The Soul of Liberty: Openness, Equality and Co-creation⤴

from

Transcript and slides from my keynote at the CELT 2018 Design for Learning Symposium, NUI Galway.

The theme of today’s conference is designing teaching and learning spaces to facilitate active learning, collaboration and student engagement however my experience lies not so much in physical spaces but in online and digital spaces and specifically open education spaces situated within the open knowledge landscape. I currently work for the Open Education Resources Service at the University of Edinburgh, I’m a Board member of both the Association for Learning Technology and Wikimedia UK, and a member of Open Knowledge International’s Open Education Working Group, and all these organisations are part of the broad Open Knowledge landscape.

What I want to look at today is what we mean when we talk about openness in relation to digital teaching and learning spaces, resources, communities and practices. I also want to highlight the boundaries that demarcate these open spaces, the hierarchies that exist within them, and look at who is included and who is excluded. And I want to explore what we can do to make our open spaces more diverse and inclusive by removing systemic barriers and structural inequalities and by engaging both staff and students in the co-creation of our own teaching and learning experience.

I don’t want to get too hung up on semantics, but I do want to start off by looking at a few definitions. What do we mean if we talk about openness in relation to digital education and open knowledge? This is a question that has been posed numerous times, in numerous contexts by independent scholar and technology journalist  Audrey Watters who, in a 2015 post titled “What Do We Mean By Open Education?” asked

“What do we mean when we use the word? Free? Open access? Open enrollment? Open data? Openly- licensed materials, as in open educational resources or open source software? Open for discussion? Open for debate? Open to competition? Open for business? Open-ended intellectual exploration? Those last two highlight how people can use the word “open” in education and mean not just utterly different things, but perhaps even completely opposite.”

Like Audrey, I don’t have a simple answer to these questions because, as Catherine Cronin reminded us in her thoughtful 2017 paper Open Education, Open Questions, “openness is a constantly negotiated space”. It’s critically important to appreciate that open means very different things to different people, and that our perspective of openness will be shaped by our personal experiences and the privilege of our vantage point.

These are some of the spaces that populate the Open Knowledge landscape as I see it. Your perspective of this open landscape might look very different.

● Open licenses
● Open educational resources
● Open education policy and
● Open pedagogy
● Open practice
● Open textbooks
● Open badges
● Open online courses
● MOOCs (a very contested open space.)
● Open data
● Open science
● Open Access scholarly works
● Open source software
● Open standards
● Open government
● Open GLAM

I’m not going to attempt to cover all these areas, as we’d be here until next week, but I do want to explore what open means, or rather how it is understood, in some of the spaces I am most familiar with.

Open Education and OER

So let’s start off with open education and OER…

The principles of open education are outlined in the 2007 Cape Town Declaration, which laid the foundations of the “emerging open education movement” and advocated for the development of open education policy to ensure that taxpayer-funded educational resources are available under open license. The Cape Town Declaration is still an influential document and it was updated last year on its 10th anniversary as Capetown +10 and I can highly recommend having a look at this if you want a broad overview of the principles of open education.

There is no one hard and fast definition of open education but one I like is from the not for profit organization OER Commons…

“The worldwide OER movement is rooted in the human right to access high-quality education. The Open Education Movement is not just about cost savings and easy access to openly licensed content; it’s about participation and co-creation. Open Educational Resources (OER) offer opportunities for systemic change in teaching and learning content through engaging educators in new participatory processes and effective technologies for engaging with learning.”

And I want to come back and look at these concepts of participation and co-creation later.

Though Open Education can encompass many different things, open educational resources, or OER, are central to any understanding of this domain.

UNESCO define open educational resources as

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

It’s useful to note that this definition accommodates a wide range of different resource types and it’s notable that the term OER is interpreted very differently in different communities. In the US currently, OER tends to equate to open textbooks, while in the UK we have a much broader understanding of OER that encompasses a wide range of teaching, learning and cultural heritage resources.

One of the key characteristics of open educational resources is that they are either in the public domain or they are released under an open licence, and generally that means a Creative Commons licence. However not all Creative Commons licences are equal and there is considerable debate as to whether resources licensed with No Derivatives and Non Commercial licences can be regarded as OER. Some argue from a strong ethical standpoint that while education resources produced by public funding should be freely and openly available, they should be protected from commercial exploitation by Non Commercial licences. Others take the position that open education resources should be freely and openly available to all, without exception or restriction. And there are arguments that in order for open business models to be sustainable, they must enable both free and commercial reuse. For example some cultural heritage institutions will make low resolution images of their digitised collections freely available under open license, however users must pay a premium to access high resolution images. It’s not my position to make a value judgement on these different perspectives as choice of licence will always be dictated by many factors and will always be highly contextualised.

One prominent voice in the debate about defining the open in OER is David Wiley who has defined five 5 permissions or activities that characterise open educational resources. These are referred to as the 5 Rs:

1. Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways.
2. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself.
3. Remix – the right to combine content with other material to create something new.
4. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the content with others.
5. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content.

Wiley also argues that the requirements and restrictions some organisations place on open content, such as the use of the Share Alike licence, harm the global goals of the broader open content community.

I have no quibble with the 5Rs per se, and indeed I think it’s useful for anyone who is engaged in open education to be familiar with this conceptual framework, however I would caution against regarding this as a standard to which open education resources must conform as they arguably obscure some of the more important aspects of the open in open education. Indeed some argue that any attempt to standardise what may or may not be regarded as OER is contrary to the very spirit of openness.

During the 2017 Open Education Conference Ryan Merkley, Executive Director of Creative Commons stressed that

“Open has to be about more than the 5Rs. It is also about our values: access, equity, innovation & creativity.”

And Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education at SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition also emphasised that

“Open is not just a set of attributes, it’s a set of values and practices that make education better.”

Personally, when it comes to definitions such as these, I think there is a careful balance to be struck between speaking a common language, encouraging diverse opinions and listening with respect.

Open Education Practice

These values and practices are often encompassed by the term open education practice.

Broadly speaking, open education practice encompases teaching techniques and academic practices that draw on open technologies, pedagogical approaches and OER to facilitate collaborative and flexible learning. This may involve both teachers and learners participating in online peer communities, engaging with, reusing and creating open educational content, and sharing experiences and professional practice.

One description I like of open education practice is from the Cape Town Declaration

“Open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues.”

And what I particularly like about this definition is that it focuses on collaboration and empowerment, which to me is what open education is all about.

Although I’m not a teaching academic, I do regard myself as an open education practitioner, and these are some of the ways that this practice manifests in terms of my work.

I own my own domain on Reclaim Hosting, an independent company that builds on the principles of the open web. I maintain a blog on this domain, Open World, which I use to reflect on my work and the open education initiatives I’m involved in. My blog also acts as an open record of my practice and it’s where I host my professional CMALT portfolio. I maintain an active twitter account which I use to communicate and collaborate with my peers. I ensure that all the resources I produce are released under open licence, and I try to reuse open licensed content whenever possible. This is what my open practice looks like, yours will likely be quite different. However to my mind, the most important aspects of open practice are reflecting openly on your experiences, sharing that reflection with your peers, and engaging in collaborative learning.

MOOCs

I now want to move on to look at a much more contested open space; MOOCs. MOOCs have their roots in a small number of connectivist courses run by institutions such as Athabasca University and The University of Mary Washington from 2008 onwards. These innovative courses, such as the anarchic DS-106 digital storytelling course, focused on knowledge creation and generation and encouraged learners to play a central role in shaping their learning experiences. From 2010 onwards however a number of primarily venture-capital funded commercial MOOC providers, including Udacity, EdX, Coursera and FutureLearn, entered the market with a huge amount of hype and promises to disrupt education. Although MOOCs did not disrupt Higher Education, they do fill an interesting space in the education market, and I use that term advisedly in this instance.

My problem with MOOCs is that they are not open in any real sense of the word. The word “open” in MOOC simply means that anyone can join a course free of charge, regardless of qualifications. The platforms themselves are proprietary, and even if course content is openly licensed it is often difficult to extricate from the platform. Most MOOCs are free as in beer rather than free as in speech and even this is increasingly debatable as many now charge for premium features such as certification and continued access to course materials.

Of course one solution to this is to ensure all MOOC content is also available in open spaces off these commercial platforms, and that’s the road we’ve gone down at Edinburgh.  In order to make sure the high quality MOOC content we produce for the courses we run on FutureLearn, Coursera and EdX is accessible and reusable, for both our own staff and students, and others outwith the University, we make sure is can be downloaded under open license from our multi media asset management system, Media Hopper Create.

Wikimedia

Of course no discussion of open online spaces would be complete without Wikpedia and its associated projects.

Here in Ireland there is an active Community User Group which promotes the creation, promotion, and dissemination of free knowledge. And in the UK we have a Wikimedia chapter, Wikimedia UK, which works in partnership with organisations from the cultural and education sectors to unlock content, remove barriers to knowledge, develop new ways of engaging with the public and enable learners to benefit from the educational potential of the Wikimedia projects. Wikimedia UK also supports a number of Wikimedians in Residence who work with a range of education and public heritage organisations throughout the country. A new Wikimedia Scotland Coordinator, has also just been appointed and in Wales there is a National Wikimedian, based at the National Library in Aberystwyth.

At the University of Edinburgh we believe that contributing to the global pool of Open Knowledge through Wikimedia is squarely in line with our institutional mission and we also believe that Wikipedia is a valuable learning tool to develop a wide range of digital and information literacy skills at all levels across the curriculum. Our Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, works to embed open knowledge in the curriculum, through skills training sessions, editathons, Wikipedia in the classroom initiatives and Wikidata projects, in order to increase the quantity and quality of open knowledge and enhance digital literacy.

There is no question that Wikipedia is an invaluable source of open knowledge, however it is not without bias. The coverage of subject matter on Wikipedia is neither uniform nor balanced and many topics and areas are underrepresented, particularly those relating to women, people of colour and minority groups. For example, on English language Wikipedia only about 17% of biographical articles are about women, and the number of female editors is between 10 & 14%. Hopefully you don’t need me to tell you why this lack of diversity and inclusivity is a serious problem. However it is a problem that is being addressed by the Foundation itself, by projects such as  Wikiwomen in Red, and by editors and Wikimedians in Residence across the world.

At Edinburgh an important aspect of our Wikimedian in Residence’s work is to help improve the coverage and esteem of Wikipedia articles about women, and underrepresented minorities, and to redress the gender imbalance of contributors by encouraging more women to become editors. And I’m very pleased to say that over the last year 65% of participants at our editathons were women. There has also been phenomenal progress in Wales, and in 2016, Welsh Wikipedia became the biggest language Wikipedia in the world to achieve gender balance.

Inclusion, Exclusion and Structural Inequality

Wikipedia’s well known problem with gender balance is a notable example of systemic bias. Wikimedia is an open community, an open space, that anyone can contribute to in theory, however in reality there are many factors that prevent certain groups from entering this space.  In the case of women editors, former Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner identified a range of systemic factors that discourage women from contributing to the encyclopaedia, including lack of time, lack of self confidence, aversion to conflict, and the misogynistic atmosphere of the community. In addition, the very principles which underpin the encyclopaedia discriminate against marginalised groups. Wikipedia is based on citation, yet in fields where women and people of colour have been traditionally barred, or their contribution has been neglected or elided, it is much harder to find reputable citations that are critical for the creation of good quality articles. Any article that is deemed to be inadequately cited runs the risk of rapid deletion, thus replicating real world power imbalances, privileges and inequalities.

Wikimedia is not the only open space that suffers from issues of systemic bias and structural inequality.  In a paper on Open Initiatives for Decolonising the Curriculum, in the forthcoming book Decolonising the University edited by Gurminder K Bhramba, open source software developer Pat Lockley notes that universities with the highest percentages of black staff are those which spend the least, and in many cases nothing, on open access article processing charges. And he goes on to ask whether Open Access really is broadening and diversifying academia, or merely reinforcing the existing system.

When we look at MOOCs supported on commercial platforms, the situation is arguably worse. Far from democratizing higher education and reaching out to disadvantaged groups, numerous studies have shown that the majority of MOOC enrolments tend to be young, male, educated, and from the developed countries of the global north. Gayle Christensen, one of the authors of an important report on the University of Pennsylvania’s Coursera courses, noted that MOOCs are failing to reach they students they had intended to empower and instead they are giving more to those who already have a lot.

Similarly, in its 2017 survey on open source software development practices and communities, Github, another important open online space, reported huge gaps in representation and concluded that the gender imbalance in open source remains profound. From a random sample of 5,500 respondents 95% were men; just 3% were women and 1% are non-binary.

And there are many other examples of similar structural inequalities in open spaces and communities. We all need to be aware of the fact that open does not necessarily mean accessible. Open spaces and communities are not without their hierarchies, their norms, their gatekeepers and their power structures. We need to look around our own open communities and spaces and ask ourselves who is included and who is excluded, who is present and who is absent, and we need to ask ourselves why. Because nine times out of ten, if certain groups of people are absent or excluded from spaces, communities or domains, it is not a result of preference, ability, or aptitude, it is a result of structural inequality, and in many cases it is the result of multiple intersecting inequalities. Far too often our open spaces replicate the power structures and inequalities that permeate our society.

In a recent article titled “The Dangers of Being Open” Amira Dhalla, who leads Mozilla’s Women and Web Literacy programs, wrote:

“What happens when only certain people are able to contribute to open projects and what happens when only certain people are able to access open resources? This means that the movement is not actually open to everyone and only obtainable by those who can practice and access it.

Open is great. Open can be the future. If, and only when, we prioritize structuring it as a movement where anyone can participate and protecting those who do.”

So how do we change this? Well half the battle is recognising that there is a problem in the first place, taking steps to understand that problem, and then doing the hard work to effect change. And those of us who are already inside these open spaces and communities need to take positive action to make these spaces, not just open, but accessible and inclusive. And to do that, to borrow a phrase from the Suffragettes, we need Deeds not Words.

Open Education and Co-Creation at UoE

One way we can start to ensure that our open education spaces, communities and resources really are open and participatory is to engage with our students in co-creation.  So what I want to do now is briefly look at a few initiatives from the University of Edinburgh that involve students in the co-creation of learning experiences, open knowledge and open educational resources.

At Edinburgh we believe that open education is strongly in line with our institutional mission to provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students, and to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing. Students have always played a key role in shaping the our vision of openness, indeed it was the Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) that provided the initial impetus for the development of an OER policy at the university. Our vision for OER builds on our excellent education and research collections, traditions of the Scottish Enlightenment and the university’s civic mission, and right from its inception this vision has encouraged both staff and students to engage with the use and creation of OER and open knowledge, to enhance the quality of the student experience while at the same time making a significant contribution to the cultural and digital commons. This vision is backed up by our OER Policy and an OER Service which provides staff and students with advice and guidance on creating and using OER, and which provides a one stop shop where you can access open educational resources produced by staff and students across the university. Because we believe its crucially important to back up our policy and vision with support.

So let’s look at some examples of how our students are engaging in the co-creation of open learning and open knowledge

LGBT+ Healthcare 101

A number of studies have shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual health is not well-covered in Medical curricula, however knowledge of LGBT health and of the sensitivities needed to treat LGBT patients are valuable skills for qualifying doctors.

The LGBT+ Healthcare project involved a team of undergraduate medical students, who sought to address the lack of teaching on LGBT health through OER. The students remixed and repurposed resources originally created by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. In order to contextualise these materials, new open resources in the form of digital stories recorded from patient interviews were also created by the students and released under open license.  These resources were then repurposed by Open Content Curation Student Interns, to create open educational resources suitable for Secondary School children of all ages. All resources are available through multiple channels including the University’s OER Service Open.Ed portal and TES.

Open Content Curation student interns play an important role in OER creation at the University, helping to repurpose and share resources created by staff and other students while at the same time developing their own digital literacy skills. We’re now in the third year of this internship and the feedback we have received from the students has been nothing short of inspiring.

Geosciences Outreach and Engagement

Another hugely successful example of co-creation is the School of Geosciences Outreach and Engagement course.  Over two semesters, students develop an outreach project that communicates an element of GeoSciences outside the university community.  Students work with schools, museums, outdoor centres and community groups to create a wide range of resources for science engagement. Students gain experience of science outreach, public engagement, teaching and learning, and knowledge transfer while working in new and challenging environments and developing a range of transferable skills that enhance their employability.

The Geosciences Outreach and Engagement course has proved to be hugely popular with both students and clients. The course has received widespread recognition and a significant number of schools and other universities are exploring how they might adopt the model.

Here’s just one quote from a student, Rebecca Astbury, who participated in the course;

“Geoscience Outreach and Engagement is one of the most interesting courses I have undertaken in my 5 years at Edinburgh. Not only do I get the opportunity to find new and exciting ways to inform people of all ages about Geosciences, I’m also learning valuable skills to enhance my future career after university. This course has taught me that everyone has a different way of learning, and instead of following one strict path, we should expand our ideas on how to effectively communicate science to the general public.”

A key element of the Course is to develop resources with a legacy that can be reused by other communities and organisations. Our Open Content Curation Interns repurpose these materials to create open educational resources which are then shared online through Open.Ed and TES where they could be found and reused by other teachers and learners.

Wikimedia in the Classroom

I’ve already mentioned the work of our Wikimedian in Residence and I’m not going to go into this  amazing project in any detail as that would be a whole other talk and I’m already running out of time. Instead I’m going to let one of our students speak for themselves. This interview with Senior Honours Biology student Aine Kavanagh was recorded by our Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew. Here’s Aine is talking briefly about her experience of writing a Wikipeda article as part of a classroom assignment in Reproductive Biology.

Video by Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence, University of Edinburgh

And the article that Aine wrote on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most common forms of ovarian cancer, has now been viewed almost 34,000 times. It’s hard to imagine another piece of undergraduate work having such an impact. This is just one of a number of courses at the University that have successfully embedded Wikipedia assignments and you can listen to more of our students’ testimonies and find out about the work of our Wikimedian in residence here.

These are all examples of open education initiatives that are not just open, but open, diverse collaborative and participatory and, to my mind, this is what is really important

Conclusion

To conclude, I want to go right back to the title of this talk, The Soul of Liberty, which is taken from a quote by Frances Wright, the Scottish feminist and social reformer, who was born in Dundee in 1795, but who rose to prominence in the United States as an abolitionist, a free thinker, and an advocate of women’s equality in education. Frances wrote:

“Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without it.”

I think the same could also be said of openness; equality is the soul of openness. Two hundred years down the line, Frances’ conviction strikes a chord that echoes with Amira Dhalla’s affirmation that open can only be the future if we design and structure open spaces and communities so that anyone can participate.

Those of us here today already have the privilege to participate in open education spaces and open knowledge communities, and we can not keep that privilege to ourselves. We need to identify the barriers that prevent some people from participating in the spaces we enjoy, and we need to do what we can to remove these systemic obstructions. We need to be aware of our own privilege, and be sensitive to whose voices are included and whose are excluded, we need to know when to speak and when to be silent. To me this is what openness is really about, the removal of systemic barriers and structural inequalities to provide opportunities to enable everyone to participate equitably, and on their own terms. We need to ensure that when we design our learning spaces, whether physical or virtual, online or on campus, they really are open to all, regardless of race, gender, or ability, because openness is not just about attributes, definitions and licences, openness is also about creativity, access, equality, and inclusion, and ultimately, it’s about expanding access to education, supporting social inclusion and enabling learners to become fully engaged digital citizens.

Learning styles are a myth and I am not an auditory learner⤴

from @ Learning Stuff About Stuff

I switched on Radio 6 this morning, and the track they were playing had a drum sound which caught my ear. It reminded me of a rototom - a tuned drum which was quite popular in the 80s. I had a set of three in my drum kit.

Rototom 1

I doubt many listeners would have made that connection. I suspect many listeners would not even have particularly distinguished that drum sound. I think many people just hear songs in a much less differentiated way, unless they make a real effort. I, like most musicians, tend to hear the guitar, the drums, the bass, the keyboard and the vocals separately.

In other words, I am extracting more information from the audio than some might.

It would be tempting to imagine, therefore, that I would learn better through hearing than through other senses. But that is nonsense. Imagine trying to learn about the physical geography of a country through hearing about it without a map!

But this is exactly the argument made by people who insist they are "visual learners" despite all the research showing that learning styles are a myth (and it's always "visual" isn't it?). Just because you see ten colours where I see three, and see a rich tapestry of symbols and allusions where I see a table with some fruit on it, it doesn't mean you learn better through seeing stuff than through your other senses.

A chance meeting, an old friend and a foray into alternative provision: Newlands Junior College⤴

from @ Cat's eyes

I was lucky yesterday to meet up with an old friend at Newlands Junior College – a unique, vocational provision for 14-16 year olds, housed in a former factory in Newlands in the south side of Glasgow.  It is an independent provision, funded, in the main by industrial entrepreneur, Jim McColl and exists to provide young people who have struggled to engage in the mainstream system with an opportunity to learn through an intensive support programme involving academic, vocational and personal development.

I’d known about the existence of Newlands for a while, and I was really pleased to find out about what was going on first hand. A few things struck me about Newlands. There was a very relaxed atmosphere in the building and a big emphasis on student responsibility for learning. The starting point for the timetable is staff availability.  The subjects taught are English, mathematics, science and ICT.   PSE runs through the curriculum and features strongly. The timetable shows when the relevant staff are available and students decide which subjects they attend. This allows them to focus on priorities as they arise (folio pieces, for example) and manage their own programmes.  Each student also has a vocational placement and supplementary training or qualifications are provided in partnership with a range of businesses, training organisations or City of Glasgow FE college. It is an entirely unique arrangement in many ways,  but is clearly responding to a significant need that the mainstream system cannot meet.

The relaxed atmosphere is balanced by an ethic of  professionalism.  Students wear uniform and staff dress smartly. Some teaching spaces are open plan. All the offices, including meeting rooms and the principal’s office have  transparent walls so that all working processes are visible to students and visitors. Students can choose how they address staff, using first name terms or standard titles, which some still choose to use. De-institutionalising can be difficult for  young people.  Classroom walls are written on and used very effectively as whiteboard spaces – this too can challenge some. There is no behaviour policy – there is no need for one. A few agreed rules – no shouting; no sarcasm, no greetin’ !, no excuses – and a clear focus on relationships do a much, much better job.  Personally, I’m more and more persuaded that there is never a need for a behaviour policy, but that’s for a different discussion.

There is no doubt that this is a very important, exciting and successful innovation. There are big questions though,  around sustainability and replicability. Neither of these have a straightforward answer. Part of its uniqueness and success has to be down to the qualities and experiences of the staff who have been selected to teach there, and from what I saw yesterday, they are a uniquely impressive group.  Also the unique nature of the circumstances – a focus on work and industry, funded by an industrialist, in a post-industrial city, obviously gives rise to certain opportunities specific to the location of the college. And the funding itself – this raises questions of both replicability and sustainability. I know that some significant work is going on in this regard to expand or extend the concept of Newlands, and I really hope that it meets with success.  Many, many young people deserve a chance like this. This is GIRFEC in action, and although it’s very difficult to replicate, there is a lot that can be learned.

So who was my old friend? Well, this was a personal highlight for me. I met up again with a student friend from teacher-training days at Jordanhill, Graham Robertson. Graham is now head of guidance, careers and business links at Newlands Junior College and we haven’t seen each other since Jordanhill. A chance meeting at the SELMAS forum allowed us to get back in touch and it was great to hear that he’s still in education, and about how his career developed over the years. We were in an elective class together for PSE which was taught by the one and only John MacBeath.  Things we both learned there have stayed with us over all those years, and influenced us both in our thinking about socialisation and relationships in education. How lucky we were to take that class -it was definitely the highlight of my postgraduate course. Looking back, though,  I don’t think we realised at the time quite what a privilege it was. Great to see you Graham, thank you so much for my visit, and I’m hoping we can develop useful links for our students and yours, in times to come.

using linest to obtain a gradient and uncertainty⤴

from @ fizzics

The period (T) of a simple pendulum can be calculated using where l is the pendulum length and g is the gravitational field strength. Using a single value of length and period, we can determine the acceleration due to gravity.  However, it would be better experimental practise to vary the length of the pendulum and ... Read moreusing linest to obtain a gradient and uncertainty

#Citylearning4.0 and #OneCity⤴

from @ ...........Experimental Blog





Next week, we are doing the all staff development thing - and have a really packed programme.
In among some real gems are some sessions that I think the broader Scottish education community should be tuning into .

Grainne Hamilton is running a session around - Cities of Learning, this is a new place-based approach to enhancing lifelong learning through digitally connecting individuals to learning, employment and civic opportunities across a city. This session will introduce the approach and enable participants to define what a Glasgow City of Learning could look like. Grainne is a star in the vocational sphere across the UK . Grainne's session is on Thursday, June 21, 2018 - 10:00 to 11:30

While Dr Doug Belshaw's track record around educational innovation is amazing - and he continues to amaze - his employers include Mozilla and he is currently a consultant  for Moodle.Net . His session is all around working in the open - The Theory and Practice (mainly practice) of Working Openly on Friday June 22nd 10.00 - 11.30 am

The sessions are free simply add your details to relevant list here

You will also get opportunity to see around the splendid surroundings of City of Glasgow College.

I hope some of the educational innovators from across Glasgow and beyond can join us





Naturewatch Camera in the class 1st Try⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

I was watching spring watch out of the corner of my eye as I did some prep last night. There was an article about making your own Wildlife cam. It looks a lot simpler than others I’ve seen and used a Raspberry Pi Zero. The BBC site had a link to My Naturewatch where you can get instructions.

This looked like something my class would enjoy using. My zero is busy taking gifs of the clouds (>70000 to date Gif Cam), so I decided to try to use a Raspberry PI 3 instead.

The instructions were really good, simple and worked first time! No soldering involved. You don’t need a monitor for the PI or any logging on through ssh in the terminal. All you need is a PI, a camera module for the PI and a power supply. I used a £2.99 phone charger. You need a plastic box and an old plastic bottle too. This is bargain basement stuff.

The way it works is the then the pi starts up it becomes a network. You connect to this with a computer or other device. You are then on that network and not the Internet. I forgot about this when showing the class and couldn’t project from an iPad;-) You then open a browser and connect to a local website on the PI. There you can start the camera and view or download the pictures.

Once the camera is started it takes a photo every time something moves in front of it.

It was raining fairly heavily this morning so we waited till about 10:15 before putting the camera out on the playground with a handful of peanuts in front of it. After 15 minutes we collected it and had a look at the photos. I am impressed. We need to think a bit about placing the camera, perhaps finding somewhere with smaller birds but the camera worked a treat.

I think this is a really useful tool for the classroom. I hope we can use it to catch some butterflies on sunnier days too. I have had a few failures with hardware Raspberry PI projects. I prefer software ones but this is certainly the most impressive for the least about of work I’ve tried. I’d recommend it highly.

If trees could talk⤴

from

I walk past this tree every day on the way to my office.

In the early morning the quad is quiet, with maybe a crow hopping across the grass or a cleaner scurrying about between the buildings.

Later in the day it is busier – students eating lunch on sunny days, academics sitting on benches chatting, tourists marveling in the architecture and taking photos of each other.

What sights has this tree seen? What happy memories do people hold of being in this place? Graduations, weddings, exams, meetings. School children on day trips, alumni back for nostalgic visits, those that work here – like me – wandering out to catch our breath and pause for a moment.

 

 

Developing metacognition and self-regulation in learners, of all ages⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

Ahead of a session with Rachel Lofthouse and the CollectivEd1, the mentoring and coaching hub created by her, I have been thinking a lot about metacognition. Our session with teachers in a few weeks is to be focused on metacognition and how we can develop this in both young learners and teachers. The title of our seminar is 'Making sense of Metacognitive Teaching Through Collaborative Professional Development' and will take the form of an introduction, followed by round-table discussions around various models that may be used to develop such collaborative professional development. After the round-tables, we hope to pull the main points emerging together and explore key issues. To help attendees focus their attention they have been referred to the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) paper 'Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning' published in April 2018.

Metacognition has been identified as a key skill for learners by many different authorities and researchers, but like many other key skills, has not been taught in any systematic way in many schools, with teachers seeming to assume that this is another skill that develops over time, with more knowledge and experience. For some it does, for many it doesn't. Skills need to be taught and developed over time, so that all individuals have the opportunity to utilise them to best support their learning. The development of metacognition, and metacognitive awareness is no different. If we don't explicitly model and teach the skills all learners will need, we disadvantage even further many of those learners.

As I stated earlier, the case for the development and teaching of metacognition has been made by many researchers. John Hattie includes this in his 'top ten, high-impact, evidence-based strategies' for all learners to adopt. In the EEF report referred to it states that 'evidence suggests that the use of metacognitive strategies... can be the equivalent of and additional 7 months progress, when used well.' Ron Ritchhart and colleagues at Harvard Graduate School of Education wrote 'to the extent that students can develop an awareness of thinking processes, they become more independent learners, capable of directing and managing their own cognitive actions'  in 2011. On the Education Scotland National Improvement Hub it states that 'metacognition and self-regulation approaches have consistently high levels of impact.'

Understanding that the support for metacognitive and self-regulatory approaches can have big positive impacts for learners, is but the first step in their introduction and development in the classroom. I would suggest that it is important that all learners have that understanding and expectation at the outset, so that they are clear as to the goals that can be achieved. Next, everyone needs to be clear about what we mean by the term 'metacognition'. The EEF report itself recognises that many teachers, and school leaders, have a very sketchy, at best, understanding. If you ask most teachers, many will reply 'its about thinking about thinking' with little clear understanding of what that actually means, or how to teach it.

In the EEF report an attempt is made to clarify what it is we are actually talking about. Metacognition and self-regulation in learning are closely linked. You can't self-regulate your learning, and become independent in your learning, if you don't understand yourself as a learner, and the strategies you employ when you are learning new things. 'Self-regulation is about the extent to which learners are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and the strategies they use to learn.' Metacognition forms one of the three key elements of self-regulated learning, the others being cognition and motivation. All three are key for independent learning. 'Metacognition is about how learners monitor and purposefully direct their learning'. Learners need to understand and be taught a range of strategies and approaches that they may employ when faced with any learning, cognition, and then need the motivation to consider and deploy the most effective ones when new learning is presented.

If we are clearer about the benefits of metacognitive teaching, and we better understand what that means, the next question is how do teachers go about developing metacognitive capacities in their learners? The EEF report is keen to dispel any notion that the development of metacognition can be left till pupils are older, and argues, rightly in my view, that the development of metacognitive understandings should start with younger learners too. The report gives a seven step systematic progression to the development of metacognition.

The first step is for teachers to develop their own understanding, knowledge and skills about metacognition in order to better support their young learners. Hopefully, the first part of this post has helped with that, but I would refer you to the full report and to Ron Ritchhart's work for a more detailed and deeper understanding. They suggest that teachers adopt and model a plan, monitor, then evaluate framework, and explicitly teach this to their learners, as an on-going cycle of approach to their learning. The explicit teaching of this model is step two. In this we begin to teach and discuss the specific metacognitive strategies being employed by the teacher and the students. The report suggests, and I concur with, that this should be incorporated into  real-life learning situations across the curriculum, rather than as a discrete add on. The teacher will begin to introduce metacognitive questioning to draw out, and make visible, the strategies known and being used. They suggest some metacognitive elements that teachers should look to incorporate into their lessons, including the activation of prior learning, explicit strategy instruction, modelling of a learned strategy, memorisation of a strategy, guided practice, independent practice and structured reflection.

In step three, the teachers should look to model their own thinking to help their pupils develop their metacognitive and cognitive skills. They can talk through their own thinking and encourage learners to ask questions about why they chose certain strategies over others. This is the teacher scaffolding new learning, with the aim to reduce this over time to encourage the learners to become more independent and confident. The fourth step requires the teacher to set a level of challenge that is appropriate for the learners. The aim of this challenge is to develop the learner's self-regulation as well as metacognition. The level of challenge should be such that it promotes motivation whilst taking note of cognitive load theory, by breaking down otherwise complex tasks for the learners. In step five, the teacher should seek to create a dialogical learning culture, where learners are supported and encouraged to develop metacognitive talk in the classroom. Having adopted this myself, I understand how this takes time and requires the slowing down of learning in some areas. But the benefits for learners, far outweigh the apparent 'costs'.

Step six requires teachers to explicitly teach learners how to effectively manage and organise their learning, to help them become independent learners. Here we should teach cognitive strategies that have been shown to work by cognitive science and research. We could help them with memory strategies such as practice tests, spaced practice, elaborative interrogation of learning, self-explanation, interleaved-practice and so on. In this way we are developing cognition, motivation and metacognition that will all help our learners become more independent in understanding and managing their learning. The final step, number seven, is directed more at the management and leadership of schools, who need to ensure that teachers have the opportunity for high-level collaborative professional development that allows them to keep up-dating their knowledge and skills around metacognition. Providing they are supporting and giving teachers the opportunities they need to keep growing and developing their understandings, the report strongly recommends that SMTs then 'expect' these strategies to be implemented by teachers. A strong, but not unreasonable, stance, as long as everyone is delivering on their side of such an expectation.

I think that the above gives schools a guide as to how they may really get going with developing metacognition in teachers and learners. It can soon be made systematic and continuous, then can be built on as confidence, knowledge and experience increases. There can be great benefits for our learners if we do this right, and get it right for all our learners. I have identified some of these as follows:

  • Raised attainment and achievement for all learners, especially for those most disadvantaged otherwise
  • The closing of gaps caused by disadvantage
  • The development of independent learners earlier
  • Learners who better understand themselves as learners, and how to improve
  • The development of self-regulation and agency in learners
  • Deep impactful change embedded in teacher practice and thinking
  • Schools working collaboratively with a focus on thinking and learning
There may well be others, but I think they are all worth thinking about!

MathsBot.com – online tools to support teaching mathematics⤴

from @ ICT for Learning & Teaching in Falkirk Schools

MathsBot.com – a series of free online tools which will support a teacher in teaching mathematics. These are designed to be used in a teaching situation where a teacher is using the tools directly with learners to help explain concepts, or to provide interactive activities with a class, a group or individual learners.

There are tools to support mathematics teaching at all stages whether primary school or high school. They can be used in different ways to suit the level of understanding of the learners at any stage.

There are a number of these tools which would work particularly well in a primary classroom, perhaps used projected onto an interactive class screen and manipulated by learners under the direction of a teacher as they explore mathematical concepts together. So in the manipulatives section you’ll find a fraction wall, counters, counting stick, Cuisenaire rods, Dienes blocks, Geoboard, pentominoes, place value counters, ten frame and unit box. Then tools like Venn Diagrams can let pupils explore a whole range of different aspects whether properties of numbers (such as even/odd, 1-digit/2-digit, less-than/more-than), area of rectangles, co-ordinates. and more. The Number of the Day interactive tool can be used to display a range of random questions based on a teacher’s choice of difficulty and the range of number answers as well as difficulty level. So for quick-fire mental maths classroom activities it could be useful as a daily routine for a few minutes. Likewise there is the AfL Checkup tool which a teacher can set at whatever level of difficulty would best support and challenge learners, within choices of arithmetic, converting time units, fractions, measure, money, and more. And within each choice you can choose the aspects of these which match what is being taught and learned in the classroom at the time to consolidate and challenge learners in a fun interactive way.

There’s Manipulatives, Printables, Starter Drills, Tools, Question Generators, Puzzles and specific resources to support a maths curriculum.

This a very useful set of resources, adaptable to so many classroom situations to be used in whatever way a teacher can see will best support, challenge and motivate their learners.

Review of the Employability Landscape and Scottish Government Funded Employability Services⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

The Scottish Government aims to achieve economic growth in Scotland that is inclusive. This means growth that combines increased prosperity with greater equality, creates opportunities for all, and distributes the benefits of increased prosperity fairly.

Its vision is to develop a more joined up employability system across Scotland – an employability system that does more to provide the right help for people of all ages, when they need it, and particularly for those further from the labour market, to ensure as many people as possible can benefit from the economy. This is in line with their approach to  Inclusive Growth, recognising that the overall employment rate is high, we now need to ensure a greater focus on those further away from the labour market.

It is about developing a more flexible system that responds to individual and local needs – with clear roles for public, private and Third Sector. To do this we need a funding system which is flexible enough to support our ambitions, but also to adapt over time as the labour market changes.

Scottish Government recognises that there is a lot of good work going on, there are lots of people and organisations working to create better opportunities for people. The challenge we have is to develop more collective leadership across the main funders, Scottish government,  UK Government, Local Government and the Third Sector.

This review will be informed by user and delivery partner feedback from those engaged with existing SG funded employability programmes, and evidence and evaluation from recent reports on the employability landscape. You are the experts and we want to hear your ideas on:

  • the vision and objectives we have outlined and how we promote more collective leadership and collaboration between the different bodies involved;
  • how we ensure employability programmes and services provide better support for people on their journey towards and into work – removing duplication and supporting better outcomes;
  • how we ensure funding and programmes are flexible enough to meet changing labour market conditions;
  • how we recognise the valuable input from different sectors and how we build, collectively, on what works for the individual;
  • roles and responsibilities at national, regional and local level;
  • whether there are particular types of support that are working really well and how we can do more to build on that;
  • approaches to assessment and referral; and
  • what success looks like and approaches to performance management.

SG welcomes your feedback on these issues. You can send submissions to: NEETpolicy@gov.scot by 29 June 2018.