"What we can do for Open Content." Report from Como, Italy workshop
- On June 9th I attended the workshop "Preserving Quality in an Open
Environment" http://www.openculture.org in Como, Italy. I signed up
many who attended for our Minciu Sodas laboratory's working group
"Learning from each other"
That afternoon I took the initiative to lead discussion on steps that we
might take to advance open content, especially in education. I share my
summary based on what we wrote on the large sheets, and how I see it all
First we introduced ourselves. Those participating included Paolo
Pumilia, Fabrizia Bevilacqua, Annamaria Tammaro, Paola Gargiulo, M.Licia
Zuzzaro, Luisa Tarinati, Marilena Vimercati and George Auckland.
We spoke about the aspects of "open content" that we were most
interested in. I have marked (*) the topics that we decided to focus on:
Training and Support the Teachers *
Building One's Own Path
Produce Learning Objects
Developing International Projects
Quality of Information
How to populate *
How to make a service *
How to collect *
How to manage *
Our major question was, how can we support teachers so that they can use
and build a system of open content in their teaching? I note that this
is also very relevant to Pamela McLean in her work with teachers in Africa.
Then George Auckland of the BBC presented a vision of two sides that we
might bring together in the pursuit of "quality":
- The traditional expert
- Popular knowledge (as at Amazon, Wikipedia)
We considered various concepts that could help us include both positions:
- Power to evaluate
Then I asked us to talk about projects that we think could help us give
shape to this middle ground. They involved two questions that addressed
each side of the equation:
- How to train and support teachers (the traditional experts) so they
could make good use of open content?
- How to populate the system with content (with contributions from the
Before I list the projects, I will share my thoughts on why "open
content" is so special for learning. We use "content" as a way to share
the knowledge that we have accumulated and that we find helpful. By
making it "open", we are making it "transparent" so that we can see
through it and beyond it. We can see the related knowledge, the context
that makes the knowledge meaningful, which is our human relationships.
We can look for the personal reasons why the teacher is attracted to the
subject or required to teach it. We can also understand what the
learner is looking for, the learning obstacles they are overcoming, or
the reasons they have to take the course. We see, too, that the learner
and teacher are often the same person. We see that they can contribute
their learning experience.
One project is to place "open content" as part of the practice of new
teaching techniques. Many of these are social, such as collaborative
learning, and can make use of social software, a community of practice,
and the ability to lead such a community. Such growth and leadership
arises if we support the personal growth that the teachers seek for
themselves and by which they show their example. Our Minciu Sodas
laboratory has working groups to support such leadership. I see examples
of our growth in Pamela McLean, Maria Agnese Giraudo, Benoit Couture,
Jeff Buderer, Franz Nahrada, Samwel Kongere, myself and many others.
Another project is to develop "open content" as a way to understand what
kind of education is truly relevant. An institution can invest in its
experts by giving them some time, some resources to pursue what they
personally care about, and see who they attract. Also, by encouraging
popular contributions, we find out what kind of knowledge there is an
interest in and a demand for. "Open content" helps the expert and the
populace find each other.
What do we actually mean by quality? We can formulate a General Quality
Grid that would remind us of the various aspects of quality including
verifiability, relevance to the audience, reapplicability, and many of
others. This would help us keep asking: How could quality be improved?
It was said, "Success means that we're no longer needed" and asked, Will
peer-review dissapear? The General Quality Grid will help us see what
work is needed where!
Standards for learning modules could encourage us to work alongside each
other to create lessons and assemble them in various ways. A lesson may
be thought of as a building block that can be included in a course, but
is itself defined by components. These include the lesson itself (and
it's expected length, perhaps 30 minutes), a layman's explanation,
examples (there can be an unlimited number), problems, tests, open
questions, cultural relevance, results, glossary, symbols and comments.
A standard format would encourage collecting examples and problems and
also make it easier to find courses.
How could we break down the content into dimensions such as sound,
voice, design, text so that the knowledge is findable? I have since
written a proposal to Steve Cayzer of Hewlett-Packard that we use our
"deepest values" in life as reference points.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/workinginparallel/message/2175 I will be
writing more about "semantic photos" which are a current area of
research for Steve. We could organize photos, videos, music, courses by
relating them to people (who may have a "deepest value") but also
relating them to one or more values that we think are relevant. This
can become a very deep, very personal way to communicate with each
other. This week I spoke with Colby Stuart who I met this summer in
Amsterdam. She is the one who alerted me to the connection between
media and the values they communicate. Her "Networks of Meanings"
project explores this connection
Also, Franz Nahrada has pointed me to http://personaldna.com
A variety of social software are helping us access knowledge channels
and share knowledge artifacts. What kind of value are they adding?
Where do we start? How do we get help with new technologies so that we
can get started? For example, it can take a half hour tutorial to get
started with a wiki, and then lots of practice to learn how to use it
As we build up open content, we can add services through an XML design
layer and nurture a culture of mixing content. What are the
possibilities? What is the relevant technology?
How can we encourage contribution of content? Mikhel Pilv
http://www.miksike.ee has pioneered a wide variety of rewards, prizes,
recognitions, publications that encourage students and teachers to
Finally, a project that received enthusiastic support was to facilitate
the publication cycle. How might we separate design, layout, promotion,
distribution of open content into different services? This would
facilitate the reuse of content and the opportunities for working together.
Each of these projects opens up the context around "learning objects"
and the channel between teacher and learner so that they can empathize
with each other and learn from each other.
I welcome us again to Pamela McLean's working group Learning From Each
Other. I invite us to share our ideas. In particular, please let us
know how you would like to work together on making "open content" a
reality in education.
Learning from each other,
+370 (699) 30003
- Thanks to Andrius for his posting on "What we can do for Open Content."
Report from Como, Italy workshop, and welcome to the new participants
Andrius has introduced.
I would like to suggest that we all introduce/re-introduce ourselves to
each other explaining why we are interested in "learning from each other".
I appreciate what Andrius has done is setting up this group - but I have
been slow to take advantage of it - partly because I have been unsure
what part of my own interests in "Learning From Each Other" I should
focus on here, and what other people's interests would be. Obviously,
as self directed learners, we all have our own particular interests in
what we want to learn - and there will be many possible directions to take.
Andrius has given me a leadership role in this group - but I will try to
avoid the temptation of getting involved in every discussion thread.
Given that the starting point for me was a series of conversations that
I had with Andrius, I will probably take his thread of "Open Content" as
my personal starting point.
Having asked for introductions I should think how to introduce myself:
I developed the skills and confidence to become an independent learner
through my studies with the Open University. My paid-work background is
in teaching and training. My free-work is related to community
projects in rural Nigeria - which I started to get involved with when a
friend here in the UK married a Nigerian. Originally I had no intention
of actually going to Africa - but my involvement has now taken me to
Nigeria seven times (on working holidays) and to Zambia once (as a
participant in a trainers workshop).
My experience as a self directed learner on the Internet came through my
need to learn various things related to my practical work in Nigeria. At
first I simply visited websites, but I soon discovered that I could join
in discussion groups, and that belonging to a community of interest is a
very valuable way of learning. As a teacher and a learner I am intrigued
by the way we shift roles between teacher and learner on discussion
lists. I am also interested in how we discover the relationships where
the exchange of information is equally valuable to both sides, and
especially where both parties learn something completely new - which
neither of them knew initially. I'm also interested in what peer-to-peer
learning and such like will do to traditional top down learning systems
I want to find ways to help other people to have opportunities for self
directed life long learning - especially people like those that I link
with in Nigeria- and that is what I am trying to learn about. I believe
that the creative use of ICTs should enable the "death of distance", so
that more people can more easily be included in education/training
opportunities, formal and informal.
This means that I am interested in issues such as:
- the present situation in rural Nigeria and similar locations,
especially, but not only, regarding access to education and training (it
has to be seen in context - employment/unemployment realities, health,
living conditions, local culture, educational funding, local
infrastructure and economics etc)
- the development of learning skills
- ICT systems - digital technologies of all kinds - that enable us to
access information and knowledge
- skills that I personally need to use ICTs more effectively in my work
- issues of infrastructure etc that enable/prevent access to ICTs
- issues of economics, politics, funding etc that influence the wider
environment in which people do or do not have access to things like
educational opportunities and ICTs.
- working relationships and collaborations enabled by ICTs
- issues relating to economics and the information age - relating to
ideas in a book called "The Wealth of Information".
- other stuff related to the development of new approaches to
education/training opportunities enabled by digital technologies -
especially in the context of local cultures and community networks in
rural Nigeria and similar settings..
So - that's my introduction - a bit long - which perhaps helps to
explain why I couldn't' decide where to start on "Learning From Each
Other". Please share your introductions - as long or as short as you
choose - but please say something.
I look forward to learning from you.
- First of all - Helen - you are most welcome to this group. I look
forward to getting to know you and your work, and discovering how our
interests overlap and how we can help each other and learn form each other.
Secondly I am responding to what Andrius Kulikauskas wrote in "What we
can do for Open Content." Report from Como, Italy workshop:
>(snip)We spoke about the aspects of "open content" that we were mostThese interest me too.
>interested in. I have marked (*) the topics that we decided to focus on:
>Training and Support the Teachers *
>How to populate *
>How to make a service *
>How to collect *
>How to manage *
>Our major question was, how can we support teachers so that they can useYes, indeed so. Andrius is referring to "TT" the "Teachers Talking -
>and build a system of open content in their teaching? I note that this
>is also very relevant to Pamela McLean in her work with teachers in Africa.
About ICT" programme that I am working on with "colleagues" in
Nigeria (Incidentally can anyone tell me what is the right word for
people you work with - when it's not paid work?)
By the way, I'm aware that different people mean slightly different
things by "open content" - but let's not worry about defining it at this
point - we can do that later if we find there are areas of confusion or
disagreement because of different assumptions of what "open content"
>Then George Auckland of the BBC presented a vision of two sides that weThis is a a big snip - not because what was in the snip said nothing
>might bring together in the pursuit of "quality":
>- The traditional expert
>- Popular knowledge (as at Amazon, Wikipedia)
interesting- but because it prompted too many thoughts to respond to in
writing at present.
>One project is to place "open content" as part of the practice of newI am excited and intrigued by this possibility and appreciate the
>teaching techniques. Many of these are social, such as collaborative
>learning, and can make use of social software, a community of practice,
>and the ability to lead such a community. Such growth and leadership
>arises if we support the personal growth that the teachers seek for
>themselves and by which they show their example. Our Minciu Sodas
>laboratory has working groups to support such leadership. (snip)
opportunity that Andrius is giving me here through making me leader of
this group. I am still "getting my head around" the "Russian doll"
aspects of what we could do here as we are Learning From Each Other
There are issues within issues:
#. How we learn.
# How we learn to learn.
# How we teach.
# How we learn to teach.
# How we use ICTs to learn and to teach.
# How we learn to use the ICTs,
# How we use those ICTs to help each other to learn and to teach -
formally and informally (I thrive on informal).
# How we teach people who are excluded from ICT-enabled learning
processes to be able to be included,.etc.
>Another project is to develop "open content" as a way to understand what(snip - another big one - again snipped completely because it is too
>kind of education is truly relevant. (snip) we find out what kind of knowledge there is an interest in and a demand for. "Open content" helps the expert and the
>populace find each other.
rich for me to write a response in the time I have available for this post)
>Finally, a project that received enthusiastic support was to facilitateI have a suggestion related to the subjects of open content, demand,
>the publication cycle. How might we separate design, layout, promotion,
>distribution of open content into different services? This would
>facilitate the reuse of content and the opportunities for working together.
>I welcome us again to Pamela McLean's working group Learning From Each
>Other. I invite us to share our ideas. In particular, please let us
>know how you would like to work together on making "open content" a
>reality in education.
working together etc
Regarding TT there are some resources that I developed for "NC3" - the
"No-Computer Computer Course" element of TT. We could take one or more
of these resources to play around with, and see what some of Andrius'
project ideas would mean in practice. If things worked out well we might
continue with more of the NC3 resources - if not we would at least have
learned something about collaborating on the development of open content
and have a clearer idea of how to move forward and what kind of project
to try next.
Working on NC3 (even if it was on just one of the resources) would not
be an empty exercise but a practical one. . I recently presented TT as a
case study at an IICD "Train the Trainers" workshop in Zambia. Fellow
trainers were interested in using the NC3 resources in their own work. I
want to develop an effective mechanism for sharing the resources with
those trainers and with others. Anything that we Learn From Each Other
about good ways to share the resources will affect the way I go forward
with NC3 afterwards.
Would anyone be interested in possibly taking this further?