Tag Archives: policy

Manifestos, Mòds and the Future of Gaelic in Scotland⤴


Last week was the October school holidays so I took my daughter home to the Outer Hebrides to visit family.  My trip coincided with the Royal National Mòd which was held in my home town of Stornoway this year so I was able to go along to some of the Mòd fringe events.

On Wednesday I was at the Council Chambers in Stornoway to hear Mr John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, present the Angus Macleod Lecture on The Place of Gaelic in Modern Scotland.  (I’ve already written a more comprehensive blog post about the Minister’s lecture for the Open Scotland blog here.)  In a wide ranging and really rather inspiring talk Swinney reiterated the government’s commitment to Gaelic stating

“Gaelic belongs to Scotland, hostility to Gaelic has no place in Scotland and we should all unite behind the effort to create a secure future for Gaelic in Scotland.”

National Library of Scotland, Digitised with permission of An Comunn Gàidhealach

National Library of Scotland, Digitised with permission of An Comunn Gàidhealach

In questions after the lecture I also had an opportunity to ask Swinney for his thoughts on the role of ICT in supporting Gaelic education.  He answered by re-stating the Government’s commitment to providing 100% network connectivity throughout Scotland and went on to highlight the importance of education technology in broadening the coverage of education provision and ensuring that Gaelic education can reach greater numbers of learners than ever before.  In addition he also emphasised the new opportunities that ICT affords young people in the Highlands and Islands, enabling them to expand their education and skills, and seek new careers without having to leave the Gàidhealtachd.

The second fringe event I went to was Manifestos, Mòds and Music, a fascinating talk by Jennifer Gilles on the National Library of Scotland’s digitised Gaelic collections. Jennifer presented a short history of An Comunn Gàidhealach illustrated by a whole host of items from the Library’s collections, ranging from publications and periodicals, to Mòd programmes and ephemera, printed music and even recipe books.  I confess I was particularly fond of the “Celtic Terms of Invective” column from one of An Comunn’s early 1900’s periodicals. You can find a short Storify of Jennifer’s talk here.

Jennifer’s talk was followed by a showing of the a 1942 film The Western Isles. Set in Harris, the film depicts scenes of island life during World War II, as a family anxiously awaits news of their son after his ship, the Atlantic Queen, is sunk by a German submarine in the Mid Atlantic. The son, admirably played by a 14 year old motor mechanic from Harris, successfully skippers the lifeboat back to the Hebrides and returns to his family. It was fascinating to recognise many of the places that appeared in the film and many Hebridean families, mine included, can relate similar tales of heroism from the both the Merchant and Royal Navy during the Second World War.

The Western Isles

Ian Mac Néill Ghiolais in The Western Isles

Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through The Use of Digital Technology⤴


[Previously posted at openscot.net]

Last week the Scottish Government launched their new digital learning and teaching strategy for Scottish schools: Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through The Use of Digital Technology. The strategy outlines:

“a comprehensive approach to deliver the increased effective use of digital technology in education and bring about the equity of opportunity that is the key focus for this government.”

Key themes to emerge form the strategy are closing the attainment gap, developing digital skills, embedding technology right across the curriculum, and using digital technology to improve the assessment process.

The strategy is structured around four strategic objectives that will replace the existing five ICT in education objectives.

  • Develop the skills and confidencescotgov_strategy of educators in the appropriate and effective use of digital technology to support learning and teaching.
  • Improve access to digital technology for all learners.
  • Ensure that digital technology is a central consideration in all areas of curriculum and assessment delivery.
  • Empower leaders of change to drive innovation and investment in digital technology for learning and teaching.

The strategy emphasises that all four objectives must be achieved in order to realise the overarching vision for Scottish Education:

  • Excellence through raising attainment: ensuring that every child achieves the highest standards in literacy and numeracy, set out within Curriculum for Excellence levels, and the right range of skills, qualifications and achievements to allow them to succeed; and
  • Achieving equity: ensuring that every child has the same opportunity to succeed, with a particular focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap.

The strategy also outlines what Scot Gov and Education Scotland will do to deliver this vision and identifies action plans for each strategic objective as follows:

Objective 1: Develop the skills and confidence of educators in the appropriate and effective use of digital technology to support learning and teaching.

  • Ensure Professional Standards for Registration and for Career-Long Professional Learning reflect the importance of digital technology and skills.
  • Ensure that all Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers instil the benefits of using digital technology to enhance learning and teaching in their students, in line with GTCS Standards for Registration.
  • Ensure that a range of professional learning opportunities are available to educators at all stages to equip them with the skills and confidence to utilise technology appropriately and effectively, in line with the GTCS Standards for Career Long Professional Learning.
  • Ensure that a range of professional learning opportunities are available to educators at all stages to equip them with the skills and confidence to utilise technology appropriately and effectively, in line with the GTCS Standards for Career Long Professional Learning.

Objective 2: Improve access to digital technology for all learners.

  • Continued national investment into initiatives that support digital access in educational establishments.
  • Provide guidance at a national and local level around learner access to digital technology.
  • Promote approaches to digital infrastructure that put users’ needs at the heart of the design.
  • Encourage and facilitate the development of partnerships that will improve digital access and digital skills development opportunities for our learners.

Objective 3: Ensure that digital technology is a central consideration in all areas of curriculum and assessment delivery.

  • Ensure aspects of Curriculum for Excellence relating to the use of digital technology and development of digital skills are relevant, ambitious and forward looking.
  • Support, develop and embed approaches to assessment that make effective use of digital technology.
  • Support, develop and embed approaches to assessment that make effective use of digital technology.

Objective 4: Empower leaders of change to drive innovation and investment in digital technology for learning and teaching.

  • Ensure that the vision laid out in this strategy is adequately captured in Professional Standards, self-evaluation guidance and inspections of educational provision in Scotland.
  • Support leaders and decision makers to lead change in their local contexts through accessing and sharing relevant research in order to identify effective approaches to the use of digital technology in education.

Implications for Open Education

The Scottish Government has clearly placed raising attainment and achieving equity at the heart of its digital learning and teaching strategy. While it is encouraging that the strategy acknowledges the potential of digital technology to enrich education, enhance learning and teaching, equip learners with vital digital skills and lead to improved educational outcomes, it is disappointing that it does not acknowledge the significant role that open education can play in achieving these objectives. Although this may be regarded as something of a missed opportunity to place openness at the heart of the government’s vision for education in Scotland, it is to be hoped that the new strategy lays a firm foundation on which to build evidence of the role that open education can play in closing the attainment gap, developing digital skills, improving the assessment process, creating new opportunities for learners, supporting social inclusion and expanding equitable access to education for all.


Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through the Use of Digital Technology documents: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/09/9494/downloads

NewDLHE – personal reflections on measuring success⤴


Earlier this week I followed the Wonkhe and HESA conference on the future of the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey on twitter and on the excellent Wonkhe liveblog. Anyone who follows this blog will know that this isn’t my normal territory however I’ve had an increasing interest in HE data since being involved in the development of the New Subject Coding Scheme as part of the HEDIIP programme in 2014/15. And like it or not, how data is gathered and processed across the higher education sector is of increasingly important to all HE institutions.

I want to pick up on three points that got me thinking about my own career and wondering whether or not I would be regarded as a “successful graduate”.

You too could become an accountant!

One theme that panellists returned to repeatedly was that UK graduates are more likely to find employment in fields that are unrelated to their degree. Stephen Isherwood commented

“the UK labour market is completely different to many other countries. Companies are far more likely to employ graduates who did subjects not connected to their occupation, such as recruiting historians into accountancy.”

Proof that I started life as an archaeologist

Proof that I started life as an archaeologist

I have a Master’s degree in Archaeology, and only once sought careers advice while I was an undergraduate. I’ll never forget the careers advisor cheerfully telling me “You could always get a job as an accountant you know!” I never went back. And I never got a job as an accountant, I got a job as an archaeologist and I worked as an archaeologist for the next five years. Of course I did eventually leave archaeology and found my way into web development and then into learning technology. One of the things I’ve always really appreciated about working in learning technology is the wide range of academic backgrounds colleagues have, and the breadth of experience and different perspectives they bring to the domain. So although the careers advice I received was spectacularly unhelpful at the time I do believe it’s a very good thing that people carry the expertise they develop as undergraduates into a wide range of sectors. Domain knowledge is invaluable for academic careers but there’s no doubt that transferrable skills broaden employability prospects.

Measures of success

One presentation and subsequent discussion that particularly interested me was Liz Bromley of Goldsmiths on Capturing the full range of graduate success. Liz questioned what we regard as success and, using the example of Mercury and Turner Prize winning Goldsmiths’ alumni, asked if the six month DLHE would capture them as “successful graduates”. She also suggested that the data should capture what students are doing outside work to give a more rounded picture of what is regarded as “success” and noted

“Salary is immaterial. The highest value jobs do not necessarily pay the best salaries”.

These themes were picked up in the subsequent discussion, particularly with regard to how success can be measured in the creative industries, which may provide significant personal and creative growth and social and cultural capital, but which may also be insecure and lowpaid. The WonkHE liveblog expressed this as

“the challenging ‘cognitive dissonance’ of measuring employment in the creative industries which is both precarious and fulfilling.”

I would argue that this cognitive dissonance isn’t unique to the creative industries; it’s increasingly common in higher education too. I’ve worked in Higher Education for twenty-five years and for the majority of that time I’ve been employed on short term contracts, most lasting 12 months. A lot has been written recently about the stresses associated with working in academia, the casualisation of contacts and the erosion of employment rights; I’m not going to go over those points here, but it does make me wonder whether or not I could be regarded as a “successful graduate”. On the one hand, failing to secure a tenured post after working in academia for over two decades does not look very successful at all, however, barring two short periods of redundancy, during which I worked as a consultant, I have built a reasonable reputation and managed to stay almost permanently employed in a field that is notoriously insecure and changes rapidly. So, how do we measure “success” in a context such as this? I don’t have any answers, but I think this highlights that we need to think carefully about how we identify success and be absolutely explicit about how we evaluate it.

(I also think the issue of how we identify success potentially has implications for how we use learning analytics, particularly with regard to identifying struggling and “failing students”.)

Not in front of the children

Another theme that came up, which I have strong feelings about but which I tend to avoid writing about, is the impact of motherhood on career success.

Unfortunately this theme didn’t come across strongly on twitter. (Were people not tweeting about it? Did they think it was uninteresting, unimportant or didn’t relate to themselves? Impossible to know without being there.) Again it made me think of my own experience. There is no doubt that having children had a massive impact on my “success”. At the time I had my daughter I did a lot of travel and had a wide network of colleagues in the international standards community around the world. When I was no longer able to travel internationally owing to childcare responsibilities it had a significant impact on my professional network and my employment prospects; I discovered this the hard way when I was made redundant in 2013. I once raised this issue at a workshop for senior managers and was told dismissively by a professor of chemistry that she had forged a successful international career while raising her family. Her advice was to leave your children with family while you travel. That may work for some people of course, but it’s hardly a practical option for all. Another respected colleague simply advised me to hire a nanny. I’d never actually met anyone in real life with a nanny before! Anyway, the point of all this is that I had to find different ways of working and connecting to my peer network, and I did. I was fortunate that social networking took off round about this time enabling me to connect to a global network of open educational technologists through twitter and Skype. My limited ability to travel can still be frustrating but it doesn’t seem like such an insurmountable problem anymore. So once again I think it’s important to consider how we identify and reward success in this context.

I have a lot more thoughts about all of the above, but I’m going a bit off piste here so I had better stop now :}

New blog! lornamcampbell.org⤴

from @ Open World

After months, if not years, of procrastinating, I’ve finally decided it was about time to start practicing what I preach and I’ve moved this blog over to Reclaim Hosting.  Huge thanks to the guys at Reclaim for setting everything up for me so promptly!  My shiny new domain is


I’ll no longer be maintaining Open World here at wordpress.com but I will set up a redirect shortly.


OER16 Reflections – The Last Post⤴

from @ Open World

I had intended to write one last post to follow up the OER16: Open Culture Conference last month, but the moment passed, the weeks slipped by and I decided I’d left it too late. But then a couple of weeks ago Jim Groom posted a belated OER16 reflections post and I thought dammit, if Jim can do it, so can I!

When I was putting together my OER16 Overview  for the eLearning@Ed conference in May I emailed some of our keynotes and delegates to ask if they’d be willing to share some reflections on their experiences of the conference. I got some fabulous and very thoughtful responses that I really wanted to share, so here they are, after much delay and procrastination. Many thanks to everyone who responded.

It’s almost impossible to summarise so many diverse responses but if I can make an attempt…

Many OER16 participants commented on the strength of community that has grown up around open education. This is a mature and diverse community, which encompasses many different perspectives and interpretations of openness. For some open education is about resources, policy, technology, for others it’s about practice. Some are concerned with supporting and sustaining open education at scale across institutions, for others openness is more of a personal ethos. Some focus on the technologies we use to support open education, others are motivated by the potential of openness to address inequality and exclusion. None of these perspectives are mutually exclusive, none are above criticism, and indeed it appears that as a community we are moving towards a much more critical and nuanced analysis of what it means to be open.

As is so often the case Catherine Cronin put this into words much more eloquently than I can

“I feel a collective sense of “moving on” in the open education community, a willingness to tackle some of the more challenging questions about risk, power and inequality.”

Jo Spiller

Educational Design and Engagement, University of Edinburgh

My two highlights were Catherine Cronin’s keynote on participatory culture, the power of open to influence and celebrate change, especially with the focus on the Gay Marriage vote in Ireland. How it can be playful and moving and everyone can contribute to it.

As a counterpoint to this, Sava Singh on the perils of open scholarship “Open wounds: The Myth of Open as Panacea” was really interesting – that open can also become excluding for different demographic groups and also has both great benefits but also great challenges for academics.

Sara Thomas

Wikimedian in Residence, Museums Galleries Scotland

As the Wikimedian in Residence for Museums Galleries Scotland, I usually work alone, or remotely.  The opportunity to connect to the wider open knowledge community was fantastic – energising, informative and so very valuable.  And we had 4 Residents in a room at once!  This, you have to realise, is a rare thing indeed in the world of Wiki.  I’ve worked primarily in open culture and heritage for the last 16 months, and one of the growth areas has been in the interface between education and culture…. So #OER16 seemed to me so prescient, so perfectly timed.

Martin Weller

The Open University

The sessions I attended at OER16 demonstrated how the field is maturing, and in many ways moving beyond a narrow definition of OER as content. The potential of OER in fields as diverse as Shakespeare and understanding modern slavery was demonstrated, but so too was the nature of open identity, the type of research we should be undertaking, and the need for open infrastructure. The UK OER conference is now much more of an international one and also much more critically reflective of the nature of openness.

Sheila MacNeill

Glasgow Caledonian University

One of the things I keep coming back to is Melissa’s description of technical and cultural debt – I am going to try and blog about this but need to think about it a bit more in terms of my political position! But I found her description of them both really useful and thought provoking.

The theme of #oer16 was Open Culture, and it was great to have input from third sector organisations around the potential of open-ness (content, data and practice) outwith the education sector.  Catherine Cronin’s opening keynote  addressed cultural issues around inequality, culture, participation and open-ness head on.   Changing societal, organisational and personal attitudes to open-ness is an ongoing debate in the open education world.

A Tale of Two Conferences: #oer16 and #LAK16

Catherine Cronin

National University of Ireland, Galway

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference – the sessions I attended as well as the many conversations over the course of the 2+ days. I feel a collective sense of “moving on” in the open education community, a willingness to tackle some of the more challenging questions about risk, power and inequality. Though there is much work to do, this move towards more critical analysis is heartening.

Rachel Hosker

Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh

It was great. Really refreshing and challenging in a positive way for collections. It was a fantastic opportunity to share ideas and meet people with different perspectives on sharing collections and how we can all do this.  I also found it useful as a platform for discussing some of the practical things in collections work that need to be done to make things open for use. As an archivist, working in collections I would encourage others in my sector and profession to go to OER and engage with making collections open.

Maha Bali

Center for Learning and Teaching, The American University in Cairo

As a virtual participant who was also doing OLC Innovate at the same time… I only got a glimpse of what was happening. But what I thought was particularly interesting about OER16 was the challenging of two things:

  1. Challenging OER as a key mode openness – Catherine Cronin’s keynote, my presentation with Suzan Koseoglu and one by Andrew Middleton and Katherine Jessen tried to move beyond OER as content as being the main form of openness…which was interesting given the title of the conference
  2. Challenging openness as necessarily a good thing. This again came from Catherine but also Jim and also my session with Suzan. I am sure if Frances Bell presented something it would also challenge that.

I don’t know if this is all normal for OER16… it resonates a little with how OpenEd last year was, but with OpenEd it felt like maybe a majority of attendees were less critical but there was a vocal minority that was critical…

Thank you for embodying true openness in your approach to my virtual participation and Virtually Connecting. We are continually mentioning ALT as one of the organizations that’s supporting us.

Frances Bell


OER16 was a very friendly conference – with lots of smiling, networking and fun going on. The conference topic Open Culture, expressed through the themes, enabled participants to celebrate and critique openness in the overlapping contexts of cultural heritage and education. The keynote speakers really helped to frame that celebration and critique in conference sessions and informal discussions.

Stuart Nicol

Educational Design and Engagement, University of Edinburgh

At a high level I felt a little that there was an underlying split between the very technical-orientated view of open and OER (I’m thinking Jim Groom’s keynote around infrastructure & indie-web) and then the very human side (several presentations talking about the self as OER). But thinking of this as less of a ‘schism’ and more of the strands that sit under the OER grouping. Strands that can sit comfortably but that maybe we haven’t quite got to a place where we realise they can sit comfortably together?

I think it maybe comes down to a tendancy to try to simplify; that OER is a policy and/or it’s a repository. But actually it’s a digital sensibility that underpins a very wide range of practices … the specific human and technical implementation of OER will be different in different practice contexts … and it’s likely to change over time.

John Johnson

Radio EduTalk

In higher education the idea of open education is now well enough established that the discussions have become quite nuanced. There are a wide range of definitions and directions on the open road. Some look at practical issues around, licensing and searching of resources, others social or technical ideas.

I’ve not seen much evidence that these ideas are penetrating primary or secondary education in Scotland. I do think that open ideas are equally valid here. A good place for school based colleagues to start might be the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

I’ve not got a wide ranging knowledge of the OER world, but it was pretty obvious there are different interpretations of open, many speakers alluded to that. There was a general feeling that the more open a resource the more sustainable it is.

It was delightful to spend time with people who are gathered, not because they want to sell something, but with a shared idea that is aimed at doing good in the world.

Joe Wilson


I am prejudiced but I do think some of our most creative educators are interested in open education. All of the sessions I attended inspired me and showed the way forward for all of us in rethinking what education could be. There was something for everyone from policy makers to practitioners.

All of the sessions from Wikimedia offered something for Colleges and adult learners – I can’t do them all justice in a post . But Colleges should be using Wikimedia tools not just as reference materials but as active learning tools.

#OER16 Quick Overview and Some important links for Scottish FE

Anne-Marie Scott

Digital Learning Applications and Media, University of Edinburgh

My major takeaway has been the value of openness. Making educational resources available for many purposes using Creative Commons licenses, building software and infrastructure using open source technologies and licenses, being open about the algorithms we use to evaluate our students’ online activities, being transparent about what data we collect and why, being open and inclusive about the development of standards that will allow us to work better together, all of this activity requires a commitment to being open. Open to scrutiny, open to challenge, open to collaboration, open to cooperation, and open to being part of a community.

The value of being open

And last but not least from twitter….

Stephen Thomas

Michigan State University

#oer16 #sustainability panel had a wide variety of perspectives. Great session!

by Stephen Thomas

Pat vs. Viv by Stephen Thomas

This time it’s different⤴

from @ Open World

I’ll never forget that feeling the morning after Indyref. I just felt sad, so fucking sad that so much positivity and promise had gone to waste. It feels different this time round. Today I’m angry. But the worst thing is, I’m not surprised. There seems to have been a horrible inevitability to the result of the EUref. It’s like watching a carcrash in slow motion.

Martin Weller has already written a really powerful personal response to the result that really chimes with my own feelings. I work in open education, and I believe passionately that as educators we have a moral responsibility to work together to improve opportunities for all, not just for a select few.

The Scottish Open Education Declaration says

“Open education can expand access to education, widen participation, create new opportunities for the next generation of teachers and learners and prepare them to become fully engaged digital citizens. In addition, open education can promote knowledge transfer while at the same time enhancing quality and sustainability, supporting social inclusion, and creating a culture of inter-institutional collaboration and sharing.”

I wrote that. Those aren’t just words. I actually believe all of that. That’s what I work for.

The thing that really struck me about Martin’s post was his reference to Primo Levi’s The Drowned and The Saved and Levi’s anger at those who try to absolve their guilt by claiming that they didn’t see the evil when in actual fact they chose to look away. It struck me because I’m reading The Drowned and The Saved right now and Levi’s anger has stayed with me since I read that passage in Paul Bailey’s masterful introduction.

So yeah, I’m angry. Angry that we’re sleepwalking over the edge. Angry that we’ll let the unthinkable happen because we don’t have the courage and the honesty to open our eyes and think, really think, about the consequences of our actions.

I don’t know how to end this post, because I really don’t know where to go from here. I guess if there’s one tiny glimmer of hope in all this, it’s that I’m so fucking proud of Scotland right now. That doesn’t make me any less angry though.


Supporting Engagement with Learning Technology Through Open Education⤴

from @ Open World

Earlier this month I went along to the ALT Scotland SIG‘s annual conference, which was held at Dundee and Angus College’s fabulous Gardyne Campus and Learning Lab. This year the theme of the event was Sharing Stories: enablers and drivers for Learning Technology in Scottish Education.  I spoke about how the University of Edinburgh is supporting engagement with learning technology through open education, and my colleague Susan Greig gave a presentation about how the university is supporting staff to become Certified Members of ALT.  

I’ve linked the recording of the afternoon session below along with my slides, and the recording of the morning session can be accessed from ALT’s YouTube channel.  

For once in my life I actually wrote my presentation in advance of the event so I’ve copied my script below too. 

Supporting Engagement with Learning Technology Through Open Education at the University of Edinburgh

Earlier this year the University of Edinburgh launched a new strategic vision which outlined where the university is at present and where it intends to be in 2025.

Central to this vision is increased provision of world-leading online distance learning.

It’s an ambitious vision that aims to see up to 10,000 students, learning online by 2020, through MOOCs and postgraduate online learning programmes, and open education embedded right across the institution.

I’m not going to talk today about MOOCs and online masters programmes per se, what I want to focus on today is how the University is supporting engagement with learning technology through a range of open education initiatives and services, focusing particularly on OER.

The University of Edinburgh’s vision for open educational resources builds on three strands:

  • The history of the Edinburgh Settlement.
  • Excellent education and research collections.
  • Traditions of the Enlightenment and the University’s civic mission.

The University has established an OER Service that will create an OER exchange to enrich both the University and the sector; provide support frameworks to enable staff to share OER created as a routine part of their work, and enable staff to find and use high quality teaching materials developed within and beyond the University.

The service will also showcase Edinburgh at it’s best, highlighting the highest quality learning and teaching; identifying collections of learning materials to be published online for flexible use, and made available as open courseware, and enabling the discovery of these materials to enhance the University’s reputation.

And as a contribution to the University’s civic mission it will open access to Edinburgh’s treasures, making available collections of unique resources to promote health, economic and cultural well-being; digitising, curating and sharing major collections of unique archives and museum resources to encourage public engagement with learning, study and research.

In order to ensure Edinburgh’s OER Vision is sustainable and supported across the institution, the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee has approved an accompanying OER Policy that encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience and to help colleagues make informed decisions about creating and using OER in support of the University’s OER Vision.

The Edinburgh OER Policy will look familiar to many of you as it’s based on the policy developed by the University or Leeds and already adopted by Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Greenwich. Edinburgh has made a number changes to this policy including adopting a more active and inclusive definition of OER.

“Digital resources that are used in the context of teaching and learning, which have been released by the copyright holder under an open licence permitting their use or re-purposing by others.”

By focusing on the context of use, this definition encompasses a wide range of resources including multimedia, courseware, and cultural heritage resources.

In order to provide access to its open educational resource the university has launched Open.Ed, a one-stop-shop which provides access to openly licensed content, the OER Vision statement and OER Policy, together with practical support for staff and students in the form of workshops, advice and guidance on finding, using and creating OERs.

I should add that this is not a formal repository Open.Ed is built on WordPress and aggregates OER from other repositories and sites across the university.

In addition to Open.Ed, the University has also launched Media Hopper a new multimedia asset management system which provides all staff and students with space to upload media and publish it to VLEs, websites and social media channels. Not all the content in Media Hopper is openly licensed, but student interns currently working to develop feeds to pull openly licensed content out of Media Hopper and into Open.Ed.

Edinburgh is also working to enhance the biggest open educational resource in the world; Wikipedia. Building on long term engagement with Wikimedia UK, the University has become the first in the UK to employ a dedicated Wikimedian in Residence.  As an advocate for openness the WiR delivers training events and workshops to further the quantity and quality of open knowledge and enhance digital literacy, through skills training sessions and editathons.

The University is also committed to supporting open education across the sector and last year announced it’s support for Open Scotland. Scotland is 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. Part of my role as OER Liaison – Open Scotland will be to continue promoting the Scottish Open Education Declaration and hopefully bring it to the attention of the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.

And of course last, but not least, earlier this year we were very privileged to host the OER16 conference with the support of ALT. The theme of the 7th OER Conference, and the first to be held in Scotland, was Open Culture and the conference focused on the value proposition of embedding open culture in the context of institutional strategies.

So to conclude, open education is being used as a key driver to encourage and embed engagement with education technology right across the institution.

The University of Edinburgh’s vision for open education provides a strong foundation for developing a sustainable model for online education at scale, encouraging engagement with learning technology and OER within the curriculum, and improving teachers and learners’ confidence and digital literacy with regard to teaching and learning online.  In addition, this affords the University a valuable opportunity to scale up its community engagement, to disseminate the knowledge created and curated within the institution to the wider community and to help shape conversations about the role of learning technology and the future of open education in Scotland.

Leaders and Monitors: The best and the worst of education technology⤴

from @ Open World

Last week I attended the Holyrood Connect Learning Through Technology event where I saw a rather jawdropping demonstration of the very best and very worst that education technology has to offer. The best, and it really was wonderful, came from teachers Natalie Lockhead and Nicola Paterson, and pupils Rebecca and Stephen from Kirklandneuk Primary School, who are part of the school’s Digital Leaders Network. The Digital Leaders Network encourages children who are confident with using all kinds of technology to support their teachers and peers by sharing their skills and knowledge, while at the same time enabling the children to develop confidence, literacy and skills for life.

Stephen and Rebecca stood up in front of an audience of over a hundred delegates and spoke confidently and articulately about the importance of the Digital Leaders initiative and how much they enjoyed and benefitted from being part of it. Inspirational has become a rather throwaway term used to describe speakers, but these young people really, truly, were an inspiration.

Their honesty, enthusiasm and willingness to share was in stark contrast to the previous presenters and event sponsors Lightspeed Systems who presented their “online safety and web filtering systems” for education. As well as just blocking content, Lightspeed’s Web Filter also incorporates hierarchical filtering “to keep students safe, even when they leave the classroom,” along with web activity reporting functionality “from the high level to the detail”. I presume in this instance “the detail” means individual students.

According to their press, Lightspeed Systems create tools to help schools manage and filter their networks as well as empower classroom learning. There  doesn’t seem to be any mention of trivial issues such as privacy, ethics and consent. One of their products, Classroom Orchestrator, is designed to allow teachers to monitor students screens and devices “making it easy to see who’s off-task, who needs extra attention, and who’s excelling”. Orchestrator allows teachers to view all students screens from a dashboard, “ensures safety by seeing who is protected by the webfilter and who isn’t”, and perhaps most worryingly, “record sessions to store a students activity to share or investigate.” This immediately rang all sorts of alarm bells; where is that data being stored, who owns it, who has access to it? Although Lightspeed’s products are primarily designed for use on schools’ own mobile devices, the presenter added that they can also be installed on children’s own mobile devices and can be used to monitor their web activity outwith school hours. Apparently they’ve had, and I quote, “Lots of positive feedback about teachers taking control of and locking apps on students’ mobile devices.” That was the point where my jaw really hit the floor.

I made a point of asking during questions who owned and had access to the data that Lightspeed gathers. The reply was that the data is stored on servers in the UK and clients have the right to access this data under the Freedom of Information act. Seriously? I asked again if clients really had to submit an FOI request to access their own data and the presenter replied that they could just e-mail their sales representative for access. I lost the will to live at that point.

The contrast between the two presentations couldn’t have been more stark, and both demonstrated in quite different ways, why it is so important to engage children and learners in their own education, why we need to listen to them, not eavesdrop on them, and why we need to respect their privacy and consent. And most of all, it brought home to me just how critical trust and openness has to be in our use of technology in education. After all, if we don’t trust and learn from our children, how will they ever learn to trust and respect others?

NB Throughout the presentation, the Lightspeed representative seemed to refer to Classroom Orchestrator as Classroom Monitor. There is another UK based ed tech company called Classroom Monitor that markets an assessment platform for teachers. There is no link between Lightspeed Systems and Classroom Monitor and their products are not related.

Maritime Masculinities 1815 – 1940 final call for papers⤴

from @ Open World

And now for something completely different…

OER16 isn’t the only conference I’m organising this year, I’m also delighted to be involved with organising the Maritime Masculinities 1815 – 1940 conference along with Professor Joanne Begiato, Oxford Brookes University, Dr Steven Gray, University of Portsmouth, and Dr Isaac Land, Indiana State University.  The conference takes place at Oxford Brookes University on 19th- 20th December, 2016 and invites proposals on a wide range of topics including, but not limited to

Shipmates Tough and Tender. Italy c. 1925. Casas-Rodríguez Collection, CC BY NC ND 3.0

Shipmates Tough and Tender. Italy c. 1925.
Casas-Rodríguez Collection, CC BY NC ND 3.0

  • The growth of maritime empires, and cultural contact with indigenous peoples.
  • The maritime man in material culture, fashion, advertising and the press.
  • Exploration and heroism.
  • Photography, art, and film.
  • Fiction, theatre, and music.
  • Sailors in port and at home.
  • Dockyards and shipbuilding.
  • Heritage, memory, and museums.

The call for papers has already been open for several months and closes at the end of this week on 20th May. There’s still time to submit an abstract though!

Proposals are invited for short papers (20 minutes) and panel sessions (60 minutes). Abstracts of up to 250 words are invited, and should be sent to maritimemasculinities@gmail.com

The period from 1815 – 1940 saw the demise of the sail ship, and the rise of the machine-driven steam, and then oil-powered ships. It began as a period of both naval and maritime supremacy for Britain, which was subsequently eroded during two world wars. After a century of frequent naval warfare, there was the advent of the Pax Britannica, and the phenomenon of navies which barely fought. Moreover, popular navalism emerged in advertising, pageantry, and popular literature, and was the subject of photography and then film.

Cultural ideals of masculinities also underwent considerable shifts in a period that in civilian life advocated differing styles of manliness including Christian manliness, muscular Christianity, and the domestic man, and in the armed forces deployed tropes of masculinity such as bravery, stoicism, and endurance to the extent that military and maritime models of manliness were held up as aspirational models for all men.

Further information about the Maritime Masculinities 1815 – 1940 Conference is available from the conference blog maritimemasculinities.wordpress.com

Maritime Masculinities is sponsored by Oxford Brookes University, Port Towns & Urban Cultures at the University of Portsmouth,  and the Society for Nautical Research.

German sailors and an accordion player on board Magdalene Vinnen, March 1933

German sailors and an accordion player on board Magdalene Vinnen, March 1933. No known copyright restrictions.

Do we really want equity in education?⤴

from @ curriculum for equity

by George Gilchrist

We are experiencing a time in education where equity and the closing of attainment gaps for those learners who are facing the most challenging of social circumstances, seems to be high on everyone’s agenda. Much research has been produced and papers written about the negative impacts experienced by young people from the most deprived backgrounds on their learning and educational achievement. In Scotland, the paper produced by Sue Ellis and Edward Sosu in 2014 Closing the attainment gap in Scottish education for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is but one example of what the research is showing us all. In  Scotland, we have established centres of excellence and research such as the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change set up within Glasgow University, which has a vision and a remit of promoting equity and social inclusion within education systems, both in Scotland and further afield. We have a first minister, and government, who have committed to eliminating attainment and achievement gaps that exist within our education system and who have produced various policy documents, such as Getting It Right For Every Child and a National Improvement Framework which set out their determination to tackle the problem of inequality of opportunity for many of our learners, raise attainment and close those gaps. A lot of the impetus for this has been driven by and  been influenced by what we have seen happening in the Finnish education system. Consistently near the top of international rankings, Finland has been seen to put equity of opportunity and provision at the top of its own rankings of characteristics that make a difference in their education system and schools.

What we have in Scotland is an alignment of policy, institutions and systems that all have the issue of equity at their heart. So it should be. I don’t know about you, but I never entered education thinking I was going to try and disadvantage a significant section of our learners, or society. Fortunately, I have never met many teachers or colleagues who have thought any differently either. We all came into education because of our love of learning and our desire to make a difference for all our learners, so how come these gaps exist and what’s the problem with where we are now in Scotland and elsewhere?

I would like to suggest that the gaps that exist are a result of a combination of factors, and not just educational ones. Though we do have to hold our hands up and accept a portion of the blame. I attended a lecture by Stephen Ball in Glasgow recently and he pointed out that the responsibility that could be laid at the doors of our education system and schools for the equity gaps that exist represented just 11 to 15% of the causes of that gap. The rest of it was attributable to societal factors such as poverty, the class system, government policy, health, culture, history and the like. Sue and Edward, in their paper mentioned above, noted that the OECD had already identified that socio-economic factors have a greater impact on educational attainment than the schools which learners attended. Both Ellis and Sosu, and the OECD, felt that education was still a crucial factor. There is no doubt that this is true, but we should listen to the caution of Stephen Ball and not be drawn in to laying all the blame, and the focus, at the door of our schools and our teachers. Many of the gaps, in terms of literacy, verbal reasoning and problem solving are already in place by the time children enter our schools, and we are playing catch up from that point. That said, we can make a difference and should never give up striving to make a difference for all our learners.

For too many years, some teachers and schools reduced their expectations for some learners purely because of their backgrounds, where they lived, and the socio-economic groups they came from. I actually remember being in a lecture as a trainee teacher in the early 1970s and being told that some learners couldn’t be expected to achieve as much as others because of their backgrounds. When I questioned this and said I didn’t think that was fair, I was laughed at and told that this was just a fact of life and of course we couldn’t do anything about it. Fortunately we are a bit more enlightened now and have moved on from such narrow thinking and, just like we now understand intelligence as no longer being fixed, neither should the link between attainment and socio-economic background be seen as predetermined or set in stone.

However, I do feel our systems, structures, practices and curriculum have put more barriers in the way of our most disadvantaged learners. Often these have been equal, but not equitable. For many years we have developed all these systems and structures in our schools and have expected all our learners to engage with them, and dare I say conform, in exactly the same way. If you got it, and it worked for you, then you succeeded, if not the opposite happened. Now, many of us recognise that when learners are not engaging with planned learning, it’s not their problem, it’s ours. We need to shape and structure our learning so that it is accessible to all, and that means we need to really know our learners and where they are in their personal learning journey. If we believe, as I do, that much of the curriculum and learning that takes place in schools is ‘hidden’ in the culture and ethos of the school, then we need to make sure all of this is accessible to all learners. We need to examine everything we do in school and ensure it is truly accessible for all. That doesn’t mean we stop doing things because some are unable to access them for economic reasons, but we should be aware of this and explore all ways we can to ensure everyone has the same opportunities, no matter their background and circumstances. We need to value each individual learner and what each brings and takes from every learning episode, some of which will be deliberately planned and some of it at a subliminal level.

Currently we have an awful lot of rhetoric around the issues of equity and closing of gaps. Trouble is a lot of the strategies that are being proposed and supported to achieve this in Scotland may do the opposite. Every educational system that has gone down the road of high-stakes testing, increased accountability measures and more top-down direction, informed by cherry-picked research, has delivered lowered attainment levels and widening gaps. If we look to USA, Australia, Sweden and England as examples, the harm of such approaches can be readily seen. So to see Scotland beginning to travel down the same road is concerning and dispiriting for what we are all trying to achieve. Add to this the fact that education budgets and resources are facing cuts of a severity that make it more and more difficult to support all those who need and would benefit from it, and the impacts could be catastrophic. We see local authority after local authority cutting support available to our students, removing qualified teachers from nurseries, closing libraries, cutting home-school link workers and more, whilst still ratching up the accountability demands on teachers and leaders. The media is full of sound bites and more rhetoric about what is going to be demanded of teachers and schools, when the reality is that the people and resources to deliver on this is being cut deliberately, or by stealth. How can we get it right for every child, if we can’t support the ones who need it?

Add to that depressing picture the fact that those families and children most at risk are facing another barrage of cuts and financial stresses at home, and I am concerned about our ability as a society to meaningfully address this issue. In the face of changes in support and benefit systems, rising prices for food and accommodation, wage stagnation, attacks on the National Health Service, the rise in the use of food-banks and the almost demonisation of poverty by some media and politicians, it can feel in education  like putting your finger in the dyke with regard to trying to close gaps caused by disadvantage. If we are really serious about this, it requires political, social cultural and system change. Is everyone up for that? I don’t think so, not yet. There are significant vested interests that will be adverse to this disturbance of the status quo. So, whilst we may look and sound as though we are tackling the issue, in reality there is a lot of tinkering at the edges and not enough real and meaningful action. The fact that the dialogue by so many is solely focused on schools and education is another distraction that Stephen Ball cautioned against. But, I suppose, it deflects many from the real causes of, and actions required, to address the issue of equity and closing the gaps. At the moment it feels like schools and teachers are getting all of the blame, but I wonder who will receive the credit if anything actually does happen to those gaps? If they really do close in a meaningful way, everyone will deserve credit, because it’s only through changed thinking and actions of all that this is going to happen.

Let’s get on with it!

About the author

George Gilchrist is a primary school Headteacher based in the Scottish Borders. He is a Fellow of the Scottish College for Educational Leadership and a member of the Board for the Scottish Parent Teacher Council. He thinks, writes, speaks and blogs about education, leadership, learning and how we might improve. You can follow George on Twitter @GilchristGeorge and his blog School Leadership – A Scottish Perspective.