There are, it seems to me, three central questions at issue when we begin discussions about open access. Two of them are dictated by the subject itself: what do we mean by “open” and who or how do individuals have “access”? The third question offsets the two previous questions by asking how do we encourage the exploration of learning processes that embed open access into outcomes. In other words, how does the process of learning lead to outcomes that make knowledge open and accessible?
What’s the History?
Part of my professional practice is to bring academic discourses into new spaces. This project represents an opportunity to experiment with a non-traditional venue for publication while still realizing outcomes beneficial to the College and my own disciplinary communities.
The project also allows me to spend some time working to implement the skill-set I have been developing over the past five years. Having a venue for the practical application of my interests in fabrication, open pedagogy, and integrated learning will be of great benefit in assessing my own skills and reflecting on areas where I need to improve or expand my knowledge.
Most importantly, the Education Leave will allow me to establish a working paradigm I can carry forward into the years to come. That is, the project will help me establish a beachhead of background work and community connections upon which to build lines of discourse I can pursue going forward.
Over the last five years, I have worked to implement a research portfolio, update skills, and introduce myself to the community that marks the fundamental outcomes of this project. I have established the Digital Cultures Lab at the College, which is currently working toward the second iteration of a Douglas College Maker Lab in the library. I have attended numerous skill-building sessions in fabrication, innovative pedagogy, and digital research practices at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute and at Maker Spaces. Finally, I have been an active member of several collaborative initiatives, notably The Open Modernisms Anthology Builder, The B.C. Campus Open Textbook Initiative, and the INKE Collective noted above.
At the same time, I have published a number of peer-reviewed and open journal articles on subjects related to fabrication in the Humanities, particularly how fabrication and the tenets of the maker movement apply to pedagogy, disciplinary practice, or cultural aesthetics. In the classroom, I have worked to implement innovative pedagogies that push on disciplinary boundaries and give students opportunities for practice-based, experiential learning in English Literature and Academic Writing.
This project represents the culmination and realization of five years of professional practice and “off-the-side-of-my-desk” research. In short, I am excited for the opportunity to unify and apply my professional development activities.
The kits will be similar in concept to Tinker Crate’s “Boxes of the Month” and UVIC MakerLab’s “Kits for Cultural History,” but be more suitable to a College-level integrated learning audience.
Upon What are you Building?
There are three primary objectives for the Education Leave project listed below. In each case, the outcome revolves around producing materials that help students and faculty consider the relationship between technical disciplines and the humanities. Or, put in a research context, the project looks to answer the following question: how can we leverage the current trends toward applied learning in the STEM disciplines to encourage interdisciplinary interactions, particularly with the Humanities? More broadly, how do we foster an understanding of social and cultural contexts while encouraging the deployment of in-demand technical skill-sets needed in the emerging economic sectors that prioritize technical innovation and entrepreneurship?
The first objective of the project is to produce a series of five to seven maker kits to be used as learning modules by Douglas College faculty and students. The kits could be used either as discrete examples for a particular thematic application in a course (for example, “mapping”) or as a space for students to work toward more open outcomes—as an alternative to producing essays, group work, or traditional question / response methodologies. Housed and accessed through the library, the kits created through the Ed Leave project will contain curated materials that prompt students to examine the collisions between emerging technologies and the humanities. As I currently imagine them, the kits will feature a variety of historical and literary artifacts as well as hardware—circuit stickers, circuit boards, 3D viewers—and be focused on the completion of a central project. Each kit will be designed to direct the instructor or student to complete a central task, such as making a wearable, making a broadcasting radio, making a clock, making an exhibit, making a map, making a boardgame. The kits would include all the necessary materials to complete that project through a combination of hardware, instructions, and tertiary materials for social and cultural context. Students and faculty can either complete the project, or “hack” the materials to create their own outcomes.
The kits will encourage thinking about the technical aspects of designing and building things at the same time as they emphasize the role humanities-based disciplines play in making similar determinations about design. The kits fulfill a central outcome of the Ed Leave project in that they represent an open tool for what Garnet Hertz has called “critical making,” or the act of making things to promote thinking about technical issues involved in making, and the cultural and social contexts in which things are made.
The second and third outcomes—a repository website and a series of reflective essays—consolidate around an open discourse that reflects conversations already underway about critical making, open pedagogy, applied learning, and media ecology. I will create and design a website to act as an open repository for the conclusions of the project and as a space to access templates for making the kits, while also using it to broadcast a series of short essays engaging audiences in the process of assembling the kits. Meant as a record of the “work-in-progress” that produces the kits noted above, the website and the accompanying critical discourses in the essays, will create an “exchange-community,” allowing others to build off the maker kits, design new kits, or contribute ideas of their own. The aim is to provide a community space for publicizing the principles behind making the kits—as they revolve around concepts of collaboration, exchange, and equity in the pedagogical practices of higher education.
Finally, while not a formal outcome, I will work toward the creation of a maker kits exhibit in the Amelia Gallery as a completion goal. The gallery exhibit will mark an end to the Ed Leave phase of the project by highlighting, for the College community and beyond, the work of building, conceptualizing, and completing the maker kits.
How Will This Work?
I want to propose the development of open access kits to be used as learning modules. As imagined, the kits could be used either as discrete examples for a particular thematic application or as a space for users to work toward more open outcomes—as an alternative to producing purely written work, group projects, or traditional question / response methodologies of inquiry. The kits include all the necessary materials to complete projects through a combination of hardware, instructions, and tertiary materials for social and cultural context. Featuring a variety of historical and literary artifacts as well as hardware—circuit stickers, circuit boards, 3D viewers—each kit is designed to direct the user toward the completion of a central task that involves both construction and the integration of socio-cultural contexts. Kits might guide users in modelling an intersection, building and using a broadcasting radio, designing and deploying a map, or making a boardgame to teach literacy; all using methodologies that speak to both technical concerns and socio-cultural or socio-economic issues that arise when these issues and concerns collide. Users are encouraged to either complete the project, or “hack” the materials to create their own outcomes, “re-problematizing” the issues the original kit was designed to highlight and to pressure the exchange of kits in a variety of community contexts–educational or corporate.
The kits are a representation of open access, in that they are openly accessible and exchangeable, while also serving as a space to encourage open outcomes. In particular, the kits contain curated materials that prompt users to examine the collisions between emerging technologies and the humanities, encouraging users to think about the technical aspects of designing and building things at the same time as they emphasize the role humanities-based disciplines play in making similar determinations about design. The kits promote thinking about technical issues in the open, bringing into relief the variety of technical, cultural and social contexts in which things are made, consolidating around conversations already underway about critical making, open pedagogy, applied learning, and media ecology.
The outcomes and process behind the development of this project are meant to model many facets of the College’s tactical plan. In particular, the project strives toward the tenets of an integrated curriculum by connecting different areas of study and establishing spaces for the discussion of concepts or themes that transcend disciplinary boundaries. Established outside disciplinary confines, the kits represent a discrete learning opportunity that can be approached in isolation, as a member of a team, or as a course module. The resulting openness of the kits—and their accompanying commentary, online resources, and community of practice—will allow for a number of applied, experiential, and informal opportunities for cross-disciplinary projects among diverse student and faculty populations.
The hope is that the project will encourage new and existing collaborations, while at the same time establish interdisciplinary teams across College divisions who come together to build and design future kits. While the kits as currently imagined will certainly foreground interaction between the University Transfer divisions of the College (LLPA, S&T, and HSS), the kits may provide a model for other outreach-oriented kits in Faculties such as Health Sciences or CFCS, encouraging the development of discipline-specific kits appropriate to practicum-based learning.
The kits and their ancillary materials represent the possibility for taking numerous “pathways” to arrive at a conclusion, rather than foregrounding specific outcomes. To this end, the project’s outcomes serve as a symbol for the diverse learning and teaching opportunities so inherent in the College experience and the value the institution places on innovative, inclusive, opportunities for learning.
What are the Outcomes?
In sum, the chapter reflects upon the development of open access kits that contain physical materials, are designed to be hacked, and encourage not completion or deployment, but exchange. The resulting contention is that the process of prototyping, building, and developing ancillary materials might encourage a more practical way of implementing and sustaining open access projects. Established and developed outside disciplinary confines, the kits represent a discrete learning opportunity that can be approached in isolation, as a member of a local or global team, as a module, or as one phase in the iterative project that is the kits’ continued development itself. The fluid development and exchange of the kits opens the possibility for connections between different areas of interest and establishing spaces for the discussion of concepts or themes that transcend traditional boundaries, be they geographic, economic, or social. In short, the kits and their ancillary materials represent the possibility for taking numerous “pathways” to arrive at a conclusion rather than foregrounding specific outcomes, serving as a symbol for the diverse pedagogical opportunities so inherent in the move toward open access and its role in fostering innovative, inclusive, opportunities for all communities.
Reflecting the outcomes described above, activities undertaken during the Education Leave will involve three main areas: 1) research and development; 2) design and fabrication; 3) community engagement.
1) Alongside the research-oriented library work, the project’s research and development phase involves re-establishing connections I already have in the discipline of the digital humanities, which will foster conversations about the context, and content, of the maker kits. At the same time, these conversations will shape and advertise my work with the kits (and the accompanying essays) making sure they reflect current thinking in the discipline. Attending DHSI (Digital Humanities Summer Institute) in June 2017 and INKE (Implementing New Knowledge Network) meetings in September of 2017 will represent an opportunity to engage with individuals from a variety of contexts (technical, cultural, and professional). These networks are made up of individuals who are working with similar questions to my own. At the same time, attending the meetings will provide access to the UVIC Makerlab and the models that they might provide for the project. During this phase, I will also work to establish connections with Critical Concept Lab at Emily Carr University of Art + Design and The Digital Humanities Innovation Lab at Simon Fraser University. Both these sites represent significant collaborative opportunities and models for developing and deploying the outcomes of the project.
2) The design and fabrication phase of the project will focus on prototyping, building, and writing for publication or grant applications. After establishing the theoretical groundwork for the kits and their accompanying essays, I will deploy the website, design and build a few prototypical maker kits, and work to publish—in a variety of venues—commentaries about the continued development of the kits and their ancillary materials.
3) The community engagement phase of the project will run concurrently with the design and fabrication phase. In particular, this phase of the project will seek to engage with populations traditionally underserved in technical projects—Indigenous students, those with learning issues, and women. That said, I want to work with the College and the project’s surrounding disciplinary communities to broadcast and discuss the work underway making the kits. I want the process of building, prototyping, and designing the kits to be open to all who might be interested so that the process encourages the widest possible scope of critical engagement. This project is founded upon the principle of working in the open as a form of accountability and outreach both to the College and the disciplinary community. Community engagement is essential and ongoing throughout the different phases of the project—workshops, presentations, and “pop-up” labs, both inside and outside the College, are an essential part of the project.
Share this post:
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada