Media Release: #OER17 The Politics of Open

Cross posted from OER17, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT).

As we celebrate Open Education Week in the Year of Open, the OER17 Conference presents an opportunity for open practitioners, activists, educators and policy makers to come together as a community to reflect on ‘The Politics of Open’. The conference will be chaired by social and educational technologist and Wikimedia UK Trustee Josie Fraser, and Alek Tarkowski, Director of Centrum Cyfrowe, co-founder and coordinator of Creative Commons Poland.

This event will prompt participants from the UK and internationally to ask:

  • What are our current key challenges and strengths – locally, nationally, and  internationally?
  • What are our priorities – in terms of political governance, organisational and personal politics?
  • What are the changes that we want to effect together?

Co-chair Josie Fraser said: ‘This is a timely conference as governments and organisations across the globe look strategically at how open resources and open licensing can support access to education, reduce costs, help build capacity, and increase collaboration. There is still work to do in ensuring education funders, policy makers, leaders and practitioners understand the huge opportunity of open education. Open education advocates and activists have always put accessibility at the heart of their work – looking to support access to knowledge and resources for all, tackling issues of disability, discrimination and poverty head-on. This conference is an important meeting of all those working at the frontline of education, technology, and equality – exploring “the politics of open” at local, national, international level, as well as at the level of the personal.’

Alek Tarkowski, Co-Chair, said: ‘One of our goals is to look together at areas where our work on open education can extend beyond a focus on resources. An alternative focus on practices will surely be one of the main subjects of debate at our event, but we also hope to identify other such areas. One area that is of particular interest to me is copyright reform. Educational exceptions are one of the key issues debated during the ongoing copyright reform process in the European Union. From the perspective of “politics of open” we need to ask how development of Open Education and copyright reform advocacy can compliment each other.’

Over two days this event will bring together 170 participants running 100 sessions on all aspects of Open Education research and practice. Highlights within the programme are three keynote sessions with Maha Bali, American University in Cairo, Egypt, Lucy Crompton-Reid, Wikimedia, UK and Diana Arce, activist, artist and researcher, Germany.

Reflecting on the central importance of openness in education, Dr Maren Deepwell, chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology, said, ‘At a time when openness is being contested in so many contexts, it can feel like the inherently political dimension of Open Education dominates its enormous practical potential to help us meet the challenges we face in education. It is important to remember that taking an open approach through practice, resources, governance and policy is not a luxury. Instead, it is an efficient, effective and often empowering way for organisations to achieve their aims.’

For full details see

Press passes

If you would like a press pass to attend the conference, please contact Maren Deepwell,

Notes for Editors

  1. ALT (the Association for Learning Technology) is a professional and scholarly association which brings together those with an interest in the use of Learning Technology. As the UK’s leading membership organisation in the Learning Technology field, we work to improve practice, promote research, and influence policy.
  2. OER17 is organised by ALT and volunteer members from across the community.
  3. About 2,300 individuals belong to ALT, as do ~ 200 organisations across education sectors in the UK and internationally.
  4. If you are writing about, blogging or sharing images and videos about the OER17 Conference using tools that support tagging, please use the tag #oer17.
  5. Our Sponsors are listed at
  6. More information about the conference:
  7. Association for Learning Technology, Gipsy Lane, Headington, Oxford, OX3 0BP Tel: +44 (0)1865 484 125, URL:
  8. ALT is a Registered Charity in the UK, number: 1160039

Open Education for Schools – Policy & Practice

Open Educational Resources (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 – but many schools are not familiar with open licensing and OER. These resources are designed to enable school authorities, districts, trusts, and individual schools get the most out of open education.  They have already been adopted and adapted by people working in a range of sectors – including further and higher education, and adult education.  They are released under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence, which means you are free to share and adapt the materials, as long as you provide appropriate credit. Information about how to credit material is provided on each document.

OER Policies – for authorities, districts, trusts, and individual schools

By default, the rights of work created in the line of employment are assigned to the employer, unless a specific agreement has been made. Leicester City Council is the first local authority in Europe to give blanket permission to employees at 84 community and voluntary controlled schools across the city to create open educational resources (OER), by sharing the learning materials they create under an open licence. This permission makes sharing resources simpler for everyone at these schools, and helps raise awareness of issues relating to intellectual property, including copyright and OER.

Giving permission for school employees to openly licensing digital resources incurs no additional cost to the employer or to the school, but provides a wide range of benefits. These include:

  • Supporting digital literacy – especially in relation to copyright education and practice, and working with and creating digital resources.
  • Making publicly funded works available for public benefit.
  • Communicating intent – supporting open licensing sends a clear, positive message in support of access to knowledge for all.
  • Capacity building – the creation and use of openly licensed resources can promote the development of connections and collaboration and the sharing of expertise across professional communities.
  • Strategic planning for the use of technology to support education – open licensing policies enable staff working across institutions to take advantage of the affordances of technology through collaborative working, without having to seek multiple permissions for single projects. For example, the production of e-text books that are produced, updated and shared by staff from multiple intuitions; the collaborative creation and management of online courses to support learners unable to attend schools physically, or to support differentiation, or to enhance on site learning.

Policy Resources:

This document provides permission from the authority for employees to openly license educational materials created in the line of their work. This document can be used by authorities, districts or trusts to implement their own permission:

This document answers frequently asked questions about why an employer is implementing an open licensing policy, and what the benefits for employers and employees are:

This document provides a template for schools who have been given permission to openly license educational resources by their employer (for example, a local or district authority):

This document provides a template for schools whose employer is local – for example, in the case of academy schools or voluntary aided schools, where their governing body is the employer:

G1OER Guidance for Schools

Leicester City Council  released a range of resources to support school staff digital literacy, and to help schools get the most out of open licensing and open educational resources.

The pack consists of four key guidance documents, and a range of supporting materials.

You can also download the guidance as a single, print ready version:

Alongside the four guidance documents, there are six supporting additional resources, which include workshop activities, and step-by-step walkthroughs to help staff find, use and make open educational resources.  You can download zip file packs containing all of the resources (the guidance plus supporting documents) here, in the version that suits you best:

  • OER Guidance for Schools Resource Pack (2015) – a zip file containing PDF documents. The documents are provided with graphic design, but, like all PDF, can’t be edited easily. These documents are great if you want to use or share the resources as they are.

If you are wanting to edit the documents, for example to create your own versions, you can download an editable version. These are provided in zip files containing Word and OpenDocument text documents. These versions are not as attractive as the PDF versions, and are provided without the graphic design. All text and images are included. These are best for editing.

Additionally, the supporting documents draw on a range of existing open educational resources and openly licensed information. These can be found online by following the links provided in the documents. For convenience (for example, if you want to run an OER workshop) they can also be downloaded in a zip file here:

A zip file with the InDesign files and other graphic files is also available for staff and schools who would like to make use of these

All of the original resources provided are released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence (CC BY 4.0) so that they can be shared and adapted openly, as long as attribution is given. All other resources included are available under their respective licences.

Introducing the Open Schools Network

OER schools icons

At the end of the 2014/2015 school year, the DigiLit Leicester project put out an open call to all schools in the Leicester City Council’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) Programme to participate in a new collaborative open schools network. Network members will support their schools in developing staff digital literacy in relation to copyright and the creation and use of electronic resources, building on the council’s work on open educational resources (OER). They will also provide support for other BSF and primary schools across the city who want to develop their work around the use, creation and sharing digital resources.

Last year, the council became the first in Europe to provide school employees with formal permission to openly licence educational resources created in the line of their work. Providing this permission helps raise awareness about OER and open educational practice, and sends a clear message of encouragement for staff to find out about, and make best use of, openly licensed resources. You can read more about our work in relation to this here, and access and download resources to support your local authority and school implement their own OER policies.

We also provided schools across the city with OER guidance, resources, activities and information, which are also shared openly.

The newly formed group currently consists of ten network leads and two network coordinators, representing 12 city secondary and special schools. The network is made up of school support staff, teachers and leaders from a wide range of different types of schools:

Open School Network Coordinators

Coordinators will help facilitate network activities, and ensure everyone gets to hear about what is achieved.

Suzanne Lavelle, Researcher, Children’s Hospital School Leicester

Nora Ward, Assistant Headteacher, St Pauls Catholic School

Open School Network Leads

Antoinette Bouwens, Business Manager, St Pauls Catholic School

Harjit Kaur, ICT Network Manager, Keyham Lodge and Millgate School

Pearl King, Assistant Headteacher, Rushey Mead School

Sharon Malley, Head of Mathematics, Crown Hills Community College

Michael Richardson, e-Safety and Communications Officer, Ellesmere College

Sera Shortland, Citizenship Coordinator, Hamilton College

Lucy Stone, Computing Teacher, Sir Jonathan North Community College

Mark Sutton, Assistant Curriculum Leader for Design and Technology, Soar Valley Community College

Christine Turner, Science Teacher, English Martyrs’ Catholic School

Peter Williams, Maths Teacher, The City Of Leicester College

The network will be taking part in a range of activities over the next academic year, including:

  • Developing their own knowledge of open educational practice, open educational resources and open licences
  • Support school governing bodies in implementing school based OER policies
  • Promoting school staff understanding and awareness of what open educational resources are, how to find them, and how to reference them
  • Promoting the use, creation and sharing of OER across schools
  • Supporting Leicester primary schools and other BSF schools in relation to staff awareness and use of open educational resources



Developing digital literacies in practice


Picture Credit: Scaffolding by Victoria Pickering

Last week I took part in The Guardian Higher Education Network's Developing Digital Literacy in HE live chat. How we defining digital literacy obviously shapes how we take work in this area forward, and I added the definition I use to the conversation:

Currently, my favourite definition is the one Sarah Knight uses here and in the recent Guardian article:

digital literacy defines those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society

The definition I use most frequently is based on the version introduced by the wonderful Tabitha Newman in her still pertinent 2009 presentation Digital Literacy literature review: from terminology to action:

The 'short hand' definition I most frequently use is this one:

Digital Literacy =
digital tool knowledge +
critical thinking +
social engagement

My version only changes Tabitha's in the last point – she uses the term 'social awareness' whereas I'd always use the term 'social engagement' or even 'social activism', to highlight the importance of real world practice and activity as critical to socially situated digital literacy. Digital literacy is not just about supporting learners to understand and engage with the world, but about enabling learners to challenge, shape and change their worlds.

JISC adviser Helen Beetham replied to my definition post with a great link and a summery of how we can go about translating our aspirations for digital literacy into practice:

 Hello Josie, thanks for the chance to come out in public and admit to coining that definition – along with my colleagues Allison Littlejohn and Lou McGill, in our report Thriving in the C21st.

More important than our definition, I stick by what we concluded about actually developing digital literacies in practice, that it requires:

– providing authentic contexts for practice, including digitally-mediated contexts
– individual scaffolding and support
– making practices of meaning-making explicit
– anticipating and helping learners manage conflict between different practice contexts
recognising and helping learners integrate their prior conceptions and practices

Anyone doing all that? I thought not. But it's very important to me that the Developing Digital Literacies programme involves groups of staff that have always taken this person-centred, culturally-situated approach to student development i.e. careers/employability staff, and learning development/learning skills staff. As well as student-facing staff in libraries of course.

I'm currently developing and rolling out a city-wide digital literacy programme across Leicester's Secondary Schools, as part of my role with Leicester City Council as ICT Strategy Lead for Children's Capital. One of the approaches I am taking is to work with the schools to talk about and to design a range of activities that support the development of digital literacy in the context of meeting challenges and solving problems faced by school communities. I'll write more about these and the process of supporting them as we get further along – there are some really exciting projects – but in this post I'm going to focus on the framework I'm using with schools to structure conversation around the ways in which developing skills, and reviewing or introducing new policies and processes can meet current needs and support learner outcomes.

The topics have been identified and developed in discussion with schools and with a range of individuals, governing bodies and working groups. They act as development framework markers to frame discussion, activity and research, and to structure the ongoing review of projects and commissioning taking place at individual school and estate-wide level.

The bullet points are indicative of areas that actions might be agreed and developed with schools to address. The majority of the 25 secondary (supporting students between 11 and 16 years old) have completed their first draft of actions and from these a range of activities and projects – either at individual schools, or where shared interests and issues have been identified, across clusters of schools, subject areas, or role.

Space & Place

  • Ensuring the best possible use is made of digital environments in relation to the physical environment of the school buildings and grounds in supporting learning and teaching.
  • Ensuring access and active participation as appropriate for all members of the school community from any location via both school and user owned internet connected devices; recognising that the function and role of the school is not confined to the school grounds and restricted by the school day.
  • Increasing the numbers of parents and carers actively engaging with and contributing to school activities.
  • Ensuring schools’ digital presence supports whole school community development, takes full advantage of engagement opportunities and keeps it’s community well informed of activities.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Innovation

  • Identifying and addressing ICT training strengths and weaknesses at estate-wide and local school level.
  • Raising the level of skills and confidence across the estate to ensure schools and individual staff are equipped to recognise and take advantage of opportunities for technology to support and enhance learning, teaching and school management.
  • Promoting and supporting learner-centred and learner-led practice and pedagogy.
  • Supporting staff in modelling effective and positive uses of technology for both learners and peers.
  • Targeting the development of staff skills, competencies and confidence to support innovative and effective use of technology by learners.

Network Learning and Communities

  • Supporting staff and learners to participate within, develop, create and manage collaborative web and mobile based networks.
  • Ensuring staff and learners are equipped with the skills to support their own developmental personal learning networks.
  • Supporting and developing collaborative working practices and activities between learners across schools, the city, nationally and internationally, including learner-organised activity.
  • Supporting learners to utilise mobile and social technologies and practices for learning.
  • Embedding a whole community approach to school practice and engagement in decision making.
  • Ensure digital environments are safe and inclusive, support and promote equality of access for all members.

Information Management

  • Supporting a city wide, robust approach to information management school policy and practices which address the management, handling, storage and disposal of data legally, effectively and safety.
  • Managing the move to cloud based services and storage.
  • Planning and support for the management of User Owned Devices and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) across the school estate.
  • Promoting the creation and use of Open Education Resources.
Green ICT

  • Ensuring a robust and accessible approach to Green ICT issues in schools, focusing on reducing unnecessary energy consumption and using technology to support schools in developing a culture of practical engagement with energy reduction.
  • Ensuring that energy consumption data can be easily and effectively used to support the curriculum and evidence the schools commitment to ensuring energy consumption is kept to a minimum.
  • Supporting effective user engagement programmes which allow learners and staff to manage their school environment.

e-Safety and Cyberbullying

  • Ensure robust internal education, policy and processes are in place to effectively address e-safety and cyberbullying with regard to awareness, prevention, reporting, incident reporting, response and sanctions.
  • Ensure that issues are addressed through whole community education and discussion, and responsible and safe use of technologies is addressed across the curriculum, wherever appropriate.
  • Ensure that discussion, planning and accounts for the schools wider responsibility to learners and employees, and activity taking place outside of the school day, premises and networks are recognised and action taken where the school has responsibility/liability.
  • Ensure that e-safety and cyberbullying guidance and activity accounts for the ways in which learners are using technologies, and that information, policy and planning remains up to date and relevant, and that learners are actively involved in shaping and supporting the schools approach.
  • Ensure that the needs of vulnerable learners are identified and met.