The Emperor’s new clothes, or: Why „Open Education Resources“ (OER) will not save the education system

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„The walls have been stolen…“ – „Just call it freedom!“

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The calls for the necessity of „OER“ are currently echoing in the education system. The topic occupies the forums and is celebrated at barcamps. At the same time, the education system itself is not „open“, but a closed system of closed systems with strictly guarded entrances and exits. „Open“, on the other hand, is at home in digital network culture and fundamentally contradicts the essence of the educational system. The latter systemically excludes „Open“. It denies and prevents systemic openness. For this reason, discussions and hopes are currently shifting to materials, to so-called teaching materials and their availability, to „OER“. The system begins to simulate „openness“ in its interior by virtually expanding the boundaries of the reserve. It’s a smart move, actually.

However, „Open Access“ does not work in closed systems. The core concerns behind this are of a grassroots democratic nature and are based on self-organisation. It is about people alone and in groups having free access to the opportunities for design and development – from whatever: Software, soft ice cream or alternative mobility, medicine, research. It is not just about free access to information, but about the freedom of design, communication, collaboration and networking – the most unrestricted possible networking of all who inform and help each other through these activities: People who work together to solve current social, economic, cultural or scientific problems. It is also about shaping and changing the rules together, about what „Open“ should be and how it is practiced. It is about a new principle of society, as Stephan Lessenich, for example, outlines.

It’s not about new teaching aids. It is about saying goodbye to teaching

Open Access“ and „Open Resources“ are not about making teaching materials available free of charge. It is a question of abolishing teaching materials as such. Open access to teaching materials and open exchange between teachers does not change the fact that teaching professions continue to teach with the help of teaching materials. However, „Open“ is not about organizing a new method management within a closed system. Teaching and testing do not become different through „Open“, they become superfluous. „Open“ means that in matters of „knowledge“ nothing is presented any more, but that the core task of a community is to form knowledge. However the education system is not built for that. To this day, it assumes with a willful stubbornness that knowledge can be conveyed as a finished product. Now wait, oh wonder „Open“. When a human being or a system wants to follow the paradigm shift from apparent mediation to collaborative creation, it first has to realize the difference between data, information and knowledge, for to practice this difference together with others.

The emperor’s new clothes

„Open Education“, as it is euphorically proclaimed by the education system, is not taken as an opening of closed teaching and educational processes, plans and methods to the „outside world“ in a society that is completely newly formed by the paradigm of networking. Rather, it is a disguised attempt to enhance and thus „salvage“ the existing teaching culture, which itself does not become „open“ by its very nature (even „open prison“ is prison), but more of what it already is: gate keeping at the portals of the closed system.

„Open Book exams“ are essentially the same concept as „Closed Book exams“. They are and will remain tests with the aim of certification and selection – as they are features of closed systems. The same applies to curricula and timetables and to the internal design of school subjects, which also remain just subjects, according to structure and intention. In the imagined ideal case, the subject of „English“ and every other subject „opens up“ to other subjects, and there is solemn talk of „interdisciplinarity“ and „transdisciplinarity“, but not of what „open“ actually means: overcoming the disciplinarity of the old school and jointly inventing new, contemporary and solution-oriented formats of collaboration.

The concept of teaching (imparting knowledge) as the core structure and core process of the educational system in all its („open“ or closed) forms is not compatible with the ways in which knowledge is constructed and designed in the contexts of digital transformation.

Teaching is not „open“ by its very nature. It thrives on the opposite intention. Teaching does not allow learning and practicing categorizing (as one of the core competencies of knowledge work), because teaching itself categorizes. Teaching does not allow learning of selection and assignment (of information, meaning, etc.), because teaching selects and assigns itself. Teaching does not open the horizon of what already exists to the possible, but reduces what is possible to what is manageable for evaluation. It exchanges the horizon for the edge of the plate. Flowery formulation: It teaches the subtle dust-removal from paper flowers instead of growing roses (Hans Küng).

A look into the internet shows: Change is everywhere on its way

In view of the increasingly felt helplessness of many people and the feeling of being powerlessly at the mercy of the digital age, the urgency of abolishing the classical teaching worlds can no longer be denied. It is no longer acceptable to lock people up in greenhouses on the pretext that they would otherwise drown in the cloudbursts of the information age. It must end quickly that we force people from the moment they can walk into systems in which they do not learn to distinguish and to think uprightly. Systems in which they are continuously supplied with knowledge packages declared as right and wrong and as important and unimportant instead. Systems in which they learn nothing more than to consider these categories for true and to become critical only within these given polarities – and then fail for the rest of their lives because of the complexity and ambiguity of the real world.

We will very soon stop using a lot of energy to develop new gimmicks and methods in order to save these „minting institutions“ called schools into a future that expects different abilities from us in almost all aspects of life than the educational system imparts. Hence we have to stop constantly asking the question of what should or will be instead of school. There is no answer to that at the moment and that is why, as long as we ask this question, we always end up where we are and not on the road to where we should be. We do not need another school or a new school, and we do not need teachers with different qualifications. It is completely pointless to continue to believe in and hold on to structures that are dissolving so conspicuously.

What we need is what is already developing at the moment – in strong initiatives and through them. Through the commitment of people of every origin in civil society. A look into the internet shows: change is on its way. Everywhere. And it too will develop exponentially. While at the moment many call for control and demand monitoring, some to protect citizens, others to spy on them, the Open Access movement is just taking off.

The will to create a new, networked, resource-saving, collaboratively thinking and acting world, driven by a holistic sense of justice and empathy for people, animals and nature, has enormous strength and power. This will prevail.

(translated with great help of DeepL)

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Autor: Christoph Schmitt, Bildungsdesigner, Coach & Supervisor ZFH

Bildungsaktivist, Bildungsdesigner, Ressourcenklempner, Ethiker, Rituals Expert. Ich unterstütze Menschen und Organisationen beim "Digital Turn" - systemisch & lösungsfokussiert. Ich coache Menschen in ihren Entwicklungsphasen und begleite in einschneidenden Lebensmomenten durch die Gestaltung von Ritualen.

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