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Why on earth did I join this project”

by Hélène Pulker, Penny Bentley, Paola Corti, Gino Fransman, Verena Roberts and Chrissi Nerantzi 

As a way of starting this collaborative adventure, the picture book team thought it might be a good idea to reflect on the reasons why we have all decided to join this exciting project led by our great colleague and friend Chrissi Nerantzi, and we wrote the following blog post which we would like to share with our GO-GN fellows:

Hélène: “When Chrissi approached me to join the team of the picture book about open education, I thought she was joking, as creativity is definitely not one of my strengths, I believe. However, after a short conversation with her, I quickly realised that the idea of writing a story about open education was just the right thing to do. It would encourage me to reflect on what I am passionate about outside my work routine. The idea all of a sudden sounded very attractive and felt like a breath of fresh air. I am very much looking forward to producing something that will spread the word about open education, its values and the benefits it can bring to thousands and millions of people all over the world, especially in the period of a pandemic. I joined this project because it is important to communicate about openness, sharing, working together, learning from each other and being kind and supportive to one another. A CC licensed picture book about open education is a very crafty way to reach out to many. It’s not preaching, it’s not advertising, it’s not making a profit, it’s educating!”

Penny: “Well, it’s hard to say no to Chrissi.  It’s also a joy to feel the sense of belonging, friendship and purpose I experienced as a member of the GOGN community in Delft several years ago. Chrissi’s request is a much needed distraction from my current, solitary experience of finishing a PhD in the middle of a pandemic.  I also love the challenge of how to communicate a nebulous concept like Open Education, to children around the globe, through the medium of a picture book.  That’s what we do as educators, we are communicators, but this is no easy task. To express meaning through pictures requires creativity, and I don’t have much of that. We also need to distill from our different perspectives the meaning of Open Education we hope to convey through this picture book.  Then there’s the metaphors.  What language can we use to connect a child’s understanding of the world to an abstract concept like Open Education?  For me, this collaborative project is complex, and takes me into unfamiliar territory, but it also brings joy and distraction. Maybe that’s why I said yes to Chrissi.”

Paola: “Because I missed one dance, and still have to cope with it 😀

When Chrissi involved me I was reading an old picture book and looking for something that might help me smile during this difficult and challenging period. Starting a picture book with authors around the world, and dealing with Open Education at the same time: what could I ask in addition? Sometimes when you change perspective and you put yourself into someone else’s shoes you discover that small and big things in your world appear under a new revealing light. That’s what I’d expect from this collaborative work, because it will be challenging to find the right way to visualize and – then – “translate” into almost self-explicative images (better if with few words or no text at all) what we mean with “open education”: But: can you imagine how wonderful it will be to use this book with children and adults??? I believe in the power of the OE community and in the power of images: this is our chance to mix multiple powers and transform them into superpowers!”

Gino: “It isn’t easy to share new ideas with people. The fact that I have been trying to do so for almost 20 years as an educator in higher education is testimony to both my resolve to do so, and a particular obstinance about people either being accepting of such news, or their reluctance to engage at all. I am thrilled by the opening of eyes, and minds. It is a journey about enabling people to access information worth their attention, even when they won’t or don’t want it, here in South Africa, sometimes they just can’t. It’s a difficult road to navigate, and one many like-minded peers find above their pay grade after a brief jaunt at trying it, and so they reduce the possibility of Open and deal with the closed reality. That isn’t Open to me, and it’s why I joined this group. For the last few years at Nelson Mandela University, I have tried to build several platforms for Open, for OER, and to engage staff in Open Praxis, while navigating the larger community globally to bring back best practice. This is where my own passion project, the Open Education Influencers at MandelaUni gained momentum. We now have funding, a space in the architecture at our institution, and a name some recognise. But still, parents need to tell their children about this, and we are placed well to help this, relaying Open to both the adults, and the children at large. This project may help us do that, so; I’m here to see what we can do in support of spreading Open. Openly. Without a qualifying academic badge, or anything preventing Open from being shared to a wider public. I believe it is time.”

Verena: “As an online educator and learning designer, my children never understood “how” I could be a teacher and who I actually taught. The pandemic hit and as a result  my children all have a better idea about what online learning can mean and what an online educator “does”. What they still struggle with, is my engagement and participation within the open learning community. They are especially interested in how I connect with people all over the world for support within these unprecedented times. 

I primarily chose to join the picture book project as a creative escape from the overwhelming global pandemic rhetoric. I wanted to collaborate with global colleagues and contribute to something that was not pandemic related. More importantly, I am participating in a project that my family (and children) can participate in with me. This opportunity is so important for me because  the goal of the project is to develop open learning awareness for a wider audience, especially those in primary/secondary school (K-12 in Canada). The opportunity to share the project ideas with my children and show them how open learning happens – is invaluable opportunity and I deeply appreciate the opportunity.”

Chrissi: “Why on earth did I suggest this project? The idea of an open picture book about open education popped into my head during the pandemic. A time of extreme turmoil, anxiety but also resourcefulness. Projects like this tickle my curiosity and imagination! They provide a creative challenge, hope and there is an opportunity to work with others and create something that can be shared widely. The GOGN fellowship and the GOGN community provided a vehicle to make it happen and I am grateful for this.

Picture book stories are short, snappy, super rich and convey important values and messages through text and images, connect us emotionally and are empowering. Their cross-generational nature has always fascinated me. I loved to translate them, read many to my boys and I also write my own picture book stories for some time now. But this story is different.

We know that ideas don’t go anywhere, when they are not shared… so global collaboration is designed-into this project. This of course adds complexity. It does, but the diversity of individuals from around the world, our trust relationships and the superpowers they bring to this project will enrich us all, our ideas, the story itself and what we can achieve. Together we can bring hope to all and imagine bright(er) tomorrows. Hope for a more humane world of togetherness and individual and collective growth. This is why, I suggested this project.

However, In the last few days, I have to admit, and especially since attempting to make a start with a possible story, I am nervous, very nervous, very very nervous… the pressure is on… at least, I am not alone.”

We are going to reflect on this innovative, exciting and open activity throughout the project. We plan to release two more blog posts, one half-way through the project and one at the end. Our aim is to collect our reflections on working collaboratively in a team of members located all over the world and to contribute to writing a paper about our collaborative experience.

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