International Open Science Conference

This week I’m looking forward to presenting an invited talk on OER at the International Open Science Conference in Berlin.

My talk, Crossing the Field Boundaries will explore the interface between open education, open data and open science. The talk will highlight the Open Knowledge Open Education Group‘s influential study of Open Data as OER by Javiera Atenas and Leo Havemann, and using examples from the University of Edinburgh’s GeoScience Outreach and Engagement Course will highlight how student created open educational resources can be used to widen participation and encourage knowledge transfer and community engagement in science education.  I’ll post my paper and slides when I get back later in the week.

Thanks to the conference organisers for making these cute twitter cards!

Open Silos? Open data and OER

“Open silos” might seem like a contradiction in terms, but this was one of the themes that emerged during last week’s  Open Knowledge Open Education Working Group call which focused on Open Data as Open Educational Resources. We heard from a number of initiatives including the Creating Value from Open Data project led by Universities UK and the Open Data Institute which is exploring how open data can support the student experience and bring about tangible benefits for UK higher education institutions, and Open Data as OER, led by Javiera Atenas and Leo Havemann, which is gathering case studies on the use of real world open data in educational contexts.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwxUtDCoz8I]

While the benefits of open data are widely recognised in relation to scientific and scholarly research, open data also has considerable value in the context of teaching and learning.  Many governments, non-governmental organisations and research centres are already producing large volumes of open data sets that have the potential to be used as open educational resources. Scenario based learning involving messy, real world data sets can help students to develop critical data literacy and analytical skills. And perhaps more importantly, as Javiera pointed out, working with real world open data  from real governments and communities doesn’t just help students to develop data literacy skills, it also helps to develop citizenship.

“It’s important to collaborate with local communities to work on real problems so that students can help their communities and society to improve social and political elements of their daily lives.”
~ Javiera Atenas

ETA Javiera and Leo collecting case studies about pedagogical uses of open data across the world.  If you have a case study you would like to add, you can join the project’s idea-space here: Open Data as Open Educational Resources idea-space.

Tim Coughlan of the Open University also spoke about his experience of using open data to teach introductory programming to undergraduates. Using open data introduces an invaluable element of realism and complexity as the data is flawed and inconsistent.  Students come up against challenges that it would be difficult to introduce artificially and, as a result, they learn to deal with the kind of problems they will encounter when they get real programming jobs.

Marieke Guy, co-ordinator of the Open Education Working Group, had a similar experience of learning to work with open data

“Authenticity is critical. You get a new level of understanding when you work with data and get your hands dirty.”
~Marieke Guy

Towards the end of the meeting there was an interesting discussion on the effect of Research Council mandates on open data and open education. Although open access, open education and open data have all made significant progress in recent years, there has been a tendency for these domains to progress in parallel with little sign of convergence. Research Council mandates may have had a positive impact on open access and open research data however the connection has yet to be made to open education and as a result we have ended up with “open silos”.  Indeed open access mandates may even have a negative impact on open education, as institutions focus their efforts and resources on meeting these requirements, rather than on getting their teaching and learning materials online and sharing open educational resources.  So while it’s great that institutions are now thinking about how they can link their open research data with open access scholarly works, we also need to focus some attention on linking open data to open education. There’s no simple solution to breaking down the barriers between these “open silos” but exploring the converging and competing cultures of open knowledge, open source, open content, open practice, open data and open access is just one of the themes we’ll be focusing on at the OER16 conference at the University of Edinburgh next year so I hope you’ll be able to come and join us.

OKF Open Education Working Group Advisory Board

Earlier this month I was delighted to be invited to join the Advisory Board of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Open Education Working Group. The aim of the group, which is led by Marieke Guy, is “to initiate global cross-sector and cross-domain activity that encompasses the various facets of open education.”  Marieke has invited all Board members to write an introductory blog post for the group so here’s mine. It was published over at Open Education Working Group site last week.

okf_edu3

OKF Open Education Working Group

It’s hard to say when my own involvement in open education began. The start of the Jisc / HEA UKOER Programmes in 2009 is an obvious point of reference but many of the programmes and projects I was involved in long before that were concerned with sharing educational resources. Open licences were unheard of when I began working in education technology in 1997 so early projects I was involved with, such as Clyde Virtual University (SHEFC Use of the MANs Initiative) and the Scottish electronic Staff Development Library (SHEFC ScotCIT Programme), took a walled garden approach to sharing. Different methods of sharing, managing and disseminating educational resources were explored and developed over the next decade by a wide range of Jisc development programmes. Some of the ones I was directly involved in include Exchange for Learning (X4L), Digital Libraries in the Classroom, ReProduce, and the Digital Repositories and Preservation Programmes.

It was only with the launch of the Jisc / HEA UKOER Programme that I really got involved with open education as we might recognise it today though. On the surface, the primary aim of the HEFCE funded UKOER Programme was to get openly licenced educational content out there into the public domain, (the metaphor we frequently used was turning on the tap), however the underlying aim to the programme was to raise awareness of OER and embed open education practice within English higher education institutions. In keeping with the experimental and innovative nature of UKOER, Cetis recommended a novel approach to steering the programmes’ technical direction. Rather than identifying specific applications, standards, application profiles and vocabularies, we recommended that the UKOER programmes should adopt an open approach to the use of technology and standards. No descriptive standards, exchange mechanisms or specific technologies were mandated, thus allowing projects the freedom to choose the tools or technologies that best suited their requirements. The only provisos were that all projects should use the programme tag ‘ukoer’ and represent the resources they released in the Jorum national repository.

IntoWildCoverThis open approach to technology and standards enabled us to learn from real world practice and to surface technical issues and problem areas. As a result, Cetis role in the UKOER Programmes was more conversational than directional. We monitored projects’ progress with the adoption and use of a wide range of technologies, applications and resource description approaches and helped to identify common technical issues. At the end of UKOER we synthesised the technical outputs of the programmes and produced an open ebook called Into the Wild: Technology for open educational resources. Even this book was a result of open practice! The book was the result of booksprint using the open source Booktype platform and an open draft was shared with the community for input and comment.

Working with the UKOER Programmes was a hugely rewarding experience and I think its fair to say that we all learned a lot, not just about open education technology, but also about the culture and practice of sharing. Measuring the impact of short-term innovation funding programmes is notoriously difficult, but looking back now, two years after the end of UKOER, it really does look like the programme made a real difference in raising awareness of OER and embedding open educational practice in the English higher education sector.

Since the end of the UKOER Programmes in 2012 I’ve continued to engage with a wide range of open education developments, including the US Learning Registry initiative, Creative Commons, the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative, Wikimedia UK and the Open Knowledge Foundation.

More recently I’ve been involved with the Open Scotland initiative. Open Scotland is a voluntary cross sector initiative, led by Cetis, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, Jisc Regional Support Centre Scotland and the Association for Learning Technology’s Scotland Special Interest Group. The aim of Open Scotland is to raise awareness of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources, and explore the potential of open education policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education. To further these aims, we have recently launched the draft Scottish Open Education Declaration. This declaration builds on the UNESCO 2012 Paris OER Declaration but the scope has been widened to focus on open education more generally, rather than OER specifically.

http://declaration.openscot.net/

http://declaration.openscot.net/

The cornerstone of the Open Scotland initiative is our belief that open education can promote knowledge transfer while at the same time enhancing quality and sustainability, supporting social inclusion, and creating a culture of inter-institutional collaboration and sharing. I believe that open education can expand access to education, widen participation, create new opportunities for the next generation of teachers and learners and prepare them to become fully engaged digital citizens. I know that these are goals and beliefs that the OKF Open Education Working Group shares and I am privileged to have an opportunity to contribute to this group.

Jisc DigiFest and “What I Know Is”

It’s been a little quiet on this blog recently, I haven’t been sitting around twiddling my thumbs though, far from it! I’ve been busy on the Open Scotland front and with another exciting project that Phil Barker and I will be announcing very shortly.

I also seem to have got myself roped into an awful lot of conferences and events over the next three or four months. I’ve got ten presentations coming up between now and the end of June, on topics ranging from open education policy and Open Scotland, to the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative, to the crew of an 18th century naval frigate (yes really!)  If you want to find out where to catch me, I’ve updated my list of Presentations & Events.

The first couple of events I”m looking forward to are the Jisc DigiFest in Birmingham on the 12th of March and “What I Know Is” – a research symposium on online collaborative knowledge building in Stirling on the 19th of March.

Jisc DigiFest

digifest-side-bar

©Jisc and Matt Lincoln
www.mattlincolnphoto.co.uk
CC BY-SA

David Kernohan has invited me to Jisc DigiFest to participate in the panel session he’s running called Whatever happened to the MOOC?  The session will be:

“A discussion between UK and international speakers concerning current activity around open education and open courses. Find out how cutting edge academics and institutions are taking control of their own open education offerings, and adding value to traditional courses and outreach activities.

The “MOOC” (Massive Open Online Course) dominated discussions about online education in 2013. But as the bubble of media interest begins to fade, we will look at some of the interesting open education experiments and practices that could define the next wave of open education.

David has ambitious plans to run the panel as a single seamless narrative with seven speakers.  We’ve each been given a starting point and an end point in the narrative and have five minutes to cover our topic in between.  There will be no breaks between presenters and David has threatened to be ruthless if we deviate from our allotted five minutes. It’s going to be an interesting challenge!  The panel will also feature video contributions from the incomparable triumvirate of Jim Groom, David Wiley and Audrey Watters.  David has promised us it will be

“Insane? Possibly. Risky? Certainly. Fun? Totally.”

Wish me luck!

“What I Know Is”

260px-Wikimedia_UK_logo“What I Know Is” is a research symposium hosted by the Division of Communications, Media and Culture at the University of Stirling, which focuses on Wikipedia and other wikis and “inquires as to its status as a platform for collaborative online knowledge-building.”  The symposium aims to

“…bring together speakers from a range of disciplines, with a range of interests, from within the School of Arts and Humanities, and from across the UK, to share their work addressing different dimensions of  knowledge-building activities. It is hoped that in engaging with and sharing the various philosophical and interdisciplinary strands of research included in the symposium’s speaker-respondent structure, we will gain some insights into the true value of these online collaborations.”

I’m really pleased to have been invited to contribute to this event as I’ve been hugely impressed with Wikimedia UK’s recent efforts to diversify and engage with the education community throughout the UK over the last year.  I’m particularly looking forward to this event as, due to other commitments, I haven’t had a chance to participate in any of the fascinating events run by Wikimedia UK.  (I was particularly gutted to miss the recent Anybody but Burns editathon hosted by the Scottish Poetry Library.)  I’ll be speaking about Open Scotland and the Open Knowledge Foundation in a session on “Networked Communities, Commons and Open Learning.”

For a comprehensive overview of Wikimedia UK activities in SCotland see this great post by Graeme Arnott on the Open Scotland blog: Wikimedia in Scotland 2014.

Open Knowledge Foundation Glasgow Meetup #2

Last night I went along to the second Open Knowledge Foundation Glasgow meetup.  The event took place in the Board Room of the CCA, which was rather more spacious than the Electron Club that kindly accommodated us last time.  We all got to sit on chairs rather than perch on tables, which made tweeting much easier!  Once again we had a wide range of fascinating lightning talks which generated a great deal of lively discussion.   I’ve posted a storify of the event here: open-knowledge-foundation-glasgow-2

Open Scotland  – Lorna M Campbell, Cetis

I had the pleasure of opening the meeting with a short talk about the Open Scotland initiative, led by Cetis, SQA, the Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG, which aims to raise awareness of open education and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education. The initiative hopes to build on existing open education developments to encourage the sharing of open educational resources and to embed open educational practice across Scottish education.  The Open Scotland blog provides a focal point to engage the community in discussion and debate, disseminate news and developments relating to all aspects of openness in education and to further the actions and deliverables discussed at the Open Scotland Summit held in Edinburgh in June.

grainneOpen Badges: What? How?  Why? – Grainne Hamilton, Jisc RSC Scotland

Grainne introduced the concept of open badges and outlined the work of the Open Badges in Scottish Education Group.   Open badges are data infused images that provide an online representation of skills earned.  Badges could provide an important link between informal and formal learning as they enable users to gain recognition for learning that happens anywhere.  The Open Badges in Scottish Education Group, which is supported by Jisc RSC Scotland, has set up three sub-groups focusing on Learner Progress, Technology and Design and Staff Development.

graemeWikimedia UK: Scottish Women on Wikimedia – Graeme Arnott

Only 15% of Wikipedia editors are women, so Wikmedia UK is taking positive steps to address the gender imbalance of editors and remove sexism and racism from posts.  Graeme spoke about a Wikimedia UK editathon run in conjunction with Glasgow Women’s Library.  The event hoped to expose the hidden history of women in Glasgow and provide a way for more women from the Library to engage wth technology.

JenniferThe Digital Commonwealth: digital storytelling and social media archiving – Jennifer Jones

Jennifer introduced the Lottery funded Digital Common Wealth project which aims to support creative community expression in response to the Commonwealth Games.  Digital Common Wealth has three strands: Community Media Clusters, Schools Programme and Creative Voices at UWS.   Developing digital literacies and creating and sharing data are key principals for Digital Common Wealth.  Stories shared by social media are rich source of data and Digital Common Wealth are working with the National Library of Scotland to archive the project’s outputs.

PippaFuture Cities Glasgow – Pippa Gardner

Pippa provided an update on the £24 million Glasgow Future Cities Demonstrator project. Last night the project’s Data Portal had 99 data sets, however this morning they tweeted that they had just added their 100th data set from the Celtic Connections Festival.  The project used the Open Data Handbook to prioritise themes, however some of their data sets are more open than others, depending on their original licences. Where possible Glasgow will make data open by default.  Engagement hubs and links to digital inclusion initiatives are part of the project’s approach and the team will also be running hackathons in the new year.

DuncanOpen Architecture – Duncan Bain

Duncan highlighted some very interesting approaches to open architecture including Wikihouse, which aims to democratise the process of construction, Terrafab which allows you to download and print 3D models of Norwegian terrain maps, and Terrainator, a similar UK based on OS open data.  Duncan’s talk provoked a fascinating debate on lack of openness in architecture education practice, and why architecture has not embraced openness in a similar way that software development has.

bobOpen Street Map  – Bob Kerr

Presented an impromptu overview of the very cool work of the Open Street Map initiative and pointed us to the LearnOSM step by step guide.  Bob highlighted some amazing examples of open street mapping at work, including the humanitarian effort to map Haiti after the earthquake and Map Kibera, a project that mapped the Kenyan shanty town of Kibera revealing the extent of the community and bringing it to life.  Bob’s talk generated a really interesting discussion on the political and social importance of maps.  Duncan pointed out that traditionally the people who have the power have the maps, however initiatives like Open Street Map is changing that.

This meeting was organised by Graham Steel, Graeme Arnott and Ewan Klein with a little input from Sheila MacNeil and I. The event was streamed by Jennifer Jones.

Open Knowledge Foundation Glasgow Meeting

Last night Sheila and I went along to the first meeting of the Open Knowledge Foundation in Glasgow. The meeting was hosted by the Electron Club and the room was packed to the gunnels with over thirty enthusiastic open data geeks. The event was introduced by Edinburgh University’s Ewan Klein, who has already been instrumental in helping to facilitate a successful series of Open Knowledge Foundation events in Edinburgh.

opendatagla

There were six fascinating lightning talks on a wide range of open data topics:

Glynn Staples introduced the Glasgow Future Cities Demonstrator project, which Sheila, Martin Hawksey and I have already had a little involvement with, when we presented a worksop on social media engagement strategies earlier in the year.

Lizzie Brotherston gave a presentation on the Learner Journey Data Jam which took place in Edinburgh in April, and which featured the work of Cetis’ very own Wilbert Kraan 🙂 It was interesting listening to Lizzie talking about the value of events such as the data jam, and reflecting back on the DevCSI hackdays and the earlier Cetis CodeBashes which ran between 2002 and 2007. We were ahead of our time!

Graham Steel’s presentation was called “Publishing research without data is advertising, not science” and to prove his point, he provided us with lots of useful links which you can find on his prezi here.

Bill Roberts, from linked data company Swirrl, reminded us about the importance of presenting Open Data for multiple audiences and introduced a sort of typology of data users which featured “hard core spaqrl junkies” at the bottom!

Neil Logan, of Amor Group, introduced the SFC innovation centres initiative and the Data Science Innovation Centre proposal. You can read more about Neil’s presentation on his own blog here. One of the points that Neil made was that “academics talk to industry because they want money for research”, which I suspect is true, but it did rather make me wonder about whether industry could also offer any investment in teaching and learning?

The final presentation of the evening was by Peter Winstanley of the Scottish Government who talked about the Cabinet Office’s Open Standards Hub. Peter also presented one of the most robust justifications for the adoption of open standards, including persistent resolvable identifiers, that I’ve hear in a long time. If I hadn’t been precariously perched on the edge of a rather high table, I’d have stood up and applauded!

All in all it was a really lively and thought provoking evening and judging by the energy in the room and the many positive comments on twitter, there seems to be real enthusiasm for future Open Knowledge Foundation meetings to take place in Glasgow, so here’s looking forward to the next one!

If you’re intereted in learning more about the first #OpenDataGla event I’ve posted a Storify here and Martin Hawksey has archived all the tweets here.