open education resources

Wikimedia UK Education Meetup

Saturday 21 May 2016 saw Wikimedia UK volunteers and educators travel from across the UK to the City of Champions (and since you have an internet connection, you’ll know that’s Leicester).

I was fortunate enough to work with Fabian Tompsett, Wikimedia UK activist, volunteer and open education advocate, to co-organised the event. Supported and hosted by the Learning and Work Institute, the half-day meetup was designed to take open education in relation to Wikimedia projects forward across the schools, further education, higher education and adult education sectors.

Wikimedia Projects

Wikimedia UK is a charity that works with volunteers to support and promote active engagement with the wide range of Wikimedia projects – Wikipedia being of course the best known, since it consistently ranks as one of the most frequently visited sites globally. Like other Wikipedia projects, all of the content (text, images, multimedia, datasets) is typically in the public domain, or openly licensed (much under a Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike licence).

Wikipedia Wikipedia
Free-content encyclopedia
Wiktionary Wiktionary
Dictionary and thesaurus
Wikiquote Wikiquote
Collection of quotations
Wikinews Wikinews
Free-content news
Wikispecies Wikispecies
Directory of species
Wikibooks Wikibooks
Free textbooks and manuals
Wikisource Wikisource
Free-content library
Commons Commons
Shared media repository
Meta-Wiki Meta-Wiki
Wikimedia project coordination
MediaWiki MediaWiki
Free software development
Wikidata Wikidata
Free knowledge base
Wikivoyage Wikivoyage
Open travel guide

The event was designed to gather the Wikimedia education community – those currently involved in projects and volunteering, and to welcome newcomers. As a group we looked at the strengths of the organisation in relation to education, and to plan future initiatives.

Wikimedia UK and Education

The day started with an introduction from Wikimedia UK CEO Lucy Crompton-Reid.

This was followed by short presentations on and discussion about current and past education focused projects.

Connected Curriculum at University College London

Mira Vogal works with staff and students at University College London to plan, run and evaluate a range of digital education activities. Initiatives like UCL’s Connected Curriculum give students reasons to produce work “directed at an audience” and “out to the world”. Her talk Wikipedia includes the Talk and History pages, and corresponding articles in different languages. UCL Wikipedia work evaluations confirm that student activity depends heavily on their tutors’ lead, so sustaining Wikipedia work within a curriculum depends on how tutors understand the potential of Wikipedia and explain it to their students.

Wikimedia VLE

Charles Matthews has been a Wikimedia volunteer since 2003, working on Wikipedia, Wikisource and Wikidata projects. His talk focused on the Wikimedia UK Virtual Learning Environment project, which he leads on.

Wikipedia course work at Middlesex University

Stefan Lutschinger is a creative professional, curator, and lecturer in Media, Culture and Communications at Middlesex University. Stefan’s talk covered his experience of integrating Wikipedia into the MED3040 Publishing Cultures course at Middlesex.

Wikimedian in Wales

Jason Evans was appointed as Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales in January 2015. Since becoming a Wikipedian in residence Jason has organised public events and shared digital content and is now looking to take Wikipedia into schools and universities through a number of initiatives. His talk covered developing projects and building trust in order to engage schools and universities with Wikipedia.

Following the talks, we looked at some of the approaches to education Wikimedia UK staff and volunteers have established and how these could be promoted and improved. Things identified as particularly important and impactful included:

  • The Wikimedian in Residence programme – UK residencies have included the British Museum, the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian Library, and more recently, the University of Edinburgh
  • Wikimedia project training for specific events, groups, topics or interests
  • Train the trainer workshops
  • Wikipedia Editathons – for example the upcoming Protests and Suffragettes: Strong Women of the Clydeside Editathon
  • Resources – the projects and organisation have produced a wide range of resources, many of which are shared under open licence
  • Wikimedia UK run and related conferences and events, and global participation
  • The new Wikipedia in the Classroom programme which builds on successes and practice in relation to our work with education

Much of the conversation focused on how to raise the profile of activities and ensure that educational organisations and institutions were aware of the opportunities and benefits of working with the community and accessing expertise.

We then broke into smaller groups, structured around sectors, to more closely discuss current and future plans. The reports back were wide-ranging and identified a range of technical developments (including the ability for teachers to curate image and multimedia Wikimedia assets into themed sets), the importance of sector specific staff training and support, working with learners, the opportunities afforded by family learning, promoting and raising awareness of Wikimedia UK, and Wikidata and data literacy.

It was a rich and reflective day, marking the start of a renewed focus on education as a priority area for the organisation. Wether you are already involved in Wikimedia projects and education, or would like to connect to other educators and volunteers, get involved! You can sign up to the JISC Wikipedia mailing list (which is for anyone interested in education and Wikimedia projects), and check out Wikimedia UK upcoming events.

Membership is a great (and low cost!) way to keep in touch with and contribute to Wikimedia UK.



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 licensed 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 licensing 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 adaptions 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:


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 licensed 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:

The ‘Policy Pack‘ resources include Leicester City Council’s formal notification of permission for community and voluntary controlled schools, as well as model school policies and a briefing for schools on why the council has provided school employees with permission to openly licence their educational resources.

The briefing is also available here:

OER School Briefing (PDF)

OER School Briefing (Word)

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 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

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.