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OER16 propaganda

Now I did this in 10 mins at work in PowerPoint - the software of choice for the corporate and time-pressed ds106 participant.

I grabbed the Charlie picture from google images, ditto the OER16 logo and pasted them in to powerpoint. Using the "colour" tool on the picture format menu, I made the white part of the logo transparent and turned it into pure black and white. I then resised it and used the "3D" rotate tool to fit it on to the main picture.

It was looking a bit odd, so I desaturated the main picture (33%) for a more retro look. The text used a "Bevelled gold" effect on a bodoni font.

I wanted to get the conference details on an actual golden ticket, so I made a rectangular text box and added the gold effect via assigning various shades of orange to a gradient.

And that was it.


"Dirtbag Beater"

(new single by the Branch Radioians)



Neither of the two links you cite back up the point you are making.

The Durham Schools study link is to a BBC article about a research project that ended in 2013. As far as I can tell the data drawn on is described in this (OA) paper:

Methodologically, it is - shall we say - interesting. N is 44 for the study, and 42 for the "comparison study". The comparison study actually had a greater learner benefit (if you see "more correct answers" as the best measure of benefit). Overall, even after the tortuous analysis, the paper concluded: "From these results, it appears that both conditions support the development of routine expertise, and the individual paper-based version of the ‘make up some questions’ task appears to be as useful as NumberNet (the tech solution being tested) in supporting the development of fluency and speed with simple calculation".

The second paper you cite - from the prestigious Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Centre - is a 2013 summary of a number of selected papers about the effectiveness of technology. The word "selected" should be ringing alarm bells, as no selection criteria are given - making "cherry picking" very likely.

To look at just the first paper in the ARCC summary - their meta-analysis sounds interesting and useful. You can read the paper itself here: (note that this is not an OA paper, but is available online for some reason)

The intro of the paper notes that: "Consistent with the more recent reviews, the findings suggest that educational technology applications generally produced a positive, though modest, effect (ES = +0.15) in comparison to traditional methods. However, the effects may vary by educational technology type. Among the three types of educational technology applications, supplemental CAI had the largest effect with an effect size of +0.18. The other two interventions, computer-management learning and comprehensive programs, had a much smaller effect size, +0.08 and +0.07, respectively."

This looks like a very well done literature review. And it is broadly true to say (as ARCC do) that technology used to support traditional classroom experience has the largest effect. However, +0.18 isn't a "large" effect by any standards - and in most classroom situations would make the change almost indistinguishable from the control. (If you need a briefing on how effect sizes work, may I recommend the University of Leeds' superb "It's the effect size, stupid"? (

I could go over the other links in the ARCC paper, but I think I have made my point.

Steve, you are both a tenured academic researcher and a prominent advocate of education technology. As I am neither, it isn't really my job to pick these issues up for you. If you could please check your claims a little more carefully in the future, and ideally cite directly from research literature rather than media reports, I would be grateful.


#opened15 Keynote 2 - Supporting Open Textbook Adoption in British Columbia

5 min read

Only two keynotes at Opened15 this year (keynotes are so over) - the second is David Porter (now at BCIT) and Mary Burgess (BC Campus Executive Director), two stalwarts of the BC Open Ed scene. You can follow them on twitter as @dendroglyph and @maryeburgess

(Superbly, Mary started by celebrating the hard work and passion of the one and only Clint Lalonde in making OpenEd15 happen. We love ya, Clint!)

Open Education in BC has been a 13 year journey, with numerous twists, turns and miss-steps along the way. It's a story of amazing people and an amazing community - all of whom could tell you how this *really* went down. Enlightened government in BC have invested in building the capacity for sharing in education, demonstrating what is unique and experimental about BC.

One of the forerunners was the Open Learning Agency, charged with making education accessible to BC citizens.

David introduced (after some tense moments of technical crisis) three short stories concerning some key voices in BC Open Ed, presented as video:

Clint Lalonde: His first involvement in (pre-opened) opened was as broadcast manager on CKMO, offering 12 week courses on radio production and over-the-air courses to the local area and then the world. Around 2004-5 Clinte was still at Camosun as a media developer, supporting the construction of a shared open course supported by BC. This (OPDF) programme exposed many in the province to open education.

Gina Bennett:  She donated materials to wikieducator in 2006, and was inspired by the chance to act on a passion.

Irwin DeVries: at TRU, was also in reciept of OPDF funds, and cited collaboration as a key benefit.

Set up in 06, BC Campus focuses on on collaboration in course development - vesting the intellectual property in the developers but requiring an open licencse.

Brian Lamb: During the learning object phase, Brian went to the IMS - a group focused on standards fror learning objects - and heard Stephen Downes urge for a focus on enabling activity, not overthinking standards.

Irwin Devries added that the sharing and the community, not the technology, was key.

Scott Leslie (#bigfan) contributed a lot to the way that Open Ed was considered globally and genuinely moved the field forward. We heard parts of Scott's legendary "educator as DJ" presentation.

Paul Stacey (seriously, this was like a who's who of canadian edtech) noted that BC funding fostered collaboration as a spur to openness, and established open practice in education.

Every institution in BC has participated in Open Education. But despite this opportunity, Paul sometimes faced issues in supporting some more conservative issues.

BC supported "OER Good Public Policy For Canada", as a way to bring wider Canada into the Open Education world. We heard Cable Green's contribution to this campaign.

Mary Burgess continued the story into the world of Open Textbooks. Textbooks are something that everyone understands, not an abstract like a learning object.. In 2012 John Yap announced that the start of the Open Textbook Programmes (we saw Giulia Forsythe's sketch note). The focus on highly enrolling programmes was seen as a constraint in some circles, but there was a clear demand from institutions for what remained a collaborative (in governance) project.

The project built on resources from around the world rather than starting from scratch. Connie Broughton and Una Daley were two prominent external advisors, as were the team from OpenStax.

A strong academic review process supported the quality of developed resources, via the use of faculty fellows from institutions around the province. Faculty, after all, want to hear from faculty. And a BC Open Librarians group was established.

The "pressbooks" platform was used to allow remixing and development, including a book-sprint that developed a textbook in 5 days. Localisation and adaptability were central planks. And the project team worked with CAPER-BC to support the development of resources that were truly accessible. 

Addressing the eternal question - "what's next?" - David Porter examined the need to scale up and grow adoption rates. "Open as default" was cited as a key project goal, which would require infrastructure, collaboration and leadership. Various previous contributors suggested goals around open pedagogy, credentialling, leadership buy-in and policy.

Mary concluded by showing the Tidewater College OER policy as a great example of institutional policy. She highlighted the role of libraries - and OER librarian in every institution. Todd Mundle and Gwen Bird spoke about the key infiltration role that library expertise lead to, and the student demand for open resources in both print and digital format.

And open pedagogy requires excellent faculty and instructional designers to develop and embed open practice. Rajiv Jhangiani noted the excitment and passion of open education.

David and Mary offered thanks to the many people who have been involved in open education in BC, and had contributed to the presentation (which was really much more of a community keynote than just David and Mary).

Questions concerned sustainability - and one response will be the project becoming less centralised and more embedded. It was hoped that institutions would take ownership of books that were important to them.

And on faculty progressing to tenure via open educational contributions, one example of the use of exemplary teaching and research informed open resources. International awards were one factor in her progression to tenure.


OpenEd15 first keynote: Michael Feldstein and Phil Hill, eLiterate

5 min read

Phil and Michael, two of the finest edtech analysts about, jointly publish the near-legendary "e-literate" blog, which makes more sense of the LMS than pretty much anything. Apparently "one of them is the funny one, one of them is the good-looking one" - is that the same one, I don't know?.

The set up is Michael first, then some discussion, then Phil and some more discussion. Irritation rather than inspiration is promised, and the picture of Staetdler and Waldorf is highly apt.


Michael kicked off by problematising the use of the term "scale" as a way of measuring effectiveness. But it is the scale of the problem that determines what it is you are trying to do - open education attempts to tackle many problems at a number of levels. This conference is split between being a professional association and a movement - there are movement values being expressed, but is there a genuine will to activism.

Understanding the goal and the commonly held theory of change is essential for any movement. Drawing from environmental activism, examples were given at the state and local levels in order to address a national and global issue. Convincing political actors at a local and regional level can be as simple (but still as difficult) as them recieving 50 well-written non-form letters.

Drawing attention away from "conventional" models of change, and supporting genuinely new ideas that change practices, is a very difficult process - where a well-funded incumbent is advocating for incremental change this can feel like a difficult fight. But accurate and timely rebuttal of false messages around cost and quality - especially pointing out hidden subsidies where they skew the cost picture - can be hugely powerful. Messaging can be managed carefully to attract those that are interested but not activist.

Like General Electric building windfarms, sometimes we can see morally complex companies benefiting from activist pressure. Sometimes we need to find a way that makes them money to promote longer term, more human, goals. And sometimes the idealised (federated) solution may be less efficient than the existing monopolies.

Bringing in Phil Hill (a "passivist"?), it was noted that clarity makes for a hugely attractive argument. However letting non-desirable actors "win" an argument - and making common cause with surprising people - is very difficult for those newer to the movement. (I'm reminded of David Wiley's welcoming of the Pearson "efficacy" work, the right direction but the "wrong" actor). 

Open Education is an edtech innovation with a close natural fit with the concerns of schools and academics. Many of the earlier arguments have been won (in the US at least). But only a low (4-5%) of academics are using OER regularly in preparing classes. OE is a movement that *just makes sense*, but the impact is still low.

The example of using citrus to treat scurvy was cited as an example of a series of controlled experiments that pointed to a clear solution. But it took a long time before it was adopted by larger concerns - the diffusion time was much longer than expected. Similarly in OE, the awareness of OER is still low, with more than 2/3rds of teachers having no awareness at all. Examining the the motiviations of teachers in choosing material, it is noted that "cost" is a very low concern compared to quality and coverage of educational materials.

The LMS is notable as an innovation that has been successfully taken up, though few are as proud of their LMS as they are as their minivan.

Although students are beginning to spend less on textbooks, there is evidence that students are simply not buying the required textbook (with possible impact on their learning). First-generation students are generally spending more on textbooks than students from families with a history of higher learning.

There is an opportunity here to define OE goals to meet what students and faculty actually care about. Early adopters (generally those currently active in the "movement") have very different concerns and motivations from the mainstream - we need to support both.

Feldstein observed that the LMS parallel was a good one. Mainstream adoption is not a comfortable place for an activist - there are compromises and a sense of "selling out". But all the hard work has been done to prove the concept - the next step requires different arguments and different techniques.

In questions it was raised that the lack of interest in cost presents a very westernised perspective, in the developing world cost is a much bigger issue.  A number of ideals and goals are wrapped up in the idea of "open" and cost is a part of a much more complex picture - and it is possible to have regional and local goals that feed in to the wider activist movement.

In diffusion of innovation theory, the existence of an innovation is not enough to drive a social change. There is no magic disruption fairy. But most theories of activist innovation are predicated on volunteers - in contrast Pearson (say) have an army. Distributing the "cost" of innovation is very difficult - hence the ubiquity of volunteers and activists. But is this sustainable?



A triangle of smooth innovation

2 min read

(a Brian Lamb-centric solve-for-x based on my triangle of institutional innovation)

Sustaining = Michael McDonald, setting the boundaries and processes of smoothitude, encouraging other musicians to adopt "smooth" practices. Keeper of the fire.

Disruptive = Gene Balboa, bringing in radical "hollywood" ideas based on big money. Originally hails from Philadelphia and offfered "fame, fortune, ffffff...agina" to Hall & Oates.

User = Kenny Loggins, famed for building on and adapting the smooth template to develop "sweet rocking" music. Knows karate.


"What a fool believes" - Loggins' sweet rocking pipes inspire McDonald, drowning in a sea of sadness, to work with him to produce the song that cements his place in the Doobies.

"Sweet Freedom" - McDonald, in order to save Loggins and smooth music, proves his relevence and records a Balboa inspired Hollywood Soundtrack Hit.

"I'm alright" - McDonald's failure to respect Loggins' grief-stricken sweet rocking, and a chance encounter with Balboa and Steve Perry, persuade Loggins to assert his independence via the medium of hard-rocking beats and primal screams.

"This is it" - Developed by Loggins and McDonald in response to trash-talking from Hall & Oates during a back-alley song writing contest, this tune represents optimum innovation. As to how it ends... you don't wanna know.


I know I bang on about them, but many, many A Silver Mt Zion songs feel like secular hymns to me.

Here's "What We Loved Was Not Enough":



1 min read

The Guardian are reporting that this afternoon's budget will replace maintenence grants for the poorest university students with loans, paid back on the terms of the existing fee loans.

With the current working assumption that around 55% of all borrowers will be unable to pay back the entireity of their fee loans (£27,000 for a three year course), how many do you think will be unable to pay off their fee loans PLUS this new maintenence loan? (let's not even mention the "regular" maintenence loans here)

Go on, have a guess.

So it is very unlikely that this policy will even raise enough to pay for its own implementation, far less £1.6bn, and instead it will probably end up adding to the overall cost of HE funding.

Because "austerity".



Interpreting Table 9 of the KPMG costs of QA report

When I write my "wonk report reading tips" book one chapter will focus on the need to find a table where a graph hasn't been made and make graphs of it. Often it presents an interesting counter-narrative.

In this case table 9 of this report [,2014/Content/Pubs/Independentresearch/2015/CosttoprovidersofQApractices/Cost-to_providers_of_QA_practices.pdf] details how institutions feel that a hypothetical removal of the quality code (basically a removal of all aspects of external QA) would affect their administrative burden in particular areas. There's more data in the table, but I've just graphed where institutions overall felt there would be less burden.

This graph suggests the biggest perceived burden of the current model is not linked to cyclical review exercises but the (annual) return of data to HEFCE, HESA and others.

As the report was released to support a HEFCE consultation proposing a more data-led system of QA this is, to say the least, a little awkward.