(Photo by Mark Doda on Unsplash)
Just over a week ago I participated in the #HEdigiID slow twitter chat around open educational practices facilitated Suzan Koseoglu.
The conversation evolved in the wonderful, meandering, and at times insistent ways that I find only really happen on twitter. There is a summary of themes from the chat in this open google doc which is well worth a look. Sue Watling has also has written two excellent posts around participation and isolation, available here and here.
One part of the conversation focused around time, or the lack of it, particularly to experiment and try new things. Sue has explored many of the complex issues around engagement in her posts. How we all priorities time was also a theme that resonated with me (and others in the conversation). James Clay also responded and wrote this post around time as a solution. I’ll come back to that later in the post.
But guess what, I haven’t had the time, or as came out through the discussion, might not have been able to make it a priority to write my own reflection and response to the conversation until now. I have been musing on the discussion all week. I have just had to prioritize other “stuff” until this morning, when I have made the time to sit down and write this post.
During the conversation I was quite tired (I’ve being feeling tired a lot this year) which I kind of put down to possibly being something to do with pre holiday malaise, trying to get things finished up and off at work. But actually as the week developed I realised that it is something much deeper that is causing this tiredness.
One of the highlights of this week was that I had the priviledge and pleasure of meeting Antonia Darder and attending one of the series of lectures/events she has been featuring in during a mini Scottish tour. The meeting held in the Pearce Institute brought together a really wide range of people from across the city. Activism, critical pedagogy and the work of Paulo Freire being the uniting factor.
During the discussions and mini culture circles I was both uplifted and depressed by the struggles we are all going through just now. And just how hard it is to affect real change; to empower people. As Antonia put it we are all “participate in our own silencing.” How through our increasingly neoliberal societies we are taught and accept the disparities and inequalities in our world. When what we should be doing is working within, as part of our communities to develop support and coherence.
Sitting in a Govan (a pretty deprived area of Glasgow), in a room full of motivated, community activists, I was reminded of just how lucky I am, to have an education, to have a job, to have a house, food on the table every day, but more importantly of having a voice, and the importance of not letting that voice be silenced by lack of time.
In his post James highlighted that
Priorities in theory are set by the line manager, who is operationalising the strategic direction and vision of the institution
James also points to the potential of using a digital lens to work through some of these, what I am going to call here time challenges. However, I don’t think it’s that simple. Increasingly I see institutional and sectoral “digital solutions” as being as much an oppressor of my time as the neo-liberal political agendas that drive our education sector. I have to fight to get buy in/recognition for open education, which should be a given for all educators, but then have to spend time explaining why spending nearly a quarter of a million pounds on a very immature, AI system is perhaps not actually a strategic priority, whilst at the same time trying to juggle figures to get new equipment in classrooms to move our campus learning environments (aka classrooms) out of 1988 and into 2018. That struggle, the tiredness, the silencing, the crushing of my voice, the feeling that I need to go along with things as I have to pay the mortgage, have food on the table, remember how lucky I am to be where I am, is my oppression. I am not alone.
Meeting and spending some time with Antonia, that twitter conversation, the connections I have outside my institution are a key part of creating a sense of coherence to fight back. I have come relatively late to critical pedagogy, but the more I study it the more it resonates with my core beliefs. We need to contextualise, to work as a community with our students and colleagues to fight back against education and particularly higher education as being turned into a consumer journey, where data analytics, smart campuses are the focus of strategic direction. We can’t let the current obsession with “personalisation” allow what Freire described as bank education (bring ’em in, fill ’em up, sent ’em out, take the fees) to take hold.
I am still tired, but thankful that I have a network that constantly re-energises me. Where people like Laura and Susan provide space (that I do make the time ) to have conversations that make me realise what I can do. That critical love and support I get from so many colleagues is vital to support my struggles with my oppression. We may all only have drops of struggle (another lovely phrase from Antonia) but all these drops can create help to create waves of change.