This week's blog is about reflecting on what I have learnt about Open Education over the last few weeks. Unlike my previous blogs here you will find a video where I discuss what I've learnt and what interests me the most. In the video I make reference to an interesting project in the UK on Open Textbooks which you can read about here. I also talk about the Open Pedagogy and refer to the principles of this which I think are really nicely outlined by Hegarty (2015) which you can find here.
I clearly need to get out more. This weekend on a sunny Sunday evening I decided to do a test to examine my digital skills level. The output was this rather appealing image which tells me I am pretty rubbish at digital creation but good at digital communication (I think because I am a chatterbox in any medium!).
Now I would not say that there was anything in this image that surprised me, I think I generally knew my strengths and weakness but one thing that it did make we reflect on is the idea of digital natives. I am (as much as it pains me to say) too old to be a digital native but I do use technology all day and part of my day job is as the e-learning tutor a degree programme with ~450 students which means I spend a lot time trouble-shooting for students or colleagues and have definitely up-skilled in the process which is partly recognised by my reasonable problem-solving score. In direct contrast to some of my students who cannot find information on databases efficiently, use bibliographic softeward or format a word document I feel very much more digitally native. But - I have no idea what snapchat really is and I only recently discovered gifs as my twitter account can show. So how can I reconcile these two things? I have just been introduced to the idea of a visitor and resident continuum where a visitor dips and and out, using the tools for a specific purpose, whilst a resident is more socially invested in a tool - it is more about a place they share their ideas and their life. Here is my map:
A couple of things to note here. Firstly, I am not on Facebook - I came off years ago and have never looked back. Secondly, I am on Twitter both personally and I edit the department account. For my own personal account I made a conscious decision to treat it like a personal time line. I am careful what I post, keeping in mind they can be seen by current and future employers and my students (so no comments about comedy things I read when marking). But I post regular pictures and comments about my hobbies (well my running and my dog but that is basically my hobbies!). I have invested myself in my twitter account and have become more and more familiar with the technology and hanging out in the twitter-sphere. Thirdly, I use VLEs both in my professional life as an educator and in my personal life as a student. I think the fact that I use them heavily to communicate with colleagues and students means I am effectively living part of me in the VLE. Finally, there are other quite discrete tools I use - SPSS and Spike are two software programmes I use for my research - they are licensed to me rather than the institution per se but bought with institutional funds and certainly serve little purpose to me outside of work.
When I see my skills mapped out in these two different ways I realise why in some contexts I behave quite differently to others. I also note that the resident technologies tend to be those which are built to be more social, perhaps with the exception of LinkedIn but my use of this is very limited. Apart from creating nice images this exercise reminds me how I interact with technology is important and is not always the same. It reminds me that some skills will transfer and that the relationship will change over time - I am quite new to blogging but already feel quite resident in my approach to it. It also reminds me to be more conscious, much as I did with Twitter, in deciding at what level I am going to invest in the technology.
One of the things I need to reflect on this week in my learning is the sorts of technologies necessary for open education, as opposed to just education per se. I have just read about a series of different technologies that can be considered important including social networks, blogs, embedding and VLE platforms such as moodle.
The last one is of particular interest to me because moodle is an open source software and because it was suggest that the VLEs created using platforms like moodle give learners and educators alike a shared basic skill set to begin with. On this basis another key software came to mind and that is OpenOffice. I say OpenOffice here but what I really mean is any free to use alternative to paid for products such as Microsoft office.
Over several years teaching I have regularly come across students who do not have access to Office. These days it is less frequent as universities often have accounts available and there are significant discounts for students once they provide an institutional email address. However, if you are doing a MOOC or dipping in and out of something very informally you are unlikely to have the kind of affiliation to a university that would give you this access. On that basis having software than gives similar functionality and can be saved in interchangeable file types is of great value. There has already been a drive to install this kind of software in place of paid for alternatives in various places.
Another technology I am going to suggest (somewhat cheekily as we are only asked for one) is cloud based storage like DropBox or similar. The key here is that this offers free device independent storage which can be shared between individuals so it supports learning almost anywhere but also networks of individuals who can co-construct materials.