#creativeHE, HigherEd, Inclusivity, OER, Projects

Flashcards to raise digital inequalities awareness in the educational sector – an OER practice for solutions

The picture in this post was updated on 7th April with a more appropriate one after feedback from the #creativeHE community that the left and right brain theory is a myth. Always learning!

This is a new project of mine, fresh from the oven! Just now fitting the pieces together. I am all excited because I feel like I am putting my creative right brain to good use, and it is working in tandem with all serious projects that the left hemisphere usually embarks upon.

I actually got inspired by a meeting just a few days ago entitled “Let’s Dance! Play that funky music to facilitate learning” which I attended as part of the #creativeHE community. It was a fun event, I was genuinely much happier by the end of it. As part of an activity, I along with 2 other cross-institutional members, used whatever objects we had at hand to do a piece of music. It was not all music to the ears! But it was a good remix of whistling, clapping hands, hitting a pilate ball, and a Thalam (a small pair of clash cymbals), all in good sync to make what I called the 2-mins symphony. I was happy!

In a quest to find some more #creativeHe activities, I stumbled onto a series of projects: #101 creative ideas, OER flashcards and a publication on being creative in the face of adversity.

What is the #101 creative ideas?

The 101 Creative Ideas project launched in September 2016 as a #creative initiative and is welcoming contributions from colleagues in higher education across the world to create a practical Open Education Resource (OER) that will help us spread creativity in Higher Education through practical everyday applications and practices.

https://101creativeideas.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/project-launch/

You can drop an idea and collaborate with the community if you wish to deliver a creative project output.

What are the #creativeHE Creative Commons flashcards?

They are creative initiatives to spread creativity within the Higher Education sector. Check out the #creativeHE flashcards examples:

What is “Being creative in the face of adversity”?

It is the very first annual #creativeHE collection, edited by Nathalie Tasler, Rachelle, and Alex Spiers. It is a collection of resources and projects from 23 educators within the Higher Education sector, who have taken a creative spin to either resolve a problem, incorporate creative/reflective practices, or simply as a means of relaxation for themselves.

What is the problem I am trying to resolve?

Earlier this week, I published a post entitled “Race equality in learning technology – digital poverty“. It is a post inspired by a reflection on “what taking action on race equality within learning technology means”, triggered by the Race Equality Week running from 7-13 Feb 2022. In the post, I seek readers to reflect on digital poverty from an intersectional lens. In summary:

When attempting to understand race equality in learning technology means, it is important to take a step back and reframe our concepts and reassess:

  • What is technology?
  • Where is the technology used?
  • How is the technology used?
  • Who is the target group of the technology?

So, with this problem statement in hand, and obviously inspired by #creativeHE, I immediately thought of embracing and celebrating the positive changes, as a means to encourage the continued effort to decrease digital poverty even post the pandemic.

While working on EDI, I have struggled in getting the necessary engagement and understanding of all stakeholders for two main reasons:

  • Unconscious bias
  • The inadequacy of words to capture the essence of lived issues makes it hard for all stakeholders to be involved in finding efficient solutions.

But everyone likes a good celebration, right? And why try to formulate a textual representation of the issues, when a picture is worth a thousand words.

Lightbulb moment

What does the project entail?

This project focuses on the use of creativity and positivity to tackle a difficult topic. It introduces the use of flashcards to celebrate digital inclusion in the educational sector.

Digital inequalities within the UK educational sector have been prominently brought to light during the pandemic (Williamson et al., 2020; JISC, 2021; Deursen, 2020). The multiple lockdowns and restrictions made it clear that digital inclusion and digital participation were already not well established before the pandemic (Selwyn, 2010). Although these were concepts often spoken about even before the pandemic, they lacked adequate actions, mostly due to little to no infrastructural and financial support within educational institutions. These existed for various reasons, including a lack of understanding from senior management, unconscious bias, and a lack of understanding of what Equality and Diversity meant, among others. In other countries with lower socioeconomic status, the lack of digital access in some rural regions meant that education was most of the time completely discontinued during lockdowns and often for long periods (Gómez et al., 2022; UNESCO 2021).

When the pandemic started, there was a surge in tackling digital inequalities in the sector, but over two years into the pandemic, there is a general observation of ignoring this crucial topic again as many countries move back into face-to-face education. It is crucial to reflect if we are going back to the assumption that all students are equally equipped digitally as identified by the pre-pandemic digital divide research (Selwyn, 2010). Is this the best approach in the Digital Era?

Inspired by the #creativeHE community, I felt the need to continue to raise awareness around digital inequalities, by celebrating positive actions. Why not use flashcards to celebrate the creativity that staff and students had, at the early stage of the pandemic, to reduce the digital inequality gap. 

When the pandemic started, the educational sector went into a chaotic phase of moving online. Whilst more fortunate students accessed courses on Canvas, Moodle, BlackBoard Collaborate, and MS Teams, some had to loan laptops or purchase smartphones and internet data packages. Staff and students in lower socio-economic regions started “to zoom” or have “Whatsapp classes”. Later on, we saw a phase of animal filters and “Zoombombing”, which took place across all sectors. We also witnessed “zoom fatigue”, and webcam off mode. 

Whilst poverty dictated the continued access to education, necessity being the mother of invention created unique solutions.  This project aims to celebrate this inventive aspect through OER flashcards as a means to raise awareness of digital inequalities. It aims to highlight aspects of positive action that can be shared across the higher education sector to reduce digital inequalities in an attempt to address the digital divide which continues to exist even now.

How to contribute to the project?

I hope to see international participation from educators and students with Creative Commons licensed photos of their creative solutions to digital poverty. Photos can be as simple or abstract as you wish, as long as they are your own lived experience or someone close to you. Add your photo to this slide deck and add your personal information. You will also be able to caption your photo with up to 25 characters. Your contribution will be fully acknowledged.

Inline References:

Ben Williamson, Rebecca Eynon & John Potter (2020) Pandemic politics, pedagogies and practices: digital technologies and distance education during the coronavirus emergency, Learning, Media and Technology, 45:2, 107-114, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2020.1761641

Gómez G.M., Andrés Uzín P. G.J. (2022) Effects of COVID-19 on Education and Schools’ Reopening in Latin America. In: Papyrakis E. (eds) COVID-19 and International Development. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-82339-9_9

JISC. (2021). Student digital experience insights survey 2020/21 UK higher education (HE) survey findings. https://repository.jisc.ac.uk/8487/1/Student%20DEI%20HE%20report%202021%20Final.pdf

Selwyn, N. (2010). Degrees of Digital Division: Reconsidering Digital Inequalities and Contemporary Higher Education. RUSC. Universities and Knowledge Society Journal, 7(1),33-42. ISSN:  https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=78012953011

UNESCO (2021, April 4). Scaling up digital learning and skills in the world’s most populous countries to drive education recovery. https://en.unesco.org/news/scaling-digital-learning-and-skills-worlds-most-populous-countries-drive-education-recovery

van Deursen, A. J. (2020). Digital Inequality During a Pandemic: Quantitative Study of Differences in COVID-19-Related Internet Uses and Outcomes Among the General Population. Journal of medical Internet research, 22(8), e20073. https://doi.org/10.2196/20073

Further reading:

Tasler, N., O’Brien, R, E. & Spiers, A. (eds.) (2021) Being creative in the face of adversity. The creativeHE Annual 2021. Creativity for Learning in Higher Education Community, creativeHE, DOI: https://doi.org/10.25416/NTR.17709860.v1

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