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One of the most enjoyable and inspiring books I have read this year has been Sir Ken Robinson's "Out of our Minds"  and my ref...

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Knowledge creation - trouble at mill

As scholars and academics we are knowledge creators often working at the edge of understanding. We have a mission to share and report back on what we find, especially when it can help others but even when we don't really know or understand the significance of what we report. That becomes a shared task, we work together as a community to extend understanding. In my personal case, as a teacher I have spent over 30 years looking for the best ways to engage my learners in intercultural and linguistic understanding, looking to build their curiosity and supporting their lifelong interest in language learning. As a researcher and open educational practitioner I report back to share what I find and others chime in. 

It is therefore natural to me that I would turn my hand to editing Wikipedia as a way of sharing knowledge. I am a newbie but a long time supporter of the project. I have been researching in an area variously described as "telecollaboration" or "Online Intercultural Exchange" or "virtual exchange"  as a teaching practice. It offers much to support my aims as a practitioner. I have published in this area and when I used Wikipedia to search for a reference to it, lo there was nothing. There is a page on telecollaboration which was dominated until 2013 by references to the tools and technical functionality:
(on left wikipedia entry from 2009, cf current page)
now much improved with good references to the academic work in this area, a page on web conferencing which again focuses on the tools and their history. I could find nothing on the educational practice of virtually connecting people from other cultures to facilitate discussion and build those all important soft skills and/or language skills. 

However, my editing knowledge at the time was very limited. Inspired however by an Open Education SIG webinar by Martin Poulter I decided that the best way to learn was through experience (a maxim I hold dear in my teaching). I started an account, drafted in a sandbox and then took myself off to a wikipedia meet up in Oxford where I met some really helpful folk who told me where I was going wrong. I learned much in the few hours I spent in an Oxford pub that day thanks to these guys:
In summer 2018 the page on Virtual Exchange was approved and since then others have continued to edit and add to it. I felt proud to be able to contribute to this project. I went on to set up a Wikipedia editing workshop at the EuroCALL conference in Finland with help from a Finnish editor and amongst our participants was the fabulous Parisa Mehran an Iranian language educator living and working in Japan. She shared my enthusiasm but unfortunately her first post was blocked as it didn't comply with the editor guidelines. This was a newbie error and I was quick to try to get help to get her back on the right track. Help did indeed come from colleagues in Wikimedia UK and I believe she now has a better understanding of a process which quite rightly observes quality controls. 

However, it seems my objection to Parisa's blocking has made me a target of some unwarranted attention on my talk page accusing me of promotional editing. I have read the Conflict of Interest guidelines again and again and I cannot see any reason why I could be accused of flaunting them. I guess you could say that as a teacher I promote language learning (so sue me) but as I have a son with a language disorder I am pretty realistic about the benefits of languages to those who have more basic communication needs. In reading this page I would say that the editor who accuses me is engaging in harassment. I find the tone of his comments offensive and patronising. I have left them on my page "for the record" but this post is also recording my side of his story.

The strength of the Wikimedia project lies in the community sharing of information. That community must be tolerant, diverse and supportive. I am privileged to know many in the community who advocate for Wikipedia, I will always remain one of them despite such experiences because I recognise that it takes time to build an inclusive, supportive community. I will not be silenced or marginalised due to my gender and neither should others. 

After all, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Creative Commons Remix assignment

I'm about at the half-way point in the Creative Commons Accreditation course I am doing this summer. The video above is a submission for this task:

 Create a remix in any medium (e.g., photo, video, audio) for use in a course you teach. If you aren't currently teaching a course, create a remix for use in a future offering of the CC Certification course. Your remix must meet the following criteria:
  • be comprised of at least five (5) pre-existing CC licensed works,
  • contain appropriate attribution for each component work (remember to think TASL!), and
  • be a legal remix (that is, the licenses of all component works must be compatible).
You are welcome to include your own original work in the remix but this is not required. Be sure to create a remix and not merely a collection.
For inspiration, see Montgomery College’s Open Pedegogy Assignments (click on one of the links under Assignments on the left): https://cms.montgomerycollege.edu/mc-open/unesco-sdg/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..
Post your remix online. License it with a Creative Commons license (be careful that the license you choose is acceptable given the terms of the component works included in your remix!). 

I will use this remix as part of my new module LN306 Developing Teaching in Languages. This year will be the second iteration of this course and I found from feedback last year that my students, although they appreciated open education as "a good thing",  it wasn't very clear to them what it meant for their practice. The student group are linguists who have worked in schools abroad and/or worked as tutors and are considering entering a career in teaching when they complete their degree. I wanted the remix to demonstrate what can be achieved and why it matters to engage with open practice. 
The remix (originally created as a contribution to video in education project ViLTE)  includes sections taken from RIP A Remix Manifesto (already a remix of many other works, licenced CC BY 3.0 and my own additions including an image from Flickr which uses a licence which prevents derivatives. It exemplifies the discussion I co-wrote about the issues faced by language educators when using contemporary cultural artefacts as produsage in their courses. I have messaged the poster of this image to see if he is OK with its use in this context. I have used the image without any changes but this licence would prevent me applying a CC BY licence on the finished work so I need the permission of the owner in order to include it. If nothing is forthcoming I will have to replace it with another image. Update: the video above is a remix again as no response came from the ship image creator. (UPDATE 2: The original image creator responded to me via Flickr messaging to ask a few further questions about the purpose I wanted to put the image to. Although I had already removed the image, it was good to see that contacting an owner through the community on Flickr could work). This serves as a good reminder of the detailed level of understanding of Creative Commons licencing needed by educators in order to operate in the digital domain. Real scholarship is required to work confidently online. 
Once the remix was ready to share I uploaded it to my YouTube channel. Another problem: YouTube do not have a full selection of CC licences available, just CC BY. This is my preferred licensing option in any case and (provided the Flickr image owner gives me permission) is fine for this remix. 
I am submitting my assignment within a blog post (my blog is CC BY) as I think the context and issues for remixing are as important as completing the assignment. Here are the questions that arise during the remixing process:
  • when remixing using content which explicitly allows remixing (eg CC BY) where do you attribute? In the video itself? In the description on the streaming site? Is a link within the blog post enough to provide the TASL requirements?
  • If the licence on an image (for example) is too restrictive for inclusion, can this be ignored if the owner gives his/her permission for your use?
  • What if the sharing site used (eg. You Tube) does not support the full suite of CC licences? How can we influence site providers to offer better display of licensing options?
Finally I decided to create a further remix of my own resources around open educational practice:

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Video in language teaching

The video above is a remix which uses extracts from RIP: A remix manifesto in order to convey the importance of copyright knowledge to the teaching profession and to explain how Creative Commons licencing can support a creative, sustainable learning environment online through open educational practice. I created it as a contribution to the ViLTE project, funded by the British Council.

Further detail about the importance of creativity in the digital domain and its relevance to language teaching in particular is explained in this jointly authored article on Produsage  published in the education policy analysis archives journal. 

I was also involved in the EU project Video for All where lots of teaching resources were shared for language teachers to help them cope with the complex landscape of digital media production in their teaching. Unfortunately for us the site (hosted by a pain project manager) has been taken down at the project's end of life as the budget has run out. I find that outrageous and I am trying to bring it to the notice of the funders. The resources were created as open educational resources and  need ongoing support. The Wordpress site which was the host for our work would not be expensive but I do not have any say in budget, I am just a teacher. Does seem strange to me though that tech companies and even project managers of EU projects proclaim their interest in education but often do little to support the real needs of educators or to maintain resources we need. It bears witness to the fact that some are clearly only in it for the money. 

The key word in all of this work is the word open. Kaltura have worked hard to support open standards in video, as a practitioner I work in the open because I believe everyone should have access to education and I also believe that through an open web I can network and learn from other educators. If you get the chance to watch the whole of the RIP video on Vimeo you will see that openness (open data, open education, open source, open access, open practice etc) are key to making headway in solving big problems. Problems we should no longer assume will be solved by politicians - that ship has sailed and we can be clear that they also by and large are busy protecting their own interests. We need to ask ourselves what really matters.  I have of course kept a copy of my video, added it to my YouTube channel and Kaltura gallery and shared widely as well as passing the file to the ViLTE project to help ensure its existence as an OER beyond the confines of a project. 

Update: March 2019 - Kaltura have now closed my free open gallery - so just as well I maintain other ways to share my work!

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The invisible permaculture of learning and teaching.

The importance of open educational practice.
I'm no artist as you can see on this my first attempt to sketch the role of open educational practice in supporting the sustainability of teaching using open educational resources. Clearly the image borrows from the water cycle. Admittedly it is stretching the analogy a little, the earth's natural climate is not driving this, rather it shows how the agency of individual practitioners can drive the sustainability of learning resources. OERs on their own would repose in their repository, we would see the sunlight glint from their surface and congratulate ourselves on a sea of wonderful "content". However, once practitioners get involved in the uptake, remixing, improving and shring of OERs, then the magic can really happen. Not only do the resources become more visible, moving further into the landscape. As they travel they bring new life, new connections between practitioners, new ideas, new ways of working. A vital tool in this permaculture is provided to the practitioners in the form of Creative Commons licences.

A culture of sharing has long existed in schools, the workload is intense and collegiality important in order to thrive. However, sharing a worksheet with a colleague does not always transfer to the digital domain. Back in 2009 my friend Kate Borthwick presented the results of work which was undertaken in the then languages subject centre around a repository called Language Box. A key difference in the interface of this system was the understanding that sharing is a social practice, it works best when we know who we are sharing with, when we get feedback and accreditation for our work. This emotional aspect, very familiar to those who engage with social media, seemed to increase the engagement of students who pilotted the resources, they were more likely to comment and remix the resources. 

Today I was able to participate in a Virtually Connecting session with participants in the #digped conference in the USA. This is another great way to use technology to embrace the human need to connect with others and thus enhance and intensify the international connections and discussions around teaching and learning in the age of the internet. I had been following the #digped discussions on twitter and it was clear to me that these folk (many of whom I was already following on twitter) share my passion for the intelligent use of technology and the use of a critical digital lens when implementing learning technologies. fortunately my social media skills are greater than my sketching so I will be actively continuing my sharing with these folk with the aim of ensuring that the digital agenda is not dominated by the "solution providers" who will be selling their AI driven systems as ways to save money in education but by the nature of human interactions which are so rich in often invisible or unseen ways.

As for the sketching, my PLN made me do it! Encouraged by them I will try new things, one day I may be a better sketchnoter, and even if that doesn't happen I will have confronted an aspect of my life that I neglected after a bad experience during my schooling. 

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Creative Commons Accreditation

This week I have started a 10 week course of study towards attaining accreditation in my use of Creative Commons licensing. I am joining a group of about 30 international educators who, like me, see the value of formalising our knowledge and skills in the area of open educational practice. According to our conversations on the course forum man, also like me, are asked about our use of CC licences and want to acquire a greater in depth understanding of the history and implementation of these tools when working online. 

The video above was created in response to the first assignment of the course. Made using Lumen 5 it uses images and music which is shared under CC licence, remixed to communicate a narrative which I hope resonates with many and shows why creative industries have much to gain by welcoming Creative Commons licencing to their activities. 

I am including in this blog post further factual detail around the history of the Creative Commons movement. I didn't wish to include these in the video as I wanted to keep the message simple and focus on the potential offered by CC to enrich our lives through digital creativity. Since much of human communication and activity is now facilitated through online activity thanks to the internet, it has become clear that the law around copyright is not sufficient to clarify our intentions when sharing online. Here are some of the landmarks on the road to clarifying the rights of all internet users:

  • 1998  Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA). The US extends the term of copyright to the life of the creator + 70 years (longer than that agreed in many other countries). Sometimes referred to as Mickey Mouse extension and you can see why in the copyright section here.

The existence of the global network that is Creative Commons, a movement which upholds open education and greater fairness for all has been of vital importance to my work as an educator and an open educational practitioner. 

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Supporting the connections across continents

Link up for greatest impact!

When people get together great things can happen. We can learn together, support each other and things that may have seemed impossible become do-able. As chair of the EuroCALL CMC SIG I am delighted to be involved in several initiatives recently which focus upon increasing the connections between the European activity and our colleagues in both the USA and Japan. 

Firstly here's a message from Sahar Matar of the EuroCALL Grad students SIG:

We, the board of the Eurocall Grad Students SIG, are starting a new method to connect members of the SIG and to help them to get to know about the activities of the conference in case they could not make it. We are inviting volunteering grad students to play the role of the SIG ambassadors this year. This role entails that they share on Twitter or any other preferred social media, updates on the conference sessions and information picked up in the various sessions they may go to during the conference using the conference hashtag #eurocall2018. 
This hopefully will give members more opportunities to have access to the projects presented at the conference and to get to know people with similar interests on social media. This is part of a collaborative work with our sister association, CALICO. We have implemented this method with the CALICO Grad Students SIG at CALICO2018 in Urbana-Champaign, IL (May 29 - June 2) and that was awesome. We are planning to do the same here to connect the members of both associations. If you are going to Eurocall2018 and you see yourself interested in being our ambassador, please email Sahar at saharmatar2@gmail.com
The conference twitter account is @eurocall2018

Secondly, thanks to @virtuallyconnecting we joined folk at the 25th anniversary of the  #JALTCALL2018 conference in Japan. This was such a joyous conversation with participants from several timezones chatting face to face, connecting practitioners, keynote speakers, researchers and enabling participation where costs of travel or other restrictions would often be a problem. You can watch the recording of the session here
Whenever we organise a physical conference many may come but many more are unable to do so. With travel bans, domestic responsibilities, financial limitations all playing a part in making physical mobility more challenging and with the technologies for connecting abundant and increasingly easy to use there is no excuse for not including such "open door" activities as part of your conference's arrangements. The opportunities we increase by using social media - new contacts, new networks, new collaborations - are too good to miss. I am delighted to support Sahar in her plan to find social media champions. I will never forget the way such an approach helped Parisa Mehran during @eurocall2017 
Here's a flavour of the social media conversations from #JALTCALL2018 (you will see Parisa here!) :

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Stating the unspoken #oer18 #knowhow Sowing the seeds for a fairer world.

Having returned home from the #OER18 conference where I presented this session I have decided to clarify some points which I may not have made clearly on the day as time was short and I had to rush to run another session elsewhere. 

I shared the experience of running a small staff and student investigation into open educational practice at Warwick. I believe there are aspects of the way this was done which were exemplary and effective. There were also aspects which could have been improved were it not for internal tensions and confusion over roles, responsibilities and mission. I am not blaming anyone, just looking to surface the points where barriers appear which can prevent us from achieving our aims. 

What went well:

  • the bringing together of people from different parts of the institution over coffee to share our perspectives
  • the freedom for participants to choose which project aims they wanted to contribute to and when to do that
  • the agreement to create a metaphor and communication channels we could all embrace and understand
  • the open validation and publishing of contributions, leaving a legacy which can be built on by all.
What could have been better:
  • the insecurity of some participants due to job changes and political climate (Brexit, funding etc). 
  • the lack of shared understanding of open education and evident suspicion of a hidden agenda.
  • confusion over whether the project's internal communication should also be cleared by our external communications as it would be openly available. 
  • Delays in funding had a knock on effect on spending, staff and student time is limited and when funding is delayed and time limited it can prevent the possibilities which we had planned being realised. 
  • internal alignments of this project were clearly with agendas such as those of academic technology, skills development and research support and yet there is little evidence of follow up from those areas.  
I can see that the emphasis on compliance in institutional discourse creates fear and lowers confidence, it cripples innovation, makes individuals afraid to take risks. If we are to realise the win-win that is open educational practice we must bridge the gaps of understanding, sharing and mainstreaming (as identified by Nacimbeni et al, 2014) at the most basic of grassroots levels to align practice with a clearer confidence in our mission and greater understanding of our values

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Designing OER and becoming an Open Educational Practitioner.

This is Ufuk Balaman @ubalaman. He is a member of the Eurocall CMC sig (Computer-Mediated Communication special interest group) and we meet at Eurocall 2017 in Southampton. He invited me to work with a group of his students in Turkey who are working on learning design for language teaching. The session was planned together and ran on 20th March with me in my office in Warwick and his students in a large lecture theatre in Hacettepe University, Turkey. 

We ran it as an open session, collaborating using a range of web 2 tools and a live classroom (Bb Collaborate Ultra). Firstly I wanted to establish a shared presence and we used several tools for this:

  • A shared gdoc which held the session plan and links
  • A padlet board to share images 
  • Hashtags to help aggregate and extend our online interactions: #ELT382
We quickly got down to the important reflection on why we need to design using digital tools through Mentimeter:

and then the deeper conversation about the risks and challenges:

This was really getting interesting! I started to talk about the Video For All project, an EU project looking at how to use video in language teaching. I shared the paper on produsage I wrote with Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou @sarahconf (then at Monash University) which showed just how tricky it is for language educators to navigate the many restrictions on use of commercial video to provide relevant, motivational content for learners. Intellectual Property in the online space is still a battleground and some decisions are still being contested through campaigns such as #fixcopyright and save the link. I shared information about Creative Commons licences and the coming accreditation available to those using them. I shared some useful tools for video creation such as Flipgrid, Lumen5, VLC player and 

There then followed some video based challenges:

  • To share their thoughts on creating video for language teaching using the flipgrid here
  • To create an OER and add the link to a Credly badge claim in order to get their own open badge. 
I raised the point about the pressure teaching systems are currently under and the importance of sustaining effective teaching practice manned by real, talented individuals. People who can make a difference. I shared this article on sustainability. 

Now I wait to see what they devise and share. Already the fliprid responses are encouraging. We have perhaps started a community of practice here for language education designers.

Meanwhile I hope that others are going to take a close look at the potential for Open Educational Practice for the improvement of educational opportunities everywhere. I have shared a collection of resources based through Thinglink in the graphic below which came from the Opening Up Education report by the European Commission. 

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Free for all

Why Open Education Matters from Blink Tower on Vimeo.

I have just completed the first iteration of a new module LN306 Developing Language Teaching. The course has attracted a good cohort of students including a number of Erasmus students from Germany Italy and France and I have constantly been impressed with their instincts for what makes good teaching. The central objective of the course is to look at how as teachers we can create interventions to address a specific learner need and includes critical analysis of learning design and pedagogies. In passing during the course I have shared some of Open Educational Resources (OER) and tools for creation. In our final session this week I asked my students to critically evaluate the winning video from the Why Open Education matters campaign above and again the level of understanding proved a useful bridge to a constructive dialogue.

The video paints a rosy picture of how OER can improve the world, but said one of the students:

  • how do you know what "good OER" look like? After all, text books have a kudos and an authority as they are endorsed by your tutor. Who can you trust?
This has frequently been a criticism levelled at the OER movement: too idealistic, all fluffy clouds and rainbows. I explained my position. 

I am very much in favour of what has been called by Martin Weller "Little OER", resources created by individuals to fit their context and subsequently shared under Creative Commons licences so that others can remix, re-use and re-purpose. The main benefit of this sort of creative activity I posit is as a means for contributing to your professional community. I admitted that I have created and shared slides which have carried the odd typo (as indeed do many text books I have used) but the benefits of this "open educational practice" (OEP) outweigh the disadvantages of the escalating costs for students of course materials. 

Surely the ability to critically evaluate all materials should not be sacrificed in favour of a blind acceptance that material on the reading list is automatically more trustworthy? Surely a student would be happy to know that his/her tutor is actively engaged in their professional community and able to adapt and create resources which best meet their local context? The students agreed (or seemed to at least) and I look forward to seeing their learning designs as part of their e-portfolio assessment in April. I am happy they have plenty to think about. 

The truth of course is that this learning design challenge matters more than ever to their generation and those who follow. The expertise of teachers is constantly undermined by politicians and the very existence of teaching jobs under threat thanks to "austerity". I am far from alone in seeing the potential of the open internet to inspire and support my profession.

The creative opportunities for learning design offered in the digital domain are endless:

Making your open textbook

A set of resources to get you started in curating your open textbook
It takes courage and commitment to engage in open educational practice there are few rainbows unicorns or fluffy clouds. This post describes the situation beautifully. Going open is a sign of strength worthy of Camus' approval as in L'Homme Révolté:

« La vraie générosité envers l'avenir consiste à tout donner au présent. »

Monday, 5 February 2018

New Year, new adventures.

I spent hours on Friday and Saturday this week in Groningen - one of my favourite places. Of course, I was teaching in Warwick too so my attendance at the EVOLVE kickoff meeting was virtual but no less real.

Here you can see my colleagues: Elke, Gosia, Sake, Mirjam, Fran, Sarah, Tim, Shanon, Steve and many more. All experts in their fields, a dream team. I feel honoured to work with them. We share a commitment to a plan - to scale up virtual exchange in order to increase international understanding in a world where barriers to empathy are rife, where "America first" (insert nation of choice) has become a slogan which justifies hate speech and discrimination. 

Of course none of us in the room (whether in real life or virtually) think this will be easy. We are all experienced in the trials and tribulations of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) and Computer Mediated Communication (CMC). We are nonetheless up for the challenges. This new project reaches across disciplines, it brings expertise in conflict resolution and social justice together with linguists, learning technologists, researchers and practitioners. We recognise that together we can have a greater impact. We are all heartened by the knowledge that scaling up virtual exchange is seen by the European Commission as a feasible model to support intercultural understanding and to create more cohesive societies. 

We will each be recruiting in our institutions, offering free online training and accredited participation in virtual exchanges, not just in language learning contexts but as an integral part of university curricula in order to show that academia realises the importance of global dialogue above and beyond local interests. Participation supports the achievement of SDG4  , it upholds the rights of all (including those who cannot participate in physical exchanges due to cost or personal circumstances) to engage in sustained, transformational learning experiences. To use today's tools to make the future a better place.

It's good to try to make a difference, especially when everything around you in bleak. I heard that when you are feeling at your lowest, it helps to give to someone in need. It makes the world a better place.