I’ve had a few days to percolate over the amazing experience of #oer18. I attended this conference for the first time last year and #oer17 was so transformative that I opted for another round of a small conference in an interesting venue with lots of provocative and critical conversations about open. This year didn’t disappoint, and I was so energized by getting to spend time with some amazing and smart women doing great things in this space.
Locating our discussions in a more historical context: There was a strong current of history at this conference, which was convenient for Viv and I who were presenting on the historical branches of open . Lorna Campbell opened the conference with a thoughtful keynote that took a trip down memory’s lane of OER conferences to illustrate the continual negotiation taking place in OER and open over the years and pointing to some considerations for the future, namely more inclusion, representation and diversity of people and perspectives. This resonated with many of us and extended conversations that seem to be happening on Twitter and elsewhere. It also reminded me of a quote that Viv and I included in our presentation:
The advent of a movement like open education brings with it examination and criticism of what has gone before, of what is going on contemporaneously, and, perhaps most important, an examination and criticism of itself. Perhaps the next stage in the cycle will be of one self-criticism and self-correction.
Barth, 1977 Beyond open education
Barth, R. S. (1977). Beyond open education. The Phi Delta Kappan, 58(6), 489-492.
Purist or Pragmatist?: I’ve had the pleasure of hearing David Wiley keynote at least three times, and this keynote was a fresh, reflective journey down open lane, beginning with the open source movement in the US. What particularly appreciated was how his talk was punctuated with slides with reflective questions for the audience. Some of them provoked some good on and offline conversation which is never a bad thing. David introduced an idea that open consists of purists or pragmatists, a thought that I contest because I think it creates a false dichotomy. (I somehow remembered it as idealist or pragmatist, since I’m not quite sure what an open purist is and whether it sits on the opposite end of the continuum).
I spend a lot of my time on the ‘pragmatic’ side of open in my institution where the focus on getting it done and getting on with open takes priority. Yet, I’ve been in this field long enough to have observed that critical conversations are important to advance the field and I believe this means we have to get a bit uncomfortable and less precious in our discourse around open. The purist/idealist side of me says that while great work and measurable impact is happening, there’s substantial room for theoretical and conceptual expansion. However, I was reminded of again of a historical quote I’d come across which seemed to underline the tenuous balance between too much ideology and too much pragmatism. (This is from Mai, 1978: Open Education: From Ideology to Orthodoxy)
Locating our open discussions in a more global context: We have Momodou Sallah to thank for gently blowing our minds in his keynote provocatively entitled Pedagogies of Disruption as Resistance: Developing Counter Narratives Through Open Educational Practice. If there’s any confusion about what ideology + pragmatism can look like in open, Momodou gave us good food for thought. Critical global south perspectives missing? Start a journal . Concerned about global inequity? Start a foundation and engage students in a “social enterprise which brings the worlds of theory and practice closer through education and public engagement, international development and publishing of critical Southern perspectives”.
Broadening our lens for the benefit of open: I had the chance to be part of a Virtually Connecting session with David Wiley and Martin Weller (and briefly Sheila MacNeil) following David’s Day 2 keynote. By this time I had seen many wonderful sessions and had some great chats with so many people. In particular, I’d had a chance to see Henry Trotter’s presentation (the co-authors weren’t there) on the great ROER4D research and found myself reflecting on what creation and reuse means in a global south/global north context. (for the record, I’m challenged by the north /south distinction because I think there are souths in the north). What does it mean to have OER created in the South reused in the North? Does this happen, and if not why not? The North is very good at, and well positioned as creators, but is there a responsibility to be more curious and active in learning from and integrating these efforts into our own practices in the North?
Some of these thoughts found their way into this Virtually Connecting session, where I found myself wondering whether we are as far along as we think we are in the stories we construct about our open movement. OER18 gave the space for new stories, for new avenues to explore and for that I am grateful.
I think that sometimes the “pragmatists” sometimes don’t fully appreciate the influence of their own ideals and how those ideals shape their thinking. They just think their ideals are more rational, or more significant, than the ones of people they disagree with… “We’re being logical, making hard choices… you are being emotional and unprodcutive.”
Maybe a better tension would be “compromise vs. conviction” or something?
Thanks Brian, as a fence sitting pragmatist I don’t really know how to think about open without hanging it on top of some sort of ideal, so I agree with you there. I’m not sure any sort of X vs Y is useful though.. I’d prefer to view open as a landscape of many things – water, trees , mountains, -and I really don’t want to limit my view or be encouraged to limit my view to just the trees.