Tuesday, 18 February 2014

3rd Learning Reflection

I think some of the issues in this last part of the course have been some of the most complex. In particular notions of what consitutes freedom, and issues surrounding permissions to reuse OERs commercially. In this final section we have really gone beyond learning to discussing issues.

I'm not convinced by arguments which promote notions of complete freedom of learning resources. I think this is a fallacious notion and I don't think excluding commercial rights limits freedom in any meaningful sense. And I also don't believe that sharing OER with the provision of commercial rights as well is in essence true to the spirit of the initiative.

Another area where I have seen that complex issues have to be unpicked is in the uses to which OERs are put. I don't think OERs are any kind of simple panacea for lack of quality learning resources and anyone who thinks a simple world bank of OERs would be the answer to everything doesn't, I believe, properly understand the relationship between resources and education. Resources do not in themselves make an education, just as bricks do not make a house. The cement lies in the facilitation provided by the educator, the contexualisation, the activities built on these and so forth.

I think the course has given me a lot of food for thought and, as one would expect, this last component has given rise to thought about some of the key implementation issues. I would certainly commit to the spirit of OER in future, but I feel now that I better understand what decisions about licences I would make and why.

I think I have seen one of the weaknesses of mOOCs in the debating of issues around OERs however. The nature of participation in the course has made it difficult for us to have what I would call a lively debate, and I could have done with some real time online discussion to that end. I think the asynchronous nature of mOOCs makes genuine debate difficult. I also feel that the disaggregated and decentralised nature of Wikimedia also contributes to this effect. However, for my own purposes I have definitely learnt on this course.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

2nd Learning Reflection

I have struggled a little bit for time with this second section of the course, as it fell across a half-term holiday weekend for us. However, I do feel that my initial fears that the course would become merely a church of the OER-converted are being addressed a little. I think what is beginning to emerge now is a more sophisticated understanding of some of the barriers, difficulties and practicalities of OER. In particular I have been interested in discussions on the issue of creative origination. Yes, learning materials are often no more than a rehashing of other people's ideas, and I see no reason at all why you shouldn't use mine (as long as you let me use yours). However, if I was a photographer, graphic artist, musician or (as I am) a writer, I would have quite a different take on the subject. I listened to the various university lecturers banging on about 'free the resources' and I thought - well, you get paid to sit there and say that, and paid from the public purse. Of course you should free the resources, and frankly the idea of intellectual copyright for any of these highly-paid public servants is ridiculous. If you want privacy go private. But! When people have to make money from their own ideas, and make a living from these, it is an entirely different matter. I still think there is plenty of room for latitude here. If you want to borrow my work, link to it, use it within a different context that doesn't infringe upon my ability to use it then, as long as you ask and attribute I don't see why not. But we do need to understand OER from a more sophisticated and differentiated viewpoint than simply 'free the resources'. In fact in the past I have become sick to death of universities taking public project money, pursuing private ends and then hiding away the results, so I have no problems with freedom in this area. In fact it's time for a lot more. I pay you to think, I should be entitled to the results. You want to own your ideas then think in your own time.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

First Learning Reflection

As I came into this course with a reasonable idea as to what OER is (the term), and some of the issues surrounding the use of such resources, my initial reflections have been prompted by the higher level issues and concepts.

It is good to see a strong presumption in favour of OER amongst the course participants, but then we're likely to have been at this end of the spectrum anyway, rather than sceptics. That is not to say that scepticism is not still the prevalent mode in a lot of areas, and particular with senior managers, and education authorities. I am disappointed that Scotland, where I live, has not yet declared a committment to the principle of OER at a governmental level, and we look for our politicians to do so.

Listening to Bishop Tutu certainly made me think about the issue of OER within the context of the needs of developing countries and that was something I hadn't considered before. The debate here has always tended to be national, and in terms of the needs of our own learners. But I see now that there is a much bigger picture to be considered here, and therefore if anything that has strengthened my committment to the principle of OER. I was always a huge admirer of Bishop Tutu, and to listen to him makes me wonder just what could have been achieved in a country which he led.

One new term for me was Personal Learning Environment, and I enjoyed the process of setting that up pre-course. I had not really thought of that term before, or come across it and it does seem a very relevant one in an age of  a 2.0 consumer-driven web. I was also interested to hear that some institutions have created software which allows students to set up a PLE within an institutional framework and I would like to learn more about this.

I come from the vocational education sector, a Further Education college, teaching vocational qualifications to students from 16 to 60 and beyond. I think that is why  some of the thinking and terms in the debate so far have struck me as coming very much from a Higher Education (university) background. In the colleges we have always shared materials within certain groups, and there is far less sense of personal ownership of materials than we tend to see in universities. In turn we tend to deal with a very wide range of learners, some with extensive support needs, some who already have degrees, and every shade between.

I would therefore say that the debate so far, and the introductory materials I have seen, have highlighted my own reservations. Simply making materials freely available, and putting an emphasis on co-construction of materials, and the learners freedom to use, re-use and reconstruct source materials, is not enough for some and perhaps many of our learners. We need to recognise that not everyone is capable of using open-resources well, and driving their own learning. I think we need to teach those skills first, and that this needs to go hand in hand with freeing the source materials.

The intial resource materials of this course, the videos and debate have made me want to think about and discuss the qualifications which I believe must surround our use of OER, and the need for clear support structures. I look forward to having that debate. I would like answers to the questions, what are the limits of OER, how can we usually adapt these within our teaching at all levels, and how should we train learners to work with OERs?

However, I stand solidly behind the core principle of OER, and I think these first stages of the course have reinforced me in that belief.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Course Orientation

Underway, slightly late, with course orientation. I've found the initial resources good, and I have already shared the Vimeo video on how to use a MOOC. I have to confess I'm a bit of a MOOC sceptic, but thus far I'm finding the mOOC experience good. Maybe the difference is in the size of the m.
At a recent conference in Edinburgh on OER we discussed definitions of MOOCs and I was not particularly satisfied with any of them. For me the key problem lies in the last word - Course. What distinguishes a 'Course' from a themed collection of resources?  We shall see.

Incidentally, I do blog already, therefore my profile here is about my other life. I write novels, not published yet, but working hard to achieve that. So my profile here is the 'real' me. I thoroughly enjoy the process of blogging within the context of that life. As Steve Wheeler suggests it helps me to clarify my thoughts, and gives me the chance for reflection. In addition, having been a journalist in another past life I'm fairly used to writing quickly and with a certain degree of ease.