The Council of the European Union, comprised of Ministers of member states, debated last week on the topic „Open Educational Resources and digital learning.” The debate was held during the meeting of the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council on the 25-26th of November.
The meeting was related to the Commission’s „Opening Up Education” initiative, which was launched at the end of September and in which the development of OER policies plays a key role. Yet the scope of debate at the Council meeting was broader, and didn’t seem to be well connected to the “Opening Up Education” project. The Council did not provide a written conclusion on the matter. Based on limited available information (see the minutes of the meeting, p. 10), it seems that the Council focused primarily on broad issues related to digital learning and MOOCs (which are drawing significant attention from the public as well as policy makers).
Similarly, the brief position paper prepared by the Lithuanian Presidency, titled „Presidency Discussion Paper: Open Educational resources and digital learning”, does not provide a substantial viewpoint on OER. It lists advantages and challenges, and suggests that „time is ripe for a debate at European level on the opportunities and challenges which Open Educational Resources will undoubtedly bring”.
The „Opening Up Education” communication provides a much stronger view of OER as advantageous for education in Europe. It’s good news that representatives of the Ministries of Education are discussing OERs. But if the Council meeting is treated as a sample, there is still much work needed at the national level, so that policymakers are provided with a clear sense of the benefits of open education and the role of OERs within digital learning frameworks.
(Short report from the meeting is available on the Open Education Europa portal).
If you’re scurrying for gifts this year, consider giving open. We’ve put together this list of a few of our favorite openly licensed gifts. What did we miss? Add your favorites to the comments.Sita Sings the Blues merchandise
Not only is Sita a great film, but it has some of the most unique and beautiful merchandise ever. I’ve actually always thought this was the success of her business model – having things people actually want to buy. I’ve always been particularly fond of the peacock phonograph pendant. Review by Jessica Coatesxkcd volume 0
The first collection of the best geek comic out there. There’s something for everyone in this volume, whether they’re a lover, a gamer or a mathematician. There’s even something for us copyright geeks, with the complete adventures of Doctorow, Lessig, et al in their complete superhero garb. Review by Jessica Coates">Open Design Now
Open Design Now is been one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read this year on openness. It’s available for free online under a Creative Commons license or available for purchase as a hard copy. Highly recommended read for anyone interested in the intersection of open design and physical objects. Review by Paul StaceyThis Stool Rocks
Yup, it’s a rocking stool. It’s such an elegant innovation in design that once you see it, you wonder why it took so long for someone to think of it. If you have access to a CNC machine, you can download the CC-licensed design and build your own. Assmbly will make one for you, and even carve your logo on the seat, but order now: there’s a waiting list. Review by Elliot HarmonCards Against Humanity
One of the best card games out there, perfect for long nights with good friends and a bottle of whisky. Like Apples for Apples, but far more surreal and less suitable for children. Download the whole thing from their website and spend hours turning it into a neat game; or ">just shell out $25 and get the pretty one to begin with. Also available in Spanish, Dutch, pirate and many other languages thanks to its CC license and fan translations. Review by Jessica CoatesPhylo
The Phylo trading card game is a CC licensed online initiative aimed at creating a Pokemon-like resource but using photos of real animals and plants as a means of helping children learn about biodiversity. Review by Paul StaceyGroup Works
Sticking with cards, I also really like the Group Works pattern cards. These are really useful for anyone who plans meetings, conferences, retreats, and other group sessions. If you are a facilitator, these cards help you plan and create meaningful events. You can download the free, CC-licensed deck or purchase one. Review by Paul StaceyDead Unicorn: Pandemic
Dead Unicorn makes melodic pop-punk music that’s surprisingly fun, given their fixation on writing songs about disease. They’re also the guys behind my favorite “about CC” video ever. Earlier this year, the band Kickstarted Pandemic and printed a limited run on colored vinyl (they identify the color as “piss yellow.”) Give it to your weird nephew who thinks you aren’t cool. Review by Elliot HarmonPublic Domain Review prints
If you’re not already following The Public Domain Review (a project of our friends at The Open Knowledge Foundation), you should be. Every day, they post a new find from the endless supply of public domain treasures and oddities. This year, the PDR launched a store full of public domain goodies to help raise money. My favorite is the print of an 1887 woodcut designed to teach Japanese children English words. Review by Elliot HarmonTeam Open trading cards
Of course we had to sneak ourselves onto this list. We worked with the webcartoonist Luke Surl on the drawings for our Team Open interview project. We think he perfectly captured the spirit of the subjects we interviewed. Everyone who donates $25 (USD) or more to CC gets their own complete set of trading cards.
Billy Meinke with our 92 donors. Are you number 93?
We have a lot to celebrate together this year. Last week, we unveiled Version 4.0 of the Creative Commons license suite, an accomplishment that reflects two years of work by literally hundreds of people.
More than any CC license before, Version 4.0 reflects the power of the CC movement. It was built upon the expertise of our amazing global community, a community that you join when you license or use content under CC licenses. We’re glad to be on your team.
If you’re proud of what we’ve accomplished together, consider making a donation to support CC’s work in 2014.
Milton Keynes / CC BY
I took up residence in Milton Keynes, England, for one week in October as the Linked OER Research Hub Fellow for the School of Open. The School of Open is a community of volunteers from all around the world who are developing free education opportunities on the meaning, application, and impact of openness in their field of choice, whether that’s education, science, research, or community design. The free education opportunities consist of online courses, face-to-face workshops, and in-person training programs. Whatever the format, volunteers seek to help people do what they already do better with the aid of open resources and tools. One obvious example is helping educators to find and use free and open educational resources (OER) for the classroom.
In developing these opportunities, we decided it would be a good idea to simultaneously attempt to measure the impact of our activities. We teamed up with the OER Research Hub for a Linked Research Fellowship, which would provide funding for travel/accommodations and a researcher to help with administering, collecting, and analyzing School of Open data. Since we only just launched in March and have a limited data set to work with, we decided to start by focusing on a subset of our online, facilitated courses. School of Open volunteers administered optional surveys in four courses: Copyright 4 Educators (AUS), Copyright 4 Educators (US), Creative Commons for K-12 Educators, and Writing Wikipedia Articles: The Basics and Beyond. The surveys gather feedback from participants on their sharing practices and attitudes towards OER before and after the course. In combination with feedback from the facilitators themselves and archival course material, we hope to write up a short report on our preliminary findings. This report will likely identify gaps where more research is needed, which we hope to conduct during our next round of facilitated courses in March 2014. Then we will publish a final report with our findings in the third quarter of 2014.My week with the OER Research Hub
As a linked fellow, my week with the OER Research Hub was organized around meeting with Beck Pitt, the researcher I have been working closely with around collecting the data, in addition to meeting the rest of the Hub’s research team and Open University staff working on open education projects of interest to the School of Open. Since I had been and would continue to work on aggregating and analyzing the data remotely, it was crucial to make the most of my stay through face-to-face meetings. Through these meetings, I was thrilled to discover additional areas for collaboration. They are:
- OER Research course: A School of Open course on how to conduct research openly, especially in the field of OER, to be developed in conjunction with an OER research toolkit that the OER Research Hub team is already developing. The initial concept for the course is still being shaped, but we imagine the course to be for those who are leading open education projects of their own that don’t currently have the resources to measure the impact of their project. This course would equip them with the methods, tools, and familiarity with ethical, privacy, and cultural issues researchers need to consider when conducting research. We aim to have the course developed in time to be part of a facilitated round of School of Open courses in the second quarter of 2014, and to exist thereafter as a stand-alone course for anyone to take at any time.
- Open Translation course: A School of Open course on open translation, or more specifically, how to translate materials that are openly licensed and what that means. The TESS-India project at the Open University already runs translation workshops for its volunteers in various regions of India to translate OER addressing regional, cultural, and linguistic issues for translation into several Indian languages including Hindi. As part of the workshops, TESS-India will include a day/session on OER and open licensing and what that means for translation. As these workshops will be recorded, we will have video in addition to the workshop resources which can be adapted into an online course for translators around the world. We hope to work with TESS-India to prepare this course for 2014.
- OpenLearn OER course: A joint OpenLearn and School of Open course on OER, drawing on existing resources like Creating open educational resources.
- CC license and OER education for the OER Research Hub’s K-12 educator networks, such as the Flipped Learning Network, in the form of webinars and media such as infographics.
Mozfest candy / CC BY
For our main collaboration — research on School of Open courses — we were able to ready some of the data we had collected for the Mozilla Festival, where Beck hosted a “scrum” on visualizing open education data called the Open Ed Data Detective. Throughout the festival, several participants came by to experiment with the School of Open data along with other data the OER Research Hub made available. In addition to preparing for the data scrum, we collected and compiled most of the initial data on the School of Open courses listed above, including web analytics and data for all 13 stand-alone courses. We outlined a plan for completion of a report on preliminary research findings, follow-up interviews we will conduct with facilitators and course participants, and additional research we will conduct in 2014 during Round 3 of School of Open’s facilitated courses.
For a research residency that lasted less than a week, we made a tremendous amount of progress. I look forward to working closely with the OER Research Hub and Open University staff in the coming months!
Text-based search is powerful. However, as more and more information is digitized and made available on the internet, the effectiveness of text-based search could stand to be supplemented with other technologies.
Aunt Bertha, an Austin, TX–based B Corporation, focuses on helping people to find government and charitable human service programs on the web. In the United States, there are 89,000 governments, a million charities, and more than three hundred thousand congregations. Many of these organizations provide food, health, housing, or education programs to those who need it (the “Seekers”). Aunt Bertha’s goal is to index all these programs so that the Seekers can find help in seconds.
Launched in the fall of 2010, Aunt Bertha founders learned something very interesting early on. In a medium-sized city, a Seeker can have at least 500 government and charitable programs to choose from. The user experience designer must ensure that the Seekers can easily find the program that fits their need, a task that’s harder than it might seem: not only are the Seekers are multi-faceted and complex; so are the programs that serve them. A common language that described both the Seekers and the available human services would go a long way to help as text-based search alone would not work. Enter the Open Eligibility Project.
Realizing that other organizations were facing the same problem — and that there had been attempts at categorizing these types of programs before, but the terms and methodologies used were full of bureaucratic jargon — the Open Eligibility Project set out to simplify the taxonomy, the terms that describe human services.
There are two important facets to human services taxonomy: Human Services and Human Situations. Human Services are simply the services provided by the organization—examples include clothes for school, computer classes and counseling. Human Situations are simply the attributes of the Seeker—for examples, mothers, ex-offenders or veterans. Here is one example of the use of this taxonomy on Aunt Bertha:
It is not always easy to find the balance between comprehensiveness and ease-of-use. For this project to be successful, a tension should always exist between these two goals. Lean too far one way and it becomes suitable only for the policy wonks. Lean the other way, and it loses specificity and the Seekers can not find what they are seeking.
Since launching the Open Eligibility Project, there has been some interesting traction in the area of human services taxonomy. Just this year, a new Civic Services Schema was submitted and accepted by Schema.org. The ServiceAudience field of the spec, in particular, is a great fit for Open Eligibility’s Human Situations tags. If government agencies adopt this spec, it will make their programs more findable by people who fit those situations (ex: programs for veterans, programs for foster children, etc.).What’s Next
Aunt Bertha seeded the Open Eligibility Project with all of the types of services and situations listed on Aunt Bertha. But, there are more out there though, and help from others would make the taxonomy even better. That is why the founders were attracted to Creative Commons, and decided to release the taxonomy on Github under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Hackers, coders, and those concerned generally with human services are invited to join the Google+ community, and to contribute to the project on the Github page, or to connect with Aunt Bertha on Facebook or Twitter.