Openness in Education: Technology, Pedagogy, Critique


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In this presentation I assess the state of the art in educational technology, focusing on approaches which identify as ‘open’. The kind of technological interventions in education
typical of the last fifty years have often been centrally led and imposed, and thus representative of the encroachment of system imperatives into educational lifeworlds. However, recent technologies present new possibilities for a less linear and more lateral approach to education. While optimism about the pedagogical potential of new technologies must of course be tempered by remaining attentive to the dubious strategies and ideologies being employed by education policymakers. I focus on the case of open education to show how technological change is bringing about opportunities both for new and inclusive pedagogies, and for social critique. I appeal to Dewey, Freire and Illich to indicate some of the ways in which a radically democratic pedagogy rooted in information and communication technologies might stand as a bulwark to neo-liberal interventions in education, concluding with the suggestion that critical theorists should consider significant engagement with the design of learning system and communication technologies.

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  • Refs for the 1970s claim are in the Vinterbo & Ho paper
  • Openness in Education: Technology, Pedagogy, Critique

    1. 1. Openness in Education:Technology, Pedagogy andCritiqueRobert FarrowLondon Conference in Critical Thought, 6thJune 2013
    2. 2. Main claims of this presentation• Higher education is in transition• Traditional learning theories based on closed environments: need fornew pedagogies based on open paradigm• Academics should do more to engage with novel technologies andembrace ‘openness’
    3. 3. Structure• I. Contemporary higher education• II. State of the art in educational technology• III. Critical theory and educational technology• IV. Openness
    4. 4. I. Higher Education• Commodification of education• Forced introduction of market forces• Students seen as customers/consumers; tuition rising• Education as means to employability• Govt strategy: fund research according to ‘impact’• Strategization of academia
    5. 5. I. Higher Education• Technological and cultural change• Increasing specialism among universities– Elite institutions– Mass university– Niche institute– Local university• Division of research and teaching functions; career uncertainty• Scholars less tied to particular institutions• Scholars less tied to traditional dissemination
    6. 6. I. Higher Education• ‘Massification’ of higher education• Improved access to education and scholarly artefacts• Emergence of new forms of technologically mediated inquiry: digitalhumanities, interdisciplinarity, big data• Rise of ubiquitous and informal learning• Interest in markets opened up by technology• Co-opting the language of ‘openness’– Green & gold access– The mixed picture with MOOCs
    7. 7. II. Educational Technology• Broadly construed as study of all tools and techniquesemployed in education• Interdisciplinary• A collaborative approach to iterative improvement of systemsand practices
    8. 8. Open Education Movement• Belief that education is undergoing fundamental changes as a result ofinnovation in digital technologies• Improving access to education and widening participation by closing the‘digital divide’ (Smith and Casserly, 2006)• Encouraging collaboration across disciplinary boundaries and betweenacademics, educators, technologists and support staff within andbeyond educational institutions• Argues that we need new pedagogies and systems for intellectualproperty which are adequate for contemporary education
    9. 9. Open Education Movement• A normative commitment to the idea that knowledge should be free,both to access and develop. Reducing cost of education at point of delivery Providing courses which are free to participate in Rethinking educational materials as open-access, OER Supported by a range of Creative Commons licences Research projects and policy initiatives taking place around theglobeWorking towards pedagogies which make use of new technology
    10. 10. Open Educational Resources (OER)“OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in thepublic domain or have been released under an intellectual propertylicense that permits their free use or re-purposing by others. Openeducational resources include full courses, course materials, modules,textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools,materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”(Atkins et al, 2007:4)Potential to catalyse a range of educational practices
    11. 11. Open Educational Practices• ‘Openness’ in education necessarily shifts the focus fromcontent (OER) to practices (OEP) that are necessary for theuse of that content (Mackey & Jacobson, 2011; Weller, 2011).• Assumption: learning is becoming more open, more complex• OER as radical object• OEP as radical practice• Degrees of opennessThe Open Universitys Institute of Educational TechnologyMcAndrew & Farrow (2012)
    12. 12. “Open EducationalPractices (OEP) are theset of activities andsupport around thecreation, use andrepurposing of OpenEducational Resources.It also includes thecontextual settingswithin which thesepractices occur.”Conole (2011)
    13. 13. III. Openness & Critique• Critical theories share an interest in the critique of oppressive ordominant economic and/or sociopolitical force• Link between educational technology & critical theory generallyunderexplored• Feenberg (2002) suggests critical theory has been left out of thedebate over technology• Kellner (2003) advocates radical restructuring of educationalsystems• Critical theories of education should have normative-utopiandimensions (Nicholls & Allen-Brown, 1996)
    14. 14. III. Openness & Critique• New ways of seeing, categorizing, mapping, connecting andrelating theory to practice (Kellner, 2003)• Knowledge is fundamentally political and bound up with humaninterest: critical theories strive towards emancipatory forms ofknowledge (Habermas, 1971)• Rejection of idealist, elitist and oppressive elements of pedagogy
    15. 15. Dewey• Education is fundamentallypragmatic, with theory emergingfrom practice• Emphasis on freedom andindependence, not conformityand memorization
    16. 16. Freire• Leading advocate ofcritical pedagogy• Emancipatory, dialogicalapproach which rejectsdominant values andpromotestransformation• Link knowledge to praxisto bring about socialchange
    17. 17. Illich• Postindustrial model ofeducation• Emphasis on ‘communitywebs’; informal andautonomous learningnetworks• Connectivism
    18. 18. Adorno• Disabusing ideology ‘ofits pretention toreality’ throughcritique• This forms the basis foralternative forms ofunderstanding andpossibilities for action
    19. 19. Habermas• Stressescommunicative aspectsof academia• For Habermas theuniversity has acentrality in thesymbolic reproductionof the lifeworld• Defence of systemseven in the face ofcolonizing tendencies
    20. 20. Benjamin• Formativeeducation shouldencourageexperience of thefullness of life
    21. 21. The role of the university• What role for the university envisaged by Humboldt or Schelling?• Bildung is bigger than education [Erziehung]: complex conceptcomprising educational, cultural and political perspectives, emphasizingrationality, autonomy, self-activity and a culture of active participation• A reflective, creative form of self-realization or self-cultivation achievedwith and through relations with others• Unrestrained interplay between the individual and the world• Fulfilling the innate human potential of the individual• Education has a function; Bildung is a value in itself• See Deimann & Farrow (2013)
    22. 22. Bildung (Modern)• Bildung had a considerable impact on German educational thought andhas entered educational and political terminology• Widely seen by the 1970s as ideologically compromised and withoutempirical value; relaunched by Klafki (1985)• Hegelian-Marxist tradition: criticism of capitalist model of knowledgeproduction: increase profits by treating learners as consumers ratherthan active, reflective agents (Adorno, 1966; Leissman, 2006)• In Germany, now a byword for education as business, framed in termsof measurable competencies, though arguably currently undergoing arenaissance (Prange, 2004)The Open Universitys Institute of Educational Technology
    23. 23. IV. Openness: summary• Obviously the relationship between technology and society is complexand disputed• Technology can now be used to perpetuate centrally controlled systemsor decentralized, informal, dialogues which support learning• Resources for self-reflexive critique of commercialisation of educationand engaging in discourse about educational culture• Need for new pedagogies which emphasize critical reflection,autonomous inquiry and information literacy rather than instructionand print literacies reproduced online
    24. 24. Open Education: Opportunities for Reflexivity• New emphases on authenticity, autonomy• New possibilities for articulation through participatory culture: socialmedia, identity, mobile, augmented reality• Resources for self-reflexive critique of commercialisation of educationand engaging in discourse about educational culture• OER has the potential to support critical thinking through access to arich base of learning materials from different contexts• New pedagogies which may be involve re-appropriation or remixing ofeducational materials
    25. 25. Critical Pedagogy: worries about e-learning• Technology suspected of instrumental attitudes; being insufficientlydialogic and mechanistic• ‘Factory’ model response to the changing economic conditions of highereducation• Automated models of education typically reproduce, rationalize andperpetuate established forms of knowledge and ways of learning• Technological determinism• Myth of the knowledge economy (Friesen, 2008)
    26. 26. Being Open, Being Critical• Researchers should consider only disseminating their work ‘in theopen’. (This may have career implications!)• Need for sensitivity to the way that commercial providers are co-opting the rhetoric of openness.• Resistance to the commodification of knowledge• Critical theory provides a way to question the backgroundassumptions, definitions and roles informing technological innovationin education• Conversely, openness in education provides fresh opportunity forreflection, critique & building communities and sharing perspectives
    27. 27. References• Adorno, T. W. (1966). Negative Dialektik. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag• Atkins, D., Seely Brown, J., & Hammond, A. L. (2007). A review of the open educational resources (OER)movement: Achievements, challenges, and new opportunities. San Francisco, CA: William and Flora HewlettFoundation. Retrieved from http://www.hewlett. org/uploads/files/ReviewoftheOERMovement.pdf• Conole, G. (2011) Defining Open Educational Practices [online]. Available from• Deimann, M. & Farrow, R. (2012) Bildung as a critical foundation for open education. Open Education:Beyond Content. October 16-18, Vancouver, Canada.• Feenberg, A. (2002). Transforming Technology: A Critical Theory Revisited. Oxford University Press.• Friesen, N. (2008). Critical Theory: Ideology Critique and the Myths of E-Learning. Ubiquity (June). Availablefrom• Habermas, J. (1971). Knowledge and Human Interests. trans. by Jeremy J. Shapiro. Boston: Beacon. Press.• Kellner, D. (2003). Towards a critical theory of education. Available from
    28. 28. References• Klafki, W. (1985). Neue Studien zur Bildungstheorie und Didaktik: Zeitgemäße Allgemeinbildung und kritisch-konstruktive Didaktik. Weinheim: Beltz.• Liessmann, K. (2006). Theorie der Unbildung: Die Irrtümer der Wissensgesellschaft. Wien: Zsolnay.• Mackey, Thomas and Trudi Jacobson (2011). “Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy.” Collegeand Research Libraries 72, no. 1: 62-78.• McAndrew, P. & Farrow, R. (2013) ‘Open Education Research: From the Practical to the Theoretical’ inMcGreal, R., Kinuthia, W. and Marshall, S. (eds) Open Educational Resources: Innovation, Research andPractice. Commonwealth of Learning and Athabasca University, Vancouver. pp.65-78• Nichols, R., & Allen-Brown, V. (1996). Critical theory and educational technology. In D. Jonassen (Ed.),Handbook of research for educational communications and technology. New York: Simon and ShusterMacmillan, 226-252.• Prange, K. (2004). Bildung: a paradigm regained? European Educational Research Journal, 3(2), 501-509.• Smith, M.S. & Casserly, C.M., (2006). The promise of open educational resources. Change: The Magazine ofHigher Learning, 38(5), 8–17.• Weller, M. (2011) The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice. BloomsburyAcademic.
    29. 29. Open UniversityWalton HallMilton KeynesMK7