OER textbooks and the potential for multicultural environment

For the longest time since I stumbled on the Hapgood blog I’ve been intrigued by the ideas of Mike Caulfield on OER and it’s taken a little time and a lot of reading around the concepts of digital scholarship, and in particular the lack of the multicultural viewpoint / input / adaptation of educational resources in general (those global educational companies are scary) for me, after re-reading his article on “Choral explanations and OER” to try and understand just what was so appealing and for it to finally click.

It was this paragraph :

The idea of choral explanations in OER is that the textbook becomes an operating system on which multiple parallel community-provided explanations run. From the student perspective, the text branches off into multiple available explanations of the same concept, explanations authored individually by a wide range of instructors, researchers, and students. You can keep reading until you find the explanation that makes sense, or you can start with simpler explanations and work your way to nuance.” (Caulfield, 2016, para 63I think – hard to count!)

And then I had to think back to a presentation given by some of the international students at UWCSEA when I was working there.  They were showing how they were using their Korean / Japanese textbooks side-by-side with their ‘Western’ – BANA (British, Autralasian, North American) textbooks  in order to master the required material. Note – it was not ‘just’ a language issue. It was the fact that information was presented differently. Presented not just in the sense of how the words and diagrams were physically placed on the page, but also the conceptual pedagogical understanding as to how information should be summarised for example, what the assumptions were on how students learnt and what they needed (Kim & Mizuishi, 2014).  I still have a feeling of dread when I think back to the response the presentation got. There was a serious lack of deep understanding. A lack of curiosity. Of empathy. Of interest.   And a surfeit of what Tim Hartford so succinctly refers to as “The God Complex” . As educators we have a duty, a responsibility to educate students so that they can claim their part in intellectual conversations.  When doing my reading I came across this quote and wrote it on a page of its own with a big question mark because I wasn’t sure what to make of it:

“The goal of education should never be directly to change students psychologically or culturally any more than educators would want their own children to join a cult” (McCarthy, 2007, p. 112)

Wow. If I was a professor of education I would set an assignment on that question. Just that quote and “discuss”.  3 years in a Chinese immersion school in Hong Kong DEFINITELY changed my daughter psychologically and culturally – but is it inevitable? My thesis is yes – if you want to learn in that environment. My son didn’t embrace the culture and psychology of chinese education and he didn’t learn Chinese (or much else) in the two years he was there.   Now think of all the millions of students partaking in an “international” education in their own countries or abroad, and think of the unconsidered enforcement of a western dominated cult of pedagogy and psychology we enforce … and that’s before we even start to think about the damages of non-mother tongue instruction (read all the UNESCO research for more on this).

Ok, that was a long aside – but back to the original point – multi-lingual, multi-cultural OER choral explanations in a student accessible textbook system is the cool aid I’d be happy to drink.


Caulfield, M. (2016, July 12). Choral explanations and OER: A summary of thinking to date [Web Log]. Retrieved 27 August 2016, from https://hapgood.us/2016/07/12/choral-explanations-and-oer-a-summary-of-thinking-to-date/
Kim, M., & Mizuishi, K. (2014, December). Language and Cultural Differences and Barriers in an International School Setting – Personal Experiences and Reflections. UWCSEA-East.
McCarty, S. (2007). Theorizing and realizing the globalized classroom. In A. Edmundson (Ed.), Globalized E-Learning Cultural Challenges: (pp. 90–115). Hershey, PA: Information Science Pub. Retrieved from http://services.igi-global.com/resolvedoi/resolve.aspx?doi=10.4018/978-1-59904-301-2.ch009

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