[Karis Brown:] Welcome to the discussion of Podcast Perspectives of Environmental Geopolitics. In this episode, the crew will be discussing why we published our work as an OER, open-sourcing our classroom, and why open-ended projects worked for identifying and understanding claims.
[Dr. Shannon O’Lear:] We are here in the Makerspace of Anschutz Library at the University of Kansas. My name is Shannon O’Lear. I’m a professor of Geography and the director of the Environmental Studies program here at KU. And I am here with three students from the environmental geopolitics class, and I will ask them to introduce themselves.
[Jessica Saunders:] Hi, my name is Jessica Saunders. My pronouns are she/her. I am currently a junior at the University of Kansas, majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Political Science.
[Jack Harte:] I’m Jack Harte. My pronouns are he/him. I’m working towards a Bachelor of Arts in Geography at the University of Kansas. I’m about a senior and a half at this point, I guess I’ve got- got one more semester to go, but we’re working towards it.
[Karis:] You minor in anything?
[Jack:] I’m minoring in Business.
[Karis:] Mmm look at that. Well, I am Karis Brown. I’m also a senior and a half right now. Oh, I use they/them pronouns. I am also majoring in Environmental Studies and I minor in Anthropology and Journalism. I like to write, you know?
[Jessica:] And we are also accompanied by our superhero Librarian Tami Albin, who has been the glue for our podcast projects and our OER project which we will discuss now.
[Karis:] So I guess moving forward from that, like, why did you decide to get us all together, get us all of our podcasts into an OER, in the first place?
[Dr. O’Lear:] Well, this is the follow-through, right? I mean, it’s one thing to send your podcasts off to people or parents or whatever. But I really wanted to follow through with it and say, no, here is where all the podcasts for this class are. Because I wanted to amplify all the work.
I wanted to make it— I wanted to give it a place where it could really be seen, where people could go to and say, “Well, what is— How does it work to assign podcasts?” Or, “What is an example of environmental geopolitics?” Because it’s not always immediately clear. And I thought if I could put these out there for examples for future students, that would be super helpful.
So this semester, getting the grant to build this open educational resource, this is just the follow-through, like I’m serious, I want to make these durable. I want to give these a place where people can go and listen to them. And not just rely on a high schooler doing research-
[group simultaneously laughing]
[Dr. O’Lear:] looking for Jack’s podcast. But I didn’t know how to do any of this. I mean, and that’s why in the class, if you guys remember, we actually had three embedded librarians. Karna was there kinda behind the scenes working on assignments, and Sarah Thiel and then Tami Albin, were all really involved in helping all of us because I’ve never done this. I have no idea. And I didn’t know how to do an OER either or a Pressbook. And so we’re all learning together, which I think is really fantastic.
[Jessica:] Yeah, it’s the first time anything like this has ever been done. So it’s important to kind of like establish that foundation so that other people can do it.
[Karis:] It’s also important to include other perspectives than just like a professor and a student’s. Like Tami has been, like I said, like the glue that holds this stuff together because her skills, and their skills and knowledge is like— I mean, uh, yeah, we didn’t know how to make a Pressbook.
[Karis:] Like, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing still.
[Jessica:] Yeah. [chuckles]
[Karis:] But like without like Tami and Josh, like, their consistent help throughout the semester, like, I probably wouldn’t have been able to put my research together to make a final product.
[Jack:] And that also— Those days we had where we- we went outside and we had like a open-walled tent that the university set up and we’re all just out there. It really, it helped to disassociate from the lecture concepts and it created kind of more of this community that was all working towards creating podcasts and to using the Environmental Geopolitics framework, you know, in radically different research formats or resource topics. But yeah, and so having librarians come down and kind of facilitate that, definitely assisted.
[Jessica:] And like you just said, it was so different from the traditional, you know, lecture hall. I loved seeing everybody’s topics and their creativity in the direction that they were going in because everybody picked their topics for a specific reason, had, had a certain opinion or a certain goal in mind. And it was really cool to have that community and see everybody’s different projects going on.
[Karis:] Let’s talk about that a little bit more, I guess, like the open-endedness of the framework and our project. Um, because I know, like— I don’t know initially… Basically this project was formed around the three questions of Environmental Geopolitics, And then you kinda just like let us loose, right? So as long as we answered role and meaning of the environment, role of human agency, and the spatial focus, like we could do anything.
[Karis:] Which from what I’ve heard from other students at first was kind of intimidating. I was intimidated. Like working through the semester, through our worksheets and everything. I was definitely not quite getting it.
Like Shannon, you were always like, “Not quite!” like, “Fix it a little bit different or get another source or like frame and in a different way.” But like when I heard back from like Renz and Reid like they had said the same thing.
But like also that open-endedness gave us a lot more room to pursue our individual passions about it. We’re able to put input our individual perspectives rather than just falling like ducks in a row behind Shannon.
[Dr. O’Lear:] Well, and I mean, that’s my insidious plot that you’ve just unveiled,
[group simultaneously laughing]
[Dr. O’Lear:] is that I wrote this book, and what I was trying to do is say, “Look, any political claim about the environment needs to be analyzed and we need to really look at it.” So whether you agree with it or not is not that important in analyzing it. But here’s how we can ask different questions of any claim about the environment, any claim.
And to really emphasize that, I had to keep it open. Like, as long as you stay through, use this framework. You pick the claim, and because I wanted you to see for yourselves, you can analyze any claim this way. And that to me is important because then I’m not saying see how it works on the theme of resource conflict or climate security, things that I’ve already figured out. I wanted you to go figure it out on something that was interesting to you, because that was the only way that you are really going to see the value of this kind of analysis.
[Jessica:] Did you have any concerns or reservations about it being so open-ended?
[Dr. O’Lear:] Nope.
[Jessica:] Nope. Love that. Okay. And-
[group simultaneously chuckles]
[Jessica:] And that’s the podcast.
[Dr. O’Lear:] I thought it was great, and I thought the range of topics was- was fabulous. And I know— Well, so that seems to be where everybody struggles the most is when I say identify a claim that you want to analyze, it seems like nobody has ever asked you to do something like that. Find your own thing. Like find a research topic—
[Jessica, simultaneously:] Be creative? Whoa.
[Dr. O’Lear:] But it’s different than finding a research topic. And this is where everybody’s like, “Well, I’m gonna do research on this topic,” and you’d start like explaining, “I’m going to look at all these things.”
I’m like, “No, that’s not what you’re doing. Tell me a claim,” and it’s really hard because the claims it’s like we’re just swimming in them. It’s the air we breathe, and we don’t even realize that we’re surrounded by them. So I wanted you to identify that, But I think that’s the hardest part.
[Karis:] We should talk about why the OER is important and- like not just for getting our, like our podcasts out, but maybe in general, why open educational resources are important for disseminating knowledge?
[Dr. O’Lear:] Yeah, that’s a good- that’s a good point. Why are open educational resources important? And I would add the Creative Commons license because we learned a lot about that. So that you would all know how your work could be used in that you have control over how your work is used. But that was really important.
I think the OER, the open educational resource, that’s important because it’s available to everybody. So it’s not behind a paywall. It’s not an expensive textbook, and what I particularly like about this one is that it’s got lots of student voices in there. That it’s not relying just on somebody with a Ph.D. or one person’s voice, but it’s bringing together a lot of voices. And I feel like that is really fitting for an open educational resource that hopefully other students might use, other instructors might use. That your mom might enjoy.
[Karis:] Yeah, I’m excited for the non-college people that will be able to actually learn from this. We kind of like have discussed before the just the ivory tower of academia, and we all sit and we talk about the data and we referenced each other and we’re sitting here talking about it. But like, how are we going to do something about it?
And doing something about it means like engaging the general public with this knowledge, like educating other people so that we know what’s going on, or at least have more perspectives about what’s going on than just what’s published by institutions. Because that’s the whole point: we’re breaking down those claims. Because like we said earlier, it kind of like forms our reality we see published were like, “Oh yeah, it’s published that and that means it’s, it’s true.” Yeah.
[Jessica:] I want to touch on the perspective thing a little bit. Doctor, what was your favorite part about seeing all of these different podcasts and seeing all of the different perspectives like, is this what you wanted? Is it more than you wanted? Tell me about that.
[Dr. O’Lear:] I’ve found it— It’s kinda interesting when I’d see students who were really gung-ho about their topic, and they’d be working on it and working on it and digging into it and really working on it. And then they’d get kind of disillusioned because they’re finding resources or they’re seeing it from a different perspective that they weren’t anticipating.
They’re like, “Oh. Oh, this isn’t what I thought it was.” And then they would almost doubled down like, “Well, now I really want to know more about it.”
And I had at least a handful of people say, “I learned so much more by doing it this way.”
Like what I wasn’t expecting to learn, and for me that that’s a goal. I mean, that’s, that’s great that the class was able to facilitate that. And part of it is, yes, how I set up the class, but part of it was having those open-ended, out-in -the-tent workshop sessions-
[Jessica, interrupts:] with Aries.
[Dr. O’Lear:] With Aries the dog, and Tami would come and bring butcher paper and tape it down to the tables and crayons and Playdoh— and you know just really creativity. I think that’s, that was just the best part of it, was just seeing everybody really wanting to be there and, and figure out whatever problem they had kind of carved out for themselves.
[Karis:] The music featured in this episode is MB_weatherwav by Connum from freesound.org.