Tag Archives: conference

Of politics, China, SpongeBob and OER-chery

ALT-C logo

I arrived in Nottingham with minutes if not seconds to claim a comfy seat at the conference theatre and listen to the opening keynote of ALT-C 2013. Why is it that when they can’t find your conference badge you are immediately suspected of trying to sneak in without having registered? I tried to explain that my surname is often filed under A, or even L, instead of D, which is the obvious first letter of my surname, I think, but to no avail. I should have known better to present myself at the desk with time to spare for the unavoidable computer-says-yes check. Never mind, where was I? Ah yes, the keynote speaker to kick-off ALT-C this year was Rachel Wenstone, Vice-President (Higher Education) of the National Union of Students. I don’t have a problem with presenters reading from a script when they are good communicators and can deliver their talk with style and passion, but to me it felt slightly too ardfheis-y. She promised a political view of the prevailing culture of learning in higher education, and indeed she gave us one, and a model to follow: how learners and educators can shape the development of a new culture of learning through partnership; students don’t want feedback, she said, but a two-way conversation and space to collaborate. Mmmm have things changed that much since my years as a lecturer? I seem to recall (most) students favoured the give-it-to-me-already-chewed-and-piss-off attitude, thanks very much. Apologies if I sound a bit too cynical. You can listen to Rachel here, while the recording is available.

After that, we shuffled for the first of many times. I duly sat through John Traxler and his colleagues’ open debate on how TEL enables a response to “crises arising from the commodification, dehumanisation, corporatisation, globalisation and technologisation of education”; David Kernohan’s apocalyptic views on a broken education, and Paul Gentle’s on how leadership can make technological innovation work. It is always a pleasure to listen to Terese Bird and she didn’t disappoint: ‘China is harvesting your iTunesU’, is this a warning? I thought. Indeed the opposite, OER as ‘soft marketing’ and a piece of advice for those institutions interested in reaching out to Chinese students: upload your best resources to iTunesU!

For me one person stole the show on Wednesday: Sheila MacNeill was by far the most engaging speaker of the day, and probably the whole conference (barring Stephen Downes?).  I’m really sorry that Chris Pegler wasn’t well and her talk had to be cancelled, but delighted that Sheila was asked to move up her slot –had she presented on Thursday, as originally scheduled, our talks would have clashed and I would have missed a warm, funny and inspiring account of her experiences of using her blog, innovation in education and “the need for space for people to connect, reflect and share”. How often have you seen SpongeBob SquarePants make a stellar appearance at a gathering of learning technologists?

A quick note on my own presentation to share some of the evidence for the two hypotheses overarching our project: we already blogged about OER impact on student satisfaction and performance here, and on the meaning of openness here, so let me just refer briefly to our OERchery game. It had already gone very well at OER13, however I was worried that the allocated room on Thursday wouldn’t be the right space to invite people to get up and shoot a pretend dart at a pretend dartboard. The activity consists of asking members of your audience to place a marker on a board according to their view on how important is a particular hypothesis, and how easy it would be to find evidence to prove it.  It’s true that I bribed them with a badge, but this lovely crowd were happy to squeeze up and down the room and jump chairs to reach the wall where I had stuck the boards: I wish I could have recorded their conversations then, it ‘s a great activity to get people thinking and talking, as Chris Rowell tweeted (thanks @Chri5rowell!). Slides with instructions to play OERchery here.

And in fear of writing too long a blog post, I leave you to think of your abstracts for ALT-C 2014, which is to take place in Warwick, 1-3 September. Oh actually, don’t forget to try out Xpert’s tool to embed a CC license on your photos. Easy as  pie.


Flipped or flipped open?

Claire Walker and I were scheduled to present at FlipCon13 last Wednesday, June 18th. Sadly, we never made it, as this silly Spaniard single-handedly decided it would be better fun to visit the local hospital, and not exactly to research their use of OER, mind you (I reckon they pretty much close what they open). All is good, don’t fret, but since we managed to disappoint our expectant audience, here come a few thoughts that will also help me keep up with the flurry of blog posts coming from my colleagues.

Our presentation was meant to highlight some of the findings from the initial analysis of the survey we ran in collaboration with the Flipped Learning Network to find out about K12 teachers’ use of free online resources in the context of the flipped classroom. Before I go ahead, have a look at this video featuring Aaron Sams, one of the pioneers of flipped learning, explaining what it is all about.

To put it simply, the average profile of our survey respondent is a Math/Science teacher in K9-12 grades, with over ten years’  teaching experience  but only a year implementing flipped learning, searching the internet for videos, images, quizzes and interactive games that will help them prepare for their teaching, supplement their lessons and find inspiration from others.

Creating, curating and reflecting

The debate exists in the flipped learning world whether teachers should create or curate their own resources. Jon Bergmann’s talk that the flipped classroom is all about building relationships with your students suggests that creating is the way to their minds and hearts, but what do teachers think? In our survey 55% of teachers are relieved because using free online resources means that they don’t have to create their own materials. Decent support for the idea of curating, one would think, but does this resolve the issue? Certainly not: a strong 38% of teachers are undecided, which brings it all back to square one. However, one thing seems to be clear, if it is all about relationships indeed, teachers are not worried about what their students might think of them if they don’t create their own videos and use some other teacher’s instead (89%).

Jon also talked about the need for teachers to engage in reflective practice as they flip their classroom, does the use of free online resources help them become more reflective? 90% of our respondents say they reflect more on the way they teach, 69% that they more frequently compare their teaching with others.

How open is the flipped learning community?

Here’s the challenge: 96% of teachers have created resources to use in their flipped classrooms; 44% have published these resources publicly online, but only 6% under a Creative Commons license, despite the fact that 70% consider open licensing important or very important. Isn’t this curious? Only once during FlipCon13 I heard a teacher saying “Here are my resources, use them, do whatever you like with them”.  I’m in the same room, I can hear her but when I access her blog, I don’t know what I can do with her wonderful videos. I honestly think that K12 teachers engaged in flipped learning are also engaged, for the most part, in open practice, but they need to spell it out better for the rest of the world. Can we help?

Photo: CC-BY B. de los Arcos

OER13, Mexico, OER and plagiarism

It’s a few days now since I attended OER13 in Nottingham. The OERRHub team was out in force as we ran a daylong workshop to raise awareness of the project and invite fellow conference attendees to play a game of OERchery (which in itself merits a separate post soon to appear on a screen near you).

I also had an electronic poster presentation running on loop in the lobby telling unsuspecting audiences about the SCORE Microsites dissemination project. Excluding chairing duties, the rest of the time I was free to roam to my heart’s content, and so it is that I sat at Terence Karran’s talk on OER in Mexico; not on a whim, mind you, but in pursue of a hot lead. Let me go back to my poster presentation… During 2012 I worked on a project aimed at creating two portals of open educational resources around the topic of research skills and digital scholarship: ready-to-research contains nearly 200 hours of self-study materials for international students planning on coming to the UK to do a postgraduate degree, while its sister site digital-scholarship helps UK undergraduates hone their skills as digital scholars. Last December the project received further funding from the HEA towards the dissemination of the sites in China and Mexico, two nations that export large number of students to UK shores. The Mexican Embassy in London took a real interest in adopting ready-to-research and invited me to give a talk to a small group of students who travelled to the capital at short notice. On a cold afternoon I found myself sipping Colombian coffee and talking about OER and openness in education, as I demonstrated how to navigate the site and chatted about the challenges of studying abroad and in a language other than your own. When someone mentioned plagiarism, I didn’t think any of it. As terrible a sin as it may be, it is also a typical concern for students, anywhere.

And thus we tighten the Mexican connection. Having done a bit of research on the extent of OER use in the country and learned about efforts like temoa, Tecnológico de Monterrey’s portal of OER, I was keen on listening to the experts: Terence Karran’s presentation at OER13 focused on Mexico as a developing nation where recession has had less of an impact than in Spain, for instance; where it’s all about coming out of the shadow of the US to align the country with Venezuela and Brazil; where fighting drug barons has so far taken precedence over education; where internet use for learning is very low, pedagogy old fashioned, and universities extremely protective of their materials. ‘Copyright infringement in Mexico is endemic’ Terence says. Does sharing make sense when everyone copies? Do OER make sense when the norm is that you take what you need and attribution runs diluted?

It was then that I remembered the plagiarism conversation at the Mexican Embassy: ‘Why do I need to quote a source when it is obvious that I didn’t write it?’ asked a girl at loggerheads with her supervisor. Old habits (and culture) die hard.

To end on a happy note, since the OER band was out of action, entertainment during the gala dinner became a bout of crosswords in-between courses and a race to come up with the most creative OER comic (a gigantic Easter egg as bait!). Here is our table’s effort; we didn’t win but were told it was a close affair!