OER_OEP_OEM CC2019 by Helen DeWaard

At my institution, we have six institutional learning outcomes for general education: 

  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Racial and Social Justice
  • Critical Thinking
  • Communication
  • Scientific Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Information Literacy  

each with 2-4 specifications, so it’s really 20 outcomes under 6 headings.

I don’t think OER directly relates to any of them. OER could be used in the teaching/learning process, like any other type of resource, but it is open practices that offer real benefits. For example, if students are to 

  • describe the historical and contemporary societal factors that shape the development of individual and group identity involving race, class, and gender;
  • analyze the role that complex networks of social structures and systems play in the creation and perpetuation of the dynamics of power, privilege, oppression, and opportunity;

they could do this by critiquing course materials, looking for ways that they play a role in perpetuating these issues, and coming up with ways to make them better. If a course used open resources, they could be modified. If not, the critique could become an additional course resource.

If one took an open pedagogy/“students as producers” approach to a course, critical thinking could be built into the everyday practice of the course. Instead of making it a function of a research paper that gets handed in, it could be a function of what students bring to class and do in class. They would learn critical thinking by doing it. Students could put communication skills into practice by creating open materials to benefit a course, and themselves in the process. I’m sure these things are done to some extent anyway, but may not be recognized as open pedagogical practices.  

There have been some open pedagogy projects that relate to scientific reasoning. I heard of a botany course where students built an online field guide to local flora as an open resource, practicing scientific reasoning while creating something for people to use. There was a geology class, at University of Saskatchewan I think, where students curated a collection of explainer videos on course topics, explaining why the topics were important and why the videos were good. I imagine similar projects could be created for quantitative reasoning. 

Engaging in open practices and building open resources exercises information literacy skills. I’m not sure if I want to go into that further. 

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Graph showing the numbers of document in ERIC with the subject heading "open education" over the years from 1970 to the mid-2010sMuch was written on the subject of Open Education in the early 70s. This declined to a trickle by 1980 and has only started to pick up in the past decade. There are a variety of reasons for the drop off. One factor is that people could not build on the research because everyone had a different idea of what open education meant.

In light of that, I think Wiley was wise to coin the term OER-enabled pedagogy and give it a clear definition:

“OER-enabled pedagogy is the set of teaching and learning practices only possible or practical when you have permission to engage in the 5R activities.” Wiley, OER-Enabled Pedagogy

Calling it open pedagogy would be problematic, because the concept of open pedagogy pre-dated OER. There had been significant research on Open Educational Practices as well, a term often used interchangeably with open pedagogy. Creating a new term and defining it for everyone helps build a foundation for coherent research. Hopefully it won’t go up in smoke like the 70s.

But I happen to like the idea of open pedagogy, even if it is multi-faceted and complex. I gravitate towards Tom Woodward’s definition:

Open is a purposeful path towards connection and community. Open pedagogy could be considered as a blend of strategies, technologies, and networked communities that make the process and products of education more transparent, understandable, and available to all the people involved. Grush, Open Pedagogy: Connection, Community, and Transparency

It could involve OER, but it doesn’t have to. Ultimately, practices are more significant than resources. Wiley recognizes that, noting “Copyright restricts what we are permitted to do,” so open licenses enable open practices. But I look at it from my perspective as a librarian. We have a wealth of resources, both under copyright and not, that people can use to build their knowledge. They could do this openly, and they could make open resources in the process, but that is not a requirement.

An education class I worked with serves as an example of open pedagogy in practice. Rather than using a textbook, the instructor came up with a set of essential questions and groups of students were finding research to answer them, which they would then share back with the rest of the class. They were learning how to learn as they were learning how to teach. OER played no part in the course, although they may have used open access research. I suggested to the instructor that the class might use their research to improve Wikipedia pages on early childhood education topics, contributing to an open resource, but the instructor considered Wikipedia toxic.

The student empowerment aspect of open pedagogy is what interests me. OER can have a role, but should not be a limiter. I have thought of OER as a gateway into open pedagogy – come for the free stuff, stay for the freedom – but it may be too much of a leap, as I’m finding most instructors who adopt OER are only interested in changing textbooks, not anything else about the way they do things.

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Open and shut

neon sign saying "Sorry, we're open."

Sorry, we’re open CC BY-SA 2009 tara hunt https://www.flickr.com/photos/missrogue/3353012785

When we talk about open in terms of OER, we usually define it by the 5 Rs. That works well enough, but I think there are nuances of open that are worth considering. I tend to use a door metaphor, as in it can be open just a crack or wide open. But even a closed door may be penetrable by an ant or a spider, and a wide-open door can still present a barrier to an elephant. The point is there is a spectrum of openness, and it’s never really perfect on either end.

from UNESCO’s Open educational resources competency framework OER https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000266159_eng

That’s worth thinking about when it comes to creating OER. How open do we want it to be? The CC license confers a level of legal openness, but if we want something to be reusable and remixable, a technical level of openness is necessary too. An Articulate Storyline presentation with a CC license might be free, but someone would need access to source files, an expensive software license and some esoteric skills to adapt or modify it. The UNESCO framework above hints at the issue.  It also mention the resource lifecycle. Who keeps an OER up-to-date? Who is empowered to?

Adaptability was something we discussed when I was on the ACRL PRIMO committee. We considered it ideal for instructional materials to be adaptable, but in many cases there were technical barriers that meant one would have to rebuild a project from the ground up in order to make any changes.

I thought of this as I read Dr. Tannis Morgan’s blog post, Open infrastructure and open education practices. Do we have and use systems and infrastructure that supports openness? Also, what trade-offs do we make? When we were adapting the Copyright Card Game, we briefly considered using open source software, so the cards could be modified with no monetary cost. But that would create barriers too. You’d need to download, install, and learn how to use the software. We decided to use MS Publisher instead, figuring the tool was readily available and fairly intuitive to most of our target audience, even if it is proprietary software.

Morgan notes that Pressbooks gives BCCampus the infrastructure to create open textbooks, which is great. A few years back I was interested in adapting a Pressbooks text for local use, and found that there was an annual license fee, which an institution might afford but not an individual like me. Fortunately the text was short enough that I could copy and paste and reformat in LibGuides. But now its existence is dependent on us maintaining our subscription.

This has been a bit of a ramble. I think the point I’m trying to make is that even though free and open textbooks have an appeal, they’re not really free and open is not as simple as it may seem.

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The word free came up in a couple links in this week’s COPALI module, and I’d like to think through it a little bit. One is in the Open educational resources competency framework OER from UNESCO:

D1.3.1 Identify the “5 Rs” that characterize a copyright-free resource

I wouldn’t characterize OER as “copyright-free,” but rather copyright+. I come at this from a US perspective, and recognize things are probably different elsewhere. Here, Creative Commons and other open licenses sit on top of copyright, changing it from “All rights reserved” to some rights reserved and some permissions granted. The works are not free from copyright. The public is free to make use of the works in certain ways.

I think this is an important thing many people seem to miss about OER. Freeing educational content from cost has financial and accessibility benefits for learners. That is very significant. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Freeing educational content from usage restrictions has benefits for teaching and learning, enabling a shift from just read to reuse/remix/repurpose, from consume to make and build. Free as in freedom, as the saying goes.

There is also the idea that free comes at no cost. It may be no cost for some, but there’s always an investment of time and resources on somebody’s part. That leads to the second thing, from UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 and its targets:

SDG 4.1 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable  and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes

I believe public education should be available to people at no cost. It is not free. It is expensive. But the public investment is worth it for the benefits that accrue to society. It’s an investment in the future of a free society. That’s a concept that’s nearly forgotten here in the US.

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That Toddling TDC

For today’s Daily Create, I pushed play and got
Chicago (That Toddling Town)

It has quite a history for a song I never even heard of. There’s even a James Brown version:

which sounds entirely different. I also located sheet music, which has some of the lyrics Brown used. The version I listened to was instrumental though.

page from sheet music for Cicago (That Toddlin Town)

The chorus references Billy Sunday, who appears to have quite a story of his own, in an oblique jab at Prohibition. A lot of history in one little click.

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Walk the Nightmare Alley Blues

I watched the 2021 version of Nightmare Alley the other day, and decided it needed the Walk of Life treatment:

I think it works, but really only if you know the context. There’s a level of psychological horror here, as he recognizes that he’s willingly walking into degradation and death. The carnival geek is a sort of man/beast, a man who was supposedly raised in the wild as an animal. That’s the story told to the carnival-goers. Really he’s an alcoholic who’s manipulated into a subhuman existence through his addiction. This is explained early in the story:

I kind of wished that had picked a different actor for the lead role, but maybe he wasn’t available:

I decided to further test the Walk of Life theory with the 1990 classic Miami Blues:

It works here as well, and the scene is less in need of explanation. A few of the cuts conveniently fall in line with the beat of the song, so it looks like it belongs.

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Get into the car | We’ll be the passenger

I had planned to try to blog these elements together, but instead made this audio mashup. I’m guessing it’s even less comprehensible than if I tried to connect the ideas in text, but on the bright side it has Iggy Pop.

The bomb lurks in the back history of The Passenger. That, and the idea of language as a virus mentioned previously, brought the Home of the Brave version of “Sharkey’s Night” to mind. I ran that into the passage from p. 116 relating the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and followed that with J. Frank Parnell’s brief soliloquy on madness and the neutron bomb from Repo Man. He speaks of split personality, which relates to Alicia’s hallucination conversations in the novel. I ran some soundtrack music from the movie underneath the book passage as connective tissue. That goes into one of said conversations, discussing passengers and death, with an instrumental Iggy backing track, perhaps for ironic effect. Or unironic, as the case may be. The Ice T/Body Count rendition of “Institutionalized” may be unnecessary, but I just discovered it. I used a karaoke version underneath the next passage, in which The Kid may be telling us how to understand the novel. I see a theme of elemental forces – fire, water, earth, air – throughout the book, so Ned Beatty’s speech from Network comes next, with more Repo Man/Pop backing. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely instrumental, but maybe the competing voices fit metaphorically. Another brief clip, and then it closes out with Iggy’s “The Passenger,” appropriately. Or not. Pop’s lyrics were influenced by Jim Morrison’s poetry in The Lords and the New Creatures, which may be another rabbit hole to descend sometime.

Speaking of which, there are some lines in the first passage, “Like an immense bladder, they would say. Like some sea thing” that for whatever reason made me look up Leviathan: “…often an embodiment of chaos and threatening to eat the damned after their life.” O what a tangled web…

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Trollin’, trollin’, trollin’

Cormac McCarthy's face superimposed on a Leslie Neilsen still from Airplane, with the line "And dont call me Shirley" from The Passenger attached.
Who’s trolling who? I was reading more of The Passenger this morning, and on page 195 one of the hallucinatory ‘horts spouted the classic line from Airplane. So you know what I had to do.

The face swap doesn’t quite work, I think because the lighting doesn’t match. Maybe I should try different images?

There’s still a mismatch. He does look completely serious though.

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Firefly, can you see me? || Shine on, glowing, brief and brightly

I’m not sure where I’m going with any of this. Maybe nowhere. Maybe this is a relevant quote:

“To the seasoned traveler a destination is at best a rumor.” (p. 56)

Continuing my musings on McCarthy’s latest novel, I’m wondering what to make of the title, The Passenger. The word is referenced in a couple of passages early in the novel. Here, a pair of unidentified agents say a passenger was missing from the sunken aircraft that Western investigated. This makes for a mystery because there was no indication that anyone had entered or exited the plane, except for the fact that there were items and equipment missing.

There seems to be a passenger missing. A passenger. Yes. Missing. Yes. They watched him. He'd no idea what they wanted. Do you have any identification? he said. We showed you our identification. Maybe I could see them again. They looked at each other and then leaned and produced the badges and held them out. You can write down the numbers ifyou like. That's okay. You can write them down. We dont mind. I dont have to write them down. They werent sure what he meant. They flipped the badges up and folded them away. Mr Western? Yes. How many passengers were in the aircraft? Seven. Seven. Yes. You mean plus the pilot and copilot. Yes. Nine bodies. Yes. Well apparently there should have been eight passengers. Somebody missed the flight. We dont think so. There were eight passengers on the manifest. What manifest is that? The manifest for the flight. Why would there be a manifest? Why wouldnt there be? It was a private aircraft.

Here Alicia is conversing with the ringleader of her cohort of hallucinations, asking where they came from and how they got there.

Somehow I doubt the intention here is to remind us of Monty Python, but there it is.

“I’m a passenger… I must be something else. But maybe not” says a figment of the imagination. Or a manifestation of the subconscious. In the Kekulé Problem McCarthy asks, “Why is the unconscious so loathe to speak to us? Why the images, metaphors, pictures? Why the dreams, for that matter.” and later answers, “The unconscious is just not used to giving verbal instructions and is not happy doing so.” Note the Kid’s exasperation with Alicia’s questions. Maybe this represents the tension between the subconscious and the rational, creativity and insight pushing to break through the rules and regulations.

The following page gives us this passage:

When you carry a child in your arms it will turn its head to see where it’s going. Not sure why. It’s going there anyway. You just need to grab your best hold, that’s all. You think there’s these rules about who gets to ride the bus and who gets to be here and who gets to be there. How did you get here? Well, she just rode in on her lunarcycle. I see you looking for tracks in the carpet but if we can be here at all we can leave tracks. Or not. The real issue is that every line is a broken line. You retrace your steps and nothing is familiar. So you turn around to come back only now you’ve got the same problem going the other way. Every worldline is discrete and the caesura for a void that is bottomless. Every step traverses death.
(p. 56)

Of course I had to look up caesura. The pause between lines of poetry, the space between words. But “worldline” is not a typo there. Words and worlds. I don’t know what to make of that, or the rest of the Kid’s constant wordplay, but it opens up worlds of contemplation. The passage stuck out to me because back in the real world, in the next chapter, Bobby is also looking for tracks:

He picked up a piece of parchmentcolored driftwood in the shape of a pale homunculus and held it up and turned it in his hand. Late in the day with the light failing he put ashore in a small cove and beached the boat and climbed out and turned and saw almost immediately the tracks in the sand. Just above the this dark rim of a wrack. They looked to have been partly filled in by the wind, but that wasn’t it. Something had been dragged over them. He walked out to the edge of the palmettos and here the tracks came back and went down the beach. Clean tracks. The rubber ribs of wetsuit bootees. He stood looking out over the gray water. He looked at the sun and studied the island. Would the wildlife include rattlesnakes? Eastern diamondbacks. Eight feet long. Atrocious or adamantine he couldnt remember. He picked up a piece of driftwood and broke it to length across his knee and followed the tracks into the woods. (p. 60)

McCarthy makes up compound words here and there, like parchmentcolored. I may need to ponder this. I also had to look up homunculus, although I’m still not sure how to understand it as a shape. The use of wrack has poetic depth as well. Atrocious or adamantine, what could we make of that? How many layers of meaning are lurking in here? Superficially, he appears to be looking for someone else who has been involved with the plane, whether that be the passenger or an interloper. Someone who has flippers, not unlike the Thalidomide Kid. Certainly that’s not who it is, but as Kekulé showed us, one thing can be something else. Trying to think through all this will probably break my brain like a piece of driftwood.

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“Paradise is exactly like where you are right now”

I thought of this song when I was reading The Kekulé Problem the other day. In it, McCarthy recalls,

I suggested once in conversation at the Santa Fe Institute that language had acted very much like a parasitic invasion and David Krakauer—our president—said that the same idea had occurred to him. Which pleased me a good deal because David is very smart.

Allegedly, the virus quote originated in William Burroughs’ The Ticket That Exploded, although I could not locate the verbiage in a search of the text. McCarthy doesn’t deal with Burroughs though. He’s rather discussing relationships between language and the subconscious, and language and humanity.

…once you have language everything else follows pretty quickly. The simple understanding that one thing can be another thing is at the root of all things of our doing.

The Open Culture essay on The Kekulé Problem quotes GK Chesterton: “Art is the signature of man.” Art, like language, is symbolic representation and metaphor. One thing being another. I’d also say it’s a mirror, in that what we see in it is determined by what we bring to it, and so it shows us ourselves.

I read Kekulé hoping it would help me grapple with The Passenger. The jacket flap explains it as a “novel of morality and science, the legacy of sin, and the madness that is human consciousness.” On the surface, it appears to be two interleaved tales, one of a young woman’s hallucinations and suicide, and one of her brother working as a salvage diver in New Orleans. But it’s something more as well. There’s a scene at a funeral where the protagonist muses on the scientists who built the bomb and the aesthetics of horror, with this sentence:

I just had to make a triple troll quote out of that. ! I attributed it to Hemingway and used a photo of Ellroy, contrasting the quote to their deceptively simple prose and economy of language.

Anderson’s song connects back to the book with serendipitous lyrics:

Is exactly like
Where you are right now
Only much much (It’s a shipwreck,)
Better. (It’s a job.)

The job involves a shipwreck and a sunken plane. I don’t think paradise enters into it, although it appears to be what they like doing. Finding these connections is something I like doing. And it gives me impetus to blog a bit, and maybe get that book club thing going with Jim again.

“Singin’ la la la la la la la la”

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