[Open-education] Is OER still a movement?

Thomas Salmon tomsalmon at yahoo.com
Sun Aug 24 14:47:33 UTC 2014


I am just writing to share few more ideas on the question: Is OER still 
a movement ?

I've cc'd in Nicole Allen from SPARC whose orgnisation is mentioned here 
further down in this message if you are not familiar with it too. I 
think its a good debate we are having and worth wrangling out more and 
sharing. Below also is an invitation to help wrangle with an idea I had 
for something along these lines to work on at Mozfest 
http://2014.mozillafestival.org/ in October too.

So in the previous posting, (all the posts are archived here by the way: 
https://lists.okfn.org/pipermail/open-education/ ) the point was made 
about there possibly being a 'minority sport' version of the OER 
movement and a more informal version of it (see previous digest vol 13). 
Alan's point is one that comes out clearly in the replies too. The point 
also made before that OER's are out there everywhere these days is also 
frequently made. I liked the evidence of the fact that plumbers these 
days are responsible for the sharing and creating of hundreds of OER's 
on Youtube 'without knowing it'. Who knows, there may be a hard core 
group of open plumbers out there who are being really quiet...In fact I 
hope there is actually somewhere, and I'm rooting for them :)

I think there is a danger in potentially assuming that the hypothetical 
plumbers do not participate in the 'minority sport' of the 'conoscienti' 
and may not recognise or license their videos in an open format because 
to them there is no evident need to formally recognise their activity in 
this way. In reference to this Coughlan & Perryman's short paper 
http://www.medev.ac.uk/oer14/87/view/ it is interesting in terms of 
looking at groups on Facebook and social media and in terms of 
considering the perceptions of OERs in different contexts. So Youtube 
may hold the rights in regards to our plumber's videos. But possibly the 
only important aspect of this to these users of course is that they get 
to share and freely exchange video via the web within their groups and 
are recognised as such by their peers in the process. One day it might 
matter to all plumbers a lot more potentially that they own the licenses 
to their own videos, but this may also not come to pass without a small 
group of open plumbers setting out to do this and make it possible. But 
I am not sure where I stand on the idea that we should carry on pushing 
everyone until it is no longer necessary to make the point about open 
licenses and standards (which I think may actually never happen). 
Essentially at face value for many groups of people, this is sometimes a 
tangential concern. Of course, I think if we are part of an 'open 
movement' we probably should still be trying to have that discussion 
with our plumbers at every opportunity, and in fact everyone else, who 
admittedly also may give us a wide eyed look of concern before rapidly 
moving towards the door..

But I also worry that we spend too much time in our own communities in 
the OER world sometimes and not enough time in other communities. I 
think there is a huge gap between those who approach it from the 
perspective of the academic theory and these so called 'communities of 
practice'. And I also sometimes find it a bit distrubing how Jean Lave 
and Etienne Wenger's term and idea seems so often to have become a sort 
of stepping stone terminology, masking the fact so often that 'real' 
communities may at the same time be at risk of becoming broken down into 
something else in the process. I am not so sure how useful it is, unless 
of course you are an academic :)

One point that Mick made in his original post was that the word 'movement'

suggests grass roots action, social movements,

What makes it a movement compared to, say, a favoured funding track of certain Foundations?

I think that one thing that makes it a movement is by virtue of it being 
distributed, and decentralised enough to reach out and engage with 
specific areas of interest to engage people from a wide spectrum of 
constituencies. An OER 'movement' is not very useful if it remains a 
'minority sport'. It may then need both a broadening of the framework 
for engagement with a tighter focus on the specifics of what matters to 
different communities. Eg. more effective decentralised work seems a 
good idea rather than slipping back into a bubble of 'group think'

So in reference to Lorna's blog post should we be thinking about work on 
OER's as a 'luxury item' or not. I think if we are using the term 
'luxury item' then it seems unlikely that we will be tapping into the 
right kinds of questions with other communities.

"luxury item or everyday

I think that more effective advocacy that targets specific issues is 
more likely to come from a clear political concern over particular power 
struggles between groups or actors, for example over particular kinds of 
policies or directions taken by government. So questions about licencing 
and openess that get framed within these more specific campaigns on an 
issue to me make more sense.

For example, for me a more targetted approach towards advocacy seems 
present in orgnisations such as SPARC in the US, targetting specific 
policies and advocating for particular measures: 

And for me in education I can understand for example why many teachers 
may not see that OER's connect in a relevant way to a host of other 
issues in how their role as producers and sharers of knowledge is being 
shaped in the current context. I mean you can link things in the 
abstract to a generalised theory of social justice in education but that 
is again a very academic approach. You can show people how overcoming 
broader barriers to recognition, redistribution and participation in 
education requires a focus on specific practices and bring their 
attention to adopting open practices... But I am not always convinced - 
I think it is better to find the ways to frame specific issues so as to 
highlight why openness matters for them in particular. I mean for 
example, with the current introduction of performance pay in schools in 
the UK and the divisions between 'higher performing' teachers and 'lower 
performing' ones being played out with reference to student results and 
teacher pay packets, you can imagine that there is a real question for 
teachers suddenly about who does get to claim the intellectual property 
over their materials and work, their annotated schemes of work or the 
end of term practice tests that they individually went off and wrote or 
paid to download to help their struggling students make the grade...and 
within that whole system of performance measurement there is very little 
or nearly no system of credit, attribution or recognition given to 
teachers who engage in open practices or open licencing that I have seen 
at least.

Teachers like it or not have no choice but to use the systems they are 
given to work within and so they seek to do that often, and while they 
share a common interest in developing good resources and making them 
widely available this doesn't happen within a vacuum. TES online for 
example is one of the largest repositories of materials made by teachers 
in the UK, evaluated by other teachers for teachers in the UK and used 
by teachers in classrooms. The fact that it has grown into such from 
being an entirely incidental collection of materials that congregated 
around the forum page of the Times Educational Supplement, is notable in 
that this was basically driven by path dependance. And was at the time 
also something of a shock to those in charge of the Times when they 
first noticed it happening.

So it is not clear to me in a sense how people see the whole sort of 
principal - agent relationship working out in different contexts, and 
what beleifs may lie behind different forms of agency for teachers for 
example in open education, and which kinds of mechanisms can be 
effectively used to align the interests of these agents with a wider 
'open movement'.

In most fields people act and behave as if education and knowledge is a 
positional good rather than an open commons and a public good, but they 
often do this particularly because they recognise that others in their 
own communities and organisations percieve things in this way first. But 
there is an asymetry of information here, which means that it is very 
hard to dispute and track any claim to being impartial and open, and so 
it is not enough to ask people to stop thinking of education and 
knowledge in that way by simply by telling them that it shouldn't be so.

And in the process I also think it is quite concerning how easy it is 
for such efforts to get highjacked by the more entrenched interests of 
capital sitting on the sidelines waiting for their moment to make good 
on the collapse of one sort of 'openness' to reify it instantly with 
another, that is simply more instrumental and fit for purpose, a point 
also made by Eric Kansa here: 

So another thing that I think we should consider when people mention 
that work on OERs is like a minority sport is that we really should be 
looking beyond our own community in the open movement and connecting 
with other communities and learning from them. Possibly learning from 
advocates like Tim Berners Lee and others who have been successful in 
creating sticky enough and simple enough principles for advocating for 
change for example with open data, for example with things like the five 
star open data deployment scheme http://5stardata.info/

Similarly it makes sense to see where we within the OER movement can 
also be part of those other efforts. For example within the Open 
Government Partnership there is not really any attention given to OER's 
at all in the measuring and rating of different countries claims to 
'openess' as far as I understand it. But I don't see why there shouldn't 
be, and maybe we should try to think about how we could engage at least 
potentially in those kinds of discussions even, and try to keep in sight 
also the wider discussion on things like Net Neutrality for example. In 
this the work of the Open Coalition is also potentially very important.

As I mentioned above I am hoping to propose a session or to include this 
within work on another session along these lines for Mozfest in London 
in October if anyone else is going. A very simple sketch or placeholder 
for this idea is here.



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