OER16: Open Culture

Less than a month after the fabulous OER15 conference in Cardiff and we’re already thinking ahead to next year’s OER16 event which will be taking place in Scotland for the first time in the conference’s history.  The event will be held at the University of Edinburgh, an institution with along tradition of education innovation and  openness.  I’m delighted to have the opportunity to co-chair the conference along with Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at the university.

We’re still in the process of working with ALT to finalise the date for the conference so please keep an eye on the conference holding page and hashtag #OER16 for announcements.

We’re also looking for open practitioners and like minded sorts from all sectors of education to join the conference committee and to help us shape the event. If you’d like to get involved you can sign up here: Join the OER16 Conference Committee.

The theme of OER16 is Open Culture in all its forms and the vision for the conference is to focus on the value proposition of embedding open culture in the context of institutional strategies for learning, teaching and research. Themes will include:

  • the strategic advantage of open and creating a culture of openness;
  • the converging and competing cultures of open knowledge, open source, open content, open practice, open data and open access;,
  • hacking, making and sharing;
  • the reputational challenges of openwashing;
  • openness and public engagement
  • and innovative approaches to opening up cultural heritage collections for education.

I’m also particularly keen to encourage colleagues from libraries, archives, museums, and the cultural heritage sector more widely, to get involved so we can learn from each others’ experiences of openness and start to break down barriers across these sectors.

I’ll be posting updates about OER16 here as planning progresses, so watch this space and please do sign up and get involved.

holding_page

 

Mainstreaming Digital Education at #LTT15

Carol Blackwood, Digimap for Schools team.  Picture by Anne Robertson

Carol Blackwood, Digimap for Schools team. Picture by Anne Robertson

Earlier this week I attended the Holyrood Connect Learning Through Technology Conference in Glasgow as a guest of the Digimap for Schools team.  It’s the first time I’ve been to this conference and I confess that I came away rather perplexed as to precisely who the event was aimed at and what we were expected to take away. I’ve created a storify of my tweets here so you can judge for yourself, and my colleague Nicola Osborne live blogged the second day of the conference here.

University Digital Education Comes of Age – Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea

The highlight of the event, for me, was Tim O’Shea’s engaging keynote on the University of Edinburgh‘s ambitious plans to mainstream digital education by embracing openness, expanding the provision of MOOCs and online masters, and developing open educational resources. By 2020 the university expects to have 40,000 on-campus students, 10,000 off-campus online students, hundreds of MOOCs and thousands of OERs. Hybridity and blended learning are key to these plans, with students both on and off campus engaging with online learning resources.  In order to delivery this vision of mainstreaming digital education, O’Shea argued that the university needs a technology strategy that embraces applications within the institution, on the open web, and on learners own personal devices.

O’Shea explained that Edinburgh’s original rational for developing MOOCs was for reputational benefit, for fun, and to experiment with new modes of teaching and learning; not to make money.  The University of Edinburgh’s MOOCs embrace an eclectic range of subjects covering everything from chickens, to philosophy, to extraterrestrial life and back again, and while the majority of learners who engage with these courses are already highly educated, O’Shea believes strongly that MOOCs can play an important role in widening access and participation. The Edinburgh MOOCs have already made an important contribution to widening access by reaching into schools that the university would otherwise not have access to, enabling students to get a taste of the kind of learning experience the University of Edinburgh has to offer.  O’Shea concluded by highlighting the unexpected popularity of the Introduction to Philosophy MOOC which has been particularly successful in this regard; enabling large numbers of pre-entry students to find out what philosophy is all about, and leading to the creation of new masters level programmes.

 

The Society for Nautical Research

Last week I was honoured to chair the Publications Committee of the Society of Nautical Research at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.  I was appointed to replace the interim chair, Admiral Sir Kenneth Eaton, towards the end of last year, but last week was my first time in the chair.

The Society was founded in 1910 and encourages research into matters relating to seafaring and shipbuilding, the language and customs of the sea, and all subjects of nautical interest.  The Society plays a major role in promoting international scholarship in naval and maritime history, preserving the nautical heritage of the UK, and recognising excellence in historical research and preserving maritime heritage through a number of awards.

Since 1911, the Society has published The Mariner’s Mirror, the leading international journal of naval and maritime history, and all aspects of seafaring and lore of the sea.  The Mariner’s Mirror promotes the work not just of established academics and professionals, but also talented and enthusiastic independent scholars and new researchers. The Honorary Editor of The Mariner’s Mirror is Dr Martin Bellamy, the Research and Curatorial Manager at Glasgow Museums.

Over the last few years the Publications Committee has undertaken a number of new initiatives to publicise the Society’s work, including a new website and twitter account (@nauticalhistory) which was launched at the end of last year.  I’m delighted to take on the role of chair of the Publications Committee in order to continue this exciting work and I’m very pleased to have the support and guidance of Dr Cathryn Pearce, as Secretary of the Committee.

If you’re interested in maritime or nautical history, you can find out more about the work of the Society for Nautical Research and information about how to join at our new website: snr.org.uk

snr_website

snr.org.uk

The Voice of OER15

Typical.  You wait a week for an #OER15 blog post and then two come along at once!  Thanks to the folks at CADARN for this inspiring little video which really captures the spirit of the conference.  Featuring, among others, David Kernohan, Cable Green, Hayden Blackey, Josie Fraser and me.

I think I may have got rather carried away with my enthusiasm for open education in the interview :}

OER15 – Better late than never!

It’s rather late in the day to be posting an OER15 blog post, but better late than never hopefully! :} As ever it was a hugely enjoyable and inspiring conference, and as is often the case, Marieke Guy of Open Knowledge beat me to it and wrote a great summary of the conference in her blog post OER15: Window Boxes, Battles and Bandwagons.  I’m not going to try and duplicate Marieke’s fab write up but I do want to pick out a few of the highlights of the conference.

Taking OER Mainstream – Cable Green

The keynotes were excellent as always. Cable Green was in typically unequivocal form in his opening talk Taking OER Mainstream. He reminded us that in order to be considered as OER, content must be free and you must have legal rights to reuse, revise, remix, redistribute and retain it. And lest there be any ambiguity around Creative Commons licences, Cable stated that resources licensed with the No Derivatives clause are not OER.

cc_oer

Cable Green, CC BY 4.0

 Cable also touched briefly on open washing, which Audrey Watters has defined as

“having the appearance of open source and open licensing for marketing purposes while continuing proprietary practices.”

And he called Udacity out for openwasing with their Open Education Alliance, which despite the name, does not appear to be open in any sense of the word.

Cable went on to suggest that locking content behind paywalls, and restrictive licences creates “artificial scarcity in a world of abundance” and argued that it

“borders on immoral and unethical behaviour the way we spend public funds today on education. All publicly funded resources should be openly licensed by default.”

However OER is not just about saving money it’s about increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of public funding and ultimately, creating a more educated citizenry to work peaceably towards solving grand challenges.  Cable concluded by inviting comment and feedback on the draft OER Implementation Plan, which is aiming to identify the top strategic priorities for OER. You can comment directly on the document or on twitter using the hashtag #oerplan

Open Education and the Broader Policy Environment – Open Policy Network

I was delighted to be able to join a panel session with Cable immediately after his keynote, alongside fellow Open Policy Network colleagues Nicole Allen of SPARC and Alek Tarkowski of Centrum Cyfrowe Poland, discussing open education and the broader policy environment. Picking up on the themes he’d introduced in his keynote, Cable highlighted the importance of providing support to move from policy to implementation, Alek highlighted the work of the Polish open e-textbooks program and Nicole discussed what we can learn from the success of Open Access advocacy.  I particularly liked Nicole’s point that while policy plays an important role in promoting open education, it is not hugely effective in engaging students in OER; the involvement of the library can be much more important here.

Nicole Allen, Lorna M Campbell, Cable Green, Alek Tarkowski. Picture by Simon Horrocks

Nicole Allen, Lorna M Campbell, Cable Green, Alek Tarkowski. Picture by Simon Horrocks.

I presented a short case study on crowdsourcing policy from the ground up, based on our experiences of developing the Scottish Open Education Declaration. While this can be a good way to engage communities in policy development; acting on policies that are not supported by funding is challenging and pushing community policy up to government level can be difficult. However I was inspired by Alek’s comment that in Poland, they had been working on open education policy for many years before the government sat up and took notice, but when they finally did, all the groundwork had already been laid.

Kevin Mears, CC BY 4.0

Kevin Mears, CC BY 4.0

The immensely talented Kevin Mears drew this clever sketch note of our session, but I should clarify that I didn’t quite say “the time for declarations has passed”. That was a direct quote from Cable’s keynote and he was actually suggesting that we now need to move beyond declarations of intent to active implementation. This is something I absolutely agree with, declarations are a useful tool to help raise awareness of the value of open education but they are simply one step along the way and ultimately the role of policy has to be to inform and transform practice.

Open Education in Scotland

In terms of the Scottish Open Education Declaration, there would be huge value in evidencing the points of the declaration with examples of practice from across the sector, and judging by the number of colleagues who presented from Scottish institutions, there is certainly plenty of practice going on. I’m hoping to (eventually!) blog an overview of Scottish colleagues’ contribution to the conference over at Open Scotland, along with my slides from, Common Ground, a short paper I presented on open education initiatives across all sectors of Scottish education.

Thanks to Catherine Cronin for taking a rare semi-decent picture of me!

Picture by Catherine Cronin

The Spaces of Open Educational Experience – Brian Lamb

This was the first time I’d heard Brian Lamb talk and he was every bit as engaging and thought provoking as you might expect.  Brian suggested that when it comes to embracing the open web scalability, sustainability and institutional wide impact are still an issue.  One solution to this problem is that we need to build “training wheels for the open web” to help colleagues who struggle. Two initiatives that do just that are Domain of One’s Own, which provides web space to encourage colleagues at University Mary Washington to explore the creation and development of their own digital identities, and the fabulously named SPLOT! which aims to make it easy to post activity to the open web without creating accounts, or providing personal information.  One important point I learned from Brian’s presentation is that all cool developments happen over drinks :) Oh and he also highlighted the excellent development work of Pat Lockley which gets him extra points in my book.

OER on Mainstreet – Josie Fraser

The theme of this years conference was Mainstreaming Open Education, and while I think we all agree that we do want to see open education as an integral component of mainstream education I confess to being slightly uneasy that we run the risk of neglecting the experience of many colleagues for whom open education practice is increasingly being pushed to the margins as a result of budget cuts, redundancy and the casualisation of teaching contracts.

Josie Fraser touched on these themes in her brilliant keynote about Leicester City Council‘s policy giving permission to school staff to openly licence the educational resources they create in the course of their work. Josie acknowledged that the mainstream can be a very normative and exclusionary place, synonymous with privilege, and tokenising rather than embracing, however it can also recognise diversity and value difference.  Digital literacy is key to engaging people so they can critically challenge their online environments.

What really inspires me about Josie’s work with Leicester City Council, it that it provides an excellent example of how open education policy really can support transformative practice. If you haven’t already listened to Josie’s keynote, I can highly recommend it. It’s worth an hour of anyone’s time.  Unless you’re a dolphin lover.

OER16

At the end of each OER conference it’s traditional for the organisers to pass the baton to the new co-chairs and this year I’m delighted to say that the baton passed to Melissa Highton and I.  We’re honoured to announce that, for the first time ever, OER16 will take place in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh in April 2016 so watch this space!

Creativity, serendipity and open content

I recently went along to an event organised by the Digital Humanities Network, Scotland at the University of Edinburgh, where Ben O’Steen, Bob Nicholson and Mahendra Mahey gave a series of fascinating presentations on the work of the British Library Labs. BL Labs is a Mellon funded initiative that supports creative experiments to visualise and explore the library’s digital collections and data through competitions and awards for innovative and transformative ideas that bring these digital collections to life. I’m not going to attempt to summarise the presentation, but I’ve put together a Storify of tweets from the event here: Exploring Digital Collections and Data in the Humanities

I’ve been a huge fan of BL Labs projects for a while now, particularly the wonderful Mechanical Curator, which provides undirected and unpredictable engagement with digital content by posting random small book illustrations from the library’s digital collections on an hourly basis. (You can learn more about the inner workings of the Mechanical Curator here: Peeking behind the curtain).

mechanical_curator_ships

Ships found by the Mechanical Curator

Bob Nicholson’s (@digivictorian) marvellous Victorian Meme Machine is another favourite. This highly creative and entertaining project uncovers forgotten Victorian jokes preserved “largely by accident” among the library’s digital collections and brings them back to life. Not to be outdone by the Mechanical Curator, the Victorian Meme Machine has recently launched the Mechanical Comedian, which tweets random Victorian jokes every lunchtime.

victorian_humour

The Mechanical Comedian

On the one hand these projects might appear frivolous and light-hearted but they are a compelling demonstration of what is possible when you bring creative thinkers together with innovative technology and open content.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the interface between openness, creativity, and content recently in the context of teaching and learning and I think there is a lot that open education could learn from the creative approaches to content discovery and reuse being explored by the BL Labs projects.

One of the things I love about open education in general, and open educational resources in particular, is the creative potential they offer to find, use, reuse, create and recreate such a wealth of diverse content and resources. However it appears that, in some quarters at least, open educational resources seem to be regarded as a rather restricted class of content that must be managed and used in a particular way. OER still seems to be rather tainted with some of the negative and rather questionable ideas associated with reusable learning objects. This makes me rather sad as, to my mind, this perception seems to be contrary to what open education should really be about and neglects the creative, fun, and serendipitous aspects of openness. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great examples of creative approaches to surfacing open education content out there. As well as presenting a simple search interface to open educational resources aggregated from a wide range of repositories worldwide, Solvonauts tweets #randomoer every hour.

satelite_for_sale

#randomoer from Solvonauts

And I also love OpenSpires simple interface to the University of Oxford’s eclectic collection of open content and resources.

openspires

OpenSpires

I don’t quite know where I’m going with this post but I can’t help thinking that we need to encourage more creativity and serendipity in how we surface and engage with open education content.  More to follow perhaps…