Self as OER

sky with wispy clouds

This post is co-authored with Suzan Koseoglu (@suzankoseoglu) who is an academic developer at the Teaching and Learning Innovation Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London. Suzan has recently defended her doctoral dissertation on open participants’ experiences in a massive open online course. You can read it here!

This post is based on a presentation Suzan and Maha gave this year at the OER16 conference in Edinburgh. Slideshare available here.

…the true benefit of the academy is the interaction, the access to the debate, to the negotiation of knowledge — not to the stale cataloging of content. – Dave Cormier and George Siemens

When we look at common definitions of Open Educational Resources or OERs (e.g., OER Commons, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation) it is clear that there is tendency to equate open educational resources to open educational materials and tools, such as course materials in text, audio, or video format, open textbooks, and educational software. But what if we adopt a different perspective, a broader understanding of OERs, which includes the processes and products of open scholarship as valuable, and viable, resources too? What if we focus on these practices as much as educational content in our conversations on open educational resources?

It is important to clarify what we mean by open scholarship in this argument. George Veletsianos and Royce Kimmons (2013) define open scholarship as “any teaching and research practices that are public and that espouse openness” (p. 167). The authors further consider open scholarship to take three major forms: “(1) open access and open publishing, (2) open education, including open educational resources and open teaching, and (3) networked participation” (p. 168). Some examples of open scholarship based on this definition can be  publishing an article in an open access journal, teaching a MOOC, and joining a Twitter hashtag to chat about an educational issue. Furthermore, Mariana Funes in her eloquent blog post titled a human OER (our inspiration for the title of this work) gives a detailed description of how she positions herself as a learning resource for others in the unbounded, and often vulnerable, spaces of the web.

However, we go beyond these definitions of open scholarship – beyond open access and public scholarship. While open scholarship can be planned, it can also be an everyday activity: unplanned, informal, arising out of relationships as much as personal motivations. It can be part of our identity. Here we are interested in exploring openness as a worldview, in other words, openness as a state of being in the world – and not necessarily in a digitized world. We highlight below four ways of what this might look like:

  • Editable person (a term Kevin Hodgson used here): This might include being willing to listen and change our perspective: being willing to change our mind when interacting with someone with a different worldview from our own, being willing to take risks or try something new, being willing to give another the benefit of the doubt in our social interactions. This goes beyond more common understandings of openness in terms of giving to others and being helpful to them, and turns our openness inwards.

  • Narrated practice: This might include making our own processes explicit. Laura Gogia and Bonnie Stewart, for example, opened up their academic practice to the public by making the process of their thesis defenses transparent, as described here). There are some educators who regularly share their processes of creation behind-the-scenes on their blogs, narrating it (see Alan Levine and Terry Elliott’s blogs).

  • Making ourselves vulnerable: This might include sharing half-baked thoughts with others, challenging dominant discourses while putting selves at risk, allowing others to see us as who we are (our authentic identities) and not just our polished selves. See this blogpost by South African Paul Prinsloo on his feelings while organizing a recent conference in his hometown. Another example is Rebecca Hogue, who openly blogged about her breast cancer, and went beyond this to start open conversations about ePatients.

  • Negotiation of knowledge: This might include encouraging open conversations as opposed to polished knowledge sharing, such as publishing a journal article or presenting at a conference. Think of people who participate in Virtually Connecting conversations, bringing their unpolished selves to spontaneous conversations – even when they are keynote speakers, they are willing to have an open conversation about their topic with other scholars who are often younger and not necessarily as experienced in the field.

But we must also be critical of who has the privilege of being open in these ways – do minorities take greater risks in being open? Do the few people of color who are able to speak loudly become tokenized, become inevitably representatives of “their people” (think Malala and what she represents in terms of advocacy for female education, watch Rusul AlRubail’s TED Talk describing her experience as a refugee student in Canada). This is why publications dedicated to these particular voices matter, so that one can get more than the one-off representation (for examples, see Sherri Spelic’s “Identity, Education, and Power”, or EdContexts).

Should everyone strive to adopt openness as a worldview in their educational practices? As Suzan has discussed before, openness is a personal journey and doesn’t have to be the same thing for everyone. We are very interested in hearing your perspective on openness. During our presentation at OER16, we encouraged people to participate via Twitter using hashtag #SelfOER – feel free to respond to this article that way, or tell us in the comments what you think the self as OER might mean for you.

flickr photo by ma_bali shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

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