Open Knowledge as a Form of Global Citizenship

This piece is part of a series by participants in the Spring 2024 Open Knowledge Fellowship, coordinated by the Mina Rees Library. Fellows will share insight into the process of converting a syllabus to openly-licensed and/or zero-cost resources, as well as their experiences teaching undergraduate courses at CUNY.

Pedro Lino  is a PhD student in Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures at the CUNY Graduate Center. His primary research interests encompass nationalism, Argentine intellectual history, and folk literary performances. Pedro holds a B.A. in History from Sao Paulo State University. He is an adjunct professor at City College.


Open Knowledge as a Form of Global Citizenship by Pedro Lino

Getting myself started on the journey of the Open Knowledge Fellowship, centered around Open Educational Resources (OER) and free pedagogy, was a natural step for me, driven by my commitment to accessible education. As an adjunct faculty member at City College in the Language and Literature Department, the idea of economic mobility comes into constant focus due to the high presence of heritage speakers. I couldn’t ignore the financial barriers, imposed by the expensive textbooks required for my undergraduate students: as a latino myself, I’m aware of the unique challenges faced by first-generation Latin American students in NYC.

Despite the hard work of these families in overcoming financial difficulties to support their children’s higher education, the burden of expensive textbooks is still a significant barrier for many. These students, who are often the first in their families to pursue a college education, deserve access to affordable education options to ensure that they can fully engage in their studies. This very realization set off my desire to explore alternative teaching approaches that would prioritize not only affordability but also inclusivity: mostly because a large portion of my students study languages in order to become a kind of linguistic bridge between the English-dominant spaces of New York City, and their own households.

My teaching philosophy revolves around the task of crafting an open syllabus that doesn’t burden students financially, making it possible for them to focus solely on the class. Additionally, I integrate cultural references like music and film to enrich the learning experience and foster deeper immersion into the target language’s culture, which is an aspect in which the textbooks often fail miserably. The Fellowship provided me with such great guidance to further explore and enhance these practices by understanding the usage of publicly available archives and resources, their licenses, and availability.

In my specific case, because this semester I particularly focus on the lusophone world, I face both challenges and opportunities. While the abundance of online materials is vast, discerning their reliability is also crucial. Such resources are consistently made available online throughout Brazil and the other Luso-African countries, where local laws make it incredibly easy for originally copyrighted sources to be pirated. Throughout the Fellowship, I gained solid insights into vetting sources and identifying reputable repositories, ensuring that the materials I incorporate into my teaching are credible and ethically sourced.

Another significant aspect of my Fellowship journey was discovering and utilizing archival resources from major museums, libraries, and governmental institutions. These materials encourage my students to engage in comparative cultural analysis across diverse regions. In this case, teaching Portuguese language and culture, I could draw upon resources from federal governments – mostly Brazil and Portugal – and various NGOs, fostering a nuanced understanding of linguistic and cultural diversity across not only Latin America but also Africa.

By embracing OER as the very foundation of my syllabi, I seek to promote a vision of education that transcends the limitations of economic barriers. OER, when properly licensed and curated, offers a solid framework for cultivating critical thinking and global citizenship through cultural immersion. Plus, OER greatly aligns with the idea of free and universal education, emphasizing the social value of knowledge dissemination without financial issues, which makes me proud to be part of CUNY.

By sharing open knowledge practices and free pedagogy skills, I hope to contribute to a more equitable educational landscape across NYC with a special focus to migrant families, where CUNY can keep promoting learning opportunities that are accessible to all, irrespective of socio-economic background. I’m excited to continue exploring and advocating for OER, not only to enrich language instruction but also to highlight the principles of education as the very basis of social justice in the urban sphere.

About the Author

Elvis Bakaitis is currently the Head of Reference at the Mina Rees Library. They're also proud to serve on the University LGBTQ Council, and as a board member of CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies.