I had some plans for the Activity 3 in the #h817open course – to produce a visual representation that defines openness in education…

Grand plans waylaid by something that I couldn’t control…

On Friday 22nd March we awoke to blizzards, deeply drifted snow and a power cut. In our small rural town in Southwest Scotland we get our fair share of power cuts. We are used to having no gas supply, very slow broadband and rubbish, or non-existent mobile signals. My family and myself are here by choice but some people have no option other than to live with this. We don’t figure high on the bigger agendas.

So on Friday we got out the candles, the camping stove and lit the wood burning stove in the kitchen (we had invested in this when we moved here three years ago because we didn’t want to be at the mercy of the power companies). Unfortunately we didn’t have enough money to get a system to heat the house so like most people around here we rely on electricity to power our oil burning boiler.

By the end of Friday the residual heat had left the house and we were freezing. The roads were cut off and we knew the power was gone for a while.

We were out of power for three days. We were lucky – we had the cooking stove and a camping stove. We had no landline, no internet (we don’t use smartphones because of the rubbish signal), no heat, no hot water, no money (cashpoints don’t work in a powercut) and no access to information (other than the town grapevine).

More importantly though we had no capacity to do anything other than to try to keep ourselves and our animals warm. We had no energy for extra activities. The day is very short when you have no light. Even if we could have accessed the internet we wouldn’t have had the capacity to learn or work as we normally would.

So I use the image above to represent the tenuous link we hold to our expectations about learning and open education. My partner and son missed deadlines their Coursera course on the Greeks and I missed my deadlines on h817. Access to open learning depends on access to power, extra capacity to learn (rather than just surviving), and access to the internet. There are many people without even enough to eat, there are many without access to what we consider basic privileges. So this weekend served to remind me that we are only as switched on as our situation allows us.

It was a pretty horrible experience, but our Council sent ploughs to dig the cars out, and hot food (on day three!). They brought in a generator to bridge the gap and now we have power again. The amazing coastguards rescued people in dire need. I don’t really feel like learning again yet though and now have a work backlog.

On the bright side I know we are very very lucky – in our house we crawled under the duvet and cuddled our way to warmth. We played I spy and top trumps and monopoly and our son coped really well. The community made the best of it, but it was a very stark reminder to me that if our governments ever decided to ration our power supply they could very easily control us and our learning aspirations and our fight.