Anarchy in the OER

June 6, 2008

My colleagues Tony Hirst and Martin Weller have been busy moonlighting at being Video Jockeys making remixes as original (very original!) art. The results are a couple of really instructive and entertaing short videos now on YouTube . Tony kicked off with the need to make a presentation to some educational publishers and rather than explain he went with a show and tell. Watch the video – it shows the reality of sharing what is out there.

Now that Tony has created the new position of eduVJ, Martin joined in – with (in my opinion) a better choice of music “Anarchy in the UK” to bring together some of the current discussion around edupunk and the need to through away some of how stored up beliefs. Just as Punk broke through the music industry, openness needs to break through the education industry.  Martin has gone further and as he describes on his blog he has now produced the “Director’s commentary” version of his video on YouTube. Looking at that was genuinely revealing to me, and helped me make a few connections that I had missed. So for entertainment go and see Martin’s original on Otherwise click on the video below (not the embedded play button) to go through to watch the annotated version on Youtube.

What Martin has managed here is to show reuse in action – if you track down his academic papers you will see that he was part of a team (with Chris Pegler and Robin Mason) that showed how learning objects work well as a basis for reuse with the original authors still involved. Martin points out that YouTube only seems to allow the owner’s of videos to annotate at the moment – but maybe we can see the starting point for some neat reworkings. Several components all falling into place:

  1. Some content released with nice creative commons licence that says you can do this
  2. RSS letting you pull content from one place to another
  3. Annotation and media tools that everyone can use
  4. The rise of the mashup educators

Just now this is in the hands of the rebels and the anarchists that are prepared to go past a few rough edges. Will the rest of us follow? 


Ideas about OERs from the distance universities

Last week there was a gathering of people from EU distance teaching universities at Milton Keynes organised by EADTU. The slides and ideas have been placed in the Research Zone of the OpenLearn LabSpace. The 2-day meeting was a great chance to share ideas and I felt there was a real buzz at the end of the meeting. There seemed to be complete commitment from everybody to a new world where the core content was free – but there was plenty of new opportunities to work together, help people learn and play an important role. Saying that good resources help people learn, but are only part of what is needed is the model and genuine strength of the open universities.

This meeting was part of the Multilingual Open Resources for Independent Learning MORIL project and one of the challenges for bringing people together is how to build on the result and excitement of the meeting. In this case a team working on the research side of OpenLearn captured activity on audio recording, prictures, videod sessions, video inteviews and knowledge maps. We plan to do more with some of the videos but Alexandra Okada has created a fantastic knowledge map built in Compendium. Worth a look as an example of how to get the best out of that free concept mapping tool as well as for the ideas it captures.

MORIL Compendium knowledge maps

OU at iTunesU

As part of the launch of iTunesU in Europe the OU is one of a few universities in the UK offering content for free through iTunes. I think the team at the OU that carried out the work have done a great job – and there is more about that on blogs from Martin, Doug & Tony. What this shows for us working on Open Content are a couple of things:

1. Content for free is part of university mission not just intitiative

2. The resources that are the raw materials for mix and match are now out there (over to Tony at OUseful to work out the best mashup to carry out!)

3. Routes to mass users are finally escaping from our own systems

These are interesting times.

Having finished with meetings from the Hewlett OER meeting the gang from the OU went out for a nice Thai meal and got our fortune cookies – could they be describing OpenLearn :-).

Fortune cookies

But which of us got which one! Can you match the fortune to Jerard, Simon, Andy and Patrick?

Yes it is nice to have the conference over – but it is also great to find out even more about the presentations I missed by reading these blog entries. Thank you very much to those who have blogged here (and elsewhere – pipes might be letting us down but technorati and flickr can now kick in). Thanks in particular to the core blogging team of Gill, Anesa and Rebecca and the extra blogs and pictures from Ale, Andreia, Steve, Andreas and Alex.

End of Conference

October 31, 2007

Well, the conference is now over and I imagine Patrick and the rest of the team who organised it and made sure that things ran smoothly are putting their feet up, or fending off trick-or-treaters depending. The Yahoo Pipe was a bit of a disappointment as it only seemed to work periodically. They’re obviously having problems with their pipe engine. It is working now, and I’ve just been looking at the collected blog entries which is quite interesting. You can find it here but try again later if it won’t run first time. 

Research Panel Theme for the second day
Originally uploaded by openlearn2007

The panel has changed slightly … Josie isn’t here … and there is a promise of no ppts 🙂

Erik is starting: He thinks of openness as being removing barriers and he is afraid that he cannot ideologically can stick or he doesn’t care about things he has to pay for it (i.e. happy for his university to pay for it), for it just needs to be there when he wants it there – he just wants convenience. He wants to remove the barriers (he is just repeating what he said earlier). He thinks we often worry too much in advance about the barriers when these barriers are only in our heads. He is talking about if a few years ago if we talked about putting out our content a committee would have been set up to decide if they wanted to put out these content and how to do it … he is saying with google and yahoo doing it – we are all too happy to get it indexed right away now …

Robin: Implications of the OER is quite vast in particular at the OU, where content has always been highly prized, then the role of the tutor in the OU becomes vague and it needs to be rethought about. Some people at the OU are quite wedded to their content and can’t see themselves without it. She is seeing scope for having institutions for accreditation etc. but she doesn’t see it happening … because there have been lots of technology new dawns (cites the examples of tv showing the best lecture) – and this never happened. She thinks that OER should become part of our scholarly activity. Libraries have been around for 150 years and it has not dented university roles – content is not everything … content is NOT king, whoever said it was king … it is so ISN’T. OER is just a modern version of a library – the OU has gone a bit further by providing tools – we therefore need some more support … gives an example of some guy who learned and became an expert on Turkish carpets through reading books. Talks about some other guy who failed to get into medical school in because he didn’t know Botecelli (?) painted the Venus.

John (?American guy ?): Talks about the OU degrees being accepted as being perfectly accepted degrees here in the UK. His job is to be the director of the OpenContent Consortium at MIT. He is wondering if people putting up more course materials up would make any significant difference. Mentions creative commons, wikiversity etc – things he picked up from the last 2 years. He is thinking we have the raw materials (nails, hammer and board) but we’re not sure what we’re building or rather to what end are we doing this for. He is thinking that we should consider how all how individual little projects fall into the grander scheme. He is thinking at some point we should get something call a “Open degree” but this does not replace the formal education … He likes the idea of that big goal, although it is controversial and may cause fear in people’s hearts.

Terry (American? Canadian?): We are not culturally equipped for rapid change … there is a crisis coming into higher education as the entry class is declining whilst life-long learning is increasing … the reason we have been doing so well, is because the university people have connections in the elite and the cabinets .. and he thinks until there is a cultural crisis there isn’t going to be any change to use these in any big way … Athabasca is planning to start accreditation these courses and have applied to the Hewlett foundation to do this. What are we assessing and how do we assess? Especially with the plagiarism issues and especially with the life-long issues.

Andrew: We are in a state of crisis … and what is going to follow on … he cannot separate digital revolution with the OER. With the context of this, he winces when he hear contents too much. He would like a change in educational practices, new epistemology … He is saying phase 1 has been the technology as we’ve developed enough content to last out a life time … and should enter phase 2 (not sure what this is) … he is thinking we should look at tools instead … in particular use and reuse of tools. If things are going to be used it should address a problem or do something interesting and we’ve been commodifying things. We need to form social relationships and do interesting things together – and we can have a bigger landscape in which to do these things as we become more fluent in these digital technologies. If we stop being in those old-fashion models then things become more interesting and fun.

Question time:

Simon: Is saying that academics don’t creative content but rather narrative as everything they do is free and is out there … if that is what academics have always done then people will continue to do that as people are lazy.

Steve: How do you acquire a skill … as these are usually acquired through practice? This sometimes get missed …

Andrew: He thinks it is absolutely true but cannot be change, becoming competent in these new digital literacies is not going to happen in a one-day training course but being committed to engaging with it. Mentions Imagine a programme on BBC that shows web 2.0 stuff – asks if anyone watches it – as it turns out nobody does.

Denise: What does the panel think about heading up a mix-and-match university of the future? How can you accredit me in some way when we do taster courses?

Terry: Athabasca has been doing that with $100 to challenge the exams and something etc. He is saying that his students would do things for marks but wouldn’t do things without the incentive marks. He is saying he doesn’t agree with Simon, as he thinks the narrative can be spun by other students and other people in general.

Erik: He doesn’t agree with the marking thing – the only reason why the students are so focused on marking is because they show up after 12 years of being conditioned to marking and also most of the things we teach have no relationship to their lives so unless we have the marks they won’t care about it. He mentions his 85 yr old father who goes to classes to enjoy it (makes a joke – which we heartily laugh at – that his father alone raises the average age of the class).

UNICEF guy (Mike?) – He is referring back to John’s speech. He’s talking about a book “White man’s burning” (?) – he is saying he works at the UN and he knows that big ideas don’t work. He is saying historically that it mightn’t work. He is saying let’s use the survival of the fitness format, in that if we continue in the small projects that we do, then the best one will eventually succeed. He is saying that the content we need is probably no longer quantitative but qualitative since in the 3rd world country that the content is quite archaic. He is thinking that this will be a great thing for the African continent. There is a real hunger for knowledge by the young people – so more knowledge available – all the better.

Robin: Is giving an example about Nepal that money was given to build a library but no money for books. And she now understands why they use an instructivist approach but it is because they don’t have the resources and hence everything has to come from the teacher.

Some guy: How does OER links to research?

Robin: Is talking about an European project which she has funding for in writing course materials and checking to see how easy they’re able to write them … talking about a participant in her project said that it might be easier to start from scratch rather than reuse materials.

Erik: Saying there is a lot of irrelevant research occurring as well as in teaching … and by making things more transparent or in a metadata style then it can become better.

Terry: I think there is a huge opportunity for research … (but there is little funding for it in comparison to health research) but does thinks it is a good idea.

Andrew: Thinks are changing quickly so we need to ask the right research questions and be quite agile in the way we do things so it can feed into it quickly … so we have to change our research methods.

John: He is commented on big ideas being impossible (UNICEF guy) – and he is saying call me an idealist (?) but he just look at Google and Wikipedia they’ve done well, but he takes the point that most big ideas fail … but that we shouldn’t lose the spark that a big idea might just break through. And that we can have a lot of fun doing it.

Robin: Was Web 2.0 a big idea … no it just grew suddenly

Andrew: Is saying that lots of things weren’t considered as a big idea such as the internet.

UNICEF guy: Says that one thing we’re missing that the biggest motivator was profit (in reference to Google) whilst we don’t have that in the OER.