Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Open Educational Practices and the Future of Open Learning

If you're one of the few regular readers of my blog, you will likely know I'm a big fan of all things Open, however I'm also a bit sceptical about Open Education being/becoming mainstream (which in my view, leads to problems around sustainability). Actually, I wrote a post a few months back questioning if the Open Content Movement is indeed Mainstreamed and Sustainable.

Now, I've been thinking about blogging on how I see the future of learning for some time, but I was prompted again this morning when reading a Grainne Conole chapter about Open Educational Practices (OEP), in Open Educational Resources and Change in Higher Education. For the record, OEPs are practices that support production, use and reuse of OERs (from policy to on-the-ground activities).

When I sit back and ponder what the world might be like in 15 years, with a gang of Mini-Me's running around (you might want to be careful if/when that happens by the way), I think about how their education might be different to mine, and what practices and skills (or Capacities as Doug Belshaw might suggest) they will need to do their homework (their learning/digital literacy toolkit, perhaps).

Now I'm not going out on a limb here and suggest robots and all that jazz, but over the years we have seen massive developments in Human Computer Interaction (HCI), moving from the Command Line Interface to Xerox, Apple Lisa, and the birth and development of the mouse to control a graphical user interface. Metaphors such as the desktop, folders and the recycle bin were revolutionary. Later, Apple changed the game again by really conquering touch interaction. 

In recent times, we've seen new interactions with things like the Nintendo Wii, XBox Kinect, and  Apple's personal assistant, Siri. The latest breakthrough is the Leap 3D Gesture Device, allowing users to interact with the computer through gestures.  I really think these developments will once again revolutionise the way we interact with computers on a mass scale, so much so, that people will no longer immerse themselves into computers; I think the ubiquity and control of computers will become immersed into our environment. I think we'll move to something that closer resembles Minority Report (If you haven't seen Minority Report, check out this clip to see what I'm on about).

So not wanting to deviate too much from the title of this post, I'll move on to relate this to openness.

So when my kids are doing homework, they will have access to search for anything and everything. And I don't just mean the stuff we can search for now - not just a wikipedia article, a YouTube video or some random site. I mean a voice command that returns an instant seamless stream of content that they can quicky engage with or disregard with a swipe of the hand. Not a google results page that they have to work through methodically to filter out what's good or not, or have to try and move past the sponsored results. Instead, it will know what they want. It will know them!

Now Google have already started to build on the semantic web with their Knowledge Graph, which they claim is building a massive graph of real-world things and their connections, to bring more meaningful results. So combined with the developments above, I suppose I'm hardly predicting anything new. However, we can't take this future as a given. It's not just going to miraculously appear because Google have put their weight behind it. OERs and Open Data will be a key (and critical) factor in this. As things stand, it will rely on the Open Educational Practices that Conole discusses (2012) (which is a bit of a problem because they are currently not embedded as standard practice, nor for that matter, is engagement with OER [from a creation and reuse perspective])

Conole suggests there is a resistance to the adoption of open practices, which I fear will relegate OER to an abstract concept. So what's needed to ensure they don't? 

Whilst the structure and models Conole discusses are very valid, I have a bigger problem with it all. Similar to how I believe computers will be immersed into our environment, so to must this set of practices which are currently abject and separate. I think we need to move away from the mindset that open educational practices are something different, and to do this, we need move away from the very practice that open education itself is something different. That is, the process of (re)developing, licensing, sharing and curating. Currently the difficulty in creating a reusable learning object is too much for the majority - there is no single and/or easy way to go about this - academic staff have to learn about the various methods (whether that's looking at Exe, Xerte, Glomaker, etc), learn how to use them, perhaps develop their graphical design skills so they look engaging. Concomitantly, they must license them appropriately, and upload it to whichever repository they like (Jorum, Merlot, etc). Ensuring every academic has these skills is without doubt a tall order. 

Instead, these processes need streamlining. Sometimes, choice can be a bad thing. I'd like to see a mechanism that brings all of the separate elements of OER together in a standardised way, so even the academics with few IT/digital literacies can participate without having to learn lots of new stuff (actual skills, understanding licenses, and generally being aware of repositories, etc).

Until it's easier for the masses to engage, I'm unsure if OER will ever be fully embedded as a core practice, and ultimately the future I envision will remain a deluded thought. To prove it's possible, I leave you John Underkoffler's TED video on the developments of UI....

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This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Performing Mass Actions in Moodle

We've reached the point in the year when colleagues will be thinking about rolling over content from 11/12 units into their 12/13 areas in Moodle. Thankfully this isn't such a difficult task, and this previous post highlights the simple steps involved to do this.

One slight problem that has already cropped up, is that when you take all of your content across to the new unit, you might want to hide most of it to avoid students scrolling all the way down and accessing term 2 content, for instance. Well, we're really pleased to announce a new plugin that can make this whole process easier.

The Mass Actions plugin, which can be added as a block within Moodle areas, can make the task of hiding, showing, and moving lots of activities and resources much easier. It's really as simple as ticking multiple checkboxes and clicking the appropriate button, or you can use the controls within the block to 'select all' within a section (read Week or Topic), and perform the relevant operation.

This quick video [3.24] demonstrates the Mass Actions block, but if you have any problems or questions, feels free to get in touch...

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This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Visualising Openness

I've been revisiting my work around the Open Content Movement lately (both in prep for a presentation at last week's #Solstice2012 conference and also for a paper I have had accepted for Research in Learning Technology). In turning back to some of the literature alongside results I received from questionnaires, one particular quote sticks out for me;
"Openness is not like a light switch that is either 'on' or 'off'. Rather, it is like a dimmer switch, with varying degrees of openness" (Hilton iii, Wiley, Stein & Johnson, 2010)
I really like this quote and something I referred to earlier in the year when questioning if the OER movement was mainstream and sustainable. I also refer to Schaffert & Geser (2008), who suggest openness has four principles: Open Access; Open Licensing; Open Software; Open Format.
So in considering the quote alongside the four principles, I wondered a) if it's possible to somehow visualise openness, and b) has anyone already made an attempt? I don't know for either, so thought I would give it a go...

My initial thoughts centre around a Radar Diagram, but it would involve plotting the 4 principles with various points for each. With this in mind, the following diagram attempts to visualise varying degrees of open practice 
(for want of a better phrase). The coloured area represents the degree of openness, where a larger area (based on plot on each axis) demonstrating greater openness;

If this could be a method of visualising openness, a detailed breakdown of each principle would be required. To this end (and by no means correct or complete), this could be a start;
Open Access (A) points (might include)
  • Closed VLE 
  • Internal (Institutionally Owned) Repository 
  • Public (Institutionally Owned) Repository 
  • (National Repository) Jorum/Merlot

Open Licensing (L)
points (might include)

  • All Rights Reserved
  • Creative Commons
    • CC-BY-NC-ND-SA 
    • ...
    • CC-BY
  • GNU Public license

Open Software (S) points (might include)
  • Flash
  • Dreamweaver
  • MS Office
  • Google Docs
  • Xerte/GLO Maker

Open Format (F) points (might include)
  • Flash Movie
  • Document (.doc, .ppt, etc)
  • PDF
  • HTML

(N.B each of the points range from lowest to highest, closed to open, etc)

So to take a specific case to plot as an example, we could consider the development of an interactive Flash movie file that has been licensed with Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC) and placed within Jorum. The resulting visualisation might look like this;

The diagram/graph shows this case is a bit weak on the format and software side of things, but they are doing well in relation to Open Access and Licensing.


This is just a quick attempt at visualising openness - it's by no means complete and requires much more thought. Immediately I can think of the following points;

  • Automation of a radar chart based on form input could reduce individual interpretations towards the 4 principles (this would require more specific details within each though)
  • More knowledge/understanding needed (both of Openness and Technical), and perhaps crowdsourced, required to flesh out points within each of the principles
  • The points on each axis could relate to the specific 'criteria' (as above)
  • It might be worth highlighting that software and format are inextricably linked, however this is not to suggest a 'closed' software produces a 'closed' format; for example consider the expensive Adobe Dreamweaver which produces open HTML formats.... 

I would really appreciate your views on this. Is it stupid? Worthwhile? Does it already exist?

Please use the comments to share your thoughts.

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This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Hashtags & Retweets: Using Twitter to aid Communication, Community, and Casual (informal) Learning

Today I presented some early research from using Twitter with students over the past year, at the Solstice eLearning conference at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk.

You can view the slides below, or view them on Slideshare to see the annotations for each slide.

Would love to hear from others using Twitter or other SoMe tools in teaching and learning.

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This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.