Open to interpretation? Participatory discourses, productive practices and audience engagement in OER
Panagiota Alevizou, The Open University, UK
Conference Theme: Impact
Abstract: Recent advances in ICTs have enabled educational and cultural institutions to rethink the ways in which they conduct learning by using social media and open source software and networking tools. At the same time, several well-known - yet distinct - initiatives within elearning purport a mission of education as a 'public good', through the provision of Open Educational Resources (OER). In parallel, recent thinking as well as international policy agendas in education, have shifted the emphasis from the provision of free content, towards the promotion of creative and 'open participatory learning ecosystems', to foster both citizen engagement and the exchange of pedagogical knowledge through creative and social media platforms. At the core of these evolutionary trajectories of OER mediation, the notions of 'educational and learners' communities', 'self-directed and lifelong learning' as well as 'participatory pedagogy' become more complex. Combining notions of 'mediation' articulated by activity theory (e.g. Engestrom, 1993; Engestrom et al., 2003) with sociocultural perspectives (e.g.Thompson, 2005; Silverstone, 2005; Livingstone, 2009) the paper considers the meaning of Open Educational Resources (OERs) as participatory learning media in a global context. Drawing on a comprehensive review of the literature, and number of interviews with stakeholders from higher education institutions, members from 'informal' community initiatives, and, a series of focus group and email interviews with audiences as well as users of open resources in OECD countries, an overview and a typology of OERs’ and their audience/prod-users (Bruns, 2008) are proposed: it puts forward dimensions of institutional mediation, genre specificity and audiences’ cultural understandings or uses. It is argued that the multiple articulations of 'mediated learning' and (global) 'learning media', framing the socio-technical and pedagogical affordances and OERs, hinder many tensions pertaining: a) the definition of openness pertaining established and emerging ‘brands’, b) the nature of participation and self-representation in niche repositories or disciplinary communities, and c) the inscribed and actual purpose as well as quality of open resources.