OER20 Call for Proposal extended in support of Members taking part in strike action

#OER20 - 26/11/19

The OER20 Conference Call for Proposals has been extended to 8 December 2019. We have taken this action to support ALT Members and conference participants who are taking part in strike action in the UK [University and College Union (UCU) announcement of strike action on pensions and on pay and working conditions, Monday 25 November – Wednesday 4 December].

More information about the OER20 themes and submission details are included in our Call for Proposals.

The Association for Learning Technology is an independent, charitable membership body which represents individual and organisational Members from all sectors. Independance is one of our core values. ALT is solely being funded from membership and events income, and in February 2018 ALT became a fully independent organisation. As an independent charity ALT maintains strong connections with Higher Education Institutions as well as other sectors, sector bodies, membership organisations and unions.

Whilst we continue to provide membership services to Members from across sectors in the UK and internationally we are glad to offer extensions to deadlines or support our Members taking part in the strike during the next 2 weeks in other ways. Please contact us.

Categories: ALT, OER - Conference News

The Open Web, Care, and Digital Literacies…by Christian Friedrich

#OER20 - 25/11/19

With the theme “The Care in Openness”, the OER conference organisers, chairs, committee members and attendees are addressing issues of invisibility. Most of the care that goes into relationships and most of the care it takes to run and maintain a certain process or product are invisible and go unnoticed until that care goes missing, usually with great surprise among its beneficiaries. In relation to workplace environments and employees’ satisfaction, Herzberg coined the term “hygiene factors”. Simply put, one notices that certain factors are missing only when they go missing, much like hygiene. And while I do not wish to draw too many parallels between a theory attempting to describe factors for employee satisfaction and the theme of Care in Openness, the hygiene factors of Open can probably be best identified by those who are doing the work that goes unnoticed so often. Care in Openness is a hygiene factor.

We have been working on a new strand of our work at Wikimedia Deutschland. We have always cared about fostering environments for Open Educational Resources and Open Practices. And while we do plenty of policy work, trying to argue for more a more open and free web and for regulation that enables and fosters open participation, we have also always been interested in the ways in which individuals use the open web as their ecosystem for work, for learning, representation, communication and community building.

Over the last year, we have taken a closer and more systemic look at the connections between Openness and an individual’s use of the web as an ecosystem. There are plenty of competency frameworks to find, but we found Doug Belshaw’s eight elements of Digital Literacy most useful as a basic framework to describe our ideas around this.

Openness fosters Digital Literacies, and vice versa

Our hypothesis, and this is certainly not our original idea but an iteration of the work of many others who marked this as important before us, is that open collaboration, open content, open software and hardware on the one hand, and Digital Literacies of individuals on the other hand, strengthen and reinforce one another. Claiming a piece of content, a space on the web or a software, tinkering with it, making it something of your own, communicating and working with others on the web; all of these activities foster an individual’s Digital Literacies, their capabilities and competences as well as their self-efficacy and their confidence. This is especially so if they happen in open environments where communities and individuals can choose when and how to open or close down access, visibility, when they negotiate privacy and security and actively choose when representation and communication should happen.

This statement may seem a bit obvious to many attendees of #OER20, many open advocates and activists have brought versions of this argument forward. This statement, by itself, is also quite ignorant of power structures and it needs to be contextualised to reflect individual circumstances, different contexts and environments. Being aware of this is especially important if we continue with our argument that Openness, combined with Digital Literacies is crucial for participation in society.

Participation in society is happening on the web, if we like it or not

Political and societal discourse and decision-making, for better or worse, are happening on the web. There are plenty of painful examples for this, but there is also a more hopeful perspective: The #Fridays4Future movement, in its current form, would have never been possible without a web that is open on some dimensions. They might not have been successful in the end, but much of the European protests around copyright reform in early 2019 would have never been possible without individuals’ Digital Literacies, without – at least on some levels – ways to openly position and represent one’s opinion, to connect with others and join forces. (Also, just think of the fact that 200,000 protesters took something as dry as copyright reform to the streets.)

Still, it would be naive to proclaim that Openness in itself is a force for good. Open, much like the digital, can show and amplify the ugly as much as it can show and amplify the good. Hatred, misogyny, racism and sexism have been part of Open communities the past and are still part of Open communities today. Sometimes, they appear as symptoms of unknown biases and ignorance. Sometimes, though, the ugly is actively promoted and given a spotlight. Especially when we work to promote Openness, it matters who we reference, what work we cite, it matters what kind of society we strive for. Openness is political, the theme of #OER17 gave space for many to actively define what they wanted their Open work to stand for.

With all of that in mind, it becomes even more important to not only link Openness with Digital Literacies. This work, facilitated at Wikimedia Deutschland, will matter most if we also define why we aim to link Openness and Digital Literacies in the first place, if our vision includes a positive picture of a society we would like to be part of.

We aim to foster a Collective Impact initiative of many different partner organisations in Germany who are committed to work on issues that relate to Openness, Digital Literacies and participation in society. We have been in conversations with many organisations, small and large, with activists, librarians, journalists, researchers and educators to create an environment that lets us jointly tackle issues that relate to Openness, Digital Literacies, and participation in society. We aim to do this with a pluralistic and democratic society in mind, where individuals can actively partake with their skills, knowledge, and personal values.

I was hoping to present our thoughts and ideas at this week’s Open Edudation Global Conference for feedback from Open educators and to learn from their experiences. But when the opportunity came to partner with ALT and jointly invite some of the most fabulous people in Open and technology to our offices at Wikimedia, I withdrew my registration and hope to discuss some of our questions there instead. Once the recordings of this small event in Berlin are online, we aim to host a Virtually Connecting session to include other voices, who cannot be in Berlin this week, as well.

Coming back to my introductory statement that care in Openness is a hygiene factor, this very much goes for this work on Openness, Digital Literacies and participation as well. In our conversations, we have found that many of the organisations who are already doing great work in this realm go unnoticed. They are the ones whose funding most regularly seems to be cut off, and their work and care will become noticed only when it is too late, when they stop doing this invisible labour of care. This makes the labour around care even more precarious than many other work in Open. Any ideas and thoughts on this, any good examples where concepts around Openness, Literacies and participation intersect are much appreciated. Let’s chat if this resonates with you at all.

The past OER conference themes have always struck a chord with me. The Politics of Open, Open to All, Recentering Open – the OER conference always managed to hit a nerve in Open communities. I admit that it took me a little longer to see “The Care in Openness” as a consequential continuation. But the more this conference theme settles in, the more it relates to much of the good work we see in Open Education and in Openness in general.

For our small event on Wednesday this week, we just had to ask Bryan Mathers if he would contribute some of his thinkery, and I could not resist to include it in this post. All images in this post with kudos and huge thanks to Bryan Mathers and the Visual Thinkery under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 License.

Christian Friedrich, Education and Science Advisor at Wikimedia Deutschland:


Categories: ALT, OER - Conference News

Non-institutional learning technologies, risks and responsibilities: a critical discourse analysis of university artefacts

RLT Journal - 21/11/19

Non-institutional technologies include external or third-party technologies that are not officially sanctioned or supported by higher education institutions (HEIs) but may be used by staff for educational purposes. These include free, open-source and open-access technologies such as social media sites, apps and online services. The literature identifies a number of risks and ethical considerations when using digital technologies, such as security, safety, privacy and legal compliance (Common Sense n.d.). This study analyses institutional artefacts, including policy and guidance documents, to explore how institutions are addressing the risks of educational technologies identified throughout the literature.

Critical discourse analysis was conducted on nine artefacts, obtained from seven UK HEIs. The study found that institutional policies and guidance documents do not sufficiently address some of the key risks identified in the literature (e.g. security risks), nor consider the ethical issues emerging from the use of profit-making educational products. Users of these technologies (including teaching staff) are assigned a broad range of complex and potentially time-consuming responsibilities concerning the evaluation, selection and operation of these technologies. For example, to ensure compliance with data protection legislation, however, no artefact stated how this should be achieved. The study therefore identifies significant inadequacies in institutional policies and guidelines, and questions whether appropriate quality assurance processes and safeguards are in place when non-institutional technologies are used for higher education.

Categories: ALT, Publication

Open educational resources for research training: quality assurance through a collaborative evaluation

RLT Journal - 18/11/19

Although it is considered that open educational resources offer vast pedagogical opportunities for any educational context, there have been only few studies so far that have linked their use or application in the field of research training, and even less works that have addressed their quality assurance for that context. As part of an inter-institutional project, the main aim of this article is the collaborative selection and evaluation of appropriate educational resources for research training. The mixed method approach of the article includes needs’ analysis of researchers in training through questionnaires and interviews. This was the starting point for the collaborative evaluation of educational resources using the agreed common criteria derived from the Learning Object Review Instrument (LORI) evaluation instrument. This article suggests recommendations regarding the collaborative evaluation of educational resources and the use of LORI, and suggestions for creators of educational resources for research training to facilitate the quality assurance of their materials. A website is being developed to bind together the resources that have met the quality criteria established in collaborative evaluation.

Categories: ALT, Publication

Exploring children experience with educational mobile technology

RLT Journal - 15/11/19

The purpose of this study is to explore and analyse the user experience (UX) of Arabic educational and entertainment applications designed for children aging 8–10 years. This paper reports the results of an experimental study conducted on a sample of 53 children in two elementary schools in Qalqilya and Nablus, Palestine. The context of the current study is different from previous studies that were conducted in a western environment in terms of knowledge, awareness, demographic changes and background variables. Qualitative methods captured the enjoyable and attractive parts of the software being used. The qualitative content analysis showed that participants’ enjoyment using the system was quite different. During sessions, children showed much excitement and interest while working with the math app more than the science app. However, girls were less interested to use the math application compared with their use of the device itself. Following Hassenzahl’s model, the descriptions of UXs were also categorised into two categories: pragmatic and hedonic; the functionality, technical and ease of use aspects of UX of both the tablet and the math application were categorised as pragmatic. Enjoyable, exciting, confusing and upsetting experiences were categorised as hedonic. Male participants were more familiar with the use of mobile devices than female participants. The results of the present study showed that gender, culture and religion are important factors that affect children’s experience to use new technological devices since three female participants were reluctant to use the tablet especially due to cultural and religious factors.

Categories: ALT, Publication

Call for Participation in our Project – the Femedtech Quilt of Care and Justice in Open Education

#OER20 - 12/11/19

Welcome to the home for information about creating the Femedtech Quilt of Care and Justice in Open Education. This document has a short link  and can be promoted on Twitter via hashtag #FemedtechQuilt, including #OER20 as appropriate.


This is a warm and inclusive invitation to participate in the process of creating a Quilt of Care and Justice, that will be developed with the help of the Femedtech community and others over the next few months. The quilt will be completed and displayed at the OER20 Conference in April 2020. Our particular call here stands alongside the Call for Proposals for OER20 and yet is distinct from it. The quilt project is driven by the values we espouse and continue to develop at FemEdTech through our words and actions at, for example and ; and at the Twitter hashtag #femedtech and account @femedtech. Our values are a good fit with the themes of the OER20, particularly aspects of care, criticality and sustainability.

We have also been guided by the Three Principles of Social Justice Applied to Open Education. Lambert (2018)’s framework highlights Redistributive Justice for people excluded for reasons of finance; Recognitive Justice for those who can’t recognise themselves in the resources; and Representational Justice for those whose voices are lacking in open discussion and whose contributions are absent from OERs.

We have our own goals and deadlines in creating a beautiful artefact whose components need to travel to one place if they are to become a quilt.

Our quilt project is not only a Feminist project, and an Open Education project but also a form of Activism in itself. Together we can create a quilt that can inspire during and after its creation; acknowledge all contributions and their history; and make a difference to Care and Justice in Education and Technology contexts. Most of the work will be done before OER20 and there is no need to be a delegate at the conference to participate.


This is a project in three parts:

  • The preparation and assembly of a quilt that links social justice and open education technology contexts and that will contribute to activism
  • The creation of a digital archive of the elements, components and finished quilt that becomes a shareable artefact and repository in its own right
  • The completion of the quilt at a workshop at OER20 and its display for the first time at the conference, in its material and digital forms.
How you can participate

You can participate by donating fabric or found objects, creating blocks, writing words and participating in an OER20 workshop (if accepted). This might seem like a project for experienced quilters (who are of course most welcome) but we welcome and offer support for your participation in a variety of ways.

For the quilt, we welcome donations of fabric, new or used; pieced or embellished fabric quilt squares; small, light found objects that can be fastened on to the quilt; and quotes or your own words that can be reused in the OER20 workshop. Making quilt squares is easier than you might think and does not have to involve sewing.

Timelines Contribution Comment Send Deadline Fabric We’d love fabric donations – bigger pieces can be used for sashing, borders and backing.  Fabric can be recycled from clothes. Many Open Education people are aficionados of the plaid shirt. So if you have an old cotton shirt that’s worn at the elbows, we can reuse the fabric from the body. As soon as possible and arriving any time before deadline 31 January 2020 Quilt Squares These could come from individuals or local groups that work together. They can be traditional pieced blocks or fabric embellished with collage/art work or digitally printed with a relevant image. Squares should measure 7 inch x 7 inch (will be finished size 6 inch x 6 inch when sewn in quilt), or 13 inch x 13 inch (will be finished size 12 inch x 12 inch when sewn in quilt) Once completed and arriving before deadline 31 January 2020 Found objects Small enough and light enough to stitch/ fasten onto quilt. These might be buttons, or anything that has meaning for you relevant to the subject of the quilt. As soon as possible and arriving any time before deadline 13 March 2020 Words These could be attributed quotes and/or your own words that appear in your own creations or be stitched/ ironed on to quilt by others at OER20 Workshop Contribute your own words/ chosen quotes at 13 March 2020 Stories We hope that each contribution will have its own story that you can tell us at our FemEdTech website. The stories will then be linked back to the digital artefact. Contribute story at At any time after your contribution is sent or included in the Quilt

You can find more details and support resources for contributing to the Quilt for Care and Justice. Feel free to add suggestions and resources to the document Support and Resources for Creating/Donating contributions for Quilt of Care and Justice. You may find it good to work in a group and we will offer support for groups working on contributions.

If you intend to make a contribution, please give us a few details about the contribution and yourself by completing Intention to submit contribution to OER20 Quilt. Once you have informed us about your intended contribution, we will send you a postal address to which you can send your contribution for inclusion in the quilt by the specified deadline.

We will endeavour to be as flexible and helpful as possible so please get in touch with any questions you have.

  • Frances Bell
  • Helen Beetham
  • Kate Bowles
  • Lorna M. Campbell
  • Catherine Cronin
  • Laura Czerniewycz
  • Maren Deepwell
  • Johanna Funk
  • Suzanne Hardy
  • Sarah Lambert
  • Sheila MacNeill
  • Anne-Marie Scott
  • Clare Thomson
  • Mia Zamora

Contact: Frances Bell @francesbell with any inquiries not already covered in this document. Please include reference to Quilt of Care and Justice.


Lambert, S. R. (2018). Changing our (Dis)Course: A Distinctive Social Justice Aligned Definition of Open Education. Journal of Learning for Development, 5(3), 225–244. Retrieved from

FemEdTech Quilt of Care and Justice in Open Education #FemEdTech Quilt #OER20…by Frances Bell

Categories: ALT, OER - Conference News

Social media and professional development: a systematic review

RLT Journal - 12/11/19

The great popularisation of social media at the beginning of the 21st century has led to the production of many empirical studies in an attempt to explore the opportunities these platforms provide for different activities, such as learning and updating for professionals. This study aims to identify and summarise the main characteristics of research into social media and professional development published between 2013 and 2017. We analysed the years, journals, conceptual background, research methodologies, data collection tools, professional disciplines, educational contexts, types of social media and characteristics of social media that can generate learning opportunities. A total of 44 articles were selected and analysed from peer-reviewed journals. Findings revealed that (1) an upward trend with respect to research on social media and professional development; (2) surveys were the main research method for collecting data about social media; (3) health and education sciences are the most studied fields of knowledge; (4) there is a special interest in the study of social media in informal learning contexts; (5) Twitter is the most studied social media platform and (6) social media seems to be a sustainable support for professional development due to its open, social and flexible nature. Implications of findings for future research are also discussed.

Categories: ALT, Publication

ALT & Wikimedia event – 27 November, Berlin

#OER20 - 12/11/19

The Association for Learning Technology and Wikimedia Deutschland are inviting you to an open evening: “Education, open participation and democracy: critical reflections”. The event, inspired by the OER20 Conference theme “The Care in Openness” will focus on the ways in which Openness, individuals and communities can foster a participatory and democratic culture in Open work and in society in general.

This event aims to claim and open a space for critical conversations and questions: Who is Open for and who is it open to? How can Open be leveraged as a force for participatory culture in society and education? Which roots of Openness do we need to be especially critical of when we claim that Open is here to save us all from the world of proprietary, industry-driven and techno-solutionist claims around education and participation in society? How do larger narratives around web culture play into the ways in which education, participation and the web are framed?

The event will take place on Wednesday 27 November 2019, 5pm – 9pm, at the Wikimedia offices in Berlin. Spaces are limited, so register your place for for the event before 22 November 2019.

We are delighted to have a group of dedicated activists and researchers as guests and contributors to this evening, including:

  • Laura Czerniewicz, Director of the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT), University of Cape Town in South Africa
  • Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of the Association for Learning Technology
  • Martin Hawksey, Chief Innovation, Community and Technology Officer, Association for Learning Technology
  • Audrey Watters, Education writer at Hack Education, independent scholar and author
  • Lorna Campbell, Open education technology, policy & practice at the University of Edinburgh, ALT and Wikimedia UK trustee
  • Christian Friedrich, Education and Science Advisor at Wikimedia Deutschland

We hope that this event will stimulate discussions that can continue at the OER20 Conference, and encourage participants to consider making a submission for the OER20 Conference. The call for proposals for OER20 closes on 1 December 2019, and you can submit your proposal on the OER20 website.

Categories: ALT, OER - Conference News

Education, open participation and democracy: critical reflections - 27 November 2019, Berlin

ALT News - 12/11/19

The Association for Learning Technology and Wikimedia Deutschland are inviting you to an open evening: “Education, open participation and democracy: critical reflections”. The event, inspired by the OER20 Conference theme “The Care in Openness” will focus on the ways in which Openness, individuals and communities can foster a participatory and democratic culture in Open work and in society in general. 


Categories: ALT, News

Open Access in Latin America: an opportunity to grow stronger…by Laura Santana

#OER20 - 12/11/19

Out of the 20 top countries in the world when it comes to research output, the only country to represent the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region is Brazil in the 13th position, according to a Web of Science report from 2013-2018. In this time period, almost one-third of Brazil’s research was published in collaboration with authors from abroad. Nonetheless, countries like Chile and Colombia, although not part of the top 20, were able to express stronger international collaboration by producing approximately 70% of its research with authors from different countries.

As much as the understanding of the changes around evaluation systems regarding research impact has been sedimented over the years, international collaboration still plays an important role to increasing research relevance not only due to the research networks authors can outreach but mainly because this validation is still influenced by traditional scholarly communication means. According to an interview with Dominique Babini from the International Science Council, the “mainstream” journals still lack contribution from more diverse sources of information, such as the developing regions. So, how do we break this cycle and make sharing knowledge information in the region truly democratic?

In order to answer this question, first, we need to have a better understanding of how the LAC countries access information online and relate to ICT (Information and Communications Technology) once the digital divide is not new to the region. In fact, it continues to be a priority to be tackled by local governments, first, to generate infrastructure that allows citizens to have access to the ICT and, now, in an attempt to help communities engage with technology and grasp a sense of digital literacy.

Even though a report from the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean states access to the Internet grew over 100% in the region between 2010 and 2016, changing the stats from 22.3% of households connected to the Internet in the first decade of years 2000 to 45.5% in late 2016, data shows that the disparity of access between rural and urban areas represent an average difference of 27%. Brazil, Mexico and Colombia – who share the Top 4 podium of countries that access the Internet the most with Argentina – also have the greatest gap between urban and rural areas.

The need for equality policies regarding access to technology is visible in this scenario. Although the challenges to strengthen the economy and increase socio-demographic indicators are heterogeneous among the countries, Open Access (OA) emerges as a solution to address the issues presented so far. However, what does OA actually means in a region where half of the population seemingly still does not have access to the World Wide Web? Open Access means opportunity.

OA initiatives have grown more in LAC than any other region of the world since SciELO’s foundation in 1997, mostly via digital repositories due to the interest of institutions to promote the dissemination of their research output; regional and countrywide policies regarding state-funded researches; infrastructure and different levels of funding available for APCs. Authors believe the “green road” to Open Access has the greatest potential to promote what the OA movement advocates for. However, UNESCO’s Global Open Access Portal indicates that almost one-fifth of the Open Access Journals from DOAJ are from LAC, with Brazil being responsible for half of these: University of São Paulo, National Autonomous University of Mexico and University of Chile each have more than 100 OA journals in their institutional digital repositories.

To help build a more robust notion on how to encourage LAC to collaborate within its countries and in partnership with others with the purpose of solidifying the region and bringing more relevance to the use of technology in its scientific output, we have listed a few action items inspired by Nosek’s notions of cultural change towards Open Science:


  • Community Engagement


Since all individuals are part of a social system, communities represent a crucial role in transition and change processes. Thus, to provide access to education & technology initiatives regionwide can help engage learners and scholars despite language differences, promote interoperability and cultural advocacy.


  • International Collaboration


Collaboration is the foundation of scientific advances, which highlights the need for cooperation. As a result of expanding existing research networks and creating new ones, we can expect the strengthening of institutional – and why not country and regionwide – policies that help shape key OA initiatives.


  • Training & Continued Education


In addition to providing access to infrastructure, it is necessary to guarantee the sustainability of implementing ICT for educational and academic purposes in the region. By focusing on digital literacy, institutions and governments can help facilitate the development of skills and competencies the fast-paced online environment requires and help make individuals be the leading figures of their own paths as learners, teachers and researchers.

This view of LAC aims to broaden the perspective of the opportunities Open Access represents in terms of changing how the countries produce knowledge; to whom are they making it available and which improvements should we expect next.

Laura Santana is a Researcher from the Information Science Department from the University of São Paulo and Engagement Specialist from BMJ. Contact information:

Categories: ALT, OER - Conference News

FemEdTech Quilt of Care and Justice in Open Education #FemEdTech Quilt #OER20…by Frances Bell

#OER20 - 11/11/19

This is an open invitation to contribute to the FemEdTech Quilt of Care and Justice in Open Education. Our Call for Participation complements the Call for contributions to OER20 with its theme of Care in Openness, and our quilt will be completed and displayed at OER20.

The quilt will be completed and displayed at the OER20 Conference in April 2020. Our particular call here stands alongside the Call for Proposals for OER20 and yet is distinct from it.

We, at FemEdTech, will be submitting a proposal to OER20 like many of you. We will propose a workshop where delegates can contribute to the almost complete quilt with some stitches, and final embellishments.

Whether or not you are planning to attend OER20, please consider contributing to the quilt as soon as possible.  Let’s be clear that your contributions don’t depend on your sewing or quilting prowess. This piece of craft activism, craftivism, really is for all. Express your ideas on Care and Justice in Open Education in any of the ways described in the Call for Participation by the stated deadlines.

Those of you who cannot attend OER20 for financial or other reasons, can make the most significant contributions to our quilt. You can see your contributions, work and art at our quilt without travelling to London in April 2020, as we will also create a digital artefact based on the quilt and its process of creation.

Let’s face it, there won’t be a quilt to finish at OER20 without the work that precedes the conference. And we want to invite all, sewists and non-sewists, artists and dabblers (like me) to contribute to our quilt by supplying fabric, quilt blocks, found objects, words and stories. Those who can’t attend OER20 can have a real presence, by way of the artefacts you contribute, at OER20 and beyond, into other events that can benefit from having our quilt in attendance.

Ours is a quilt of activism. My personal inspiration for this work is a quilt that was produced for the #justiceforlb  campaign, whose story of creation and impact is told here. I will never forget seeing the #JusticeforLB quilt at the People’s History Museum in Manchester when it was on tour. Our other inspirations include the Quilts of Gee’s Bend, Faith Ringgold, the Digital Embroidered Commons , Geek Art, the Quilted Banner displayed at, Stitching the Border, The Colorful, Radical Quilts of Chawne Kimber, the LearnHigher Quilt and the Quilt of Comfort.

Here are two little stories of quilt block creation:

The first is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – making a quilt block with no sewing, a story of fabric applique and text written with fabric pen to create a quilt block. The second is (Trying to) Print a no sew Quilt Block from CCL image, a story of a failed attempt to print a CCL image to make a quilt block, along with some alternative possibilities for digital printing.

I hope these stories encourage you to make your own blocks and stories, inspired by other textile artists. If you plan to contribute, please register here and we’ll let you know where to send your contributions.

And why would you good people help make our quilt? Let’s think of the quilt’s appearance at OER20 as a celebration of our collective work, and as a focus for activism in the future. Care and Justice in Open Education are not a given, they need our thoughts, actions and work.

Written by Frances Bell

Categories: ALT, OER - Conference News

Digital Literacy: Concepts Challenged by the Occupation

#ALTC Blog - 10/11/19

Post by John Traxler

Digital literacy is a prerequisite to digital learning, and a vital aspect of the working lives of learning technologists. It embraces the knowledge, skills, attitudes and access that enable individuals to survive, prosper and flourish in an increasingly digital world. Its conceptualisation and implementation have however mostly taken place in the developed world, specifically Europe.  Even in this relatively stable and homogeneous environment, its development has not been uncontested, with fears it is merely the IT curriculum rebranded for the current graduate employment market.  Outside these environments, however, the challenges and opportunities can be dramatically different, as can the cultural, educational, political and technological contexts.

Palestine is under Israeli occupation. There are pervasive problems in maintaining the continuity, consistency and quality of a school system under constant pressure. This is due to “routine” interruptions and disruptions from the occupation, specifically the checkpoints, curfews and closedowns, but also episodes of injury, imprisonment, violence and death.

Children playing near a checkpoint in Palestine (Photo by John Traxler)

Digital technologies could be used to address each set of problems and challenges on a reactive and piecemeal basis but part of the research described here used fieldwork to explore the possibility that ‘digital literacy’, in the form understood and experienced by learning technologists in Europe, was inadequate elsewhere and specifically in Palestine because of:

  • The focus on the individual with no mention of the community and the culture
  • The lack of recognition of the impact and hegemony of global English or of American digital technology
  • The potential importance of digital space and digital identity for a community and culture with severe constraints on its physical space and its physical identity
  • The need to express widespread trauma, loss and pain in circumstances where physically meeting or demonstrating were prohibited or problematic

This blog discusses empirical research to explore digital literacy within the context of the Israeli occupation of Palestine specifically in relation to teachers and their students, by focussing on accounts of the impact of the occupation and on the current use of digital technologies. Many poignant quotes illustrate the situation; one teacher says

The learner suffers from a psychological crisis and sleeps next to his family in Al- Shweikeh because one of his relatives was martyred and the soldiers come every night to search the house which led to the child’s fear of everyone at school and the constant going to the lavatory.

This is just one quote, typical of many, coming from Palestinian primary teachers in Nablus, in the north of occupied Palestine. They were describing the impact of the Israeli occupation on their professional lives and the lives of their learners but also describing the role of digital learning technology in a complex and troubled environment. The quotes come from focus groups held in December 2018 with six groups of teachers on the campus of An Najah National University in Nablus, organised by the Faculty of Educational Sciences. The topics grew out of a large-scale survey of over 500 teachers that explored the impact of the occupation on teachers’ professional lives.

One teacher remarked that no child in her class was unaffected by a death or wounding in the immediate family.

To give some further context, the teachers describe the difficulties of the daily commute, listing,

“The daily checkpoints between the school and the house, involuntary returning from the checkpoint to the house, the late arrival [at] the school, the separation wall and standing in front of the gates for hours.”

And interruptions to teaching and learning, variously

”Teachers are afraid when the Israeli soldiers pass by the school; that affects my performance thus reduces the quality of teaching.”

“The Israeli army’s entry into the school leads to violence and squabbles which affects the learning environment.”

“The presence of the tank in front of the school and the denial of access to the school were a major reason for our inability to focus on education as the time was wasted by talking about it amongst students.”

The teachers also describe how learners are affected by experiences in their everyday lives outside school,

“… having an empty chair with a martyr’s photo on it and the refusal of students to sit on the chair in order to commemorate and respect the martyr, leads all the students to continuing talking about him and remembering the incident.”


 “Absence from school to visit family members in prisons such as mother, father and its effect on the student’s psychological health, lack of financial resources because of the occupation, and the limited education to rote learning because of the absence of activities.”

Also, elsewhere,

“The mother sleeps in prayer clothes because the soldiers might invade the house while the family is sleeping, the arrest of students at a school in one of the Jenin camps, …”

Parts of both the survey and focus groups explored teachers’ use of digital technology, such as SMS, websites and videos, to support learning in the face of the situation they describe. They used whatever was available, but the survey revealed technically savvy teachers in reasonable well-equipped schools alongside other teachers with much less competence, support and infrastructure.

The findings also described the combined impact of the lack of specifically Palestinian digital resources and of restrictions on travel, particularly to Jerusalem, depriving their students of a fuller sense of their Palestinian identity.

A classroom in Palestine (Photo by John Traxler)

The methodological details are available (Traxler et al 2019). This followed earlier work (Traxler 2018) that was critical in a more general sense of the gap between the high ideals in which digital literacy is conceptualised and articulated and the patchy way it is often then implemented. This would be especially worrying if it was uncritically ‘copy-and-pasted’ on to the Palestinian education system. Given problems with criticality and capacity in parts of academia in the cultures of the Middle East, this is a significant risk. The findings could underpin a more comprehensive and appropriate definition of digital literacy for the Palestinian education system, from kindergarten and schools to higher education and adult community learning. This would start from a more holistic and comprehensive analysis of the threats, pressures, experiences, resources and opportunities of individuals, their community and their culture and asking how digital technologies can contribute to lives and learning that they value. Digital literacy could be defined as the attitudes, access, competences and knowledge to take them from the former to the latter. This approach would moreover be generally applicable to any community and culture, thereby creating greater ownership and understanding of digital learning.

This project, funded by a Council for British Research in the Levant travel grant and led by John Traxler, assisted by colleagues from An Najah University in Nablus, built on the author’s on-going missions and projects in the region, including significant work with UNRWA, the British Council and EU Erasmus programmes, in Palestine, in the wider region including Lebanon and Gaza, and with refugees in Europe. An earlier blog post by John Traxler describes “A couple of days’ work in Gaza“.


Traxler, J., Khaif, Z., Nevill, A. & Affouneh, S., et al (2019) Living Under Occupation: Palestinian Teachers’ Experiences and their Digital Responses, Research in Learning Technology,

Traxler, J. (2018), Digital Literacy: A Palestinian Refugee Perspective, Research in Learning Technology, Vol. 26, pp1 – 21,

John Traxler (FRSA), Professor of Digital Learning, University of Wolverhampton, | johntraxler on twitter and skype

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