Andrea Santos – Framing for Sustainability

October 30, 2007

Andrea Santos – Framing for Sustainability

Originally uploaded by openlearn2007

Andrea Santos : Framing for sustainability identifying values within open content provision.

Will be talking quite generally about OER using examples from OpenLearn in particular.

Started by asking what are we trying to sustain? She is talking through a slide that is using the OpenLearn compendium product to brainstorm ideas and it works really well.

First aspect she discusses is how to ensure financial sustainability, and introduces the idea of using discourse analysis to identify the embedded discourses of the OER movement. Apparently there is a very strong discourse in the OER movement. Having seen the adverts for the talk on the discourses of organic food production, I’m beginning to think that there are strong embedded discourses in most movements.

She then goes on to define discourse. It is not just spoken language but has to be seen in context as it has a strong cultural element. Includes images as well. She says that discourse “shapes” social practice. Discourse is the institutionalised use of language.

She is using the perspective of critical discourse analysis of Fairclough (2000) and Foucault (1979) . Gosh, brings back memories of the Masters course I took on Discourse Analysis. You never know when things will come in useful. The way Andrea is describing it, it sounds quite interesting – have to admit that I didn’t find it so when I was studying it. Maybe these things are better when you’re applying them to a real life example that you want to analyse.

She introduces this metaphor of “flatness” and says that it is supported by the concept of openness and collaboration. She is referencing a book by Friedman, (2005). Wish I’d read it as I’m finding this a bit obscure. However she seems to be saying that flattening the world is equivalent to making knowledge equally accessible to all. OK – ties in with OpenLearn nicely.

So, we’re looking at the discourses of flatness along with two others, institutional discourse and another one but the slide has just gone.

Discourse of Collaboration
Now talking about collaboration. Empowering the user – this is what I have to offer the user, but is this what the user needs? Perhaps Web 2.0 technologies could help empower the user…Mentions the push paradigm again, as in the balance between push and pull is heavily weighted towards non-local rather than local content. I’m a bit lost here.

Aha, she’s going to bring in some example data to illustrate the discourse of collaboration. This will help.

Discourse of social justice
OpenContent is consistent with the discourses of social justice and widening participation. This is how the open content initiative can be justified.

Discourse of Financial
However there is also the idea of raising the visibility and raising money through building markets and reputation. Different discourse for talking to say the executives to justify why you’re involved in the movement.

Discourse of Recruitment…

But how to maintain the correct balance between al these discourses?

For example, if you operate in the financial discourse, you might use the social justice credibility (trying to make money not seen as desirable).

Discourse of Media

Creating desire in people for commodies. Powerful discourse repeated in many different fields, i.e. medicine, education etc. Fairclough says that media discourse is a useful measure of social change. So, looking at the media discourse of the OU – use of quotes and metaphors “opening doors” “opportunities” etc, lots of superlatives like Wow or Fantastic.

She suggests that the media and the instutional discourses are a good mix, The media discourse reinforces the idea of knowledge as a commodity. Research data is strongly manipulated by the media discourse. The quotes could well be research data, but the way they are presented by the media. They were said in a context, but that may not be apparent.

But what is the link between these discourses and sustainability? She talks about how best to achieve the values of OER provision (values of equality etc). But I wonder how we can be sure that those values are the right ones?

Using discourse analysis as a tool to understand the practices of the OER mvmt.
Institutional discourse dominant.

Robin Mason comments that the list of media discourse about OER reminds her about 15-20 year ago discourse about computer conferencing where everyone can speak equally. The main problem with this hype is that there is a backlash where people say well how accessible is this really? Is it really true that all have the same access.

Billy K.
Works on widening participation in Yorkshire using OpenLearn. Dangers of dominance of institutional discourse – if that is the main driver, how disenfranchised will the difficult communities that he works with be. Then asks, is it a money making enterprise or about social justice. Feels that the Gvt. is now saying that those who already have first degrees will not be allowed to do second degrees and money saved will go to deprived groups. His question is does Andrea think there is any tension between what the OpenLearn group is trying to develop and the types of resources that the groups he is working with are able to engage with?

Andrea replies that in terms of the OU, from perspective of somebody in the research team – went to NIACE and it was interesting to see the reaction of adults to the content. They weren’t sure whether they could use the content with their learners. It might be too advanced as some of the learners were still improving their reading and writing skills.

Billy – talking only about electronic learning, not specifically OpenLearn. Electronic learning and distance learning are different. People making electronic resources make assumptions about their learners which may not be true for certain groups. How do we make sure these resources are available for groups who are socially and economically deprived.

Andrea – it’s all about making choices. There is a clash between educating the world and simply offering what you’ve got.

Chris from MIT Open Courseware – Just going back to how to express or define value. Is easier to express value externally rather than internally. Often people, say in India, are surprised by how many people are using their content. Messages need to be different internally than externally and the messages have to change.

Seb Schmoller – To get a better understanding of the talk – asks if Andrea is asserting that discourse analysis tells her that the way organisations talk about OER does not give a good understanding about how they are using OER. Because institutional discourse so strong, are people being diverted from a true understanding of OER.

Andrea replies that that could be the case. But that a lot of common sense. She wouldn’t say that everybody involved is aware of what they are doing, but what they are doing is shaping the perception of things. Not intentional. So, yes, this could be one interpretation so it could be really interesting to be aware of the discourses operating.

Somebody from Open Unviersity
Asks what the discourse from Brazil is.

Andrea says that it is different in Latin America. Government buys courseware. Some courses are free, some are paid for. Depending on institution, it can operate differently. Hasn’t analysed it, but wouldn’t say that it is very widespread – she imagines the discourse would be rather different.


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