Leicester City Council and OER for Schools

A guest post for Open Scotland  about Leicester City Council’s ground breaking work in promoting and encouraging the development and use of openly licensed educational resources in the school sector. This post was published by Open Scotland on November 20th 2014, and is shared under CC-BY 4.0.

OER banner

Leicester City Council has recently become the first Local Authority in the UK to give permission to school staff to openly licence the educational resources created by employees in the course of their work. We’ve given the permission in order to take open education forward across the city – with the aim of ensuring all school staff are aware of and able to benefit from the use of openly licenced resources – and also able to create and share open educational resources (OER). We’ve also released a range of guidance and resources to introduce open licensing and open educational resources (OER) to school staff to help with this.

In Leicester, I’ve been working with schools to support the development of staff digital literacy skills. Our work has highlighted that many staff aren’t aware of open licencing and don’t know what open educational resources are. As well as providing practical, introductory information for schools about finding, using and accrediting OERs, we want to encourage the adaption and creation of OER – to support schools in promoting and sharing the great work that is being produced across Leicester, and to actively contribute to open education.

There are many different types of schools across the UK. In Scotland, the picture is relatively straight forward, with the 32 Scottish Local Authorities in the position of employer for local, special, and denominational schools. In England, the Local Authority is the employer of staff working at community and voluntary controlled schools, but not of other types of school – for example academy, foundation, and voluntary aided schools, where the governing body is typically the employer. In Leicester, there are currently 84 community and voluntary controlled schools. The council is the legal and beneficial owner of copyright of materials produced by these employees in the course of their employment. This isn’t something that is specific to school employees or to Local Authorities as employers– it applies to all employees working under a contract of service, unless a specific agreement is in place. Sometimes there will be an explicit statement in an employee’s contract that references this, for example:

Copyright

The council shall be the legal and beneficial owner of the copyright in and all other rights to the results of the development of and the application of all work produced by you during the course of your employment and as a consequence of your employment.

However, not all employees (including school employees) have statements like this in their contract – typically, whether it’s there or not, unless a specific agreement is in place, the expectation is that employees should obtain permission from their employer to share work created in the course of their employment. The rights to work created outside of the course of employment – for example, a presentation a staff member creates on their own time for an event that they are not attending as part of their job – belong to the employee. Students also own the rights to their own work.

Staff don’t have an automatic right to take copies of this work from one employer to another, and they don’t automatically enjoy moral rights – the right to be acknowledged as the author of the work.

Schools and school staff have a great culture of sharing, most of which is informal. Sharing educational resources benefits everyone – learners and educators can benefit from the care and expertise that have gone into producing resources, and energy can be put into developing work to better suit learners and school’s needs, rather than starting from scratch. Most schools and educators will at some point have adopted someone else’s, lesson plan, activity, or policy.

This informality potentially leaves staff vulnerable in a number of ways. Others might adopt or use their work in ways they aren’t happy with, or they may not get proper credit for their work for example. Leicester City Council has providing formal permission as an employer for school staff to openly licence their educational resources in order to address some of the issues that might arise ahead of time. It sends a clear message that we are encouraging staff to share their openly licenced work, and enables schools to put in place local policies.

A fraction of what currently gets shared by schools is openly licensed. Open Licences build on the existing legal copyright framework to provide clear permissions for flexible uses of work – an open licence provides an opportunity to clearly signal how the work can be copied, shared and developed, and who should be given credit for the resource.

Along with the permission, we’ve produced a leadership briefing note giving more information, and provided two model school policies – one for the schools where the permission is in place (i.e. Leicester City Council has provided it, as employer) and one for schools where the governing body could put permission in place, through the adoption of a policy. In this way we are raising awareness of OER across all schools in the city, and hoping to encourage them in taking a similar approach.

Looking at OER in relation to schools policies and practices can promote organisational awareness and discussion of copyright, ownership, and accreditation – all important areas that staff can model good practice in for their learners. Online and digital resources are routinely made use of and created in all our schools. This increased use and creation of digital and web based resources means that understanding the copyright rules and permissions that relate to the use of digital and online teaching and learning materials is very important. Digital resources are protected by copyright in the same way as other resources.

Permission to share educational resources through open licence represents an exciting opportunity for schools to take a fresh look at the original materials staff are producing, and how these can best be used to promote the school and build connections to other educators and organisations. I very much hope that other Local Authorities will look at Leicester City Council’s model, and make use of the resources we have created and shared to take the use and creation of OER forward.

All of the resources mentioned in this post are available under open licence and can be downloaded from: http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/ls/open-education/

Developing a digital literacy framework

Lucy Atkins and I delivered a workshop at the Association for Learning Technology annual conference, ALT-C 2014, looking at staff digital literacy. We used the DigiLit Leicester Framework strands, descriptors and questions to create two sets of worksheets (which you can download at the bottom of this post) to help structure the session. Workshop participants were mainly working in universities and further education. The aim of the workshop was to use the framework resources to model a practice embedded approach to context/workplace specific digital literacy. In Leicester, we use the framework as a self-reflective tool, to support individual staff members and schools in better understanding their strengths, and any gaps in knowledge and skills they might have. We also use it as a strategic framework to understand the city wide picture and support staff and organisational development.

The first set includes seven worksheets – a high level description of each of the six DigiLit Leicester strands  – Assessment and Feedback; Communication, Collaboration and Participation; Creating and Sharing; E-Safety and Online Identity; Finding, Evaluating and Organising; and Technology supported Professional Development, along with a mystery strand sheet (below) that we included so that participants could come up with their own digital literacy strand area.

Mystery Strand

Each sheet also includes the description of the four levels we work with (Entry, Core, Developer and Pioneer, with the descriptions being the same for each strand), as a prompt to participants.

We asked everyone work with another person or in a small group, and to either pick an existing strand area (with Assessment and Feedback being the most popular) or come up with their own – one of the groups for example chose to focus on ‘online course delivery’ as a competency area, and another chose to look at digital literacy for higher education learners.  We then gave all of the teams 15 minutes, flipchart sheets and marker pens to develop their own ideas, descriptions or questions relating to their chosen strand, practically framing these through how the strand would look at each of the four levels.

It was a busy and successful workshop – a lot of discussion was generated and groups worked hard at getting to grips with linking their ideas to practice. The DigiLit Leicester Framework has been developed with and for secondary and special school staff, so the stands and questions directly relate to them. However, much of the actual content is relevant and transferable to other groups – working within HE, FE, primary or adult education, or within a different profession or sector. This workshop demonstrated how the framework content can be used to scaffold and support organisations looking to take a strategic approach to understanding what the key digital literacy areas are most relevant to a particular group are. You can see how we have made use of the framework to structure staff development work in Leicester schools by looking at our 2014 staff digital literacy survey results, and our recent project activities report.

Assessment and feedback flipchart sheetDistance learning flipchart sheet

 

Teams fed back to the whole group on their discussion and initial thinking. We also provided groups with copies of our framework statements, linked to each level for the six strand areas.

 

Communication, collaboration and participation strand statments

These form the basis of the survey we’ve carried out city wide, with staff asked to mark the four statements groups as ‘none’ ‘some’ or ‘all’ (you can find more information about the survey methodology in the 2014 report).

If you’d like to use the worksheets to structure your own workshop or as a starting point to develop your own digital literacy framework, please do:

Pack 1 worksheets: strand and level descriptions PDF

Pack 1 worksheets: strand and level descriptions Word

Pack 2 worksheets: strand statements PDF

Pack 2 worksheets: strand statements Word

 

 

The digital native question

NIACE debate 2014

Picture credit: Sarah Knight

 

NIACE, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (the UK’s lead organisation for lifelong learning) held its annual digital learning conference last week. I was very happy to be invited to contribute to the conference debate, ably chaired by Go On UK CEO Rachel Neaman.

Panellist were invited to put forward and argue for a key action to help “prepare learners for life, work and learning in the digital age”. My proposal was that we stop using the term ‘digital native’ to characterise young people (and by extension, the term ‘digital immigrant’ to describe not so young people). My notes are here:

The term ‘digital natives’ was coined by Marc Prensky in 2001. It’s the most popular of several terms that characterise young people as different from those born before the early-to-mid 1980s –and brought up in a society where mobile, gaming and internet based technologies have become pervasive. Prensky describes this group as fundamentally different from those born later – not just culturally but neurologically – his writing at this time suggests that engagement with (then) new technologies from an early age means that the brain development of digital natives is significantly different from previous generations. Digital natives have grown up with technologies, and are “used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They prefer games to “serious” work” (Prensky, 2001). Digital immigrants have difficulty in accessing new technological cultures and practices, and are characterised as learning “…like all immigrants, some better than others – to adapt to their environment,” But “…they always retain, to some degree, their “accent,” that is, their foot in the past” (Prensky, 2001).

This idea of a clear-cut, homogeneous generational divide has been disputed by researchers since at least 2006 – see for example, Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the “Net Generation” (Hargittai, 2010); The Net Generation and Digital Natives (Jones & Shao, 2011); Beyond the Net Generation Debate: A Comparison of Digital Learners in Face-to-Face and Virtual Universities (Gros et al, 2012).

The immigrants/native dichotomy has however persisted in its popularity. ‘Digital native’ recently made it on to the shortlist for the Chambers Dictionary word of the year and the nostalgic spectre of digital immigrants was raised again. I’d argue that this popularity in part is down to its easy adaptability into a blunt metaphor of difference. This populist use equates young people’s immersion and proximity to mobile, gaming and web-based technologies with knowledge, skills and confidence. Young people are ‘good’ at tech stuff, older people aren’t. ‘Tech stuff’ is a thing, rather than a diverse, overlapping and developing landscape of technologies, practices and environments.

Assumptions about young people’s familiarity with technologies risk exacerbating inequality. Access to devices and connectivity isn’t equal across all young people, and neither is support in developing skills – from peers, parent/carers, or schools, equally distributed. Socioeconomic status remains a key issue in relation to access, with a small but significant number of young people having very limited access.

While the majority of young people do have more routine access, it certainly doesn’t seem inevitable that these young people have innately developed the kinds of creative and critical skills that support active citizenship in digital environments. Ofcom’s 2014 Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitude Report reports improvements in young people’s understanding of search engine results, with just over half (52%) of 12-15s who use search engines now understanding that some of the sites returned will be truthful and some won’t be, compared to 45% in 2013. While the picture in terms of basic digital literacy is improving, it’s still a long way from the glossy wholesale assumptions called up by the idea of a ‘digital native’

Search engine understanding Ofcom 2014

More nuanced approaches to people’s online activity are emerging. I’d be remiss not to mention David White’s Visitor and Resident approach here, which bypasses the limitations of an age based understanding of online engagement with a the idea of a continuum of participation.

We need to continue to challenge unhelpful assumptions and stereotypes about people based on when they happened to be born, and ask people what they mean when they use these terms. Native and immigrant assumptions obscure the actual picture for both younger and older people. We need to ensure learner of all ages have access to the  knowledge and skills necessary to make to most of technology in terms of educational, social and economic opportunities and challenges.

 

 

Making OER Mainstream in Schools

A guest post for the Open Educational Resources Research Hub. This post was originally published on the OER Research Hub blog on November 10th 2014, and is shared under CC-BY 4.0.

 

 

OER15

OER15 logo image by the Open Education Conference shared under CC-BY 4.0

I’m delighted to have been invited to keynote at OER15 – the Open Educational Communities annual international conference, taking place in Cardiff in April 2015. I’m very much looking forward to spending some time in the Welsh capital talking to, and learning from, an inspiring group of educators. This year’s conference theme – ‘Mainstreaming Open Education’, is also integral to approach I’ve been taking in my work for Leicester City Council, and to the Open Education Schools Guidance work we’ve just released.

In Leicester, I head up the technology strand of the council’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) Programme – rebuilding and refurbishing 23 secondary and special education schools, which support approximately 20,000 learners, mostly between the ages of 11-16. I work with the BSF team to make sure that the schools get open to time and to budget, and that secondary and SEN schools in the city have the quality of ICT infrastructure, connectivity and equipment that will support them in making effective and creative use of technology to support all aspects of their work. I’ve also been working with the BSF school communities to identify how staff and schools make use of and understand technology to support learning, teaching, and whole school community development. This has been framed by the DigiLit Leicester project, a partnership with De Montfort University and the schools, designed to identify existing excellent practice, identify gaps in knowledge, and to help schools plan for future development.

In the course of the project, we’ve carried out two city-wide surveys. This year, 701 school leaders, teachers, and support staff completed the survey. Although the survey results come with the usual caveats about the limitations of the methodology, the findings are directly useful in understanding how staff across the city make use technology. I think the data is also interesting in terms of what the wider UK schools sector is likely to look like.

In both years the survey was carried out, a lack of knowledge about and familiarity with open licencing and open educational resources (OER) amongst school staff was flagged. Where comments were left that referred to gaps in practice, these mostly referred to OER. For instance, one teacher stated:

“I have never used the Open Educational Resources – I do not know what this is.”

In May 2014 we appointed Dr Björn Haßler and Helen Neo (University of Cambridge) to support us in creating guidance to help school staff in understanding and making use of open licensing and OER. They previously worked on several initiatives which support the creation and use of use of OER by schools across Europe and internationally, including the ORBIT project and the OER4Schools programme.

The brief was to create practical guidance about OER for school staff, drawing on existing openly licensed resources where this was beneficial. We’ve built on and referred to some of the excellent work taking place internationally, to provide a straight forward introduction to the key areas of finding, using, repurposing, creating and sharing OER.

Getting back to the ‘mainstream’ theme here – my work in Leicester is not just to support already confident and creative users of technology – but to all of our school staff develop their knowledge, skills and confidence, in order to benefit all of our learners.

23% of staff completing the 2014 survey placed themselves at the lowest level (‘Entry’) of confidence in relation to at least one of the six digital literacy strands. 42.1% of staff identified themselves in the two lower levels (‘Entry’ and ‘Core’) of the Creating and Sharing strand and 37.5% placed themselves at the lower levels of the Finding, Evaluating and Organising.

This doesn’t of course undermine the incredible work going on across the city – 56% of survey respondents identified themselves at the highest level of the survey in relation to their practice in one or more of the six strands, and the quality and impact of work that the schools have carried out this year has been exceptional.

In terms of the approach we’ve taken to creating the guidance and resources, it was important to recognise that not every staff member is confident in their professional use of technology in all areas of their practice. Not every staff member has heard about every tool or approach to using technology. OER is an area that most haven’t had the chance to get to grips with, but one that offers huge opportunities for staff.

Every staff member in the schools sector will benefit from being introduced to the existence of open licensing and open educational resources. At the very least, understanding OER can support and extend knowledge of copyright and intellectual property issues in relation to their practice and the terms of their employment. At best, OER can act as a conduit to support collaboration and engagement with educators locally and globally to more effectively support learners. I very much see OER as providing a conduit for school communities to raise issues about how resources are used and created, and to take a fresh look at professional practice in relation to resources.

To support this, the resources we’ve release include four key guidance documents covering everything educators need to get started with open education and open licensing:

Alongside the four guidance documents, there are six supporting documents, with workshop activities, and step-by-step walkthroughs to help staff find, use and make open educational resources. These include using Flickr to find great Creative Commons licenced images (PDF), and how to use Wikipedia to create free topic books for learners (PDF).

The resources are packaged in PDF and editable bundles for quick download, and are available from http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/openeducation

While the resources have been created for school staff they offer a great introduction to open licensing to everyone, and include information that would be relevant to most sectors – I’m very much looking forward to seeing other councils and schools, as well as other sectors and countries, make use of them.

The resources of course are only the start of the OER journey for the city, and we’ll continue to work with schools in relation their practical and strategic approaches to creating and sharing materials. The feedback we’ve had so far has been encouraging and positive. It’s very easy to forget sometimes that many of the discussions and practices relating to OER haven’t yet included the vast majority of educators. We’ve tried to produce information that doesn’t take familiarity with the area, or use of technology for learning, for granted, in order to open new opportunities for educators to benefit from and contribute to open education.

OER Schools Guidance

OER Schools icons

 

I’m very happy to be letting people know that Leicester City Council has released guidance and a range of practical information for schools to support staff in understanding, finding, and creating Open Educational Resources (OER).

The resource packs can be downloaded from http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/openeducation.

I’ve worked with Dr Björn Haßler and Helen Neo to produce the resources, which have also benefited from the input of school staff, through review and trialling in pilot workshop sessions.

OER are learning materials (including presentations, revision guides, lesson plans) that have been released under an open licence, so that anyone can use, share and build on them for free.  Many openly licensed resources are available for schools to use and develop. At a time when schools increasingly work with, and rely on, digital and web based materials, understanding how copyright works, and making the most of available resources, is essential for staff and schools.

Creating OER allows schools to connect and collaborate with others through sharing work. Sharing can also help promote the great work that school staff and schools are doing.

The DigiLit Leicester initiative, designed to support schools in making the most of the city’s current investment in technology, identified a gap in support and information for school staff relating to the use and creation of OER. In response to this, Leicester City Council is releasing a range of resources to help schools in the city and beyond get the most out of open licensing.

The focus of the OER Schools project is to providing information to school staff about open licencing, and in particular, Creative Commons. Leicester City Council has also given permission to the 84 community and voluntary controlled schools across the city to create and share Open Educational Resources (OER), by releasing the learning materials they create under an open licence.  By default, the rights of work created in the course of employment are assigned to the employer, unless a specific agreement has been made. This permission makes sharing resources simpler for everyone, and provides additional opportunities for schools and school staff. Leicester City Council is the first local authority in the UK to provide its school employees with permission to openly license their resources.

The OER Schools project resources include:

School permission & policy documents:  This pack includes notification of permission from Leicester City Council to city community and voluntary controlled schools, explanatory briefing notes relating to this permission, and model school policies (which builds on the Albany Senior High School Creative Commons Policy) for schools where the LEA is the employer, and for schools where the governing body (or equivalent) is the employer.

Guidance documents: Four documents which introduce OER and open education; look at copyright and Creative Commons licences; support staff in finding, attributing and remixing OER; and cover creating and sharing OER.

Supporting Documents:  Six supporting documents designed to help staff in delivering OER workshops; provide walkthroughs for finding, using and attributing CC Licensed materials; and include an extensive list of annotated resources and related materials.

Additional materials:  A pack of existing openly licensed resources that are either referenced in the guidance or in activities in the supporting documents, provided on a standalone basis to make life easier for school staff.

All of the materials build upon existing openly licensed works and are themselves released under a CC-BY licence, and provided in editable doc formats as well as PDF.

The Council is also encouraging voluntary aided schools, foundation schools and academies across the city to review their own approach to digital resources, and to see how they can make the most of open licensing.  At these schools, the governing body is usually the employer.  All schools in the city have been provided with information about the permission, and the Council has produced model policies to discuss, adopt and adapt.

All of the resources can be downloaded from http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/openeducation