#selfOER in Open Educational Connections

I am really excited to read Jim Luke’s post The OER Content Trap as it gives me a framework to think about my work on Self as OER with Maha.

Jim says:

… by focusing on the “resources”, the content, we’ve fallen into the content trap.  We worry about how to finance the costs of production of “free” textbooks. We worry about competing for adoption of OER texts vs. the publisher texts. We’re trapped into focusing on the content.  Even when we talk about open educational practices or pedagogy, OEP, we’re still focused on the content because we focus on how the content is used.

We’re not alone in this trap. Nearly all higher ed institutions are there too.  They almost all think their special sauce is are the courses they teach or the research publications they produce. They’re wrong.  Similarly, the special sauce in open education isn’t the OER, the resources, books, videos, and content. The real special value is in the connections people make, the community that forms, and the identities they forge.

So what should we be focusing on? Open Education Connections or Open Educational Communities. OEC.

I believe by focusing on Open Education Connections we can avoid the “polarization and antagonism” that so often occur in our discussions on open pedagogy. We can abandon our “fixed positions from the foxholes of the pedagogy wars” as Palmer wisely said. It’s a meaningful and productive way to bridge OER and OEP and 5Rs and Content and Relationships.

Where does Self as OER, or as we are now considering, the “Open Self,” fit in Open Education Connections? I don’t think there’s a straightforward answer to this or can we ever firmly establish its position, as it’s tied to identity, and identity can never be understood from a single fixed point. This was reflected in the responses to Maha’s Twitter exercise If You Were an OER, What Kind Would You Want to Be? (I’m just posting a few ones that I picked from the latest stream):

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There were so many good and thought-provoking and fun posts in the stream (@sensor63 in particular really pushed the boundaries of OER with his responses).

Maha then reflected on the tweets saying:

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Yes! And because those values and attitudes are so diverse and rich, and often unpredictable, we can never fully understand the Open Self. As I said before it’s one of those concepts that is hard to define just like the notion of the “whole person” because it’s tied to identity. I return to Palmer again to explain this. The following is from “The Courage to Teach” and is about the meaning of identity and integrity:

…Identity and integrity have as much to do with our shadows and limits, our wounds and fears, as with our strengths and potentials. …. They are subtle dimensions of the complex, demanding, and lifelong process of self discovery. Identity lies in the intersection of the diverse forces that make up my life, and integrity lies in relating those forces in ways that bring me wholeness and life rather that fragmentation and death.

Those are my definitions –but try as I might to refine them, they always come out too pat. Identity and integrity can never be fully named or known by anyone, including the person who bears them. They constitute that familiar strangeness we take with us to the grave, elusive realities that can be caught occasionally out of the corner of the eye (Palmer, 2017; emphasis mine).

So what’s the best way to research something if we can’t ever fully understand it? How can we capture the everchanging and shifting reflections of the Open Self in public spaces? Does this make sense?

True openness

A blog post about open scholarship and the connections I made from there have inspired me to write about the meaning of openness in open scholarship. Steve Wheeler says:

A new breed of academics is emerging in the digital age. They are the researchers and teachers who freely share their knowledge and studies online. They are circumventing traditional approaches and discovering new ways of sharing their work. They are the open scholars.

Veletsianos and Kimmons (2012) offer a similar perspective in their article Assumptions and Challenges of Open Scholarship:

[Open scholarship] might include such activities as open teaching, the production and dissemination of open educational resources, publishing in open access journals, keeping a professional blog, and sharing of research data in online venues.

So, basically, open scholarship means we (educators) share our work or teach online and engage in dialogue through Twitter, blogs, social networking sites and so on. Both descriptions align with my previous post on open educational practices.

But I started thinking a little differently when I read something else by Steve Wheeler, a comment on true openness:

True openness is where content is shared freely, all work is attributed fairly, and where educators also open themselves up for dialogue, collaboration and constructive criticism. True open scholars are those who have aspirations to be global educators, promoting free learning for all, reaching out and connecting with other educators and learners everywhere, with the aim of participating fully in their worldwide community of practice.

I agree with Steve Wheeler that open scholarship “is a state of mind” and requires an open attitude to engage in “dialogue, collaboration and constructive criticism” in every aspect of scholarship, from teaching to research. So does open scholarship require access to technology and basic digital literacies as a prerequisite for practice? I don’t think so… That would limit the potential and sustainability of open education; openness should be a worldview for an educator more than a technological possibility (although I love the possibilities).

I don’t think we can talk about a “true openness” or that true openness should be a target to reach on the openness spectrum (for example, should we all aim to be global educators?). Also, the extent to which we participate in open scholarship is sometimes not a conscious choice. Sometimes it is just part of who we are, so change in practice requires a significant change in identity (how we see ourselves in relation to others) first. Open scholarship doesn’t have to be the same thing for every scholar.

My context? For me it has mostly been about transparency and connectivity (all rely on technology because of circumstances = phd mum). The most challenging part of it all is forming balanced open relationships. Sometimes I don’t know what to make of a Twitter conversation. Sometimes (I think) I send a friendly e-mail to somebody I’ve met online and get a one word response back. Sometimes I regret my tweets, sometimes I mull over a word for days. I’m still trying to make sense of all of this (the open world) and embrace the uncertainty as much as I can 🙂