Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

March 7, 2017
by Maha Bali
1 Comment

Perspectives on #OpenAccess During #OpenLearning17 hangout

Reading Time: 1 minutes

We just ended the first of two #OpenLearning17 hangouts, with Frances Bell, Chris Gilliard, Chris Friend and surprise guest, Peter Suber, whose book on Open Access we’ve been reading this week. The hangout was co-facilitated by Sue Erickson and myself, and I also invited folks from the community to participate, so Amy Nelson and Jim Luke joined us and enriched the discussion further. When putting together the guest list for this, I thought of reaching out to people with diverse approaches to openness, and I think while we all have a similar orientation towards openness and social justice, we definitely took different approaches to it in the hangout. From Chris Friend talking about openness in the Hybrid Pedagogy review process, to Frances Bell providing her perspective on open access over time, and offering critical questions (what Frances has to offer is so multi-faceted it’s difficult to summarize, honestly), and Chris Gilliard talking about digital redlining – and Peter Suber answering questions on different topics, but particularly giving his views on Gold Open Access that involves Article Processing Charges. There were some great questions from Twitter and within the hangout and some useful resources/links shared to the #OpenLearning17 hashtag on Twitter (Storify here). To watch the hangout:

The second hangout is planned for Thursday March 9th at 1pm South Africa time (6am EST) and will be a Virtually Connecting session from #OEGlobal (in Cape Town) with Laura Czerniewicz, Catherine Cronin, Rajiv Jhangiani and Caroline Kuhn. That session will be livestreamed and recorded also, and the link to watch is below:

See you around!

March 6, 2017
by Maha Bali

Categories Beyond Gold and Green #OpenAccess

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In case you don’t know, we’re reading Peter Suber’s book Open Access this week as part of #OpenLearning17 cMOOC week 7 and focusing mainly on chapter one for now. I’m co-facilitating the week w the wonderful Sue Erickson and there are a variety of activities throughout the week.

(updates to the book can be found here)

So I am a huuuuuge fan of open access from both an altruistic standpoint (I think all scholars should have equal access to published work) and a selfish standpoint (I want people to be able to read and cite my work). It also angers me that authors, editors, reviewers give free labor to publishers, then publishers sell it back to us through our libraries at very high subscription rates. Suber’s chapter one does a great job of outlining the justification for open access for scholars, and how, since we don’t make money out of our peer-reviewed scholarship anyway we have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by going OA.

I am constantly frustrated by people who make assumptions about OA being lower quality and have no idea, to this day, how this irrational belief can be changed. Rationality doesn’t work for confirmation bias.

Anyway. My questions here relate to the usage of the terms gold and green OA (definitions by Suber here). I think the two terms have sub-categories and am wondering what the concise terminologies for those are.

Briefly: gold OA is OA granted by a journal so that if you’re on the journal website, you click the article, and it’s available to you for free (usually also w/o password or such). But within that category, there are the following sub-categories of gold OA (also different business models, but I am looking at it from an author perspective here regardless of underlying business model)

  1. A journal that is entirely OA and which doesn’t charge authors fees
  2. A journal that is entirely OA but which charges authors fees (even if those fees get waived for “member” institutions, this discriminates against people who aren’t affiliated or not affiliated w particular institutions).
  3. A journal that is NOT OA, but which allows authors to pay APCs (Article Processing Fees) in order to make their own article OA (this is usually not really paid by authors themselves but via the funders of their research). I have a problem with this model, and judging from Twitter yday, other people do, too. Because it basically rewards subscription-based journals for making our unpaid work open access. I understand why someone would be want to do it – to choose a prestigious journal better for their career but still publish OA. I just don’t understand why we tolerate this model. Even when there are waivers or reduced for developing countries (good, but not enough imho – because what about unaffiliated authors in developed countries?)

Green OA is based on archiving copies of an article personal or institutional repositories or such. But there are sub-categories of that:

  1. Immediate or after a time embargo?
  2. Using the reviewed manuscript or an earlier version?
  3. On a personal repository (harder for Google and others to find) or institutional repository or something like Academia or Research gate (easier for people and Google to find)

In the past, I have published with subscription journals that allow immediate self-archiving on personal repository and after an embargo period, the option to use institutional repositories.

Sherpa Romeo is a great resource for learning about open access policies of subscription journals:

Also check out Sparca Open’s
useful resource for evaluation “how open is it?”

Again, check out the activities and resources for #OpenLearning17 cMOOC week 7

March 4, 2017
by Maha Bali

The Politics of Naming Minorities 

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In response to my recent post “Ask Me My Race ONE More Time!” I got these tweets:

So here are a few ways (I am sure someone wrote about this more extensively before) I notice identity naming being used, or not, for political purposes:

  1. When a criminal commits a crime, and they are Muslim, in the West, their Muslim-ness becomes a key aspect of their identity, regardless of whether they explicitly claimed to commit the crime in the name of Islam or not. I wonder if altogether particular crimes are automatically suspected to have been committed by Muslims? In any case, the West are hyperaware of this category of people, but in forms, fail to provide space for people who are Muslim and of non-white/black race/ethnicity (I would argue a lot of Muslims are Arab or Pakistani/Afghan or such – where are those categories?)
  2. Calling a population “indigenous” implies their historical right to land. A recent Avaaz call referred to Palestinians as “indigenous”. This is a very political (and probably controversial?) choice, as I am assuming Israel is founded on the historical right of Jewish people to this land based on ancestors born there. (I have yet to understand how this is the Palestinians’ fault – it seems to me like a parallel to punishing present-day Germans for the crimes of the Holocaust. Oh wait. They punished the Palestinians for the crimes of the Holocaust.!?!? I am sure I don’t have a full grasp of this situation, and that I grew up supporting one side of this conflict, so I don’t claim to be unbiased). 
  3. While studying my PhD and learning about dimensions of critical pedagogy such as racism, sexism, etc., I was interested in discovering postcolonialism as a lens of critical social science, but that its -ism denoted a lens rather than a form of discriminatory practices. Why is there anti-Semitism (which implies discriminatory practice) but Islamophobia (which denotes a fear that may or may not be justified). I feel that as long as we use the term Islamophobia instead of anti-Muslim behavior, it will seem that we don’t consider Islamophobia to be unjustified. Same applies for homophobia. Sure, an irrational fear of gay people, but calling it a phobia makes it seem like the person can’t help themselves, like it’s a mental state beyond their control, rather than a conscious choice to view a category of humans as “less”. Because a phobia is a “disorder” beyond the person’s control, a fear. When in reality, a better characterization of Islamophobia and homophobia is an irrational hatred beyond fear which is heavily influenced by society and media and therefore preventable. Psychiatric understanding of phobias is they’re sometimes triggered by a situation (I know they aren’t always) and sometimes treated by exposure to the source of fear. Does anyone actually TRY to “treat” Islamophobia or homophobia by exposure? Not in any medical sense, but this is always what I have called for. The best way for someone to not fear the “other” irrationally is to have firsthand experience, in-depth,with people from that cultural group. Because in society as a whole, most Muslim and gay people aren’t harmful to anyone and are mostly good people.(sorry to categorize these two together specifically, knowing they are sooo contextually different – it just so happens they both are called phobias, and they are both mostly unjustified for different reasons – I don’t actually know why, beyond religious intolerance, people have homophobia; I have more empathy for Islamophobia for people who know no Muslims beyond media on terrorism). I also think the term phobia hides the political power people harboring this hatred based on fear have. Homophobia isn’t a personal problem – it’s a problem that causes people to infringe on the rights of others. So rather than homophobia, we should call it anti-LGBTQ rights, or something. 

I may be off-base here. What do you think? 

March 2, 2017
by Maha Bali


Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Caucasian race (also Caucasoid,[1] or Europid[2]) is a grouping of human beings historically regarded as a biological taxon, including some or all of the populations of EuropeNorth Africa, the Horn of AfricaWestern AsiaCentral Asia and South Asia.[3] 

That was from Wikipedia. Within the Caucasian race, there are 3 different subgroups apparently: Aryan, Semitic and Hamitic (the latter being most North Africans and Arabs in general).

“I think most people associate race with biology and ethnicity with culture. It’s important to stress the culture and language part of it. Ethnicity isn’t just a question of affiliation; it’s also a question of choice. It’s also a question of group membership. And it’s usually associated with a geographic region. It’s also often confused or conflated with nationality, but that’s not the same thing.” – John Cheng

I don’t know if I have ever written about this before, but I hate filling the race/ethnicity field and most Egyptians find them confusing if not completely frustrating.

We know. We know you see us as people of color. And I don’t mind that I’m browner than you. Really. I don’t MIND. I just mind that my category of brownness has no space in your f#@ng forms!

Especially UK forms.

I am not F#%g white British or white Irish or White F#*g “other”.

I am not Asian. I am from Africa.

I am not black. But I am from Africa. What do you want? No, not  black Caribbean either. 

What do you waaaaant?

And so I am an othered other. I always then have to explain what f#*g other I am. So I have to either say Caucasian…Or sometimes I just get annoyed and say Arab or Egyptian which technically aren’t races, but what the heck, you know? Ethnicities? I suppose Arab would be an ethnicity like Hispanic? Except it’s never on any f#@g forms. 

I have seen the expression BAME (Black/brown, Asian, Middle Eastern I think it stands for). So if it exists, why isn’t there a category for Indian Asians (whose race I don’t know but who aren’t white or black or yellow so i don’t know) or for Arab “types”?

Don’t even get me started on mixed race. Really don’t. I understand why you need those categories. Kinda. But what I cannot understand is why, to this day, I have no box to tick on your forms, even though I am clearly a significant enough category within your population, BRITAIN. 

Thank you

March 2, 2017
by Maha Bali

Open as a Need? #oer17

Reading Time: 5 minutes

One of the struggles I face as a developing critical pedagogue is addressing intersectionality fairly in the complex ways it deserves to be adddresse. So, where a certain situation calls for me to look at something like MOOCs with a critical eye on their limitations, other situations require me to recognize their potential. Often for the same constituencies. For example, I have written something with Patrice Prusko (yet to be published) related to potential empowerment of women via MOOCs, even while recognizing that in order for women to find something like MOOCs empowering, other factors need to fall into place (e.g. the woman to have some digital literacy, her own device to use to connect to a sufficiently suitable Internet connection, some free time away from household responsibilities which she can dedicate to learning). And while many of these factors don’t apply to many Arab women, when they do fall into place, their is so much potential. And then open education can offer something the woman would otherwise not have had access to in a paid or offline manner.

I remember once seeing a funny graphic that depicted Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs as having “wifi” at the bottom, as the most basic need. I think I made fun and made my own graphic at the time (somewhere on this blog or on Twitter) where I showed how much I disagree w Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I often sacrifice sleep and food in order to fulfill my social and self-actualization needs. Very often. I also think about a recent time when my mom was unwell and I of course sacrificed everything for love. I didn’t think of any of my own physical needs, and only my child’s most basic needs. It’s very circumstantial and complex, how our needs stack up against each other. I should probably read up on how he came up with his list and how he ordered them. Was it based on research? How diverse were his subjects?

I was also recently reading a thesis where I challenged the student in her use of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I don’t remember details, but I do remember I was making a point about how African Americans didn’t feel safe in America in the way white Americans felt, as a group, on average. In terms of trust of the government, I think my point was. But they don’t let this lack of feeling of safety necessarily stop them from addressing their other needs – or they seek a sense of safety in other ways.

But let me get back to the title of this post. Something slightly similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is something Stephen Covey wrote about in his book First Things First. That each of us set our life goals on 4 dimensions: “live, love, learn, and leave a legacy”.

Those correspond pretty roughly to Maslow’s hierarchy (Wikipedia mentions Maslow later added curiosity and self-transcendence which i never saw firsthand), but Covey talks explicitly about how our priorities shift between them in dynamic ways. I remember clearly the example of Anwar Sadat and how, despite being imprisoned, he came up with a lot of intellectual ideas which later empowered him as a president. I think many great people came up with incredible epiphanies while imprisoned: self-actualizations and legacies. Not the ideal setting for creativity? Or is it? I don’t know. Captivity may itself help people focus in ways less stressful situations don’t.

Another example he gave was when a woman gives birth, immediately, her priorities can shift. Career can be pushed to the back, even social and learning needs are often pushed back for some time. I think,however, that Egyptian society tends to expect women to continue to prioritize their kids and completely suppress their social and self-actualization type needs. And that was never gonna fly with me, because as much as I love and learn with/from my child, I need all the rest of it to feel fully human.

In any case, back to open as need. Or not.

I imagine if someone’s time is preoccupied with trying to make ends meet, of trying to earn enough money, as a consultant or any precarious position, producing open material may be far from their minds. But in reality, many people in that situation continue to participate in open spaces (whether producing material for others or just spending time interacting openly online) to fulfill social needs, they do it maybe for love, maybe for social networking (more goal-oriented). They may do it to learn, for the passion of learning, or because the learning will benefit them long-term in ways that would help their bottom line. And they may be doing it for higher needs (according to Maslow). Because they want to leave a legacy for others. This is such a tricky thing, because leaving a legacy sounds like it could be egotistical or altruistic.

In Islam, there is a saying by prophet Muhammad that when a person dies, their deeds are cut off except by 3 things that continue to “give” after their death

  1. A good child of theirs who continues to pray for them
  2. Ongoing charity they have made that continues to benefit others (e.g. providing clean water to a village that didn’t have it, or building a shelter or such that continues to be used)
  3. Knowledge that benefits others

The latter is my favorite. And also why I lose sleep over digital death (my blog’s hosting/domain won’t keep paying for itself…my digital books won’t be passed on).

So anyway. I’m recognizing that my personal “need” for open is not universal. I have a social need that’s fulfilled by open/online. I need to have people who think in certain ways to be part of my life to talk to them about certain things. I also have a need to learn from open/online that’s different from what I can (and do) learn offline. But it could have been another way, you know?

There’s a lot of ego and humility in blogging and openness in general. Of course when your work gets read and shared it helps boost the ego. It becomes more or less important depending on lots of things. Each post becomes less important if you post a heck of a lot (like me) but sometimes getting noticed by particular people matters. And it also involves a lot of humility because some of us share half-formed thoughts, seek help, share vulnerability, admit pain or failure or confusion. Or frustration. In ways sometimes doing it f2f doesn’t help.

And there’s also the question of benefiting others. Do we want our work to be reshared because it’s a good ego boost or because we hope we have helped someone else in some way along the way?

We often tell scholars that publishing open access can make their work easier to find and boost their citations. For me, what matters about choosing open access is making sure there is equity in reaching what I write. That scholars in developing countries or who aren’t affiliated can reach it. It’s also why I write in public spaces in less-academic language (which apparently sounds academic to non-academics but is more accessible to budding academics. Or something). It’s why Virtually Connecting matters also – it makes not only the  work of people accessible beyond a conference, but their way of talking about it, their informal persona, accessible.

What about you? Does “open” fulfill a need for you? A momentary or enduring one?

February 27, 2017
by Maha Bali

Falsification Story: Trump’s Sea of Love

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Watch this. It is going around on WhatsApp in Egypt 

A friend showed it to me and we were both immediately skeptical.

In case you don’t know what that is in the picture, it is a picture of Muslims in Mecca moving around the holy Kaaba during the annual Muslim pilgrimage.

But I couldn’t be quietly skeptical. It felt, rather than looked doctored and I wanted to prove it. 

We wondered if the words were superimposed or taken out of context but…I thought the best guess was that the picture was originally of something else, and had been replaced by the Kaaba picture. There was some light reflected on the picture in the video. I normally wouldn’t be able to use that as evidence of doctoring, but you would think ABC camerapeople could avoid that glare.

I searched for the full ABC interview online and found it. But I was too impatient to watch the entire thing. So instead I searched “Trump ABC Sea of love” and bingo!

Watch minute 3:20

It was originally a picture of his inauguration, man. Now it all makes sense.

Now here is why this story is not about the technical skill of investigating fakeness (though it helps of course, e.g. to check the original source like ABC). It’s about deep knowledge of Trump, Mecca, and the motivation of someone to doctor the video.

  1. Trump says he is impressed by people coming from “all over the country, maybe the world”. That’s not particularly impressive in Saudi Arabia. It’s not a small country, but anyone who knows anything about Mecca and the pilgrimage knows it’s impressive because people come from all over the world. All over the country isn’t really that big a deal
  2. Trump comments on how people on one end can’t see. And this has little or no relevance for Mecca
  3. And of course, we all know there is no way Trump is impressed by Muslim anything. And he can’t possibly call it a sea of love, put it up in the white house, or make it the last stop on his tour.
  4. There is motivation in this part of the world to make people like Trump. I don’t understand it, but I know it’s there. Someone made this video to convince people Trump actually liked something about Islam. Yay. Because Muslims, for some odd reason, regularly look for weird signs that people like them or are impressed by them. Too many stories for me to retell here

Long story short: there are many technical ways to assert the truth or falsity of this video. But there is quite a bit of  non-technical skepticism built on years of knowledge that helped me search and discover the truth within maybe 10 minutes. 

Congratulations. And you’re welcome. Can I post this on hoaxbusters now? Or Snopes?

P.S. The glare? It’s also in the original ABC film 🙂

February 19, 2017
by Maha Bali

What is Faith?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Faith flickr photo by radiant guy shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

I almost called this post “What Does God Look Like?” but I realized it’s neither about God per se, nor at all about what He looks like. God is a being that is external to us. Faith is something inside of us. They’re interrelated, but I know a lot of people who have “faith” but who do not have “faith” (as in following God or religion).

So… a tangent on what God looks like. My little one was looking through some of my old Encyclopedia type books, at one called “Dean’s Big Book of Answers” (similar to the Tell Me Why series) and she opened up the page on God and Adam and Eve. I should go read it and figure out why the heck the story of creation made it to a book on, supposedly, science and stuff. But this was the 80s and I’m not sure where people were on that front. But anyway, the picture was a very Christian interpretation of God’s likeness (old man in a beard, overseeing everything) and Adam and Eve (nudes). Not at all the Islamic interpretation. First, because in Islam we don’t EVER try to visualize God. He’s got characteristics similar to humans but he is not human. In the Quran we learn “there is nothing like Him”. Makes sense to me. I mean, if God were just a super-powerful human being it would all be… uhh…. Ok let me not go there because it might actually offend people of certain faiths which isn’t my point or intention here. My point is that even though I was never allowed to visualize God, I still remember having a visual representation of God. It probably dates back to how I was first introduced to God, and it was probably something hanging on our wall at home, some Quranic text written in a particular way (calligraphy is the ultimate Islamic art, imho) and for some reason, my picture of God was that shape of calligraphy, superimposed onto a sky, because we always think of God as being in the sky somehow, right? We are also not supposed to visualize prophets and such, no Jesus or Mary paintings or statues for us. Definitely not Mohammad’s. But I also had an image of Mohammad. It was simply the first adult I knew who had that name. This sounds particularly tricky, because what if he was a horrible human being? I didn’t know him well. He was actually a red-head and very fair-skinned (as most redheads are) and someone who lived in our compound, and I don’t think I ever heard or saw him do anything but ride elevators with his family.

Anyway. Now to the real point of this post. What is faith?

I’m gonna go back in history for this one. Back in 2011, shortly after the revolution happened, while I was around 2 months pregnant, I had a horrible dream. I don’t want to say exactly what happened in that dream, but suffice to say that when my parents were in a car accident a few days later and my dad injured his hip (but my mom and driver were unharmed) – I was RELIEVED. I felt that my dream prophesized that something horrible would happen, and that my dream was an exaggeration of what would happen, so that I would feel really calm when the real thing happened. When people asked me about the accident, I would say, “it could have been so much worse – they could have both been hurt, he could have been hurt worse… you know, someone could have died”. Funny thing, that. My dad died 3 months later. And it was a surprise because it was only indirectly related to the aftereffects of that accident. So the dream? That hadn’t been an exaggeration. That had been the preparation. And the accident? That had been (in my humble opinion) God’s mercy in letting us down gently… of giving everyone an opportunity to give my dad some love and attention in his last days, without knowing they were his last days.  I was pregnant and had my own problems (coming up) but because my dad was not completely well, I spent a lot of time with him in the last few months of his life. And I am forever grateful I had that opportunity.

The horrible things that happened to me while pregnant. I can’t divulge details, but sometime between my dad’s accident and his death, something pretty horrible started happening in my life. After spending a night bawling my eyes out and falling asleep from exhaustion, I had this dream: I dreamt that I was bleeding, and that in my dream, my mom was comforting me and telling me not to worry, that bleeding early in the third trimester is normal and not necessarily a sign of miscarriage. You have to realize two things here: while the latter piece of information turns out to actually be true, I did NOT know it at the time. And second: this was a REALLY precious baby. We’d been married 5 years and tried all kinds of fertility support and (as is statistically probable) we did not get pregnant after our first IVF. So this was a precious baby and losing it was a big deal. I woke up and thought, that dream is just my subconscious telling me that I’m really worried and scared of losing something precious. But you know what happened after that? A few days later, around one day after I announced that I was now in my third trimester, I woke up one day to find myself bleeding really heavily. I was at home and about to go to work, and I canceled. My mom was on her way to work and I called her to come back home. I called several people who could help (my husband was not available at the time) but through it all I remembered my dream. I calmed down and talked to God. And I thought, that dream, that’s the only reason I’m calm right now. And it turns out that, really, it’s normal to bleed during the third trimester and retain the baby. It’s so normal that when it happened to me so many people told me it had happened to them. Now why doesn’t anyone tell you that BEFORE it happens to you?

There are so many other dreams that happened to me like that… and I don’t know what people believe about dreams. But those two stand out more than any others. Especially the second one because it was not even symbolic: it was literally accurate. My mom (a physician) and my uncle and his wife (gynecologists) told me the same scientific fact I had dreamt about subconsciously, but only after it actually HAPPENED to me.

In another sense. I think that I’ve always paid attention to medical information for a reason. To help someone else or to help myself. When my child was diagnosed with her congenital illness. It was relatively new to me, but because I was able to find out more about it, I was able to be grateful that what she had could have been so much worse. That what she had was completely manageable for us (maybe something else would have been more manageable for other people). That even though I knew it would get worse, I was prepared for it in some way. No dreams in this one. Just some kind of inner calm that settled on me while all of the process of diagnosis was happening. I was stressed out, but I wasn’t freaking out. And that makes all the difference to me. In the moment.

This week I went through something similar. A shocking medical situation for a loved one. And I was somehow calm. I observed, I imagined a diagnosis (and some differential ones). I called my husband (a doctor) and others. Went to hospital. Stayed calm as doctors tried a lot of different tests to confirm a diagnosis that was 90% obvious (imho) straight away. Watched things get worse before they got better. And panicked a little, but not a lot. Not a single tear. Because… I knew it could have been even worse. I knew it could get better when other things could not. I knew I just needed to be there and to do my best to stay in the moment and calm. I drew on experiences of friends who knew loved ones suffering similar, and learned along the way, even more than I had previously known, that we were lucky with this one. Oh so lucky. And so even though I wouldn’t want those moments to happen again, even though I’d rather erase them altogether, I’m grateful for where we’re at now. It could have been so much worse. And it isn’t. And you know what? I’ve always had a nagging feeling that something horrible could happen to someone dear if I traveled (ok, I probably have that always – if you think about it you go crazy) – I realize I was supposed to be traveling to Dubai today, and I might have missed being here for this entire thing… and I’m grateful I was here when it happened.

In Islam there’s a prayer where we say “Oh God, we don’t ask you to prevent fate, but we ask you mercy/gentleness in bringing it” (my own translation). And I think that is absolutely my life, even though I don’t literally say that prayer that often. There is also a verse in the Quran that says “God does not impose on any soul a responsibility beyond its ability” (2:286 – Muhammad Sarwar translation). And that’s so so much my experience. When people have a deep look at the kinds of things I struggle with in my life, they may seem like a lot for some people. But for me, I often have the sense that, it could have been worse. It could have been something I could not deal with. All of this, I can deal with.

I don’t know if that’s faith. This inner peace through stressful times. But I’m grateful I had it this week. And that difficult year of 2011.

February 12, 2017
by Maha Bali

Talking to Kids About the Tough Stuff

Reading Time: 1 minutes

So this is a request for resources or stories please. 

What are your recommendations for talking to kids (mine is 5.5 so around that age) about tough stuff like

  1. God (religion flexible – I just want ideas, I won’t follow anything) 
  2. Death 
  3. Sex, babies, etc.
  4. Other tough stuff she hasn’t asked me about but that I  will panic about soon

I know my own mom didn’t have a guide book and did a pretty good job when I was older, but I can’t remember what she did when I was younger… I don’t think I asked. I do remember my male cousin convincing me that women got pregnant w baby girls and men got pregnant w baby boys. And I believed him for a bit. That was fun!?!?

Anyway – so your stories, resources, books for kids, books for parents…

Thanks in advance

February 8, 2017
by Maha Bali

Mr. MEN Re-write Assignment 

Reading Time: 1 minutes

So I got an assignment idea for this semester for my educational game design module. I am increasingly focusing less on game design per se in teaching this module and trying to have learners experiment with generally thinking of what makes young people learn and with challenging what already exists. I am co-teaching this semester w a colleague whom I consider really strong on teaching the game design part (and who is also a great pedagogue). I may use this idea during our upcoming Creatopia event so more students can try it (not just mine).

Basically, people would read a Mr. Men book and modify the ending or storyline. There are some particular ones I would love to modify. The exercise would be as follows

  1. Read the book title e.g. “Mr. Nobody” or “Little Miss Helpful” and predict/imagine what the story might be about. Note this down.
  2. Read the book and note down your reaction to the book. What did you like or dislike?
  3. Re-write the ending or any part of the book to make it more educational or to make the book promote different values that you consider important. Note which age group you are targeting 

What do you think? I think the focus of Mr. Men books on character traits of individuals would be helpful for game designers as they build characters in their games (though not all my students develop games with special characters)

Thanks to Amy Burvall for pointing me to the whole Mr. Men in history lesson plan that Michael Gove had critiqued in his Mr. Men speech 

February 5, 2017
by Maha Bali

Are We Spectators or Actors?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

​(this blogpost is influenced by recent discussions with friends from my digped community – i say “my” because I feel like I belong among them, that kind of “my”)

Photo by me. Please don’t reuse

So much going on in the world right now, keeping everyone’s emotions on a roller-coaster and we are so busy reacting to that, and so little energy left for anything else…

What can/should we be doing to address how people are feeling right now? What’s the place for open learning and open education in the context of what’s happening in the world today? Are the challenges of open learning greater now?  E.g. Because of risks of surveillance and cyberbullying? Is the need for open learning more urgent? E.g. To counter hegemonic discourses that are anti-social justice? What can open learning do to help us cope with the world as it is unfolding in front of us?

Egypt is right now playing against Cameroon in the African Cup final. It made me think of emotion in spectator sports. How we have such emotional reactions to something we have absolutely no control over. Maybe audiences in the stadium can make a little difference because players can feel their energy and support…but viewers at home, on TV? The players aren’t influenced by them at all. Those people watching together are only influencing each other and not the players. What is the point? Some psychologist must have discussed this stuff at some point, I bet.

Are we all mere spectators of the politics unfolding around us, only able to cheer and shout out disagreement, give out orders that no one follows, or are we actors on that stage, able to effect change? Are we cheering and resisting in our own echo chambers, or are we able to build something together to truly challenge the status quo?

Education isn’t like sports. You don’t have to have access to the big stage to make a difference. Working on the small stage is also important work of resistance. But we still have to ask ourselves why we do what we do, and whether it’s achieving what we thought we were hoping to achieve.

How important is it for the work of resistance to be able to seek comfort in communities where we feel we belong, knowing together that we need to venture out into the wild to see what we can do beyond the safety of our community?

I have no idea where I am going with this. But maybe you have ideas?


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