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Notes on open education and critical pedagogy

August 2nd, 2010 by Graham Attwell

The last week saw some interesting posts on Open Education – see  Richard Hall’s recent blog post Open education: the need for critique, Terry Wassall on Open education, people, content,  process . This debate will not go away and although it is progressing at a frustratingly slow speed it is central to attempts to use technology for changing tecahing and learning, rather than replicating and managing the present educational systems.

I also suspect that one of the drivers of such a debate is the increasing pressures on education – on the one hand cutbacks in funding, on the other hand increasing pressure for higher levels of education and for lifelong learning.

Having said that it is perfectly legitimate to advocate open educational resources as improving existing institutional provision. But even at that level, OERs challenge ideas around the ownership of knowledge and the use of that knowledge.

It is also striking that we are developing a linked set of ideas – Open Educational Resources, Personal Learning Environments, Personal Learning Networks. I share some of Richard Hill’s concerns over individualisation. At the end of the day learning is a social process. And indeed there are risks, if PLEs and PLNs are merely seen as different ways of pursuing learning within educational institutions. It is striking that the right wing English education minister, Michael Grove, has been promoting private profit driven universities as a means of increasing the use of distance learning and educational technology. However, there is an alternative discourse within the PLE / PLN development looking to promote social and community based learning to reach outside the educational institutions, very much as posed by Illich in his ground breaking treatise on deschooling society.

Whilst I agree with Terry Wassall in placing the act of tecahing and learning at the centre of debates over critical pedagogy, I also think that the widening contexts and domains of learning also could play a key role in such a critique. It has been the very narrowing down of what has been seen as legitimate in terms of learning practice and domains that has led to the hierarchical systems of education and knowledge that we see today and to the devaluing of both certain forms of learning – such as vocational education – and the disregarding of different learning domains – especially the workplace and community.

In that respect, a critical pedagogy needs to reach back and link with older traditions of workers self education as well as embrace the potentials of technology/

To be continued……..

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