Curating and Communicating (part 1)

This is the first of 2 blog posts I wrote for the sedasig blog.


Mapping practice

This is the first of two blog posts based on a poster I presented at the SEDA conference in November 2012. This poster in turn originated from a request on the SEDA JISCmail list for colleagues to share what they were doing in terms of ‘e-routes to disseminating and sharing good practice among teaching staff’. I replied with a summary of what I was doing in the Teaching and Learning Development Unit (TLDU) at Sussex, and agreed to meet up to talk it through. Trying to explain the interconnected elements of our resources and communications began to make it a bit clearer to me how the different parts worked together (or not). But it still felt a bit like spaghetti. The conference poster and these blog posts are attempts to unravel it further.

When developing the poster, I began to think about which models / concepts might best…

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Process and products: thoughts on Oped12 week 2

As George Siemens acknowledged in his video intro to week 2, the openness in education MOOC didn’t get off to a great start. For me, the combination of emails not arriving, no blogs to engage with, inaccessible readings and the fact that I was on holiday meant that I didn’t really engage much last week. I am hoping to make up for that this week.

A significant part of my interest in taking this MOOC was to experience the tools for this type of course and online peer learning in a more focused way that in my usual PLN which is based around Google plus and Twitter. So this week I really want to read other people’s blogs and make some comments, but first I want to do some more reading.

Talking of tools, I am trying to do this whole thing digitally on my Android tablet so am starting with the readings that are downloadable as pdfs because these I can easily annotate with EZpdf reader which seems the ‘natural’ way for me to engage with a text. I realise this is very rooted in my experience as a student in the 90s when scribbling on photocopies of chapters and papers was the most common way to work in my discipline area (literature and gender studies). When I have done the pdf readings it will be interesting to see how I can engage with Web-based readings. This is important for me to think about because in my day to day practice as an education developer I am frequently referring colleagues to Web pages (including ones I have created) without thinking too much about how the ‘reading’ of such resources might differ from more traditional reading such as journal articles (though of course these too are often online these days).
Later…I actually found a URL-to-pdf Android app so all my reading and annotating is now happening in EZpdf reader but still want to think about how people might be reading the materials I am creating. That’s one for the to-do list!

I am intrigued that the Open University is to be used as an example because much as I love the OU, which got me started on Higher Education in the 80s, I am thinking back to the rather stringent definition of ‘open’ we read last week and am not convinced that the OU I experienced met the requirements – although there were no formal entry requirements, the fees were (even then) quite considerable and the course materials were copyrighted….. Having now read the piece on the history of the OU I am not sure that their materials are OERs, or at least not all of them. There are some free ‘openlearn’ courses in recent years, but I am not sure whether they are copyrighted in a restrictive way. And are open access TV programmes produced by a university any more OERs than any TV documentary?

The Cute Kitten Syndrome blog post by Stephen Downes from 4 years ago was interesting in that it still seemed relevant, suggesting that the OER movement may not actually be moving very much or very fast. Apart from the sudden glut of MOOCs there does not seem to be a rush for HEIs to produce or use a wide range of OERs. I have seen YouTube lectures which seem as much about marketing as education and examples of digitizing archive materials to improve access (which seems like great idea for opening up research to students) but, at least in the UK there does not seem to be much use of OERs in HE teaching. In all my interactions with faculty I have only come across one or two people using such resources (a lab simulation from MERLOT and Physlets) as part of teaching practice. As both of these examples are from the hard sciences I wonder if there is a disciplinary split going on here, with digitization of archives/resources on one hand and use of simulations/learning objects on the other? I would be interested to know whether anyone else has observed a humanities/science split in the use of OERs.

Now I am off to do two things. First, to read and engage with some other #oped12 blogs and second, to think a bit more about what I wanted to get from this MOOC and what it wanted me to get from it (learning outcomes) and how either of us is going to evaluate / assess that.

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Oped12 first reading.

The first of the oped12 readings that I was able to access on my tablet was – Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources (chapter 2) so these notes are on that. This reading helped to explain why I had felt unable to get a clear sense of what was meant by OERs. The concept seems to be vague and broad, including not just the ‘learning objects’ I had most closely associated with the term but also the museum and library based digital resources like the ones colleagues have been working on and even software like Moodle and things like licenses. To say, as the authors do that ‘The definition of “open educational resources” needs further refinement’ seems something of an understatement!

Although much of the technical detail about systems is beyond me (and/or of little interest to me) it is clear that even an ‘OER’ like Moodle can be used to create learning resources that are not open because they are within the ‘walled garden’ of  a VLE that is restricted to people formally subscribed to a particular course. I was a little surprised, however, that by some definitions (Downes 2006) the MOOC we are engaged in could not be called ‘open’ because it required registration and login. I accept that these are barriers of a sort, but I think they are the least of the challenges that might limit participation which may be more around accessibility, digital literacy/skills and time resources. The reading goes on to discuss this ‘social before concluding that  ‘the Mako Hill and Möller definition of freedom goes beyond all the levels of openness described by Tuomi (2006) and would view most existing OER as not free. The OECD Secretariat therefore adheres to Tuomi’s definition of openness’ (page 35-36).

One aspect of the definition of OER that particularly interested me but which received little discussion by the OECD (for perfectly understandable and practical reasons) was the question of whether we should speak of educational or learning resources. These are related but distinct concepts which are very close to my practice as an education developer in a teaching (there’s another one) and learning  development unit. Education seems to line up on the teaching side of the apparent divide and seems to me to carry connotations of something ‘done to’ learners by institutions and professionals, whereas learning is something that every human being (and probably other living creatures) does all the time. Some of the learning we do is unintentional, even unhelpful (what I ‘learn’ from watching reality TV for example) but however purposeful or not, it is learning and is to a considerable degree within my control. So I would argue that what we are calling open educational resources should really be called learning resources, if they are truly open. If, however, these resources are still going to be mediated by educational institutions and teachers then are they really open?

The last thing I want to say today (it’s getting late here and I am supposed to be on holiday) is in relation to the view that for OERs ‘the value of the resource should be enlarged when used’ (page 38). This assumes not just consumption or use of resources but the creation, augmentation, embellishment or development of the resource. Digital media facilitates this in a way that print media is unable to (marginalia in a library book is an example of print media being augmented for future readers but the accessibility is not good!) and I look forward to seeing how we can all enlarge the value of the OERs encountered in this MOOC.

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This is where I will blog about the Openness in Education MOOC. I am looking forward to getting started with #oped12.

Twitter is set up, so is this blog and ifttt is going to add things to evernote for me… just need something to read to get me started now.

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