The OER15 conference

April 16th, 2015


Chilling with Catherine Cronin, David Kernohan and Laura Ritchie 

This week I attended the OER15 conference in Cardiff. It was held in the Welsh College of Music and Drama a fabulous venue. The conference was excellent, lots of things to take away. As you might expect the online presence was really good, an excellent website, including an interactive programme and lots of people twitting. Here are some of the key highlights for me.

The overarching theme of the conference was taking OER mainstream, with the point being that now we have around 15 years of OER, it is time to scale things up and look at how we can better integrate OER.

Cable Green, director of global learning, was the opening keynote. He structured his talk into the following themes.

  • First, he discussed what kind of OER infrastructure we need. He referred back to the Hewlett definition of OER and in particular the emphasis on the need for resources to reside in the public domain for free and also referred to David Wileys 5 Rs of OER (reuse revise remix redistribute retain). However, he warned against open washing, i.e. resources having the appearance of being open source, while continuing to have proprietary practices.  
  • Second, he argued for the need for an OER value proposition, i.e. open as a tactic rather than a goal, and the move towards more open pedagogies. He suggested the following things were needed:
    • Reduce barriers to education including access cost language and format
    • Transforming teaching and learning and enable open practice and pedagogy
    • Enabling free access
    • Enhancing educational opportunities to foster development and more productive free societies
    • Re professional teaching
    • Connecting communities of educators
    • Increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of public funds spend on education
    • Introducing Internet and digital technologies into education
  •  Third, he discuss OER research and in particularly referencing the Open Universitys  OER research hub. He highlighted the following findings from OER research:
    • 37.6 % of educators and 55.7 % of leaders say using OER improves student satisfaction
    • New learning experience
    • Motivational
    • Saving money
    • Try university content before signing up
    • Knowing where to find OER is difficult
    • Only 12 % use CC
  • Fourth, he discussed the OER momentum, pointing to a number of key initiatives, such as: Opening up Slovenia, the European open edu policy project, Z degree in the States, and Josie Frasers work with schools in Leicester.
  •  Fifth, he argued for the need for an OER vision, which would include  all publicly funded research to be open as default and textbooks etc. should bel free and in editable formats and available in different languages. He pointed to the work being done as part of the  open policy network and institute for national leadership. He argued that we need to shift to a position where OER are continuously updated by teachers and learners, and where constructivist, connectivist, open practice pedagogies dominate. He reminded us of the Cape Town and Paris OER declarations which set out a vision for the future of OER.
  • Finally, he suggested it was time for an OER implementation strategy, and in particular a focus on what is needed to achieve change and mainstream OER? He invited us to look at and comment on a consultation document on OER Key highlights from this included:
    • Market penetration
    • Top strategic priorities
    • Discovery and reuse
    • Better communication about the value of OER
    • OER challenges - linear rate of growth, absence of standards, insufficient awareness, difficulty of discovery and use, inconsistent breadth and doth, lack of evidence, questions about sustainability, unfulfilled promise of reuse, poor branding, perfect as an enemy of the Good, lack of OER heroes
    • Demand - build the evidence base, improve communications, engage key constituencies, empower the grassroots, coordinate demand with supply, embed OER in the teaching profession
    • Productisation of continent
    • Tools for discoverability and reuse
    • Build supply to meet demand
    • Accessibility
    • Open up existing platforms and resources
    • International growth
    • National mainstreaming
    • Open as an aspect of digital in education
    • Government funding

Gabi Witthaus gave a presentation on our OpenCred project, commissioned by IPTS, The project developed a typology of institutional practices for the recognition of open learning in Europe. The research included desk research, six interviews with key stakeholders and analysis.  Key findings were:

  • That there was no monolithic recognition of informal learning spectrum from no recognition to continuing professional development credits (5 levels)
  • Three factors were identified as having the greatest impact: robustness, affordability of access, and leaners eligibility for assessment (no assessment to insist exam or RPL)
  • Four dimensions of recognition were identified, leading to several different diamond-shaped models across different OER initiatives.  

Chrissi Nerantzi described the work they were doing in her institution on open cross-institutional Continuing Professional Development. She described how they were using Wengers concept of a patchwork strategy (Wenger 2009) and a link to a presentation she had done on this.

Josie Fraser was the second keynote, entitled OER on Main Street. She referred to the disruptive business models that have emerged as a result of OER and MOOCs. She empahsised the importance of digital literacy social inclusion and social engagement. Her role at Leicester City Council is head of technical strand of the building schools initiative. She described how she was working with 2000 staff in 23 schools across Leicester as part of the project.

She outlined two main themes that have emerged from this work:


  • In terms of mainstreaming, she questioned how we could do this, referring Martin Wellers book The battle for open. She suggested that we think of mainstreaming as inclusive, valuing difference; and that the Internet is now part of everyday life.
  • She argued that there was an ‘eternal September’ since 1993. It will never end. New people, new services and sites, overwhelming existing practises.

She argued that basic digital literacy skills need to be developed. She describe how Identify gaps and strengths across the city, city level, school level and individual level. She emphasised the following aspects of OER:

  • Finding evaluating and organising
  • Sharing and creating

She said that they had found a lot of gaps around understanding ofcopyright. Most teachers hadn’t heard of open licensing, OER or Creative Commons and many were not aware of IP issues.

The positives that emerged were that there is a massive culture of informal sharing by teachers, and high quality excellent resources are being produced and built on. She suggested that there is a need to produce accessible guidance for school staff, which supports staff in understanding and making use of open licensing and creating and sharing OER. She described a set of guideline that they have produced, which consist of the following aspects:

  • What are OER? What is the relationship between OER: legal freedom, education and participation, technical freedom?
  • What is an open licence?
  • How can teachers find and remix OER?
  • How can OER be open licensed and what is the best way of sharing resources?

Her definition of OER included the following:

  • Open education community
  • Accessibility of text
  • Licence recommendation
  • Legal position of staff 

She said that they had found that schools were concerned with what is an open licence and how does it work?, IP and employment, and utility, control, and management.

The following things emerged as important:

  • Licence types
  • Key questions for schools around open licensing and OER. How can we support staff in adopting more open practices.
  • Issues: awareness and licensing agreement
  • Students: modelling practice, curriculum opportunity, and IP rights management,

The remaining two keynotes were Sheila MacNeill and Martin Weller, both excellent talks as well, but by this point I stopped taking notes and just listened. All the keynote were recorded and are available online. As usual, in addition to the formal sessions, there were lots of good discussions in the coffee breaks and at lunchtime. Next years conference will be held in Edinburgh. So to conclude, a great conference, lots of good papers and talks, and a lovely community.








Reflecting on today’s mobile learning

April 8th, 2015



Image from


I recently got an iPad Air, which I absolutely love! It’s great for surfing the net, posting on social media and answering emails. First thing in the morning will find me snuggled on my sofa with a cup of tea, iPad Air in hand. Tables and smart phones mean that mobile learning anywhere, anytime is now a reality. I was very dubious about the first generation of mobile devices and sceptical of those who raved about their potential for learning. Remember palm tablets? Nasty gritty small screen and not a very intuitive interface.  


It sometimes takes awhile for you to assimilate a new technology. I got an iPad a few years ago, but never really took to it; the main reason was that it was just too heavy. I then won an iPad mini at a conference. Again at first I didn’t really use it, but then I had to go abroad for work and needed to read two theses. I downloaded them onto my iPad mini and that was it, I was hooked! Reading from the screen was easy, the battery life was good and I could annotate the documents.


The field of mobile learning research has matured since its nascent beginnings, and now there are numerous sub-fields: seamless learning, cross-contextual learning, BYOD in the classroom, field-trip learning, ubiquitous learning, wearable learning, evaluation of learning on the move, and mobile devices for data capture to name just a few!


The first generation of mobile devices emerged in the mid-nineties, with the promise of enabling learning anywhere, anytime (Sharples, Corlett et al. 2002). Mobile devices have advanced significantly since this time, nonetheless it is worth referring back to Kukulska-Hulme and Traxler’s (2005) statement of the nature of the initial generation of mobile devices:

What is new in ‘mobile learning’ comes from the possibilities opened up by portable, lightweight devices that are sometimes small enough to fit in a pocket or in the palm of one’s hand. Typical examples are mobile phones (also called cellphones or handphones), smartphones, palmtops and handheld computers (Personal Digital Assistant or PDAs), Tablet PCs, laptop computers and personal media players can also fall within its scope.


Sharples and Pea (2014) provide a useful summary of the key developments in mobile learning; starting with the vision for the creation of Dynabooks in the early seventies. They described a number of key mobile learning projects, which explored learning across different learning contexts (informal and formal), different devices, and different locations. They list Wong and Looi’s (2011) ten characteristics of mobile-assisted seamless learning:


  • Encompassing formal and informal learning
  • Encompassing personalised and social learning
  • Across time
  • Across locations
  • Ubiquitous access to learning resources
  • Encompassing physical and digital objects
  • Combined use of multiple device types
  • Seamless switching between multiple learning tasks
  • Knowledge synthesis
  • Encompassing multiple pedagogical or learning activity models.

Sharples and Pea argue that the teacher’s role is still crucial, but that they are more of a learning facilitator, rather than content provider. The projects they describe indicate that with mobile devices it is possible:

To connect learning in and out of the classroom using mobile devices to orchestrate the learning, deliver contextually-relevant resources and exploit mobile devices as inquiry toolkits.


They conclude by stating:

Mobile learning takes for granted that learners are continually on the move. We learn across space, taking ideas and learning resources gained in one location and applying them in another, with multiple purposes, multiple facets of identity. We learn across time, by revisiting knowledge that was gained from earlier in a different learning context. We move from topic to topic, managing a range of personal learning projects, rather than following a single curriculum. We also move in and out of engagement with technology, for example as we enter and leave phone coverage.

Bird[1] undertook an evaluation of the use of iPads by Medical students at Leicester University. Overall the students were very positive about the use of their iPads, stating they were convenient, efficient, useful and easy to use. Bird lists the follow as examples of how the students were using the mobile devices for learning:


  • To annotate and organised notes
  • For group work and development
  • Memorising key concepts, through student generated flashcards and quizzes
  • For handwriting and drawing

With the increase in access to information and production of knowledge, mobile learning is challenging traditional educational institutions and associated authorities. It provides the opportunity to shift away from teacher-centred pedagogies to an increased focus on learning and the learner, through concepts like the flipped classroom. Because mobile devices enable learning anywhere, anytime and because they can be personalised they are ideally suited to informal and contextual learning. Learning across formal and informal contexts means that there is a blurring of the boundaries between learning and work.


An EDUCAUSE report argues that microlearning encourages learners to focus on discrete chunks of content and learning activities.[2] Fastcodesign[3] argues that there are ten ways in which mobile learning will revolutionise education:

  • Continuous learning: learning is increasingly getting interspersed with our daily lives through the use of mobile devices and near ubiquitous access to the Internet.
  • Educational leapfrogging: low cost mobile devices are particularly important in developing countries.
  • A new crop of older, lifelong learners: often referred to as the silver surfers, are increasingly getting into using mobile devices, often motivated by a desire to keep in touch with their children and grandchildren via social media.
  • Breaking gender barriers: in parts of the world where woman are not allowed access to formal education, mobile devices provide them with a means to access high quality resources and to communicate with peers.
  • A new literacy is emerging: there are now numerous companies (such as Codeacademy) that teach people via interactive lessons to write software programmes.
  • Education’s long tail: The vast array of resources to support many different subjects means that mobile devices enable learners to study niche subjects.
  • Teachers and pupils trade roles: Learning and teaching becomes a two way process, where teachers can learn from the learners and vice versa.
  • Synergies with mobile banking and mobile health: A lot can be learnt from the way in which mobile banking and health have developed, such as using text messaging to deliver short lessons, and give teacher feedback and grades.
  • New opportunities for traditional educational institutions: Mobile learning can potentially complement and extend traditional educational offerings. We are seeing a disaggregation of formal education. Increasingly rather than signing up for a full course, learners may instead choose to pay for components, such as access to high quality resources, pedagogically informed learning pathways, support from tutors or peers, and accreditation.
  • A revolution leading to customised education: Mobile learning is not just about digitising existing content, it is about harnessing the power of social media and embracing open practices.


Te@chthought[4] lists the following 12 principles of mobile learning:

  • Access: in terms of access to content, peers, experts, and resources.
  • Metrics: increasing there are metrics associated with how we are using mobile devices, which can be used to inform and improve the way we learn.
  • Cloud computing: means that we can access information anywhere, via any device.
  • Transparent: transparency is a byproduct of connectivity, mobility and collaboration.
  • Play: is a key characteristic of authentic, progressive learning. In a mobile learning environment, learners encounter a dynamic and often unplanned set of data, domains and collaborations.
  • Asynchronous: enabling a learning experience that is personalised, just in time and reflective.
  • Self-actuated: where learners plan how and what they learn, facilitated by teachers, who are the experts in terms of the resources and assessment.
  • Diverse: learning environments are constantly changing, enabling learners to encounter a stream of new ideas, unexpected challenges, and constant opportunities for revision and application of thinking.
  • Curation: there are now a wealth of Apps to support curation so that individual learners can group and share useful resources.
  • Blending: Across the physical and digital space and across different devices, supporting both formal and informal learning.
  • Always-on: Always-on learning is self-actuated, spontaneous, iterative and recursive.
  • Authentic: enabling situative and personalised learning.

So it would appear that mobile learning has finally come of age, it will be interesting to see how the use of mobile devices learning and teaching develops in the coming years.


Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Mike Sharples, Agnes KuKulska-Hulme, John Traxler and Terese Birds for links to a number of useful references.



Kukulska-Hulme, A. and J. Traxler (2005). Mobile learning - a handbook for educators and trainers. Abingdon, Routledge.

Sharples, M., D. Corlett and O. Westmancott (2002). “The design and implementation of a mobile learning resource.” Personal and ubiquitous computing 6: 220-234.

Sharples, M. and R. Pea (2014). Mobile Learning. The Cambridge Handbook of Learning Sciences. R. K. Sawyer. New York, NY, Cambridge University Press.

Wong, L. H. and C. K. Looi (2011). “What seams do we remove in mobile-assisted seamless learning? A critical review of the literature.” Computers and Education 57(4): 2364 - 2381.










The affordances of digital technologies and user behaviour

April 1st, 2015



So as part of my new job at Bath Spa University I got a Mac Book Pro and an iPad Air. I leave the former in the office (after a disaster two weeks into the job when I spilt liquid on the first Mac Book Pro). The latter I take everywhere with me. I have noticed that using the iPad Air is changing my behaviour. For example, I have got into the habit of using it first thing, surfing the web, fb and Twitter; to find, share and comment on useful resources and links. I realised that I needed a curation tool to keep track of the things I was finding. I asked on fb and a number of suggestions came back:, Diigo, evernote, pocket, livebinders, pinterest, sight & screenshots, and pearltrees.


I decided to give pearltrees a go and set up an account this morning. I have already created a number of collections: Digital Technologies, Digital Literacy, Online and Distance Education, Learning Design, Social Media, Educational Videos, and Mobile Learning. It was quick and easy to set up, and has a nice interface. For some reason I don’t use curation tools on my laptop, but there is something about the affordances (Gibson 1979, Conole and Dyke 2004) of the iPad Air interface and the peartrees App that makes curation easier. So for me there is definitely a correlation between the affordances of digital technologies and user behaviour.



Conole, G. and M. Dyke (2004). “What are the affordances of information and communication technologies?” ALT-J 12(2): 113-124 %U

Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associated.


AACE’s list of Ed Tech folk

March 25th, 2015



I often say to people that social media has changed the way I work. I have been blogging since 2007, following very good advice from my colleague at the OU, Martin Weller, he said to try and blog on a regular basis, think of things to blog about (reflections on papers or conferences, working up ideas, summarising interesting resources, drafts of papers or book chapters) and also to follow some key bloggers (which I do, you can see who on my blogroll). I was lucky enough that my first post was picked up by George Siemens, which led to an immediate increase in the number of people reading my blog. Soon after I started Tweeting, not always the easiest thing to get the hang of, but I was lucky enough to connect with many others at the OU. I started facebook at about the same time. I tend to use Twitter mainly for professional things, disseminating my research or finding useful links and resources. Facebook is a mixture of professional and personal (be warned there are lots of pictures of cats and food). Cooking and travel are two of my passions; so a few years ago I started a personal blog.


I can’t believe the number of people I am connected with through these sites, I have 8135 followers and follow 2301 people on Twitter. People ask me how on earth I keep up with all of this, the answer is I don’t; I dip in, I look at particular people’s tweets, I interact with people who @gconole me, and I search on hashtags. I have 1328 friends on facebook! I have a different level of interaction with people on both of these social networking sites, my connections are like an onion, at the core are people that I interact with on a regular basis, who will always like my posts, comment or retweet. I have lost count of the number of people who I have met face to face that I feel like I already know because of our interactions online.


My style is very open, a result of my personality and the nature of my job I guess. Blogging has truly transformed my research practice, it is relatively easy to write a 500 word blog post on a nascent idea, which you can then work up into a paper later, I recently did this with a piece on a new taxonomy for MOOCs. Despite having worked at six institutions I feel very much part of a global community of peers. So social networking is an important daily part of both my professional and personal practice.


I was really chuffed to be listed in the AACE list of 20 top people in Educational Technology to follow through social media. I know many of the people on the list, and indeed would count them as friends as well as colleagues. Social media has enriched my life in so many ways; I love the two-way nature of these sites, and the way people are so generous and willing to share and help.

Seminar in the castle!

March 25th, 2015


As part of the DiTE (Diversity in Teacher Education) project we are running a series of seminars. Todays was given by Kate Reynolds (dean of education) and Pat Black. The focus of the seminar centred around two key questions: What is a qualified teacher and what is PGCE? And what are the associated policy issues? A key question is what is the future of teacher education? What is the impact of the diversity of routes into teacher education now available and what does it mean to be a teacher and what is the role of universities in teacher education?


Pat summarised some of the teacher initiatives of the past few years and associated policy perspectives. She mentioned in particular the November 2010 white paper on the importance of teacher education, highlighting the following recommendations:

  • Teach first to expand
  • Outstanding schools to be given role
  • Bursaries for training
  • More time in the classroom
  • National framework for training
  • State funded schools


She also referred to the 2011 report on training next generation of outstanding teachersOf particular note of course is the Carter review, which looked at teacher education. Carter undertook a review of initial teacher training (ITT). The core aim was to identify which core elements of high quality ITT across phases and subject disciplines are key to equipping trainees with the required skills and knowledge to become outstanding teachers. In addition, he looked at how to improve the transparency of training offers and access to course


Pat also referenced the report on the establishment of a new college of teaching referenced in the a world class teaching profession report, which I blogged about recently. She also mentioned the A manifesto for teacher education report, which states that:

Our schools and colleges need to be able to recruit qualified teachers who are experts in teaching and learning as well as subject specialisms.








Tools to facilitate collaboration

March 23rd, 2015


Image Bild: CC BY-NC-SA Some rights reserved by Opedagogen


Nice blog post today by Alastair Creelman on collaboration. He begins by arguing that ‘Learning involves collaboration and interaction…’ He points to a guide that has been published, which describes the following facets of collaboration:

  • Collaborative writing
  • Shared workspace
  • Curate
  • Plan
  • News gathering
  • Screencasting
  • Network
  • E-meetings
  • Research

The guide describes tools that can be used to enable each of these; for example Google Drive for collaborative writing or Twitter for networking. A very useful and practical guide!

The power of social media

March 23rd, 2015


Image from


A posting on fb by Ebba Ossiannilsson this morning prompted me to think about how I find information, get ideas and write. I always tell my PhD students that it is important for them to develop a clear strategy for doing their literature review. This includes brainstorming appropriate keywords to search on google and on relevant research databases, following references cited in papers, but also reading key blogs – in our field people like George Siemens, Martin Weller, Terry Anderson and others comes to mind – are your ears burning guys? But social media also provide a wealth of opportunity to find useful stuff. Twitter in particular is a great source of information, and despite the trivia posted on fb (pictures of cats and food come to mind, as do trivial quizzes…) there are often useful links, including the one from Ebba this morning. Of course social media is two-way – you can’t just take, take, take; it’s important to also respond to other people’s requests for help. And I love the serendipitous nature of social media, just coming across things accidently, that make you think or augment something you are already doing. So I often start the day curled on the sofa, with a cup of tea, surfing around fb and Twitter, replying to other people’s posts or retweeting. I feel privileged to be part of such a great global community.

Diversity in Teacher Education

March 19th, 2015


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I have just taken over leading the DiTE (Diversity in Teacher Education) project at Bath Spa University. In this post I will summarise the main focus of the project.


There is a major policy debate nationally - and indeed internationally - about the efficacy of different approaches to teacher education in the light of the challenges of preparing teachers for twenty-first Century schools., and in particular the  binary opposition of university-led versus school-led approaches to the training of teachers.


The project consists of four phases:

  • The first phase is producing a picture of the landscape of teacher training and in particular the different routes. It will cover dimensions such as the: duration, level, cost, location and leadership of the provision and the demographic characteristics of the tutors and students involved in the different routes to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
  • The second phase will involve in-depth exploration of the characteristics of a sample of different types of provision in terms of their aims, structure, qualifications and, most crucially, the student experience. The sample will include HEI-led partnerships offering BA(QTS) and PGCE courses.
  • School-Centred ITT schemes, Teach First provision, School Direct and School Direct Salaried routes and the Troops to Teachers programme, and also perhaps those following the Assessment Only route to QTS including unqualified teachers recruited directly to Academies or Free Schools.
  • The third phase will entail specifying and measuring any differential outcomes and effects of the different training routes studied in Phase 2. An attempt will also be made to determine different rates of employment and whether teachers trained on different routes have differential effects on pupils’ learning outcomes.
  • The fourth phase will focus on dissemination and recommendations to policy makers. It will contribute to a broader understanding of processes of professional formation in teaching (and potentially allow comparisons with other professions).


The working environment

March 18th, 2015


Now into my second month at Bath Spa University and I already feel as if I have been here forever ;-) Very impressed with the working environment. Stunning campus, nice office now complete with pictures. But there are a number of other things I am impressed with. Printing on the go (I know it’s nothing special but very convenient), just send your file go to the nearest printer, swipe your card and voila! Lots of recycling schemes, recycling bins everywhere. IT services are not only pleasant and friendly but efficient. Mac Book Pro up and running in no time, and now iPad Air (which I just love!) and mobile. Everyone uses Google Gmail and good drive for sharing. There is a good culture of sharing calendars as well. None of this is rocket science, but it all makes for a good working environment!

Learning to learn

March 17th, 2015


Picture from the Innovating Pedagogy report.


I read a blog post this morning, which argues that learning to learn will be the most significant classroom innovation in the next ten years, for both teachers and students. It’s always dangerous to make predictions about the future; none of us could have possibly imagined the impact the web would have had on all aspects of our lives. Mobile devices and tablets, and almost ubiquitous wifi, means that we have information at our finger tips 24/7. The blog post lists the following facets of learning to learn:

  • Learning how to learn will mean being able to find, filter, evaluate, categorize, store, remix and create information… no matter how much information is available or in what format, media, or language it is available.
  • Learning how to learn will mean being able to work and learn with (not just about) people at a global scale… no matter what geographic distance, time zone, culture or language.
  • Learning how to learn will mean being able to understand the different purposes of a variety of tools and platforms and being able to harness the power of these tools and networks so you can fluently switch between them or combine them … no matter how new or old the platforms or tools.
  • Learning how to learn will mean to adapt to new forms of media… no matter if this means letting go of nostalgic attachments or customary workflows or routine habits in reading, writing and communicating.

This resonates with the OU’s 2014 Innovating Pedagogy report which lists learning to learn as one of the ten key developments that are likely to have a significant impact on learning and teaching in the next few years. The report states:


We are always learning. Throughout our lifetime we take on board new ideas and develop new skills. What we find difficult are learning what others want to teach us, and managing our learning in order to achieve particular goals and outcomes. Self-determined learning involves learning how to be an effective learner, and having the confidence to manage our own learning processes. ‘Double-loop learning’ is central to this process, for double-loop learners not only work out how to solve a problem or reach a goal, but also reflect on that process as a whole, questioning assumptions and considering how to become more effective. This helps them to become self-determined learners with the ability to seek out sources of knowledge and make use of online networks for advice and support.


Amongst the resources lists is an excellent article  by Lisa Marie Blaschke - are your ears burning Lisa? ;-)