A wall, a bothy and open.

Just prepping for #OER17 and a wall is an odd image to use to represent open, but this is a special wall.

Side gate “Wayside”, Kearsney Court near Dover. CC BY Viv Rolfe

We were guardians of this wall once. Our house was behind it. It was the Victorian kitchen garden designed by Thomas Mawson at Kearsney Court. This was the side door from the kitchen garden into the main park. We never locked it. And it was wonderful on occasions when inquisitive people from the park would just open it and walk into our garden. Walls can be open too.

“And through Wall’s chink poor souls they are content”
(A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare).

What I like about these memories is that we were guardians of these walls, and the amazing conservatories, terraces, ponds, steps and pathways within it. We never own houses do we – they seem to own us for that short period of time. I feel the same about our education system – those of us that work there are passing through it at this moment in time, and I can’t help but feel we aren’t providing the nurturing and attention it needs.

Kearsney Court

Back gate “Wayside”, Kearsney Court near Dover. CC BY Viv Rolfe

In the 1987 hurricane, when the insurance company came around to inspect the damage to the roads and driveway caused by innumerable trees having been blown down, I remember the man’s face froze in horror when he saw the wall. He said that it would bankrupt the company if it was damaged. It was a miracle that although trees were blown down on all four sides, the walls were untouched.

One memorable Saturday night after I had left home, the family were having a bonfire in the garden which got slightly out of hand. The next thing they knew was a fireman peering over the wall. My mum climbed the wall to explain that everything was under control. He checked that there was nothing more he could do, and Muvva explained – “well you can get your ladders, I’m stuck on this wall”.

Kearsney Court

Peeking In “Wayside”, Kearsney Court near Dover. CC BY Viv Rolfe

There were more types of apple trees, plum trees, pear trees than I could ever name or remember. There were lilacs of every colour. Each main wall had remnants of fruit cages, metal frames and brackets to ensure early and late crops growing on the South-facing and North-facing walls. There was a vinery and melon pit. The ornamental pond was a land mark on German World War II maps to indicate the flying route from Dover up to London. There were acres of daffodils in the spring and a clematis in every corner.

It was a truely shared space. Ducks from the park used to make nests to hatch their ducklings. There were rabbits, foxes and badgers. A green woodpecker spent the best part of a day creating a hole in one of the apple trees. He pecked for hours and hours. Misses Pecker came to inspect the next day, and to no avail. The hole was clearly no good. They never returned. We looked at what he had created and it was the smoothest and most perfect hole in the tree that you could imagine.

It was a wonderful house – well, quite small bungalow really. It originally was the gardener’s ‘bothy’. It looked along the Alkham Valley and you couldn’t see another single roof. How lucky was I spending some of my time there. My parents stretched themselves financially, and the snooty local estate agent frowned when they turned up to view it in a battered old Morris Minor. The intention was that my Nan could live with us – but sadly she never made it. I used to so regret not being able to walk her round the garden to savour the different plants, and being blind, it would have been the most amazing sensory garden for her. She never made it away from the horrors and fumes of the A13 in Essex where she lived for most of her life.

Walls can be wonderful if you can peep over them or walk through them. Humans turn them into barriers. You need the walls to protect and cultivate the things within. Openness in education needs to be nurturing, hopeful and touchable. But ultimately what is the point if people can’t freely come in and you choose not to share beyond the walls?

Open Quotes


 

 

 

 

 

Open Education 1972. CC BY Viv Rolfe

Quotations from:
Resnick LB (1972). Open Education: Some Tasks for Technology.” Educational Technology 12(1), 70-76.
Katz L G (1972). Research on Open Education: Problems and Issues.

Photographs taken in 2015 as part of Muvva’s 80th Birthday ramble.

Open Textbook Mashup

Introduction to Open Textbooks – let’s hear from inspirational teachers, researchers, students, policy makers and advocates in the US and Canada.

I have been following these open textbook initiatives for a number of years now, and the books you see photographed in this video are from BCcampus and OpenStax. Other excellent sources of open textbooks include the Open Textbook Library and for books specifically relating to international relations please visit E-International Relations. Further open content textbooks can be accessed from Wikibooks.

Why this video now?
I am worried about the plight of our students. The National Union of Students have reported on the rising costs of university in terms of tuition fees and living expenses, alongside the escalating costs of essential study items such as books. I wrote previously how my students were spending between £300 and £900 on books, and one of their major concerns was echoed by a UMU student in this film – that often they purchase expensive books that the teacher / professor / faculty member then does not even use.

Last summer I was struck by one student who had secured a dream placement at a local children’s hospital. Students on professional healthcare courses such as these do not have the long vacations in which to earn extra cash. This individual was holding down four part-time jobs to support their studies. I was devastated to hear that they had not passed their modules and the placement opportunity was suspended. I cannot imagine such pressures of having to earn money, study and have my career aspirations in the balance all at the same time. I decided then to start raising awareness about open textbooks and linked in with the National Union of Students (NUS) #cutthecosts campaign. I started up @UK_SWOT to promote ‘Success With Open Textbooks’.

Introducing open textbooks!
I participated in #OpenLearning17 last week and was very much inspired by Steve Greenlaw’s sessions on open educational resources (OER). The live webinars and recordings provided were excellent – some of which you see in my video, although it does not do justice to the depth of discussion and debate from last week. (Thank you Steve!). The video I hope serves as an introduction to open textbooks – what they are, what are the benefits to learners, emerging pedagogies and the results of evaluations.

References and attributions

Student debt data:
Science textbook costs – Viv’s own data Textbooks cost whaaaat?

National Union of Students 2015 – “Debt in the first degree” report available via this blog post: https://www.nus.org.uk/en/news/debt-in-the-first-degree-9k-fee-graduates-dissatisfied-with-degrees/

Star performers:

Dr Kelly Damphousse, University of Oklahoma
Featuring OpenStax.org books, Feb 2nd 2014,

Kelly is editor of the OpenStax “Introduction to Sociology” textbook and in the video talks about his rising concerns about student study costs. The book is a wonderful collaboration by authors and reviewers across a number of institutions. One of the Amazon reviews of this book captures everything:

“I am so thankful that so many professors are switching to OpenStax textbooks. Written, in my opinion, more clearly than some of the textbooks that cost all four limbs, OpenStax has given me access to an affordable education without a sacrifice in quality or understanding”. (16th November 2016)

Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education SPARC
Feb 18th 2012, CC BY

Nicole is a wonderful advocate of open education and leads international debate to put open education in the spotlight. Her blog summarises some of her incredible work influencing US education policy that has been seminal in enabling open textbook adoption in US schools, colleges and universities at such a scale.

Mary Burgess, Executive Director BCcampus
Filmed at 2015 #OpenEd converence, Vancouver
Jan 16th 2015, CC BY

Mary is Executive Director at BCcampus which leads open education initiatives across post-secondary institutions in Canada. The growing collection of Open Textbooks are widely adopted across 32 institutions, and Mary’s work at BCcampus also includes the publication of accessibility toolkits and a range of guidelines for institutions and authors.

John Hilton III, Brigham Young University
Video by Steve Greenlaw for #OpenLearning17
March 21st 2017
(Note – John is live-broadcasting top right – photographs on the slides are of co-authors).

John is a seminal scholar in this field and was awarded the Open Education Consortium’s 2017 “Excellence in Research Award”. He has conducted several evaluations of the impact of open textbooks on student learning and their wider education experiences. As part of the Open Ed Group he has established a useful research framework for academics (COUP) and the group website provides details of on-going and published work.

Kelley Swenson, Molly Miller and Steve Greenlaw (moderator)
University of Mary Washington, 27th May 2016
Series of 6 videos here including no. 3 Student Panel.

Steve is a Professor of Economics at the University of Mary Washington and he shared this student panel video as part of OER Week for the #OpenLearning17 course. He is a critical friend of the open education movement and conducts his own research into the effectiveness of open texts. He has co-authored OpenStax texts on Macroeconomics and Economics and in this video here (Textbook Hero) he describes the authoring and collaborative processes experienced in producing the books. (Note to self – good topic for next open textbook video). I really liked the student contributions to the debate as they echoed some of the thoughts of my own students around the purchase of books that are then not embedded within classes.

Amanda Coolidge, BCcampus
Filmed at 2015 #OpenEd15 converence, Vancouver
January 12th 2016, CC BY

The #OpenEd15 crew in Vancouver filmed a number of videos which are all worth a view. Amanda is a Senior Manager within the BCcampus team and is a real champion of open textbooks. She has co-authored guidelines and other materials for those wishing to author open textbooks – Open Textbook Authoring Guide  and in 2016 she was selected to be an Institute for Open Leadership Fellow to contribute to discussions on policies and practices around openness.

Dr Robin DeRosa, Plymouth State University
Filmed at UMW OER Summit 2016
May 27th 2016
Series of 6 videos here and you may need to select No. 6 featuring Robin.

Robin is a Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Plymouth State University. She is editor of an open-access journal Hybrid Pedagogy, and combined with her regular blogging in the field of digital and critical pedagogies,  she provides a much respected critical voice which is helping shape the open education movement. In her video which was part of a UMW event in 2016 she describes how the co-authoring of open texts empowered her students, and how the open textbook can be and should be re-imagned beyond being a replacement for a traditional book.

 

Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, Kwantlen Polytechnic
Filmed at BC Institute of Technology, Feb 26th 2016
CC BY

I do insult to Rajiv here in snipping out just a short statement about the need to raise awareness of open textbooks, from what was a superb hour long presentation on the future of open education hosted by David Porter at the BC Institute of Technology. Rajiv is author of several open textbooks including Research Methods in Psychology (for BCcampus), Principles of Social Psychology (for BCcampus) and has contributed to the psychology-based NOBA Project. Rajiv is a passionate advocate of open, a researcher and recipient of notable awards and fellowships, as outlined on his blog ThatPsychProf.com.

The power of reflective writing. And parma violets.

I feel twitchy because I haven’t written anything (sensible) in a long time. Work has been so stressful I don’t think I’ve had the brain capacity. Suddenly now this year my other work – open education – my outside of office hours work – the work I get no time or recognition for in my institution – is bursting with activity. I was bored on Twitter just now, and as always the wonderful Sally was poised with a challenge: So what shall I write about?

I don’t know yet but I’ll let you know by the end of this blog post. It might be:

  • Parma violets are disgusting but I’ve eaten the whole packet anyway.
  • I’ve bought daffodils and Haribo for my team meeting tomorrow.
  • I’ve seven invited talks and conference presentations between now and the end of June!
  • We buy our first house and move. Soon!
  • Yoiks.

Actually I know what I’m going to write about and it is going to be ugly. Because blogging is a great way of getting things off yer chest and solving problems with a wider community. The trouble is I’ve national awards for my work – I’m a National Teaching Fellow and a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. That is fine, but as part of that work I have to mentor others, promote the scheme. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the Higher Education Academy and wish them well in their transition. But I sadly think learning and teaching in institutions is moving away from that community of teachers, the learning and teaching culture that is the heart of your university, to being top-down strategically decided. I see this everywhere and I’m not picking on any university in particular. So I’m struggling to attend workshops to mentor folk through their applications, to sit on reviewer panels, to read applications, because if I’m totally honest, I’m thinking it is an absolute waste of time (apart from getting to hang out with fantastic people).

The work of the wonderful Annette Cashmore and colleagues from their 2013 report always comes to mind: Rebalancing promotion in the HE sector: is teaching excellence being rewarded? They talk of a two tier system. Career cul-de-sacs. Others have referred to career suicide. As commented at the time – the students are at the heart of the system. For sure! But we must “value and properly reward those who teach them”. In a 2016 communication – you can see how grumpy I was getting then – I reflected upon the fact that as a sector there is still a fair bit of inertia in recognising great teaching. As stated on the poster below, Jo Johnson in all of the papers said that teaching should not be the poor cousin of research. Unfortunately the teaching excellence framework (#TEF) will be about as useful as a chocolate teapot, and I suspect a fair amount of fabrication and spin has already gone into TEF submissions. Care for amazing National Teaching Fellows and care for fantastic research and evaluation to improve learning and teaching practice will have not.

But surely we recognise excellence?

 I presented this poster last year because I’d been declined from a job. An essential criterion was ‘postgraduate teaching qualification’ and based upon the HEA, HEFCE and HESA definitions, verified by our lovely HEA chums, I did indeed have some of them. I was rejected from the selection process. In the end it wasn’t because I din’t have ‘postgraduate teaching qualifications’ but ‘I didn’t have the right ones’. OK I’m from Romford, I can take shit on the chin.

Poster_VRolfe_TeachingExcellence

What can we learn from elsewhere?

A really interesting conversation on the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) mailing list echoes some of these points. Our wonderful community of learning technologists in the UK I do feel is on a similar trajectory. In the US and Canada, techs and library staff are the power houses of university and college innovation. In the UK they are sequestered into dark basement rooms and never see the light of day. (I love them all). Then, considering about 90% of learning /teaching and assessment is digital these days, we need to listen to ALT conversations and the likes of the awesome Tony Bates who talked about the digital in this entirely free and openly licensed textbook: A MUST READ FOR ANY PGERTHE STUDENT: That is free to read. And openly licensed. To share. Teaching in a digital age. The email thread (of about 20+ responses) asked about the use of evidence-informed decision making. I think the same applies for learning and teaching these days:

  • Evidence is slow – the research model does not work
  • A focus on particular technologies / assessment and feedback strategies (not the learning)
  • Long lists of journals presenting positive impacts of TEL (and less so of pedagogy) on learning (which is perhaps part of the problem – publication bias)
  • I’m pretty sure James Clay won’t mind me quoting (cos I can’t get onto his blog article) “when an academic asks “for the evidence to show technology can make a difference” the problem is not lack of evidence, but one of resistance to change, culture, rhetoric and motivation”. Sure. I also think academia has expanded like layers of filo pastry in Mary Berry’s oven. Do we think about students, ourselves, our league tables, metrics…WHAAAT? (Come on, I joined this gaff because I just wanted to teach).

There was then on the ALT list a general melching of agreement that in terms of learning and teaching versus technology (still separated at birth – why) implementation, implementation of processes and technology, implementation of new assessment policy happens from the top-down all the time, but is rarely backed up by evidence or research. And certainly never published. As for being in a university with a community of librarians – technologists – and passionate teachers, this is long gone. How bloody sad. I’m trying to think of a metaphor here but failing. What is tragic is that this system – the omnipotent – is failing some students every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So welcome to the end of the blog post.

Where next? Well let’s try and influence our friends in influential positions. Wait! That is many National Teaching Fellows and Principal Fellows! You are heads of learning and teaching, pro-vice chancellors.

 

So let’s hopefully have some honest discussion about what we are doing. And for god sake. Parma violets are bloody disgusting.

 

 

Farewell old friends…

 

Dear darling cherished friends of mine,
Your smell bequeathed to passing time.
Mud-filled paths we have travailed,
In fitness fads to no avail.
Worn out treads and threadbare insoles,
Puddle-seeped, beyond console.
Stench-infused in every granule,
Desirable only to a spaniel.
From Vale of Belvoir down to Bristol.
I cry my friends, I sure will miss you.
As always inspired by @lemnsissay

#DS106 fuel for the soul

When I woke up this morning (big blues guitar chords), I was full of dread. I have struggled myself through 2016 to say the least, and with David driving to his folks today, I was worried about the immense gulf presented by the next two days on my own.
 –
I think everyone would agree 2016 was a stinker one way or another. For me, my ‘in-work’ world becomes increasingly separated from my ‘out of work’ world. My daytime is full of an incredibly stressful and unsatisfying often seven-day-a-week role, and my spare time is full of the open education work I so love and believe in. This year saw seven more conference presentations and papers on open education. I completed an eight month secondment in our Department of Education leading our Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education – supporting about 70 university colleagues through their modules and gaining some of the best feedback I’ve ever received. I left that role without so much as a thank you from that department.
 –

Sparing you lots of other stuff, I woke up today filled with dread and wondering how I’d fill the time I had. Something then must have said to me to revisit Jim Groom’s keynote from the Edinburgh OER16 conference. Boy. Here is vision, inspiration, clarity of thinking – everything I lack in my day-job. I just don’t find fighting over education league tables inspiring – or worthwhile at all in fact. People are important. Having a vision is important.  (Don’t start me on the NSS – I’ve written about that twice before). Jim – pointing to the work of many others – talked about developing an open infrastructure via the web – something that is very much lost in UK higher education. I mean that not just in terms of pushing the boundaries of what is digitally possible and acceptable, but what the US and Canada seem to do very well, is put their technical wizards at the heart of pedagogy and innovation in their institutions. I love that Jim and all the people he mentioned are building, and doing, and experimenting, all with the fundamental purpose of making teaching and learning better. And more fun. So Jim inspired me. Thank you Jim. You have no idea what that meant to me this morning.

Then, second dose of inspiration. The wonderful Alan Levine recorded a song and how awesome was that? “I’m a reclaimer”.…complete with guitar, vocals and harmonica, although a distinct absence of dog. I don’t know how he quite achieves that one. Ours does like to join in. Alan was also thinking about reclaiming the web, and in the comments on his blog, the gauntlet was thrown down by Talky Tina for more #ds106 music. OK then.

So like Alan, I’m immensely indebted to the Reclaim Hosting company. I’m not technical at all but somehow have ended up running five blogs. All well with that until you get hacked, and my poor Biology Courses has had more than its fair share this year. The previous hosting company was fine but not able to support me in the end. You know what really is stressful, those ‘ticket’ systems – “you have not responded in 24 hours so were have marked your ticked resolved”. Not resolved!! Stressed!! But then along comes Reclaim, and more than a fair share of pestering from me. But they transferred everything, cleaned it up, and pointed things to new things. Tim was amazing, and for him, I wrote this song.

More than that, it entirely occupied the day I was dreading, and up until 9.34pm at night, am still surviving. Thank you. So wanting for a while to do the “Chattanooga Choo Choo” – the Andrew Sisters’ version, here you are. I have no idea how they do their harmonies – but here is how I tackled it.

My lyrics:
 –
Hello internet.
Is this the internet?
I want a one way ticket to my privacy
I want to keep my data immediately.
 –
Timmy-boy
Are you the man at Reclaim Hosting?
“Transfer your domain”?
“Migrate your site to Reclaim”?
I can afford
To move my site to Reclaim Hosting
Since the pound’s had a fall
And is now worth bugger all.
 –
You send an email off to Reclaim ‘bout a quarter to three
You get a message back – instantaneously
“We’re so glad you came now”
“You’re hosted on Reclaim now”
“You control your data and you own your domain now”
Now I have my own vir-tu-al space to create
I can start a blog and share some stuff for debate
Photographs on Flickr
Twitter’s even quicker
Woo, woo, Reclaim Hosting you are so great.


It would be nice
If education was more open.
Let’s build and connect.
And share ideas with respect.
Reclaim your domain.
And build an open infrastructure now,
The folk at Reclaim Hosting
They can choo-choo you home.

Big fan of Reclaim Hosting…..

 

My recordy stuff:

The other miracle of the day was actually being able to ‘midi out’ from my Technics keyboard, into a USB box thing, and into Garageband on the Mac. It worked like a treat. Usually I record the Technics straight from a mic – but get the annoying sounds of fingernails clunking the keyboards and dog howling. That kind of thing. It worked fine. Of course, the trusty Blue Snowball microphone direct into Garageband for all other live recording. Not much ‘mastering’ or editing down – but reasonably OK.

Music set up

 

Harmonies?:

I don’t really know how the Andrew Sisters got their sound. I bang out the main melody in one take and can usually find a second harmony in another. I then usually have two more ‘tracks’ in Garageband and patch in harmonies that sound right for to make up a third line.

My final sounds:

Come and be creative in 2017:

In short, it is so important to find your creative space. You have to step off of the treadmill and out of the firing line. Join the #ds106 community on Twitter and have a look at the Daily Create. Today, I combined “His Master’s Voice” – Nipper the dog – with the create. I painted Nipper at school in the 6th form after I’d been dumped from art classes several years before. Nobody knew I could paint. A bit like work now, life is very good at focusing on the unimportant and trying to focus on what you ‘can’t’ do. Somehow that is easier and less of a risk of one day somebody being just bloody awesome.

 

 

 

Open educational resource Tweet Chat.

Thursday 8th December 2016 10am UTC (UK time)
Use the hashtag #altc
Look out for the hashtag for the ALT Open Education Special Interest Group #OpenedSig

Why this chat?
This Tweet chat session is part of the ALT Winter Conference and aims to provide an introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER).

Many people don’t know about OER and I think are missing out on the benefits of using, creating and sharing openly licensed materials in their teaching. Creating and sharing OER can provide learners with a wider variety of resources to chose from, and as a teacher I find other people’s materials often an inspiration and a guide for my own practice. Teachers who share resources or co-create them with their students will see their practice and the dynamics in their classrooms change. OER come in all shapes and sizes from individual assets – pictures, text files, video to entire textbooks. Someone might contribute to the open education community through Wikipedia or any of the elements of the Wikimedia Foundation. The use of a Creative Commons open license enables you to share the resource on the web (under the terms that you select).

Visit here for the results of the chat!
I’ll ‘Storify’ the chat and summarise main points. I’ll point you in the direction of web resources to help you get started using OER in your teaching or learning, and particularly focus on getting you thinking about your teaching and assessment practice in the context of being more open.

Storify –> http://vivrolfe.com/blog/open-education-tweet-chat/

Innovation – it has to be more than the shuffling of feet.

I’ve had an interesting few days out and about at meetings, the first with our South West healthcare science group, yesterday at the Jisc Student Experience event, and today have had an interesting conversation with a psychology colleague about  innovation.

So I’m thinking innovating in educational practices today, and linking back to my OpenEd15 presentation in Vancouver. (Slides can be found on SlideShare). I reviewed interviews and data from a number of science open educational resource (OER) projects that I lead, and viewed them through the blurry lens of innovation. What were the innovative features of these projects? What structures were in place? What was vulnerable. Here is what I suggested:

  • Innovation in education / digital practice relies on champions / early adopters
  • Impetus from local partnerships can help gain momentum (colleges and hospitals)
  • Global partnerships also drive processes (OER translations)
  • Innovation can create conflicts – the digital tussle – staff wanting to be creative but constrained by institutions and infrastructure
  • Open education innovation relies on the ‘spirit of OER’ and shared ethos. (Not a solid basis you might think, but that must be the one common thread in all of my work going back 10 years or more).

Innovation versus sustainability?

An innovation by definition has to have an inventive step or application. You can’t patent a thing, but you can patent a thing with a function. Innovation in education is a step-wise creative improvement in practice. When more people adopt this, it leads to change. In my research I then went on to think about how things can become sustainable within teams/departments/universities, and also how fragile and vulnerable they are.

OER sustainability

So what about innovation this week?

Here are some further examples and ideas relating to education innovation that have emerged this week.

Enforced innovation and at any cost.

  • Investment. Wholesale organisational innovation and change can be achieved quickly through investment and strong leadership.
  • Innovation can obviously fail without adequate investment, such as the catastrophic ‘modernising scientific careers’ initiative that has left most of our healthcare science professions at high risk. Also due to lack of buy-in verging on actual conflict by key groups.
  • Some people will achieve innovation and change at any cost. One project talked about staff working solidly for months on end, and those not complying were performance managed through appraisal processes.
  • Lots of talk about enforcing innovation and change through monitoring virtual learning environments – monitoring staff compliance with the systems; making processes or life difficult for academic staff to achieve outcomes. Enforced innovation.

How to innovate beyond a mere foot shuffling pace?

  • One of the most common problems raised always is how to bring people with you? How do you get at the ‘tail end’ of colleagues who do not wish to change their practice?
  • How do you reach over stretched people who really do not have the time?
  • The problems with champions is they set a precedent. How do you manage student expectations where they may have a small number of creative and innovative modules, and others that won’t comply?
  • Do you go for horizontal innovation (cohort by cohort embedding of practice) or vertical (innovate through disciplines/subject themes across all years)?

These are just thoughts. Do share yours through comments or via Twitter.