Tag Archives: open

Disorder of the future⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Some stuff went down on the internet around an op-ed that Cathy O’Neil wrote in the New York Times about algorithms and accountability. I’ve no interest in being drawn into the kick-back, but it did force me to think about the extent to which the response to this issue has to be one of civic engagement as well as academic engagement (there is plenty of academic engagement – as the kick-back evidenced in spades, but I see fewer examples of that activity translating into civic or legal activity – but maybe I’m just not looking hard enough).

This will continue to go round in my brain for a while yet, but a few interesting things that I’ve read recently are worth gathering together.

“Our data is ours, but it also is not ours. We trade it away for so much of our experience on the internet. Money from a data tax could begin to counter this trade imbalance.

The money should go toward improving privacy of our information on the internet, countering identity theft, improving connectivity and internet literacy, all causes that would help create a more equitable internet for all.”

It’s Time to Tax Companies for Using Our Personal Data (New York Times)

“The biggest problem also is that privacy and security don’t seem to be the responsibility of the manufacturer, but rather that of the consumer.”

Those New Connected Holiday Gifts May Be Spying on You!

“Digital understanding is the root of fairness — it means people can know how the technology of the internet works, it makes them aware of its power structures, and it enables them to question what these mean for their choices, rights, and lives.”

This is Digital Understanding (Doteveryone – Medium)

“Research in queer theory, race and privilege, and gender studies is exactly what is needed to advance fairness in algorithms. But this work, and the many scholars from underrepresented groups who have brought attention to these problems, have a long history of marginalization both within the academy and without.”

We’re Awake — But We’re Not At the Wheel (PERVADE – Medium)

“It should finally be noted that the nature of the data is also becoming less and less static; rather, data increasingly goes through a lifecycle in which its nature might change constantly. While the current legal system is focused on relatively static stages of data, and linked to them specific forms of protection (e.g. for personal data, sensitive data, private data, statistical data, anonymous data, non-identifying information, metadata, etc.), in reality, data go through a circular process: data is linked, aggregated and anonymized and then again de-anonymized, enriched with other data and profiles, so that it becomes personally identifying information again, and potentially even sensitive data, and is then once again pseudonymised, used for statistical analysis and group profiles, etc.”

Ten Questions for Future Regulation of Big Data: A Comparative and Empirical Legal Study (JIPITEC – Journal of Intellectual Property, Information Technology and E-Commerce Law)

Internet Transmitted Infections – I’ve got the SPLOTS⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 2 minutes

After noodling about on my own domain a while ago with various formats, I created a real live SPLOT using the Splotpoint theme to support a participatory session that I ran, and it’s worth picking into what about it worked for me, because I think it worked on a few levels:

  1. It was a resource I could point to in advance of the event.
  2. It was my presentation slides.
  3. It was the workbook for the session.
  4. It’s the resource for participants to return to after the session.

I ran the session with Alice White. We had never met until that morning, and never run a session together before. Sharing the slides in advance with her was a way of helping us both and because all the instructions for participants were baked in, it was hopefully really clear what was going to happen.

The sequenced slides element is obviously important for me. It kept me right on the day. Plus having instructions written out clearly and simply was my aide-memoir for demoing things.

Being a web resource it was loaded up by participants there and then and used to support the activity in real time. I was expecting non-native English speakers in the audience so having instructions written down was going to be important. I have a funny accent after all. It’s was the alternative format to me talking at people, and it’s more accessible than a printed workbook as it can be resized etc.

What’s missing? Maybe the ability for participants to make their own notes as they go along. So maybe adding Hypothes.is annotation would be the next place to go?

I got a lot of positive and generous feedback on it, not least from various Wikimedians via my colleague Ewan McAndrew. It sparked a really good conversation about simple and clear resources to support getting started with Wikipedia. What exists now is comprehensive to the extent that it’s overwhelming to the novice (we feel).

Editathons have also gotten pretty popular – so much so that we’re double booked on 24 November*. So now we’ve built a second Splotpoint site and are prepping some “Wikipedia Basics” content to support us both.

* Ewan will be leading Scottish Living Artists 2017 – A Wikipedia edit-a-thon’ in a nutshell at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh

I will be co-leading Lost Literary Edinburgh – a Wikipedia editathon as part of the Being Human Festival with Sara Thomas, Wikimedian in Residence at Scottish Library and Information Council.

MozFest Reflections⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 4 minutes

This post was also posted on the Association for Learning Technologists blog.

This year was my fourth trip to MozFest – the annual global gathering of the Mozilla Foundation. The event has been held in Ravensbourne College in London for the last 7 years and is a nine stories high extravaganza of participatory sessions and speaker talks covering hacking, making, data, digital art and culture, ethics and privacy, the open web, open science, data journalism, social justice, access and inclusion and many other things too numerous to list. This year there were 338 sessions spread across two days. The programme is available online to browse for a flavour of the sessions on offer.

Sessions take place in themed areas within the venue, with each space aligned to an area of strategic focus for Mozilla:

  • Decentralization
  • Digital Inclusion
  • Open Innovation
  • Privacy and Security
  • Web Literacy
  • Youth Zone

MozFest isn’t heavily marketed to the HE sector, and so I suspect a number of colleagues aren’t aware of it. However this event is the one that breaks me out of my Higher Education bubble and into thinking about open and the impact of the web in the broadest sense. I leave fired up and excited having learned completely new things and collected practical ideas and information that I can I contribute back into my own institution.

MozFest is also the most diverse event that I attend. Participants come from across the world and can be all ages and all languages. Although the event is conducted in English, participants are actively encouraged to flag other languages that they speak via stickers on their badges or in their session descriptions. Travel to London is surely prohibitive for many still, but there is usually better representation from the global south at this event than at any other I go to.

MozFest 17 slogan. Photo by @ammienoot CC-BY 4.0

Each year there’s a slightly different emphasis, and this year the overall theme was about what makes a healthy internet.

Today, the concept of Internet health reaches far beyond the realm of open source code: it’s linked to civil liberties and public policy, free expression and inclusion. Discussions about the state of the web include engineers, but now also teachers, lawmakers, community organizers and artists.

(Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation)

It was noticeable this year that there were more sessions on data sovereignty and combatting fake news. Online privacy and web literacy have been a strong focus of MozFest since the start, but it felt like this year there was a bit of an inflection point – the events of the past 12 months have brought these issues into sharp focus perhaps, making it clear that they are societal challenges and not niche issues. Developing information literacy skills has been a core part of learning in an Higher Education environment and digital literacy is probably in all our graduate attributes in some form or another. These talks and sessions brought into sharp relief how much more quickly we need to move on developing these skills within our institutions, particularly as we consider new areas of activity such as learning analytics.

MozFest 17 FakeNews Poster. Photo by @ammienoot CC-BY 4.0

Whilst there was no dedicated digital arts and culture track this year, there was still strong representation through 5 digital artists in residence for the weekend, and a whole programme of hands-on activities in the Youth Zone (not just for kids!).

There is so much choice in terms of sessions that it can be overwhelming, so on Saturday after an excellent first session crowd-sourcing ideas for pathways and career tracks into civic technology, I spent a couple of hours exploring each of the spaces. I picked up a copy of the Mozilla Internet Health Report and had an interesting conversation about how one goes about trying to measure such a thing and the feedback that they are using to develop the next iteration of it.

I also picked up a Data Detox kit developed by the Tactical Technology Collective at a Data Detox Bar (part of the larger “The Glass Room” project – a series of interactive exhibits that pose questions about our relationships with technology). The kit is an 8 day program, beautifully designed, printed onto cards and packaged in a small box. Chatting to the “barrista” at the Detox Bar he explained that the kit is designed to tap into our emotional response to technology products, in particular the sort of “unboxing” pleasure that comes with something like a brand new Apple product. Part of the problem they had identified was the inaccessibility of many existing online InfoSec and privacy resources both in terms of language and design. In this case they had found that a well designed physical resource was getting more traction with less technical audiences. They also had a great tips sheet outlining how to run Data Detox sessions in libraries, based on some experience within the Swedish public library system.

I visited the Meme Lab (exploring how memes are made and a little about the relationship of memes to social movements) and the Humans of the Internet podcast lounge and then it was pretty much time to run my own session “Wikipedia Games” along with Alice White, the Wikimedian in Residence from the Wellcome Library.

Saturday was rounded off with a Virtually Connecting session featuring Josie Fraser, along with ALT’s very own Maren Deepwell and Martin Hawksey – both themselves fresh from running a session on professional development for learning technologists.

Sunday started (for me) with a series of short talks by Audrey Tang, Emily May and Nighat Dad covering topics around using technology for civic engagement, practical tips for combating online harassment, and a sobering reminder that access to the web is not available without consequence for everyone.

My next session choice was NefertitiBot – exploring the possibilities for museum artefacts to curate themselves via chatbots, rather than being constrained to the interpretation given to them by museum curators. We had a lively discussion about the extent to which bots could break free of being scripted and the potential for them to develop in ways that we might not like. With an increasing interest in chatbots in Higher Education in student support roles it was a useful and practical discussion and left me wondering about the extent to which we need to ‘perfect’ such bots versus be open about exactly what they are.

The final speakers session that I went to on Sunday was opened by Gillian Crampton Smith who talked about the emotional elements of technology design and where artists fit into the technology development process. It reminded me again of the Data Detox conversation the day before. She was followed by Sarah Jeong and Emily Gorcenski in conversation with each other talking about fake news and fake data. It served to remind me once again of how vital events like this are, where not only are the issues discussed, but solutions are crowd-sourced, discussed and hacked out across various sessions.

MozFest Data Poster. Photo by @ammienoot CC-BY 4.0




Finding Purpose with Girl Geeks⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I promised last night at the Girl Geek Scotland event that I would write up a blog post about the workshop that I ran, so here it is.

I’ve been volunteering with Girl Geek Scotland’s Mentoring strand of activities during 2017 and last night was my turn to stand up and run the event. As well as pulling the overall event together (which is made much less daunting by working with a bunch of seriously competent and kick-ass women) this time 3 of us came forward to run the regular break-out workshops too.

You can read more about the session itself here, including details of the other 2 workshops run by Morna Simpson and Gail Logan (click View Details as the event has now ended).

My workshop was framed around being clear about your purpose and drew on experiences I’ve had in my own leadership development and in research I’ve read. These are the notes I wrote for my pitch:

Leadership roles, particularly senior leadership roles involve tough decisions. There’s a lot been written about likeability versus capability – and I think we can look at last year’s US Elections and Hilary Clinton for a good example of where that debate can go at it’s very worst.

Likeability is important – but investing lots of time in thinking about how others see us can also be emotionally and mentally exhausting.

A more productive route, research suggests, is to focus on being clear about our purpose. If we know our strengths and are playing to them we will be more effective, and probably happier too.

In my session we’re going to work through the steps you can take to develop your own personal purpose statement, and then how you can align your work goals to that. It’s going to be a fast, practical, hands-on session. I’m going to make you read some research to get started, then I’m going to make you talk to each other, and do some writing and a bit of sharing back if you’re okay with that. To keep it equitable and fair, I have personal purpose statements from each of the workshop leaders to share with you!

You probably won’t get a polished end product out of it, but you will break the back of it, get some peer feedback, and leave with something you can refine. You’ll also leave with a process that you can repeat in the future.

Being clear about your purpose – your super-power as a leader – is a critical skill, and so is having the tools you need to re-calibrate it every few years.

It was tough to pack this into an hour, but I think most participants managed to make a good start and took something away that they could continue to work on. I really enjoyed running the session and the quick feedback poll we did suggested that others found it useful. I also had the added delight of knowing at least one person in the group already. I also had a good conversation with another participant after the session about making something around goal setting a regular feature each year – feedback that I’ve shared back into the Mentoring volunteers group already.

Replaying highlights from the last year⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This is largely a paper that I wrote for our September 2017 Learning and Teaching Committee. The paper is available as Paper K here. Just in case anyone wants to know what I’ve been working on for the last 12 months…


Information Services Group has been working to launch a centrally-supported lecture recording service for the start of the academic year 2017/18 and to scale up the service over 2 subsequent years to provide a highly integrated, highly automated service in 400 general teaching spaces across campus.

Lecture Recording Programme Phases

Lecture recording rollout is spread over 3 phases, recognising that there are limited windows of opportunity during the academic year to equip many of our teaching spaces, and to allow the programme sufficient time to take feedback and adjust plans to ensure the service delivers the required benefits for all.

For the start of academic year 2017/18 the focus has firmly been on transitioning those users who currently rely on lecture recording into the new service.

Phase 1 timeline

One of the biggest challenges has been the length of time that a public procurement process requires. In this project it took 9 months to complete what was a complex and highly competitive procurement. The willingness of our chosen supplier – Echo360 – to work with us on rolling out the service even whilst we were finalising terms and conditions has been vital to achieving a service for the start of 17/18.

Phase 1 Service

The new service is called ‘Media Hopper Replay’. The service was made available to staff from 5 September to allow VLE courses to be linked to the new service in good time, and for staff to familiarize themselves with the Replay software.

All courses that relied on the previous Panopto lecture recording service have been contacted personally to ensure they are transitioned over to the new service. Additionally, where possible, a small number of additional courses have been included in the service. Typically this has been where they are already scheduled into an enabled room or are being taught by someone already using the service on another course.

For the start of term 17/18 the service will be available in 114 general teaching spaces across the campus. This includes all of our largest lecture theatres. Commissioning of rooms will take place right up to the end of Welcome Week, reflecting the use of many teaching spaces in the Central Area by the Fringe Festival, and the more general programme of refurbishment of our estate.

Along with lecture recording equipment, additional cameras and microphones have been installed. In larger spaces we have also doubled up the number of microphones. Each room has an indicator light that is used to signal when recording is taking place. The light also functions as a button to allow recordings to be easily paused. 50 ‘Catchbox’ throwable microphones will be in larger teaching spaces to aid recording of questions from students.

New room signage is being installed to clearly indicate which rooms are equipped. Telephones are being installed in teaching spaces as part of the rollout to allow issues to be reported to support more quickly.

Media Hopper Replay has been integrated with the Learn and Moodle VLEs. Academic colleagues will be able to manually start and stop ad-hoc recordings as per the previous lecture recording service. Additionally around 75 courses have requested to be part of a pilot for scheduling of recording. This process has been defined and documented and tested with colleagues in the Timetabling Unit.

Several lecture theatres in Kings Buildings have been equipped specifically to record chalkboards. A significant amount of effort has gone into this activity, led by a cross-College Technical Special Interest Group. A number of courses in Maths and Physics have signed up to pilot the service in 17/18.

Examples of recording light and new room signage

Phase 1 Support

Equipping our academic colleagues and students with the appropriate digital skills to make best use of lecture recording technology has been integral to the programme and we have taken a broad approach based on early School feedback.

To support the new service two new training courses have been developed and are being delivered both face to face and via webinars:

  • “Preparing for Lecture Recording” covers accessibility and copyright topics – these were identified by academic colleagues as areas where more guidance was needed.
  • “Delivering Lectures using Lecture Recording” explains how to use the Replay system itself and how it links to the Learn VLE.

Feedback from training courses so far has been that the service is simple and easy to use. A series of drop-in sessions are scheduled for w/b 11 September and w/b 18 September to give academic colleagues an opportunity to try out a ‘hands-on’ recording process in an equipped teaching space.

Online help materials for staff have been published on the ISG website, including demonstrations videos. Similar materials for students will be published during Welcome Week. An extensive set of FAQs are also published online, and are being regularly updated as the service rolls out.

Operating procedures inside Information Services Group with key support teams such as the IS Helpline have been agreed. Preview sessions for School IT and learning technology colleagues and teams within Information Services Group have been held. Staff who support teaching spaces, both in ISG and in Schools have been trained on swap-out procedures and spare lecture recording boxes are being held at several points across campus for rapid response. IT and learning technology colleagues in Schools who have devolved administrator roles have been identified and trained. The programme has benefitted enormously from both the support and advice of School colleagues who have been supporting the previous Panopto lecture recording service.

Student helpers are being recruited to provide hands-on assistance in lecture theatres for the first week of teaching.

The Timetabling Unit have worked to ensure that courses that require lecture recording are booked into appropriate spaces. This has been challenging in so far as the rollout of lecture recording has begun after final room requirements data is normally required by the Timetabling Unit. The working partnership between ISG and the Timetabling Unit within this programme has been absolutely key to success.

Phase 1 Communications

An extensive communications programme has underpinned all of this work, with a monthly newsletter, plus regular key messages information distributed to comms colleagues in Schools, Colleges and EUSA for inclusion in local newsletters or emails. Articles have appeared in Bulletin and BITs, the student newsletter, and on the IS News pages. An article will be also be published in Teaching Matters in September. Comms has also been distributed through College IT and academic representatives on various projects boards, steering groups and task groups. A student intern has been working with us over the summer and has created a series of videos featuring student and staff perspectives on the service, along with developing a flyer to go in the welcome pack for all new students, and marketing materials. This is key to managing student expectations as we rollout over several years.

Academic Champions

The Academic User Group has been formally convened, chaired by Professor Susan Rhind. Heads of Schools have been contacted to provide the name of a Lecture Recording champion in each School. 14 nominations have been received so far. The next User Group meeting will be on the 2nd of October.

Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley will lead the Engagement and Evaluation Group, which will meet for the first time in October. Three PTAS projects have been funded so far to evaluate lecture recording (http://www.ed.ac.uk/institute-academic-development/learning-teaching/funding/funding/previous-projects/theme/lecture-recording) and a further call is open until 26 October for projects starting in 2018.

MVM Timetabling

Recognising that use of the central Timetabling system was key to allowing the service to scale, the programme also includes work to assist the College of MVM to migrate over. Migration of the Vet School to central Timetabling is on track for September 2017 although some work is still needed to define the ongoing support model. A review of the Medical School timetabling/room booking requirements has been presented and a review report will be delivered in October 2017.

Next Steps

Once the first 114 rooms are operational for the start of term the programme will move on to focus on the delivery of automated Timetabling integration. This will allow courses to signal whether they need a lecture recording enabled room, and whether they would like their recordings automatically started and stopped as part of the annual Timetabling scheduling process. We are recruiting additional resources during September to assist with this work so that it begins quickly. We will also continue analysis and development work with the Medical School to help integrate them into the Central Timetabling System.

Phase 1 has focussed on supporting the core recording use cases for lecture recording. As we move into the next phase of the project we will develop and rollout further training courses to support more advanced use of the service. We have recruited additional resource to support this and input from the Academic User Group champions will help ensure this activity aligns well to academic needs in Schools. We also continue to make sure that lecture recording training is complimented by the wider training offered in within ISG and the Institute for Academic Development by cross-marketing relevant events (Flipped classroom; lecturing skills etc).

Additionally we will continue to install AV and IT equipment into teaching spaces across campus. During Phase 1 we have also identified several areas where front-line support for teaching spaces could be improved either by new processes or with additional staffing resources.

By the start of 2018/19 the service will be installed in around 300 teaching spaces, along with a more automated and integrated process for booking rooms and recording lectures. This will complement the new lecture recording policy being developed by the LTC task group.

Open Tumshies for Hallowe’en⤴


My colleague Anne-Marie Scott has written a lovely blog post about an obscure 17th century map of Iceland that was released under open licence by the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections and found fame on the Commons thanks to Wikipedia, the Euro 2016 Football Championships and Creative Common’s State of the Commons Report.

It’s a lovely story, you should go and read it.  And here’s another nice little story about the kind of thing that can happen when you release content under open licence…

Last year for Halloween, Wikimedian in Residence Ewan McAndrew ran a spooktacular Samhain Editathon at the University of Edinburgh complete with Fairy Porters, skull candy and Jack-o’-lanterns.  Now anyone brought up in Scotland will know that the only appropriate vegetable* for the creation of Halloween lanterns is the humble tumshie.  Unlike that North American interloper, the pumpkin, carving a tumshie require patience, dedication, a sharp knife and a strong elbow.  For generations, Scottish children have quite literally risked life and limb in their attempts to hollow out rock-hard root vegetables.  Now being a bit of a purist when it comes to Scottish traditions I decided that the only permissible contribution to the Samhain Editathon would be a proper tumshie lantern so, heedless of injury, I set about carving my neep. And here’s the result. Spooky!

Samhuinn carved turnip at University of Edinburgh editathon, CC BY SA 4.0, Stinglehammer, Wikimedia Commons

 < cliche > Imagine my surprise </ cliche> when last weekend, a whole year after the editathon, Ewan re-tweeted this article from The Scotsman newspaper.

Scotsman Food & Drink, 26 October 2017

That’s my tumshie!  It’s come back from the dead as a reusable open licensed resource thanks to Ewan uploading his photographs to Wikimedia Commons. Isn’t that cool? The traditional Scottish tumshie lantern lives on on the Commons .

Another neat example of the lovely things that happen when you use open licences.  Now all we need is a tumshie emoji … 🎃

* I know pumpkins aren’t a vegetable, they’re a type of berry known as a pepo.  Don’t @ me.

Another story about maps⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’m on my way to London for my fourth #MozFest and as I’ve already written about, this year I’m running a session along with Alice White, the Wikimedian in Residence for the Wellcome Library. We’re doing a session in which we hope to make the case for why more people need to edit Wikipedia, and through some fun games introduce light touch ways in which folks can get started. Small edits can have big impact.

Whilst pulling together my materials last night I decided to use an image from our University Collections – a 17th Century map of Iceland that I uploaded during a Women in Medicine Editathon in February 2016. Sometimes when inspiration leaves me or my energy is flagging I focus on uploading into Wikimedia Commons many of the lovely openly licensed collections of images that are shared out on Flickr. There’s an excellent Flickr2Commons upload tool that makes the business of importing very simple.

By Centre for Research Collections University of Edinburgh [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

This image was one of a number I uploaded on the day and because we have a very knowledgable Wikimedian in Residence he made sure all the images uploaded were tagged as coming from the University of Edinburgh. A colleague at Wikimedia UK spotted this new collection of tagged images and thought this map of Iceland in particular would be a suitable addition to some of the existing articles about Iceland. It was added to English Wikipedia, German Wikipedia and Simple Wikipedia.

Shortly after this the football World Cup kicked off, and a certain plucky northerly island nation started to do much better than expected (no, not Scotland – this isn’t a fantasy story I’m writing). Ewan our Wikimedian looked at the correlation between views and matches at the time.

Iceland’s Euro 2016 matches were on 14 June (1-1 with Portugal), 18 June (1-1 Hungary), 22 June (2-1 victory over Austria), 27 June (2-1 win over England), and 3 July (2-5 defeat to France). Around each of these events people all over the world were keen to learn about this surprising nation. Viewing numbers ( numbers of hits) show appreciable spikes for the matches against Portugal, England, and France.

On German Wikipedia spikes against each of the matches regularly exceeded 100,000 page views.

The biggest spike was for the victory over England!

Since then, the image has been added to Afrikaanes Wikipedia and Welsh Wikipedia and has been viewed over 10,000,000 times.

It was also featured earlier this in Creative Commons “State of the Commons 2016” report as one of the spotlight features for Wikipedia.


Small edits can have big impact.

(I said this was another story about maps – here is the first story about openly licensed maps and how great they are.

#MozFest Cometh⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 1 minute

This time next week I should be in London at Ravensbourne art college for my fourth MozFest experience. *Finally* Martin Hawksey is attending and he’s gone all out and is even running a session. The lovely people of ALT will be there talking about CMALT. I’m also going to take the plunge this year and run a short session to introduce the wonderful world of Wikipedia editing and Alice White from the Wellcome Library has kindly volunteered to co-facilitate. I’ve had so much from the sessions I’ve attended in the past that it’s really long overdue to give something back.

Last year I didn’t write a lot about MozFest because I got mugged and had my phone stolen and lost all my notes and photos. It was a bit of a downer. This year I’m not only going to try write something for myself, but also hopefully something for the ALT blog because frankly more learning technologists should be at this event. It is hands-down the best fun, if you’re into hacking, making, art, data, ethics, privacy, the open web, everything open that you can do on the open web, social justice and all the other things that are too numerous to list.

Look at the speaker line-up alone for goodness sake.

Then there’s the scheduled sessions. How do I even choose and this is about 1/5 of what’s in the 10:00 – 11:00 slot.


Okay. I’m over-stimulated already. Going to have a cup of tea and sit down.





OER 18 Keynote⤴


I’m absolutely delighted to have been invited by co-chairs Viv Rolfe and David Kernohan and the Association for Learning Technology to present one of the keynotes at the OER18 Conference in Bristol next year. The theme of the conference is Open for All and I’ll be talking about how we can engage students in open education, why we need policies to support OER, all wrapped up in a personal reflection of what openness means to me.

Opening OER16, CC BY SA 2.0, Anna Page.

We all have one conference which is our conference, the one event we never miss year after year, where we go to recharge and reconnect with our people. For me that conference has always been OER. I’ve never missed an OER conference and it’s been a real pleasure to see how the event has grown and developed over the years, under the careful guidance of ALT.   So it’s a real honour to be invited to present a keynote at OER 18, particularly as I’ll be following in the footsteps of so many inspirational women who have had such a profound influence on my own career as an open education practitioner; Maha Bali, Catherine Cronin, Josie Fraser, Melissa Highton, Sheila MacNeil to name just a few.

Thanks to everyone for all the enthusiastic and supportive messages on twitter yesterday, I’m on annual leave this week, so I missed the actual announcement!  As soon as I get back I’ll look for forward to talking to you all about what we as open educators can do to ensure that education really is Open for All.


The Benefits of Open Education and OER⤴


This is a transcript of a talk I gave as part of the Open Med Project webinar series.

What is open education?

Open education is many things to many people and there’s no one hard and fast definition.

  • A practice?
  • A philosophy?
  • A movement?
  • A licensing issue?
  • A human right?
  • A buzz word?
  • A way to save money?

This is one description of the open education movement that I particularly like from the not for profit organization OER Commons…

“The worldwide OER movement is rooted in the human right to access high-quality education. The Open Education Movement is not just about cost savings and easy access to openly licensed content; it’s about participation and co-creation.”

Open education encompasses many different things. These are just some of the aspects of open education

  • Open textbooks
  • Open licensing
  • Open assessment practices
  • Open badges
  • Open online courses
  • MOOCs (debatably)
  • Open data
  • Open Access scholarly works
  • Open source software
  • Open standards
  • Open educational resources

Open educational resources (OER)

Open educational resources are central to open education. UNESCO define open educational resources as

“teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.”

OER World Congress

And the reason I’ve chosen this definition is that UNESCO is one of a number of organisations that actively supports the global adoption of open educational resources and just a few weeks ago UNESCO and the Government of Slovenia hosted the second OER World Congress in Ljubljana  which brought together 550 participants, 30 government ministers, representing 111 member states.

The theme of the Congress was “OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: From Commitment to Action” and there was a strong focus on how OER can help to support United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.

 “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”

The main output of the Congress was the UNESCO Ljubljana OER Action Plan and accompanying Ministerial Statement.  Central to the OER Action plan is the acknowledgement of the role that OER can play in supporting quality education that is equitable, inclusive, open and participatory. The Action Plan outlines 41 recommended actions to mainstream OER and to help Member States to build knowledge societies and provide quality, lifelong education.

In his summing up at the end of the congress UNESCO Assistant Director for Education Qian Tang said

“to meet the education challenges, we can’t use the traditional way. In remote and developing areas, particularly for girls and women, OER are a crucial, crucial mean to reach SDGs. OER are the key.”

Creative Commons

One of the key characteristics of open educational resources is that they are either in the public domain or they are released under an open licence and generally that means a Creative Commons licence.

However not all Creative Commons licences are equal and only resources that are licensed for adaptation and reuse can really be considered as OER.  Resources that are licensed with the “No Derivatives” licence can not strictly be regarded as OER, and there is some debate about the status of “Non Commerical” licenced resources.

At the recent OER World Congress, Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley emphasized that free is not the most important thing about OER, it’s the permission to modify and adapt resources that is most important, because that is what allows us to adapt educational resources to allow us to meet the specific and diverse needs of our learners.

University of Edinburgh OER Vision

At the University of Edinburgh we believe that open educational resources are strongly in line with our institutional mission to provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students, and to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing.

Our vision for OER has three strands, building on our excellent education and research collections, traditions of the Scottish Enlightenment and the university’s civic mission.  These are:

  • For the common good – encompassing every day teaching and learning materials.
  • Edinburgh at its best – high quality resources produced by a range of projects and initiatives.
  • Edinburgh’s Treasures – content from our world class cultural heritage collections.

This vision is backed up by an OER Policy approved by our Learning and Teaching Committee, which encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience.  This OER Policy is itself CC licensed and is adapted from an OER Policy that has already been adopted by a number of other institutions in the UK, so please do feel free to take a look and adopt it or adapt it as you see fit.

And we also have an OER Service which provides staff and students with advice and guidance on creating and using OER, and which provides a one stop shop where you can access open educational resources produced by staff and students across the university.  Because we believe its crucially important to back up our policy and vision with support.

I want to focus now on some of the benefits of OER and I’m going to highlight these benefits with case studies from the University of Edinburgh.

OER ensures longevity of access to resources

So firstly open licences help to ensure longevity of access to educational resources.  It’s very common to think of open licensed resources as primarily being of benefit to those outwith the institution, however open licenses also help to ensure that we can continue to use and reuse the resources that we ourselves have created.  I’m sure you’ll all have come projects that created content only for those resources to be come inaccessible once the project ends or great teaching and learning materials belonging to a colleague who has subsequently retired or moved on, and nobody quite knows if they can still be used or not. Unless teaching and learning resources carry a clear and unambiguous open licence, it is difficult to know whether and in what context they can be reused.  This is a phenomenon that my colleague Melissa Highton has referred to as copyright debt.  If you don’t get the licensing right first time round it will cost you to fix it further down the line.  And this is one of the best strategic reasons for investing in open educational resources at the institutional level. We need to ensure that we have the right use, adapt, and reuse, the educational resources we have invested in.

Continued access to educational resources can be particularly problematic when it comes to MOOCs.  MOOC content often gets locked into commercial platforms, regardless of whether or not it is openly licensed, and some platforms are now time limiting access to content.  So at the University of Edinburgh we are ensuring that all the content we have produced for our MOOCs is also freely available under open licence to download from our Open Media Bank on our Media Hopper platform.

OER can diversify the curriculum

OER can also make a significant contribution to diversifying the curriculum.  So for example A number of studies have shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual health is not well-covered in Medical curricula, however knowledge of LGBT health and of the sensitivities needed to treat LGBT patients are valuable skills for qualifying doctors.

Using materials from the commons, a project at the University of Edinburgh sought to address the lack of teaching on LGBT health within the curriculum through OER.  The project remixed and repurposed resources originally created by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio, and then contributed these resources back to the commons as CC BY licensed OER.  New open resources including digital stories recorded from patient interviews and resources for Secondary School children of all ages were also created and released as CC BY OER.

OER improves digital skills

OER can also help to improve digital skills for both staff and students. 23 Things for Digital Knowledge is an award winning, open online course run by my colleague Stephanie Farley. 23 Things, was adapted from an open course originally developed by the University of Oxford, and it is designed to encourage digital literacy by exposing learners to a wide range of digital tools for personal and professional development. Learners spend a little time each week, building up and expanding their digital skills and are encouraged to share their experiences with others.  All course content and materials are licensed under a CC BY licence and the University actively encourages others to take and adapt the course. The course has already been used by many individuals and organisations outwith Edinburgh and it has recently been adapted for use by the Scottish Social Services Council as 23 digital capabilities to support practice and learning in social services.

OER engages students in co-creation

OER can also engage students in the co-creation of their own learning resources. One initiative that does this is the School of Geosciences Outreach and Engagement course. Over two semesters, students undertake an outreach project that communicates an element of GeoSciences outside the university community. Students have the opportunity to work with schools, museums, outdoor centres and community groups to create a wide range of resources for science engagement including  classroom teaching materials, leaflets, websites, and smartphone/tablet applications.  Students gain experience of science outreach, public engagement, teaching and learning, and knowledge transfer while working in new and challenging environments and developing a range of transferable skills that enhance their employability.

A key element of the Geosciences Outreach and Engagement Course is to develop resources with a legacy that can be reused and disseminated for use by other communities and organisations.  And the University is now taking this one step further by repurposing some of these materials to create open educational resources. For the last two years we have recruited Open Content Creation student interns, to take the materials created by the Geoscience students, make sure everything in those resources could be released under open license and then share them in places where they could be found and reused by other teachers and learners.

For example this resource on sea level variation is designed for students learning Geography at third and fourth level of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence and it can be downloaded under a CC BY Share alike license from Open.Ed and TES.

OER promotes engagement with the outputs of open research

Open access makes research outputs freely accessible to all. It allows research to be disseminated quickly and widely, the research process to operate more efficiently, and has the potential to increase use and understanding of research by business, government, charities and the wider public.  However it is not always easy for those outwith academia to know how to access these outputs, even though they are freely and openly available.

In order to address this issue and to foster technology transfer and innovation, we’ve created a series of open educational resources in the form of video interviews, case studies and learning materials called Innovating with Open Knowledge.  These resources are aimed at creative individuals, private researchers, entrepreneurs and small to medium enterprises to provide guidance on how to find and access the open outputs of Higher Education.  The resources focus on developing digital and data literacy skills and search strategies and feature case study interviews with creative individuals and entrepreneurs engaging with the University of Edinburgh’s world class research outputs.

Innovating with Open Knowledge demonstrates how to find and use Open Access scholarly works, open research data, archival image collections, maker spaces and open source software, and features interviews about how these resources can be used to support creative writing, visual research, citizen science, community engagement, drug discovery and open architecture.  All these resources are released under open licence and the videos can be downloaded for reuse from this url.

OER contributes to the development of open knowledge

OER can contribute to the development of open knowledge and one great way to do this is to engage with the worlds biggest open educational resource, Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is a valuable learning tool that can be used to develop a wide range of digital and information literacy skills at all levels across the curriculum however it is not without bias.  The coverage of subject matter on Wikipedia is neither uniform nor balanced and many topics and areas are underrepresented, particularly those relating to women.

At the University of Edinburgh we have employed a Wikimedian in Residence whose job it is to embed open knowledge in the curriculum, through skills training sessions and editathons, to increase the quantity and quality of open knowledge and enhance digital literacy. This project is also helping to improve the coverage and esteem of Wikipedia articles about women in science, art and technology, and redress the gender imbalance of contributors by encouraging more women to become Wikimedia editors.  And I’m delighted to say that over that last year 65% of participants at our editathons were women.

 OER enhances engagement with content and collections

This rather obscure 17th century map of Iceland was digitized by the University’s Centre for Research Collections and because it was released under open licence, one of our colleagues was able to add it to the Wikipedia page about Iceland.  Now Iceland’s Wikipedia page normally gets about 15,000 hits a day, however in June 2016 Iceland’s page got over 300,000 hits in a single day.  That was the day that Iceland put England out of the Euro 2016 championship qualifiers, so 300,000 people saw our obscure 17th century map because of a game of football.  This story was subsequently picked up by Creative Commons who included a little feature on the map in their 2016 State of the Commons report, resulting in further engagement with this historical gem.

Open Scotland

We believe that there are many benefits to using and sharing open educational resources within Higher Education and beyond, and this is one of the reasons that the University of Edinburgh support Open Scotland, a cross sector initiative that aims to raise awareness of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources, and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education.

Open Scotland has developed the Scottish Open Education Declaration which, in line with the UNESCO OER Action Plan, calls for all publicly funded educational resources to be made available under open licence.  I know colleagues in Morocco are already in the process of adopting a version of this Declaration and I would strongly urge you to follow their example.


I just want to finish up with a quote from one of our Open Content Interns that eloquently sums up the real value of OER. This is from Martin Tasker, an undergraduate Physics student who worked with us last summer and in a blog post titled “A Student Perspective on OER” he wrote:

“Open education has played such an integral part of my life so far, and has given me access to knowledge that would otherwise have been totally inaccessible to me. It has genuinely changed my life, and likely the lives of many others. This freedom of knowledge can allow us to tear down the barriers that hold people back from getting a world class education – be those barriers class, gender or race. Open education is the future, and I am both proud of my university for embracing it, and glad that I can contribute even in a small way. Because every resource we release could be a life changed. And that makes it all worth it.”