Are Open Educational Resources Cultural Colonisation?

Presentation about the cultural message in Open Educational Resources

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Patrick McAndrew
20 October 2009

The content from an organisation (such as The Open University in the UK) does carry cultural overloadb and this could be seen as  negative aspect. However it also demonstrates how OER can act to communicate ideas as well as culture. Providing those involved see themselves contributing as part of a larger community and look for opportunities coming in then individual voices in materials have a role. Considering the user viewpoint and the options implied by openness that people *may* take advantage of gives a route forward and avoids cultutal worries as a barrier.

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Gráinne Conole
1:49pm 20 October 2009


Hi interesting presentation Patrick - I think the issue of cultural biaise is an important one. ALL resources, tools etc are culturally loaded in some way. For example tools like word and excel were originally developed for a Business context not education and that carries with it some issues. For example one could argue the cut and paste facility of word is counter to encouraging deep relfective learning. There was a good presentation about this at Ascilite a few years back will see if I can dig out.

Gill Clough
2:46pm 20 October 2009


Wish I'd heard the presentation, but the slides alone are quite thought provoking. The extracts of "institutional discourse" gave me the impression that they aimed to open up the academic portals to those who might not otherwise gain access - allowing them to "join the club" in a sense, with all the cultural overtones that that implies. I'm wondering if OEDs differ in that despite incorporating the cultural imperatives embedded in their original design, they may still be re-engineered and repurposed by those who perhaps want to use them to set up their own learning club.

Patrick McAndrew
8:43pm 25 October 2009


The quotes from the academic portals where extracted and analysed by Andreia Santos - there is more in her paper on JIME (I will add the academic reference). It does show that there is a rather mixed message between seeking to help and seeking to gain from being able to have a route for contacting so many people. You are quite right Gill that it is the very openness of OER that means that the approach can be adopted and adapted by others so it is not so much cultural colonisation as cultural communication.

Giota Alevizou
8:45pm 28 October 2009


Yes Patrick, I aggree the idea of enculturation or cultural appropriation is defenitely worth fleshing out more and worth investigating more.

Some examples that three of my interviewees gave me point to the fact that access to reliable, high quality OPEN content is still percieved very important in low income countries.   Cultural biases/imperialism are addressed if:

  •  support is provided for bottom up and situated/community based-learning;
  •  if more recognition and incentives are offered to academic/teaching stuff to support such movements (certainly this relates to TESSA) in order to upload their own content and initiatives portals that have achieved global reach;
  •  if more adaptable cultural and technical interfaces are developed/'translated' to cater for low tech infrastructures or local craftmanship & (in)formal learning cultures.    


There's a political issue that I feel has to do with the interdiscoursive relations of OERs gaining outreach and OER coming from developing countries as a way to 'showcase' knowledge to the world alongside being self-sufficient and sustainable. In which case it opens up a world of implications for relevance, interoperability, repurposing for collective intelligence and knowledge building.

There are tensions also regarding internal tensions within  cultures from Commonwealth countries and provision for accommodating educational traditions/learning cultures of minorities or marginalised groups.  Anyway, there's a wealth of literature for community media/media for development that has some links to OER contexts, or interesting to investigate best practices there. I will try to dig out some relevant references. <!--EndFragment-->

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