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?
On International Women’s Day 2016 OEPS wanted to celebrate the contribution of a few of the women with whom we have been lucky to work since the project began. Whilst this isn’t a comprehensive list and it would be remiss if we didn’t also note that there are substantial contributions from other genders too, these women are all making a mark on Open Educational Practice.
Laura Czerniewicz gave a fascinating and thought provoking keynote at #OEPSforum2 in March 2015 in which she challenged people to think about open educational resources in the global south and the contested environment in which open education sits. This is due to financial barriers to knowledge set against earlier cultural traditions of sharing. So much of the open educational resources and open educational practice world has been focussed on openness in the context of the global north – in other words those with ready access to the internet and higher educational opportunities. In contrast the ’global south’ often lack the facilities which make it easy to access online open educational resources or exchange open practices and the cost of educational materials often makes education beyond the reach of the poorest in society.
Laura is the Director of the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching at the University of Cape Town. She has been involved in the OpenUCT Initiative supporting local scholars utilize innovative scholarly communication approaches and encourage them to publish more about their work and share their practice.
Also at #OEPSforum2 Lorna Campbell presented a workshop on the future directions of the ‘Scottish Open Educational Declaration’ in which she discussed the formation and development of the declaration and the aspirations for developing it further so that spirit of the declaration could be more widely adopted. It has already been used to raise awareness of open education within individual Scottish institutions and policy.
Lorna is the EDINA Digital Education Manager and OER Liaison for Open Scotland at the University of Edinburgh. She has many years’ experience of educational technology and interoperability standards, focussing on open education. She leads the Open Scotland initiative and is co-chairing the OER16 Conference in Edinburgh with Melissa Highton.
Allison Littlejohn is a key voice in shaping OER. Her keynote at #OEPSforum3 in November 2015 outlined the guidelines she developed with Nina Hood on ‘Learning open Educational Practice’. Allison reflected on how people come to know about and understand OER and then to embed open educational practice. Alison highlighted the challenges and opportunities which OER bring for educators and learners alike.
Allison is a Professor of Learning Technology at the Institute of Educational Technology and Academic Director of Learning and Teaching at the Open University. Allison’s vision is of cross-boundary learning which will facilitate the sharing of knowledge and experience across sectors and disciplines in order to transform the way people learn.
Josie Fraser is passionate about ensuring access to education for everyone and how open educational resources (OER) and open educational practices (OEP) can help achieve this aim. She wants the OER world to find ways to make education more accessible to everyone. She is giving the keynote address at #OEPSforum4. on 9th March 20
Josie is a social and educational technologist and has worked with a wide range of institutions, promoting digital literacy and supporting staff to understand, use and create open educational resources.
These are just a few of the inspirational women who are leading the development of open educational resources and open educational practice. However there is a wider question of what open educational resources and practice can do to promote gender parity? Women and girls are often more disadvantaged in relation to access to, participation in and accruing benefit from education. However access to education has been shown to help in addressing issues such as early marriage and pregnancy, gender-based violence and in achieving social and economic outcomes not just for women and girls but society as a whole. Yet education is a basic human right, protected by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and a myriad of other international (and often domestic) laws.
Open education has the potential to widen access to education for women and girls, enabling them to access global thought leaders and subjects that might not be available to them locally. It also provides a platform by which women and girls can share their own knowledge and experiences. Open education isn’t just about the use of online open resources, it can equally be the women’s collective who self-organise to run education classes or to share knowledge with others in their area on an open basis, or the group of women senior managers who have an open action learning set or who use open educational resources to develop their leadership.
There is a role for open education to contribute to closing the gender gap now, to ensure that all genders are treated equally, to facilitate women and girls achieving their ambitions, to challenge discrimination and bias in all forms, to promote gender balanced leadership, to value contributions equally, and to create inclusive and flexible cultures. How will you #PledgeforParity to address the gender gap?
By Rosemarie McIlwhan and Anna Page
We are delighted to announce that Josie Fraser will give the keynote at the #OEPSforum4 on 9th March 2016. Josie is passionate about ensuring access for everyone and how open educational resources (OER) and open educational practices (OEP) can help achieve this aim. She wants the OER world to find ways to make education more accessible to everyone regardless of whether learners happen to be taught by an OER enthusiast or not.
Josie’s keynote will focus on the following themes:
- Connecting pockets of practice and embedding OER/OEP
- To what extent what she has done in Leicester has shifted culture
- The challenges of shifting culture and how she addressed them
- How to move from a piecemeal approach to a more strategic approach to embedding OER/OEP
Josie describes herself as a social and educational technologist. She has been working with Leicester City Council since 2010 leading the technology strand of the city’s Building Schools for the Future programme, this has included finding ways to support school staff understand, use and create open educational resources. She organised the UK’s first OER Schools conference in 2015.