It’s often said that history is written by the winners. At this year’s OER18 conference all the keynotes took had a touch of history about them. Lorna Campbell got the conference off to a great start with her long view of changing perspectives on OER. Momodou Sallah inspired everyone with his pedagogies of disruption, infectious activism and counter narratives, particularly around the history of access and control over and to, education and culture in Africa. In the final keynote, David Wiley took us through his potted history of open, open source, learning objects.
Much of what David spoke about resonated with me and the audience. However as his presentation unfolded, and with the messages particularly from Momodou’s keynote talk the previous day still in at the forefront of my thoughts, I was struck by the people he highlighted in his talk – predominately white, male, North American, middle class, including some who hold some very unpleasant (to say the least) views on women in tech and gun ownership.
Early on in his talk David asked if there was/is going to be a split in the open community. I hope there isn’t, but there are some gaping chasms. These chasms have nothing to do with the pragmatism versus practicality debate he spoke of. They are to do with who ‘wins’ the definition wars, the continuation of casual. everyday discrimination, exclusion and lack of/acknowledgement of counter narratives, and cultural sensitivity.
Is there a movement? #OER18 pic.twitter.com/TqaNOcgSph
— Brian Lamb (@brlamb) 19 April 2018
In tune with the 1980’s vibe let loose by the Reclaim Video folks, I can’t help but think of the classic 1980’s film The Return of the Jedi where Obi Wan Kanobi explains to Luke Skywalker that what what he told him about his father was the truth “from a certain point of view”
For me, definitions particularly in education, are a bit like that. They are created, shared, debated based firmly on a certain point of view. This means that they all too easily can become, from a critical pedagogy point of view, symbols of oppression.
If am I told a narrative based on white, middle class, middle aged, North American males, I am immediately excluded (along with half of the worlds population).
How does this square with a community & an industry that discriminates massively against women #oer18 pic.twitter.com/UPYHjMIuqX
— Lorna M. Campbell (@LornaMCampbell) 19 April 2018
If we don’t explicitly address diversity, actively seek to include, support and embrace different voices, it’s not the difference between purists and pragmatists that will divide a community – it’s who is included and excluded. If your community doesn’t speak to me, then why should I become part of it, or defer and adhere to its definitions?
One of the joys of the OER conferences for me is that is a really powerful, hospitable space that brings together diverse voices to raise critically informed debate about open education. It’s a space for people to come together and reflect on what it means to be an open practitioner, what OER is in their context, and more importantly it can’t and can’t do. Channelling the wonderful Dr Catherine Cronin it’s not just open education practice that is a constantly negotiated process, it’s our definitions of it. They need to be open to negotiation and cognisant of context too. Surely that’s the way to engage, grow and sustain a diverse community.