Open Textbooks and Social Justice: Open Educational Practices to Address Economic, Cultural and Political Injustice at the University of Cape Town
Glenda Cox, Bianca Masuku, Michelle Willmers, https://jime.open.ac.uk/articles/10.5334/jime.556/, 2020/05/13
This paper reports "on the potential of open textbooks to address social injustice in South African higher education (HE) and the practices utilised by University of Cape Town (UCT) staff to address these challenges." Like many other articles in this special issue of JIME, the study relies on Nancy Fraser’s typology to examine inequality, specifically as relates to the following dimensions: economic (maldistribution of resources); cultural (misrecognition of culture and identities); and political (misrepresentation or exclusion of voice)." It focuses on work by the The Digital Open Textbooks for Development (DOT4D) project, surveying the 13 UCT grantees in the DOT4D grants programme. Worth noting: "Open textbook authorship models are providing avenues to explore innovative, student-centred pedagogical approaches." But this runs counter to a culture of academic gatekeeping that "serves to perpetuate political misframing and exclusion."
Textbook Broke: Textbook Affordability as a Social Justice Issue
J. Jacob Jenkins, Luis A. Sánchez, Megan A. K. Schraedley, Jaime Hannans, Nitzan Navick, Jade Young, Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2020/05/13
The authors report that textbook costs are "a substantial barrier for the vast majority of students." Moreover, "those barriers were even more significant among historically underserved college students; thus, confirming textbook affordability as a redistributive justice issue, and positing OER as a potential avenue for realizing a more socially just college experience." This paper is more of an exercise in different types of statistics than anything else, since I think the conclusion has pretty much been established by now, but the authors assert that there was "a significant gap of understanding in current bodies of literature, prompting calls for more empirically-based examinations of OER through a social justice lens."
"In principle, OER should be more diverse than their commercial peers," write the authors, "However, there is no concrete evidence that OER are any better than commercial texts at addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion." So they conducted this study to test and evaluate the process of diversifying an OpenStax psychology textbook. Which is in my view a great idea. The evaluation considered the question of whether the 'belongingness' of the students was improved through the exercise. It was, according to the study. And "if diverse textbooks help marginalized students feel like they belong more and thus are more likely to stay at the university, the money that is put towards grant programs could come back to the university in the form of higher student retention rates." Oh, and the term 'Mjolnir' isn't used anywhere in the article. Probably just as well.
30 Years of Gender Inequality and Implications on Curriculum Design in Open and Distance Learning
Suzan Koseoglu, Tugba Ozturk, Hasan Ucar, Engin Karahan, Aras Bozkurt, Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2020/05/13
This article critically analyses a batch of open and distance learning (ODL) literature that is focused on gender inequality in post-secondary and higher education contexts, looking at 34 studies over 30 years. Using Therborn's scale, they determined that "Resource inequality is the most pressing issue in most of the studies (58%), followed by existential inequality (34%) and vital inequality (8%)." Factors leading to these inequalities included patriarchy, androcentric worldview, exploitation of land and people, poor economy, perceived competencies in technology-use, and transition into market economy. They note that "the affordances of ODL—such as learning anytime, anywhere, at low cost, and with flexible entry—are often posited as strategic responses to the barriers in women’s education." However, as some have argued, "“the problem is not only women’s equal education opportunity, but also their equality in the system. A patriarchal social system that ignores women’s needs will naturally not provide [their equality in the system of education].”
Open learning platforms contradict indigenous ways of knowing, according to the authors. Th platforms depict indigenous knowledge as property, and they "shift authority over knowledge away from Indigenist intellectual sovereign processes" which ties knowledge (and sometimes access to knowledge) "to the identity and authority level of the intended audience." Hence, from a mostly Australian context, this paper "explores the capacity of open digital platforms to promote social justice according to how they host, incorporate, structure and disseminate Indigenous knowledges and languages." The paper calls on educational institutions to "cede digital territory possessiveness and preference for technology-centred production models" and "let go of fixation over outcome-focused and expensive technology that undermines presence of knowledge authority and ontologies and excludes use by people on Country and in remote communities." Fair enough, but I think this eventually raises tensions within indigenous communities between individual autonomy and community governance.
Between Social Justice and Decolonisation: Exploring South African MOOC Designers’ Conceptualisations and Approaches to Addressing Injustices
Taskeen Adam, Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2020/05/13
This paper takes as its starting point one interviewee’s comment that "you could decolonise and still have an enormous amount of injustice." As a result, the author looks at what different educators mean by 'justice' as they seek to address these injustices in and through their MOOCs. The MOOC designers interviewed and cited in this paper offer some challenging opinions. For example: "a distinction needs to be made between a course that theoretically explores concepts of justice and which aims to liberate the mind, which is what Ahmed describes, and a course that is designed and implemented in a way that strives for justice, which is what Nnenne describes." As the author writes, "As both physical and virtual learning spaces become more diverse in an increasingly global world, shifting from thinking of justice-as-content to justice-as-pedagogy may be more beneficial to educators."
This paper considers the use of open annotation, for example, as enabled by tools like hypothes.is. "Social annotation, while offering opportunities for the creation of new knowledge, does also contain an inherent risk of safety for marginalized student populations," argue the authors. They offer 'critical social annotation' as a framework "for constructing social annotation assignments for the college classroom that functions to maximize the potential for equity while taking into account ways to minimize harm." This involves the creation of an equitable social space, community development and faculty intervention, and modeling critical engagement and open-ended learning. These are good suggestions for online interaction in general; Gilly Salmon's work would fit in comfortably here.
This paper notes that "it remains uncertain whether the people who need OER the most are its primary beneficiaries" and examines the 'second-level' digital divide, that is, "the disparity between groups in their ability to effectively use those digital technologies." For example, "teachers who lack the necessary competencies to search for, find, download, use, adapt, create, or upload openly licensed resources also experience this second-level digital divide when it comes to OER." But what explains this second-level divide? This paper, a large survey of more than 600 teachers worldwide, seeks to discover whether there are nation-level factors involved. Barriers are predicted, according to the study, by a culture's individualism vs. collectivism and masculinity vs. femininity. Also, they find mere translation of OERs to a local language is not sufficient; "It is also important to consider the local context and recognize and respect cultural differences."
The main focus of this paper, as I read it, is to consider the range of open educational practices which may vary from a pedagogical or content-based purpose to a purpose based in social justice. This calls to mind aspects of Friere's work, which is based on a pedagogy of liberation from oppression. The authors consider how various open open educational practices (eg., student-created content, renewable assignments, open syllabus, etc) might produce a neutral or negative, ameliorative or transformative social justice impact. Of course, such judgements depend very much on your definition of social justice, for example, whether social justice means "students of marginalized backgrounds are able to make decisions" involving only themselves, or over entire student cohorts. In this case, I think, the authors are saying both: "firstly, when used with individuals in marginalized populations, and secondly, in the long term development of students as citizens who learn how they might empower others when they are in a context to do so." For a very similar paper, see also Hodgkinson-Williams and Trotter, 2018.
Advancing Social Justice for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the UK: An Open Education Approach to Strengthening Capacity through Refugee Action’s Frontline Immigration Advice Project
Koula Charitonos, Carolina Albuerne Rodriguez, Gabi Witthaus, Carina Bossu, Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2020/05/13
This paper describes the Frontline Immigration Advice Programme (FIAP) in the U.K. developed by the charity Refugee Action. The most valuable part of the paper (for me, at least) is the discussion of the role of open education in promoting social justice (though I would not depict social justice merely as a "lens" through which to view such programs). The challenge lies in defining social justice without formalizing it into a rulebook; this paper takes a broadly Rawlsian approach, following Fraser ("social justice as both an outcome where 'all the relevant social actors… participate as peers in social life' and a process in which procedural standards are followed 'in fair and open processes of deliberation'"). The most important finding, I think, is that "developing skills and knowledge in itself is not sufficient... instead, training has to be accompanied by support to organisations to review and reorganise the work environment." (p.s. I would note that this was not an open education project, and should not have been represented as one in the title and through most of the paper). Image: Refugee Action.
MOOCs "can play a role in enhancing social inclusion for the more marginalised students," writes the author, "so long as the platforms are designed in such a way as to foster this inclusion." This paper reports on a language-learning course in Turkey and examines the factors that influence inclusion. "Social inclusion is not just about having 'access' to, for instance, open educational environments like MOOCs, but how those environments cater to the needs of the students given their diverse backgrounds and needs." The study could have been broader and more diverse - it's remarkable that all participants reported wireless 'mobile' internet access (as opposed to cable, fibre or DSL). But the identification and categorization of factors influencing inclusion is useful. Though I would have asked whether the typology of inclusions (digital, social, educational) could be mapped to the typology of presences (social, teaching, cognitive), and what influence each should have on the other.
This newsletter is sent only at the request of subscribers. If you would like to unsubscribe, Click here.
Know a friend who might enjoy this newsletter? Feel free to forward OLDaily to your colleagues. If you received this issue from a friend and would like a free subscription of your own, you can join our mailing list. Click here to subscribe.
Copyright 2020 Stephen Downes Contact: email@example.comThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.