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Tag: care

Thinking critically about women & care relative to openness #oer17 #critoep #femedtech

This week I attended the #OER17 conference where the theme was ‘The Politics of Open’, followed by a BERA EdTech SIG seminar entitled ‘Critical and Theoretical Approaches to EdTech Research‘. Both events were superb in terms of their scholarly engagement in the topics of open ed, edtech and their critical, political and (inter)disciplinary aspects. What’s more, it was quite startling how much synergy there was between the two events, both of which have started me wondering about the role of women, or feminist perspectives, and the theme of care relative to openness and edtech.

There are many reflections and curated resources coming out of #OER17. Indeed, I was going to write a reflective summary of the event myself. However, the tweeted snippets below prompted me to focus my reflection quite specifically on one aspect i.e. women, and/or feminism relative to openness, edtech, critical theory and political activism.

Quite honestly, reflecting back, it hit me hard in the face that so many of the voices at #OER17 were those of women.

Yeah, why were so many of the voices at #OER17 those of women?

The 3 keynote speakers were women; the plenary panel comprised 3 women and the sessions that I picked out to attend, now that I look at it, were all made up of women (yes, all!!). Indeed, a FemEdTech initiative was launched at OER17. I have to say that although I was vaguely aware of this, I hadn’t specifically planned to go along. It just so happened that my lunch buddies were going, so I tagged along. I understand feminist critiques of power and issues of gender inequality but TBH I’ve never really identified myself to any great extent with the feminist cause. For me, class struggle has always seemed to override it. Consequently I’ve not paid as much attention as I ought to feminist issues or politics. Recalling Maha’s keynote, and in light of some further thinking, maybe OER17 has just provoked that particular seed with a little more intent.

The Twitter conversation continued: it was wondered about the perceptions of others who attended the conference, particularly those of male participants/attendees. And that maybe my perception was a reflection of my network after all.

So, still scratching my head, I decided to check this out against the conference programme. As a crude measure, I simply tallied the number of male and female names listed against each session in the programme.

The figures go someway to validating my perception. Looking at the OER17 programme, women outnumber men in the open space. They outnumber men in all categories except, wait for it…. ‘policy and practice’. Interestingly, women significantly outnumber men in both the categories of ‘institutional/organizational politics’ and ‘participation & social equity’.

I’m not sure what the figures tell us, or if it’s anything surprising. However, the other thing I noticed is that openness is being shaped by a discourse of care, or things related to caring, which again has female connotations.

It was in an all female panel session that the idea of hospitality as a value of openness was put forward, and that advocating for openness might best be served from a position of empathy and care. The theme of care seems to be coming widespread across the discourse of openness. Rob Farrow’s OER17 provocation mentioned openness and the ‘ethics of care’ and David Wiley has also highlighted the relationship between open education and generosity and care:

Both education and openness, in their deepest and truest senses, seem to converge on relationships of generosity and care between human beings. I think that’s important. It has implications for the future of open education, which to be true to both “open” and “education” needs significantly more intellectual and financial investment in understanding how to enable and support the development of these relationships of generosity and care.

Indeed, Martin Oliver’s BERA keynote was entitled ‘why should we care?‘ It’s not so much ‘why should we care?’ because that’s not hard to answer, rather it’s why are open educators being summoned by a discourse of care, and to what ends? Why is it that critical or emancipatory approaches to edtech are also being called for using the language of care?

In one of her sessions, Laura Czerniewicz asked “what is it we’re not seeing?” I wonder too, and I wonder where it is we need to look and from what position.

It can’t be denied, there was much delight at OER17 regarding the critical turn that openness appears to be taking. Yet, as was noted at the plenary, it’s OK to talk the critical talk, but now we’ve got to walk the critical walk. I’m re- reading Stephen Brookfield’s ‘Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher‘ at the moment (in fact an updated edition was released this week). It’s stirring stuff and quite sobering in equal measure. It talks about ‘difficult conversations’ and a ‘loss of innocence’. Therefore, given that power can operate through discourse and the disciplinary effects we impose on ourselves, it would seem that matters raised here might just apply to one, or both, of those categories.

Either way, it looks like I’ve gotten myself a bonus OER17 #IWill. That is, #IWill engage critically and earnestly with feminist approaches and concerns relating to openness and edtech. So, who’s with me?

Image: https://pixabay.com/en/heart-care-medical-care-heart-1040227/

Open, with care… and vulnerability.

My enquiry into what exactly the notion of open and openness entails seems to almost have taken me back to the starting point, the starting point not only of this particular chapter of enquiry but also to the starting point of my own initiation into open online learning and learning in the open. That’s because caring and vulnerability has been the theme taken up this week in Networked Scholars. Although I’ve already highlighted vulnerability as being, for me, a key aspect of being an open learner,

a way to engage in learning that acknowledges the vulnerability and risk that’s inherent and asks the learner to recognize and embrace this,

it was interesting to consider vulnerability yet more closely and an absolute privilege and a delight to have Bonnie Stewart share her thoughts on the topic.

In a powerful and searingly honest ‘live chat‘, Bonnie outlined the deeply personal circumstances in which her blog and was initiated, identifying the move as displaying vulnerability with agency. To me, that phrase, vulnerability with agency, seems to capture what’s at the heart of networks and learning in the open and as such, it begs the question how do educators bring learners to such a position, and by encouraging them to participate in this way what might they be asking them to assert and what might they be asking them to risk? Not easy.

It was interesting therefore to come across an article from ALT’s July newsletter entitled ‘Social media in education: ethical concerns‘ in which HE educators discussed these issues. A primary concern was that of online harassment. Of course I’ve heard of internet trolls and cyber-bullying, and I know that women are not fairly represented or treated in certain fields, but I hadn’t really stopped to consider any of this in great detail, not until now that is. Not until I was confronted as part of this week’s discussion with Kathy Sierra’s recent revelations about the harrowing experiences she’s had to endure online. Horrendous. When you’ve had nothing but positive experiences using a social networking tool such as Twitter, it’s an uncomfortable truth to realize that, for all it’s good, it’s also a hate amplifier.

The purpose of this week’s topic in #scholar14 was to consider that social media and online networks are not neutral and that, for better or worse, social media reflects society. So far, I’ve explored how online social networks function as places where scholars can agencially make themselves vulnerable but where they might also be exposed to the darker side of humanity. Thankfully, online social networks also function as places where scholars may express and experience care: support or mutuality, if you will.

open with care 1
Open with care.

As the saying goes ‘sharing is caring‘, and a culture of sharing it seems is increasingly becoming the norm online. It’s argued that open practices reflect a form of caring, and that such a culture of sharing or giving without expectation of anything in return potentially leads to the development of ‘gift economies‘ or a series of relationships that depend on meaningful collaborations and pay-it-forward interactions. I can certainly vouch for this: people sharing status updates and links, taking the time to comment on blog posts, cooperating in open online courses, collaborating in research projects and, in the case of POTCert, paying it forward. As a case in point, I think POTCert (Programme for Online Teaching) deserves a special mention, not only because it’s where I was initiated into open online learning but because it functions as a type of gift economy and exemplifies the altruistic culture of sharing outlined above. POTCert is a free, open, online class aimed at those who wish to teach online. It was was founded at MiraCosta College, San Diego and is run by run by a volunteer faculty group with its alumni ‘paying it forward’ each semester in the form of mentoring and/or moderating etc. Respect due.

Resources: in order to add more context to Bonnie Stewart’s live chat, here are the links to further resources.

Networks of Care and Vulnerability [blog] http://theory.cribchronicles.com/2014/11/04/networks-of-care-and-vulnerability/

Networked Identity: Networks of Care and Vulnerability http://www.slideshare.net/bonstewart/networks-of-care-vulnerability?utm_content=bufferf1a8c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Networked Scholars Expert Chat with Bonnie Stewart [Youtube] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6xTyDar9Jw

Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrugated_box_design

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