Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

December 6, 2016
by Maha Bali
0 comments

Intentionality, Community, and When Open Isn’t Open #OER17

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This blogpost is a window into one of the important dimensions I think I’ll be focusing on during my #OER17 keynote. It’s so hard to keep all the ideas in, but I think if I scatter them around enough, no one person will know everything I’m planning to do 🙂 and I might get good feedback on different parts of it.


flickr photo shared by bambe1964 under a Creative Commons ( BY-ND ) license

So intentionality is a dimension I plan to focus on really strongly. This blogpost won’t exactly tackle the way I’m using it in the keynote, but it’s going to tackle an angle of it that’s been in conversations across Mastodon and Twitter. And this blogpost by sava singh, where she ends it with:

we’re forgetting how we’re here trying to create a more democratic space. we’re forgetting that we’re trying to make a place that is safe and accessible to all. we’re forgetting how it felt to be on the outside looking in. those of us involved in creating communities need to remember to talk about who we might inadvertently leave out, else one day, we’ll find ourselves left out. – sava singh, cliqueonomics (which sounds like a best seller book but is actually a really good blogpost – read it)

In response to that blogpost (which I linked on Mastodon into a long discussion about community, with sava’s permission, because she isn’t present in that discussion herself), Donna Lanclos wrote a series of tweets from her perspective as an anthropologist, which I found really valuable. The most important ones imho are:

 

Here is where intentionality comes in for me. I think cliques intentionally have a power dynamic that denies access, not for safety reasons (which Donna points out is a fair reason for communities to not necessarily be open – to protect the safe space). But what about the other side of this, what about people who intend to be open, intend to be permeable communities, but end up coming off as cliques? I have heard this of several spaces where I existed – rhizo14, rhizo15, vconnecting. They have been called that because of different things and the ways they come off, and because people who reside constantly in those spaces develop those inside jokes and such… and I think it’s complicated for me. I know that once someone really tries to come in, that “we” try hard to welcome them in; this, in some instances, works brilliantly, and in other instances is bombardment or too cool to help, or too insidery to be truly hospitable. And those are important things to ponder, but they are different from an intentional power dynamic; however, if your intention is to let people in, then you need to interrogate yourself, on whether your approaches to welcoming newbies works or doesn’t. In Virtually Connecting, which is both a loosely-knit network and a close-knit community sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail (and we proposed a session on this for OER17 as well). VC is a network in the sense of people who appear on hangouts occasionally or watch us or communicate with us on Twitter, but there is a close-knit community that works on Slack. Anyone can “join” and if anyone applies, we add them to Slack. But then once they are “in” Slack, some people fit in really quickly and start doing lots of things and become important members of the community (recent examples that come to mind are Ken Bauer and Christian Friedrich; others less recently are Nadine Aboulmagd and Susan Adams). Some other people join and then either because they’re not comfortable with Slack, or because we didn’t do good enough “onboarding”, don’t really end up fully engaged in the community. It’s something we’re working on.

But the other part of it is, that the way people tend to become part of the community is to first be part of the network, and even the network isn’t fully permeable to people on the outside. People on the outside don’t often know what VC is until it’s too late, or they feel wary of joining (because being livestreamed and recorded on the internet in your unplugged persona isn’t necessarily something all people embrace or are comfortable trying with strangers). I was pondering recently that when I put out an open call on Twitter to anyone at a conference  to join a VC session onsite, the people who often respond are white males with a good Twitter following. Yay inclusivity 🙂 I am guessing people who are less “dominant” are less likely to see something like that and say “hey, they actually might mean me”. So how do we fix that, really?

But I also compare this to other situations where intentionality needs to be really closely interrogated. When someone creates a gathering of people from different cultures, and they decide the meeting will take place in a bar…at 11pm, they’re automatically excluding people who don’t go to bars (me?) or mothers of young children who don’t have a baby sitter to take care of their kids (me?).

[Side note: this is a really sensitive point for me; when I went to my first US conference as an educator, a lot of the socializing happened over wine. There weren’t many Muslims or non-drinkers around and I sat through it, but then I realized this was something I really didn’t like to do;  even before that, I would sit through dinner while people drank and just tolerated it, but I really don’t like to be in that space, so I stopped going to these places. It’s everyone’s right to be at those places, but I exclude myself from it; this doesn’t mean that people who do this are intentionally excluding me, but that if people there do genuinely want to include me, they find ways (and they do and they have) to make it a welcoming space for me. Otherwise it’s a missed opportunity for me to build relationships with people I’d otherwise love to get to know in a social environment]

And the same kind of thing can be said of online communities – if a community requires someone to sing a song or create a gif or record a video to be part of the community, it’s excluding some people a priori. Now if the community itself is a community of people who are all about creating those things, that’s OK. It’s just a community other people won’t want to join and that’s fine. For example, if you’re not into having conversations with strangers, it’s OK that you won’t like vconnecting, because that’s what it is (now the strangers eventually become your friends if you do it often enough, right? but it almost never starts out that way). But if your intention is to be open to people who are different from that,then you need to go back to your values and goals and see if you are enacting them as they should be enacted. You need to interrogate how you label yourself, and consider how others label you and figure out if you’ve misunderstood, is it because you’re not following through on your ethos, or something else?

In a Virtually Connecting hangout at #OEB16, Alec Couros said that the key thing about communities is that they “care”. That resonates with me. But a lot of caring behavior is:

  • Not going to be equally distributed across a community. So if a community size is something bigger than 15 people or so, not every single pair of people will care about each other in the same way; and also not every individual will care about the community itself (as in Virtually Connecting as an entity divorced from people) to the same extent
  • Lots of caring develops in private, intimate relationships, not the semi-private space of a community; I don’t become close friends with someone by having lots of public conversations with them; we can be acquaintances and maybe even friends, but truly caring deeply about people comes from the private interactions and these aren’t something any learning analytics or such could account for – at least I hope it’s not something these systems can account for – but I use it for mine. I look at my 10 most recent DMs on Twitter and Slack and I know whom I’ve been close to this past week. When I know what’s happening with their kids, their jobs, their lives…

A recent blogpost from Catherine Cronin, based on a presentation, she wrote:

Openness can as easily exacerbate inequality as help to reduce it. We need more than good intentions. We must theorise openness and we require critical approaches to openness in order to realise the benefits in any meaningful way.

I agree completely, and a lot of my keynote will touch on this.

One really important example of this in the political world is what Christian Friedrich talked about in his #2016DML ignite talk – about how opening the door for Syrian refugees, saying there’e space for them in the higher education system in Germany doesn’t actually mean it’s easy or simple for them to truly access that system. And those are important questions to ask.
Fabio Nascimbeni (who I met via Cristina Stefanelli of OpenMed) recently shared with me an article he wrote on a critical pedagogy approach to Open, and I think that’s a really important approach to take and that many of us are heading in that direction already… so I’m hoping to find some examples of this to share during my keynote, and to invite audience members to share examples of successes and failures at being critical of open.
I’m losing the thread of my thoughts here for some reasons… and have to go to a meeting…

But here is an invitation for you: do you have stories to share of concrete examples of open education (or communities) where there was a disconnect, dissonance, between the stated intentions of members, and the actual behavior – and whether people feel it’s justifiable to consider some supposedly “open”/permeable communities/initiatives really more like “cults” or “cliques” or truly exclusive clubs in different ways that are avoidable.

There are ways that we need to recognize but to also recognize aren’t avoidable. Like use of English. Sure, it’s a power dynamic. But it’s not really avoidable. It’s the state of the world now that if you want to communicate with people from different parts of the world, it’s the common language between us all. We just need to recognize that it empowers some and not others and that it means not all voices are equally respresented or representable if we use it.

December 5, 2016
by Maha Bali
0 comments

On Learning as Noticing Everything #HortonFreire 

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This is going to be a quick one. I was chatting with my colleague at work yday about something, including how I was planning to integrate a children’s book into my OER17 keynote…and while talking about it, she told me a story to extend the idea I was working towards which then gave me an idea to add to my keynote, and I ran to get my phone and write notes on my very long Gdoc of OER17 keynote ideas. And asked her permission to use it and cite her.

It reminded me of a note I took while reading #HortonFreire

Horton, on p. 40, says, “you look for a process through which you can learn, read and learn”.

I think probably the most important skill or habit or attitude I acquired while doing my PhD is to treat EVERYTHING as an opportunity for learning and reflection. Books that were fiction. My personal life. An incident in the street. Parenting. Parenting. Parenting. Teaching, all of these things. I am sure there is a word for this (that a wise person like Kate Bowles or Frances Bell will point me to) but it’s a process where you observe/notice and almost theorize your life as you live it. That’s why i write so much. I make so many connections in my brain between things and if i don’t write them down I start to go crazy. Writing grounds me. If I read/experience something (important) then don’t write about it i can feel kinda overwhelmed and lost. I feel so blessed to have so many spaces to reflect aloud with people who can help me extend my thinking. 

People have asked me where I get creative/innovative/alternative teaching ideas from. It’s by keeping my eyes and ears open, and noticing what others do, but also making connections between what others do and my possible future teaching. And imagining different things by connecting all of those things. Often unrelated things.

I remember now how I was reading Freire’s Education for Critical Consciousness  while watching the film Luther (i multitask) and recognizing how the chaos that happened in the film is almost exactly what Freire talks about when he talks about early stages of consciousness raising resulting in chaos and that people just beginning to recognize their oppression need support in order to transfer that energy into something constructive rather than violent and destructive (I don’t remember exactly what Freire said but you get my drift). It reminded me of how a professor i had interviewed in my PhD (this was early stages of my PhD) said how “anger is good” but that as teachers we needed to help students prioritize their anger and channel it in useful ways. It also reminded me of how community-based learning experiences can frustrate students if they become more conscious of a problem over the course of a semester but then aren’t given opportunities or tools to work towards solving it.

Another connection happened between conversations on Mastodon about community, other convos on Twitter with sava singh and others (i took a blogpost sava had shared, i connected it to a convo on Mastodon and then ppl brought back to Twitter – and all that also connected to some stuff Alec Couros was saying on Vconnecting and all of that connects to a conference proposal about vconnecting we just submitted)

Anyway I will stop here 🙂

December 1, 2016
by Maha Bali
0 comments

Facebook as Algorithmic Authority over Human Judgment 

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I could make a slippery slope argument about where learning/predictive analytics could take us, but I won’t and I will just stick to the facts.

So this tiny incident happened today.


I got outrage from my Twitter friends. And we remembered worse abuses of Facebook. 

The back story? I wrote a Prof Hacker article about the importance of listening to student voices at conferences. I tried to post it on my phone’s Facebook app. I got an error message and behind it, Facebook tells me it prevented publishing what looked to be “abusive” content to it. And now the burden was ON ME to prove it wasn’t by sending to Facebook and explaining. 
Well F#@k U Facebook (now that, you can label abusive content)

But really. This is minor compared to

  1. Alec Couros stolen identity
  2. Alan Levine catfishing where Facebook wouldn’t believe him…WHEN
  3. Tressie McMillan Cottom gets blocked from her own Facebook as a fake.

I mean, really. Believing the lies and denying the truths? Oh wait. But Facebook is also the fake news promoter, so it’s all within the same ethos.

What concerns me is not the particular decisions Facebook makes (though there’s probably something fishy going on there) but the mere fact that Facebook trusts its own obscure (and clearly often just plain WRONG) algorithms over human judgment. And the burden to disprove the algorithm lies on humans.

There is nothing more ridiculous than this. Than building machines. Building algorithms. And letting them rule with such authority that we trust them above human judgment. 

An analogy with medicine is in order. Where some medical diagnosis has become so reliant on machines the doctor’s own clinical sense is dismissed. Or even the patient’s own experience. 

I will leave it there. 

November 30, 2016
by Maha Bali
11 Comments

Philosophical foundations of “open” and manifestations. Early thoughts (related to #OER17)

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Tl;dr I think “open education” has different philosophical foundations and not just different manifestations. I did a quick scan and didn’t find this idea being discussed elsewhere, but let me know if I am missing it somewhere important. 

I am building on some Habermas from my PhD thesis to work towards this idea.

Ok. So this is something I have been wanting to do for a really long time, since I finished my PhD and now with my upcoming keynote at OER17 I want to add something to it. There’s also an interplay between Laura Gogia and me which may or may not fit in with this.

I don’t have time to put all the references in this blogpost, but they’re all in myPhD thesis, which is available here

I feel EXTREMELY impostery doing this because I use Habermas a lot and haven’t read him properly. I also mention postmodernism in passing but I never feel like I know I what it is, exactly, but that seems appropriate for what I think it might be 🙂

So the thing I want to do is explore the philosophical foundations behind different kinds of educational… thought and practice, and relate those to each other. I will explain briefly how this relates to my dissertation.

I wrote recently (and Laura Gogia expanded beyond philosophy with a fantastic inforgraphic) about the different paradigms that inform educational research, from positivism to interpretivism to critical, passing through how interpretive/critical research may be more or less participatory, and how qualitative research can be done from a postpositivist, interpretive, critical or postmodern stance or something in between…. Depending on the researcher’s epistemological and ontological stance (these words still intimidate me but I think I know how to use them well if you’re not gonna ask too many questions).

Now the thing is… the 3 main paradigms align quite well with Habermas’s knowledge-constitutive interests:

  1. Technical interest in prediction and control = positivist (external idealist ontology)/postpositivist (external realist ontology – I think). The methodology and philosophy of the natural sciences, mostly, but also still used in social sciences
  2. Practical interest = interpretivist (focused on subjective experience and interpersonal understanding)
  3. Emancipatory interest = critical approaches to research that are interested in social justice. Critical research can be more or less participatory ; and can overlap methodologic with interpretive research. (my personal approach to research is somewhere between 2&3)
  4. Postmodern approaches aren’t something I understand fully and I don’t think Habermas talked about them so let’s skip those for now. But I do think that a postmodernist stance, sensibility, is relevant in today’s world and that a lot of my own thinking about certain things applies Laurel Richardson’s “crystallization” approach which is about having research and analysis highlight how shedding light on the same thing (a crystal) can produce a different story from the different angles, so that the same object of study can be multiple things at the same time. I don’t know if I am explaining this clearly… but I think you don’t need to necessarily call it postmodernist to believe that research and analysis can produce this. If your stance is 2 or 3 (not so much of it’s 1)

It is important to note how different methodologies look when applied to different philosophical stances and how different ways of analyzing data differs (e.g. content analysis more postpositivist; thematic analysis more interpretivist)

Ok. Moving on, when I learned about curriculum theory I saw the same pattern emerging as follows:

  1. Curriculum as product (focus on learning outcomes) = technical interest. There is also curriculum as content which is different but shares a lot of the (false) sense of value-neutrality of product curriculum so are often grouped together
  2. Curriculum as process (focus on interactions in the class) = practical interest
  3. Curriculum as praxis (focus on social justice as topic and process) = emancipatory interest
  4. Critical curriculum in context (as #3 but with recognition of how micropower in a class/institution interplay with broader macropower in the world). I mention this as a kind of postmodern/poststructuralist thinking. But don’t hold me to it.

It is obvious, then, that different ways of teaching can show a teacher’s philosophical stance, and that giving someone a teaching strategy that goes against their philosophy is pretty useless. At a recent workshop a faculty member said she realized what we were really suggesting was a shift in mindset towards the purpose of assessment, not just strategies. But I digres

Ok. Now in my thesis I apply curriculum theory to AUC’s liberal arts curriculum (I should write an article about that. But later). But also importantly, I found a reference (Johnson and Morris 2010) that makes a great connection between different conceptions of critical thinking and conceptions of citizenship. And Habermas. Here goes

  1. Technical understanding of Critical thinking = teaching informal logic and fallacies = approach to citizenship that is more about following rules
  2. Practical understanding of critical thinking = more holistic conception of critical thinking in context (i think the Johnson and Morris article skips #2 altogether- I should check
  3. Emancipatory understanding of critical thinking closer to Freirian critical pedagogy = critical citizenship as resistance and struggle for social justice

Ok now… this is all already in my thesis and scattered somehow. I am unsure why I never actually made a direct link (possibly too neat?) to say something like:

  1. If you conceive of Critical thinking as informal logic and fallacies you can test in positivist ways (standardized tests) and you can hope to get citizens who solve little problems but do not question the status quo too radically
  2. (blank)
  3. If you conceive of critical thinking as an emancipatory way of thinking and action then you won’t try to measure it with some decontextualized test, and your pedagogy would hopefully nurture citizens who question and resist and promote social justice

But anyway.

This is all well and good for the above. But it isn’t exactly what I am trying to get at with this post. What I want to get at with this post is that I think “open education” has different philosophical foundations and not just different manifestations. Bear with me.

I co-authored a book chapter w Shyam Sharma (out soon) superimposing curriculum theory onto MOOCs. We talked about how much of xMOOCing (and arguably Khan Academy and much OER) centers on “content” as central to curriculum/learning (and possibly specific pre-defined learning outcomes)…whereas a process-oriented view of curriculum would mean a MOOC would be designed more like a cMOOC, prioritizing interpersonal networked learning processes rather than any particular content. A MOOC could be any combination of these stances, and it would have an emancipatory stance if its topic and approach had social justice and critique of status quo as a goal (example for me is #edcmooc and some iterations of #moocmooc). Nothing is purely one or the other…but you get my drift? A postmodern take would probably be something like a rhizo MOOC (because it’s not necessarily critical but it’s definitely a different something for different people depending on where they’re standing, like the crystal!)

So now I want to shift this idea beyond the MOOC and onto open education and I want to consider multiple dimensions, ok? So it wouldn’t be just a spectrum on one dimension of technical vs practical vs emancipatory interest. But it would also be about different manifestations. I will try to create a table now and see where it gets me.

Early draft. I don’t know if it will copy onto WordPress! It doesn’t look great (i am on my phone and had to do lots of html editing already, so forgive me please – and if you want to comment on the gdoc version, here is the link – thanks @kavubob and thanks also @cogdog @kylejohnson @RebusComminity for helping w table – will make better use of your help tomorrow when on a PC).

Open edu/interest or paradigm

Technical

Practical

Emancipatory

Postmodern

Research

Positivst/postpositivist

Interpretivist/

Constructivist

Critical

?

Curriculum

Focus on (measurable) learning outcomes

Focus on process of learning in class

Focus on process of promoting social justice

E.g. Interplay between macro and micro power and social justice

MOOC

xMOOC with focus on instructor-provided content/outcomes and MCQs

cMOOC with focus on process of networked learning  and flexible assessment

Any type of MOOC with social justice topic and process (more c than x)

Rhizo

Open dissertation (inspired by recent VC hangout)

End product open access

Sharing end product

Process of thinking open,interactive, networked

Final product accessible and remixable

Critique as part of dissertation focus. Making it open for social justice reasons for self and others

Open access Publishing approach

Publishing end product of work publicly. Enhance visibility and citation count and metrics

Advocate for open. Making process of scholarship itself open, narrating work,enhancing remixability of work, responding openly to others (#SelfOER)

Cautious advocate for open. Social justice imperative to make one’s scholarship accessible ; done while recognizing limitations of accessibility.

Recognizing the ways in which open can empower and disempower simultaneously

Openness focus

Products like MOOCs, creation and use of OERs, OA papers

Processes like networked scholarship, open narration of work, open pedagogy

More critical use of processes of networked scholarship and open pedagogy; more critical approach towards open products like OERs and MOOCs

November 29, 2016
by Maha Bali
0 comments

Notes from #HortonFreire

Reading Time: 4 minutes

So I finally found my annotated version of Horton+Freire! Yay! And I laughed because I had so many passages highlighted that pretty much say what I wrote in my previous post “We Make the Book by Reading” without realizing they related to the book. Except maybe it explains why so many people are writing about reading now 😉 given it’s in the book and all!
So now…some notes from reading now and reflecting on previous highlights. 

On Personal Perspectives 

On p. 10, Myles Horton talks about two things that are really important for me in my open education journey and in my deep preference for (auto)ethnographic research. He recognizes that as an individual he can only tell a story from his own perspective and he worries that it might give an impression that other perspectives don’t exist. Collaborative Autoethnography sort of tries to go beyond that, but it’s also limiting because you’re unlikely to conduct a collaborative project with people who are in complete discord at the time. So some perspectives will still get left out.

What always concerns me is if my voice because it is so loud becomes seen as representing a group of people like me (Egyptian, Arab, Muslim, global South. Whatever). People know, intellectually, that this should not be the case. But I think it’s unconscious. 

Right after this, Horton talks about the fact that one’s ideas are “constantly changing and should change and that I’m as proud of my inconsistencies as I am of my consistencies” (p. 10, emphasis in original). This is one of the areas where openness and public scholarship can be wonderful. Unlike peer-reviewed articles that often take months to review and then publish. I have sometimes ALREADY changed my mind by the time a peer-reviewed article has come out! With non-peer-reviewed stuff, I can modify and link and respond and it’s dynamic on my blog or Twitter or wherever. There’s always the issue of whether people stick to your old ideas or if they get the updated ones. I always think of Edward Said who is famous for Orientalism, but who has revised ideas on the topic that are less widely read/cited (in Culture and Imperialsim, for example). It is only normal that we are continually learning and experiencing new things that make us modify our thinking and sometimes these changes can be drastic. Sometimes incremental. Our perspectives are also often contextual. Horton refers to Lynd saying “I’m a different person in different situations”. There is an identity activity I use sometimes in workshops that helps people unpack that idea. And become more cognizant of how they choose to represent themselves in different contexts.

I am now skipping over to the section on reading

“Reading has to be a loving event” (Freire, p. 26)

When I wrote “we make the book by reading” I meant what Freire is saying on p. 27 “reading is also an act of beauty because it has to do with the reader rewriting the text. It’s an aesthetical event”. This “beauty in the very act of reading” and feelings of happiness Freire describes and I feel…those are things I hope to help my child develop as she now decodes the technicalities of reading – I hope she never loses her current love of books.

I also like the part about selectivity in reading. I still remember the day in my teens when I suddenly realized I don’t *have* to finish reading a particular book because I wasn’t enjoying it. It was a fiction book I was reading for pleasure. And I really wasn’t finding pleasure. It was hard for me to do. But it became easier with time. I also discovered i read different things at different speeds and for different moods. So some books i devour in one sitting and i don’t sleep. Other books i dip in and out of. Others I skim and scavenge for gems then forget. Others i keep going back to. 

I noticed something Adam Croom mentioned about spending years (during graduate studies, i think?) not reading fiction. I never stopped reading fiction and my fiction reading OFTEN influenced my thinking and writing for my dissertation and elsewhere. On p. 33 Horton says “Sometimes I get my best ideas from something that has nothing to do with mt work” and that’s the case for me. Including children’s books and cartoons as those are a big part of my life now!

Now another thing in this chapter that resonates very much is the part where Freire says (p. 31) “Reading of books makes sense for me to the extent that books have to do with this reading of reality”. What many people tend not to understand is why I resist reading or getting deep into some Western theory – it’s sometimes that it truly doesn’t resonate with my reality or doesn’t help me understand it better… They probably think lots of ideas as universal, but that’s the privilege talking. There are words, simply words, that exist in my language that don’t exist in English. And those words make all the difference in the way humans perceive and express their own experience. This word, مظلوم is the object version of ظلم which means injustice. Mazloum (مظلوم) is the person against whom injustice has been committed. It is a word with the depth of “oppressed” (مضطهد) but not speaking of oppression (that’s a different word in Arabic – اضطهاد). The word mazloum refers to an instance whereas the word oppressed refers to systematic/structural injustice. But Mazloum is no less important, is a heavy word in Arabic. And the existence of the word changes your perspective on the world.

On writing for the public

I have for some time believed that “public/open scholarship” isn’t about just making our ideas/writing public and technically accesssible, but more importantly in making it accessible as in understandable to a lay (within reason) audience! I hate how academia trains us to NOT be that. I love Freire’s point (p. 32) “writing beautifully does not mean scientific weakness. It is, on the contrary, a duty we have.”

Ok. I am gonna stop now. I don’t know if I had more highlights from before (pirated pdf image version on Notability) but this post is long enough as if is 🙂

 Note: thanks again to Bryan Alexander for starting this book as part of his bookclub. More info here 

November 29, 2016
by Maha Bali
2 Comments

Is There Power Without English? 

Reading Time: 1 minutes

A lot of things have me thinking about this question now. Particularly a presentation I am doing tomorrow as part of an OpenMed event in Cairo. So much discourse around self-directed, lifelong, autonomous learning is dependent on learners using the internet, and the majority of content online (especially of course academic content) is in English. 

  • Is developing more Open Educational Resources (OERs) in different languages or translating OERs a solution? But who decides which content gets translated/adapted? 
  • What are the cultural and political values behind English-language content? Is a different solution for non-Anglo people (like me) to create English-languge content from a non-Anglo perspective? Remember how different 1973 war looks in Arabic Wikipedia vs English Wikipedia  

The question for me, most fundamentally is: if you had a limited amount of money to empower people (teachers, learners) to become lifelong learners using digital possibilities, would you invest more money in teaching them English, or more money creating Arabic content? (speaking about my own region now)

How about going one better: invest in teaching them English ; ask them to use that learning to create Arabic content. Two birds with one stone.

Hmmm
Added later: Robin DeRosa shared this, so I thought I would add it

November 29, 2016
by Maha Bali
4 Comments

We Make the Book by Reading: my pre #HortonFreire book club post

Reading Time: 3 minutes

It is so appropriate that I start contributing substantively to this discussion by linking to a blogpost by (insert adjectives of warmth and love and admiration) Kate Bowles as she is the person who first linked me to my (illegal) copy of the book We Make the Road by Walking by Horton/Freire,  currently being read online led by Bryan Alexander (have been wanting to contribute since I heard of it coz i LOVE THAT BOOK. I just couldn’t find the version with my notes and highlights today so I downloaded a new copy and won’t include specific reflections on the book in this post).

The reason Kate’s post encouraged me to write is that she started her post by calling herself a terrible reader (which I am sure she isn’t… But I assume she means she is a different kind of reader? Will come back to this). She also talks about something I share with her – she dislikes assigning readings in her classes (as do I and we have both seen great learning come out of this pedagogical approach of encouraging students to find their own readings and share – we all learn that way).

So I don’t know for sure what Kate means by being a terrible reader. I am a terrible reader in the sense that I love reading so much and I read a heck of a lot (books. Articles, magazines, blogs, signs, whatever! Digital or physical, ownee borrowed or pirated – i don’t care)…but I resist reading what someone else compels me to read if I don’t feel convinced I should read it (I resisted reading the original Marx and Habermas and only read some Foucault and Derrida; I still won’t read Deleuze and Guttari) but persist in what I find most interesting and compelling and relevant. I also sometimes read the same thing over and over deeply. Other times skim. And with books, I haven’t read a book linearly since I finished my PhD. I find parts that interest me and read those and reflect on them. So for the Horton Freire book I say I love it but I have only read parts of it before. I probably won’t stick to anyone’s schedule but I will probably read other people’s posts (interested already in how others are describing experiences of teaching their kids to read as I struggle with this myself – seeing how she is so interested in reading but still doesn’t “get” it and how some other kids do while her school seems a little slow.. Wondering if she will be an advanced reader the way I was as a kid and if she will grow to love it not be a technical reader….that matters so much to me and scares me)

When I say “we make the book by reading” it’s similar to “we make the road by Walking”. Because you don’t literally make the road. Someone has actually made the road (see Kate’s story of the Toad). Just like someone has already written the book, before you read it. The practice of walking the road yourself modifies the experience of the road than that which was intended by the creator, just as our practice of reading (alone or together in a book club or via hypothes.is annotation for example) modifies what the book is and means for us. And continuing with Kate’s example about the new open source social network Mastodon…we make our networks by connecting, even though someone else wrote the actual code to make the network. The difference, i think, is that with an open source Social network, there is potential to make (or ask someone who knows how to code) the network AND use it to connect. And in a class, you can literally make the (untext) book as Laura Gibbs does with her students; as Kate and I do with having students curate their own readings. 

For my next post.. I plan to select some of my favorite parts of Horton/Freire from a previous reading a long time ago. And maybe reflect on what others have been posting so far… Social reading, as I was telling Bryan Alexander the other day, is so valuable to me because I spent most of my PhD in such a lonely space where no one around me could carry a conversation about the stuff I was reading. There was no Graduate School of Education for most of it, American educated ppl talked differently about research than my UK university, and most people in my immediate surrounding didn’t have PhDs or academic experience in social sciences. And even some years were even more isolated from academia living abroad with husband (joining non-academic book clubs which were v cool) or at home on maternity leave. Never mind 🙂 we got social, distributed book clubs now!

November 27, 2016
by Maha Bali
2 Comments

Audience inshallah. Post 2 of my #OER17 Journey

Reading Time: 4 minutes

So this is my second post reflecting on and preparing for my upcoming keynote at oer17 inshallah. (link to first post here).

So I think one key thing in preparing this keynote is to learn about and know my audience, and also to interact with them before, during and after the keynote, and I have a few thoughts to share on this… And I would love feedback 

  1. I do not want to repeat orally everything I have written before about open edu. I don’t want to bore people that way. And yet, I cannot assume that everyone in the audience already knows me, my stuff, and even those who know me may not have read everything I have written (given how often I write, it’s actually pretty impossible anyone has read everything I have written everywhere.. That would be nuts). So here is my question to you: of all that I have written about open..which ideas/articles do you consider “musts” where I am really adding value in the field? I have thoughts on this, obviously, and I might even make the keynote itself adjustable and get audience feedback as I go along and have other stuff available online in case I don’t get to it all. Which of my ideas/articles would you like me to expand on? (disclaimer: I will mention vconnecting and self OER in the presentation but they won’t be central to it)
  2. There will be many in the audience with much more experience with OERs than I. Many who have been involved in OER policy. But they invited me to do this keynote knowing that I have a different experience and take on open. I considered reading up on all of that. Then realized those who know this stuff already know it. I am not standing there to tell them what they know. I am there to talk about what I know. What I care about. 
  3. Having said the above doesn’t mean I don’t care about audience. I care about how my presence can benefit them, but not about what they know that I can’t learn about fast enough to be helpful. So I am not there to talk about the UK context (duh).
  4. If I am there in person, I want to do two things. I want to be able to touch people directly. I don’t want to stand up on stage. I want to walk and look people in the eye and shake their hand during my keynote. And at the same time, I want to be as interactive as possible with the virtual audience and not just in-person. This may turn out to be more difficult than I am imagining and I haven’t tweaked it fully yet. I have done the walk with mic thing and talking to people before very successfully in a very conservative environment here in Cairo (i wasn’t keynote though). 
  5. I want to be sure people feel they can approach me to chat beyond the keynote itself. They won’t find me at the hotel bar or at a conference dinner. But pretty much anywhere else I would love for people to talk to me. I saw at ALTC moments where Jonathan Worth and Catherine Cronin were standing alone and I was wondering how it was that people left them alone. Out of politeness? Out of intimidation? I did see people walk up to me to say hi during ALTC. So I know people do it 😉 I just hope that I get these one on one opportunities to whisper and chat with people. This seems unrelated to the keynote itself,  but it’s related in my mind
  6. I hope to have a Twitter chat or such before the keynote… Or maybe by that time it would be a Mastodon chat. You can’t tell with these things 
  7. I wonder if across the (multidimensional) spectrum/domain of open educators, the philosophies and reasons why people are at OER17 will differ to the extent that I may be addressing a very niche audience who are my Twitter and vconnecting peeps and missing out on some people doing really good work but who are not visible or are differently present in our space. If you know something about the kinds of people I should expect to meet at OER17… Let me know a little of what to expect 🙂
  8. I am worried because I want to deliver a strong bu gentle message. So far, I have some ideas worked out… I just don’t know if building it all throughout the keynote will manage to get this heard without being offensive. I think I have learned to be critical without always making people defensive. But not all people actually talk to me. It’s possible those who get offended just don’t talk to me in the first place (or any more).

 A recent post by Helen Beetham made me really conscious of people in the audience whose work may be underrecognized…and as someone whose work in the past has been such, i have gotten GOOD at visibility (especially online) and i try really hard to amplify good work of others. I don’t know yet how to ensure this in my keynote (that no credit/attribution is lost) or if it is possible to achieve 100% but I will try.

      I am gonna stop here….this is not the end of it…looking forward to any feedback anyone can give to questions 1 and 7 above! Thanks!

      November 21, 2016
      by Maha Bali
      1 Comment

      Sharing/Ownership ≠ Empowerment

      Reading Time: 3 minutes

      This is a quick post because I gotta go. But it is an important post. 

      I notice a lot of discourse that privileges sharing or ownership or even participation as if any or all of these are automatically empowering. They aren’t. Like, not at all.

      For example:

      1. Giving students a domain of their own, freedom to do whatever they wish with it, control who sees what… That isn’t automatically empowering. It privileges the tech savvy (Kate Bowles made this point once, I believe) and the person who risks little by sharing of themselves. It privileges particular forms of expression that are more potentially fraught for women and minorities. It may be less fraught than social media owned by corporations and definitely has benefits beyond university-surveiled LMS. But it still carries risks and privileges some over others 
      2. Ownership doesn’t make someone capable of handling something. If we give students ownership over their learning path (something I believe we should do) we need to recognize that different learners are differently equipped for this responsibility. And while some have the social/cultural capital to embrace this autonomy, others may feel lost (e.g. first generation college students in US; or people coming from very authoritative education systems in Egypt). What it means is that “letting go” isn’t power-free. It means learners may be influenced by external power forces outside the educational situation. Influence by more dominant peers. By parents. By their own expectations of what they think they should want rather than what they do want. Agency without consciousness-raising and support may result in nothing at all and be disempowering altogether. 
      3. Sharing. People are always talking about importance of nurturing and encouraging student voice,  for students to share their stories. Well guess what? In a context of being a minority, someone may not find it empowering to share a story and make themselves vulnerable. Why would they,  when risk to themselves is higher than risk to e.g. teachers or other students of more dominant backgrounds? I talked during an OpenEd16 session about possibility of using semi-fictional narrative to reduce burden of vulnerability on individuals 
      4. Sharing as broadcasting is one thing that perpetuates the status quo and reproduces dominant culture and voice.
      5. Sharing as working together, as participation, does not necessarily solve all problems. Power dynamics occur between learners. We know this. It’s obvious. Personality alone is a factor, but add to that how macro power dynamics play out in the micropower dynamics of a classroom or small group and you have a situation of again…reproduction of inequality 
      6. We cannot assume agency. And we cannot assume lack of it. We cannot assume minorities will manage without support, nor can we assume they are incapable. We also cannot assume the dominant members of a group (in all the intersectionality of each person) will recognize the complexity of making participation as equitable as possible. 
      7. Consciousness-raising is for both the empowered and the disempowered 
      8. Intersectionality can make someone use the area where they are subaltern (e.g. gender) to fight back and try to make room for their voices (yay empowerment?) while inadvertently silencing others who are minorities in different ways (e.g. male of color).

      This is all pretty self-evident imho. But our discourses often don’t reflect the complexity of this and we cheer and celebrate when we use terms like ownership, sharing, participation, agency. No. Adding one student to a committee with 5 faculty and 2 administrators isn’t empowering. Creating a committee of 6 students isn’t empowering. Emancipation is much harder work and it’s a long process that will always need to be reevaluated 

      November 21, 2016
      by Maha Bali
      1 Comment

      Sharing/Ownership ≠ Empowerment

      Reading Time: 3 minutes

      This is a quick post because I gotta go. But it is an important post. 

      I notice a lot of discourse that privileges sharing or ownership or even participation as if any or all of these are automatically empowering. They aren’t. Like, not at all.

      For example:

      1. Giving students a domain of their own, freedom to do whatever they wish with it, control who sees what… That isn’t automatically empowering. It privileges the tech savvy (Kate Bowles made this point once, I believe) and the person who risks little by sharing of themselves. It privileges particular forms of expression that are more potentially fraught for women and minorities. It may be less fraught than social media owned by corporations and definitely has benefits beyond university-surveiled LMS. But it still carries risks and privileges some over others 
      2. Ownership doesn’t make someone capable of handling something. If we give students ownership over their learning path (something I believe we should do) we need to recognize that different learners are differently equipped for this responsibility. And while some have the social/cultural capital to embrace this autonomy, others may feel lost (e.g. first generation college students in US; or people coming from very authoritative education systems in Egypt). What it means is that “letting go” isn’t power-free. It means learners may be influenced by external power forces outside the educational situation. Influence by more dominant peers. By parents. By their own expectations of what they think they should want rather than what they do want. Agency without consciousness-raising and support may result in nothing at all and be disempowering altogether. 
      3. Sharing. People are always talking about importance of nurturing and encouraging student voice,  for students to share their stories. Well guess what? In a context of being a minority, someone may not find it empowering to share a story and make themselves vulnerable. Why would they,  when risk to themselves is higher than risk to e.g. teachers or other students of more dominant backgrounds? I talked during an OpenEd16 session about possibility of using semi-fictional narrative to reduce burden of vulnerability on individuals 
      4. Sharing as broadcasting is one thing that perpetuates the status quo and reproduces dominant culture and voice.
      5. Sharing as working together, as participation, does not necessarily solve all problems. Power dynamics occur between learners. We know this. It’s obvious. Personality alone is a factor, but add to that how macro power dynamics play out in the micropower dynamics of a classroom or small group and you have a situation of again…reproduction of inequality 
      6. We cannot assume agency. And we cannot assume lack of it. We cannot assume minorities will manage without support, nor can we assume they are incapable. We also cannot assume the dominant members of a group (in all the intersectionality of each person) will recognize the complexity of making participation as equitable as possible. 
      7. Consciousness-raising is for both the empowered and the disempowered 
      8. Intersectionality can make someone use the area where they are subaltern (e.g. gender) to fight back and try to make room for their voices (yay empowerment?) while inadvertently silencing others who are minorities in different ways (e.g. male of color).

      This is all pretty self-evident imho. But our discourses often don’t reflect the complexity of this and we cheer and celebrate when we use terms like ownership, sharing, participation, agency. No. Adding one student to a committee with 5 faculty and 2 administrators isn’t empowering. Creating a committee of 6 students isn’t empowering. Emancipation is much harder work and it’s a long process that will always need to be reevaluated 

      Follow

      Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

      Join other followers: