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Open Educational Resources and ICT for Development

Tim Unwin (UNESCO Chair in ICT for Development at Royal Holloway) A recorded presentation of the...

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Patrick McAndrew
20 April 2010

Tim Unwin (UNESCO Chair in ICT for Development at Royal Holloway)

A recorded presentation of the way in which OER can influence development – leading with the issue of why OER is not more widely used in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa where there are significant initiatives).  Content and licences as the meaning of OER is not enough in his view the need is to address “open integrated learning contexts” and the African crafting of “knowledges”. Co-creating new knowledges. There are several perceived benefits cited on the UNESC OER Wiki but the reality in Africa is that much is led from North America and Europe. On the UNESCO discussion less than18% African (mainly South Africa). Similarly the stories on the OER Wiki and projects on WikiEducator are predominantly non-African implying that there is an imperialist push to content.

Perceived needs in Africa reflect lack of content, high cost of books, poor quality teaching, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of understanding of benefits of technologies.

His own experience coves several projects leading to the ICT3D Collective. In each case trying to build shared capacities in using ICTs in educational delivery.  He was self-critical about the impact of some of this work – tagging content and trying to make it available for different platforms has had limited impact. Though work on African Storytelling has been more successful. With good intentions though why has success been so limited.

Often blamed:

  • -       bandwidth
  • -       electricity
  • -       computers
  • -       cost of software

But these are not the real issues. Rather:

  • -       changes in personnel – key importance of leaders
  • -       Funding mechanisms
  • -       Time commitment
  • -       Failure to understand meanings – more than just computers.

So need to recognise practical realities:

  • -       the structure and financing of African universities
  • -       didactic model of teaching
  • -       role and income of university teachers
  • -       intellectual elitism – to serve development needs
  • -       dependency (on grants)
  • -       human capacity
  • -       dominance of individualism

There are ways forward though in building more sustained work in Africa, but also in actions that need to be taken in working with OER in UK: does it match to the direction that UK education is developing? Do we use OER ourselves? Are they of good enough quality? Can we find the time that is need to work with and learn from Africa.

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