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#ReclaimOpen Learning Symposium

September 26, 2013

"Open" by Jessica Duensing (CC-BY-SA)

Free streaming of the Reclaim Open Learning Symposium begins at 5:00PM on Saturday 26 Sept. Pacific time (that’s 12:00 noon on Friday 27 Sept. in New Zealand) at UC Irvine, with a conversation with John Seely Brown and Amin Saberi, moderated by Anya Kamenetz. The event (and stream) continues the next day (Sat. 5:00AM-12:00PM NZ time) with Howard Rheingold and the winners of the Reclaim Open Learning Innovation Challenge, who are

transforming higher education toward connected and creative learning, open in content and access, participatory, and building on a growing range of experiments and innovations in networked learning.

These are innovative project worth hearing about from dedicated, creative people who are worth following. Speakers include Jim Groom, Martha Buris and Alan Levine, from the University of Mary Washington (USA). They are behind ds106, an online community as much as a course, that focuses on Digital Storytelling and online identity. Jonathan Worth, Matt Johnston, Shaun Hides and Jonathan Shaw (from Coventry University, UK) won for #Phonar (Photography and Narrative), which they teach to a place-based class linked via blogs, websites and social media to the world. Susanna Ferrell and Jade Ulrich (Scripps College, United States) have put together a DOCC (Distributed Open Collaborative Course), “DOCC 2013: Dialogues on Feminism and Technology“, which looks very promising. I am less familiar with the other winning projects, but I’m sure they are all worthy of our time and attention.

These initiatives challenge the dominant MOOC narrative, which has been captured by large (mostly private, for-profit) internet startups and elite universities, and they demonstrate how we can all innovate now, where we are, in our current institutions of higher education. Check out the winners’ websites and follow the symposium on Twitter (#ReclaimOpen, @DMLResearchHub). I assume the talks will be archived after the streaming of the presentations, so check the symposium website following the event.

2013 NZ Report into the Declaration on Open and Transparent Government

June 21, 2013
From "An Opal Dream Cave" by Jem Yoshioka CC-BY-SA

From “An Opal Dream Cave” by Jem Yoshioka CC-BY-SA (reusing Katherine Mansfield’s poem)

As the Press Release says, “Open data benefits public and economy“. The “2013 report on adoption of the Declaration on Open and Transparent Government” was released by the Honourable Chris Tremain on June 17. It documents how well government agencies in New Zealand are adapting the declaration, which encourages the release of high value public data for reuse. Twenty six (84%) of government departments now include the Declaration in their core business plan or intend to do so next year (up from 72% in 2012). The Cabinet approved the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing (NZGOAL) framework on 5 July 2010 to provide guidelines for agencies to follow when releasing material under a licence that enables it to be reused by others. Since that time, progress has been very good. A directory of publicly-available, non-personal New Zealand government held datasets can be found at A list of open data case studies shows the wide variety of ways in which others have made good use of data that the government has made available. These include the Wellington Interactive Map Viewer, the Tongariro Pocket Ranger and CamperMate smart phone applications, and many other innovative products and services that  effectively and productively reuse data that has been collected by the New Zealand government and released under an open licence. The New Zealand Creative Commons Website also has an excellent set of case studies that describe how Creative Commons licences have been applied to a wide range of government material. One good role model is the The Ministry for Culture and Heritage, which has published a wealth of public resources online using a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence. As Matthew Oliver, the manager of the Ministry’s Web team says:

The more we could get our content used, the more we justify our work. By making our content available for reuse, we show that our content is important, that there is a need.

The MOOC as Megaphone

May 20, 2013
"The augmented learner, sporting a MOOC helmet" (Sara Roegiers CC-BY-SA)

“The augmented learner, sporting a MOOC helmet” (Sara Roegiers CC-BY-SA)

News and opinion pieces about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) continue to fuel an ongoing discussion with a group of colleagues who have been following the development of these innovative courses. Two recent articles that have attracted attention and comments are “Massive (But Not Open)” (Ry Rivard, Inside Higher Education, May 14, 2013) and “Laptop U: Has the future of college moved online?” (Nathan Heller, The New Yorker, May 20 2013).

Massive (But Not Open)” reports on the Georgia Institute of Technology’s plan to offer a $7,000 Masters degree in Computer Science to 10,000 students. Working in collaboration with Sebastian Thrun’s Udacity MOOC platform Georgia Tech hopes to teach these fee-paying students by adding only a handful of additional academics, demonstrating the impressive economies of scale of that are possible with this approach. Up until recently, MOOCs have been both open access and free of charge and have not been seen as a threat to the bottom line of traditional institutions of higher education. Initiatives like this that experiment with new business models might cause some concern for university administrators who believed they could afford to ignore the MOOC phenomenon.

Sebastian Thrun’s comment, that  “Udacity was nothing more than a “megaphone” for Georgia Tech” says a lot about Udacity’s version of the MOOC, and it reminded me of William W. Fisher III’s critique in the “Laptop U” article:

Two features that can be found in most of this recent wave of online courses are: first, what could be described variously as the ‘guru on the mountaintop,’ or the ‘broadcast model,’ or the ‘one-to-many model,’ or the ‘TV model,’ ” he said. . . . “The basic idea here is that an expert in the field speaks to the masses, who absorb his or her wisdom. The second feature is that, to the extent that learning requires some degree of interactivity, that interactivity is channelled into formats that require automated or right-and-wrong answers.

Although a bigger megaphone allows for larger scale and reach, we are still stuck in the broadcast model here. Other areas of activity are undergoing a paradigm shift from Push (broadcast) to Pull (accessing an archive) to Co-create (collaborative production). This arrises from changing ideas about knowledge and value creation and the advantages of open practices as much as from digital technologies and networks. We have yet to explore what this could mean for higher education.

Fisher’s hybrid CopyrightX course, described at the end of the “Laptop U” article, looks like a more interesting model that mixes online and offline activity and involves interactivity with a “live” element. Peter K. Bol’s “Chinese History 185: Creating ChinaX” looks like another worthwhile experiment. In this course, students are involved in building a MOOC. The author refers to Bol’s interest in “open-access scholarship”.

As in publishing, we need to pay close attention to the use of terms like “Open” and “Open-Access” in teaching. What does “Open Scholarship” mean? What values and goals might inform the work of an “Open Scholar”? Why would an academic choose Open approaches to teaching, research and publishing? Are we ready for a paradigm shift in higher education?

In “The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice“, Martin Weller devotes a chapter to “Openness in Education” and provides a helpful overview of how digital technology is enabling the practice of “Open Scholarship” in research, teaching, and publishing (the book is covered by a CC-BY-NC licence and can be read for free online). I came across his work in Change11, a Connectivist MOOC run by Stephen Downes and George Siemens in 2011.

“Design & Thinking” Documentary

May 17, 2013

I attended a screening of the “Design & Thinking” documentary (2012) at the Otago Museum yesterday evening. The free screening was organised and supported by the Otago Polytechnic School of Design and Wellington company, Empathy (check out their website and you can see the connection with the message of the film). The documentary, which is promoted through a Website and a Facebook page, consists of a collage of edited interviews with high profile designers, design educators, business leaders, small business innovators, and social entrepreneurs. The ideas presented by Tim Brown and David Kelley, who are well-known through their association with the design firm IDEO and Stanford’s d school, will be familiar to most design practitioners, educators and students. Stories about less well known people and projects provide concrete examples of the benefits of linking design, business, and social innovation. The documentary raises the profile of design as a discipline that is increasingly concerned with wicked problems that are best addressed through the collaborative efforts of people from different disciplinary backgrounds.

The filmmakers, Yang, Melissa, Mu-Ming Tsai and Iris, formed One Time Studio and funded the film personally before raising $18,645 through, a crowd funding platform. Others are using Kickstarter to raise money for local screenings. It is impressive to see what they accomplished with such limited funds (a product of design thinking, I’m sure). This is a documentary worth seeing, and New Zealanders have an opportunity to see this film and related documentaries during the Resene Architecture and Design Film Festival 2013.

Tasman Declaration on Open Research

May 7, 2013
Open-Closed by Antti T. Nissinen CC-BY

Open/Closed by Antti T. Nissinen CC-BY

“Open Research” is about removing barriers for society to benefit from research, by ensuring open access to and reuse of research papers, data, materials, metadata and code, and by developing the supporting practices and policies (from the Tasman Declaration).

On On 6-7 February 2013 I joined a group of about 60 researchers, students, librarians, lawyers, technology consultants and software developers who met in Auckland for the first New Zealand  Australian Open Research conference. In a mix of formal talks, panel discussions, informal meetings, and dinner (of course), participants discussed the advantages of Open Research, especially in the sciences (reflecting the expertise of the organisers and many attendees). You can get an idea of the topics that were covered by scanning the schedule for Day 1 and Day 2. There was an active Twitter Stream during the event (#NZAUOR) and collaborative notes are available online. Following the gathering, a core group drafted the Tasman Declaration on Open Research, which you are encouraged to sign. You can also follow the ongoing discussion on Twitter (@NZAUOpenRes). For more about the conference and declaration, see

As the conference website explains, Open Research is about “taking the secrecy out of science,” increasing collaboration, reducing the cost of research, and maximising the benefit of research by enabling the sharing and re-use of data. This approach is consistent with other New Zealand initiatives, such as NZGOAL, the government’s “open access and open licensing framework that promotes the release for re-use of non-personal copyright works and non-copyright material held by State Services agencies”, and, a directory of publicly-available datasets held by the New Zealand government.

Instagrams from somewhere

October 23, 2012

All my Bags are Packed (Photo: Mark McGuire, CC-BY)

On 12 October 2012, I flew out of Dunedin, New Zealand, headed for a conference in Vancouver (Open Education 2012). As I waited for the plane to board, I flicked through the stream of images from people whose work I follow on Instagram, a photo sharing/social media service (Facebook purchased Instagram for $1bn back in April 2012). As well as sharing photos with my Twitter followers, I noticed that it is now also possible to send a photo to a Tumblr blog, as well as to Facebook, Flickr, foursquare, and to email addresses. I hadn’t used Tumblr for a long time, but I thought it would be a good idea to collect and archive my Instagram photos on a Website set up specifically for the purpose. So, I quickly created Mark’s Journey (not very original, I know), and snapped a photo of the plane that I would momentarily board, which I used to illustrate this post. My plan was to use the Tumblr blog only for the photos that I would take during my one-month trip to Vancouver, Manchester, London, Toronto, Wellington, and home again to Dunedin. I added one further constraint — the captions would all be in the form of a haiku (three lines of five, seven, and five syllables). When I first published this post, I was ten days and about 60 instagrams into the trip. By the time I returned to Dunedin, I had tweeted and published 140 illustrated haiku to the Tumblr blog via Instagram  (Twitter users will understand why I stopped at 140). To see them all (in reverse order) visit Mark’s Journey.

Where Learning Happens

August 18, 2012

Monsters with teeth by Cubby CC-BY-NC-SA

Hybrid Pedagogy‘s week-long #MOOCMOOC (a MOOC about MOOCS — Massive Open Online Courses) is finishing today. The organizers provided a plan for each day, which included readings, other resources and suggested activities. They also created a handy dashboard where we could see the stream of announcements, Twitter messages and blog posts. I contributed to a collaborative 1,000 word Google doc (“A MOOC by Any Other Name“) with 52 others, and I participated in the Twitter discussion by following the #MOOCMOOC hashtag. On Tuesday, we were asked to create a short video that responded to the question: “Where does learning happen?”. I started by writing down some thoughts, but I didn’t manage to finish a video. In the end, I thought the words (pasted below) were enough. It will take me a while to wade through the many twitter messages, blog posts and other online documents that resulted from the MOOC MOOC. Already, participants are collating and curating their thoughts and the work of others who this course enabled them to connect to. A summary of MOOCMOOC stories has already been posted. I’m looking forward to my next MOOC, which will likely be #CFHE12 (Current/Future State of Higher Education). This course will run from October 8 to November 18. Like the best (Connectivist) MOOCs, it will be Open, and it will attract open-minded people.


Where Learning Happens

It can happen out in public places

alleyways and funny spaces

underneath and in between

locations where you’ve never been



It can happen on an airplane

at 30,000 feet above the ground

you’ve found the person sitting

next to you has lived the life you

might have.


It can happen walking down the street

you meet someone you haven’t seen

in ages who tells you


before the light changes.


It can happen in mid sentence when

you interrupt the program for

a message

from one sponsor

or another.


It can happen at a party

once I met a guy who told me how

sub atomic particles romance

with partners rooms away

that made my day.


It can happen in a pub

an angel at the bar sharing whisky

while a stranger tells

a history of the world

in six glasses.


It can happen when you go to bed

and in your head you find

an alleyway at 30,000 feet

where faster than light neutrinos are

dancing the night away.


And it all makes sense.


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