Mozilla Open Education project blueprint

If you’ve been following my recent posts, you’ll have realised that I’m participating in the Mozilla Open Education course, jointly hosted by the Mozilla foundation, ccLearn and the Peer to Peer University. The course has involved participating in online seminars over the past 6 weeks with the objective of creating a project blueprint that takes into account the concepts of open education, open technology and open licensing.

I decided that my project was going to involve something I’ve been thinking about for a few months and saw the course as an opportunity to take the first few tentative steps. The idea was to create an online, distributed authoring environment that would allow physiotherapy clinicians, educators and students to participate in collaboratively writing a national physiotherapy textbook. The problem with imported (American and British) textbooks is a complete lack of cultural and contextual relevance, as well as being associated with a high cost and not being adaptable to local needs (think, multiple languages).

I won’t go into any more detail here (check out the blueprint page), only to say that the idea is taking shape slowly and that I’m quite excited at the prospect of refining it over the next month or so. The course was so information-heavy (not so much from the organisers, but from the back chatter of participants) that it’s going to take some time to review the aggregated content.

Mozilla Open Education course: seminar 3

Open web tech

Again, I missed this seminar because of poor internet connectivity on the day and am catching up on the audio after the fact.  Here are my notes from the presentation given by Mozilla’s Chris Blizzard.

  1. Open as a concept
  2. Innovation and change = important building blocks
  3. Relevance and why open matters
  4. Repurposing key web technologies

“Open”: what does it mean?  First of all, the opposite of open is not necessarily “closed”…though useful terms, in this context they shouldn’t be seen as polarising.  In the context of the open web, the opposite of open may be thought of as opaque…you don’t understand how it works, can’t see inside it, don’t know how it came about.  Gives a sense of the visual.  Therefore, open could be thought of as “transparent”.

Not requiring permission is an important component of open because it relates to patents, licensing, etc.  Comparison of video codecs like h264 and ogg theora and the difference that open licensing makes with regards permission to use the code.

Side note: all content from this course is available under an open license for anyone to re-purpose for any use.

“Generative” – word that is used widely in academia.  Meaning that through your action you allow others to do something as well. It allows people other than the original creator of the work to change the work and use it for things that the creator didn’t think of, it facilitates the mulitiplication of efforts and exploration.

“Innovation” is over-used in many circles…a black box in which things are improved but where the process is invisible.  The most important characteristic of innovation is that it represents change (both good and bad change).  Intentional disruption = standing up to make a difference in a way that’s going to be uncomfortable…and people are often reluctant to change because it’s uncomfortable.  Setting things up to purposefully be uncomfortable and going up against various interests (possibly commercial or political) who would not benefit from that change.  Setting yourself up against the status quo.  In an open model where you’re trying to encourage change / innovation / disruption, you’re going to run up against issues.

Where does experimentation come from?  Assume that progress and innovation stem from experimentation and failure (learning from our mistakes), it’s important to understand this process as it leads to change.  The core group of contributors to large projects are not necessarily the ones doing the experimenting, it usually comes from the periphery.  How do you set yourself up to have “edges” in the community and be open in order to promote experimentation and innovation?  This disruption is difficult for business to commit to because it’s hard to determine future value in experimentation and innovation.

As messy and painful as it is, the open web has worked well.  Very few other inventions have disrupted communication so comprehensively before the web (maybe the printing press, telephone).  An instantaneous communication network that people are continually changing and re-purposing without having to ask permission from anyone is very important.  The nature of the web made this possible i.e. intentionally built on a model of open technology / software where anyone could make changes without permission.

What makes something open web technology?  Web browser is the gateway to the web and we spend a lot of time using it, therefore it should be comfortable and easy to use.  Can you see the page source to understand how it works?  Being able to look at somebody’s source is part of the transparency / open-ness of the web.  Source is delivered (HTML, Javascript) and compiled / executed locally.  Historical mistake where originally authors were writing simple documents where source didn’t matter as much.  Now, this presents as a learning opportunity where others can see what you’ve done and use it in other ways.  This doesn’t mean that you should copy and paste everything, rather figure out how it works and learn that way.

If you have access to the source you may be able to figure out the API (or the API is open), which means that you can then re-purpose the application.  Twitter is an example…even though it’s only a simple application (status updates), others have figured out how to use it in different, more complex ways because of it’s open API and a whole ecosystem has developed around it. 

Another example is how people have changed Google search by implementing code in the browser, even though Google hasn’t explicitly given that permission.  An example of people using the open-ness of the web to figure things out and make changes that have not explicitly been allowed by an open license.

Key peices of open web technology:

  • HTML = core of open web, describes document structure, content, continually improving and evolving
  • XML = more generalised data management (not as widely used), semantic meaning is important in the open web
  • CSS = controls presentation of content (unlike HTML), can imply visual structure, media context, also implies semantic meaning
  • Images = static visual medium that conveys expression (jpg, png are simple but allows everyone to use), adds context to the open web
  • Javascript = integration of all the other peices, makes the static web dynamic
  • Open video = transparent, generative, not closed implementation of web video (in contrast to Flash), using ogg theora (patent- and royalty-free video codec)

Mozilla Open Education course: seminar 2

Open educational resources

I missed the second session of the Mozilla Open Education course that was held about two weeks ago because of Internet issues, and only just had the opportunity to listen to the audio. Here are my notes from the session, which featured a panel of experienced users and creators of Open Education Resources (OER).

Began with an overview of the open ed movement / background to set the context against which the case studies are set…what is the big picture? OER features many people involved at many levels, using many technologies and business models are being built around this idea…shows it’s an idea who’s time has come.

Create a movement of diversity, seeing how different ideas play off one another.

Fundamental adherence to openness means that ideas and content designed for one task need not be delimited to that task but can be “re-packaged” for others i.e you needn’t design materials for everybody, just for your own needs, but then to endow it with the characteristics (legal and technical) that make it available for everybody to redesign.

OER should be:

  • designed to give learners access to a broad array of tools
  • available for anyone to use/share/adapt to their needs
  • relevant for formal/informal and lifelong learning needs

Open licensing is crucial – current systems undermine the premise that creative content can be shared and changed, therefore OER is important for catalysing new ways of learning, critical thinking, collaboration, engagement, reflection

Education is the key to an informed population, therefore it needs broad, optimistic ideas that do away with the notion that “you don’t get to have an education because of your circumstances”.

4 topics that came from previous interviews:

  1. Open means not being afraid to solve problems publically (and to fail publically)
  2. Open means creating space for people to do things that you don’t anticipate
  3. Open means giving up control
  4. Open means sharing models that others build on for quick diffusion of good ideas

What is an edupunk and how does it relate to online learning? Edupunk came from a notion that you could do a lot in education by yourself, and not being afraid to fail. Moving against the corporate base who designs courses based around management, rather than learning (isn’t this a bigger problem within Learning Management Systems. Take this further with the idea of “managed learning”). Also, proprietary, no control, they shape our learning experience.

Traditional methods of learning and teaching are clean, easy and simple for lecturers to follow, textbooks are available, curriculum can be moved through in a predetermined way, boundaries are evident. Open source communities allow involvement with real things, which can be scary…you don’t always know where it’s going. The opportunities to talk about things that wont’ come up in other contexts adds to a richer expereince. Better place to learn because it scales.

Discussed issues with institutions catching on to and embracing change, eg. hosting content on external servers.

Difficult to get students to contribute to blogs:

  • Thought no-one would read it
  • Thought that if they did read it, they’d think it was stupid

Realised that by aggregating content, they could draw a much larger audience. Students were blown away by comments on blogs (profound moment when the person you’re blogging about comments on your blog). Aggregation helps build critical mass. Powerful idea that people from all over the world are reading your work and following it.

A key competency is understanding how to manage online identities. Posts can’t be thrown out there, reflection before posting is important because these conversations are available forever. People beocme more conscious about how ideas and conversations can travel.

Surprised at how few students read and understand how blogs work. Need to teach them how the internet works. Communciation needs to change, tone, strategy. “Learning to write in a way that honours the web”. We need to spend time teaching students how to communicate online, in a living and open way. It’s wrong to think that this is the Facebook generation and that they know how to do this.

Students taking control of their work and presenting or “re-presenting” themselves online. Where they live online and how they work online. Online identity and data portability. Moving beyond the limited view of institutional services…not about email addresses or university webspaces…framing their own online identity outside of the institution.

Regarding Weave for an “educational passport”. Students taking their own digital identity and learning experiences with them when they leave univerity…portfolios of learning that they own. Storing personal information through the browser that the student owns and can always access. Aggregating online identity through your own domain.

Not about building resources, it’s about building community. Forget about building the one hoop that you can re-use every year to make new students jump through. How can I make sure that my community of students is healthy and finding their own hoops?

Mozilla Open Education course – Overview

We had our first session of the Mozilla Open Education Course earlier this evening and it was pretty interesting.  There were a few technical issues with sound but generally it was very well done.  Thanks to everyone who made it possible.

Here’s a few notes that I took during the session.  I know the video will be available later but I took notes anyway and listed the comments from the presenter as it was happening, so there may be errors.  If I’ve made any mistakes, please let me know.

Mark Surman (from the Mozilla foundation)
Spoke about why Mozilla is involved and what the foundation’s motivations are.

Why do the course?

Students are living and learning on the web.  Education is not working and the web is making this even clearer.

Educators need to teach like the web, using these building blocks:

  • (open) content
  • (open) tech
  • (open) pedagogy

This course is about using these building blocks…all 3 need to come together in order for open education to work.

Why do Mozilla and CC care?
To promote openness, participation and distributed decision-making as a core part of internet life.  Education is critical to this.

Also, an experiment to:

  • share skills
  • new ideas
  • more allies
  • …have fun

Frank Hecker (Mozilla Foundation)
Elaborated on previous presentation

  • Teach people about Mozilla
  • Create learning opportunities around Mozilla technology and practices
  • Bring new people into the Mozilla camp
  • Create a global community of Mozilla educators
  • Mozilla curriculum at Seneca college
  • Incorporate Mozilla-related topics into coursework
  • http://education.mozilla.org – repo for course materials created
  • People learn things best when participating directly in the communities around that project
  • education@lists.mozilla.org

Question: will we be able to make our own ff addon?  Yes

Ahrash Bissell (ccLearn)

Why is Creative Commons involved in learning?

It’s mission is to minimise the legal, technological and social barriers to sharing and reusing educational materials.

Focusses on ways to improve opportunities for and education:

  • Teach about OER
  • Solve problems (built the “discover” tool for OER)
  • Build and diversify community (education is traditionally subdivided into camps e.g. university, high school).  Open education transcends these boundaries. Boundaries useful but should be permeable.
  • Explore better pedagogical models (learning is not something that happens in a delimited way, ideally it should be enjoyed and embraced all the time.  Models haven’t penetrated, everything the same way for the last 50 years (deeply entrenched)
  • Empower teachers and learners (certain expectations of students / teachers, “this is what it means to teach/learn”.  Little power to engage as “scientists” in teaching / learning and make adjustments.  Open source development models – emphasisise feedback, creating a system that allows experimentation in an open, transparent, participatory way.

Embrace overarching principle for engaged padagogies, not new but has become inevitable.

Crucial considerations:

  • Constant, formative feedback (must want to be assessed)
  • Education for skills and capacities, not rote knowledge (the internet makes it obvious why this is the way to go, “knowledge” is already everywhere, thinking is more important.  “Skilled learners”.
  • Leverage human and material capital effectively (reaching into peer groups)
  • Consider the bulding blocks of a participatory learning system
  • Enjoy learning

Philip Schmidt (Peer 2 Peer University)
Provided an overview of the project / sessions

Background readings available on course wiki / 20 min. interviews

Draw up a blueprint for individual / group projects:

  • (open) technology platform
  • (open) licensing
  • (open) pedagogical approach

Idea – blueprint – prototype – project!
Good idea to feed into ongoing things, like:

  • Mozilla education portal
  • Firefox plugins
  • P2PU

Next steps:

  • Decide on groups
  • Start sketching
  • Ideas more important than detail
  • A picture
  • Enough detail to start building

Mozilla Open Education Course

I’m excited to be participating in an open education course that’s been organised by Mozilla, ccLearn and the Peer to peer university (P2PU).  The course aims to provide educators with some foundational awareness of Creative Commons licensing, the educational aspect of the Mozilla foundation and the P2PU.  There are three broad areas that will be covered; open licensing, open technology and open pedagogy.

There’ll be a series of online seminars, as well as a practical component in the form of an individual (or small group) project that participants can use to implement and test their ideas related to the course.  Here’s a list of all the participants and the projects everyone is interested in running.

I’m going to post my notes / thoughts during the course of the project, on both this blog and on Twitter.