“Today’s a good day to start changing your practice”
by Rosemarie McIlwhan and Anna Page (OEPS project)
To say that the open community are just a little bit in awe of Josie Fraser might not be too much of an exaggeration. Where most of us struggle to convince our colleagues or if we’re really ambitious our institutions to engage with open educational practice, Josie has instrumental in the DigLitLeicester programme which has created a sea change in secondary education within Leicester City Council schools. So OEPS were delighted to welcome her as the keynote speaker at the fourth open forum on 9th March in Stirling #OEPSforum4. Her presentation on ‘Connecting Open Practice’ was all the more relevant as it was also Open Education Week.
Rather than repeating her speech here (when you can just see it on Youtube) we thought it more useful to reflect on some of the issues which she raised. As Josie highlighted the rise of open education practices is rather reminiscent of the development of web 2.0 and social media, and more recently online education; which raises the question of what can we learn from these movements? Probably key among the learning is that each of these have involved a seismic culture shift that has started small, with even early adopters not really predicting the ultimate sea change we’ve seen in how these things have changed not just education but society as whole. Consider for a moment the rise of the hashtag from microblogging to ubiquitous across all forms of online engagement and into real life. This has created social change, not only in how we use and engage with technology but also how we find, search, organise and share information. This presents exciting opportunities, particularly when we think about ‘open’.
It gives us the opportunity to develop and promote good educational practice (at all levels of education) in a way that we haven’t easily been able to before. However this rapid pace of change has meant that educational policies haven’t kept up with educational practice (with a few notable exceptions such as Leeds University, Glasgow Caledonian University, and the University of Edinburgh, who now all have OER policies). It is perhaps only with a shift in policy that the multitude of educators who are blissfully unaware of the potential of open education, or as Josie suggested those who have ‘open blindness’, will realise the potential of open to facilitate not only their own learning and develop their educational practice but also that of their students. This mismatch in expectations of what students and educators know and what they need for their daily practice must be addressed. This isn’t just a role for education providers but also for teaching and student unions, governing bodies and institutional leaders, and for local and national governments.
Such bodies might wonder how to achieve this but guidance on what might be achieved can be found in the Open Scotland Declaration and on how it may be achieved can be seen in the activities of sector leaders such as Leeds University, Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of Edinburgh and the Open University with OpenLearn / OpenLearnWorks amongst others, and of course the work of DigLitLeicester. Josie highlighted the pedigree of Scottish education being at the forefront of technology support education innovation; and suggested that we pay heed to paragraph 7 of the Open Scotland Declaration which states “The next step forward is to join up these initiatives and develop policy support and guidance to enable the culture shift required to embed open education practice across all sectors of Scottish education.”.
Josie suggested that whilst as individuals we might be anywhere in the paradigm between…
- Does it matter if we use an open licence?
- Do we have permission to use an open licence?
- Does it matter what open licence we use?
- Does it matter how we cite openly licensed resources?
…as a country we are still very much at the first stage. To move on, educators need to be given permission and support to use open educational practices, and as open educators we need to engage with the governing bodies and institutional leaders, the teaching and student unions, and local and national governments to discuss open educational practice. This will help to create a society which is more equitable and fair, with improved digital literacy and improved quality of education; which in turn will bring social and economic benefits and as one person commented in response to Josie’s questions ‘Using OER makes you feel good!’.
However there’s quite a road to travel yet, whereas 75% of US educators use and understand open educational resources and creative commons licenses, Josie suggests that the same figure only applies to UK educators in terms of the number of OERs used, with many being unaware that they are even using OERs. This is despite open educational practice being used every day through the use of Wikimedia, TES resources and TED talks being openly licensed, and even Google drawing on Wikimedia for its searches.
Josie posed some interesting questions to the forum, which she simultaneously also put into the open via Twitter. These reflected many of the common responses about OER, ranging from ‘I’ve never heard of those’, to ‘My resources aren’t good enough / are too good to share’, to ‘That just sounds like extra work for me’. There was a sense in the forum and on Twitter that these are fears that we can easily allay, provided a change in culture is created. Albeit there is a chicken and egg situation of can the culture change be created first, or does it come about by virtue of individual change. If we can persuade people and institutions that open education is nothing to fear and indeed it’s something that many are already doing without even realising it; that it is a means of enhancing quality and reputation; and that the investment in open education will benefit students, educators, institutions and the wider community well beyond our original investment then we can begin to win the battle for open. However Josie highlighted that change starts with us, as she said ‘today’s a good day to start changing your practice’– what are you waiting for?
Posted on April 13, 2016, in article, Event, OEPS Forum and tagged #OEPSforum4, change, creative commons, Josie Fraser, OEP, OER policy, open licence, Open Scotland Declaration. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.