Why I signed the #OpenCovid4Ed pledge

created by @mearso

Inspired by this initiative I am dedicating this post to making explicit the reasons why I belive it to be so important at this point in history. I will be drawing on the picture in the UK but these realities are even more acute in the USA, Brazil, South Africa and many other countries. I’m leaving this at 5 – there are so many more…

Reason 1 for #OpenCovid4Ed

Inequality is growing at an alarming pace. Already signalled as an issue in the UK some time ago here are just a few statistics since the pandemic hit that make addressing inequality more urgent than ever.

The gap between rich and poor pupils has grown by 46% according to a recent survey by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

Disabled people have suffered proportionally higher death tolls during the pandemic. (I urge you to read this article, it is not an easy read but it is a lived experience). Disabled women and girls are 11.3 times more likely to die, disabled men 6.5 times more likely to die. Surely no-one wishes this awful consequence to befall their loved ones. It is a measure of our humanity that we support the most vulnerable first.

Reason 2 for #OpenCovid4Ed

Transparency is a diminishing resource. It is vital we uphold this as a principle which should be present in all political decisions and research findings. Our media are increasingly dominated by the stories which contribute to the political agenda of those who sit comfortably insulated by their wealth, protected from the ordeals being suffered by those who are vulnerable. If we do not demand transparency we deny ourselves the information needed to make sense of our world. We become pawns in the games of others.

Reason 3 for #OpenCovid4Ed

Life after covid: sometimes referred to as the new normal, currently it is difficult to imagine a timeline where covid19 is no longer a risk to our societies. I heard an MP on the radio calling for the return to schools to test students and provide data to the government so that plans could be put in place to target those who need to catch up. Superficially this may seem sensible but it lacks any real understanding of both assessment and learning. If those of us working in education were more open about why this would not work, perhaps we could inform others and spread some assessment literacy.

We must not forget how we got where we are now. The systems of industrialisation which have been applied in agriculture have resulted in soil degradation, in education we have applied a similar product orientated approach which is unsustainable. Ken Robinson explained this clearly in a prescient reply to #answerthecall back before the scale of the pandemic had been fully realised. “Successful schools don’t focus on output, they focus on culture” – an inclusive process which values participation and collaboration rather than separation and hierarchy.

Reason 4 for OpenCovid4Ed

Values: I often find myself writing about values these days. Those of us who support open are accused of being naive idealists who strive for unattainable goals. They remind us that we all need money to live and no system can be sustainable unless it generates money. During the pandemic our Tory government were happy to discover the fabled “money tree” in order to prevent the UK sliding into obscurity. Millions were given to support businesses even very large players, such as the hospitality industry

Why was such an idea considered important? We have a real danger in the UK of leaving those in power free to make decisions which affect all our lives without challenge or scrutiny. Our legal system has recognised this, which is why I support the Good Law project. Lawyers also see that access to justice, and the very composition of their ranks is being damaged. Without money it is becoming impossible to sustain a voice.

Is money what you value more than life itself? More than the health and wellbeing of your loved ones? More than fairness and justice?

Reason 5 for #OpenCovid4Ed

Agency: If, like me, you have looked around at life and feel overwhelmed by the injustices you see, you will need to claim your agency before you can even begin to feel you are making a difference. Signing the #opencovid4ed pledge is one way in which you can make a stand.

Much of the work I have done around open educational practice has included encouraging my colleagues to think about ownership on the internet and to consider increasing their own agency by applying Creative Commons licences to their work. I understand why Maha Bali finds this to be not a suitable starting point for her context but for my UK context it is a way to realise that what you do online is to contribute to opening learning beyond the constraints of expensive course books, student loans and the exclusivity of a Russell Group university. In a journey as important as learning, where you start is the least important consideration. What matters is where you end up. The open movement – open praxis, open source technologies, open access, open licensing, open education, open recognition – may never be perfect but they facilitate the path to learning and that matters to me above all.

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