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K-12 Textbooks must be digital and open

- April 23, 2019 in communication, Featured, guestpost, oer, world

By Werner Westermann (Versión en Castellano disponible en: El texto escolar será digital y abierto)
Enough is enough!  The issue of K-12 Textbooks in Chile cannot resist any longer. The straw that breaks the glass was the journalistic research which discovered that 1.7 million public textbooks were burnt  in recycling plants during 2013 to 2016. This incineration of textbooks was ordered by the Ministry of Education MINEDUC, reminded me of those difficult and dark days when books were incinerated during the dictatorship.  

Books burned in Santiago, Chile, days after the Military Coup, September 1973. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_burnings_in_Chile#/media/File:Chile_quema_libros_1973.JPG]

There is a transversal conviction today about the scandal of the K-12 textbook market, and therefore there is an agreement that the conditions that allow it, must change. At least that is what the chilean National Economic Prosecutor’s Office (FNE) thinks, a public entity in charge of maintaining and promoting competitive and fair markets, who has been studying the competitive evolution of the textbook market, covering both the public and private sectors. The problem is well known, but now we have more precise and, unfortunately, unbearable  evidence:
  1. The public market of K-12 textbooks, which are printed books acquired with public resources and distributed by the Ministry of Education, paying publishers a hefty amount of USD $ 52 Million.  This is a highly concentrated market: the average of publishers competing in public bids in the last three years were three, and in more than 45% of the procurement two or less competitors submitted.  Therefore, 80% of the whole public textbook market sales is in hands of two foreign companies, Santillana and SM. It is important to notice that the bidding mechanism, facilitates this kind of monopoly, as it does not facilitate fair competition as the bidder must submit a complete sample of the textbook, which favors the publisher awarded in the previous bid.  In addition, a poor bid framework design has been noticed as it facilitates maintaining the status quo.
  2. The private market, in turn, amounts to US$ 64 Million, but covering only 10% of the whole demand. How is this possible? Simple, the publishers set prices on average 29 times high, and 40 times higher in some cases, in the private bookshops market, as in the state market each textbook normally costs between  at USD$ 1 to $ 2,5. These outrageous uber-competitive profits are possible only due to the collusion between the publishers and schools stakeholders, mainly because of private-subsidised dependence (privately owned schools funded by public resources through a student voucher), forcing the families to acquire textbook through the private market, forcing families to spend in average USD$ 240 per child each year, about half of the minimum wage.
How do we get out of this mess? The study undertaken by the FNE, that will be published late this month, will provide public policy recommendations to allow a better and more transparent functioning of the textbook market. Alongside, the ministry of education is taking the first steps in “digitizing” the K-12 textbook through pilots testing interactive PDF formats and the Techbook, product of Discovery Education, another private publishing company.

So how we avoid textbooks ending in the bonfire?  No doubt, the K-12 Textbooks must be digital and open.

Separate the content from the container

A key reason for the highly concentrated K-12 public textbook market in Chile, is that the public procurement  framework involves the elaboration of the contents, the printing of the texts and their distribution for every bidder. The inclusion of every single element of the book production chain in the bid has favoured the large publishers and, has prevented the participation of other publishers, especially, local publishers, and halting the participation of other actors, such as printing or educational technology companies. A key solution, would be to separate the educational content from the medium and its distribution in the public procurement processes. In the case of Ecuador, in which this separation has existed for years, whose ministry calls for public bidding for printing rights for textbooks, that are already reviewed and validated by national universities. This has allowed large and small printing companies to participate, achieving a drop in prices where the unit textbook to cost less than half a dollar, resulting in large public (and families) savings. The current chilean model conceives the textbook only as a standalone printed book, omitting the multiple possibilities that digitalisation of content allows.  Digital educational content facilitates the development of many types of resource outputs, for example, audio-book, content for mobile devices, resources for online courses or  video game, etc. Those flexible possibilities, some of which we cannot even foresee yet due to constant technological progress, are the main reason that educational content should be digital.  The old fashioned way in which textbooks are produced is preventing educational innovation, our students today use a similar educational resource used 40 years ago. In addition, separating content from the container also ensures the durability of the content, breaking the publisher’s fallacy of having to re-edit  from scratch the textbooks every two or three years in order to update it.Certainly, the K-12 textbook digitalisation, complemented by other resources such as  media and interactive components, opens up multiple opportunities to generate new and innovative ways to enhance and improve learning. From a public policy perspective, caution must prevail, decision-making must ensure equity, permanent access for all students, and must ensure sustainability, continuity and quality of their development and implementation processes. Is it possible to give a digitised textbook to all our students? A business model based on individual licenses to access a product or service can be of a huge expense, and perhaps more importantly, prevents us from focusing the spending on people and context conditions to ensure effective deployment.  We already have frustrated experiencies related to web platforms not to be repeated, as well as for digital textbooks. Enlaces, the ICT-programme for K-12 schools (which sadly closed at the end of last year) published in 2013 “Digital School Textbooks” for the Technology subject for 1st to 6th graders. Prior to that, there was no textbook for this subject in the public nor private market. The teachers, many of them recycled from extinct subjects such as Manual Technician or French, had to resort to Argentine texts to guide their work. These digital textbooks actually filled a gap and existing demand and its use was quite successful, thanks to its interactive and graphical instructional design. Unfortunately, these textbooks were removed from MINEDUC last August, as the license to use expired. The textbooks are again accessible for this school year thanks to the renewal of the license, although not the complete textbook, just is a reduced compendium of what it was. And perhaps most sensitive, they are not downloadable, which compromises or rules out the use for the resource in the classroom, because connectivity infrastructure is very limited in chilean schools. Although these textbooks were developed and deployed by public funds, how many more times must we pay to enable access and use of these textbooks?

Publicly funded content, must be public


It sounds redundant, but it is not: the educational content for K-12 textbook acquired by public resources are not public. Indeed, the direct cause of the private textbook market scandal is intellectual property. The public bid defines that: The author’s rights of the awarded textbooks in public bids will belong entirely to the contracted one, for the effects of free commercialisation in the private market …”  That is to say, the publishers that bid to publish  a textbook to the public procurement process, and then reuse a very similar product to be sold in the private market, pricing it up to 40 times higher than the public price.  An “armed robbery” subsidised by all of chilean taxpayers. Beyond the flagrant abuse of publishers and their pricing policies in the private market, it is worth asking:  Why are the content copyright of publicly-funded textbooks not public? On the contrary, why are explicitly exclusive to the publishers?  Simply because the public authority says so. If common sense prevails, the rights of use of the contents of school textbooks acquired with public resources should be public. As Copyright is the by-default legal instrument to guarantee that “all rights are reserved” to the author, other legal tools, such as the Creative Commons licenses, recognise the authorship but grant and guarantee rights for public usufruct. What kind of public usufruct? To modify a resource to adapt it to a specific context, to extend or improve it, to be able to share it by different means and channels, to be able to integrate it into a pre-existing resource, to be able to integrate it into services or commercial products, etc. Creative Commons licenses are fully compatible with our legislation and there is jurisprudence in this regard since 2006. There are six Creative Commons licensing options that declare different levels of openness (permitted uses), but there is growing consensus that the most favorable licenses for education and, therefore, textbooks are those that grant broad powers (such as Attribution CC-BY), seeking to create a framework that maximises the flexibility of types of uses of resources by users. With these licenses, the school text becomes a Open Educational Resource, a concept coined by UNESCO in 2002 that defines it as
teaching materials, learning or research that are in the public domain or that have been published with an intellectual property license that allows free use, adaptation and distribution.

Flexibility in the use of educational content, enhanced by the permissions granted by open licenses, is a central feature given today’s current and novel uses of our teachers and students. Openness could have solved the problems of printed textbooks for students with visual disabilities. The visual disability group of parents, Acaluces, filed a legal injunction against MINEDUC because public texbook in Braille or macro-format never arrived. The Court of Appeals of La Serena issued a ruling in late October, ordering the MINEDUC
“to deliver the textbooks for the year 2018 to the students in favour for whom it is used, duly adapted to their special needs”.  
Incredibly, this time sponsored by the Council of Defense of the State, MINEDUC opposed through an appeal to the Supreme Court looking to reverse the first ruling, arguing that “facing a progressive increase of students with total or partial visual impairment integrated to the school system, there has been no increase in resources proportional to that growing demand.”  Luckily, the Supreme Court ratified the sentence, arguing that the MINEDUC
“has not complied with a legal obligation, thus affecting the constitutional guarantee of equality before the law”.
Conceived as a commons or public good, educational resources are also a matter of social justice. The MINEDUC textbook program can not argue lack of resources, its their technical and moral duty to generate the necessary efficiencies to ensure all our students have access to materials that support quality learning.

Opening up to enhance quality

The first one to alert about  to the malicious K-12 textbook market in Chile was the researcher Pablo Ortúzar. His core thesis was that the current vitiated system, both in the public and private markets, is an environment whose competitiveness is focused on reducing printing costs and does not have incentives for the improvement and innovation of the contents of the textbooks.  He proposes that the State should be able to buy the content so that it can be converted into a
“public ownership format with free access”“That is important, it will allow an archive of educational materials open to national and international public scrutiny, which will be enriched over time and that may be very useful for students, families, teachers and researchers.”  
Ortúzar’s approach is perfectly aligned to the proposal that the textbook must be digital and open.  Please, deepen how openness allows educational resources to raise their quality. The importance of public scrutiny in relation to quality relies in two perspectives: first, as a strategy for continuous and incremental improvement of the educational content, and second, the involvement in that process by the educational community, especially teachers and students. Every quality assurance process involves planned activities such as systematic measurement, comparison with standards, monitoring of processes, all activities associated with loops or information feedback circuits by users / stakeholders / experts.  It is not enough to have a standard (benchmark) and its checklist to determine the quality of an educational resource. Its quality lies in an effective and efficient use satisfying specific educational needs, in specific contexts. Who better than the end users, mainly teachers and students, to feedback the use of an educational resource. These cycles of adaptation/creation, use, critique and revision by users, thanks to the openness of publicly-licensed educational resources, conforms a virtuous circle that multiplies, diversifying and enhance educational resources, achieving efficiency in return on investment, raising quality and ensuring future sustainability, and above all, positive impact on student learning. In a higher education Open Textbook project developed at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, it implemented two textbooks in formal courses where students contributed to the creation of one of the textbooks and the critical review of another. It was very interesting to rescue the positive experience for students simply by involving them in the development and free use of an educational resource. They recognized high motivation and commitment for the tasks and role entrusted, felt pride and recognition of contributing to a resource that will be used in future versions of the course, went much deeper into the content treated.  The teachers involved had to necessarily rethink their work, monitoring the activities of the students, redesigning the classroom activities and how to complement them outside the classroom, in short, innovating in their teaching. This led us to translate to Spanish the award-winning book Guide to Making Open Texts with Students to open up new opportunities.
The University of Cape Town, responsible for an extensive research agenda around the Open Educational Resources for developing countries, defines the virtuous cycle of Open Education in the image below. It is this virtuous circle that can mend the injustices of the textbook market in our country and that these resources do contribute to raising the quality of our education.

Optimal Open Education Cycle, ROER4D. https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Proposed-ptimal-Open-Education-cycle-Adapted-from-HodgkinsonWilliams-2014-oWalji_fig1_323304403

We have not mentioned the challenges involved in this paradigm shift in how to conceive the K-12 textbook, many of them quite complex, specially for the State as steward of public interest and public goods. Neither have we mentioned previous successful experiences and others not so much. What technologies can support this virtuous circle of Open Educational Resources? How do I manage media and interactive digital resources related to a printed text? How do I integrate a user’s contribution and how do I manage this new version to contribute to its continuous improvement?  What can we learn from international best practices and experiences? While awaiting for the FNE’s textbook market study, the alternative solutions will be addressed in a new delivery to specify how the K-12 Textbook in Chile must be digital and open.Werner Westermann, leads the Civic Education Program at the Library of National Congress of Chile.  He has over 20 years of work experience in digital technology-enabled education and training in different institutions (national ministries, higher education institutions, international agencies, NGO’s). He is an Open Education and Open Educational Resources (OER) advocate and practitioner and a co-writer of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration.  He is the Project lead of OER deployment/development and research projects in Chile. OER Consultant for UNESCO in Open Educational Resources, Institute of Open Leadership fellow (Creative Commons).

Open Education in Chile: small steps in an adverse context

- February 4, 2019 in Featured, guestpost, oer, Open Science, Open Textbooks, open-education, world

Guest post by Werner Westermann & Carlos Ruz
Just as the new Open University of Recoleta was announced in November 2018, it immediately sparked a nationwide discussion about the public role of universities, due to an informal institution calling itself university.  Recoleta’s major, the leader of a traditional but impoverished borough in Santiago, has been clear when saying that the mission of the Open University of Recoleta is to “promote the democratisation of knowledge and access to a plurality of knowledge and disciplines through teaching, research and extension activities aiming at facilitating the integral development of its students in a cultural environment based on collaboration, citizen participation and innovation“. The Open University of Recoleta’s mission is supported by an institutional policy based on Open Educational Resources, the first institution in Chile to explicitly uptake openness, although this policy can be still considered.  An unfinished “open” policy, as they do not explicitly have an open licensing scheme or a set of clearly describe Open practices that will flow in this Open “Pluriversity”, a new concept to elude the legal technicalities of being a “real” university, which is similar to the concept of Volkshochschule in Germany, where the idea of popular universities is widely adopted and well regarded. This case is very illustrative of Chile’s slow progress around openness and OER, despite the growing interest and awareness across the world.  There has been in the last decade very few small initiatives and projects related to OER (showcased here in the OER World Map)  Surely there are many reasons for this situation, but we could highlight:
  1. Disregard  and indifference towards user’s rights:  Although the Ministry of Education websites have declared their contents are  attributed with open licenses (CC-BY) in their footers, that is not translated to the contents and educational resources stored  in their repositories, as the case of the YoEstudio and the CRA School Libraries. In both cases, the educational resources do not specify the rights to use the resources they host or distribute, therefore, and by default, these are all rights reserved, as specified in the law.
  2. If explicit, user’s rights are restrictive:  Copyright (all rights reserved) is ubiquitous  as the default user’s rights. A good example is the largest  educational resources repository for K-12 schools, EducarChile.  They have added a Creative Commons license as to their website, but the Terms and Conditions of use of their educational resources are highly restrictive
  3. Publicly funded  does not mean public use: Despite Chile’s pledge to foster open access to information and data funded with public resources and having a law on access to public information, in Chilean Higher Education, almost, if not all, public funds promote exclusive institutional ownership of the results and the knowledge created in those projects. Those public funds are disputed in a competitive scenario, where universities and researchers  struggle within a capitalistic and privatised education system framework has made competition its matrix, at the expense of open cooperation and mutual collaboration.
  4. Lack of incentives:  In Higher Education, academic or professional development incentives are is not focused on the field of teaching, even less with learning.  Normally, these incentives aim at supporting research activity (mostly publicly funded) that must be published in high impact journals , as the pernicious higher education rankings and metrics foster a toxic scholarly culture in which he results of the research are  focused on the commercialisation, conceived as an exclusive asset. The logic of treasuring my personal assets is fuelled by an ecosystem regulated by large monopolies (Elsevier) that control indexation, thus the dissemination and citation of scientific research and by the University Rankings corporations that feed this malignant system for the sake of climbing up in a system that has nefarious consequences in emerging economies, by draining public funds when paying corporations excruciating high fees and subscription to publish publicly funded research.
Despite the educational landscape seeming to be unable of  providing a fertile soil to foster Open Access, Open Science, Open Education and and OER, there are some advancements in this area worth showcasing Through a Public Diplomacy Grant from the US Embassy in Santiago, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso developed an Open Textbook project.  This project resulted in the development and translation of open textbooks that were deployed formally in different courses.  One book was developed by faculty remixing existing open content from whose resources are in the public domain.  Another book was reviewed and enhanced by students, an open educational practice that stunned faculty and fully-engaged students.  This led to translate to Spanish the award-winning book from REBUS “Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students”. For next academic year, new strategies are considered to promote theses results, highlighting the potential of open pedagogies that build OER, showed how students engaged in both processes and how innovation in teaching flourished.  The results and more details can be seen here:  http://openbooks.biblioteca.ucv.cl/ Another grant funded by the Chilean Cooperation Agency (https://www.agci.cl/) made possible a project to see how Digital Citizenship creates a new scenario for civic engagement, in collaboration with the Library of National Congress of Chile and the Instituto Belisario Domínguez from the Senate in Mexico.  A series of OER were developed (state-of-art content, a learning outcome matrix, assessment item bank, e-learning professional development course) to include Digital Citizenship in schools. We adapted and piloted these resources in Chilean as well Mexican schools (with very exciting results in Mexico!!).  The openness of these resources has already made an impact, as the Council for Transparency reused the assessment item bank in a videogame they developed ().  More details of this project can be seen here:  http://www.bcn.cl/formacioncivica/chile_mexico In the spirit of cooperation, and to foster citizenship and participation,  a national commitment to develop OER for digital citizenship was included in the 3rd OGP Open Government Action Plan (2016-2018), which has been an important platform to promote openness in Chile from the Open Government guidelines. That work will continue in the recently published 4th OGP Government Action Plan (2018-2020), where the commitment is to create OER to define and configure the critical skills for Open (Government) Citizenry, which in indeed  aligned with the SDG 4.7 emphasising on sustainable development and global citizenship. It should be noted that the process of building this commitment it has involved a series of actors in order to co-create this commitment, continuing with what was initiated in the previous action plan, seeking to provide a capacity building model of citizenship competencies through OER, and to provide opportunities for people contributing to democratise citizen participation   Mainstreaming openness and OER in the chilean educational context will be a long and rocky journey, but definitely is core to foster a pathway to guide the nation in fostering   quality education for by promoting Open Science, Open Access and Open Education to further democratise access to knowledge .  
About the authors Werner Westermann, leads the Civic Education Program at the Library of National Congress of Chile.  He has over 20 years of work experience in digital technology-enabled education and training in different institutions (national ministries, higher education institutions, international agencies, NGO’s). He is an Open Education and Open Educational Resources (OER) advocate and practitioner and a co-writer of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration.  He is the Project lead of OER deployment/development and research projects in Chile. OER Consultant for UNESCO in Open Educational Resources, Institute of Open Leadership fellow (Creative Commons).   Carlos Ruz is a Maths teacher, the innovation and research director of Maule Scholar, and head of the LabDatos Chile. He frequently writes for  Chile Científico and is an active member of the civil society network for Open Government.

Open Education in Spain

- June 5, 2018 in Featured, guestpost, oer, open-education, Repositories, spain, world

Guest post by Gema Santos – Hermosa 
In this post, we’ll review the state of open education within the European context – and, more particularly, in Spain – with a special focus on higher education institutions (HEIs). There is often …

Open Education in Spain

- June 5, 2018 in Featured, guestpost, oer, open-education, Repositories, spain, world

Guest post by Gema Santos – Hermosa 
In this post, we’ll review the state of open education within the European context – and, more particularly, in Spain – with a special focus on higher education institutions (HEIs). There is often no common understanding regarding contemporary open education (OE), and it is usually confused with open educational resources (OER). Nevertheless, OE goes beyond, proposing a mental shift towards allowing the implementation of a number of practices focused on openness (Going Open Report, JCR, 2017). In this sense, the perspective is extended to enable a comprehensive view, thus encompassing practices such as the use of ICT in education, innovation in pedagogy and staff training, the use and development of OER, the massive open online courses (MOOCs), and the engagement in open science activities.

Open education is “in vogue” in Europe

Ever since OE was identified as a potential solution to some of the challenges detected in the EU educational systems, there has been a growing interest in establishing an OpenEdu framework (European Commission’s Communication of Opening up Education, 2013). The core dimensions of OE for HEIs have now been identified as well as several policies and recommendations (Opening Education’s Support Framework, 2016; OpenEdu Policies, 2017 & 2018). Recently, the relevance of OE has been reinforced by the consideration of “open and innovative education and training” as part of the strategic framework for European cooperation in Education & Training (ET2020). Meanwhile, OE is not just a bureaucratic issue, but a topic of discussion among researchers, practitioners, policy makers, educators, librarians and students from all over the world, as demonstrated the OE Global Conference 2018. OE in Europe has improved, but there is still a way to go. This is particularly the case for certain countries, since the initiatives are advancing at different speeds in each of the 28 EU member states.

An overview of open education in Spain

OE is also on the agenda of educational institutions across Spain, which is significant as a starting point. According to an Open Survey report in 2017, there are some general trends that demonstrate how diverse OE policies can be: legally-binding regulations – such as the National Centre for Curriculum Development in Non-Proprietary Systems (CEDEC) – and non-legally-binding initiatives, such as the mobile app Edupills and EDUCALAB-INTEF MOOCs. In fact, Spain has many interconnected policies and initiatives that support OE which are mainly addressed to the primary and secondary education levels. According to the four types of policies identified for European countries, Spain falls into the second category (together with Portugal, Lithuania, Italy and Cyprus) characterised by a national policy for ICT in education (OpenEdu Policies Report, 2017). The main stakeholder is the Spanish Ministry of Education, in collaboration with Spanish autonomous communities´ regional governments. The most prominent national policy was the Plan de Cultura Digital en la Escuela, including the OER repository PROCOMUN and the open source tool EXELEARNING. This video presentation at the Second World OER Congress better explains these initiatives. In higher education, the most common OE approach adopted by Spanish universities has been focused on MOOCs and OER. The relationship between these two practices within the open ecosystem is part of a common strategy, since HEIs that promote the use of OER are also very likely to offer MOOCs, and vice versa (Castaño et al, 2016) Some HEIs embraced the Open Courseware Consortium (OCWC) by providing specific platforms for open courses (around 30, according to a Report on Spanish OCW). There is also a large participation in the Universia network, which offers OCW projects in Spanish and Portuguese. In parallel, over the last few years there has been a considerable increase in institutional repositories with OER collections (Santos-Hermosa et al, 2017). While less than half of Spanish universities deposited OER in their repositories five years ago (Fernández-Pampillón et al, 2013), this number has risen to 77.4% nowadays, according to the preliminary results of a recent survey launched by the OER action group which I coordinate at REBIUN (a national network of Spanish university libraries). Regarding the emergence of MOOCs in Europe, and its different approach with respect to the US model (Jansen & Konings, 2017), Spanish universities’ global supply is remarkable: 35% of Spanish universities have at least one MOOC and they are situated among the top five countries, as for the volume of students (Oliver et al, 2014). During the boom of the MOOC movement, Spanish HEIs participated in two of the main MOOC platforms (Udacity and Coursera), but the most commonly used was Miríadax, which just offers courses from Spanish and South American universities (Sangrà et al., 2015).

Two outstanding Spanish higher education institutes: UNIR and UOC

The Universidad Internacional de la Rioja (UNIR) and the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) are both online universities, their open strategies are focused on digital contexts and in the use of ICT. However, this is not performed in a “classic” way, as in some other blended learning institutions, but involving the use of online simulations and laboratories, mobile learning and further innovative methods. In addition, both universities have had a historic involvement in OE initiatives over the years in scenarios such as: In short, both universities have a strategy or policy statement that supports OE. UNIR has recently announced an open education policy which aims to encourage its adoption in teaching and learning practices, and it is the first Spanish university with a policy of this type (UNIR Research, 2018). Also, the UOC is currently working on the definition of an open plan based on its strategic goal of “0303: Open knowledge to everyone and for everyone” and characterised by the correlation of open education and open science (Strategic Plan 2014-2020). In this sense, openness is a multidimensional concept in these two HEIs, since a correlation is being sought between the OE offer, OER and publication in open access routes, as well as the support of open data in research, and open licensing in technology and content authoring. Thus, we’re heading in the right direction … let’s keep it up! — About the author Gema Santos-Hermosa hold a Ph.D in Information Science and Communication. She works as an associate lecturer at the University of Barcelona (UB) and a research support librarian at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC). She also chairs the EMPOWER Knowledge Resources expert group within the EADTU university network and coordinates the open learning resource activities organised by the Repositories Working Group within the REBIUN university network. Her doctoral thesis  discusses the development and reuse of open educational resources  in higher education. Her research interests are OER, open education, open access, repositories, information retrieval and digital libraries.      

Illuminating the global OER community with data

- January 29, 2018 in communication, Data, Featured, guestpost, oer, world

This is the first post of a serie of notes shared by the members of the Open Education Working Group Advisory Board. In this post, Jan Neumann (@trugwaldsaenger ‏) shares the latest news of the OER World Map project

Illuminating the global OER community with data

- January 29, 2018 in communication, Data, Featured, guestpost, oer, world

This is the first post of a serie of notes shared by the members of the Open Education Working Group Advisory Board. In this post, Jan Neumann (@trugwaldsaenger ‏) shares the latest news of the OER World Map project — The goal of the OER World Map project is to illuminate the global OER community with meaningful data. It is a structured educational network, which provides a unique identifier for each building block of the OER ecosystem, allowing educational professionals from different disciplines to share their knowledge with hitherto unknown precision and reliability. Our current focus lies on three main user stories: Connecting OER actors with another, identifying OER sources and providing statistics on OER and Open Education. The underlying data set is extremely flexible and there are so many use cases for it, that it can facilitate interaction and collaboration by scaffolding a wide range of data led activities. Since being funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in 2015, we have solved many practical challenges. Due to the expansive and generalised scope of the project as well as its high complexity we needed time for cautious approaching the right technical and organizational solutions required by the global OER community. Last year we claimed to have reached adolescence in the sense that the project started to provide value for the community. Now we are happy, that our maturity level proceeded so that full adulthood will be reached in the course of the year. Nevertheless this does not mean that all problems have been solved and the work is done. Rather it means that the platform has evolved so much, that it is now ready to be adopted by the global Open Education Community with significantly increased intensity. The good news is, that we believe to have proven that centralized data collection makes sense and can be done with reasonable effort. Lately we engaged strongly in supporting the current German OER funding line. For this, we adopted the platform, so that it can model programs and created a country map which shows only regional entries. The country map was integrated in OERinfo – a recently launched site which aims at providing quality information needed to mainstream OER. We also participated in the creation of a UNESCO-Report and the OER Atlas 2017 which are both characterized by the inclusion of quantitative data received from the OER World Map. We believe that many of the lessons learned can be transferred to other countries. Especially we believe that country maps will be a reasonable way to address local communities and we hope that many maps for other countries will follow soon! Also we learned, that effective data collection works best, when being driven by a professional editor in cooperation with the local OER community. From this point of view we believe, that the OER World Map provides best results when “top-down” and “bottom-up” elements are combined. At the same time we are continuously improving and expanding our platform: A German translation was provided, a Brazilian Portuguese version is on its way. In addition, our new functionality to set lighthouses and likes as well as the inclusion of OER awards will support users to find high quality initiatives and good practice examples more easily. Last – but by no means least – we are happy to announce that we launched our new landing page just some days ago! And there are several exciting developments in the pipeline for 2018. Currently we are working on finishing the refactoring of our complete frontend, which will significantly improve the performance of the system as well as its usability. The inclusion of subscriptions and notifications will provide users with regular updates of information relevant for them. Another major milestone will be the inclusion of subcategories for all data types, which will bring browsing and searching to a greater level of granularity. So what can you do?
  • If you have not done so yet, please register on the map and show that you share our vision of connecting the global OER community.
  • Please make also sure, that your initiative is on the map and share your lessons learned as a story.
  • For research institutes, government agencies or libraries it can be interesting to host a country map.
If you are interested in learning more, please have a look at our latest presentation. We would love to learn what function you would like to see on the World Map. If you do have any ideas, questions or comments, please contact us (info@oerwordmap.org).   — About the author Jan L. Neumann is part of our advisory board and is working as Head of Legal Affairs and Organization at the North Rhine-Westphalian Library Service Centre (hbz) in Cologne, Germany. He studied law, economy and systems thinking and has more than 15 years of experience within international project management for different publishing houses and libraries. He is a member of the Education Expert Committee of the German Commission for UNESCO and blogs about Open Educational Resources (OER) on OERSYS.org. Since 2013 he manages the OER World Map project, which is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and aims at providing the most complete and comprehensible picture of the global Open Educational Resources (OER) movement so far. Jan is a frequent speaker at OER conferences and participated in the organization of OERde 14, OERde 15 and OERde 16 Festival. Nevertheless he considers himself a non-expert in OER to stress that having the courage to think by yourself is one important aspect of the empowerment which comes along with open education. He can be followed as @trugwaldsaenger on Twitter.

OpenCon Santiago 2017: No more streaks in the water

- January 4, 2018 in #opencon, Data, Events, Featured, guestpost, oer, Open Data, Open Science, open-education, world

Guest post by Ricardo Hartley @ametodico and Carolina Gainza @cgainza

When organizing any event, questions always arise; Will enough people come? Do those who have positions to make the changes come? Will come those who should have interest …

Open Education in Palestine: A tool for liberation

- October 18, 2017 in Featured, oer, world

This year, and thanks our OpenMed friends, we had the opportunity to travel to Palestine, to the West Bank to visit partners for the Palestine OER strategy Forum. Due to its political history, this trip has let us thinking …

Yes we can Inchallah: Morocco OER Strategy Forum

- December 9, 2016 in Featured, MENA region, MOOCs, oer, Open Educational Practices, open-education, world

By Daniel Villar-Onrubia Javiera Atenas

This week we had the opportunity to participate in the Morocco OER Strategy Forum hosted by Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech as part of the OpenMed project. We spent two very inspiring days learning …

DataLabe: Empowering young leaders from vulnerable communities with Open Data and Civic Tech

- November 3, 2016 in Data, Data Journalism, Featured, oer, Open Data, Open Educational Practices, open-education, sustainable development, world

Blogpost In partnership withscreen-shot-2016-11-03-at-14-23-25

The DataLabe is a project that aims to empower young leaders from vulnerable communities with data skills and civic hacking through technology, open data, processes of political engagement, social mobilization and citizen journalism to ensure they are capable to produce new narratives to support the the development of their communities.

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The Observatório de Favelas, is a Civic Society Organisation in Brazil that collects data about Brazilian slums, which has received a grant from the Open Society Foundations to develop a Data Journalism training course and mentorship project for four young leaders from Rio de Janeiro slums working for 9 months to build a data-driven project related to youth and technology.

The first part of this development consisted of five young fellows learning the basic principles of data journalism with Escola de Dados Brasil. During the four initial months of the lab, each one of them had the opportunity to create a personal project involving data visualization concerning themes that they cared about.

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For example, on the research done by the fellows, Eloi Leones, a fellow from a Favela called Maré, chose to show data about the killings of transgender people in Brazil, gathered by the NGO Grupo Gay da Bahia, since the federal, state or local governments do not collect any kind of information on the subject. Fábio Silva, from the Favela Baixada Fluminense – decided to do a visualization on people’s perception of this location. He collected data from Twitter and scraped news about the zone to see which themes were commonly associated with the Baixada, such as politics, culture/entertainment, violence, urban mobility, education, etc.

Another interesting study is the one done by Paloma Calado, she aimed to know to know which students took the ENEM exam (which people take in order to see if they get scores that are high enough to go to college) in Maré and Complexo do Alemão, two of the most populated slums in Rio, to explore the data from the research center linked to the Ministry of Education. While it was not possible to find out how many young people from Maré have actually taken the test, Paloma could at least find the data on the performance of local schools, which do better than the general national average and the average of the Southeast zone of Brazil.

Another example is the research by Vitória Lourenço, a Social Sciences major that also works as a doula, who wanted to explore data on maternal deaths in the public health system. She collected data from the Ministry of Health to provide a better comprehension on the general profile of the mothers who have died in those facilities, figuring out their age group, how many years they have spent on school, their race, marital status, and so on.

 And since the public services were a cause of concern for some of them, Fernanda Távora thought of investigating the public transportation system. Working with Coding Rights – a brazilian NGO that focuses on digital rights and privacy –, she was able to estimate how much the bus companies knew about the people who live in Rio and use those services. She also tried to convey the flow of personal data that these owners and the government agency that supervises them have access to, including IDs, addresses and routes.

The individual projects can be found at the Data Labe website and the group also has a Medium page to document all the problems they’ve found along the way and to share their personal perspectives on their work, explaining what drew them to the topics they’ve selected, what motivates their current work and what are they doing whenever they can’t follow through the script they’ve originally planned.

The next step of the DataLabe consists of a group effort in order to build a big collective visualization project that answers some questions on the utilization of technology by young people from favelas and how these affect their ways of living. After that, the fellows of the team will organise an intensive training course, replicating the methods learned throughout the project to another 15 fellows who will work with popular communication, and who will be selected through an open call.

About the authors

This post was written by

isis-perfilIsis Reis. Escola de Dados Brazil: She was based at the Open Knowledge Brazil, dealing with content curation and digital media and currently, manages the communications for School of Data Brazil.

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020_edNatalia Mazzote:  data journalism Specialist, she coordinates School of data Brazil and is project co-director for Gender studies.