Category Archives: Open Source – Open Content

Directory of MOOC providers

There's a growing interest in MOOCs among many of the people I encounter these days – some simply fascinated by their novelty value  and others genuinely interested in trying out one of the courses on offer. 

The big providers like Coursera and EdX get lots of publicity in this regard, but it's interesting to note the increasing number of providers emerging from across all areas of the education sector now moving into the MOOC space. 

So today I was interested to see a tweet out about a new MOOC provider directory that lists a whole range of providers at different levels of the education system. It's a bit easier to find what you're looking for here than on other sites like the MOOC List, for instance, but for anyone wanting to explore the scope of the MOOC scene it provides some useful links. 

The list of school-level MOOCs is of particular interest to me, particularly the link to the Coursera Professional Development options for teachers. 

Certanly worth bookmarking for a browse when you have the time 😉


Online video resources

Last week I attended the KidzattheCentre conference in New Plymouth, hosted by the Taranaki APs and DPs association. It was a most enjoyable time amongst a group of people with an obvious passion for what they do and a desire to learn more to improve and develop what is happening in their schools.

One of the delegates shared with me some exciting things that had happened in his school with one of his staff who had introduced some of the Khan videos to his students to help them understand a range of mathematical concepts when they were finding it difficult to do so in class. The significant benefits this teacher felt were offered were (a) the step-by-step process that explained each concept clearly for the students and (b) the fact tht the student could rewind this learning at any stage if there was a point they didn't get or if the explanation was moving too quickly for them. 

There's a third benefit of using these sorts of videos as a part of the learning resources you make available to students – illustrating processes, products and environments that the student wouldn't otherwise be able to see in the classroom environment. That's where the collection of online video resources from MITvideo looks to be useful.

The collection has over 10,000 educational videos organized into more than 150 channels, the largest channelbeing the Open Courseware channel that contains more than 2,300 lectures from MIT's open courses. All of the videos are either MIT productions or videos approved by editors at MIT Video. Some videos are hosted by MIT Video while others are from YouTube.

From the brief scan of the science titles I've done there's plenty here that could be used to support science teaching at the senior secondary level, for instance.

The future is open

I've just been watching the TED video above of Don Tapscott sharing his four principles for the open world:

  1. Collaboration – organisations becoming more porous, open and fluid
  2. Transparency – greater visibility of what is going on
  3. Sharing – giving away assetts in order to achieve/gain more
  4. Empowerment – the disaggregation of power, an open world brings freedom

It's an excellent summary from Don of what he's written about in his books, Wikinomics and Macrowikinomics, both enduring favourites of mine because of the stories that are told in them and the thoughts that are stimulated as a result. 

Don's main point is "The arc of history is toward openness, and its a positive one!"

Of course I'm biased, because I happen to agree with Don about the shift towards opennes – it's been a feature of CORE's ten trends for some time now. And there's plenty of evidence that this shift (or 'arc') is occurring. 

This morning I read that the UNESCO member States unanimously approved the "Paris OER Declaration” (pdf) at the 2012 World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress last week. The Declaration recommends UNESCO member States:

  • Foster awareness and use of OER.
  • Facilitate enabling environments for use of
  • Information and Communications Technologies (ICT).
  • Reinforce the development of strategies and policies on OER.
  • Promote the understanding and use of open licensing frameworks.
  • Support capacity building for the sustainable development of quality learning materials.
  • Foster strategic alliances for OER.
  • Encourage the development and adaptation of OER in a variety of languages and cultural contexts.
  • Encourage research on OER.
  • Facilitate finding, retrieving and sharing of OER.
  • Encourage the open licensing of educational materials produced with public funds.

This is ground-breaking stuff – but the momentum will only continue as these recommendations are actually implemented, and to be frank, that's more likely to occur within and among the general population that as a result of specific government interventions. 

In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Mark Drapeau asked "Should governments crowdsouce science  research funding?" – posing a question that gets at the heart of the sort of thing Don is discussing in his TED presentation. In an age where the cost of such research is sky-rocketing, this is the principle of 'sharing' in action. 

There are significant implications in all of this for schools and our education system as a whole – both in terms of the way we operate, and in terms of the values and beliefs around open-ness that we model and espouse in our curriculum. 

Exploring the technologies for OER

I've been presenting workshops at several conferences recently where the issue of open education resources has been discussed, building on some of the ideas shared in my Ten Trends feature on openness.

While for many the appeal of OERs has been through the availability (and consumption) of free-to-use resources as an alternative to the conventional copyright protected resources we've been used to, there is a growing trend now towards the re-use of these resources, and the creation and contribution of resources to this pool.

So it is with interest that I noted the release of the publication titled A report on the Re-use and Adaptation of Open Educational Resources (OER): An Exploration of Technologies available from the Commonwealth of Learning.

In the recommendations section the report states…

Arguably, at present, the largest group of OER creators and consumers consist of ODL practitioners. However, the uptake of the wider adoption of OER in teaching and learning is slow from the perspective of an ODL institution due to the lack of understanding of how to implement the use and re-use of OER across the various interconnected departments.

This is indeed the challenge – how we move from the peripheral interest in OERs, driven mostly by individual practitioners at the edges of their 'day jobs', to where there is wider acceptance and adoption of OERs as a core part of an institutional approach to the organisation and management of resources to support learning. 

The helpful part of the report for me is the diagram on page 51 that outlines four distinct stages involved in institutional adoption, which are (i) capacity building; (ii) creation of an institutional repository; (iii) quality assurance; and (iv) recognition and rewards. These are illustrated in the diagram below:

If you've been wondering about the role of OERs in education, how the process of attribution and lisencing works for OERs, or how to integrate OER use into the everyday processes of learning at your school, then this report will be extremely useful. 

New TED website released for education

After more than a year of planning and dreaming, the folks at TED are today launching their TED-Ed website, a new open platform for using video in education.  

It allows any teacher to take a video of their choice (yes, any video on YouTube, not just from TED) and make it the heart of a "lesson" that can easily be assigned in class or as homework, complete with context, follow-up questions and further resources.  The site is in beta, but there's enough there to show the potential of the new format.  

This whole process is explained really well in the video at the top of this post, ceated by the TED-Ed team, and a more detailed post explaining the thinking behind the site can be read here.


Mix and Mash

A big thank  you to the National LIbrary for publishing this guide providing information, activities and ideas to confidently create a remix from material you know you have the rights to reuse.

The guide shows students why copyright and licensing exist, how they work, and how they can apply licences to their own work through simple information, suggestions for activities, and links to more resources. By using it, you and your students will be able to participate in the global remix community while demonstrating creativity and integrity.

These are all important skills and understandings for students to learn about – and this guide provides useful information for teachers with strategies and ideas for how to do this. 

The Free to Mix guide was written to support the Mix and Mash competition in 2011, and it has now been updated with new content specific to the 2012 competition, focusing on categories teachers are most likely to be interested in – digital storytelling, photo remix and infographics.


I had the privilege of interviewing Lawrence Lessig at the NetHui 2011 event in Auckland a couple of months ago.  I've blogged my reflections about this previously, including the links to the presentation that Lawrence gave, in which he explored the concept of 'entitlement' as it applies in an increasingly digital world, where freedom of access to information, including the ability to re-use and re-purpose that information is regarded as a fundamental 'right'. Lessig uses this argument to promote his views about traditional forms of copyright, and the use of a creative commons license as an alternative. 

In the video above which has just been edited from that interview, I asked Lawrence to explain a little further his ideas about the concept of 'entitlement' as it might apply in educational settings, and how the traditional 'hierarchies' we experience in our education system might be being challenged or having to adapt.

What impressed me most was his illustration of how young students at Havard Law school are treated from the beginning of their course, and how this might apply across all educational settings – releasing a new sense of creativity and thinking among ours students.

Copyright and creative commons

I had the opportunity to interview Lawrence Lessig at the recent NetHui and ask him some questions relating specifically to how schools might think about the issue of creative commons licensing, and the practical steps they might take should they decide to go down that track. Thanks to my colleagues at CORE the video is now available on EdTalks.

The issue is not only about how schools might license materials they develop (both students and teachers), but also how they manage the access and use (re-use) of existing materials, such as when students want to incorporate images or text from the web into an assignment, or take several resources and create a 'mash-up' of their own.

With an increasing amount of this activity taking place in schools – and in students own homes etc. – it is important that schools begin thinking seriously about their approach to managing he use and re-use of third party materials – particularly now that it is so easy to search for and download material from the web. I thought the point Lawrence makes in the interview about the filtering in Google image search provides a useful insight into how we ought to be thinking about this into the future.

Data, data, data…

There’s certainly a lot being written at the moment about the significance of data in our lives. With the advent of advanced networks, virtualisation and cloud computing, massive (and cheap) storage etc., together with the ever increasing demands for storing large, multimedia files, we’re beginning to see a completely different perspective on data stemming from concerns such as..

  • what data do we need to store and manage?
  • how long do we need to keep it for?
  • where will it be stored?
  • what format(s) will it be stored in?
  • who can access it?
  • what about backup, support, failover etc.?
  • what can we do with it (combinations, mash-ups, visualisation etc.)?

The recent earthquakes in Christchurch have brought many of these issues sharply into focus with several schools and businesses losing access to their data when their servers were lost or damaged in buildings. This infographic showing physical storage vs. digital storage illustrates a number of the ideas and issues that we need to be thinking about in this regard

Mashable’s 5 predictions for online data in 2011 paint something of the bigger picture in this regard, illustrating why businesses – including schools – should be thinking about their data storage and management at an enterprise level, and not simply as an ‘in-house’ extra. As they say in their last prediction, “You’ll be sick of hearing about data (if you’re not already).

Of course concerns about the storage and protection of data are just one part of the picture. There’s also an enormous amount that we can do with data now, thanks to the sophisticated (and fast) processing engines available. A favourite example of mine at the moment is a video from the BBC Four’s “The Joy of Stats” that illustrates how data can be used very effectively to help visualise broader concepts, in this case 200 Countries over 200 Years in 4 Minutes from Hans Rosling, illustrating the dramatic changes that have occurred, and offering a glimpse of what the future might be like based on the extrapolation of these trends.

On an international scale there’s a move towards making all data ‘open’ and available. The controversy around Wikileaks earlier this year illustrated the great debate that is to be had about this as philosophy, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that there’s an up-side to making data available for wider interrogation and use. Several countries are now making data gathered by their governments (e.g census data, building consents data etc.) available for citizens to access, in the hope that as it is used and manipulated, new trends and patterns of thinking about it may emerge. Examples can be found at the US Centre for Public Education – Data First, and in Open data initiatives from England, USA and New Zealand. Schools should be considering ways of using these sites to enable students to work from authentic data sources.

Challenges, changes and trends 2011

I spent the weekend preparing a presentation that I’ll be using with some of the clusters I speak with at the beginning of the year – titled “Challenges, change and trends in 2011”. It is framed around four key questions:

  • Who are our learners?
  • What are we preparing them for?
  • How are we preparing them for this?
  • What are the implications of connectivity for learning and schooling?

I’ve drawn on the Horizon Report 2010 (NZ-Aus edition) and provided links to illustrations of each of the trends. I’ve also created a livebinder (link below) which has all of these links listed for easy access.