Definitions vs. Foundational Values
At #OER17 (where the theme was the “Politics of Open”) there were several excellent, vigorous, and thoughtful discussions about borders, boundaries, and the future of the open movement. Between racist legislation that inhibits that free movement of people and xenophobic attempts to withdraw from the global community I can fully understand how definitions are often written or co-opted as instruments of exclusion.
After David Wiley first wrote about open pedagogy and I began dabbling with it, I immediately began to notice examples of practice that reflected what I saw as the spirit of openness (if I may use that phrase) but that did not meet David’s formal definition of open pedagogy. For example, when my students write (and submit for publication) op-ed pieces, they are not taking advantage of open licenses. They are, however, performing public scholarship in a way that they find meaningful, that provides a resource for their communities, and that helps them develop and refine important skills along the way (e.g., constructing a evidence-based argument, communicating complex ideas in a clear & concise fashion, etc.).
As I have said repeatedly, I firmly believe that the open movement needs to be a big tent and as welcoming as possible. This is why I support the application of any open license that the creator feels comfortable with (including the much-derided NC clause). I warmly welcome those interested in open textbooks that look, smell, and taste like those published by the Pearsons of this world. If they want to plug and play and change nothing about their pedagogy, I will gladly support them. And I will celebrate the impact of their decision on student access and learning. If others are entirely uninterested in OER but fascinated and inspired by OEP such as renewable assignments, I am also happy. Like my friend Robin DeRosa, I personally believe this is where the magic lies. However, I don’t think that being judgmental about a different approach is an effective (or internally consistent) approach for advocates of openness. The evolution of my own position from reviewer to adopter to adapter to creator to researcher to advocate is enough to stop me from erecting a minimum threshold of openness for entry in our community.
Like David notes in his recent post, however, I am concerned about using the term “open” so broadly and in so many ways that it becomes essentially meaningless. At the same time, I don’t think the term “openwashing” (fabulous, pointed, and helpful as it is) is the right one to use here, especially when you are describing the work of people who are working with the spirit of openness. Rather, I think we are talking about open diluting (credit for this term goes to the brilliant Daria Cybulska of Wikimedia UK). This is why I agree that it is good practice for people to be clear what they mean when they use the term “open.” At the same time I absolutely recognize that even though we may operationally define “open” differently, we share a common foundation that values access, agency, transparency, and quality.
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