Events & Meetups

TEDx Leicester – Open & Connected Learning: Transforming School Practice

TedxLeicesterI was delighted to be invited to speak at the first ever TEDx Leicester. My talk explored why open and connected learning is a critical priority for the schools sector, and looked at some of the exciting work taking place in Leicester’s schools relating to digital literacy. Leicester is currently causing a stir internationally in terms of open learning – my talk explained what we’ve been doing in the schools sector, and why.

Here are my notes:

Leicester is a large and diverse city in central England. I work for Leicester City Council, where I lead on technology for one of the country’s biggest school building programmes. As well as the huge investment being made in ‘bricks and clicks’, we’ve been working with our school communities to transform educational practice through open and connected learning. We’ve also been working openly, sharing what we’ve found and the resources we have created online under Creative Commons open licenses so that teachers, schools, and councils across the UK and internationally can benefit – and ultimately, so that all our learners can benefit.

There is no doubt that in the UK and many other countries the internet is now a mainstream site of everyday activity. Currently around 40% of the global population have access to the internet. This means that many of us are working, learning, and living in digital as well as physical environments. We post pictures of our children, we build and develop our personal, professional and learning networks, we find romantic partners and fall love, we buy and sell goods, provide and access services.

In many countries in the world the local percentage of the population who go online online are in the majority – so much so that in these countries we now talk about digital divides, and digital exclusion. There are lots of reasons why the minority populations aren’t online in what we can characterise as digital societies – including poverty, disability, and literacy.  The mainstreaming of online spaces as sites of social, cultural, economic and political sites provides all kinds of new opportunities – but also risks exacerbating inequality amongst those who aren’t able to take advantage of new, digitally mediated forms of contact, communication and collaboration.

Globally, digital inclusion is not just about functional technology skills and access – it’s also about the confidence and knowledge to critically engage in online environments – or, digital literacy.

There are different ways to describe digital literacy. The definition I use most often is functional technical skills + critical thinking + social engagement = digital literacy. There are quite a few definitions of digital literacy about at the moment – mine has the advantage though of being one of the shortest ones.

Digital literacy is important because social, political and economic participation is important – the ability to contribute to, and to shape and change our communities. The House of Lord’s recently published report ‘Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future’ (2015) recommends that digital literacy should be regarded as a necessary life skill, along with literacy and numeracy. The report cautions that not doing so constitutes a significant risk to individuals and to the UK, of missing the many opportunities afforded by digital technologies.

Digital literacy is also situated in practice. When we think of other essential skills – numeracy for example – it’s easy to understand that every one of us benefits from a basic level of numeracy, and that we’d find a lot of day to day management of our lives extremely difficult without this. If we were to take up a career as an accountant, or a chemist, we would of course need additional, specialist numeracy skills.

Similarly, digital literacy is important for all citizens. Everyone benefits from a basic understanding of finding, evaluating and managing information, being able to communicate and collaborate, being able to buy goods and access services, and being able to keep themselves and their data safe online.  For some groups, for example those supporting learners and learning, specialist and specific skills & knowledge are obviously going to be an important part of their professional practice.

In the context of publically funded schools, staff confidence and knowledge of basic digital literacy is particularly important, since most will be supporting some digitally excluded young people. Schools have critical role to play in ensuring no sixteen year old leaves compulsory education without the skills, knowledge, and confidence to make use of technologies to support and enhance their ability to learn and work, and their social and political participation. For some of our learners, schools may be the only place where they see digital literacy practices being modelled, and are actively supported in the creative, safe and effective use of technologies.

For the last few years, I’ve been working with Professor Richard Hall from Leicester’s De Montfort University and Lucy Atkins on the DigiLit Leicester research project.  In partnership with the 23 secondary and specialist provision schools in the city’s Building Schools for the Future Programme, we identified the key areas of digital literacy for school staff. Based on these key areas, we created a survey which has been carried out city-wide over two consecutive years. The data collected has helped us to identify the strengths and gaps in digital literacy practice, in individual schools and across the city. These strengths and gaps can be taken as indicative of other secondary schools and specialist education provision across the country. We’ve responded to the findings by carrying out a range of projects designed to consolidate and promote our strengths and address gaps. All of the resources from the work we and the schools have done has been openly licensed.

One of the gaps identified by the data relate to finding and creating digital resources – a key, everyday activity for school staff. We’ve identified that a healthy culture and spirit of sharing and reuse does exist, and that this sharing is characteristically informal. One of the reasons for this marked informality is a lack of confidence and knowledge around Intellectual Property Issues as they relate to digital resources. In particular, we found a significant lack of awareness of copyright, and open educational practices and approaches – particularly in relation to open licences and open education resources (OER). For example, the majority of staff have not knowingly come across or used Creative Commons licensed resources.  It’s likely that this is typical of school staff working across the UK, and certainly colleagues I have compared notes with across Europe and the US have indicated that awareness of OER and the opportunities they afford schools and learners is a cause for concern.

There are many reasons why it’s important for us to address this gap in digital literacy. School staff are modelling practice for learners every day, typically in physical classrooms but also, increasingly, in online environments. Ensuring the schools workforce is confident and well informed about basic copyright issues, including the use of open educational resources, provides an opportunity to support learners by demonstrating great practice that we shouldn’t be missing out on.

While it’s great news that the majority of school staff in the UK have embraced a culture of sharing and reusing resources, the informality of this sharing ultimately limits and localises benefits – benefits that could be that could be more fully realised through open licensing. It means that staff and schools very often don’t get credit for their work – in turn making it harder for others to contact them and develop collaborative practices. Staff and schools may find their work being used and reused in ways that they aren’t happy with. Sharing and promoting work publically is also fundamentally limited if that work contains elements that the author doesn’t have permission to include and hasn’t accredited appropriately.  For example, if I’ve created a great, high quality and effective resource, which contains an image I’m not sure if I have the rights to use, or an activity that was informally adopted from someone else’s shared work, I am going to be less inclined to attach my name to that work and make it publically available for others to use. Schools can and have been fined for publishing images and using other resources online that they don’t have rights to. Being confident about the content of resources, including web pages, and properly attributing any content we have built on, means that they can be made publicly available and promoted – many of our staff and schools are producing amazing work, that they should rightly be proud of, that could be used and built on by other educators locally and globally to support learners.

The other key drivers with respect to this area of school and school staff digital literacy practice are the ones that get mentioned again and again – time and money.  Open education licences and practices have a long and established history. Creative Commons, the leading provider of open licences globally, was established in 2001, and there are somewhere around 900 million CC Licensed works currently online. UNESCO adopted the term ‘open education resources’ (OER) in 2002. Schools and school staff can’t take advantage of the existence of OER and openly licensed materials if they don’t know about them.

Imagine the time and money that could be saved if instead of 70 staff individually creating resources to support the same learning objective, resources were pooled and developed collaboratively, so that time could be spent instead on refining model resources to best suit the needs of learners. The reality of the situation is actually staggering in terms of the numbers of staff currently struggling in silos with very limited capacity and resources, with this situation being replicated across and multiplied by the whole of the curriculum. In this context, it becomes a practical matter of urgency that we take a fresh look at how schools and school staff globally work with, create and share digital resources, and how open and collaborative working practices can better support our learners. Open licences, which build on top of existing copyright frameworks, provide a clear indication as to how resources can be used – providing legal and practical foundations for the development resources and of collaborative approaches.

In Leicester, we’ve been taking the first steps on this journey. Working with Dr. Bjorn Hassler and Helen Neo, and with our school staff acting as critical friends to the project, we’ve produced easy to understand OER guidance for school staff on what open educational resources are, how to find them, how to develop and accredit them, and how to create and share them.

As well as ensuring the guidance is as practical as possible, we’ve produced walkthroughs for staff to demonstrate how easy it is to change and enhance current practice by using OERs. For example, we’ve created simple guides to finding and accrediting openly licensed images on the photo sharing site Flickr, to enhance resources, presentations, and web pages.

The work we’ve done is not just about supporting staff in tapping into the great range of resources out there, but to encourage and support them to contribute to open education by creating and sharing their own OER. In order to do this, we’ve had to take a look at Intellectual Property and employment laws. In the UK, as in many other countries, unless there is a specific agreement in place, your employer is likely to have ownership of the intellectual property rights and copyright of the work you produce in the line of your employment. This doesn’t just apply to school employees, but it’s worth addressing in the case of public employees, particularly those who are producing educational resources. I believe very strongly that where publicly funded educational resources can benefit others than the group of learners they have been created for, they should be shared openly. This ensures we get the best possible value from the work we are doing, and helps to put in place the working practices we need to establish to put an end to the wasted time and money we are spending on duplicating resources locally.

To facilitate this, Leicester City Council has given blanket permission for all it’s school employees to openly licence the educational resources they are producing for work. The council employs the majority of teaching staff in the city, but there are several types of school where the governing body is the legal employer – for example, academies, trusts and some faith schools. To support these schools we’ve produced model local OER policies that can be adopted and adapted to support their employees. The policies, guidance and resources can all be downloaded from our schools website and are openly licensed, so they can be used, adapted and reused for free. They have already been adapted for the university and further education sectors by Jorum, and are being translated into French and Portuguese by the African Virtual University.

I’m very proud of the start we’ve made across the city to introduce and embed open educational practices and resources, and I very much hope that other cities, regions and countries will benefit from and build on our work here –  please do enjoy, use and share our work, and help us to open and connect educational practice.

OER Schools Conference Roundup

OER schools icons

The OER Schools Conference – the first event of it’s kind in the UK – took place in Leicester on 29 January 2015, organised by Leicester City Council in partnership with De Montfort University. 92 attendees from 48 primary, secondary and specialist provision schools took part in the day, as well as representatives from five UK universities.

Delegates work through the practical OER Schools resources

The conference was designed to take forward the council’s recent work in ensuring school staff are benefiting from understanding, finding, using, creating and sharing Open Educational Resources (OER). The day focused on exploring two key recent developments:

The council is a global leader with respect to it’s work in this area, which is itself shared under open licence so that other educators, schools, local and national governments can benefit from and build upon the resources.

OER Schools Resources

OER Schools Conference reports:

More on the council’s OER work from around the web:

Miles Berry leads the OER Schools Primary computing workshopLucy Atkins at the OER Schools Conference Bjorn Hassler introduces school staff to the OER guidance









OER Schools Conference, 29th January 2015, Phoenix, Leicester

Leicester City Council, in partnership with De Montfort University, held a free day conference focusing on finding, using, creating and sharing Open Educational Resources (OER). The event builds on the council’s recently released OER guidance and resources, which can be downloaded from

The resources were produced by Dr Bjoern Hassler, Helen Neo (University of Cambridge) , and Josie Fraser (Leicester City Council), and have also benefited from the input of school staff, through review and practical trailing.

The majority of school staff use and create digital resources to support their learners and schools – including presentations, lesson plans, and study guides. However, the DigiLit Leicester project identified a gap in support and information for teachers relating to the use and creation of Open Educational Resources (OER).

An understanding of OER and open licencing will support schools and staff in sharing and accessing resources, and in developing staff and learner digital literacy skills and knowledge. 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.

Speakers and Workshop Leads

Professor Richard HallRichard Hall Richard Hall (@HallyMK1 on Twitter) is Professor of Education and Technology at De Montfort University (DMU), Leicester, UK. Richard chaired the OER Schools Conference opening panel and led the conference closing session with Marieke Guy. He is DMU’s Head of Enhancing Learning through Technology and leads the Centre for Pedagogic Research. Richard is a National Teaching Fellow and a co-operator at the Social Science Centre in Lincoln, UK. He writes about life in higher education at:

Bjoern HasslerBjoern Hassler (@bjoernhassler on Twitter) focuses on pedagogy, Open Educational Resources (OER) and digital technology. He produced the OER Guidance and resources for schools, along with Helen Neo and Josie Fraser. Bjoern provided the conference with an introduction to the guidance and resources on the opening panel, and led two workshops for school staff looking at practical ways to use the resources to support teaching practice. He also led the JISC-funded ORBIT project, which produced an Open Resource Bank on Interactive Teaching for teacher education, focusing on innovative digital technology use in mathematics and science education. He is co-leading the OER4Schools project, introducing interactive teaching and digital technologies in Zambian primary schools.

Marieke GuyMarieke Guy (@mariekeguy on Twitter) is a project co-ordinator at Open Knowledge, a global not-for-profit organisation that wants to open up knowledge around the world and see it used and useful. Marieke spoke on the opening panel about the international context of open education, and also led the conference closing session with Richard Hall. Over the last two years she has been exploring open data in education and its relationship with open education as part of the LinkedUp Project. Her current projects are PASTEUR4OA , developing and/or reinforcing open access strategies and policies across Europe, and Europeana Space, creating new opportunities for employment and economic growth within the creative industries sector based on Europe’s rich digital cultural resources. Marieke has been working with online information for over 16 years and was previously employed by UKOLN, a centre of expertise in digital information management at the University of Bath. Marieke co-ordinates the Open Education Working Group.

Josie FraserJosie Fraser (@josiefraser on Twitter) is a UK-based Social and Educational Technologist. Since June 2010, she has lead on technology for Leicester City Council’s multi-million pound Building Schools for the Future (BSF) Programme, one of the most accelerated build programmes in the UK. She is also responsible for setting, promoting and delivering on a city wide agenda for educational transformation in relation to the use of technology within schools. She developed and leads on the DigiLit Leicester staff development project, run in partnership with De Montfort University and the 23 BSF schools. The project achieved recognition as one of five global winners of the Reclaim Open Learning innovation competition, organised by the MacArthur Foundation, The Digital Media and Learning Hub, and MIT Media Lab. As part of this work, she has lead on the OER Schools project. As a panellist, Josie talked about why Leicester City Council has provided permission for school employees to openly licence their work, and the benefits for educators and schools in engaging with open licencing. She also ran two workshops, focusing on school policy and practice in relation to OER.

Miles BerryMiles Berry (@mberry on Twitter) is principal lecturer and the subject leader for Computing Education at the University of Roehampton. He teaches initial teacher education courses, and his principal research focus is the role of online communities in the professional formation and development of teachers. Miles was part of the drafting groups for computing in the 2014 national curriculum. Miles spoke on the opening panel about the importance of OER and open licencing in relation to the primary and secondary computing curriculum, and ran two workshops, one for primary practitioners and one for secondary level staff. Until 2009, Miles was head of Alton Convent Prep. In his former post as deputy head of St Ives School, Haslemere, he pioneered the use of Moodle and Elgg in primary education. His work on implementing Moodle was documented as the dissertation for Leicester University’s MBA in Educational Management, and won the 2006 Becta ICT in Practice Award for primary teaching. His other professional interests include knowledge management in education, use of open source software and principles in schools, provision for the gifted and talented and independent learning.

Dave FroodDave Foord (@davefoord on Twitter) is an experienced teacher. Some of his best known work is in the area of learning technology (also known as ILT, e-learning, ICT) – using technology to enhance the learning experience. Dave has been a keen advocate on accessibility considerations within this area of work, and specialises in the creation of resources that are highly accessible, mobile optimised, and easily adaptable. Dave provided the conference with a workshop on basic accessibility considerations for producing OER, including this simple checklist he produced for the workshop:

Accessibility checklist for schools creating OER (PDF)

Accessibility checklist for schools creating OER (Word)


10am – 11.30

OER Leadership Briefing and Q&A

Chair: Richard HallPanel: Miles Berry, Josie Fraser, Marieke Guy, Bjoern Hassler

11.40am -1pm


  • Introduction to OER for school staff – Bjoern Hassler
  • School Policy – Josie Fraser
  • Computing, Primary – Miles Berry

1pm-1.40 pm

Lunch & feedback

1.40pm – 3pm


  • Introduction to OER for school staff – Bjoern Hassler
  • School Policy – Josie Fraser
  • Computing – secondary school – Miles Berry
  • Creating accessible OER – Dave Foord

3pm – 3.30

Next steps & close

Opening briefing session

City school leaders who were unable to attend the whole day were encouraged to register for the opening briefing session which provided them with information to take their schools forward in relation to copyright and open licensing. The session covered key legal and practical issues for schools – including copyright and open licensing, international approaches, and employment and policy.


Introducing OER – this hands on session was designed to get staff started with finding, using and creating open educational resources. Attendees found out how to tap in to a wealth of free openly licensed resources, and how OER can help staff and schools connect to local and global communities.

School policy workshop – This session took school leaders through the process of creating a school OER policy, to support staff development, classroom practice and resource sharing.

Computing curriculum workshop – This workshop looked at what computing staff need to know about open licensing, and what their students need to know. Two workshops were held – one for primary, and one for secondary schools, and looked at how the OER guidance and materials can be practically incorporated into lessons to support Key Stage 1,2,3 and 4.

Creating accessible resources – all staff and schools have a responsibility to consider the basic accessibility of electronic resources – whether these are only shared within the school community, or more openly available. This session introduced staff to the basic accessibility issues all schools need to be aware of when creating digital resources.

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Panel Videos and Presentations

The majority of school staff use and create digital resources to support their learners and schools – including presentations, lesson plans, and study guides. However, the DigiLit Leicester project identified a gap in support and information for teachers relating to the use and creation of open educational resources (OER). An understanding of OER and open licensing will support schools and staff in sharing and accessing resources, and in developing staff and learner digital literacy skills and knowledge.

The opening briefing session provided school leaders with the information to take their schools forward in relation to copyright and open licensing. The session covered key legal and practical issues for schools – including copyright and open licensing, international approaches, and employment and policy.

Intro – Richard Hall

OER Guidance for Schools – Bjoern Hassler

OER and Open Education around the world – Marieke Guy

Permission, Policy, Practice – Josie Fraser

Open Educational Resources and Computing – Miles Berry

Richard Hall chaired the panel and introduced the OER Schools Conference.

Richard’s introduction highlighted the global importance of the DigiLit Leicester project, a collaboration between Leicester City Council’s Building Schools for the Future Programme, De Montfort University and 23 of the city’s secondary and SEN schools. The project focuses on supporting secondary school teaching and teaching support staff in developing their digital literacy knowledge, skills and practice, and identified that school staff and communities would benefit from support in relation to copyright education, specifically with regard to open licensing and open educational resources. The council’s open educational resources (OER) schools work is designed to address this.

Bjoern Hassler introduced the recently released OER Guidance for Schools

“Practice changes and policy has to play catch up”. Bjoern introduces the OER Schools Guidance, explaining it’s designed to underpin existing practice and support schools in using, creating and sharing digital resources. OER aren’t exclusive to Leicester, or something that the project team has made up! He talks about the importance of attribution and giving credit where credit is due, and the ease of finding and using OER.


Marieke Guy talked on OER and open education around the world

Marieke Guy, from Open Knowledge, talks about the international context of open education and OER. She co-ordinates the Open Education Working Group and is involved in a range of open knowledge projects, including work around open access, education data, and work with galleries, libraries and museums. Marieke talks about the global open education community : “anyone can be an open practitioner, it involves people from all over the world, and we are really keen to involve as many people as possible”. Open education includes a wide range of areas (including policy, resources, licences, accreditation and practice) with initiatives and activities taking place worldwide.


Josie Fraser talked about the permission Leicester City Council has given to schools to openly licence their educational resources

Josie talks about how the permission provided by Leicester City Council to school staff is designed to recognise the current legal framework relating to intellectual property rights, and enhance the position of school employees in relation to this. Staff rights in relation to the work produced in the line of work are by default very limited. Josie talks about the benefits for school staff of understanding and engaging with open licensing and open educational resources (OER). Supporting knowledge about OER is a positive way to extend staff understanding of intellectual property and copyright issues in relation to professional practice and the terms of their employment. By providing the permission, the council is focusing on the promotion of OER as a constructive conduit for school communities to take a fresh look at how digital resources are used, created and shared. Josie poses key questions for schools.

Miles Berry talked about the relation of OER to the new computing curriculum

Miles was instrumental in the development of the new English national curriculum computing programmes of study. In this talk he outlines the relevance of open licencing to the new computing curriculum at Key Stage 1, 2, 3 and 4. Miles discusses how knowledge of copyright, and open licencing in particular, links to and can support learners to “use technology respectfully” (KS1); “be discerning in evaluating digital content”; “recognise acceptable/unacceptable behaviour” (KS2); “create, reuse, revise and repurpose digital artefacts”; “use technology respectfully and responsibly” (KS3); and “develop their capability, creativity and knowledge in digital media” (KS4).

Many thanks to Leon Cych for filming and editing.

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OER Schools: Policy and Permission

Leicester City Council has recently become the first Local Authority in the UK to give permission to its school employees to openly license the educational resources created in the course of their work. This permission was formally provided to community and voluntary controlled staff at 84 city schools in September 2014. Briefing notes and model policies for all schools were also circulated. During the OER Schools panel session, Josie Fraser looked at why the council have provided this permission, and how it benefits learners, staff, schools and the city. Josie asked school staff to consider the following key questions:

  • Do staff in your school know about open licensing?
  • Are all staff in your school aware of the OER permission Leicester City Council has given?
  • What existing or new resources should/could staff in your school be sharing?
  • How can we support school staff to share work openly?

The permission and a briefing containing further information for schools can be downloaded here:

OER School Permission (PDF) OER School Briefing (PDF)

Policy Workshops

Marieke Guy and Josie FraserJosie ran two workshops designed to support staff in thinking through the process of creating and implementing a school OER policy. She stressed that an OER policy should be linked to everyday school practice, supporting staff to share their resources openly and benefit from using OER other people have shared. The workshops went through the model policies which have been provided to schools to help frame discussion and decision making: OER School Model Policy – Community and VC (PDF) OER School Model Policy – VA, Foundation and Academy (PDF) Editable versions of these resources are also available to download from the OER Schools Resources page (under OER Permission and Policies – zip file).

Staff also worked through three scenarios, in small groups. These were:

  • A staff member applies to you to because they have accepted a commercial offer to sell materials they have developed for their class. How do you respond?
  • A staff member has created some excellent learning materials. You suggest they openly licence and share their resources more widely. The staff member refuses point blank. Why do you think they might not want to share their resources?
  • As Head of Department, you are looking to embed open sharing of educational resources in order to support professional development and collaboration. What key practices would you implement to support staff in sharing their resources?

These worksheets can be downloaded here: OER Policy Scenario A worksheet (word) OER Policy Scenario B worksheet (word) OER Policy Scenario C worksheet (word)

School leaders work through the OER Policy session


Giving permission to community and voluntary controlled school employees to openly license digital resources provides a wide range of benefits. These are worth keeping in mind when developing your own schools approach and implementing local policies:

  • Schools and school staff have a great culture of sharing, most of which is informal. 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.
  • 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. Looking at OER in relation to schools policies and practices can promote whole school awareness and discussion of copyright, ownership, and accreditation – all important areas for staff to be modelling good practice for learners.
  • Leicester City Council wants to support schools in promoting and sharing the great work that they are producing. Openly sharing high quality educational resources helps other educators and learners benefit from, and build upon the work staff are doing.
  • The council is committed to public value – to deriving all possible benefit from publicly funded work. We want to support schools and school staff in increasing access, fostering collaboration and ensuring value for money.
  • Without knowledge of how to find and use OER, staff are likely to spend unnecessary time creating original resources when they could be adopting or adapting existing works. By using OER, learners and educators can benefit from the care and expertise that has 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.
  • The creation and use of openly licensed resources can promote the development of connections and collaboration and the sharing of expertise across professional communities.

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What one thing feedback sheet


OER Schools Conference Feedback

We asked conference attendees to feedback on three questions: their key take away, a follow-up action, and challenges to embedding the use of open licences across their schools.

  • What is your key take away from today? We asked staff members to tell us what they considered to be the most important thing they found out about, or were prompted to think about.

FullSizeRenderaA staff member told us “I know basically now what OER is!” This was great to hear. The guidance and the conference are starting points on our journey, as individual schools and as a city, to having a schools workforce that are confident and conscientious about copyright and open educational resources and able to model great practice through their work. Embedding OER into everyday practice represents a big cultural change, but one that’s essential for educational professionals who daily use and create electronic resources. One of the key aims of the conference was to introduce open licensing and OER to schools – since they can’t take advantage of the wealth of opportunities they represent without knowing about them! The conference let us talk to staff directly about the OER schools guidance resources.

The majority of staff feedback on key issues related to copyright knowledge, copyright awareness, how to create OER, and the importance of attribution. Attendees flagged the importance of “increasing staff awareness of copyright and licensing”, “staff awareness of OER”, “copyright attribution” as key takeaways. Some attendees key take away was a recognition of the importance of having conversations with staff about where and how they are currently sharing material . The idea of unregulated sharing of resources prompted mild panic in some. It’s important to remember that sharing resources is really important to encourage, and that the permission is provided in order to promote resource sharing and support staff in adopting best practice in resource sharing.

One staff member commented “Resources created by teachers belong to Leicester City Council and not the teacher”. Many staff are not aware of the terms of their employment in relation to copyright. The legal position is that unless a specific agreement is in place, the employer is the legal and beneficial owner of copyright of materials produced by these employees in the course of their employment. This is not 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. Leicester City Council has become the first Local Authority in the UK to give permission to school staff to openly license the educational resources created by their school employees in the course of their work. This permission has been given to support staff in their use and sharing of work. It’s important to be clear that the permission does not represent a change in the position of staff in relation to copyright ownership, but an enhancement of the rights of school staff to be named as the authors of their materials (if they want to be) and to share their work under open license with the support of their employer. “Sharing is a good thing” was also highlighted by participants as a key message, as was the “need to ensure staff understand the importance of copyright and the benefits of open licensing and OER”

Other areas flagged by participants included practical information – particularly in terms of basic accessibility checks for creating materials, how to search for openly licenced materials in different mainstream sites and search engines, and information about the computing curriculum. We planned the day around workshops which provided practically focused activities with concrete outputs – so it was great to see staff validating the benefit this approach in their identified key takeaways.

One participant identified Leicester’s position at the forefront of school open educational resources awareness and activity as the most important message of the day :”Being a trendsetter is the best position to be in!”

  • What do you see as your biggest challenge in embedding open licensing? We asked attendees to name the issue that they felt might hold their school back.

Awareness and understanding was cited as the key issues faced by schools, and in particular, current levels of staff familiarity with copyright and licensing. Current practice which included the use of unlicensed and/or unattributed materials was felt to be indicative of this.

Time and competing priorities was cited by one delegate as the key challenge. Typically, for staff in the schools workforce, this is the most common challenge listed by participants in relation to any new initiative. It was heartening that only one delegate listed this as an issue, and hopefully indicative that the general message of the conference – that work in this area builds on everyday, existing activities and supports staff in relation to baseline professional practice. Creating and using OER isn’t ‘one more thing’ that staff have to do, but a way of developing and enhancing their existing practice and sharing their excellent work. OER can actually save schools time in the longer term – staff can reuse or build on existing OER legally, giving them time to focus on the needs of their learners in the class or in personalising materials for learners. Incorporating OER into practice also supports staff in modelling and communicating good copyright practice to their learners.

Attendees also asked for more support in relation to how schools many use of learner created resources – given that the student is the owner of these. with The copyright belong to the student, so schools are interested in how they can manage consent around the use and open licensing of learner created resources.

  • What one thing will you be doing when you get back? We asked delegates to let us know if the day had prompted any actions.

The majority of delegates replied to this question in terms of staff development. Ensuring staff were aware of what they could and couldn’t do with their current licences (particularly the CLA and ERA schools licences), understanding copyright, becoming better informed about open licensing, looking at whole school training for staff in relation to open licensing and OER, and raising awareness about the permission provided by Leicester City Council. Staff also planned to sign-posting and sharing the OER schools guidance across their school.

Discussing and agreeing an approach with head teachers, the Senior Leadership Team and governors was also high on the list of ‘what’s next?’

Jo Badge tweet

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Artists Without A Cause – Diana Arce interview

Open Knowledge Festival 2014 by Gregor Fischer (CC BY 2.0)

Open Knowledge Festival 2014 by Gregor Fischer (CC BY 2.0)

This summer I made it over to Berlin, for the a Open Knowledge Festival (#OKFest14). I was mainly there for the open education track, and to thrash out some ideas around approaches to staff development and open licensing. Click through here for a great round up of ‘Open Educating at OKFestival’ from Marieke Guy.

Neelie Kroes delivered the keynote – ‘Embracing the open opportunity’, which argued that open approaches were critical to publicly funded bodies delivering on transparency, fairness and innovation.

One of the highlights of the conference was the involvement of artists and musicians from all over the world, including Artists Without A Cause (AWAC) Bankslave, Peng! Collective, Ingrid Burrington, Josh Begley, Juliani, Sasha Kinney, Swift, The Swag, UhuruB, and Valsero. I was delighted to get to meet the irrepressible Diana Arce from AWAC, and over drinks she foolishly agreed to let me interview her:

Tell me something about Diana Arce.

I’m notorious for travelling at the drop of a hat based off a whim or a gut feeling despite the fact that I’m into organizing and planning most everything else. I’ve been doing this quite a bit over the last few years, taking my work with me and looking for new inspiration. It’s quite easy to do with less money than you think. I keep jokingly saying that I’m writing a book called Permanent Staycation to show people how to do this – which I should- but honestly, I’m quite clueless on how I pull this off and don’t really have time to write a book!

Tell me something no one knows about Diana Arce.

Some people know this but not many: I never intended to be an artist. Funny enough, I was studying law as an undergrad and my law professor soon-to-be mentor convinced me (although it was more like an ultimatum if anything) that I should focus my energies and interests in law and the social sciences into my artwork. Looking back, I’ve always been making political and cultural based work since I started out as an artist so I guess it was just a matter of time that I would end up working on something like AWAC.   

Who is AWAC? How did AWAC come into existence, and where is it heading?

Last year I was invited to participate in Tactical Technology Collective’s Info Activism Camp. For the first time in my career as an artist I was surrounded by over 120 activists and organizers from across the world. Through my participation I realized there were many artistic projects and actions that many of the other participants didn’t know about and I offered to lead a short session to discuss possibilities of developing better collaborations between artists like myself with activists and organizations working to make the world a better place. During the session many of the other participants seeked advice and suggested to myself and another artist that we should form an organization to do this. At the end of the camp we announced Artists Without a Cause and a few months later we put together a basic concept. I begin filing the paperwork in Berlin to get us non profit status and researching potential collaborators and organizations we’d love to work with. It all happened quite quickly and many things changed during the first year. My original partner left to return to school and a few months before OKFest, Jeff Deutch and Brigid Pasco joined the team. I didn’t really realize it while it was happening, but it was a pretty amazing thing to conceptualize an organization, build it and complete our first collaboration within a years time. OKFest happened almost exactly 1 year after the Info Activism Camp.

As far as AWAC’s plans for the future, we are currently talking to a few organizations about incorporating arts as a part of strategic campaigns. We are negotiating with several groups to tool kit Politaoke to make it available to organizers and Brigid is currently researching and developing a project regarding feminism and women’s rights which we hope to turn into a tour. I’m also giving a talk with Peng Collective, one of the artists we featured at OKFestival, at the #FixEurope Camp from European Alternatives this October. We’d like to connect with more organizations and discuss how working with artists can add to their campaigns!

How did AWACs involvement in OK Fest 2014 come about?

I was performing Politaoke at the Berliner Festspiele Theatre as part of the Net culture conference. I put together a program of speeches mostly from the Bundestag dealing with Chancellor Merkel’s phone being tapped by the NSA as well as a few of the greatest hits from the previous Politaoke iterations and Snowden’s Christmas address. It turned out that one of the participants was OKF’s own Beatrice Martini who was organizing OKFest. She wanted me to bring Politaoke and I told her about what we (which at this point consisted of only me)  are trying to do at AWAC. I was then invited to be on the Program Team for the festival and after a few more conversations, Beatrice was convinced that artists should be a part of the festival and AWAC began putting together the plan of what artist participation could look like.

Open Knowledge Festival 2014 by Gregor Fischer (CC BY 2.0)
Open Knowledge Festival 2014 by Gregor Fischer (CC BY 2.0)

AWAC coordinated a range of sessions at OKFest14 – My favourite was probably the Political Karaoke session. I got to reenact a George W. Bush classic, although the best speech was a French one which seemed to mostly consist of enthusiastic applause from the audience. Tell me some more about the project? Can people get involved with the project or run their own political speech-offs? 

I began Politaoke in 2007 as an experiment to see what would happen if we could remove the politician from the politics. Would the words have the same impact? Would someone believe or back the words without the politician in front of it? Political engagement has been on the downturn for so long in the US yet people were willing to vote to pick their pop stars and entertainers in mass. Additionally, becoming a politician seems harder than ever; it’s grossly expensive and requires hundreds of people sometimes even on a local US scale. This seemed like a potential way to encourage people to participate by giving them the speeches as a tool, allow people to hear something more than a news media sound bite and have some fund at the same time. I work with contemporary speeches and try to create a program that is non partisan so people have the option of performing different political viewpoints. And it works just like a karaoke bar. There are books of speeches which the audience can chose from and when they come on stage they are played for everyone to see. I’ve toured the project throughout the USA, Canada, Germany and Israel (There are several interviews about the project available on our youtube and soundcloud pages where I go more in depth about the work).

AWAC is currently working on turning Politaoke into a tool kit and training program that other organizations can use and expand upon for local use and are looking for support to do this. We also now have an instance set up on SayIt a platform created by MySociety to post open source transcripts online. Because many of the speeches we work with have no official transcripts, we’ve amassed a large collection that would be useful for other activists, organizations and artists. We want to make this available to the public.

I loved the way that artists and musicians played such a prominent part in the OKFest 2014 Programme. The approach achieved a couple of things: one, it made sure that creativity and art was as much a part of the event and the definition of open as data, science, education, government, and two, the artists provided opportunities for all attendees to engage with art and art practice. This in itself was a lovely thing, but I also think it helps practically encourage people to recontextualize, to open up :),  their own viewpoints and approaches. Is that anything like your experience  of how artists were included? Or your interpretation of what the impact was?

I completely agree with you regarding the experience. I’d like to think that artists are the next phase of data visualization – more like data dramatization per se. It was an amazing experience to see and meet so many people focused on making information open, available and transparent. We were there to help show how all this work can be presented and brought to audiences face to face, especially those who don’t know what it is or why it’s important. The more we can encourage the public to understand the importance of this work, the better it is for the people and organizations doing the work.

Typically conference organisers don’t make integrating creative practice and opportunities into the schedule a priority in the way as OKFest did. Is this the kind of thing AWAC is interested in doing – working with conferences and event organisers? Or was it a one off?

We were truly excited and proud to be a part of OKFest. I definitely have to give their organization many thanks for trusting that our vision for how to incorporate artists into the festival would be representative of this year’s theme open minds to open action. We were able to develop the project like a festival within a festival, from conception through production, and the OKFest team did a great job of presenting the projects as an integrated part of the festival. This format was helpful as it also alleviated any potential extra strain on the OKFest team and allowed us to manage the artist sessions with speed and ease. We believe this is a fantastic way for conference and event organizers to work with us and we’d love to help other groups make this possible.

Tell me a bit about the other sessions AWAC coordinated? Or point up a couple of your favourites?

I can’t really pick a favourite! If I didn’t love the work that these artists have been making, I wouldn’t have asked them to be a part of the festival! It’s amazing to see the different genres and methods of each of the artists could bring to the table and their contributing sessions are only a small glimpse into the body of work they’re creating. I truly enjoyed Ingrid Burrington and Josh Begley’s ability to deconstruct complex data sets in order to make them into a tangible story. Peng Collective is able to use humour and research in order to create interventions and point out issues to large audiences. The Spray Uzi Crew are amazing graffiti artists whose work is often more effective in reaching people than more traditional forms of outreach. And Juliani and Valsero’s musical talents are only topped by their political knowledge which they incorporate into their art. It’s amazing to know and work with so many people who are using their gifts for engaging and activating many people to question and look at many aspects of their environment differently.

Again – huge thanks for your time Diana! Was brilliant to meet you and Brigid and Jeff – thanks for making OKFest14 so fantastic.

DigiLit Leicester Celebration Event

On Thursday 11 September, the DigiLit Leicester team hosted an event to showcase and celebrate the ambitious work carried out by the project team and participating schools over the last two years. The evening was a great opportunity for staff from schools and other organisations to be inspired by how Leicester BSF staff are making use of technology to enhance learning and school communities. The highlights video (above) captures some of the of impactful projects presented by Leicester school staff.

The evening began with an opening address from Cllr Vi Dempster (Assistant City Mayor for Children, Young People and Schools), and an introduction by Professor Richard Hall (DigiLit Leicester’s academic lead), which highlighted the importance of the two year project, which represents a new model for implementing digital literacy aimed at transforming the provision of secondary education across a city.

Following an overview of the 2014 Survey data, the team handed over to staff from a number of BSF ICT Innovation projects to showcase the innovative and effective ways that staff in Leicester schools have been using technology:

Bring Your Own Device Trial

Tony Tompkins – The City of Leicester College

Over the last year, The City of Leicester College have been carrying out the city’s first trial of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model in the city, with a Year 8 (aged 12-13) tutor group of 23 students. The scheme involved the students using iPad minis in lessons and at home – working with staff to investigate the ways in which the device could add value to the learning experience.

Tony led the project and carried out considerable work on developing a device management model for the school, details of which can be found in his project reports. The emphasis of device use within the school has been around students leading the innovation, with the support of their teachers.


Laura Iredale – Hamilton Community College

The Siyabonga project saw Leicester students use video conferencing to collaborate with children in Lamontville, South Africa. On March 8 2013 both groups of students took part in a live concert, involving performances from both sets of students.

The project really allowed Hamilton students to be part of something bigger than themselves, to gain an awareness of the struggles of others less fortunate than themselves and to think outside of the Leicester box!

Gearing Up to Mobile Learning

Peter Guthrie – Sir Jonathan North Community College

Staff at Sir Jonathan North worked on a project using iPads as a staff development tool, in order to integrate mobile technology into classroom practice. The project also included the involvement of Year 7 (aged 11-12) and Year 9 (aged 13-14) student groups, which were established to support students in developing their independent learning skills alongside their use of ICT.

The project enabled the school to provide training on the use of iPads to all of their staff, and to support individual staff members in engaging with self-directed exploration of the devices.

Improving Digital Literacy Continuing Professional Development

Martin Corbishley – Babington Community College

Babington’s project aimed to raise awareness of the web-based tools and services available for supporting teaching and learning. Martin achieved this through the delivery of a set of 11 workshops for school staff, covering a range of topics including; using twitter to extend the classroom and making use of online collaboration tools.

Martin felt that the course had benefited both the school as a whole and those that took part in developing their digital literacy. It opened peoples’ eyes to what is available and how the internet can be used to enhance how technology is used to deliver lessons. The school will also see further benefit because the digital champions who took part, will continue to share ideas and resources with their faculties.

Member of Parliament’s 6

Sera Shortland – Hamilton Community College

The college’s MP6 Political Speaking Competition is an annual event open to all learners aged between 11 and 16 across the city. The school used the funding to develop a website which will host young people’s speeches, and provide information about the current year’s competition and links to resources for students and staff.

The innovation project itself was only the beginning of this new phase of work for Sera, providing the training and support necessary to set up the MP6 website and make best use of the project’s new iPads for video creation. The project will now move into a new phase of content development for the site, which will be led by the students.

iPads as Alternative and Augmentative Communication Devices

Helen Robinson and Heather Woods – Nether Hall School

The majority of students at Nether Hall School have difficulties with speech and language, many requiring Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices: systems which support individuals with speech impairments to communicate. The iPad project aimed to evaluate the use of iPads as a replacement for traditional AAC devices; using The Grid2 computer access software – thereby enabling greater access for their students.

The project has proven that a tablet device together with appropriate software, such as the iPad and Grid player app, can be an effective and affordable communication tool for pupils with communication challenges. The work has had a lasting effect on the pupils’ communication skills, showing that where pupils are empowered with this voice, they are motivated and engaged in learning. This goes on to build confidence and engender trust and respect between themselves and other pupils and adults.

iPad Orchestra

Ellen Croft – Ash Field Academy

The iPad Orchestra project focused on the use of musical apps and light systems to enable students with special educational needs to create a piece of music. The school worked with creative practitioners to design a scheme of work which culminated in a performance of the piece developed by the students. Explorations were also made into the use of visual representation of the music, to provide students with the opportunity to explore and create light sculptures.

The whole atmosphere around the project was that of celebration, achievement, fun and coolness. The creative practitioners were both supportive and challenging to the pupils, constantly pushing them to the next level. They managed to create something that the pupils could take ownership of and celebrate as their own achievement.



e-Safety Guidance: Supporting Learners on the Autistic Spectrum


Yesterday saw the launch of the Childnet STAR Toolkit . The toolkit offers practical advice and teaching activities to help schools explore internet safety with young people on the autism spectrum. The launch took place at Leicester’s New Walk Museum, in the beautifully just-refurbished Victorian Art Gallery.

The STAR toolkit is one of Leicester City Council’s DigiLit Leicester projects, a professional  development approach designed to make sure that staff have the confidence and skills to get the most out of the investment being made in technology for schools through the city’s Building Schools for the Future ProgrammeChildnet worked closely with three of Leicester’s SEN schools – Ellesmere College, Nether Hall School and West Gate School, to design the resource.

Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet, said:

“The Childnet STAR toolkit is designed to give schools the building blocks they need to develop a tailored approach to online safety for their pupils with ASD. By working with Leicester City Council and three fantastic schools in Leicester we have been able to develop a practical online toolkit that addresses the online risks faced by young people living with autism spectrum disorder, such as cyberbullying, contact by strangers and exposure to inappropriate content. Importantly, this resource is available to all UK schools free online. Through the teaching activity ideas and forum we want to encourage educators across the country to use these resources, and also to feedback and share their ideas and materials so we can collectively and collaboratively provide excellent e-safety education for young people with ASD.”

The STAR Toolkit

The STAR Toolkit is designed to assist teachers in educating their pupils with ASD about the internet and support them in managing online risks.

The four sections –  Safe, Trust, Action and Respect – all feature the concept of friendship and emphasise the importance of finding the balance between online and offline interactions. At the same time, the resource promotes a positive, fun and safe experience for young people with ASD.

The online resource includes a forum to encourage educators to share their teaching ideas and how they have used and adapted the STAR Toolkit in their educational setting. This will provide a platform for sharing best practices in online safety for those working with young people with ASD.

The resource is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Launch event in Leicester

The event was opened by Councillor Vi Dempster, Leicester’s Assistant City Mayor with responsibility for children, young people and schools. Councillor Dempster said:

“I’m really pleased to be launching this innovative resource as part of our commitment to transform learning through the Building Schools for the Future Programme.

“It’s vitally important that we keep young people safe online. This resource will help to tackle some of the challenges involved in ensuring young learners who could be more vulnerable are aware of the risks.”

“It will help make sure that all our learners get the chance to benefit from the many positive learning opportunities the internet can offer.”