Friday, March 27, 2009

good intentions

I attended the Intrallect conference in Edinburgh yesterday - Open Educational Repositories – Share, Improve, Reuse. It was a two day conference but unfortunately I was unable to attend the first day.

I delivered the keynote presentation on the research study report Good ntentions:improving the evidence base in support of sharing learning materials and later ran a Workshop on open educational resources (OERs) with my friend and colleague Sarah Currier. I had a great day and the buzz throughout the day was great.

I welcomed the opportunity to talk about the Good intentions study as it was released just before the Christmas holidays and didn't have a very high profile. The outcomes of the study were a report and a series of business cases and I've discussed it before in a previous 'sharings' post. The presentation slides are on slideshare and is also available on the intrallect website.

On April 1st this slideshow was featured as a spotlight on the Education page!

It was the first time we had the opportunity to present the study to others (apart from delivering the report to JISC and our group of eminent critical friends) although it was included in the references list of the recent JISC OER call.

It generally received a very positive reaction and the business cases (presented in a series of tables) were noted as potentially very useful. In fact it has been my intention to develop these tables into a usable tool for institutions and managers of repositories to use to help identify which models of sharing (both formal and informal) are most approrpriate - depending on which benefits they hope to achieve. Whilst the tables can be used to do this a user firendly tool could really make this information more accessible. I hope to talk to JISC further about this.

One of the slides identifies our approach to developing the business cases and highlights why we think they are useful to a range of stakeholders - they could:
  • be a mechanism to help people decide which business model/s to adopt as appropriate
  • offer a process to automatically generate a context specific business case to support funding requests
  • encourage an approach which starts with the needs (required benefits) not a preferred model
  • emphasize that no one model fits all and often a combination of models may be appropriate depending on the context
  • help to prioritise benefits and recognise that by making some business model choices certain benefits are more difficult to achieve
  • support a dialogue within institutions by identifying what benefits the institution and wider community already enjoy from existing sharing activities
One of the areas we focussed on in the study was Open Educational Resources (oers) and in the workshop session later in the day several people highlighted their need to encourage academics to share and consider opening up their learning resources. During the discussion we agreed that giving people a choice in how open they wanted to be (ie who they feel comfortable sharing with) was key to encouraging sharing. This was reflected in the research study by several of the models we looked at. It was also suggested by one of the delegates that if we changed the word 'share' to 'publish' that academics may be less reluctant to deposit content in repositories. We also talked about letting students have access to repositories, trying to consider how we can make our contant available in their spaces, and the inportance of services to support and enhance teaching practice through Communities of Practice (CoP) approaches.

Great discussions - thanks to all for your input on the day. The photo to accompany this post is a polaroid shot of a picnic which we shared at a flickr meetup...

digital literacy

Why do I really dislike the term 'digital literacy'.

Part of it is due to history - we've been through a whole range of terminology starting with the change of library and information skills and computer skills to information literacy and computer literacy. Whilst these new terms broadened the landscape and tried to articulate that both of these areas were not just about skills with tools but about transferable skills and deeper conceptual learning. We also had (often not connected to these terms) the whole range of academic/study and research literacies which were the province of a whole different group of people- academics.

Then we tried the term 'e-literacy' which seemed fairly sensible considering the increased use of the term e-learning. None of the current debates seem to mention this term - is it due to embarassment now? Many of the people who contributed to the debates around e-literacy (which were just as passionate and covered the same stuff - different tools maybe but the literacies were the same - how to make best use of electronic tools and communication mechanism in life, work and learning) came from the computer and information literacy fields and gradually started involving more academics. Are the people involved in the current debate from different groups - learning technologists and educational developers? Is that why we seem to not be acknowledging the work from the past on this?

I always has a BIG problem with the term e-literacy because of the focus on the 'e' and for I dislike the term digital literacy for the emphasis on the 'digital'. I feel that the use of these terms can result in people focussing on the technologies. This can mean that people concentrate on the skills to use these and not the underlying drivers, approaches and mechanisms needed to support development of the various competencies that make up these literacies. The Dearing Report and the whole govt focus on the skills agenda also impacts on this. Hence my concerns - if the govt drivers shape the institutional drivers and the focus is employability then what happens to the need to enhance the capacity of student to learn in a broad sense - to become lifelong learners. The term literacy in itself has always been contentious too and is hated by many. I prefer it to skills for that breadth that it offers us.

These terms are broad descriptions of a range of different literacies - some of which are important in life, some in learning and some in a work/professional context (and many which cross all three). Here is a link to a mind map which looks at some of these.

We have spent a huge amount of time with these definitions and if a government or European body takes up on one and produces a definition we are often led by this.

I am torn about the current digital literacy 'flavour of the month' terminology. It has caught on beyond the educational sector and is referred to in UK govt, documents so at least I should be pleased that it is actually on the agenda in a big way. It gives many of us who have been working in this area (on the outside or in silos) a chance to finally use this to highlight our work and our efforts within institutions. However the latest announcement about changing the primary school curriculum again focuses on tools that may not even be used in 5 years time! I rest my case...

I guess I'm just a bit jaded by terminology debates.

institution-wide strategies and frameworks
What I think is actually more important and does deserve our time and energy is that we look at those component literacies/skills/competencies and think about how we, as educators and as educational instituions, can support learners to develop these to interact, learn, contribute and enhance their lives. At the moment provision from educational institutions is still piecemeal, and many institutions would find it challenging to articulate how they support all of these literacies, but a few HE institutions are starting to take an institution-wide view and are developing their own frameworks. Halleluyah!!!!

Lots more to come about this in the new LLiDA (Learning Literacies for the Digital Age) report - coming very soon!

Big rant over - will be joining digilit debate later today - so likely to come back to this post later. also need to add in refs to support my outragous pontifications too...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology.

Wordle: adalovelaceday

I work with loads of fabulous women who contribute to the world in many ways (including the technological disciplines) All of these women are highly multi-talented and not only defined by their contributions to technology. But today is an opportunity to celebrate them all. I made a wordle to highlight some of those I work with or admire.

I have to highlight one woman and so am picking Lorna Campbell from JISC CETIS because her contribution to educational technology is unquestionable. Her gentle but authoritative approach is admirable and her power is always evident. She never pushes herself forward and I think it is time for us to acknowledge the great contribution she makes to JISC development teams, programmes and projects.

I also really admire her fabulous brain, her humanity and sense of humour, her choice in films and music, and her uncanny ability to turn grown techies to mush...

with deep respect Lorna - Happy Ada Lovelace Day....