Jun 202014

As the name suggests, Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely available resources for learning and teaching; such as documents, videos, syllabi, software, and images. The advantage for educators is that these resources may be deposited, shared and re-used thus saving time in creating new courses or updating existing courses (also the promotion of the particular institution or field and peer support for others in the same subject area is an advantage of sharing teaching materials). OER’s may be available as individual objects or bundled together as a package. They are most likely ‘open licensed’ through licenses such as Creative Commons or GNU and are made available either on the open web or within institutions. Also, the term ‘Open CourseWare is often used.





What types of materials?
The types of materials that are distributed as Open Educational Resources are usually those that have been previously used in a class-room setting, or designed for a purely online or in a blended learning context. They may be materials for activities or labs, full courses, games, lecture notes, lesson plans, teaching and learning strategies, video recorded lectures, or images and illustrations. The audience for these materials may be lecturers (which is primarily the case) or may be students or even parents or administrators.
What type of licences?
Open Educational Resources are usually licenced so that they may be easily re-used within a non-commercial educational content (ie not re-sold). Many licences allow for ‘re-mixing’ which means that they may be adapted and enhanced to suit differing institutional contexts and student cohorts. Some licences only allow for sharing and re-use and no major revision (ie. ‘read the fine print’) and many are available within the certain educational copyright regime of the particular country (ie. ‘educational use of copyrighted material’ provisions). Attribution is always an important consideration, meaning that the materials taken from OER repositories must be acknowledged so that the original creators of the work are credited.
Where are OER found?
Many OER repositories are available on the open web, such as the OER Commons project or Connexions. The repositories may be run by volunteers or through paid employees on project funding provided by a university or funding agency. Although projects such as OER Commons and Connexions were designed specifically for OER, broader definitions of the term may include projects such as the Internet Archive or even Wikipedia. OER repositories may also exist at a university level to be maintained either by the university library or through the team responsible for the university Leaning Management System (LMS). Leaner Management Systems such as Desire2Learn have inbuilt repositories so that course content may be deposited and shared at a school, faculty, or institutional level (or open to the broader community).
What are the archival (technical) standards?
When OER materials are places into a repository, metadata and archival standards need to be associated with them so that they may be easily located, archived and shared in a meaningful way. SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is a common way in which objects may be described, zipped-up into a package and re-used by different Learner Management Systems (LMS). Succinctly, SCORM is a ‘package of lessons’ that are bundled together so as to be understood by the LMS. What this means for educators, is that when placing OER materials into a repository, the correct ‘meta-data’ (data about data) is required about the material; usually inputted through a form to demarcate the type of materials and subjects addressed.
What are the archival (teaching) standards?
Many OER resources are likewise aligned with the teaching standards that may exist in different institutions or jurisdictions. The resources available are often aligned through a peer-assessment of the OER’s utility, quality of explanation, or quality of technical interactivity. The value of this for educators is the certainty that OER resources are of high quality and currency and purposefully meet teaching challenges.

Apr 032014
 Posted by on April 3, 2014 digital humanities, e-learning, education No Responses »

I would like to see a future for the Digital Humanities that engages fully with eLearning. It makes absolutely no sense for the DH to exclusively collaborate with the scientific support mechanisms of eResearch (ie. infrastructure). The social sciences have done ok out of eLearning and there are also lots of opportunities for the humanities in eLearning as we have most of the worlds great content.

Content is always king, especially if it is well taught!

May 012013

I recently attended a seminar at UWS on Friday 26 April, 2013 led by Lynne and Ray Siemens of the University of Victoria in Canada. The theme of the event was collaboration in the humanities and in particular; how digital humanities projects exemplify effective collaboration in the broader humanities. This is because digital humanities projects often cross-disciplines and geography and the often more demanding collaborative terrain of computer science, computational methods and the humanities.

Lynne Siemens, specialises in project management and team building. She stated that people aren’t always well-trained to work together and outlined some of the positives and negatives of working in teams. She claimed that some people are better able to collaborate than others, often because they have developed skills of listening, are flexible, can negotiate, and can compromise.  Lynne described these as the ‘soft skills’ of effective collaborative teams. A team approach often produces more diverse and possibly higher quality ideas (and is a good way to learn new skills and perspectives), but some projects are better done as an individual (but of course, some projects are beyond the scope and skills-sets of individuals).

Lynne outlined some of successful team interactions she had observed, partly through research she had undertaken through case –studies.  Good communication skills are vital, as is project management, and the ability to think across technology and the humanities and indeed, culture and language. Also the objectives of the team, the outcomes, and the individual tasks need to be clearly described with not too many grey areas that may be potential areas of conflict. And teams operate within institutional contexts so there are certain contingencies to negotiate either within or between institutions.  Still, one of the best ways to build teams is through casual conversations, lots of face-to-face meetings, and large bottles of rum (I put in the last one).

Ray Siemans is a Professor of Humanities Computing at the University of Victoria in Victoria, Canada and is well known for his work in the Digital Humanities and in particular, through the founding of the annual Digital Humanities Summer Institute (that I attended 2 years ago and now attracts around 500 participants).  He discussed the important work of the digital humanities, particularly around content modelling and computational analysis of content (a core form of scholarship within the field). He also discussed the typology of curriculum development in the digital humanities either through stand-alone degrees or through digital humanities inflicted programs and in particular, the highly successful Summer Institute model.


DHSI (Digital Humanities Summer Institute) http://www.dhsi.org/

ETCL (Electronic Textual Culture Lab) http://etcl.uvic.ca/

Apr 272013
 Posted by on April 27, 2013 collaboration, education, gadfly No Responses »

The term interdisciplinary is used a lot, often unthinkingly and uncritically.  I asserted in the last post that the ”socio-technical’ is a false dichotomy and that technical production is also ”social” and technology advances within its own understanding of ‘the social’ (grounded by the laws of physics).  And the separation of the two modes of thinking is unproductive.

It is this idea of ”unproductive” thinking that needs to be explored, especially in fields that exist in the gaps, ie. interdisciplinary fields such as ”STS” or the ‘Digital Humanities”.  Understandings of ”the social” and the tools and methods we use to do this advance rapidly. And tool and methods to understand the world through computer science change rapidly as well (ie programming methods change rapidly).  It is easy to get stuck in one camp and make claims that one is interdisciplinary whilst falling behind in one of the disciplines that are important for your particular ”interdisciplinary” practice. I see this all the time in fields such as cultural studies that are advanced in the finer skills of academic practice, but the technical objects of their study are often many years behind contemporary technical research .   And some technical areas such as eResearch tend to be bogged down in some very old-fashioned ideas of utility and are often unable to contribute to humanities research in a meaningful way because it is far too distant from it and lacks a sophisticated understanding of it.

Interdisciplinary requires deliberation and also empathy towards what one does not know. It is often very difficult if not possible to stay on top of a number of fields, but one can recognize this in ones-self and develop the skills and strategies to make good contributions to the interdisciplinary space that are both balanced and informed and aware of the key work and technical advances across fields.


Apr 212013

I have been undertaking a lot of research of late that involves ‘sociology-technical’ approaches to computing. Whilst the subject matter of the studies is interesting and worthy, I do worry about falling into the academic trap (in which there are way too many) of being ‘socially determinist’. What I mean by this, is exclusively using in the research process, books and related theories that are very distant from the creation and understandings of software. ‘Technical capital’ through exercising technical skills (ie. from the people who built software) does not occur in a social void and the decisions made here are important and are often made by individuals unawares of the otherwise important social theories that someone else may have about them in some other research context. In other words, the ‘sociology-technical’ is a false dichotomy because it all-to-often fails to engage with the the technical production of software and the people that do this (so that they may inform each other). They are also ‘human’ and ‘social’ and have their own understanding of this and it is naive to believe that studies that are exclusivity ‘books about books’ are more in tune with the human condition or more ‘social’ (ie they are lacking in wisdom and balance). It would be much better to educate students about socially responsible coding. This is the two-hands of the ‘sociology-technical’ (that are hopefully connected to the same human being). We suffer from the same false dichotomy in the digital humanities and I think that the problem is more acute here in Australia because we import nearly all the software we use, so we are a long way from understanding the context in which it is made. And the people that make it in Germany, the UK, and the USA will continue to make it in their own context.

I think the hardest lesson I learned as a historian is that technology doesn’t need history. And technology certainly doesn’t need an Australian historian; in fact I may just write a book about this! (or learn how to program a machine that writes books without human intervention; the ultimate revenge of the digital humanist).

Nov 242012
 Posted by on November 24, 2012 digital humanities, education, video, video diary 1 Response »

Milkbar:The Everyday City and Globalisation was a project that sought to uncover some of the stories and concerns of some of the local residents of Fitzroy; an inner city Australian community. The videos assembled here are part of a larger project on the subject completed in October 2002 (more details below).

Forty four people within the suburb were interviewed with a video camera with the purpose of creating a record of a local, inner-city community in a significant period of change and to try and understand much of this change. It is an attempt to critically objectify historical change at a local level through an online oral history.
(This video is all the interviews stitched together. The individual videos with some contextual information are also on YouTube).

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