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“Breaking Open: An Open Pedagogy Symposium” at the CUNY Graduate Center

by Amy Stempler on 2019-05-14T11:48:56-04:00 | Comments

By guest writer, Professor Elizabeth Yoon, Adjunct Librarian

On May 3, 2019, the Graduate Center at CUNY held a symposium titled “Breaking Open: An Open Pedagogy Symposium,” intended to examine "the intersections of pedagogy and scholarly production that emerge around openly accessible, zero-cost materials." For the past two years, New York State has funded both CUNY and SUNY to promote the use of Open Educational Resources (OER); this funding is part of a broader trend of increased interest in the potential of OER to create a more just and accessible educational landscape in the face of rising textbook costs. With this funding, the CUNY Graduate Center created an Open Pedagogy Fellowship in which the fellows (GC doctoral students who are also adjunct faculty at CUNY) would create an OER/zero-cost syllabus to replace an existing syllabus in their courses. The conference began with three Open Pedagogy Fellows describing their process of creating an OER syllabus, challenges faced, and implementation for fall 2019.

The keynote speaker was Clelia O. Rodríguez, author of Decolonizing Academia: Poverty, Oppression, and Pain, who reframed open as the act of resisting closure. Rodríguez spoke about how communal knowledge knows no borders and how good intentions regarding OER are not enough: such ideals need to be put into practice. She spoke of the different ways in which she’s practiced decolonizing pedagogy in the classroom (duct tape has been used). Following the keynote, attendees engaged in a participatory activity in which each table was given a container of salt, sugar, dirt, or coffee and discussed how they might construct a decolonizing syllabus around the element in question. The proposals around salt included tracing the supply chain of the salt, examining the environmental impact and labor practices of salt production, and seeking to understand the disproportionate health impacts salt can have on communities of color. (For a more detailed understanding of what a decolonial syllabus might look like, readers can check out “The #shitholes Syllabus: Undoing His(Story),” published in Radical Teacher.)

The symposium was a significant and valuable contribution to the OER landscape, raising critical questions regarding funding and adjunct labor, and centering the voices and experiences of both faculty and students of color.

To learn more about OER, please visit our webpage:

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