OER 2022: Not me, not mine, not myself

by Dr Eamon Costello, Associate Professor of Digital Learning at Dublin City University.

“Leaflet” by Liam Costello CC BY 4.0

What is in store for OER24? I gave a glowing review of OER23, in the form of a satire, but I must warn you that there are no jokes in the post you are about to read here. That is because OER 2022 in London was a strange post-pandemic experience for me. The world seemed a lot bigger than before. I remember realising what a giant melting pot London was, how Dublin seemed a spoon of cold soup by comparison. I remember a woman outside a tube station handing me a leaflet about the word of God. On the back they said, don’t pay for this leaflet. It should be distributed for free. Spread this word.

“This is street-level open publishing”, I said to myself, “We are so back!”

People sometimes look down on religion, see it as backward, a type of weak belief. People can believe in all sorts of things – God, Science, Education – but whatever you believe one thing is certain: all knowledge is provisional. Beliefs are strange things. We need to hold them in a particular way. If you believe in your beliefs too much they can start to feel like actual things. You might forget altogether that they are just beliefs. They might start to feel solid, real, superior to the weak beliefs of others.

PhD students in educational research are encouraged to think about their beliefs and reflect on them (reflexivity) and in this process are invited to disclose themselves somehow, with the aim of conducting better and more honest research (positionality). As Holmes (2022) warns however, this is not in itself a panacea and nor is it easy or unproblematic:

No matter how critically reflective and reflexive one is, aspects of the self can be missed, not known, or deliberately hidden, see, for example, Luft and Ingham’s (1955) Johari Window – the ‘blind area’ known to others but not to oneself and the ‘hidden area,’ not known to others and not known to oneself.

(Holmes, 2020)

One of our core beliefs is that we have a self. This is a very persistent and, it must be said, useful belief. It comprises narratives of the past and the future: our goals, our dreams, our vendettas and grievances, fantasies and fears. The near constant inner narration of one’s life, this selfing, is actually a painful process. It is only when we become absorbed in the activity of our work, or drop into some space of other appreciation, that the story of the self temporarily stops. In these moments of no-self we experience a type of peace. For some reason we feel more like ourselves at the point when we have forgotten ourselves.

A great presentation at OER16 – The Self as OER, by Suzan Koseoglu and Maha Bali (2016) – called attention to openness of people rather than open content and resources. We could equally open doors to the concept of no-self as OER. We could consider the idea that there is no stable self when we really go looking for it and rather there is merely a tangle of thoughts, bubbling up from a pot of emotions, that arise from the body. And, that if that is true, then all of this – is not me, not mine, not myself.

An important part of life is not allowing the mind to overtake us with useless thoughts. From the perspective of no-self you are not your thoughts. Thoughts are just here. You can give up thoughts when they do not serve you. Conversely, when you have good thoughts, you can pass them on.

In one sense Open Education is just giving. It is not something to make us feel clever or superior. It is not even something to make us feel good. Indeed, a lot of the time it might make us feel uncomfortable. It may be giving students “opportunities to unpack their cherished worldviews and ‘comfort zones’ in order to deconstruct the ways in which they have learned to see, feel, and act” (Zembylas , 2015). But its promise is that once we give something we get something. It is the hope that we can gain some release from that which we think we cannot do without. It is the promise of liberation from whatever it is we hold too tightly; of education as the practice of freedom (Hooks, 1996).

The other half of Open Education is receiving. Sometimes to give is the easy thing, and it is much harder to receive. In this sense being open is being able to receive and accept something. Being open to new ideas, possibilities and beliefs. Being open to the possibility that “what we have fully available to us as we wake up each day is stranger, deeper and more beautiful than anything we could imagine” (Costello, 2022).

I wish I still had that leaflet from the lady at the tube station in OER22 with its sharealike message. The memories of that day seem really vivid. In a strange city, heading to an exciting conference, I was more open to experiences than I usually am.

I remember putting my hand out, and as she gave something to me, I tried my best to receive it.


Costello, E. (2022). Rewild my heart: With pedagogies of love, kindness and the sun and
moon. Postdigital Science and Education, 1-17. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s42438-022-00318-z

Holmes, A. G. D. (2020). Researcher Positionality–A Consideration of Its Influence and
Place in Qualitative Research–A New Researcher Guide. Shanlax International Journal of
Education, 8
(4), 1-10.

Hooks, B. (1996). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. Journal of
Leisure Research, 28(4), 316.

Koseoglu, S. & Bali, M. (2016) The Self as an Open Educational Resource (2016)
Presentation at the OER 2016 conference. https://www.slideshare.net/edp05mab/self-as-

Zembylas, M. (2015). ‘Pedagogy of discomfort’ and its ethical implications: The tensions of
ethical violence in social justice education. Ethics and education, 10(2), 163-174.

Did you enjoy reading this? If so, consider becoming a Member of ALT. If your employer is an Organisational Member, membership is free! Find out more: https://www.alt.ac.uk/membership

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *