The CARE Framework, Take 2

I recently wrote about the CARE Framework. At the very beginning of that post I warned that while it began as a response to the framework, it wandered into quite a bit of other territory. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not my clearest piece of writing. I’m a firm believer in the release early, release often approach, and this release may have been too early. Based on readers’ feedback I see that I probably should have broken that post into three pieces – one dealing explicitly with the framework, a second dealing with the issue of free-riding in open education, and a third dealing with broader concerns about the open education community. I’ll correct that mistake here by keeping this post focused on the framework and hopefully being clearer than I was able to be the first time around. I’ll take up the other issues from my earlier post in separate follow ups.

Many of the readers of my earlier post came away with the feeling that I am opposed to the framework or that I don’t like it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I like the framework a lot. I plan to use it in my own work. Unfortunately, my discussions of other issues seem to have masked my feelings on this point. The opening and closing paragraphs, quoted below, were apparently insufficient:

The CARE Framework was released earlier this week by Lisa Petrides, Doug Levin, and Eddie Watson. It’s an important contribution to important conversations and is worth taking time to read carefully and respond to thoughtfully. As I hope will become evident as you scroll down, I’ve spent a lot of time reading and responding because I think the framework has a lot of potential. We all owe Lisa, Doug, and Eddie for a great piece of work…

I’m grateful to Lisa, Doug, and Eddie for their great work here. I think they have absolutely succeeded in creating a document that will provoke “a more nuanced and meaningful discussion about the individual and organizational practice of OER and openness in education and for learning.” I hope others will also take the time to engage it thoughtfully. I’m looking forward to more good things to come here.

For almost a decade now I have argued that “education is sharing.” The framework does an excellent job of drilling down a level to be more specific about what sharing might mean in the context of education – operationalizing the idea that “education is sharing,” if you will. I don’t say that as an underhanded attempt to take credit for the authors’ work in some way. I make this observation because I think the authors of the framework and I are very close in our thinking on this topic, and to point out that rejecting the framework would be akin to rejecting my own work of the last 20 years.

Providing feedback about how the framework might be improved does not mean I don’t like it. When you appreciate something, you want it to be its best. I believe there are ways the framework can be improved. (I believe that most of the things I love can be improved.) I worked very hard to try to be constructive and specific in my suggestions regarding how the framework could be improved:

  • The document feels to me like it is much more about norms and values than it is sustainability. Maybe change the title? I think a conversation about whether or not these are indeed our core shared values would be more immediately valuable that a conversation about the viability of the framework as a model for the long-term sustainability of the movement. If our community doesn’t align around some core set of values, fairly soon there may be no one left to sustain anything.
  • Be clear that no one person or organization has the time or resources to engage in the dozens of kinds of activities described within the framework. There are thousands of ways, large and small, that people and organizations might contribute, release, and empower. Each of these is valuable. Be clear that any efforts to enact the values expressed in the framework aren’t just acceptable – they’re wonderful.
  • In the attribution section of the framework, explicitly mention the community norms and values that are already documented in Creative Commons’ Best Practices for Attribution. Be clear that attributions should always contain a Title, an Author, a link back to the original Source, and the License under which the original work was released. If the authors have some reason to disagree with the community’s existing best practices for attribution, say so plainly.
  • Be explicit about whether the framework is meant for self-evaluation and critical reflection, or if it is designed to be a tool for judging others’ behavior, or both.
  • If the framework is intended to be used as a rubric by which to judge other people and organizations, encourage readers to identify and celebrate fledgling efforts to act according to the values it expresses. Use those celebrations as opportunities to invite people and organizations do enact more of those values, as their time and resources allow, inviting them further into the core of the community.
  • If the framework is intended to be used as a rubric by which to judge other people and organizations, discourage using the framework as a justification for labeling and shaming people or organizations. That’s not how we bring more people and organizations into the community, it’s how we drive them away. If I see a person or an organization that I think has the motivation and resources to do “better”, what should I do? Provide some concrete suggestions.
  • If the framework is intended for self-reflection, it should prepare readers for the fact that no matter how much they do or how hard they try, some people in the community will be vocally critical of the fact that they didn’t do more. Consider apologizing in advance on behalf of the broader community.

You can see that over half the suggestions I made center on this one point:

I expect the framework will do far more to advance the OER movement if it is explicitly positioned as a tool for self-evaluation and improvement than it will as a framework people and organizations can use to justify labeling other people or organizations as “bad actors” in order to try to exclude them from the community.

And as I said in my first post, there is nothing the authors of the framework can do to control how the community will use their framework. But there may be ways they can nudge the community toward behaving in a more inclusive fashion. But I’m drifting off toward the community topic again. More on that later.

The framework is both incredibly and immediately useful as an expression of shared norms and values. As I wrote in my earlier post, I think we need to hear more from the authors about how they intend for it to be applied before we can have a meaningful conversation about the framework’s potential for success as a long-term sustainability model for the field. But regardless of where the sustainability model conversation goes, the framework is a terrific contribution to the field that – among other positive things – provides us with an opportunity to increase the size and diversity of the open education movement.

In summary, just in case there is still any doubt: I like the framework.

At the end of the day, my biggest worry with regard to the framework is that the authors were among those who read my earlier post and came away thinking that I was rejecting it. I hope my feelings about are clearer now.

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