Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

How Little People Can Be Invisible in the Open #cccert


This is a story of how powerful people’s voices are louder, get heard, used, perpetuated, even when they’ve been influenced by little people. And power here is relative, of course. Most people in this story are not the littlest 🙂

In Sarah Lambert’s paper where she analyzes some Open Ed texts for social justice (you should read the article) one of the texts she uses is David Wiley adopting the term OER-enabled pedagogy.

Now this is mentioned by many people and remembered and there are two main problems with how the story is told imho

A. Many people mention his new term OER-enabled pedagogy but no one ever mentions the process by which he adopted it, which was led by many people but the biggest part, imho, is when I curated different definitions of open pedagogy (not just existing ones but new reactions after he had attempted to define open pedagogy narrowly) and the hangout I facilitated where I brought in many people from different parts of the world, mostly women, sharing different perspectives on open (so my form of representational justice). How well known is this story and its impact on David’s change of mind? I saw his stubbornness and then his change right before my eyes. Even the Year of Open (OE Consortium) people who reported their Open Pedagogy week was the most popular, said it was because of David Wiley’s posts, and not because of my work in challenging the post, lobbying for others to respond to the post, and doing a hangout that was attended by at least 50 people LIVE. Look at this curation of posts and this hangout. It was phenomenal. David didn’t change his mind until AFTER this hangout. People had challenged him before in smaller ways. This curation and hangout I think turned the tide. A collective of open educators, mostly women (their work, but I brought them together to get attention for the diversity within the open movement), not David on his own.

B. Even worse: I see many people acknowledging different perspectives on open pedagogy now BUT STILL going on to use David’s “OER-enabled” after they have “recognized” the existence of the other definitons by Cronin and DeRosa/Jhangiani. Examples are the Educause Open Education 7 Things You Should Know and the Creative Commons book we are using in the CC Certificate.

This is totally lip service decontextualized listening. Epistemic injustice.

This entire process for me was a HUGE thing. To challenge anyone’s ownership of defining what open is. This was huge. And it’s as if it only exists in the memories of those who participated in it, but not in any history books. Why? Because it was not a peer-reviewed article? Because David’s was not a peer-reviewed article but his blog.

I don’t mean any disrespect towards David. David has actually gone out of his way to listen to me and I personally have nothing against him in his behavior towards me. It is not his fault that others emphasize his voice more than others.

And I am not the littlest person in the open world. When I did that hangout and curation, I had just returned from keynoting the OER17 conference. My first keynote, yes, but still. I was recognized. I had been invited to participate in Year of Open by OE Consortium alongside David and others, in putting forth articles about open pedagogy. There are like 6 or 7 people who were invited to do this. Mine explicitly mentions social justice as a dimension of open pedagogy. Everyone remembers David’s article but not the 6 others (including by high profile people like Rajiv Jhangiani).

So yeah. What’s this about????

My OER keynote was entitled “Hiding in the Open”. But now I am thinking how, there is also a story to be told about being “Invisible in the Open”. And for an Egyptian scholar living in Egypt, I am the most visible I can possibly be, with all my Virtually Connecting and blogging and writing and publishing everywhere… but clearly it’s not enough – and I am not just amplifying my own voice, but that of others around me, and then it makes an influence, an impact, but in the end… is almost invisible. Except to those in the same corner. But not the mainstream. And that sucks.

And I will say that I also recognize how my voice is louder than MANY people around me who also do good work but are less visible because they are less loud, or less known, or not public, or not obvious minorities. Or even just because they don’t have a PhD sometimes!!!

This quote from Sarah Lambert’s article is a good way to end this. With reference to open edu and open source:

I’m gonna go ahead and publish this post for now… then write a separate one about Sarah Lambert’s article. I was particularly struck by how she challenges the use of the term “empowerment” as one that is does not imply social justice if it ends up reproducing privilege and power. That is so powerful (pun intended). I will reflect more on how terms like empowerment, democratizing can be misused to imply liberation from oppression but they do not at all necessarily lead to social justice.


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