What I Know Is

A Research Symposium on Online Collaborative Knowledge Building

Wikimedia UKThe University of Stirling will host a one day research symposium on online collaborative knowledge building on Wednesday 19th March. Further details are available here: What I Know Is

Dogma concerning the use of the Wikipedia has, for many of us working in Higher Education, tended to dictate a lukewarm and grudging acknowledgement of its existence at best; at worst, a belief that any and all uses of it ought to be expunged from academia forever. This attitude to the Wikipedia, and its umbrella organisation in the UK, Wikimedia UK, has in recent years mellowed and in some disciplinary circles it has now been appropriated as a tool for Learning and Teaching.

The gravity of this sea-change is such that Wikimedia UK has been involved with partnering influential AHRC initiatives such as the British Library’s Wikipedian-in-residence (2012) and a similar scheme has been set up at the National Library of Scotland. With two major EduWiki national conferences in the last two years, and a handful of smaller, themed events, it is now timely to reassess the Wikipedia and other online sites not only as pedagogical tools, but also as platforms where knowledge is built, shared and transformed; sites and objects for analysis, critical engagement, as well as philosophical debate.

This event takes the Wikipedia (the most popular amongst other wikis) and inquires as to its status as a platform for collaborative online knowledge-building. As such, it is but one of a number of examples where online communities of trust and participation have formed their own cultural protocols and have led to all manner of creative user generated content; the building, sharing and transformation of knowledge; and even political engagement, within a broader context of social structures of freedom, expression, agency and public-mindedness. Such broadly civic values, associated in part with stripes of Western liberal tradition, arguably have at their heart an ethical dimension which engenders (or at least, seeks to engender) a more robust digital literacy than perhaps that which has come to shape policy-making and Web ownership in the last few years.

As such, it is with pleasure that the Division of Communications, Media and Culture brings 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 these 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.

  • Lorna Campbell on Open Learning (Cetis /Open Scotland/Open Knowledge Foundation)
  • Dr Zoe Drayson on Extended Cognition and Agency (University of Stirling)
  • Dr Padmini Ray Murray on the future of publishing (University of Stirling)
  • Dr Toni Sant on Collaborative Learning and Teaching (University of Hull/WMUK Academic Liaison)
  • Dr Greg Singh (University of Stirling, Symposium Chair)
  • Dr Penny Travlou on Networked Communities, Creativity and Spatiality (University of Edinburgh)
  • Professor Mike Wheeler on Extended Cognition (University of Stirling)
  • Dr Alison Crockford on Open Access (University of Edinburgh/National Library of Scotland)
  • Marc Garrett (Furtherfield)

College Development Network Librarians Open Developments in Scotland

Earlier this week I travelled up to the Stirling where I had the pleasure of presenting the keynote at the College Development Network Librarians Open Developments in Scotland event. It was an interesting and lively event and it’s great to see college librarians really engaging with the open education debate. Open education has the potential to be of enormous benefit to the FE sector, and librarians have a critical role to play in raising awareness of open education and advising their staff on the development and use of open educational content and licences.

My slides are available here and I’ve posted a Storify of the event here: Librarians Development Network: Open Developments in Scotland.

My presentation was followed by a fascinating talk by Suzanne Scott about Borders College‘s adoption of Mozilla Badges.  There’s been a lot of talk about the potential of open badges recently, so it’s really interesting to see them being used in a real world scenario.   Borders College aren’t just using badges to motivate students and acknowledge their achievement, they are also using them to engage with staff and have replaced all staff CPD paper certificates with Open Badges.  Adopting badges has also had significant reputational benefit and has raised the profile of the college;  Borders College are 4th on Mozilla’s list of international Open Badge Issuers. 

Following Suzanne, Mike Glancey of the National Museums of Scotland gave a talk about SCURL‘s Walk in Access initiative.  Now I have to confess, I had never heard of Walk in Access before, but it sounds like a really valuable initiative.  Walk in Access provides members of the public with on-site access to digital content such as journals and databases, where licensing terms and conditions permit.  Walk in Access highlights libraries commitment to opening access and also helps to widen engagement and provide access to distance learning students. The SCURL Walk in Access report is available here.

In the afternoon we were lucky to have a presentation from the always inspiring Christine Sinclair about the University of Edinburgh’s Coursera MOOCs and her team’s experiences of running the ELearning and Digital Cultures MOOC (). Christine explained that Edinburgh initially got in involved with MOOCs for five reasons: reputation, exploration, outreach, shared experience and, most importantly, fun!  The Edinburgh MOOCs have the support of the principal and the senior management, and the university has invested a considerable amount of funding in the initiative, however a lot the courses still run on “staff goodwill, evenings and weekends.”   It’s too early to say if this is a sustainable approach, Edinburgh are still exploring this.  Although the  team didn’t want to produce “star tutor talking heads” videos they discovered that students still wanted to “see” their lecturers and to form a connection with them. Some students struggled with the  approach, asking “Why aren’t you teaching us? Where are our learning outcomes?”  but others really engaged and came back to act as Community Teaching Assistants the following year.

Christine was followed by Gary Cameron of the College Development Network who gave an inspirational talk calling for his colleagues across the college sector to “Share, Share, Share!” To facilitate this sharing the Re:Source repository has been established for the Scottish college sector as a place to share open educational resources.  CDN are also planning to issue small grants for staff to openly licence resources in key topic areas. Gary ended his talk by reminding us that:

“OER is no longer an option, it’s an imperative, but still need to win battle for hearts and minds.”

The final presentation of the day was from Susanne Boyle, who has recently taken over from Jackie Carter as Director of Jorum and Senior Manager, Learning and Teaching at Mimas.  Susanne is not the only new member of staff to join the Jorum team, within a couple of months, 50% of the  team will be new appointments!  Jorum will be supporting the Jisc funded FE and Skills Programme, and will be creating tools to make it easier for FE practitioners to connect with Jisc and Jorum content.  The team will also be focusing on Health Practice resources and collections, and will be working closely with the North-West OER Network.  I have been involved with Jorum since it was just a wee glimmer of a project proposal, and I have sat on its Steering Group through every phase of its development so it will be very interesting to see what this new lease of life brings!

Scottish Government Support for Open Education?

“We broadly support open licences and OER and need a serious public debate on this issue.”

~Michael Russell, MSP

This was the Minister for Education’s response to a question I put to him earlier today regarding Scottish Government support for open education policy and open licences for publicly funded educational resources in order to benefit learners, not just within Scotland, but internationally.  The Minister was speaking at the Future of Higher Education In Scotland and the UK event in Edinburgh, organised by the ESRC Fellowship Project: Higher Education, the Devolution Settlement and the Referendum on Independence.

In a wide-ranging speech outlining the Scottish Government’s vision of higher education in an independent Scotland, Russell stated that we need an education sector that can meet the challenge of new technological advancement and institutions that can fully explore the potential of new technologies for learning. MOOCs and OER have great potential to form new pathways to learning, to widen participation and promote a culture of collaborative development and reuse. Consequently a core group supported by SFC has been established to look at the benefits of OER and promote online learning resources produced by Scottish universities.  This group is composed of the Open University and the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde; UHI may also have a role to play. 

While it’s hugely encouraging to hear the Minister for Education acknowledging the importance, not just of the inevitable MOOCs, but of OER and open education more generally, I have some concerns that with such a narrow group of stakeholders involved in the core group, the scope of the debate might fail to encompass the wider benefits of open education to the Scottish sector as a whole.  Open education policies and practice have the potential to benefit teachers and learner right across the sector, in schools, colleges and universities, in formal and informal learning scenarios, and to support life long learning right across the board.

As yet, no further details have been released regarding the nature of the core group activities and the level of SFC investment, so we will continue to watch these developments with interest.  

ETA A summary transcript of Russell’s speech has been made available by the Scottish Government here. The relevant paragraphs relating to open education are as follows:

“I am very encouraged by the potential of massive open online courses – short courses delivered online that can be taken by anyone, anywhere. Of course, we must ensure quality of provision, however, free resources such as these have great potential to provide pathways to formal learning and widen participation in higher education.

“That is why I have indicated to the Scottish Funding Council that, in supporting this new work, they should facilitate the best open practice in Scotland and enhance the sector’s capacity and reputation for developing publicly available online learning materials.

“It is a very exciting prospect that a student anywhere in the world can access materials presented by world-class academics working in world class Scottish universities.

Martin Hawksey has made a twitter archive of the event hashtag available here: #HEScot and all papers from the event have now been uploaded here: Seminar 3: The future of higher education in Scotland and the UK.

Jisc RSC Scotland Open Education Joint Forum

Earlier this week I was invited by Jisc RSC Scotland to attend their Open Education Joint Forum which took place at the Informatics Forum at the University of Edinburgh.  It was a very well attended event that featured a packed programme of thought provoking and  engaging presentations that highlighted a range of really inspiring open education developments.   I’ve put together a storify of the event’s lively twitter back channel here and links to all the presentations are available from Jisc RSC Scotland here.

Open Scotland

Lorna M Campbell, Cetis and Joe Wilson, SQA

I kicked of the event with a short overview of the Open Scotland before passing over to Joe who challenged the audience to share their educational resources, before talking about about the benefits of openness and calling for changing mindsets around Open Education.  Joe also reminded us that there is a real strength in Scottish education, we have dedicated and talented teaching staff and by opening up education they can shine for learning.

Joe Wilson, SQA

Joe Wilson, SQA

Massive Open Online Courses: Open education  of course?

Martin Hawksey, ALT

Martin Hawksey, my former Cetis colleague, now with ALT, gave an inspiring presentation that placed MOOCs in the historical context of technology innovation and asked if we are now in danger of promoting a dogmatic approach to programming and technology innovation. Martin revisited Doug Englebart’s “Mother of All Demos” which, among many other innovations, demonstrated screen sharing and videoconferencing as far back as 1968.  In education we have a tendency to get stuck in particular ways of doing things, both students and teachers have specific expectations and can be very resistant to change.

Martin Hawksey, ALT

Martin Hawksey, ALT

Martin highlighted some of the tools, services, platforms and applications that can be employed to deliver MOOCs.  He also reminded us that every letter of MOOC is negotiable and suggested that the issue of MOOC completion rates is irrelevant.  Open or closed is not a binary thing, but there are huge benefits to moving towards more openness.  Martin concluded by telling is all that “openness is about feeling warm inside” and that we should all “ride the waves of innovation to a more open, more relevant style of education’.  Martin has written a an excellent blog post about his presentation which you can read here: Taking on the dogmatic approach to education with a bit of ‘reclaim open digital connectedness’.

Re:Source OER Repository

Garry Cameron, Scotland’s Colleges, Jackie Graham and Sarah Currier, Mimas

Gerry spoke about the need to change hearts and minds to use and develop open educational resources and called for a clear statement and a decisive stance on open educational resources from Scottish Government. Scotland’s Colleges committed to releasing resources under Creative Commons licences.

Gerry Cameron, Scotland's Colleges

Gerry Cameron, Scotland’s Colleges

Re:Source is an OER repository for Scotland’s colleges. The open platform is here and could be used by many across the Scottish education sector but policy drivers needed.  Jisc RSc Scotland is collaborating with Scotland’s Colleges to work ona  way forward. Librarians also have a crucial role to play in developing open repositories within Scotland’s colleges.  Jackie Graham went on to demonstrate the Re:Source repository before handing over to Sarah Currier who spoke about the Jorum repository which powers Re:Source.

Jackie Graham, Re:Source

Jackie Graham, Re:Source

Blackboard xpLor

Julie Usher, Blackboard

Julie Usher, Blackboard

Julie Usher, Blackboard

Julie Usher began by highlighting the potential of OERs but suggested that they can be hard to find; how do you fin and evaluate OERs, link them to curricula, including assessments.  To address this problem Blackboard have developed the xpLor content repository. xpLor supports OER discover and allows content to be pulled directly into Blackboard courses.  Creative Commons is baked into xpLor repository so content can be exported with  CC licenses.

Introduction to Open Badges and OBSEG

Grainne Hamilton, Jisc RSC Scotland

Grainne Hamilton, Jisc RSC Scotland

Grainne Hamilton, Jisc RSC Scotland

Open badges are a form of digital accreditation that can be displayed online.  Badges are like coats of arms, they are images that contain information and have meaning beyond the visual.  Open Badges incentivise informal, formal and work based education and break learning into manageable chunks. The Open Badges in Scottish Education Group (OBSEG), which is supported by Jisc RSC Scotland, has set up three sub-groups focusing on Learner Progress, Technology and Design and Staff Development.

OKFN Glasgow and Edinburgh Meetups

OKFNTwo Open Knowledge Foundation Meetups are taking place in Scotland next week. Meet-ups are friendly and informal evenings for people to get together to share and discuss all aspects of openness. The meetings are free and open to all, so come along and join the discussions around open knowledge, open data, open education, open government, open badges, open architecture, open galleries, libraries, archives and museums.

OKFN Glasgow Meetup

On Monday 18th the second Glasgow Meetup with take place at the Club Room of the CCA at 18.00. The first meeting, which attracted over thirty participants, was a huge success and generated a great deal of interesting discussion. The event will feature six lightning talks on a wide range of topics:

* Wikimedia UK: Scottish Women on Wikipedia – Graeme Arnott
* Open Scotland – Lorna M Campbell
* Future Cities Glasgow – Glynn Staples and Pippa Gardner
* Open Architecture – Duncan Bain
* Open Badges: What? Who? Why? – Grainne Hamilton
* The Common-wealth Games, digital storytelling & social media archiving – Jennifer Jones

To attend the Glasgow meetup, please sign up here.

OKFN Edinburgh Meetup

OpenGLAM-logo-720x1024On Thursday the 21st November the eighth Edinburgh Meetup will take place at EDINA at 18.00. This meetup is focusing on OpenGLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) and will feature the following lightning talks.

* The SENESCHAL Project – Phil Carlisle
* Why is linking data so hard? – Kate Byrne
* Monuments, Artefacts and Social History – Peter McKeague
* Edinburgh Datashare: A digital repository of research datasets – Robin Rice

To attend the Edinburgh Meetup, please sign up here.

Open Badges in Scottish Education Group

We’re pleased to welcome our first Open Scotland guest blog post by Grainne Hamilton of Jisc RSC Scotland and the Open Badges in Scottish Education Group.

Grainne Hamilton,
Jisc RSC Scotland

In Scotland, interest has been growing around the opportunities afforded by the open, standards-based, accreditation framework, Open Badges, to augment traditional accreditation routes. At the Jisc RSC Scotland Open Badges Design Day, held in April 2013, staff from further and higher education institutions worked with the Mozilla Badges and Skills Lead, Doug Belshaw and the CEO of DigitalMe (DML Competition ‘Badges for Lifelong Learning’ winners and Badge the UK leads) Tim Riches, to consider possible badge-based pathways to learning and to explore the Mozilla Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI). At this event, there was consensus that it would be useful to bring together interested parties to identify areas where Open Badges could add value to education in Scotland and to engage in joint developments.

Open Badges in
Scottish Education Group

In response to this, the Jisc RSC Scotland has convened the Open Badges in Scottish Education Group (OBSEG) which now includes members from schools, further and higher education institutions, educational agencies including the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and Education Scotland, professional bodies, employer bodies, national and local government, Open Badge projects such as DigitalMe’s Badge the UK and Mozilla. The group performs an overview and mapping function of Open Badge developments in Scottish education, oversees a number of sub-groups developing badge constellations and pathways, and provides a forum for discussion and strategic agreement around Open Badge developments.

I was delighted when active members of the OBSEG, the SQA, issued a press release on the opportunities they are investigating with Open Badges: http://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/67688.html. As far as I’m aware, this commitment from a national awarding and qualifications authority is a world first. The SQA has gained feedback from the wider sector on Scotland’s aspirations in relation to Open Badges via the OBSEG and Jisc is looking forward to continuing to support the Open Badge developments enabled by this commitment and by others, in the Scottish education community.

You can find out more about the OBSEG, the organisations, institutions and bodies represented and the work of the group at: http://bit.ly/obseg

Open Glasgow Data Sets

Open Glasgow, part of the Future City Glasgow project funded by the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board, has now released 82 84 open data sets covering many aspects of city data. The data sets, which cover a wide range of domains including transportation, environment, health, demographics and education, can be downloaded from a public data platform, http://data.glasgow.gov.uk, where users can search for data sets based on submitting organisation, group, tag, format or license. The individual data sets are available in a wide range of different formats, and while I’d quibble whether pdf data can really be regarded as “open” in any sense of the word, many of the data sets are available in more open formats. The vast majority of the data sets are licensed under the UK Open Government Licence, though some use other licences including the Glasgow Open Government Licence, the Open Data Commons Attribution Licence and Creative Commons licences.

At present there is only one data set relating specifically to the education domain, colleges and universities funded by the Scottish Funding Council, but with the Open Glasgow team encouraging other public, private, academic and voluntary organisations to open and share their data via the platform, I hope that we will see more open data sets relating to Scottish education in the not to distant future.

Glasgow Open Data Platform

Glasgow Open Data Platform