Jess Mitchell Speaking at Brock University during Open Education Week 2019
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Jess Mitchell Speaking at Brock University during Open Education Week 2019

I thought I could talk to you about the
power of open resources to break down barriers to learners to meet their
learning needs and preferences rather than expecting them to fit into a
one-size-fits-all education. But I decided not to do that if you’d like to
learn more about that let me know and I’ll share some slides, some links,
previous talks, and also some resources to help you on that quest I decided to
dig in to a different topic today. So if you’ll humor me… turns out we’re in the
middle of a revolution. I know you might say but I just had a tuna fish sandwich
for lunch yesterday that doesn’t feel like something you’d do in the middle of
a revolution. Nonetheless, here we are. You may say look I’m not senior enough to
have an impact or I have power but I’m not sure how to rock the boat in a
responsible and professional way. One of the questions earlier reminds me of this
right when we start to look at systems and expectations and the way we’ve
always done things and we start to disentangle all of that it can be really
messy so I want to speak to both people I want to speak to the people who have
the power and the people who don’t have the power if you have the power I want
to ask you as a leader, are you doing work to help those behind you not only
take over where you left off but to surpass you progress beyond where you’ve
been? Are you comfortable with them passing
you. Are your goals built around this as an expected outcome, an inevitability, a
“must-have”. What will your legacy be. If you are NOT in a position of power.
Leadership, I would argue is even harder for you. That’s right, I’m saying that
people who are in positions of power have it easier in terms of leadership.
When you don’t have power, showing leadership means sticking your
neck out, standing up, standing out, stepping up and there are plenty of
times and plenty of environments where that isn’t valued and they’re attacked
or it’s actively punished. Seeing something that isn’t working and fixing
it. Seeing someone that’s struggling and helping
them and doing it, not because it’s part of your job description but because it’s
the right thing to do. When I hear folks talk about this kind of leadership
they’re usually worried that what they did is going to upset someone
and that they’ll lose their job or they’ll get in trouble or they’ll get
sued. So what does this have to do ‘What does this have to do with
open?’ you might ask. Well, “open” I would argue is our revolution. We’re engaged in a battle
to make information, the quest for knowledge and all the many benefits from
both available to anyone and in this quest we’re taking a holistic approach
Lilian did an awesome job of giving us some of this context. So you’ve got David
Wiley and the five Rs, right? Some people say that’s not enough that just
speaks to content and open is much more than that you’ve got Lisa Patrides, Doug
Levin, Edward Watson talking about something called the CARE framework. I’ll make links available to all this where you contribute where you attribute
where you release and where you empower that is you’re not just taking from the
commons but you’re contributing to it as well so what does it mean to feed a
commons and what does it mean to take food from a commons and how many of you
are furiously trying to remember Kant and J.S Miller right now? These are all
the spaces and places where this revolution is focusing effort so OER,
open access publishing, open textbooks open science, open pedagogy and then I
made up some of these things: open assessments. We talked about open
assessments, right? Open dialogue, I spoke about that. How many of you were at open
ed in Niagara this past fall? Okay so you’ve heard a bit of this about open
dialogue and then opening minds and so when you scratch the surface of this
work you get to this: the social justice issues that are names to address. I spoke
to some of this in that keynote and I’ll make a link available to that
as well so Lilian talked about the food or books, right? Who creates knowledge?
Who has access to knowledge? If who gets the learning opportunities and who has a
voice? Those are all social justice issues I would argue and we can point to
places where we’re failing in all of these. Many others speak about this in
their work to had Open Con last year Lesley Chan is a professor at University
of Toronto and others spoke on a panel about inclusion he mentioned a term that
a colleague of his uses to reference the killing off of ways of knowing rather
than embracing diversity his colleague called it “epistemicide” which i think
is a really cool word and here Leslie says when we think about open science we
have to be careful about whether we’re thinking of a monolithic concept there
should be many open Sciences. Excluding other ways of knowing is to our
detriment. Now some of us are comfortable with that some of us aren’t, so I’m going
to dig into that for a second. This is just yesterday Dr. Melissa Terras was
quoted in a lecture she gave at the Touring Institute where she said, “all
data is historical data: the product of a time, place, political, economic, technical,
and social climate. If you’re not considering why your data exists and
other data sets don’t, you are doing data science wrong.” Bold move!
Just this statement, some of us take for granted others of us disagree with it,
makes some of us very uncomfortable but we’re not having a conversation about
this and we need to. So Melissa Terras is the professor of Digital Cultural
Heritage that you receive Attenborough’s college of arts humanities and social
sciences and she is a Turing institute fellow. I don’t know her. I don’t know her
institution. I don’t know the Turing institute. I stumbled upon this yesterday
and then something interesting happened This happened: “careful about relativism”
we’re warned don’t open this up too far we still need rigor we need academic
quality. we still need a mechanism for determining who’s best. so this is a
researcher and we’ll get into who he is in a moment I don’t know how to
pronounce his name I’m not convinced two single molecules care much about the
political climate was his response to her original tweet and then she said no
but data about molecules uses product of value propositions regarding funding and
the deployment of resources and what is “worthy” of study and also history of
scientific development which is the wider point I’m making not looking at
what was sampled and then he said, “beware of relativism little smiley face” and she
didn’t respond as of, as of right now, she still hasn’t responded now most people
would look at this and would say stop not going to respond and I’m
speculating but most of us would stay the hell away from this, right? but I
didn’t. So, I didn’t because I was coming here today and I wanted to talk to you
about when it’s time to speak up and I’m really struggling with this because I
have a hard time speaking up. I have a hard time standing up. I have a hard time
with this revolution thing and figuring out how to be a part of it and do it in
a way that makes me vulnerable but doesn’t leave me open to being
eviscerated and those are fine lines so I wanted to say it’s not relativism we
can differentiate between law and supposition I thought a lot about my
response we’re capable about being transparent about the path of capital in
our work. Who paid for it? Thank you eCampusOntario. Whether we have a
conflict of interest, we can be honest about our biases, I think, if it’s
influencing our data collection. If it’s possible there’s another yet
undiscovered explanation for what we’re seeing. Why can’t we be excited about
that too so I wondered what is the fondness
for correctness or completion what if we leave things incomplete and wonder so I
stepped into the dangerous territory and I said the following. What did I say? I didn’t put it all here hold on a second
this isn’t the full thread, sorry… I said in response to… oh I screwed this up
stand by, I know you’re dying to know what I said. So I stepped into the
dangerous territory after the “beware of relativism smiley face” and I said
“contextualizing need not lead to relativism rather it’s acknowledging the
role of capital context and complex systems that make up our world” and then
he responded and he said, “how do you suggest that I contextualize this?” and
if you click on the link you get to a paper that he wrote that’s really really
complicated science stuff and I said by using good scientific practices, for
example disclosing conflicts of interest, using careful language as you do in the
abstract (he used the phrase, “may provide” and “likelihood”) that leave open
yet undiscovered explanations. I believe in even a lay person’s ability to
differentiate between law, gravity, and supposition and then I woke up this
morning because he’s in Britain and he said, “I think he may be confusing every
day use of likelihood with its precise statistical meaning” So to the
statisticians, I’m sure I am screwing something up and so I I want to learn. I
want him to explain to me but I also maintain that I think there is probably
this continuum of, I think this is the case and we know this is a law. Gravity
for instance we don’t screw around with right but then this guy has a Wikipedia
page he’s actually um he’s really way more sophisticated in terms of
statistics and I am. I’ve never had a statistics course. So I really took a
risk in stretching my neck out there right but I wondered. There’s no question
science should stick to those things it knows and good science should continue
to not know. So there’s this wonderful article that they found that foxes
strongly prefer to jump in a northeasterly direction around 20
degrees off of magnetic north. This fixed heading was important for their success
as hunters they’re more likely to make a kill if they jumped along this preferred
axis. If they jumped particularly if their prey was hidden in high cover
so if they pounce to the northeast they killed 73 percent of their attacks if
they jumped in the opposite direction the success rate plummeted to 60 percent
in all of the directions only 18 percent of their pounces were successful so
what’s nice about this article is then it quotes two scientists who say… John
Phillips says, who studies magnetic senses at Virginia Tech says, “the
challenge and the fun for anyone interested is to come up with another
explanation that can explain the data. The strength of the author’s conclusions
are only as good as the inability of anyone else to come up with an
alternative hypothesis.” That’s science! Right? Prove the null not prove the
supposition. Roswitha Wilsco, one of the pioneers
who deciphered the magnetic sense of birds says in the same article the
findings are really astonishing but she also thinks that they’re speculative
this explanation has plausibility only because there’s hardly any other
mechanism that indicates directions. The problem is you can’t turn off magnetic
north and do a study with foxes we can’t eliminate it to see if the foxes still
exhibit this behavior can’t we be really really excited about that isn’t that
cool I think so so good science is good it asks the questions and it does this
work of discovery and innovation by failing by being interested in failure
but questioning through curiosity Could you come up with any other
explanation for this could anything else be creating this phenomenon by
speculating and then trying to disprove it that’s what I learned science was
doing some of us are eager to revolutionize some of us who are eager
revolutionize our remaining critical in questioning assumptions we’ve all made
just like good science does so some of us are questioning who is a producer is
it just instructors and we say no its students as well so students create
question banks this tears down the notion that assessment is something that
needs to happen by an objective instructor right students can create
assessments then it also challenges whose intellectual property are we
concerned with we spend a lot of time focusing on the researchers what about
cases where for example we’ve heard indigenous stories that are collected by
a really well-meaning PhD student who’s desperate to get their thesis published
and then that story becomes the property of a museum or an archive or a
repository and now the person whose story it is doesn’t have access to that
story we have lots of cases of that so support and sharing not many of us
experienced either of those in undergraduate or graduate schools it was
competition protecting information and publishing before someone else scooped
you so we’re all capable of open and there isn’t an industry or discipline
that wouldn’t benefit from open and these are just some examples that it’s
not just text its music its art its images its photos its thoughts its ideas
its videos its everything and this is kind of exciting this was just announced
last week and this I don’t know Lillian you might be interested in this for your
quest for francophone Ontarians the Mozilla crowd-sourced the largest data
set of human voices available for use including 18 different languages adding
up to almost 1,400 hours of recorded voice data for more
than 42,000 contributors as a community-driven project people around
the world who care about having a voice database in their language of in
responsible for every new launch some are passionate volunteers some are doing
this as part of their day jobs as linguists or technologists each of these
efforts require translating the website to allow contributions and adding
sentences to be read this is huge this is going to change everything as we
automate as we go to machine learning as we go to artificial intelligence as we
go from text to speech these are the this is going to allow us to do it in 18
different languages some of these languages don’t exist on the internet
yet this is tearing the handle off the pump which when I say that I’m afraid
people don’t get it anymore cuz John Snow has become this character in Game
of Thrones but Jon Snow the grandfather of Epidemiology saw the correlation well
the causation actually of the data of where people in London were getting sick
from cholera and it was coming from the public plump so he didn’t form a
committee he didn’t wait for funding he tore the handle off the pump all right
so so we just did a bit of the who in the what do you see yourselves in this
slide are people in this room responsible for any of these things you
do some of them they may not do any of them and this do you see where you can
provide leadership in this slide where you can have an impact we may say we
aren’t political we aren’t an activist and those things can all be true what
it’s also true is that nothing we do or say is neutral it’s embedded in our
experiences as Lilian showed us and our context we make choices and I’ll call
them design choices all the time so nothing is neutral we’re all designers
and we’re all part of this revolution by virtue of being designers or else we’re
not we’re part of the status quo and the perpetuating of the way we do things
cataloguing is not a neutral act there were a lot of you in this room who were
librarians taxonomy z’ it’s not just a neutral means of organizing knowledge
but inevitably serves as a means to establish and naturalize hierarchic
structures we experienced this when we create our own taxonomy z’ if you’re in
downtown toronto and it’s night and you see a little animal scurrying along and
it has a hump in its back what is it this is not a trick question it’s a
raccoon right it’s a raccoon it’s a city of raccoons except there were a couple
of capybaras that got loose in High Park a couple of years ago right so it could
have been a capybara so we have this quick brain slow brain right this is
Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow do you create a new entry in your
database or is it the raccoon whenever we create buckets of something you get
something that doesn’t quite fit so then you wind up creating oh it just means I
need to create another bucket I forgot about this differentiation between this
thing and this thing but how many of you when you’ve packed to move find a
miscellaneous bucket where it’s one of these you just sort of grab everything
and stick it in there Publishing is not neutral paywalls
create haves and have-nots where is the capital who stands to benefit who’s left
out or left behind who does not have access some cases access to their own
stories this from spark and from Nicole Allen textbooks are not neutral we see
the textbook cost increase versus the increase versus inflation and we see how
astronomical that is syllabi are not neutral we say to students that we want
them to be creative and then we give them a syllabus that lays out exactly
what we want them to do exactly what we want to see from them
follow the path don’t deviate we should be creating only as much structure as is
absolutely needed in nothing more we need to design the
syllabus so anyone can walk through it and inject it with creativity and
curiosity and questioning and failure and speculation so often we start our
negotiation of form and function in a classroom with this and this lays out
exactly what you need to do to get an A follow the path don’t deviate don’t
smell the flowers classrooms are not neutral we need to create teaching and
learning environments that are focused on the goals and the notions of success
of the learners who does this layout benefit who doesn’t benefit from this
who gets left behind we know reality is messy you’re not
supposed to be able to read what’s on this slide we know it’s wonderfully
complex we know it’s intersectional we know it’s yet to be discovered but what
do we do with it we take all of that messiness in that richness and we
inflict formality by codifying structure around creativity we flatten it we
formalize it it we seek to validate it this is actually the content that was on
the previous page but we’ve combed its hair we put shiny shoes on it and we
sent it out to make a good impression it’s not neutral when we do this we
should ask ourselves what gets lost what’s the byproduct or the sawdust or
the waste that’s created by our need to have neat simple exact corners and while
we’re at it since we can now see it as a social justice issue let us ask what is
justice who determines this some will go back to
that relativism point I don’t think we need to I think that we can appeal to
the UN and we can say justice is inclusion an equitable quality education
and the promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all and do it by 2030
by the way that’s overwhelming some will say it’s too much for me to take on some
will scoff laughs this off is unattainable others
will call it aspirational but will work to find ways to move in that direction
so who’s going to take this on are you working toward this I’ll tell you rule
number one is don’t panic so context matters the context here I’m gonna read
this to you so you don’t have to try to read it the context here was that Nicole
Allen from spark and I had dinner together in Sydney it was a random we
happen to be in Australia at the same time and we wanted to address what it
means to be a responsible leader and open and we wanted to make it clear that
it’s not relativism that anything does not go we can’t why can’t we do this
kind of sliding scale of responsibility do as much as you possibly can and more
especially if you have the resources to do it so we said the meaning of open is
clear and aspirational in practice openness must be understood in context
large actors have more resources more power and therefore more responsibility
small actors often are not structurally empowered to be radically open but can
still make meaningful steps that’s the don’t panic you can still
make meaningful steps open it’s a process and we should focus on how open
things are and for whom rather than just whether something is open or not so
inclusive and equitable by 2030 that’s justice so let’s get into the details of
that what’s the least we can do to achieve justice let’s remember this
shall we which kids are the bad kids who decides
based on what rules and who made the rules this says I wish my teacher knew
how smart some of the bad kids are a little kid wrote this when their teacher
asked them to write something down on a post-it that they wish that he or she
knew I was gonna say something else but I just forgot it oh I was gonna say it
but the bad kids how many teachers out there actually really like the bad kids
okay maybe just in K through 12 so I want to talk about what it means to
stand up remember earlier if you aren’t in a position of power leadership
becomes even harder because showing leadership when you are in a position of
power means sticking your neck out standing up stepping out standing out
and there are plenty of times in environments where that isn’t valued or
it’s actively punished seeing something isn’t working helping someone doing it
because it’s the right thing to do is fight the consequences we have some
examples of pretty radical revolutionaries who risked everything to
be open Aaron Swartz Basel Carter Beal these two gave their lives for open
Aaron was arrested at MIT in 2011 he’s the kid who downloaded all of JSTOR and
then made it publicly available no paywall information should be free it
was a cute little prank and he was a very principled prank it was more than
that he felt very passionately that this was what needed to be happened
the Department of Justice came down on him they wanted to they charged him with
two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of Computer Fraud and Abuse
carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of a million dollars in fines 35 years in
prison asset forfeiture restitution and
supervised release he declined a plea bargain under which he would have served
six months in a federal prison two days after the prosecution rejected a
counteroffer by him he hung himself Basel Safa D was a Palestinian Syrian
open-source software developer who was executed by the Syrian regime shortly
after his disappearance in 2015 this was a year after Arab Spring he was in
Damascus he part of the creative commons community
and making software available to everyone then we’ve got the people who
never got justice we’ve got Emmett Till in 1955 this young african-american was
lynched in Mississippi at the age of 14 after being accused of offending a white
woman in her family’s grocery store he was accused of whistling at her the
brutality of his murder and the fact that his killers were acquitted drew
attention to the long history of violent persecution of African Americans now
we’ve got this poster 20 unarmed men women and children of color killed by
law enforcement since 2012 this speaks to our context then we’ve got those who
suffered in Justices Malala she’s known for her human rights advocacy right
especially the education of women and children in her native town in northwest
Pakistan where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school
she was shot on a bus she lived she’s a Nobel Prize winner and then
people who still haven’t gotten justice the Trail of Tears
sorry highway of tears series of murders and disappearances of more than 40 young
girls indigenous women along Highway 16 between Prince George and Princess in
Snite teen cemani sometimes standing up means losing your job so many of us fear
this how many times have you done something you felt was risky on a Friday
afternoon and been convinced that by Monday you’d be fired
kneeling during the star-spangled banner is what Colin Kapernick did during a
postgame interview he explained his position saying I’m not going to stand
up to show pride in a flag for a country that presses black people and people of
color to me this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to
look the other way there are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave
and getting away with murder so you see when I decided to respond to a senior
researcher who’s an expert in statistics a scientist who has a lot of degree
it works at a very fancy institution I I decided to stand up and it felt risky
but these people have taken enormous risks when do we say enough is enough
when do we stand up what’s interesting about this to me is that we can’t define
it but we know it when it’s the moment don’t we
you can’t speculate and say a couple of weeks from now is the time I’m gonna
stand up but when the fever pitch gets high enough then you stand up standing
up is really hard there’s a young woman in Africa who says she isn’t rich enough
to stand up yet or to speak out she works in our community and open
education her voice isn’t heard by any of us she said she isn’t rich enough to
stand up or speak out so we don’t hear her voice it’s not enough to just make
it open we have to break down some of the barriers to hearing those voices I
was just in Savannah a couple weeks ago and the superintendent of schools there
talked about how she said a point in her career where she could just call in from
lunch that she’s not coming back she and she feels this sort of she feels free in
making changes to a system that she knows is not working for kids because
she’s at a point in her career where she’s so senior she can just do that
call in from lunch and say I’m done how do we how do we grant that to the young
researchers to somebody new in their career in Africa who wants to talk about
who we are so other examples of when standing up means taking enormous risks
Edward Snowden Rosa Parks Martin Luther King jr. Nelson Mandela so then it
challenges me to contend with this I don’t know when do you stand up I’m
uncomfortable standing up when do you stand up and say enough is enough this
week or last week elsevier at the university of california system stood up
and said enough is enough they said no more to Elsevier they were
unwilling to meet the ucs key goals securing universal open access to UC
research as stated in the UCS faculty different principles on scholarly
communication they put a community together a committee they wrote some
principles down and then they stuck to them and they finally stood up and said
enough is enough this is a big deal they represent 10 percent of all US published
research output Stephen Hawking says anyone anywhere in the world chef’s free
unhindered access to not just my research but to the research of every
great and enquiring mind across the spectrum of human understanding he also
says the greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorant it’s the illusion of
knowledge so back to that science right is there any other explanation I can’t
we be excited about wondering about that what is our fascination or our obsession
with completion this is our revolution folks Cathy Davidson in our community
quoting James Baldwin hat hat tweeting it to Audrey waters who said it’s it is
your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated
person James Baldwin and now this this is the last slide so this image was
created by art student alex brutalist fernandez and she produced it in
response to a professor of hers suggesting that she dialed down the
feminism that didn’t work out so well because he went viral it’s now she now
sells it as a sticker a poster I think there’s a t-shirt and at least 10% of
all of her earnings go to charities so on one side it says complicit in my own
dehumanization on the other side of the desire of the dial as the raging
feminist I put myself over there where are you gonna put yourself it’s time to
choose you

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