OER18 Call for Co-Chairs

Ever dreamed of chairing an OER conference?  Well now’s your chance! Last week ALT announced a call for co-chairs of the OER18 Conference. ALT are seeking two people with

  • National/international standing in the Open Education field.
  • The commitment and vision to make the conference a success.
  • The capacity to chair a major international conference and its programme committee.
  • Enthusiasm and experience of working with the Open Education community and ALT.

Planning and organising the conference will be undertaken by the Conference Committee supported by ALT staff. You can find out more about this exciting opportunity and how to apply here and if you’re wondering what it’s actually like to co-chair an OER Conference, here’s a few words about my own personal experience…

Since its inception in 2010 the OER Conference has always been one of the most important and enjoyable events in my calendar.  I’ve always thought of OER as being “my” conference, it’s where my community, my colleagues, all the people I admire hang out.  And more than that, it’s where we all come together to share our practice, our experience, our love and criticism of openness.

Last year I was immensely privileged to co-chair the OER16 Open Culture Conference at the University of Edinburgh with my inspirational colleague Melissa Highton.  Hosting the conference reinforced Edinburgh’s strategic commitment to open education and we were delight to welcome delegates from the Wikimedia community and museums, libraries and archives domains.

On a personal level it was a wonderful opportunity to shape the direction of this increasingly international conference, to develop my own open practice and extend my network of peers.  It was an immensely rewarding experience to work so closely with ALT and a wide network of willing volunteers, and I can’t speak highly enough of the support they provided in planning and running the event.  And last but not least, it was also an enormous amount of fun! From start to finish, from planning the bid with Melissa, to handing over to the OER17 chairs after our closing keynote, it was all a hugely enjoyable experience.

OER17: The Politics of Open  is now just a few months away and with Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski at the helm, it can’t fail to be a fabulous and ground breaking event.  Just think…you could be next.

Never underestimate the amount of fun you can have co-chairing an OER conference!
Image by OER16 keynote Catherine Cronin. CC BY SA.

 

OER16 wins Wikimedia UK Partnership Award

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m absolutely delighted that #OER16 has won Wikimedia UK’s Partnership of the Year Award!  The University of Edinburgh already building strong links with Wikimedia UK when Melissa and I started planning the OER16 Open Culture Conference with ALT and we were really keen that Wikimedia should have a presence at the event.  These links were further strengthened when the University became the first in the UK to appoint a Wikimedian in Residence late in 2015.

Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence, University of Edinburgh

Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence, University of Edinburgh

Wikipedia and the associated Wikimedia initiatives Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons, Wiki Source, etc represent the largest volume of open educational resources in the world and the Wikimedia and OER communities share a common goal to increase the quantity and quality of open knowledge so it makes good sense to bring them together.

Melissa and I were delighted by the response from Wikimedia UK and the Wikimedians in Residence when we invited them to participate in OER16 and many delegates commented over the course of the conference that they felt they learned a lot from their presence and that they made a really positive contribution to the event.  So I’d just like to thank all those, from both the OER and Wikimedia communities, who worked so hard to make this collaboration a huge success.

Next year’s OER17 Conference, which focuses on the Politics of Open, will be co-chaired by Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski.  As Josie is also a Trustee of Wikimedia UK I’m sure she will be keen to ensure that the relationship between the Wikimedia and OER communities continues to flourish.

Wikimedians in action at OER16 by Stuart Cromar

Wikimedians in action at OER16 by Stuart Cromar

“As the Wikimedian in Residence for Museums Galleries Scotland, I usually work alone, or remotely. The opportunity to connect to the wider open knowledge community was fantastic – energising, informative and so very valuable. And we had 4 Residents in a room at once! This, you have to realise, is a rare thing indeed in the world of Wiki. I’ve worked primarily in open culture and heritage for the last 16 months, and one of the growth areas has been in the interface between education and culture…. So #OER16 seemed to me so prescient, so perfectly timed…”

~ Sara Thomas, Wikimedian in Residence, Museums Galleries Scotland

Links

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 Wikipedia Uk is an important

further the quantity and quality of open knowledge and enhance digital literacy, through skills training sessions and editathons, striving to embed open knowledge practices in the curriculum.

further the quantity and quality of open knowledge and enhance digital literacy, through skills training sessions and editathons, striving to embed open knowledge practices in the curriculum.

Wikimedia UK AGM

On Saturday I went along to my first Wikipedia AGM in Birmingham.  It was a really interesting event and it was great to meet so many dedicated Wikimedians and also to see more than a few familiar faces. Martin Poulter has put together a Storify of tweets and pictures from the event here Wikimedia UK AGM 2016.

The event featured an inspiring keynote on The Open Movement by Andy Mabbett who highlighted the importance of linking Wikimedia initiatives to both Open Government and national heritage organisations and who argued that we need to  do more to welcome people to the open community and communicate why openness is important to everyone.

Selfridges, Birmingham

Selfridges, Birmingham

Andy’s talk was followed by a workshop on Wikidata and a walk around the local area to take photographs for Wikimedia Commons.  Who’d have thought a photography safari of Digbeth could be so fascinating? 🙂 I just need to remember to upload some of the pictures I took to the Commons.

In the afternoon we had a fascinating series of lightning talks, one of which covered the brilliant Wiki Loves Monuments photography competition which will take place in the UK again later this year.

Of course the highlight of the day was the UK Wikimedian of the Year Awards.  Martin Poulter was a very worthy winner of the individual UK Wikipedian of the Year award; Navino Evans, one of the developers behind the fabulous Histropedia timeline tool, received an Honourable Mention; and I was delighted that the OER16 Open Culture Conference won Partnership of the Year.

The AGM concluded with the Board meeting and I was honoured to be voted onto the Board as a new Trustee of Wikimedia UK.  The University of Edinburgh already has a strong relationship with Wikimedia UK and I hope that I can make a positive contribution to nurturing the development of a supportive and mutually beneficial relationship between Wikimedia and the education sector.  Gill Hamilton, of the National Library of Scotland stepped down from the Board, so I’ll also be doing my best to fill her shoes as the Scottish representative on the Board, though it’ll be a hard act to follow!

with Josie Fraser, Wikimedia UK Trustee and #OER17 Co-Chair

with Josie Fraser, Wikimedia UK Trustee and #OER17 Co-Chair

OER16 Reflections – The Last Post

I had intended to write one last post to follow up the OER16: Open Culture Conference last month, but the moment passed, the weeks slipped by and I decided I’d left it too late. But then a couple of weeks ago Jim Groom posted a belated OER16 reflections post and I thought dammit, if Jim can do it, so can I!

When I was putting together my OER16 Overview  for the eLearning@Ed conference in May I emailed some of our keynotes and delegates to ask if they’d be willing to share some reflections on their experiences of the conference. I got some fabulous and very thoughtful responses that I really wanted to share, so here they are, after much delay and procrastination. Many thanks to everyone who responded.

It’s almost impossible to summarise so many diverse responses but if I can make an attempt…

Many OER16 participants commented on the strength of community that has grown up around open education. This is a mature and diverse community, which encompasses many different perspectives and interpretations of openness. For some open education is about resources, policy, technology, for others it’s about practice. Some are concerned with supporting and sustaining open education at scale across institutions, for others openness is more of a personal ethos. Some focus on the technologies we use to support open education, others are motivated by the potential of openness to address inequality and exclusion. None of these perspectives are mutually exclusive, none are above criticism, and indeed it appears that as a community we are moving towards a much more critical and nuanced analysis of what it means to be open.

As is so often the case Catherine Cronin put this into words much more eloquently than I can

“I feel a collective sense of “moving on” in the open education community, a willingness to tackle some of the more challenging questions about risk, power and inequality.”

Jo Spiller

Jo Spiller by Brian Mather

Jo Spiller by Brian Mather

Educational Design and Engagement, University of Edinburgh

My two highlights were Catherine Cronin’s keynote on participatory culture, the power of open to influence and celebrate change, especially with the focus on the Gay Marriage vote in Ireland. How it can be playful and moving and everyone can contribute to it.

As a counterpoint to this, Sava Singh on the perils of open scholarship “Open wounds: The Myth of Open as Panacea” was really interesting – that open can also become excluding for different demographic groups and also has both great benefits but also great challenges for academics.

Sara Thomas

Wikimedian in Residence, Museums Galleries Scotland

As the Wikimedian in Residence for Museums Galleries Scotland, I usually work alone, or remotely.  The opportunity to connect to the wider open knowledge community was fantastic – energising, informative and so very valuable.  And we had 4 Residents in a room at once!  This, you have to realise, is a rare thing indeed in the world of Wiki.  I’ve worked primarily in open culture and heritage for the last 16 months, and one of the growth areas has been in the interface between education and culture…. So #OER16 seemed to me so prescient, so perfectly timed.

Martin Weller

The Open University

The sessions I attended at OER16 demonstrated how the field is maturing, and in many ways moving beyond a narrow definition of OER as content. The potential of OER in fields as diverse as Shakespeare and understanding modern slavery was demonstrated, but so too was the nature of open identity, the type of research we should be undertaking, and the need for open infrastructure. The UK OER conference is now much more of an international one and also much more critically reflective of the nature of openness.

Sheila MacNeill

Glasgow Caledonian University

Sheila MacNeil and Martin Weller by Josie Fraser

Sheila MacNeil and Martin Weller by Josie Fraser

One of the things I keep coming back to is Melissa’s description of technical and cultural debt – I am going to try and blog about this but need to think about it a bit more in terms of my political position! But I found her description of them both really useful and thought provoking.

The theme of #oer16 was Open Culture, and it was great to have input from third sector organisations around the potential of open-ness (content, data and practice) outwith the education sector.  Catherine Cronin’s opening keynote  addressed cultural issues around inequality, culture, participation and open-ness head on.   Changing societal, organisational and personal attitudes to open-ness is an ongoing debate in the open education world.

A Tale of Two Conferences: #oer16 and #LAK16

Catherine Cronin

National University of Ireland, Galway

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference – the sessions I attended as well as the many conversations over the course of the 2+ days. I feel a collective sense of “moving on” in the open education community, a willingness to tackle some of the more challenging questions about risk, power and inequality. Though there is much work to do, this move towards more critical analysis is heartening.

Rachel Hosker

Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh

It was great. Really refreshing and challenging in a positive way for collections. It was a fantastic opportunity to share ideas and meet people with different perspectives on sharing collections and how we can all do this.  I also found it useful as a platform for discussing some of the practical things in collections work that need to be done to make things open for use. As an archivist, working in collections I would encourage others in my sector and profession to go to OER and engage with making collections open.

Maha Bali

Center for Learning and Teaching, The American University in Cairo

As a virtual participant who was also doing OLC Innovate at the same time… I only got a glimpse of what was happening. But what I thought was particularly interesting about OER16 was the challenging of two things:

  1. Challenging OER as a key mode openness – Catherine Cronin’s keynote, my presentation with Suzan Koseoglu and one by Andrew Middleton and Katherine Jessen tried to move beyond OER as content as being the main form of openness…which was interesting given the title of the conference
  2. Challenging openness as necessarily a good thing. This again came from Catherine but also Jim and also my session with Suzan. I am sure if Frances Bell presented something it would also challenge that.

I don’t know if this is all normal for OER16… it resonates a little with how OpenEd last year was, but with OpenEd it felt like maybe a majority of attendees were less critical but there was a vocal minority that was critical…

Thank you for embodying true openness in your approach to my virtual participation and Virtually Connecting. We are continually mentioning ALT as one of the organizations that’s supporting us.

Frances Bell

francesbell.com

OER16 was a very friendly conference – with lots of smiling, networking and fun going on. The conference topic Open Culture, expressed through the themes, enabled participants to celebrate and critique openness in the overlapping contexts of cultural heritage and education. The keynote speakers really helped to frame that celebration and critique in conference sessions and informal discussions

by Catherine Cronin, CC BY SA

by Catherine Cronin, CC BY SA

Stuart Nicol

Educational Design and Engagement, University of Edinburgh

At a high level I felt a little that there was an underlying split between the very technical-orientated view of open and OER (I’m thinking Jim Groom’s keynote around infrastructure & indie-web) and then the very human side (several presentations talking about the self as OER). But thinking of this as less of a ‘schism’ and more of the strands that sit under the OER grouping. Strands that can sit comfortably but that maybe we haven’t quite got to a place where we realise they can sit comfortably together?

I think it maybe comes down to a tendancy to try to simplify; that OER is a policy and/or it’s a repository. But actually it’s a digital sensibility that underpins a very wide range of practices … the specific human and technical implementation of OER will be different in different practice contexts … and it’s likely to change over time.

John Johnson

Radio EduTalk

Viv Rolf, John Johnson, David Kernohan by Martin Hawksey

Viv Rolf, John Johnson, David Kernohan by Martin Hawksey

In higher education the idea of open education is now well enough established that the discussions have become quite nuanced. There are a wide range of definitions and directions on the open road. Some look at practical issues around, licensing and searching of resources, others social or technical ideas.

I’ve not seen much evidence that these ideas are penetrating primary or secondary education in Scotland. I do think that open ideas are equally valid here. A good place for school based colleagues to start might be the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

I’ve not got a wide ranging knowledge of the OER world, but it was pretty obvious there are different interpretations of open, many speakers alluded to that. There was a general feeling that the more open a resource the more sustainable it is.

It was delightful to spend time with people who are gathered, not because they want to sell something, but with a shared idea that is aimed at doing good in the world.

Joe Wilson

joewilsons.net

I am prejudiced but I do think some of our most creative educators are interested in open education. All of the sessions I attended inspired me and showed the way forward for all of us in rethinking what education could be. There was something for everyone from policy makers to practitioners.

All of the sessions from Wikimedia offered something for Colleges and adult learners – I can’t do them all justice in a post . But Colleges should be using Wikimedia tools not just as reference materials but as active learning tools.

#OER16 Quick Overview and Some important links for Scottish FE

Anne-Marie Scott

Digital Learning Applications and Media, University of Edinburgh

My major takeaway has been the value of openness. Making educational resources available for many purposes using Creative Commons licenses, building software and infrastructure using open source technologies and licenses, being open about the algorithms we use to evaluate our students’ online activities, being transparent about what data we collect and why, being open and inclusive about the development of standards that will allow us to work better together, all of this activity requires a commitment to being open. Open to scrutiny, open to challenge, open to collaboration, open to cooperation, and open to being part of a community.

The value of being open

And last but not least from twitter….

Stephen Thomas

Michigan State University

#oer16 #sustainability panel had a wide variety of perspectives. Great session!

by Stephen Thomas

Pat vs. Viv by Stephen Thomas

OER16: Open Culture Conference Overview

Last Friday I was invited to present an overview of the OER16: Open Culture Conference at the eLearning@Ed Conference at the University of Edinburgh, and as part of my talk I included the following summary of our five fabulous keynotes.

Catherine Cronin, National University of Ireland, Galway

Catherine Cronin set the tone for OER16 in her opening keynote asking “If open is the answer what is the question?” She went on to ask us whether we consider ourselves to be open education practitioners or researchers, advocates or critics, wonderers or agnostics. Catherine explored different definitions of openness, stressing the importance of context, and identifying those that may be excluded. In a very personal talk Catherine reminded us that openness is itself personal and that we are all negotiating risk every time we consider sharing. However

“engaging with the complexity and contextuality of openness is important, if we wish to be keepers not only of openness, but also of hope, equality and justice.”

~ Tressy McMillan Cottom, 2015

Catherine Cronin

Catherine Cronin

Emma Smith, University of Oxford

On the week that marked the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, we were extremely fortunate to have one of the world’s foremost Shakespeare scholars and dedicated open practitioner, Emma Smith, with us. Emma also wins the prize for the best keynote title ever surely with “Free Willy: Shakespeare and Open Educational Resources.” Emma wove together the story of her own open education journey with the colourful history of the Bodleian Library’s First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays. Emma began sharing her lectures online in 2009, an experience that completely transformed her teaching, and her lectures now reach a huge global audience. She suggested that teaching is now a public activity rather than a private one and added;

“You kind of have to get over yourself and let other people see what you’re doing.”

Emma also touched on the issues of privilege, acknowledging the threat of OER and MOOCs from elite institutions being seen as replacements for staff elsewhere, and she asked “To what extent does open reorder hierarchies?” She also entreated her colleagues in the humanities to share their contextual and teaching materials around original sources.

Emma Smith by Brandon Muramatsu

Emma Smith by Brandon Muramatsu

John Scally, National Library of Scotland

Moving from the personal to the institutional John Scally, National Librarian of Scotland, introduced the National Library’s ambitious digital strategy, launched in 2015, which aims to make a third of its renowned collection of 24 million items available online in the next 10 years. John outlined the range of approaches the National Library is taking to open access to its cultural resources and discussed the challenges for leadership in this area at a national level. The Library’s road to openness has been messy and there have been zigzags and potholes along the way, for example there are tensions between preservation and access. John argued that the National Library needs to go further than widening access, it also needs to promote equity, and “openness” can help with that. After John’s keynote one delegate was overhead to comment that higher education institutions could learn a lot from the National Library’s approach to supporting openness at scale.

John Scally by Anna Page, CC BY SA

John Scally by Anna Page, CC BY SA

Jim Groom, Reclaim Hosting

Jim Groom of edupunk, ds106 and Reclaim Hosting notoriety is one of the most infamous characters on the current ed tech circuit and we scored a bit of a coup by inviting him to give his first ever keynote in the UK. Jim presented a challenging and eclectic keynote titled “Can we imagine tech Infrastructure as an Open Educational Resource? Or, Clouds, Containers, and APIs, Oh My!” and true to form he began with a quote from Black Flag guitarist Greg Gin

“If you don’t like ‘the system’ you should create one of your own.”

~ Greg Gin, Black Flag

Jim urged us to turn our attention from open, shareable educational resources, to shared technical infrastructure. Asking what if we focused more on small-scale personal, re-usable software rather than monolithic, institutional solutions? What if we worked towards a collaborative infrastructure for OER that was always framed and scaled at the level of the individual, not unlike the web? With the shift in web infrastructure to the cloud, the advent of APIs and containers, and a burgeoning network of distributed and collaborative ed tech, we may be entering a moment where the open culture of networks is key to a sustainable future for OER.

Jim Groom by @SuperFamicomGuy

Jim Groom by @SuperFamicomGuy

Melissa Highton, University of Edinburgh

Returning to the institutional context, my fellow co-chair Melissa Highton presented the final keynote of OER16 Open with Care, which explored the challenges for leadership in OER, the role of universities in open knowledge communities and the returns and costs associated with institutional investment. Melissa outlined the University of Edinburgh’s policy and vision for OER and reminded us that “education isn’t always about content, but a lot of it is.”

One idea introduced by Melissa, which particularly caught the attention of delegates, was the concept or technical and copyright debt. If you don’t build open licensing into your workflows, you accrue copyright debt for the future. Technical and copyright debt is the price you pay for not doing it properly first time and as a result you end up paying to replace what you already have, rather than building new functionality. So, sustaining OER at scale is a technical issue and IT directors and CIOs need to be persuaded of the value of funding openness.

Melissa Highton by Anna Page, CC BY SA

Melissa Highton by Anna Page, CC BY SA

In conclusion…

It’s difficult to present a neat summary of such a diverse conference but there does appear to be a collective sense of maturing and moving on in the open education community, a willingness to tackle some of the more challenging questions about risk, power and inequality. There may be some residual tension in the OER community between those who have an institutional remit for supporting openness and those who regarded openness as a purely personal practice, however there is a growing appreciation that openness is a digital sensibility that underpins a very wide range of practices.

I’d just like to finish with what I thought was a lovely quote from a blog post written by OER16 delegates and University of Edinburgh MSc in Digital Education postgraduate, Stuart Allen. Stuart wrote ….

“Having a clear, value-driven vision for openness based on ideas of sustainability, civic responsibility and social justice, as advocated by Catherine Cronin and others, represents the very best of what higher education can be (or should be). But when it comes to implementing this vision in a specific context, there are tensions at work between political values, educational aims and pragmatic concerns. These will have to be negotiated with courage and no little skill.”

~ Stuart Allen, Open Culture, Open Questions

All OER16 keynote are available on the ALT Youtube channel.

[slideshare id=61855849&doc=oer16elearninged-160510104022]

OER16: Open Culture – that was the conference that was.

So, the OER16 Open Culture Conference has been and gone and what an experience it was!  Co-chairing OER16 with my inspiring colleague Melissa Highton has been an enormously rewarding experience and I owe a huge debt of thanks to everyone who volunteered their time, effort and creativity to make the conference such a success. In particular I’d like to thank our keynotes, Catherine Cronin, Emma Smith, John Scally, Jim Groom and Melissa Highton for their inspiring and thought provoking talks and, of course, the ALT team for supporting the conference and ensuring everything ran like clockwork.  I can highly recommend charing an ALT conference if you’re ever thinking about it!

oer16_jim_penny

It’s too soon after the event for me to gather my thoughts and attempt to provide any kind of coherent overview so here’s a round up of the conference outputs and some of my personal highlights in lieu of something more considered.

ada_me_oer16

Me & Ada LEGO Lovelace by Stuart Cromar

And of course, my personal twitter highlight of the conference…

oer16_me_josie

 

Taxi Chic OER16 Co-Chairs Melissa Highton & Lorna Campbell by Catherine Cronin, CC BY SA

Taxi Chic
OER16 Co-Chairs Melissa Highton & Lorna Campbell
by Catherine Cronin, CC BY SA

So now it’s time to pass the torch over to the fabulous Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski, two of my favourite people working in open education today, who’ll be co-chairing OER17: The Politics of Open.  It’ll be awesome!

 

 

University of Edinburgh approves new OER Policy

edinburgh[Cross posted to Open Scotland]

As part of its on going commitment to open education, the University of Edinburgh has recently approved a new Open Educational Resources Policy, that encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience. The University is committed to supporting open and sustainable learning and teaching practices by encouraging engagement with OER within the curriculum, and supporting the development of digital literacies for both staff and students in their use of OERs.

The policy, together with supporting guidance from Open.Ed, intends to help colleagues in making informed decisions about the creation and use of open educational resources in support of the University’s OER vision. This vision builds on the history of the Edinburgh Settlement, the University’s excellence in teaching and learning, it’s unique research collections, and its civic mission.

The policy is based on University of Leeds OER Policy, which has already been adopted by the University of Greenwich and Glasgow Caledonian University. It’s interesting to note how this policy has been adapted by each institution that adopts it. The original policy describes open educational resources as

“…digitised teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released by the copyright owner under an intellectual property licence (e.g. Creative Commons) that permits their use or re-purposing (re-use, revision, remixing, redistribution) by others.”

However Edinburgh has adapted this description to move towards a more active and inclusive definition of OER

“digital resources that are used in the context of teaching and learning (e.g. course material, images, video, multimedia resources, assessment items, etc.), which have been released by the copyright holder under an open licence (e.g. Creative Commons) permitting their use or re-purposing (re-use, revision, remixing, redistribution) by others.”

This definition aims to encompass the widest possible range of resources that can be used in teaching and learning, not just resources that are developed specifically for that purpose. This description acknowledges that it is often the context of use that makes a thing useful for teaching and learning, rather than some inherent property of the resource itself.

Although open licensing is central to the University’s OER vision, this is much more than a resource management policy. In order to place open education at the heart of learning and teaching strategy, the University’s OER Policy has been approved by the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee. The policy is intended to be clear and concise and to encourage participation by all. By adopting this policy, the University is demonstrating its commitment to all staff and students who wish to use and create OERs in their learning and teaching activities, and who wish to disseminate the knowledge created and curated within the University to the wider community.

600x60-oew-web-banner

OER16 Open Culture Conference – Open as in Open

In keeping with the ethos of open education, the OER conferences have always made an effort to be as diverse, inclusive and, well, open as possible and OER16 Open Culture is no exception.

The draft conference programme has recently been announced and we’re delighted to have accepted 101 papers and panels from 29 different countries.

oer16_diversity

OER16 presenters will come from 29 countries around the world

Bearing the recent #allmalepanels meme in mind, we’re also aware of issues relating to gender balance and diversity and we’re very pleased to have almost 50/50 representation. Of over a hundred lead authors who recorded their gender along with their submission, 49% are female and 51 % male, and our keynotes are similarly balanced.

Although the University of Edinburgh is clearly a popular destination for delegates, not all of our presenters and participants are able to travel to Scotland for a wide range of reasons, so we are happy to facilitate remote presentation. One OER16 presenter Maha Bali, associate professor of practice at the Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo, has previously written in the Chronicle of Higher Education about her own experiences as a remote conference presenter

“I am finding more and more conferences willing to accommodate me as a virtual presenter. This is probably happening more to me than other people because of my travel restrictions (mom of a young child living halfway across the world from most conferences I want to attend and where most of my collaborators reside), coupled with my refusal to ignore the potential social capital I can gain from presenting internationally, that is different from everyday online interactions. There are many reasons why a conference might want to welcome virtual presenters (diversity and equity being two)”

Hospitality for Virtual Presenters by Maha Bali
Chronicle of Higher Education, January 26, 2016

In relation to OER16, Maha also commented:

“Presenting virtually at conferences allows me to have a voice in the field. How often do people in ed tech get to hear the perspective of Arab Muslim women who live in the Arab World? Presenting coupled with virtually connecting conversations allows me to feel more of an equal to my Western peers with whom I collaborate year-round.”

In order to ensure that OER16 is inclusive and accessible, we have aimed to keep the conference fee as low as possible for full delegates. However if cost is a genuine barrier, ALT have a small amount of limited funding available to subsidise registrations for presenters who are students, school teachers, who work in small FE institutions, adult or community education or are members of the public with a special interest in OER. Subsidised places have already been offered to fourteen presenters and applications of funding close on the 6th March.

OER16 also offers many opportunities for remote participation, the majority of which are completely open and free of charge. All five keynotes by Catherine Cronin, Jim Groom, Melissa Highton, John Scally and Emma Smith will be streamed live on ALT’s dedicated youtube channel, and will also be available to view after the conference. There will be a wide range of social media channels including twitter feeds, blogs, hang outs and internet radio broadcasts, facilitated by the ALT Open Education SIG, Radio EDUtalk, Virtually Connecting and others, which will enable remote participants to engage with and contribute to the conference. Remote participants will only be required to register their details if they wish to comment on the main conference platform hosted by ALT, although registration will be required, this facility is still free of charge, all other remote participation channels are both free and open, and yes, that really is open as in open.

Thoughts on Amazon Inspire

Earlier this week EdWeek Market Brief reported that Amazon is developing a platform to “allow schools to upload, manage, share, and discover open education resources”.  Amazon Inspire, which appears to be aimed squarely at the US K-12 education sector / market (you decide) will enable users to

“to add ratings and reviews, and to receive recommendations based on their previous selections. Educators will be able to curate open resources, self-publish material they have developed, and put a school’s entire digital library that is open and freely available online.”

Although Amazon admit they haven’t nailed down a business model to ensure the platform’s financial sustainability, harnessing the company’s formidable recommender system to sell products that complement lessons and resources, is likely to feature prominently somewhere along the line. Amazon are sufficiently confident that they can guarantee the platform’s sustainability that Andrew Joseph, vice president of strategic relations for Amazon Education stated

“We’ve made a commitment that we will never charge for this,” Joseph said, noting it will be “a completely free, open platform for free resources.”

I’m tempted to say “we’ve heard that before”, but that would be cynical of me.  And of course “free” and “open” aren’t quite the same thing, but lets come back to that in a minute.

Of course Joseph doesn’t miss an opportunity to take a pot shot at Google

“teachers spend 12 hours a week on content creation and sharing on their own,” said Joseph, using Google Drive or shared folders within a district. “If you think about those resources, they’re not all that discoverable or sharable.”

Quite.

Unsurprisingly, this announcement has already sparked considerable discussion online.  Stephen Downes was one of the first to comment on this development, noting that Amazon already has a significant presence in the education sector, providing access to tools, a grant programme and cloud services. Matt Reed of Inside Higher Ed was generally enthusiastic about the development, speculating that Amazon Inspire could do for OER what iTunes did for podcasts. He does add a note of caution though, asking

“Are they trying to kill commercial publishers? Harvest student data? Commission hagiographic treatments of the life of Jeff Bezos? Amazon isn’t known for philanthropy.”

Like many commentators Reed focuses on the potential ability of OER to reduce the astronomical cost of textbooks in the US.  While I agree that reducing the cost of textbooks is undoubtedly a Good Thing, (though of considerably less benefit to education in the UK), focusing on this as the primary benefit of OER, rather misses the much wider potential of open education. Replacing a paid thing with a free thing, is certainly good, but does little to challenge the commercialisation of the education, particularly if the free thing is being provided by a commercial behemoth. This is a point that Jim Groom raised on twitter.

And then there’s the whole issue of open and free. Will the resources hosted on Amazon Inspire really be open?  Or will they be free?  The EdWeek report makes no mention of whether resources will carry a CC licence, in fact there is no mention of licensing at all. If they don’t use CC licences can Amazon really market this as OER ? Pat Lockley thinks they can (though he did admit to cynicism.)

Whatever Amazon Inspire transpires to be, it’s certainly an interesting development at a time when the sustainability of open educational resources and OER repositories, or lack thereof, is an increasingly pressing topic.  This is an issue that Viv Rolfe, David Kernohan, Leo Havemann, Pat Lockley, Simon Thomson and I will be exploring in a panel session at OER16 called Web Today, Gone Tomorrow: How can we ensure continuing access to OERs? and I suspect it’s an issue that will surface repeatedly during the conference.  If sharing OER through web platforms such as YouTube and Flickr is already common practice, would sharing them through Amazon really be problematic?  I don’t know. Without knowing more about the platform and the business model it’s too early to judge. I can’t help feeling a bit suspicious about this though…

One final point…I was very interested to note that Amazon Inspire will be partially based on the Learning Registry, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

Links

OER16 Registration Open!

I’m delighted to announce that registration for the OER16 Open Culture Conference is now open! The conference, which is being co chaired by Melissa Highton and I, is coordinated by ALT, and will take place at the University of Edinburgh on the 19th and 20th April 2016.

Register for OER16

The conference schedule will be announced shortly and it promises to be an eclectic and international programme.  Over 130 papers, panels and poster proposals were submitted in response to the conference call and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the OER16 Programme Committee for their efforts in reviewing the submissions over the Christmas period.  In particular I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our emergency reviewers who stepped in at the last minute – you know who you are, and our indefatigable Submissions Review Team who coordinated the entire process so efficiently; Frances Bell, Kirstie Whitaker, Ken Baur and Anna Davidge. Thank you all!

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