Tag Archives: Other

Strings to things in context⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

As part of work to convert plain JSON records to proper RDF in JSON-LD I often want to convert a string value to a URI that identifies a thing (real world concrete thing or a concept).

Simple string to URI mapping

Given a fragment of a schedule in JSON

{"day": "Tuesday"}

As well as converting "day" to a property in an RDF vocabulary I might want to use a concept term for “Tuesday” drawn from that vocabulary. JSON-LD’s @context lets you do this: the @vocab keyword says what RDF vocabulary you are using for properties; the @base keyword says what base URL you are using for values that are URIs; the @id keyword maps a JSON key to an RDF property; and, the @type keyword (when used in the @context object) says what type of value a property should be, the value of @type that says you’re using a URI is "@id" (confused by @id doing double duty? it gets worse). So:

  "@context": {
    "@vocab": "http://schema.org/",
    "@base": "http://schema.org/",
    "day": {
       "@id": "dayOfWeek",
       "@type": "@id"
  "day": "Tuesday"

Pop this in to the JSON-LD playground to convert it into N-QUADS and you get:

_:b0 <http://schema.org/dayOfWeek> <http://schema.org/Tuesday> .


What type of thing is this?

The other place where you want to use URI identifiers is to say what type/class of thing you are talking about. Expanding our example a bit, we might have

  "type": "Schedule",
  "day": "Tuesday"

Trying the same approach as above, in the @context block we can use the @id keyword to map the string value "type" to the special value "@type"; and, use the @type keyword with special value "@id" to say that the type of value expected is a URI, as we did to turn the string “Tuesday” into a schema.org URI. (I did warn you it got more confusing). So:

  "@context": {
    "@vocab": "http://schema.org/",
    "@base": "http://schema.org/",
    "type": {
       "@id": "@type",
       "@type": "@id"    
    "day": {
       "@id": "dayOfWeek",
       "@type": "@id"
  "type": "Schedule",
  "day": "Tuesday"

Pop this into the JSON-LD playground and convert to N-QUADS and you get

_:b0 <http://schema.org/dayOfWeek> <http://schema.org/Tuesday> .
_:b0 <http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#type> <http://schema.org/Schedule> .

As we want.

Mixing it up a bit

So far we’ve had just the one RDF vocabulary, say we want to use terms from a variety of vocabularies. For the sake of argument, let’s say that no one vocabulary is more important than another, so we don’t want to use @vocab and @base to set global defaults. Adding  another term from a custom vocab in to the our example:

  "type": "Schedule",
  "day": "Tuesday",
  "onDuty": "Phil" 

In the context we can set prefixes to use instead of full length URIs, but the most powerful feature is that we can use different @context blocks for each term definition to set different @base URI fragments. That looks like:

  "@context": {
    "schema": "http://schema.org/",
    "ex" : "http://my.example.org/",
    "type": {
       "@id": "@type",
       "@type": "@id",
       "@context": {
         "@base": "http://schema.org/"        
    "day": {
      "@id": "schema:dayOfWeek",
      "@type": "@id",
      "@context": {
         "@base": "http://schema.org/"        
   "onDuty": {
     "@id": "ex:onDuty",
       "@type": "@id",
       "@context": {
         "@base": "https://people.pjjk.org/"
  "type": "Schedule",
  "day": "Tuesday",
  "onDuty": "phil"

Translated by JSON-LD Playground that gives:

_:b0 <http://my.example.org/onDuty> <https://people.pjjk.org/phil> .
_:b0 <http://schema.org/dayOfWeek> <http://schema.org/Tuesday> .
_:b0 <http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#type> <https://json-ld.org/playground/Schedule> .

Hmmm. The first two lines look good. The JSON keys have been translated to URIs for properties from two different RDF vocabularies, and their string values have been translated to URIs for things with different bases, so far so good. But, that last line: the @base for the type isn’t being used, and instead JSON-LD playground is using its own default. That won’t do.

The fix for this seems to be not to give the @id keyword for type the special value of "@type", but rather treat it as any other term from an RDF vocabulary:

  "@context": {
    "schema": "http://schema.org/",
    "ex" : "http://my.example.org/",
    "rdf": "http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#",
    "type": {
       "@id": "rdf:type",
       "@type": "@id",
       "@context": {
         "@base": "http://schema.org/"        
    "day": {
      "@id": "schema:dayOfWeek",
      "@type": "@id",
      "@context": {
         "@base": "http://schema.org/"        
   "onDuty": {
     "@id": "ex:onDuty",
       "@type": "@id",
       "@context": {
         "@base": "https://people.pjjk.org/"
  "type": "Schedule",
  "day": "Tuesday",
  "onDuty": "phil"

Which gives:

_:b0 <http://my.example.org/onDuty> <https://people.pjjk.org/phil> .
_:b0 <http://schema.org/dayOfWeek> <http://schema.org/Tuesday> .
_:b0 <http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#type> <http://schema.org/Schedule> .

That’s better, though I do worry that the lack of a JSON-LD @type key might bother some.

Extensions and Limitations

The nested context for a JSON key works even if the value is an object, it can be used to specify the @vocab and @base and any namespace prefixes used in the keys and values of the value object. That’s useful if title in one object is dc:title and title in another needs to be schema:title.

Converting string values to URIs for things like this is fine if the string happens to match the end of the URI that you want. So, while I can change the a JSON key "author" into the property URI <https://www.wikidata.org/prop/direct/P50> I cannot change the value string "Douglas Adams" into <https://www.wikidata.org/entity/Q42>. For that I think you need to use something a bit more flexible, like RML, but please comment if you know of a solution to that!

Also, let me know if you think the lack of a JSON-LD @type keyword, or anything else shown above seems problematic.

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Reading one of 25 years of EdTech⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

I enjoyed Martin Weller‘s blog post series on his 25 years of Ed Tech, and the book that followed, so when Lorna said that she had agreed to read the chapter on e-Learning Standards, and would I like to join her and make it a double act I thought… well, honestly I thought about how much I don’t enjoy reading stuff out loud for other people. But, I enjoy working with Lorna, and don’t get as many chances to do that as I would like, and so it happened.

I think the reading went well. You decide. Reading the definitions of the Dublin Core metadata element set  I learnt one thing: I don’t want to be the narrator for audiobook versions of tech standards.

And then there’s the “between the chapters” podcast interview, which Lorna and I have just finished recording with Laura Pasquini, which was fun. We covered a lot of the things that Lorna and I wanted to: that we think Martin was hard on Dublin Core Metadata, I think his view of it was tarnished by the IEEE LOM; but that we agree with the general thrust of what Martin wrote. Many EdTech Standards were not a success, certainly the experience that many in EdTech had with standards was not a good one. But we all learnt from the experience and did better when it came to dealling with OER (Lorna expands on this in her excellent post reflecting on this chapter). Also, many technical standards relevant to education were a success, and we use them every day without (as Martin says) knowing much about them. And there’s the thing: Martin probably should never have been in the position knowing about Dublin Core, IEEE LOM and UK LOM Core, they should just have just been there behind that systems that he used, making things work. But I guess we have to remember that back then there weren’t many Learning Technologists to go round and so it wasn’t so easy to find the right people to get involved.

We did forget to cover a few things in the chat with Laura.

We forgot how many elephants were involved in UK LOM Core.

We forgot “that would be an implementation issue”.

But my main regret is that we didn’t get to talk about #EduProg, which came about a few years later (the genesis story is on Lorna’s blog) as an analysis of a trend in Ed Tech that contrasted with the do-it-yourself-and-learn approach of EduPunk. EduProg was exemplified in many of the standards which were either “long winded and self-indulgent” or “virtuoso boundary pushing redefining forms and developing new techniques”, depending on your point of view. But there was talent there — many of the people behind EduProg were classically trained computer scientists. And it could be exciting. I for one will never forget Scott plunging a dagger into the keyboard to hold down the shift key while he ran arpeggios along the angle brackets. I hear it’s still big in Germany.

Thank you to Martin, Laura, Clint, Lorna and everyone who made it the reading & podcast possible.

Added 5 Jan: here’s Lorna’s reflections on this recording.

[Feature image for this post, X-Ray Specs by @visualthinkery, is licenced under CC-BY-SA]

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LRMI Metadata in use⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

There was no Dublin Core conference this year, but there was the DCMI Virtual Event over the second half of September, and for the last session of that I hosted a panel session on LRMI Metadata in use. The recordings for many of the sessions are now available, including our LRMI panel.

Further Details

We had four presentations, each fifteen minutes long, and a discussion at the end. Here’s an index for the recording and links to further resources mentioned. The four presentations were:

The discussion follows.

I have linked the title of each presentation to its starting point in the YouTube video.

About LRMI

You can find many of the LRMI properties in schema.org under the LearniningResource type, but you can also find LRMI Specifications on DCMI Website, including the version 1.1 of the specification as it was handed to DCMI, the terms in RDF (currently being updated), and concept schemes to provide controlled vocabularies for the values for some of those terms.

The DCMI LRMI Task Group curates LRMI and liases with other standards bodies that use the properties (notably schema.org). We meet the first Tuesday of every month. To join us, simply join the task group Mailing list.

If you’re interested in LRMI, join the google group for occasional updates about the spec, or to ask questions of the wider community.


I’ve not had any formal feedback from attendees, but I felt it went well and kind people are telling me similar (or not saying anything). A colleague on LRMI made a useful comment, that we should have had a few questions for audience at the start that would have helped us understand their background. That would help us gauge whether we had got the technical level of the content right.

I’m quite happy with the structure of the session, starting with design priniciples for LRMI as a whole, looking at how it has been applied to the description of learning resources, and finally how it has been applied to a search solution.  I hope there is enough of a logical flow there to give some coherence to what is a fairly long session. I was also happy with the discussion session afterwards, and the overall balance of how we used the time. Hopefully the recording and slides will be useful resources themselves, and in our latest LRMI call we agreed that it would be useful to repeat this type of presentation for other audiences (though I hope not as a manel). Many thanks to the presenters and others who took part.

Finally, I had a small role in organizing the event as a whole, enough to recognise how much effort Paul Walk and the other people on the organizing committee put in to making this a successful event–thank you.

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LearningResource added to schema.org⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

A new type was added to the ‘pending’ terms in schema.org in the July release (release 9.0), LearningResource. It sits in the type hierarchy as a subtype of CreativeWork, and the definition and notes read:

The LearningResource type can be used to indicate CreativeWorks (whether physical or digital) that have a particular and explicit orientation towards learning, education, skill acquisition, and other educational purposes.

LearningResource is expected to be used as an addition to a primary type such as BookVideoProduct etc.

EducationEvent serves a similar purpose for event-like things (e.g. a Trip). A LearningResource may be created as a result of an EducationEvent, for example by recording one.

The properties in the domain of LearningResource are those that come from LRMI, nameley:  assesses, educationalAlignment, educationalLevel, educationalUse, and teaches. [Oops, learningResourceType is missing]

Although listed as pending, people using schema.org to describe educational resources are encouraged to use the term and report any issues. The only way terms can move from pending to the core of schema.org is if there is sufficient evidence of use.

The Whys and Why Nots

Before saying something about why LearningResource has been added, perhaps it’s worth saying why it wasn’t added before. After all LRMI is the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative, wouldn’t the first thing it did be say what is and isn’t a learning resource? Well, yes and no. In answering that question we acknowledged two facts. First, learning resources can be of any of the subtypes of Creative Work: Books, Videos, Articles, Atlases, Games and so on. Would  we add a “learning resource” subtype to each of these for Book-as-a-learning-resource, Video-as-a-learning-resource…? Secondly, what is and isn’t a learning resource often depends on use (a common definition for learning resource is “anything that can be used for learning”). So while a textbook is a learning resource by design, who would say you don’t learn something by reading Shakespeare? or reading a newspaper? or a recipe? I’ve seen custard used to help learning two distinct topics in physics (crystal nucleation when making ice cream, and thixotropic fluids)–does that make custard a learning resource? So the decision was made not to create learning resource as a separate type, but to add properties to all types of CreativeWork that allowed you to describe its educational characteristics and how it might be used for learning.

So why change now? It’s not because the argument above is wrong, especially not in pedagogic terms. However, such arguments have been seen to have a detrimental effect on efforts to curate learning resources. We are not teaching here, we are trying to help people find resources, and a different type of thinking is required. Creating a collection policy based on the definition of “anything can be a learning resource” has lead to unfocused, unsustainable collections, for example OER repositories that are 90% images, badly described because the description schema wasn’t set up for images, and swamping all other types of resources. Yes, images are useful for learning, but there are better ways to curate images than in a system designed fo learning resources. So the schema.org LearningResource type is for those resources that “that have a particular and explicit orientation towards learning, education, skill acquisition, and other educational purposes”. Although I wouldn’t want to put a hard boundary around this definition there are instances that clearly meet it–text books, instructional videos, assessments, lesson plans, online courses, infographics and so on. As an analogy: many things can be used as a hammer, or as a paperweight, you can even use hammers as paperweights and vice versa (with varying degress of success); that does not mean that there are things that are definitely hammers, or paperweights. Imagine what would happen if you set up a hammer store and all people could see in it were rocks (because, you know, who would say a rock can’t be used as a hammer?) Would that help anyone find your wonderfully specialized peen hammers, maul hammers, sledge hammers, soft-headed hammers, claw hammers and gavels?

We also found that, without a LearningResource type, we could not say that there is a schema for describing learning resources in the way that there is a schema for describing recipes.  This made it unneccesarily difficult for people wanting to describe educational charcteristics of resources to find the properties that would be useful. We hope this new type will improve the visibility and uptake of LRMI properties in schema.org

Finally, does this mean that a schema.org:Video cannot be a Learning Resource? After all LearningResource comes under CreativeWork not Video. Fortunately multiple typed entities are now well supported, so the best approach is to declare your instruction video as being both a Video and a LearningResource:

    "@context": "https://schema.org/",
    "@type": ["Video", "LearningResource"],
    "url": "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIsUte5kfNw"
    "about": "Thixotropic liquids"

This has the added advantage that the use of LRMI properties is not limited to CreativeWorks, so if you have a Product that is designed “a particular and explicit orientation towards learning”, for example an educational toy, you can declare it as a schema:Product and a schema:LearningResource. As in noted in defintion about, some educational things are not really like CreativeWorks at all, for example lectures, museum visits, educational trips; for these the EducationEvent type serves a similar purpose to LearningResource.

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Year 3⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

It is now three years since I left Heriot-Watt to become an independent consultant, and an anniversary is as good as time as any to look back and reflect. I cannot do so without thinking how this year has been a much harder for many of my friends and former colleagues than for me. Many of them had to strike because of issues relating to simple matters of equity and justice concerning pensions, pay gaps, and precarity; immediately after which they were hit with the massive systemic shock brought by covid-19. It annoyed me so much to hear reports of “dons on strike” (elitist bullshit that erases the work of my friends in learning technology, library, information services and other  professional services), and then to hear that “universities are closed” when I’ve seen my former colleagues  working miracles. Don’t get me started on having that work described as “so called blended learning” and conclusions being drawn from emergency provision extrapolated to online learning as a whole.

In comparison to all that my own work has been plain sailing. The second half of 2019 was fairly quiet. My work on K12-OCX, a metadata specification to help reusers of curriculum and content material, was paused while the project looked for more implementors; but I think it looks good. I was focusing on the Talent Marketplace Signaling W3C community, which made great progress in improving how schema.org to can be used to describe job postings. I was also involved in some work with Cetis LLP colleagues looking at Curriculum Analytics for Jisc. The idea is that, rather than use data to analyse learners, use it to analyse which aspects of a course or program work well, and look for clues as to why. I also kept up my voluntary work with Dublin Core groups, mainly the LRMI Task Group, where we added some new terms to schema.org, and with the Application Profile Interest Group, which let me explore some of the issues in using schema.org, for example in the K12-OCX spec.

Then around Christmas work started picking up. I got a contract from the USCCF to work supporting their T3 innovation network, mostly mapping data standards (exciting results on that soon) and keeping the Talent Signal community group ticking over. I also got new work from the Credential Engine, people I have loved working with since they were just a project on credential transparency. We are hoping to be able to work with Google to supply data from the Credential Registry that supports their Job Training (beta) Search. I have written before that I find some aspects of the work in the “Talent Marketplace” uncomfortable. Nothing encapsulates that more than seeing Melania Trump announce that the US Government  federal hiring process will value skills over degrees, and recognising how it links to the work I have been involved in linking job postings to skills and showing the competencies required to earn a credential. But, whoever takes the credit, it is work that has been building for five or more years; and whatever motives the people who announce it have, it benefits people who take non-traditional routes into jobs. I still think it is good work. My hope is that it shows the falsness of assuming Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences are inferior to STEM subjects in what they offer society, and that it helps people who aren’t able to follow the comparatively easy route of school to university to well-paid job.

Things are looking good for next year. There are some really interesting results coming. I am confident there will be interesting projects to work on, and I am looking forward to a couple of not-your-traditional-conferences I’m involved in. More on that soon.

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#PressEdConf20 presentation: WordPress as technology for OER⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

The last couple of years I’ve been a keen follower of #PressEdConf, @pgogy and @nlafferty‘s Twitter-based conference on WordPress in Education. I haven’t been able to present in the previous two editions because they have taken place on a day that I have been travelling for an Easter visit to my parents. This year the the date changed, so I was able to present. I’ve been thinking about technologies for OER recently,  partly prompted by Risquez et al paper  Towards a Devolved Model of Management of OER? The Case of the Irish Higher Education Sector(see my thoughts here) and further stimulated by being asked to write a little about why open book publishing is important, so I thought I would take a look at WordPress as technology for OER through the lens of David Wiley’s ALMS framework.

The Tweets


I wish I knew a way to create a thread and schedule each tweet separately. I used tweetdeck’s scheduler, which reduced the stress of getting the tweets out (once I saw it working) but couldn’t thread those tweets.

Writing a presentation in 15 tweets is an interesting challenge. It’s not easy to distil what you want to say into ~15 statements and then to make each of those statement in 280 characters. Then you realise that people expect relevant gifs or engaging images of cats… whatever, I hope my holiday snaps were not too distracting.

With that in mind, thank you to all the other presenters.

It’s really rewarding to take part in this conference. Thanks to all those nice people that I interacted with during my presentation and others.

Huge thanks and respect to Pat at pgogy for running the conference. There have been a lot of comments about how the format was so opportune in this time of physical isolation, but I also know how Pat has faced extra stress and how he has responded like a hero.

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Devolved Management of OER in Irish Higher Education?⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

I sometimes get asked for asked for advice by people who are thinking of setting up national infrastructure for OER based on institutional open access research repositories or similar, often with the rationale that doing such would mirror what has worked for open access research papers and cultural heritage. My advice is to think hard about whether it is appropriate to treat OER in the same way as these other types of resource. This week I read a paper, Towards a Devolved Model of Management of OER? The Case of the Irish Higher Education Sectorby  Angelica Risquez, Claire McAvinia, Yvonne Desmond, Catherine Bruen, Deirdre Ryan, and Ann Coughlan which provides important evidence and analysis on this topic.

Photograph of Mon Repose
M_n Rep_se, Corfu, by Marc Ryckaert via Wikimedia Commons CC:BY

The state of the nations

For some years Ireland had a National Digital Learning Resources (NDLR) service. As the Risquez et al report

“This centralised ecosystem provided a platform for creating OER, produced from funded digital projects available nationally and internationally, while harvesting and disseminating OER from other national repositories.[…] However, the centralised model also faced substantial financial and funding challenges: the network of coordinators was resource-intensive; the project remained reliant on recurrent strategic funding, which came under threat following the unprecedented global economic downturn; and it required significant recurring technical investment. Direct financial support for the NDLR was discontinued in 2012 in the middle of severe financial cutbacks across the HEI sector.

This mirrors almost exactly what happened in the UK with UKOER and Jorum. The paper sets out to examine

the potential for using existing institutional research repository infrastructure  for the purpose of ingesting, managing, and discovering OER produced by academics. This approach would imply a move from previous strategy around a centralised repository at the national level to a devolved model that relies on institutional research repositories.

It concludes

research repositories could potentially also serve as repositories of teaching materials, fostering parity of esteem between teaching and research. However, a range of important challenges were present, and alternative solutions emerged

Reading in to the paper, that ‘however’ is a big one, it’s like my “think hard” advice and here it is supported by thorough research and analysis.

The authors rightly start by emphasising what people like Catherine Cronin have said about the  need to have “policies in place at the institutional and national level to promote the curation and dissemination of OER beyond the individual responsibility of academics” My empahsis on national, because when the strains placed on the centralised national infrastucture in for OER in Ireland is contrasted with organic sustained growth of institutional repositories in the UK and elsewhere for OA research material,  I would argue that much of what is called organic sustained growth in OA research repositories is the result of open access mandates from funders. This is coupled with commitment from many researchers involved in open science (and other reseach areas, but there are some more complex arguments there that I can’t speak to). The personal commitment for OER is there. When I tweeted about this paper Viv Rolfe replied that her UKOER blogs are ten years old and she has supported their upkeep personally; I can easily think of a dozen or more similar cases– and ALT’s OER conference is driven by people who attend as self-funded delegates. Indeed the existance of the the OER conference depends on the community-based commitment of ALT. So I was really pleased that resourcing and recognition are rightly highlighted in the paper as important issues to address properly. OER are difficult, complex beasts, the people who produce them and care for them should be looked after. This also links to recognition of teaching in Higher Education. [Aside: I want to note that many of the people I think of in connection with this commitment are women, as are the authors of this paper, as were 60% of the respondents to the questionaire for this research. There’s a gender equity point here.] Back to the comparison with what makes OA repository infrastructure “sustainable”: there is plenty of commitment to Open Education from individuals, but barely any national policy. In my own context point to the important work of my friends Joe Wilson and Lorna M Campbell in keeping Open Scotland running. Absent national policy, the insitutional policy that we see tends to be driven by committed individuals and happens only when there is co-location of the right people in the right positions, as has happened at Edinburgh University and Glasgow Caledonian (pause to remember Marion Kelt).

OA research and OER are different

Commitment in the wrong cause, or policy for the wrong thing is not helpful. So we whould ask, is a respository infrastructure right for OERs? To investigate this Risquez et al were careful “to explore the voices often unheard, those of the teachers and professional service staff with whom we are engaging”, through focus groups, questionnaire including academics, learning technologists, librarians, repository managers. The evidence from this raises the crucial caveats and surfaces some important attitudes.

Questionaire results showed a majority thinking that Insititutional research repositories are not suitable for OER (by 26 to 10 responses, when those who felt they didn’t know enough to answer were removed):

The 10 reasons (from 5% of respondents) given to support the premise that institutional repositories were suitable for educational resources included ease of access, sharing and collaboration, and raising their own profile. For example, one of the respondents stated that: “It is a means to marketing and attracting growth, cross fertilisation and collaboration, thereby ensuring a broader perspective on educational relevance and application of material.

The 26 reasons (from 14% of respondents) given for the view that repositories were inappropriate for the sharing of educational resources included: other more flexible platforms available (7); lack of visibility and critical mass (7); the need for research and teaching outputs to remain separate (3); and other concerns such as lack of culture of sharing and the need for quality control.

To me, the results reported from a focus group of repository managers highlight differences between OER and OA research outputs. This group rightly identified curation of learning resources as new and challenging compared to collecting OA research papers, due to the OERs being complex, contextual, inhomogenous and editable. However I have less sympathy with some of the other comments, for example: “As data sets are being brought into repositories, so OER could be a type of ‘associated material’ to evidence the impact of research in teaching practice”–Nope. You won’t serve OER well by thinking of it as a side product of research, OERs are proper first-class resources to support what is the primary activity of most Universities and Colleges. Another example: “The only way I could ever see OER in my repository would be if they… have been through a rigorous peer review process and are the best of the best.” Also no, that’s not what OER are for. I mean it’s nice when you have “treasures” that you want to highlight, and it’s great if you want to share them, but for most it is better to think of sharing OER as sharing the effort in creating fantastic learning resources, not as the end point.

There were some interesting results on what would motivate sharing OER: altruistic motivations, recognition/credit/profile raising, collegiality and opportunities for collaboration and networking, and reciprocity; and equally interesting results on concerns in sharing via repository: “loss of control/ownership/intellectual property (42); repository functionality (20); time (17); lack of confidence in resources/fear of being ‘judged’ (15); lack of quality control (9), and lack of participation/reciprocity (5)”. For me the clincher is noted in the focus groups:

“those who were more experienced in OER use and production were also able to provide more historically contextualised views that were informed by their own and their colleagues’ practice. In some cases, they had taken a more flexible approach that had moved away from repositories towards the use of broader reaching social media tools, or their own professional networks: “Over time I’ve used repositories less and relied on my learning networks… with Creative Commons licenses”; “The concept of a repository is gone. It’s more about branding something within the open web environment e.g., a YouTube Channel”; and “I just put a skeleton of my course on [the Virtual Learning Environment] and share content through my WordPress blog.””

Valid concerns are reported about safeguarding the effort that has gone into producing resources, and assurance that copyright & licensing are handled properly, with interesting ideas about the repository not as a warehouse but as a point of curation. With respect to this I must note that similar concerns were raised when Cetis recommended the use of social sharing sites for disseminating OER, e.g. Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, SlideShare etc. Whatever problems Flickr and others have had, they outlived Jorum. Looking back the only qualms I have about recommending those sites centre on the use of personal data in the business models that have kept some of them running.

Analysing the evidence from research repository managers and from those experiences in OER, the authors reach what I think it the correct conclusion:

“the culture of an institutional research repository is very different to that of a teaching and learning resource repository”

They say OER in a research repository runs the risk of being a square peg in a round hole, and conclude

“Overall, the rationale for supporting the accommodation of OER in institutional research repositories, which have a long-established history and a very different culture to that of learning resource repositories, was seriously questioned.”

So what’s the alternative?

I felt challenged by a comment from Catherine Cronin “(please!) let’s imagine infrastructure beyond repositories”, so here goes.

Let’s go back to that idea of the repository not as a warehouse but as a point of curation, and learn from those most experienced in OER as to how they with to care for and disseminate their resources. Let’s think of creating services that foster the collaborative creation of OER (H5P and PressBooks are among my favourites), and let’s create conduits to the open web. We tried to create such a conduit in the Core Materials project. Sure there was a centralised point of submission and search, and a copy was held locally, but the point wasn’t that resource ‘reposed’ there (there’s no rest for OERs). So we linkeded to where they were being sourced, and used APIs to post resources from the Core Materials hub to as many apropriate sites as possible (they can still be found on Flickr, YouTube and  SlideShare etc. ). Furthermore, we collected back the comments from users on those site to inform our searches. a similar approach can  be seen in OpenEd, where content is stored in format-appropriate institutional services (media hopper, library and archive collections etc.), but there is a central service providing promotion, assistance, curation, access, and dissemination through sites like TES learning resources and Wikimedia.

Let’s also think carefully about what we have learnt over the last ten years about how internet companies make their money, and try to avoid being one of next decades ed-tech debacles. Can we avoid selling ourselves (and our students) by working together through  platform coorperatives such as OpenETC? Open collaboratives building and using open source software to support open education seems like an idea, doesn’t it? Can we get committed people to push for national policies that support it?

Finally, there is an important note in the conclusions by Risquez et al, that:

“Ultimately, in the context of the enhancement of teaching and learning, any OER initiative should have an OEP component, which includes practices that support the reuse and production of OER through institutional policies, promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning paths (Ehlers, 2011).”

In fact, rather than trying to define Open Education in terms of the use of OER, let’s think of OER as resources for open education, and build the infrastructure for that.


This post started as a twitter thread, and much of the further thinking to build it into a blog post was prompted by the wonderfully supportive comments made on those tweets by @magsamond @catherinecronin @francesbell @clairemca @VivienRolfe @bmuramatsu and @joecar (apologies if I missed anyone)

All the quoted text in this post is from Angelica Risquez, Claire McAvinia, Yvonne Desmond, Catherine Bruen, Deirdre Ryan, and Ann Coughlan. (2020)  Towards a Devolved Model of Management of OER? The Case of the Irish Higher Education SectorInternational Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning Vol 21, No 1, which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, and isn’t this true:

The Photograph of Mon Repose, Corfu by Marc Ryckaert (MJJR)is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (CC:BY).   (And if you’re wondering why the ‘o’s were missing in the caption watch https://youtu.be/CNTM9iM1eVw?t=130 )

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Sharing and caring for Open Scotland⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

This month I will be curating for Open Scotland,  that is writing a blog post or two and tweeting a bit on the #OpenScot hashtag.  I’ve published the first blog post, Sharing curation in Open Scotland, and I am not going to reproduce the content here, so follow that link to read what I have to say about Dorothy Hodgkin, kindness in scientific research and how that relates to Open Scotland.

If you don’t know it,

Open Scotland is a voluntary 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 about page

The scope of Open Scotland includes

  • Open education practice
  • Open educational resources
  • Open policy
  • Open assessment practices
  • Open textbooks
  • Open source software
  • Open standards
  • Open online courses
  • MOOCs
  • Wikimedia projects

I have been (lightly) involved in Open Scotland one way or another since its inception with the Open Scotland Summit at the National Museum of Scotland in June 2013, subsequent creation of the Scottish Open Education Declaration. I’ve been increasingly aware that the effort for sustaining Open initiatives has fallen on too few people, and that’s as true of Open Scotland as it is for any other part of the open world, so when Lorna and Joe asked for volunteers to share the curation, I was happy to put my name down. If you feel similar please do likewise.

If you’ve read this far without reading the post I wrote, here’s the link again: Sharing curation in Open Scotland.

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Resources and Objects: RDF and OOP talk about different things⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

Here’s a thing that I think has been at the root of some long discussions that I have been involved in where people involved in modelling data just don’t seem to agree on what goes in to a domain model, or on fine details of definitions. If it seems wrong or trivial to you, I’ld really appreciate any comments along the lines of ‘nope, you’ve misunderstood that …’ or ‘nope, everyone knows this and works around it, the disagreement must have been about something else’.

What I’m thinking causes these long discussions is that RDF and Object Oriented modeling methods (e.g. UML) talk about different things with the same terms. The resulting confusion is somewhat like a speaker of British English asking for something to be tabled in a meeting with folk from the US only to be mystified and offended when it is ignored

table transitive verb

1 a [US] to remove (something, such as a parliamentary motion) from consideration indefinitely
b British to place on the agenda

Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of table

RDF starts with resources, which are the things being described. Although identified with web identifiers (URIs, IRIs) they can be concrete objects, concepts, imaginary beings, in fact “anything that can be identified”. A relationship between a resource and something else can be asserted as being a property of the described resource. Resources of the same type can be grouped into classes so that a property can be associated with all instances of that type of resource. For example, in schema.org resources of type Person have a property name that is a string.In RDF terms I am a resource identified by <http://people.pjjk.net/phil#id> of type <http://schema.org/Person>. I am an instance of a <http://schema.org/Person>. Note that while I am identified by a URI you cannot retrieve me via that URI, instead you get sent a different resource with a different URI, that is a description of me.

Object Oriented methods start with objects, which are constructs that live only in information systems; the most important type of object in metadata contexts is a data object that is a description of something. Objects of the same type can be created through the definition of a class that defines the properties and methods of a type of object. While it is common practice to name object classes after the real-world thing that they represent, e.g. Person, when we create an object instance of such a class we do not create a person in the real world. The identifier for an object instance of type person is the identifier of the artifact in the computer.

So in RDF we have real things and write descriptions of them; in object oriented methods we have data things that we define. But we use terms like class, type, object, resource, instance when talking about both.

Context and shared understanding within communities is enough to avoid confusion between RDF and Object Oriented terms most of the time, but in JSON-LD they collide. In JSON-LD I can express the information about myself provided above as a description about me, or in terms of the W3C web architecture a representation of me.

{ "@context": {
        "sdo": "http://schema.org/"
    "@id": "http://pjjk.net/phil#id",
    "@type": "sdo:Person",
    "sdo:name": "Phil Barker",
    "sdo:url": "http://blogs.pjjk.net/phil/about/"

This translates to RDFXML as

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
  <rdf:Description rdf:about="http://pjjk.net/phil#id">
    <rdf:type rdf:resource="http://schema.org/Person"/>
    <sdo:name>Phil Barker</sdo:name>

I could represent the UML class diagram for the JSON data object as something like: I could represent the UML class diagram for the JSON data object as something like:Note that @id and @type, which identify and provide a type for the JSON node, refer to objects in the real world for RDF.

Why does this matter? Well, it’s one thing to say that you like/don’t like me, it’s another to say that you like/don’t like a description of me. It’s one thing to make a copy of a description of me, another to make a copy of me.  We can make descriptions of things in RDF and make assertions about things in RDF, but if we say that a thing in our RDF model is a Description of Assertion, then we had better have a reason for wanting to be so meta as using RDF to make descriptions of Descriptions and assertions about Assertions. But when someone suggests that an RDF model should have PersonDescription in a oval in place of Person, maybe they really want a PersonDescription in box in a different type of entity relationship diagram.

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Women in our time⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

A play list of programs about women from the BBC’s In Our Time radio programme.

I’m a big fan of In Our Time, the BBC radio programme where Melvyn Bragg discusses the history of ideas with academics. Some time back the BBC released the entire In Our Time back catalogue as episodes to download, via podcasts and the web. A while back I created a selection from the podcast feed for Roman History, presenting the episodes in more-or-less chronological order. Here’s a similar chronological selection of women who have been topics of In Our Time programmes. I’ve also edited together an rss file for a podcast feed if you would like this selection delivered direct to your listening device.

Discussions about individual women (natural or supernatural) are left-aligned; discussions of themes, movements or works by or concerning women are right aligned.


Lakshmi (लक्ष्मी) or Laxmi, is the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. She is the wife and shakti (energy) of Vishnu, one of the principal deities of Hinduism and the Supreme Being in the Vaishnavism Tradition.

Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a socially or ritually recognised union between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between those spouses.

Antiquities (pre-5th century)

Hatshepsut (1507–1458 BC) was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt and the second historically-confirmed female pharaoh.

Sappho (c. 630 – c. 570 BC) was an archaic Greek poet from the island of Lesbos. Sappho is known for her lyric poetry, written to be sung while accompanied by a lyre.

The Muses
In ancient Greek religion and mythology, the Muses are the inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts. They are considered the source of the knowledge embodied in the poetry, lyric songs, and myths that were related orally for centuries in these ancient cultures.

The Amazons
In Greek mythology, the Amazons were a tribe of women warriors related to Scythians and Sarmatians.  They were brutal and aggressive, and their main concern in life was war.

The Delphic Oracle
The Pythia was the name of the high priestess of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi who also served as the oracle, commonly known as the Oracle of Delphi.

Mary Magdalene
Saint Mary Magdalene, sometimes called simply the Magdalene, was a Jewish woman who, according to the four canonical gospels, traveled with Jesus as one of his followers and was a witness to his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

Agrippina the Younger
Agrippina the Younger (6 November AD 15 – 23 March AD 59)  was a Roman empress and one of the more prominent women in the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

Boudica or Boudicca (also Boadicea or Boudicea, and known in Welsh as Buddug) was a queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in AD 60 or 61, and died shortly after its failure, having supposedly poisoned herself.

Queen Zenobia
Septimia Zenobia (c. 240 – c. 274 AD) was a third century queen of the Palmyrene Empire in Syria. In 270, Zenobia launched an invasion which brought most of the Roman East under her sway and culminated with the annexation of Egypt

Getting medieval (5th–14th centuries)

St Hilda
Hilda of Whitby or Hild of Whitby (c. 614–680) is a Christian saint and the founding abbess of the monastery at Whitby, which was chosen as the venue for the Synod of Whitby.

Hildegard of Bingen
Hildegard of Bingen OSB (1098 – 17 September 1179) was a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath. She is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.

Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122 or 1124 – 1 April 1204) was queen consort of France (1137–1152) and England (1154–1189) and duchess of Aquitaine in her own right (1137–1204).

Renaissance Women (14th–17th centuries)

Christine de Pizan
Christine de Pizan (1364 – c. 1430) was an Italian and French author. She is best remembered for defending women in The Book of the City of Ladies and The Treasure of the City of Ladies.

Margery Kempe and English Mysticism
Margery Kempe (c. 1373 – after 1438) was an English Christian mystic, known for writing through dictation The Book of Margery Kempe, a work considered by some to be the first autobiography in the English language.

Judith beheading Holofernes
The account of the beheading of Holofernes by Judith is given in the deuterocanonical Book of Judith, and is the subject of many paintings and sculptures from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots (8 December 1542 – 8 February 1587), also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, reigned over Scotland from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567.

The Death of Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603. On her death James the VI of Scotland became king of England.

Pocahontas (born Matoaka, known as Amonute, c. 1596 – March 1617) was a Native American woman notable for her association with the colonial settlement at Jamestown, Virginia.

Aphra Behn
Aphra Behn (14 December 1640? – 16 April 1689) was an English playwright, poet, translator and fiction writer from the Restoration era. As one of the first English women to earn her living by her writing, she broke cultural barriers and served as a literary role model for later generations of women authors.

The Salem Witch Trials
The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. More than 200 people were accused, 19 of whom were found guilty and executed by hanging (14 women and five men).

18th and 19th centuries

Women and Enlightenment Science
The history of science during the Age of Enlightenment traces developments in science and technology during the Age of Reason, when Enlightenment ideas and ideals were being disseminated across Europe and North America.

Catherine the Great
Catherine II (2 May 1729 – 17 November 1796), also known as Catherine the Great (Екатери́на Вели́кая, Yekaterina Velikaya), born Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, was Empress of Russia from 1762 until 1796.

Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette  (French, 2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793) was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution. She was born an Archduchess of Austria and was the penultimate child and youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor.

Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft (27 April 1759 – 10 September 1797) was an English writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights. Wollstonecraft is regarded as one of the founding feminist philosophers.

The Bluestockings
The Blue Stockings Society was an informal women’s social and educational movement in England in the mid-18th century. The society emphasized education and mutual co-operation.

Germaine de Stael
Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein (22 April 1766 – 14 July 1817), commonly known as Madame de Staël, was a French woman of letters and historian of Genevan origin whose lifetime overlapped with the events of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era.

Fanny Burney
Frances Burney (13 June 1752 – 6 January 1840), also known as Fanny Burney and after her marriage as Madame d’Arblay, was an English satirical novelist, diarist and playwright.

Emma, by Jane Austen, published December 1815, is a novel about youthful hubris and the perils of misconstrued romance.

Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë’s only novel, was written between October 1845 and June 1846 and published in 1847 under the pseudonym “Ellis Bell”. It was controversial because of its unusually stark depiction of mental and physical cruelty, and it challenged strict Victorian ideals regarding religious hypocrisy, morality, social classes and gender inequality.

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre (originally published as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography on 16 October 1847) is a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. Arguably a Bildungsroman, Jane Eyre follows the experiences of its eponymous heroine, including her growth to adulthood and her love for Mr. Rochester, the brooding master of Thornfield Hall.

Ada Lovelace
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (née Byron; 10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852) was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.

Harriet Martineau
Harriet Martineau (/ˈmɑːrtənˌoʊ/; 12 June 1802 – 27 June 1876) was a British social theorist and Whig writer, often cited as the first female sociologist.

North and South
North and South is a social novel published in 1855 by English writer Elizabeth Gaskell.  It uses a protagonist from southern England to present and comment on the perspectives of mill owners and workers in an industrialising city.

Aurora Leigh
Aurora Leigh (1856) is an epic novel/poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The poem is written in blank verse and is a first person narration, from the point of view of Aurora; its other heroine, Marian Erle, is an abused self-taught child of itinerant parents.

Madame Bovary
Madame Bovary (full French title: Madame Bovary. Mœurs de province) is a novel by Gustave Flaubert, published in 1856. The eponymous character lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life.

Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life is a novel by the English author George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans), first published in eight instalments (volumes) in 1871–72. The novel is set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during 1829–32. Issues include the status of women, the nature of marriage, idealism, self-interest, religion, hypocrisy, political reform, and education

Emily Dickinson
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet.

Christina Rossetti
Christina Georgina Rossetti (5 December 1830 – 29 December 1894) was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems.

Octavia Hill
Octavia Hill (3 December 1838 – 13 August 1912) was an English social reformer, whose main concern was the welfare of the inhabitants of cities, especially London, in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Annie Besant
Annie Besant, née Wood (1 October 1847 – 20 September 1933), was a British socialist, theosophist, women’s rights activist, writer, orator, and supporter of both Irish and Indian self-rule.

20th Century Women

The political movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that was fighting for the women’s right to vote in Great Britain and the United States.

The Curies
Marie Skłodowska Curie (7 November 1867 – 4 July 1934) was a Polish and naturalized-French double Nobel prize winning physicist and chemist. Her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie (12 September 1897 – 17 March 1956) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935 for the discovery of artificial radioactivity.

Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg (5 March 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a Polish Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist, anti-war activist and revolutionary socialist who became a naturalized German citizen at the age of 28.

Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton (January 24, 1862 – August 11, 1937) was an American novelist, short story writer, playwright, and designer. Wharton drew upon her insider’s knowledge of the upper class New York “aristocracy” to realistically portray the lives and morals of the Gilded Age.

Mrs Dalloway
Mrs Dalloway (published on 14 May 1925) is a novel by Virginia Woolf that details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a fictional high-society woman in post–First World War England.

Emmy Noether
Amalie Emmy Noether (23 March 1882 – 14 April 1935) was a German mathematician who made important contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics.

Anna Akhmatova
Anna Andreyevna Gorenko (23 June 1889 – 5 March 1966), better known by the pen name Anna Akhmatova, was one of the most significant Russian poets of the 20th century. She was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in 1965 and received second-most (three) nominations for the award the following year.

Simone Weil
Simone Adolphine Weil (3 February 1909 – 24 August 1943) was a French philosopher, mystic, and political activist.

Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Elsie Franklin (25 July 1920 – 16 April 1958) was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer who made contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), RNA (ribonucleic acid), viruses, coal, and graphite.

Hannah Arendt
Johanna “Hannah” Cohn Arendt (Hannah Arendt Bluecher; 14 October 1906 – 4 December 1975) was a German philosopher and political theorist. Her many books and articles on topics ranging from totalitarianism to epistemology have had a lasting influence on political theory.

Simone de Beauvoir
Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir (9 January 1908 – 14 April 1986) was a French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist and social theorist.

Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo de Rivera (6 July 1907 – 13 July 1954) was a Mexican artist whose works were inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico. She employed a naïve folk art style to explore questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class and race in Mexican society.

Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes.


In creating this list I notice that:

The coverage of women in the series seems to have improved over time.

The geographic / cultural breakdown of the 36 individuals covered is rather Eurocentric:

  • African: 1 (Hatshepsut; who arguably predates Africa as a cultural identity)
  • Native American: 1 (Pocohontas)
  • Latin American: 1 (Frida Kahlo)
  • Asian: 3 (Lakshmi, Zenobia and Mary Magdalen; again, arguable about whether all these would have identified as Asian)
  • US: 2 (Emily Dickinson & Edith Warton) + 2 who moved there (Hannah Arendt & Emmy Noether).
  • European: 29
    • of whom: 15 were British

(This is my lame excuse for the Eurocentric headings by which I have divided the time line above.)

The field of endeavour of the Women covered breaks down as

  • Literature & Art 8
  • Social reform 10
  • Science 4
  • Religion & Philosophy  6
  • Rulers 8

(though if you want to object that someone being an author or a philosopher doesn’t preclude her from being a social reformer then I wouldn’t disagree)


The recordings I’m linking to are (c) BBC. The text used in the descriptions comes from the  Wikipedia and licensed CC:BY-SA. My own contribution in making this list I license as CC:0

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