HOOU AfterwOERk on 21 November 2018 on “Intersex and Gender in Open Teaching and Learning Materials”

On 21 November 2018, an AfterwOERk panel discussion on “Intersex and Gender in Open Teaching and Learning Materials” took place at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW) as part of the Hamburg Open Online University (HOOU).  The discussion panellists were Isabel Collien, consultant for diversity and intersectionality at the HAW, and Dr Katinka Schweizer, psychologist and sexual scientist at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf. The moderators Ellen Pflaum and Jakob Kopczynski began by discussing the panellists’ projects within Open Educational Resources (OER) and then asked about the potential and difficulties they entail. You can listen to the panel discussion as a podcast [in German] here.

Isabel Collien is in charge of the HOOU project “What is Gender?”, which is primarily concerned with facilitating low-threshold access to texts on gender studies and presenting them in a way that is generally easy to understand. Another  project, “Gender- and diversity-conscious media design”, is about empowering people to make conscious and informed decisions about the portrayal of gender-relevant topics  in the media. For example, the selection of images often has an unseen effect on the viewer. According to Collien, with educational content, for example, as well as with games, one can ask oneself the question: What is represented, and which population groups are represented? What effect does it have, for instance, to show pictures on a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) website depicting many or no women?

Katinka Schweizer presented the HOOU blog INTERSEX-KONTROVERS, which was created by her working group. The blog aims  to provide information and present the debates without trivialising the complexity of the intersex issue. Particularly when it comes to controversial topics such as variations in physical sex characteristics, there has been little research done. The question is above all how to deal with lack of knowledge. Whether and which treatments are medically indicated is one of the main controversies of this topic.

The two panellists agreed that the power of  OER lies above all in the language. One can change perspectives through language. Together with her co-editor Fabian Vogler, for example, Schweizer deliberately chose the title Die Schönheiten des Geschlechts [The Beauties of Gender] for a joint book project (published by CAMPUS in 2018), to get away from the pathologising language of gender variations that has been used for decades and to point out the “beauty of individuality”.

It was also agreed that OER can contribute to equal opportunities and participation, although of course there is always the risk of abuse, for example in using or ridiculing certain content.