Beyond good and evil


Catchy title from Nick Pearce from Durham University for his presentation at the BB users conference, order Nick critiqued the notion of openness in education and the pros and cons of open vs. closed practices. He began by arguing that education and scholarship have always been about sharing. Nick was involved with Martin Weller at the OU on an interesting project on digital scholarship a while back and was clearly drawing on some of the findings from that research in his talk. More on this can be found in this paper. He argued that new technologies become old eventually, but are often persistent. He cited the interesting example of the qwerty keyboard that we still use today, which was originally designed in the era of typewriters to actually slow users down so that the keys didn’t get jammed!

He posed the question what is open? A dangerous thing to try and define a term like this… but his definition was that it is about making something available to everyone. He went on to ask, is it an ideal? And suggested that true openness is not possible for a number of reasons: not everyone will have access, not everyone will be interested and not everyone will have the capacity to adopt open practices. He then presented two examples of adopting more open practices from his own teaching context.

The first was around physical vs. digital reading packs and their associated Copyright Licensing Agreements (CLA). He created a digital reading pack, which was a mash-up of different content that was popular with his students. He argued that new technologies offer exciting possibilities, such as students being able to access and annotate content on devices like the iPad. The second example was the use of the new feature in BB to embed Slideshare presentations. Many of use have being using Slideshare for some time to share presentations at conferences, but the functionality in BB now makes it easier for teachers to share materials with students too. However making these resources available on Slideshare opens them up to a wider audience and Nick wondered what the impact of that would be on how peers viewed him and his work.

Finally, he concluded by introducing the notion of ‘open-ish education’; i.e. embracing the notion of open and closed in a teaching context. This relates nicely I think to my notion of a VLE+ in the last blog post; i.e. mixing VLE functionality with free tools and resource. Nick’s presentations can be found at and he is @drnickpearce on Twitter.

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