Like catching a
frisbee backwards — something I mastered the next semester.
But New Orleans is a magical city — it gets in your bones — Southern decadence, drive through daiquiris, the music, the will to live, the resistance, slavery, subjugation,
centuries of pain and suffering — those stories stuck with me.
Of course now, I rewrite my own history — which is my prerogative.
I maintain that I was designing my own education. A kind of game of following my curiosity, chasing rabbits down holes, and exploring. I was having fun. I had the room
to have fun, I had the access, I was learning to draw my ethical line in the sand.
And this is true for so many — because the ground isn’t level — and to learn to draw our lines, we need experiences.
[We find ourselves] more and more flummoxed
by a system that values assessment over
engagement, learning management over
discovery, content over community,
outcomes over epiphanies.
An Urgency of Teachers: the Work of Critical Digital
Jesse Stommel + Sean Michael Morris
And those experiences are the stuff of exploration, discovery, wonder, epiphanies and mistakes.
< [We find ourselves] more and more flummoxed by a system that values assessment over engagement, learning management over discovery, content over community,
outcomes over epiphanies.
An Urgency of Teachers: the Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy
Jesse Stommel + Sean Michael Morris >
So, there I was a young woman, 1 of 2 undergrads (both women) applying to grad school in philosophy — my ground was shaky. I was closeted, I was in the basement
listening to music, and I didn’t know how to do this stuff — the stuff of learning within the expectations.
There were advisors. There was the undergraduate advisor who said, you just don’t suffer for it. You don’t have something in you that compels you to do philosophy — I
don’t think it’s for you.
Look at you, you look normal, healthy, uncomplicated. He was an alcoholic in grad school. the other undergrad was not well — they were suffering. He missed it, he
missed an opportunity… Philosophy is not only for those who are suffering — the Ancient Greeks got the line wrong and this undergraduate advisor got the line wrong
I ignored him (which is to say, I overcame him), but never forgot what he said.
And still, for others, resilience takes much more than overcoming. I want to tell you about Damon who went from being in a very “bad crowd” and dropping out of HS to
getting his GED, going to night school at a private university, to transferring to that u’s engineering program, to getting a masters at an R1 to getting a Phd at an R1 to
getting a tenure track job.
He’s unusual though. There are other Damon’s out there, but that guy is special. He’s driven.
But the obstacles he had to overcome — the people who actively stood in his way — the professor he admired that said he didn’t think CS was for him; he thought
Damon should give up his dream of getting into the Engineering School, walking back to his car from the library late at night, catching the eye of the campus police (you
guessed it, same library I was in), the utter lack of diversity anywhere he looked. They all stood in his way and said, give up — this isn’t for you. You don’t belong here. I
remember wondering what it looked like to him — by and large the people of colour who worked at the University were in the service industry — the cafeteria.
Damon was my best friend in University. He was the first person I came out to. We were a young, distractible lesbian from a very small town near the Mississippi and a
young black man from the other end of the Mississippi in Kenner Louisiana with a GED and a dream of being a University professor.
Damon would like you all at OpenEd18 to know that if he were a superhero, he’d be “Iron Man because he has a cool lab and nearly unlimited funding.” That’s my nerdy
This is Dr. Damon Woodard, University of Florida, dept of electrical and computer engineering, a tenured professor.
And standing next to him is Dr. Tempestt Neal
1. the first african-american woman ever to receive a doctorate in computer engineering from the University of Florida
2. Damon’s first PhD graduate from UF
3. Damon’s first graduate to join the academy — tempestt just began her first semester as an assistant professor at the university of south florida
Little Rock Nine
Lines are a matter of
The changing of an ethical line in one case…
The reassertion of that same line 23 years later in my kindergarten class
The eradication of a people and their way of life as a starting place
The dissuasion of a young, black man trying to climb
The Playing Field is Flooded
We know folks don’t have the same opportunities. We know the ground isn’t level. In Louisiana especially — the ground is under sea level in many places — there’s an
amazing Randy Newman song (I recommend the Aaron Neville version; also too tall Marcia Ball did a lovely version; and Jolie Holland (co-founder of Be Good Tanyas in
Vancouver which brings us back to Canada)) — Louisiana 1927; Trying to wash us away
* see, all that wasted time in the Music Library turned out to be useful today…
I learned about Randy Newman’s song, Louisiana 1927 — it’s about the Great Mississippi Flood that affected Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana — it left 700,000
homeless; below Memphis, Tennessee, reached a width of 60 miles
Ninety-four percent of the more than 630,000 people affected by the flood lived in the states of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, most in the Mississippi Delta. More
than 200,000 African Americans were displaced from their homes along the Lower Mississippi River and had to live for lengthy periods in relief camps. As a result of this
disruption, many joined the Great Migration from the south to northern and midwestern industrial cities rather than return to rural agricultural labor.
A group of influential bankers in town met to discuss how to guarantee the safety of the city, as they had already learned of the massive scale of flooding upriver.
digital redlining and race****
where do we draw the
line in 2018/19
Where is our ethical line drawn?
who is authoring our OERs?
who is publishing?
who can publish?
how are technology decisions being made at our institutions?
and we aren’t just talking about who gets in the door — literal access.
We’re talking about who comes in with a belly full of breakfast.
Who sees people like themselves in the stories they read
Whose voice is heard in class
Whose voice is heard in the world?
Who does the advisor think is fit for graduate school?
SDG 4 is to ensure inclusive and
equitable quality education and
promote lifelong learning
opportunities for all’
I think it’s time we got a little uncomfortable again. We’ve achieved so much as a community. We need to do more. We need to celebrate the successes and then we
need to look at where we drew the line. Is open licensing enough? Ethan Senack and many others suggest no. Is open content enough? Jesse, Sean, Rajiv, and Robyn
say no and push to open pedagogy. Is MOST students enough? The UN says NO, it should be ALL.
Who has been architecting
our schools and education?
Who made the rules we follow?
Do they still make sense?
Who stands to benefit?
I am going to say something that might be controversial.
In this community
We have many open textbooks — with more to come
We have great progress on open content and open licensing
We have a rich group working toward open pedagogy — the work isn’t done — never done!
But we don’t have open dialogue. We don’t know how to have tough conversation. We don’t practice productive critique.
We as a community don’t talk about the hard things. The elephants
Why don’t we talk about the institutions that say it’s too expensive to make accessible content?
We don’t we know how to hire for diversity?
We don’t know how to talk about sexual harassment in a productive way?
Why won’t someone do a session at OpenEd about Mormons and OERs? About why so much leadership is coming from Utah?
Incidentally, if you want to learn more about Mormons and why Utah, and the struggle to get to Utah, go watch that Ken Burns documentary — The West.
Nothing is Neutral
nothing is neutral — we make design decisions all the time
I was in a session Rajiv was facilitating at another conference and a researcher from the UK who wrote his own open textbook had an ah-ha moment — a big one. He
taught at a college in a poor neighbourhood. He realized during that session that each time he made edits and asked his students to download the book again… he was
contributing to digital redlining… each time he was contributing to a use of their data — without knowing their context. He changed the way he makes edits and shares
What is the role of capital?
Whose voice is being ampliﬁed?
Whose is being diminished?
So let’s be transparent about it all.
What is our tolerance for error?
What is our demand for transparency?
What about privacy and
Billy Meinke and Steel Wagstaﬀ will have something to say about privacy — and data in their session
Diversity is a number;
inclusion is a process;
equity is an outcome
Inclusively designing anything fundamentally gets at issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. It requires us to not only change our methodological approach, but also
examine our own individual biases.
we are beyond the point where you have to think about edge cases (DEI) — if you aren’t thinking about it, if you aren’t hiring for it, see me later today.
do you walk in the room aware of your privilege?
If you wake up in the morning and aren’t plagued by issues of diversity, equity, or inclusion — then you are walking with a giant chip of privilege and should find people in
your life who will help you see that.
Barbara Chow’s slide on DEI
OpenEducation can help change these issues.
Open Education is the reason I learned about Ted. I met his wife at an OEGlobal conference in Alberta a few years ago. He stuck in my head. He is a farmer, he is
painfully shy, he has a learning disability, and he hated school so much he dropped out. His wife is an instructional designer at Portage College. By her own admission,
she can’t make it through a MOOC — she has yet to complete one, he’s completed over 20. He loves them. He comes in from the fields at night and works on his
courses. Designing his own education, at his own pace, to his own preference. THIS IS OPEN
This is a picture of a young girl at a STEM event for young girls in Guadalajara Mexico. She’s holding a comic book picture of me and other women in the open
movement. This comic book is the hard work of Kelsey Merkley — she has given us Uncommon Women — these comic books. And a colleague in Open, Angie
Contreras, brought these back home and these young girls see women who work in technology — this is the future folks. This is how change happens. THIS IS OPEN
Truth and reconciliation
Kathleen Wynne, previous liberal premier, promised in 2016 that Ontario's schools would teach all students about the legacy of residential schools and incorporate
Indigenous perspectives into the provincial curriculum in elementary and secondary levels — including social studies, history, geography and civics.
When Doug Ford was elected premier, that effort was abruptly cancelled.
The Ontario institute for studies in education responded with a large list of open materials that teachers could use to teach this material. It’s an open list that anyone can
add to. Once this information is open, you can’t box it back up. THIS IS OPEN.
This is Ria Bhatia. She’s a young woman from New Delhi, India. She applied to our GSOC program this year and was selected for her proposal for our project. We asked
her to create a game for children who use eye-gaze. Eye-gaze is used when someone has limited motor control and they use their eyes to activate onscreen keyboard
and controls. It’s as if your eyes were your mouse. Ria created an adorable game called SpiFind (think goodnight moon meets animation and spiders) — and she sent me
a message this weekend
It said, I wanted to share something with you. I got the prestigious Google Women Techmakers Scholarship 2018 from Asia Pacific region. They asked me about Spifind
during the interview and absolutely loved it.
As a part of the scholarship, I will be visiting the Google office in Singapore next week.
She’s amazing. THIS IS OPEN
I’m done asking ‘who is going to stand up’ — now I’m going to challenge you to sit down — sit down when you won’t stand up for the following…
- if you’re a man and you see someone interrupt or shut up a woman, what are you going to do?
- if you’re a white person and you see the voices of BIPOC getting excluded or shut down, what are you going to do?
- if you’re a straight person, and you see a queer kid struggling, what are you going to do?
- if you’re a woman in a senior position and you’re in a position to help a young woman — to mentor her, what are you going to do?
- Folks, this work doesn’t stop, it isn’t a task — it’s a practice and we need to push ourselves further!
- Are you only having DEI conversations in DEI spaces (or not at all)? Time to have them all the time.
- Are accessibility bugs in software blockers yet?
- are your events held at accessible spaces?
- are your lectures or keynotes live captioned?
- who is going to say, we need to talk?
- We need to figure out this #opendialogue thing!
DO NOT LISTEN
the trouble with keynotes
beware entrapments like the sexy slide deck, with high resolution pictures as the currency of our field
ask: who does it exclude? who benefits from it?
SHOULD LISTEN TO
AND TALK TO
SHOULD LISTEN TO AND TALK TO
Sean Michael Morris
Sean Michael Morris
people you disagree
people you disagree with
It isn’t the job of people who are
marginalized to help you understand how to
include them. It’s all of our jobs evermore.
It is your job to be curious, open, inclusive.
OPEN IS THE WAY WE FIX THIS FOLKS
Little Rock Nine
Lines are a matter of
Don’t forget the lines
Truth + Reconciliation
Access to education is
POWER, it is inextricable
from issues of social
celebrate the successes
This isn’t a difference of opinion between the pragmatists and the principled — we are all both. This, my friends, is an ethical battle we all are waging within ourselves to
decide where to draw the line. Now let’s talk openly about where you’ll draw it.
If you clump together this week at OpenEd you won’t benefit from all the stories you all have. If you know everyone in the circle of people you’re talking to, turn around
and find someone you don’t know to join. If you find yourself in what you would describe as a group of the ‘usual suspects,’ stop, look around and grab someone else to
join — someone you don’t know, someone you’d like to know, someone you disagree with, someone you agree with in a totally different area of work.
Adjuncts, where are you, raise your hands?
Students, where are you, raise your hands?
Grad school drop outs, see me later — I’m one of you!…
Outsiders, misfits, and the unusual suspects — make yourselves seen and heard this week.
TELL THE STORIES
YOU ALL BELONG HERE — THIS IS OPEN
i worry about the queer kids
i worry about the BIPOC kids — 1865 13th amendment abolishing slavery — how we doing USA? 153 years later, how we doing?
i worry about how little has changed
i worry that we don’t exercise a Hippocratic Oath in Education and Do No HARM
But I believe that changes with all of us wrestling with where we draw the line… WE are the people who draw the line.
I’d like to thank the opened program committee for inviting me to speak today — thank you so much for taking a chance on me, i am deeply honoured.
And I’d like to thank David Wiley personally for being open, for being kind, and continually doing the work.
And finally, to those who never get justice, who start below zero, who don’t enjoy the benefits — the many benefits. We are coming, hang on… THIS IS OPEN