Guest Blog: Can we decolonize OER/Open? #DecolonizeOpen : OER19
flavoursofopenscience's bookmarks 2019-02-27
Authors: Taskeen Adam (South African PhD student at the University of Cambridge) @taskeeners Maha Bali (Associate Professor of Practice, American University in Cairo) @bali_maha Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams (Associate Professor at the University of Cape Town) @cherylHW Tannis Morgan (Researcher, Open Education Practices at BCcampus) @tanbob
Decolonization, diversity, and inclusion are themes that have emerged in the broader Open movement in recent years and represent an important shift in the discourse around open practices. The project of decolonizing open is multi-layered and may seem somewhat daunting. On the one hand, open promises to improve access to education and the well-being of livelihoods through practices that enable the sharing of educational content through (largely) digital means (a decidedly modernist narrative in its universalism and approach to progress). On the other hand, it can unwittingly reproduce many of the existing inequities of the systems it seeks to change. The latter is a thorny issue as the altruistic motivations that appear to drive the open movement in general, and the open practices that underpin open educational resources (OER) in particular, may seem to be above reproach. These are not recent concerns. As early as 2009, Lane underlined that the open of the OER movement “may actually widen rather than bridge the digital and educational divides between groups, both within and across national boundaries, through the increasing sophistication in technologies and the competencies expected of learners” (2009, p.1). Underlying many OER is the assumption of the universality of knowledge systems (often dictated by hegemonic knowledge groups), without giving relevance to the particular. As Asgharzadeh explains:
Because education is not and cannot be value free, neutral, or impartial, the values and principles should be promoted that do not contradict multiplicity of identities and perspectives: diversity, pluralism, freedom of expression, creativity, mutual respect, and democracy. These values should foster feelings of self-esteem, self-respect, self-reliance, as well as the ability to self-define, self-identify, and self-express. (Asgharzadeh, p. 339)
It could be argued that part of the reason for this is that the philosophical foundations (ie. axiological – value, epistemological – perspectives of knowledge, ontological – nature of reality) foundation from which open stems has been largely assumed or undeclared. In other words we need to critically interrogate in whose eyes open education is deemed ‘valuable’; whose knowledge is being foregrounded and whose view of reality is being entrenched? As Andreotti et al. (2015) highlight, modernity (discourses of seamless progress, democracy and universalism we often find in educational technology discourses as well as open education) needs to be examined for its conditioning of how we ought to think and ought to be. This conditioning is done through the interlinking of ontology, epistemology, and axiology such that it becomes evermore difficult to resist or challenge. In striving to challenge settled knowledges and ways of being, Andreotti et al. (2015, p. 26) highlight ‘strategies of empowerment, ‘giving voice’, recognition, representation, redistribution, reconciliation, affirmative action, re-centering of marginalized subjects and/or ‘transformation’ of the borders of the dominant system’, whilst also acknowledging the risks of adverse incorporation whereby it is “not only assumed that previously excluded groups desire to be a part of mainstream institutions, it is also assumed that they will benefit from this inclusion.” These philosophical foundations are what the broader decolonial project aims to address.