It can stink, taste bad, be palatable, or glorious!

Maha Bali, PhD – Reflecting Allowed | Maha Bali’s blog about higher ed, ed tech & academic research

It would be easy to think that Open Education is mainly about licensing and quality of resources. “What Creative Commons license should I use?” “Where can I find good quality reusable teaching resources?” And even simply “What does everyone mean by ‘Open’?”.

That’s partly the fault of the Open Education movement. Not only do we get hung up on the (actually very important) minutiae, but we also accept a wide breadth of definitions regarding what ‘open’ actually means. To the point that ‘open’ has sometimes become a brand that doesn’t mean anything at all.

On March 8 (at 5:00am from Cairo!), as part of Open Education Week at UTS, Maha Bali helped us remember that openness is a kind of attitude, a kind of posture – one of generosity and vulnerability, community and support. Open Education Practices bring benefit to many places, while also not belonging in every place. 

Generosity and vulnerability: scattering rose petals

Openness is a lot about giving without strings attached (generosity) while also conveying your needs (vulnerability). There are so many deep ways to interpret this but one more simple understanding could be applied to licensing. When you create a piece of work you want to share, use the most generous license you can (perhaps CC BY) which allows for the 5Rs and at the same time ask people reusing content to attribute the original author.

Further, this approach to openness means we can’t expect immediate reciprocation and are also not obliged to immediately reciprocate. What is this about? Well, when you create something as an open resource and share it with others, you might not see the fruit of that straight away. There is a bit of serendipity involved. This can be hard for us modern beings who’ve been conditioned for instant gratification. But we still try. 

Maha called this “a scattering of rose petals” in the sense that each piece of open scholarship you do gets wafted on the breeze like a rose petal and it’s up to others to gather those petals together to see the complete flower.

People then bring them together and create their own rose, maybe sometimes, but then you get to see the impact of it over time, so it’s not in one session or in one artefact.

Intentionally equitable hospitality

Maha’s facilitation style embodies a spirit of joy and openness. She is the consummate online facilitator: welcoming everyone by name regardless of when they joined the event, using multiple modes to elicit responses from the audience, responding with interest and engaging the audience to express their feelings with questions like “what nourishes you lately?”

So it’s not surprising she has been instrumental in developing an approach to facilitation, teaching and design called Intentionally Equitable Hospitality (IEH). IEH occurs over 4 phases intended to identify how power, oppression and marginalization play out in our classes and workshops. Maha Bali also has a short video explaining the concept.

Towards openness that promotes social justice

There’s more to social justice than giving things to people for free… it’s not just about equitable representation or tokenistic representation, but it’s about parity of participation.

Maha, in collaboration with Mia Zamora and Autumn Caines, has set up Equity Unbound, an open source of community-building activities for online classes. It reflects a practice of social justice that addresses economic, cultural and political injustice with contributions from across the world.

Share your view

We were then invited as an audience to place three Open practices across three scales/spectrums in Mentimeter. Tell us where you think the practices fall using these 3 scales:

  • Scale 1 – content-centric to process-centric
  • Scale 2 – teacher-centric to learner-centric
  • Scale 3 – pedagogical to social justice

See the results of this activity.

The bigger picture

Maha concluded by reminding us to challenge the view of the inherent ‘goodness’ or usefulness of open practices especially in the context of social justice. Since for Openness to be just, it would need be entangled with social justice and applied to your purpose, your process, the people you work with and your products. 

There was so much more packed into the 45 minutes we had with her, so I encourage you to view the slides and/or the recording for the full experience:

Read more of Maha Bali’s recent open work

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