Crossing the Field Boundaries: Open Science, Open Data & Open Education

Last week I was invited to speak at the International Open Science Conference in Berlin which this year had a special focus on OER.  My talk featured a case study of the University of Edinburgh’s Geosicence Outreach and Engagement Course so I’d like to thank Colin Graham and all those involved in the course for allowing me to present their inspirational work.

This talk focuses on the interface between OER, open data and open science and our experience at the University of Edinburgh of promoting open education through the School of GeoSciences Outreach and Engagement course.

The title of this paper, “Crossing the field boundaries”, comes not from the domain of GeoScicences though, but from Maryam Mirzakhani, professor of mathematics at Stanford University and the first female winner of the Fields Medal.  In a 2014 interview Maryam said

“I like crossing the imaginary boundaries people set up between different fields—it’s very refreshing. There are lots of tools, and you don’t know which one would work. It’s about being optimistic and trying to connect things.”

A Tenacious Explorer of Abstract Surfaces, Quanta Magazine, August 2014

I am not a mathematician, or a scientist, but I do have some experience of crossing field boundaries, and since open education is all about breaking down boundaries and cutting across fields, this seems like a nice metaphor to hang this talk on. Continue reading

If the clothes fit…

This post is a slightly facetious response to Maha Bali’s post Fixing the shirt but spoiling the trousers #OER17 Open Call for Your Stories! and Sheila MacNeil’s Not so much the a case of the wrong trousers, more like a wardrobe malfunction my story for #oer17

Maha cited the rather fabulous Egyptian expression:

“when you tried to fix the shirt you spoiled the trousers”. It conjures up an image of comedy of errors or such, where trying to fix a problem creates new problems.

I think of “open” as having many such problems that arise out of its solutions, and I already have some examples in mind, but would love for the community to offer me more examples of this.

Sheila chimed in with

Over the past year I think my experience is more of having the right trousers but not the right top/jacket/shoes to go with them. What I mean is, that we have an OER policy in place in our institution which is great, but I’m not wearing “those trousers” as often as I’d like.

Sometimes feels like I have a wardrobe full for OER but nothing to wear

Yes, that is actually my wardrobe.

At the risk of stretching the metaphor until it gets threadbare, perhaps the problem is that the shirt and trousers don’t really fit?  You know you could get them altered so they fit better, but you never quite get round to doing it. Instead you just stick to wearing the clothes you’ve always worn, the ones you’re comfortable in.  So even if you have an OER repository, it’s a bit of a faff putting stuff in there, it’s easier just to shove your content into the VLE the way you’ve always done.

Or perhaps the shirt and trousers do fit, perhaps they’re beautifully tailored, perfectly fitting, outrageously expensive garments, but now you’ve spent all that money on them you can’t really afford to go out and wear them.  Maybe you’ve invested in an OER strategy or policy or repository, but have you allocated funding to provide the support services, guidance and advice that colleagues will need to actually get on board with OER?

Or maybe the problem is that you didn’t actually want to wear the shirt and trousers in the first place?  Maybe you only bought them because it’s what everyone else wears and you thought you should wear it too.  But really you’d rather wear jeans and a t-shirt, or that amazing vintage dress, or a sparkly frock, of whatever clothes express your individuality. In fact maybe what you want is a whole wardrobe full of clothes to choose from depending on what mood takes you or what job you need to do.  So rather than investing in a single central OER repository because you think that’s what you ought to have, or advocating a specific approach to openness, maybe look at a range of different solutions that will meet the needs of staff and students right across the institutions depending on their differing requirements.

After all, there’s more than one way to be open and wouldn’t it be boring if we all wore the same shirt and trousers? 😉

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!

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.

 

Open Archaeology and the Digital Cultural Commons

When I joined the Board of Wikimedia UK earlier this year I was asked if I’d like to write a blog post for the Wikimedia UK Blog, this is the result….

Eilean Dhomhnaill,  Loch Olabhat by Richard Law, CC BB SA 2.0

Eilean Dhomhnaill, Loch Olabhat by Richard Law, CC BB SA 2.0

Although I’ve worked in open education technology for almost twenty years now, my original background is actually in archaeology.  I studied archaeology at the University of Glasgow in the late 1980s and later worked there as material sciences technician for a number of years. Along the way I worked on some amazing fieldwork projects including excavating Iron Age brochs in Orkney and the Outer Hebrides, Bronze Age wetland sites at Flag Fen, a rare Neolithic settlement at Loch Olabhat in North Uist, the Roman fort of Trimontium at Newstead in the Scottish Borders and prehistoric, Nabatean and Roman sites in the South Hauran desert in Jordan.  I still have a strong interest in both history and archaeology and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m a passionate advocate of opening access to our shared cultural heritage.

Archaeological field work and post excavation analysis generates an enormous volume of data including photographs, plans, notebooks and journals, topographic data, terrain maps, archaeometric data, artefact collections, soil samples, osteoarchaeology data, archaeobotanical data, zooarchaeological data, radio carbon data, etc, etc, etc.  The majority of this data ends up in university, museum and county archives around the country or in specialist archives such as Historic Environment Scotland’s Canmore archive and the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) at the University of York.  And while there is no question that the majority of this data is being carefully curated and archived for posterity, much of it remains largely inaccessible as it is either un-digitised, or released under restrictive or ambiguous licenses.

Cadbury Castle Post Ex c. 1992

Cadbury Castle Post Ex c. 1992

This is hardly surprising for older archives which are composed primarily of analogue data.  I worked on the reanalysis of the Cadbury Castle archive in the early 1990’s and can still remember trawling through hundreds of dusty boxes and files of plans, context sheets, finds records, correspondence, notebooks, etc. That reanalysis did result in the publication of an English Heritage monograph which is now freely available from the ADS but, as far as I’m aware, little if any, of the archive has been digitised.

Digitising the archives of historic excavations may be prohibitively expensive and of debatable value, however much of the data generated by fieldwork now is born digital. Archives such as Canmore and the ADS do an invaluable job of curating this data and making it freely available online for research and educational purposes.  Which is great, but it’s not really open.  Both archives use custom licenses rather than the more widely used Creative Commons licences.  It feels a bit uncharitable to be overly critical of these services because they are at least providing free access to curated archaeological data online.  Other services restrict access to public cultural heritage archives with subscriptions and paywalls.

Several key thinkers in the field of digital humanities have warned of the dangers of enclosing our cultural heritage commons and have stressed the need for digital archives to be open, accessible and reusable.

The Journal of Open Archaeology Data is one admirable example of an Open Access scholarly journal that makes all its papers and data sets freely and openly available under Creative Commons licenses, while endorsing the Panton Principles and using open, non-proprietary standards for all of its content. Internet Archaeology is another Open Access journal that publishes all its content under Creative Commons Attribution licences.  However it’s still just a drop in the ocean when one considers the vast quantity of archaeological data generated each year.  Archaeological data is an important component of our cultural commons and if even a small portion of this material was deposited into Wikimedia Commons, Wikidata, Wikipedia etc., it would help to significantly increase the sum of open knowledge.

Wikimedia UK is already taking positive steps to engage with the Culture sector through a wide range of projects and initiatives such as residencies, editathons, and the Wiki Loves Monuments competition, an annual event that encourages both amateur and professional photographers to capture images of the world’s historic monuments.  By engaging with archaeologists and cultural heritage agencies directly, and encouraging them to contribute to our cultural commons, Wikimedia UK can play a key role in helping to ensure that our digital cultural heritage is freely and openly available to all.

This post originally appeared on the Wikimedia UK Blog

Open Education and Co-Creation

Last month I was invited to present a guest lecture on Open Education and Co-Creation as part of the Institute for Academic Development’s Introduction to Online Distance Learning staff development course.The lecture covers an introduction and overview of open learning, OER and open licences and includes a co-creation case study about the fabulous work of our Open Content Curation Intern, Martin Tasker.

Because I was away the week the my lecture was scheduled, I recorded it in advance using the University of Edinburgh’s Media Hopper service and uploaded it with a CC BY license. You can find the lecture here and the slides are on Slideshare here.  Feel free to reuse and repurpose!

(PS The WordPress embed code is being a bit wonky, but if you download this presentation or view it on MediaHopper you’ll be able to see my slides and me talking at the same time.)

23 Things: Thing 11 & 12 Copyright and OER

First of all a confession – I can get quite emotional about copyright and licensing :’} So emotional in fact that Jane Secker’s ALT Conference keynote Copyright and e-learning: understanding our privileges and freedoms  actually brought a wee tear to my eye.  You might think I’m making this up but it’s true, and the reason why is that copyright and licensing is ultimately about rights and freedoms and, at this point in time more than ever, what could be more important and fundamental than that?

One of the things that fascinates me about copyright is that people often hold contradictory views on it at the same time.  On the one hand there is a nebulous fear of copyright founded on the assumption that both copyright and licenses are preventative and punitive and that getting it wrong will call down the wrath of lawyers. On the other hand there’s a general assumption that anything that’s out there on the internet can be reused without permission, because if you weren’t happy with your stuff being reused you wouldn’t put it online in the first place, right?

Encouraging colleagues to engage with copyright is no easy task, it’s seen as dry and dull and vaguely threatening. However engaging colleagues with open education resources (OER) is a great way to raise awareness of both copyright an licensing.  Learning about OER can help colleagues to think about their own rights and to consider how to express, in unambiguous terms, what they will or will not allow people to do with content that have created.

The beauty of Creative Commons licenses is that they are designed to enable reuse, rather than prevent it. Admittedly CC licences are not perfect, the Non-Commercial clause is widely regarded as being particularly problematic but it’s no exaggeration to say that they have played a fundamental role in facilitating the development of open education and OER. Creative Commons licenses are now so integral to my work that I can’t imagine life without them and I can’t think of copyright without also thinking of Creative Commons.

So the task for Thing 11 & 12 is to find two CC licensed resources and then find or create an OER, so in the best traditions of Blue Peter – here’s one I prepared earlier! Two CC licensed images from flickr and the open education resource I used them in – a guest lecture for the University of Edinburgh’s Introduction to Online distance Learning Course.

Free Speech Zone by Caitlyn_and_Kara CC BY 2.0

Free Speech Zone by Caitlyn_and_Kara CC BY 2.0

Free Hugs

Gratis by Abrazo Dan CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

FutuOER: Dream A Little

Although I’m not attending the Open Education Conference in Virginia this week I’ve made a small contribution to a panel session with the intriguing title FutuOER: Designing the Next Generation of Open Education.  The panel, which is being run by Brandon Muramatsu of MIT and Norman Bier of Carnegie Mellon, will explore “possible visions of open education in 2036, using a series of broadly solicited papers as a starting point.”  The brief for these solicited papers was to “think about the past and to dream about the future,” and Brandon and Norman assembled an amazing group of thinkers and dreamers including Mary Lou Forward, Martin Weller, TJ Bliss, Paul Stacey, Catherine Casserle, Stephen Downes, Tomohiro Nagashima and others. You can read all these papers and more about FutuOER: The Future of Open Education Resources here http://www.futuoer.org/  And here’s my dream….

Dream a Little

The brief for this short paper was to “envision open education 20 years from now,” to “dream about the future.”

I’m not normally much of a dreamer. If I had to hang a label on myself, I’d say I’m more of a pragmatic realist, not much given to flights of fancy. However, there’s no denying that I’m passionate about open education, and sometimes it’s nice to dream a little…

My dream for open education is for all publicly funded resources to be released under open licence and to be accessible and available to all members of the public. And by resources, I don’t just mean education resources. I mean cultural heritage collections, works of art, and archives, too. Commercial companies that digitise and paywall public archives will be a thing of the past, and our cultural commons will be unenclosed and unencumbered by restrictive copyright legislation and prohibitive access fees.

Copyright legislation will be reformed internationally and harmonised regionally, and new legislation will be designed to protect the creative rights of the individual, rather than the profits of commercial publishing corporations.

Our politicians, legislators, librarians, archivists, teachers, and learners will understand the importance of open licensing and will take great pride in ensuring that any publicly funded resources they create or curate are freely and openly available to all.

Open education resources, open assessment practises, open textbooks, and recognition of prior learning will be employed to develop the potential of all the citizens of the world, particularly those who have been forced to flee persecution, prejudice, war, and instability, as well as those who simply want a better life for themselves and their families. Population movement will be encouraged and supported by an international education framework of transferrable skills and credits.

Any vision of open education for the future must be inclusive and accessible to all. Open education will no longer be the preserve of the global north and the privileged white Western elite. Mandarin, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, and Bengali open education resources will be as common and as readily available as English ones. Additional support will be provided to develop open education resources in minority and indigenous languages, aimed particularly at the young learners who are key to preserving their language, culture, and heritage.

That may all sound a little far-fetched, but I think we have to dream a little. The alternative is a bit of a nightmare, in which access to high quality education becomes the preserve of the privileged few, open education is dominated by the global north, textbooks are so prohibitively expensive that they are beyond the reach of mere mortals, copyright reform is driven by corporate publishers, our cultural commons is enclosed by paywalls, and we rely on technology entrepreneurs to reform our broken education system. Heaven forbid that should ever happen, right?

Let’s keep on dreaming.

And here’s the soundtrack for my dream… Forevergreen by Edinburgh’s very own Finitribe

People used to dream about the future. They thought there was no limit to progress. They dreamed of a clean, bright future, where science would make everything possible, and everybody better off. But somewhere along the line that future got cancelled.”

“We live in the short term and hope for the best”

Gaelic Wikimedian Opportunity – Tha sin direach sgoinneal!

The National Library of Scotland and Wikimedia UK yesterday announce that they are recruiting a Gaelic Wikimedian to promote the Scottish Gaelic Wikipedia, Uicipeid.  The Gaelic Wikimedian will work throughout Scotland to promote the Gaelic language by training people to improve or create resources on Uicipeid.  This will include deliver training and events in the Western Isles, Highlands and central Scotland.

Uicipeid logoThe Gaelic Wikipedian will be responsible for designing and delivering a range of activities which will encourage young Gaels to improve their language skills through editing Uicipedia. They will deliver events and workshops and work with Gaelic organisations and communities to increase knowledge about Uicipedia and increase its size and usage. They will support the development of open knowledge and open licenses and prepare progress reports to assess the impact of their work on the development of Uicipeid.

~ WMUK and National Library of Scotland are hiring a Gaelic Wikipedian

As a Gael, a member of the Wikimedia UK Board and an advocate of open education this is a project that is very close to my heart.  I was born and brought up in Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides but sadly I have very little Gaelic.  I can talk fluently to sheepdogs and very small children, but that’s about it!  I am typical of a generation whose parents and grandparents thought there was little point in passing on their language to us.  My father and my granny spoke a lot of Gaelic to me until I was about five but once I started school the Gaelic stopped, and during the 1970’s and early 80’s there was very little provision for Gaelic medium education in the Hebrides. I did one year of Gaelic in secondary school but that was it.

I now have a daughter of my own and as soon as she was old enough to start nursery I decided I wanted her to have the Gaelic medium education that was not available to me.  She is now in in her sixth year at Gaelic school, fluent in the language, and loving every minute of her education.  She also rolls her eyes in embarrassment at my woeful language skills but I can live with that.

Like many school kids, whenever my daughter is doing research for her school projects, Wikipedia is her first port of call, which obviously is something I encourage. She finds the information and references she needs and then carefully translates what she has learned into Gaelic.  It’s a bonus to find an article written in Gaelic in the first place.   It goes without saying that if Uicipeid could be expanded it would be an enormously important resource for Gaelic medium education, not just for primary school children to find facts, but for older students to gain valuable digital literacy skills.

Not only is this a wonderful opportunity for a Gaelic speaker to get involved with Wikimedia and the open knowledge community, the project also promises to be of enormous value to Gaelic teachers and learners and, perhaps most importantly, the future generations of young Gaels.

You can find out more about the post from Wikimedia UK, WMUK and National Library of Scotland are hiring a Gaelic Wikipedian and Obraichean Gàidhlig, Gaelic Wikipedian.

And here’s my own little contribution to Uicipeid, a photograph of Stornoway, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and  tagged in Gaelic 🙂

Stornoway Harbour

Steòrnabhagh, Eilean Leòdhais

23 Things: Thing 7 Twitter

I first signed up for twitter in April 2007 and I’ve been tweeting pretty much continually ever since; over 23,000 tweets and counting! It’s no exaggeration to say that, in terms of work, I would be lost without twitter.  Twitter has become so fundamental to my work and my identity as an open educational practitioner that I genuinely don’t think I could do my job without it.  Twitter is my workspace, it’s my office, it’s where I hang out with friends and connect to colleagues all over the world.  It’s where I pick up news, find new ideas, and listen to fresh perspectives. It’s where continuous professional development happens.  It’s where I learn. As someone who works remotely a lot of the time, twitter enables me to be part of a global connected community of open education practitioners.

Live tweeting ALTC

Live tweeting ALTC by www.chrisbullphotographer.com

Twitter is also an invaluable tool for communicating and disseminating educational events all kinds of. It’s second nature for me to live tweet every event I attend and if I can’t get online, I feel a bit lost. I find that live tweeting helps me to process what I’m listening to and the 140 character limit means I have to synthesise the ideas as I go along. Sometimes I get invited to live tweet events, such as the ALT Conference and the Day of Digital Ideas, in a more official capacity. Live tweeting in an official capacity requires a slightly different approach to live tweeting from my own account.  When I live tweet on behalf of an event organiser I try to keep my tweets as factual, neutral and representative as possible.  If I’m tweeting personally, I tend to tweet the points that interest or irritate me, adding my own thoughts and comments along the way. It feels  quite different. If you’re interested in finding out more about how to use twitter to amplify academic events, here’s a presentation I gave at the Day of Digital Ideas at the University of Edinburgh: Using Social Media to Amplify Academic Events.

Despite the fact that twitter is such an important channel for me, I actually use very few twitter tools. I have tweetbot installed for occasions when I want to manage multiple accounts but I prefer to use the generic web interface.  I do have a couple of lists set up, but I very rarely use them, I prefer not to filter as I love the random serendipity of my twitter feed.  The only twitter tools I use with any regularity are Storify, for collating event tweets, and Martin Hawksey’s fabulous TAGs for archiving and visualising tweets associated with event hashtags.

Although I think of twitter as a work channel first and foremost, I tend not to filter what I tweet.  I don’t just tweet about educational technology, I tweet about all kinds of things that interest me – naval history, poetry, sexuality and gender,tattooing, art, politics, rugby, whatever.  These things are all part of my real life identity, so they’re part of my online identity too.

My twitter feed