Open Pedagogy as an Exponential Accelerator in OER Creation

Michael Dabrowski from Athabasca University presented on using open pedagogy to have students create assignments. This was a good workshop because he gave a lot of actual applications of open pedagogy from his classroom.  According to the schedule:

Attendees will see how to apply engaging open practices to improve learning and accelerate OER development. They will explore a model of student-driven interdisciplinary content learning through teaching and development of educational materials.

Tapping into the talent pool of undergraduate language students, we adopted Open Educational Practices (OEP) incorporating reusable or meaningful open assignments (Wiley, 2013) as the core curriculum for a language course. The reusable assignments allow students to perfect the living text through various collaborative editorial and pedagogical practices (Paoletti, 1995) focusing on vocabulary, grammar, and structure. In addition, the students create, edit and design ancillary learning materials under Creative Commons licenses with the objective of producing a meaningful stand-alone open educational resource for future iterations while exploring socially relevant topics.
The course activities enhanced scholarship and empowered the learner to leverage collaborative digital technologies, perfect language skills by teaching their peers, and have their course-work impact the world in a socially meaningful way by contributing to the open movement. This work embodying collaborative learning practices (Dillenbourg, 1999), in stark contrast to the competitive nature of our current educational system, offers the opportunity to extend open content creation to a much larger community while at the same time promoting a practice that allows the learner to participate actively in and contribute to the subject matter that they are studying.
Participants will be encouraged to engage via suggestions and open discussion throughout the presentation. A couple online polls will be used to capture participant opinions at various stages, and small group discussions will be used towards the end to share insights and ideas. Lastly, since this open resource is under continual development, an open invitation to future collaboration will be proposed to interested participants.

He flipped the classroom where the students were teaching and he was facilitating.

  • Build strong teacher-student collaborative relationship of inquiry
  • Active engagement of cognitive strategies
  • Crowd-sourcing the textbook

Unexpectedly diverse student population.

Students helping students: legacy speakers had exceptional ability and the Spanish students were reluctant to speak Spanish. There were opportunities for the students to learn from one another based on the diversity of the class.

The students went through the text and submitted glossary items, short textual questions, and the discussion questions.

They went beyond generating content to be graded but work that had value to themselves and future students.

They were using the glossary in Moodle.

He wanted to include UN sustainable goals, social awareness, global awareness, self reflection and global awareness, and language skills.

Risks with student authors: past trauma, marginalized groups, focusing on issues, not solutions, and privacy.

OERs are never finished, just continuously improved. There are millions of potential collaborators if you ask.

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I can’t do it myself! Collaborating with colleagues around the world on OER

Christina Hendricks and Zoe Wake Hyde presented more on Rebus textbooks using the philosophy projects as an example. According to the schedule:

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:
Explain how the Rebus Community can facilitate collaboration on OER
Evaluate potential benefits and challenges with this model, and offer possible ways to address the latter.

There are many people scattered across the globe with the skills needed to create excellent open educational resources; what many of us lack is the time to do it all ourselves. A number of ways to address this situation through collaborative creation of OER have emerged, including in-person and virtual sprints. The Rebus Community is facilitating another way: a kind of crowdsourcing model for students, faculty, staff, librarians, and others to get together online to create OER, with commitments ranging from a few minutes to a few months (or longer). One of these projects is a series of open textbooks for Introduction to Philosophy, which has nine planned volumes, each with a separate editor, and each with between 5 and 10 chapter authors. There are also others involved in the project, doing work from peer review to graphic design.

In this session Hugh McGuire from Rebus Community will speak about the collaborative open textbook building practice Rebus helps facilitate, and Christina Hendricks, lead editor for the Introduction to Philosophy series, will given an overview of how the project has evolved and some lessons learned. At least 10 minutes will be devoted to discussion: Participants will be asked to contribute their thoughts (possibly through an online platform such as Poll Everywhere) on potential challenges they can see with projects like this, and ideas on how to address them. We will also discuss together the potential for this kind of publishing model to address sustainability issues around OER.


My rambling notes:

This is an important model that needs a closer look. It seems like a great alternative to commercial partnerships and closed platforms.

  • Recruiting faculty through email lists
  • They are using Rebus Forums and a Rebus Projects Platform which has issues.
  • Workflows and guides: author guide, peer review guide, editor is chosen
  • Shared documents – Google Docs and Spreadsheets


  • Nine books – lots of volunteers: editors, authors, and reviewers
  • Processes and guides from Rebus
  • Great covers


  • Takes a long time
  • Organizing volunteers
  • Author Guide and style sheet – did not have one until January (Chicago Style)
  • Quality Control – had them peer reviewed
  • Communications – moved to email

Early Days:

  • This project not only increases OER but increases awareness and adoption.
  • In the early days they needed guinea pigs – learned by doing.
  • Huge initial response and community led
  • Documenting a publishing process that other people could use
    • Define and develop leadership structure
    • documentation
    • Guides

Evolution – participants not only created books but created the process.

Issues – mainly seem to be around communication – it seems to me that they need something like Slack or Basecamp – we need better open source communication/project management platforms.

Biggest lessons – Project managers are important but capacity is critical. Work needs to stay visible. Multiple voices in a project is as important as making sure it is a cohesive, useable doc for the students.

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Community as Infrastructure

Rebus Foundation logoMy first session at the Cascadia Open Education Summit was Zoe Wake Hyde’s Community as Infrastructure: Building a scalable, sustainable approach to open textbook publishing. I am very excited about this presentation because I have been following the Rebus Foundation fairly closely because I think their model is one of the few viable and truly sustainable models out there.

According to the program:

Attendees will:
* Learn about alternative and collaborative approaches to open textbook publishing
* Reflect on role of community and collaboration in their own work, and consider what other communities they can connect with
* Find ways to contribute to wider discussions about open textbook publishing happening in the broader OER community

This session will share how Rebus’ efforts to fuse community and publishing process has evolved over the past two years, and our direction for the next two, with a hands-on demonstration of the next-generation version of our platform. This platform creates a space for the open education community to come together and self-organise around OER creation, with guiding structures for a collaborative approach to publishing, and a central focus on coordination within disciplines, institutions, regions and other ‘subcommunities’. In addition, the platform can be a place to gather and explore the challenges we are facing together as we build a new, more inclusive publishing system.

By facilitating hands-on open textbook projects and engaging deeply with others working to address the big questions in the OER space, Rebus can be a catalyst for the growing knowledge and experience within the community, and work to channel it into robust and essential infrastructure that can radically change how educational content is created, and who is able to access that process. In addition, we can work together to ensure that the values of the community are deeply embedded in any emerging systems, including accessibility, inclusivity, self-determination and more distributed & equitable power structures.

The workshop will also be an opportunity for anyone interested in this approach to offer feedback and contribute to the direction of the platform, particularly with regard to needs they see in their own contexts.


My brief notes:

I am here to find new models and approaches to sustainable OER – community as infrastructure. They are building a global community (people, practices, tools) that works together open textbook publishing.

  • No gate keepers!
  • The people who want to make content should be able to do it themselves.
  • How do we build best practices around accessibility and technical openness.
  • Creation is always collaborative – myth of the author. Being deliberate about this opens up possibilities, sharing the load.
  • Community investment is critical to longterm success & sustainability of OER.
  • More than just content but a community.

Some Resources:

Maybe this would be a good home for the “Indigenous People’s Reader.”

For future:

  • Redesigning project homepage, project tools, searchable directories, connect other projects and the people working on them.
  • Institutional support offerings
  • Institutional platform offering

Look into monthly office hours.




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Things go better with print?

Napoleon ReadingI had some spam article from Skylight Press pushed to my Facebook feed by Business Insider. The clickbait reads “A new study shows that students learn way more effectively from print textbooks than screens.” So first off, it is not new, it is from 2017. Secondly, you won’t be surprised by how hard it is to measure “way more effectively.” The research that the article supposedly references does not make any such conclusion. The research says that “overall, results suggest that medium plays an influential role under certain text or task conditions or for certain readers.”

The article gives some fairly weak reasons to possibly and maybe considering print over text but then it goes into my favorite trope: “There may be economic and environmental reasons to go paperless. But there’s clearly something important that would be lost with print’s demise. In our academic lives, we have books and articles that we regularly return to. The dog-eared pages of these treasured readings contain lines of text etched with questions or reflections.”

Or we don’t. I would typically ignore articles like this (TL;DR?) but it caught my attention because of something pretty near wonderful that happened to me this week. I am working on an article about Napoleon and Goethe, and I am looking for Napoleon’s copy of Werther (his favorite book). Very ambitious of me. I can’t find it but I did find someone who had. Sarah De Laredo wrote a pamphlet in 1927 that is a description of Napoleon’s copy of Werther. It was in two libraries: the University of Alberta and Yale. I sent a one line email to the special collections at Yale and they very graciously walked me through registering as an independent scholar and requesting a digital copy of the pamphlet. I got that today. I cannot afford to fly to New Haven; I do not have access to these libraries. The digital world provides people like me a connection to a world of scholarship that would be forever closed off and forgotten otherwise.

Ironically, I wound up reading “The Sorrows of Young Werther” from on my Kindle and my phone because I really didn’t want to buy a copy of it. I understood the text, highlighted it, and made notes just like a real book. I am not sure what my preferences are here – I think the digital or print question is a false dichotomy. I needed the information, so I was motivated to engage digitally. On top of all this, there are now online annotation tools like that allow users to highlight and comment on texts privately or as a community. In other words, in the future, someone might wonder what my thoughts were on a text and they don’t have to go to the library or have a library make a copy – they can go online and look at my annotations.

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NWeLearning Community

The NWeLearning Community is not just a conference but the collective intelligence and resources of some very remarkable people in elearning from across the North West and beyond. We are currently using Slack as a community building tool. Here is a note from our chair, Tim Chase:

Did you know?  NWeLearn has discussion channels where members are sharing job openings and talking about other conferences and gatherings of interest.  Deep discounts for NWMET and DesignCon conferences are currently posted; come take a look!

Haven’t visited yet? is the place to get started.

Our call for session proposals is open for another 11 days.  The submission process is painless.  Today is a good day for submitting session proposals!
To submit a session for consideration, use this Submission Form.  And thanks–we couldn’t do this without you!

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Open Learning 2019

I am getting ready for Open Learning 2019. I am interested in this because in cMOOCs, I have met some fantastic people which led to some great projects. I also want to keep up on the world of open and OER, but I am particularly interested in open pedagogy and practices. I am posting this to make sure my blog is connected to Open Ed Hub and also at 58, it is handy to have the relevant links and info all in one spot 🙂

From Open Learning Hub: “Open Learning ’19, a cMOOC about open learning now in its third iteration will begin on March 17th and run for three weeks. Week 1 will be preceded by a “pre-cMOOC” week for anyone who is new to connected learning.” 

And then this notice was posted by Sue Erickson on her blog:

Open Learning ’19, a cMOOC about open learning now in its third iteration will begin on March 17th and run for three weeks. Week 1 will be preceded by a “pre-cMOOC” week for anyone who is new to connected learning, new to MOOCs (and especially to cMOOCs) or new to open learning concepts. Starting on March 10th, all are welcome to join in for the pre-cMOOC week led by Gardner Campbell, Open Learning’s original hub director.

The schedule for Open Learning ’19:

3/17-3/23 Week 1: Open Educational Resources and Open Access

3/24-3/30 Week 2: Open Pedagogy

3/31-4/6 Week 3: Open Faculty Development

These are topics that we’ve explored in previous iterations of Open Learning, and you will find a wealth of resources already on the Hub site:

To begin, start tuning in to the hashtag on Twitter: #OpenLearning19 and syndicate your blog to the Hub (don’t have a blog, this is a great chance to start one!) and use #OpenLearning19 for relevant posts. See instructions in the “Join Up!” link.

I look forward to learning with you!

Your humble Hub Director for Open Learning ’19,

Sue Erickson

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Engelbart: Language as a Tool

I am still working on the Annotating Engelbart project. Gardner gave us a “syllabus,” in a way, that had a timeline and what we were going to read together, and in my usual fashion, I have taken off from there and am now wandering the hinterlands of poetry, programming, and consciousness. I think I lost a weekend or two filled with Engelbart, reading annotations, reading other documents of the time, blogging and tweeting, and watching car commercials from 1962 in Youtube (you know how that can happen).

I got a lot out of this week’s featured annotator, Claudia Ceraso, an ESL teacher from Argentina who has an interesting blog to check out. She has been navigating this space and blogging at least since 2006 AND she has an education background which brings a much needed and refreshing perspective to something, that on the surface, can seem pretty technical (Augmenting Human Intellect).

I appreciated Claudia’s perspective on language. We need people whose ears and minds are tuned into language to look at work like this. I was in college studying English at a time and place that thought that Chomsky was central to understanding language and thinking. There have been a number of theories about language out since then but nothing that answer the questions he was asking. It makes sense to that most everything in nature has some kind in pattern baked into it (physical laws, DNA, etc.), so why not language and thought? All the scientists are really arguing about is how deep the structure goes or where it begins and ends. One of my favorite essays on technology, Codognet’s The Semiotics of the Web, makes the point this way: “the success of the computer as a universal information-processing machine lies essentially in the fact that there exists a universal language in which many different kinds of information can be encoded and that this language can be mechanized. This would concretize the well-known dream of Leibniz of a universal language that would be both a lingua characteristica, allowing the ‘’perfect’’ description of knowledge by exhibiting the ‘’real characters’’ of concepts and things, and a calculus ratiocinator, making it possible for the mechanization of reasoning.”

Any way, my point is that getting any real clarity on Engelbart or other technical projects is incomplete without the context – the connections to language, thought, and history that the Humanities can provide. All the things that are wrong with technology comes from technology’s divorce from this context through specialization. For instance, Zuckerberg and Facebook is what happens when techies don’t have to study ethics.

I also appreciated that Gardner was thoughtful enough to invite someone from the other side of the world – again, a refreshing context. We take our easy access to the internet for granted here. I too have found myself thinking of Cortazar, Borges, and semiotics while on this expedition. I think there are literary answers to many technical questions. That is what art is for. So a big thanks to both of you.


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Women’s Day: Women in Philosophy

Hildegard of Bingen and her nunsThe Oxford University Press has an annoying post for Women’s Day that claims to be a timeline for “Landmark Moments for Women in Philosophy.” They weren’t really even trying.  For Oxford, the earliest woman philosopher they came up with was Elena Cornaro Episcopia who was awarded a Phd. in 1678. So what they really mean is women who are  eligible for the tenure track! They skipped the Ancient World all together from Hypatia to Hildegard of Bingen, and never mind anyone from East. There is a more complete list at Wikipedia:

Happy Women’s Day indeed!

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Engelbart: Bootstrapping and Symbiosis

Okay, for anyone reading these series of posts on Engelbart, here is where I begin to turn this huge ship towards pedagogy and ed tech. As I read through Engelbart’s Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework for the Annotating Engelbart project, I am struck by what a different kind of thinker Engelbart is. He is very optimistic, for instance, about our ability to learn and more importantly, work together, and believing in our capacity to solve problems. It may not be just idealism or optimism. Coincidentally enough, I ran across an interesting article that points to humans being hard-wired for cooperation.

Jonathan Birch wrote an article for the philosophy department’s blog at The London School called “How do we know how to act together?” In it he begins with asking us to think of a simple act of cooperation: “two people pick up a sofa together, carry it into a room, and put it down on the floor. Simple though it is, this is an amazing thing: it’s something that sets us apart from all other primates.” He discusses what he calls “joint know-how” and looks at where he thinks it comes from and how it works. Other species may have moments of cooperation, but we seem to have perfected it as a species through what he calls “Active Mutual Enablement.” This is our innate ability to monitor, predict, adjust our behavior to match the movement of others, and most importantly, our ability actively enable this behavior in others. What about the other primates? Monkey typing ShakespeareOther animals are able to work together but not to the degree that we have. I personally don’t believe that a million monkeys typing for a million years will write Shakespeare (although they might make improvements on the Adjunct Faculty Handbook).

It is a fascinating article because the ideas in it connect with Engelbart’s bootstrapping ideas as well as Howard Rheingold’s discussions of cooperation. We are fortunate enough to have Howard as a featured annotator in the Annotating Engelbart project. The whole point as I see it in Engelbart is that we have a largely untapped capacity to cooperate intellectually and solve problems that naturally emerges from intellectual augmentation. Part of the bootstrapping idea is that we would create new processes and ways of cooperating to solve those problems. It is not just about creating the artifacts, or tools, but about how we collaborate using those tools. Engelbart took it for granted that we would use the tools to help individuals cooperate with others. Howard has done a lot of interesting work on cooperation about which he says “I see a new story emerging about how humans get things done together. The outlines of this new narrative can be seen in recent evidence that contradicts old assumptions about human selfishness versus altruism, self-interest versus collective action. What could be more important than understanding how people cooperate and fail to cooperate?

And so this is where I am taking this into pedagogy. What happens when we ask ourselves questions about teaching and learning like:

  • How does my curriculum enable the students to continuously work towards the augmentation of their own intellect?
  • Am I providing my students with opportunities to cooperate and work together?
  • Does my curriculum stress the importance of cooperation?
  • How do my students understand the process of working together?

This goes beyond the idea of “group work” or a semester project: I would like students to understand the power and usefulness of collective, collaborative work. I am sure there are other questions I will be formulating as I continue with this project. If you have some suggestions or ideas, please comment below or post them to Twitter via the hashtag #augmentintellect.

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Engelbart: On Teaching Programming

Advertisement for a Commodore Pet ComputerThis is my expanded response to the Jon Udell video that is part of the Annnotating Engelbart project. I appreciate the time Jon took to participate in this work.

In Jon’s discussion with Gardner, he wonders if it is practical to teach students programming. I just wanted to add a note about programming and education. While getting my English degree from Sonoma State, I took a symbolic logic class from a professor who used programming as a form of symbolic logic – no one was meant to take calculus first or anything like that – it was fairly simple programming which was meant to infer a Chomskian view of language and thinking. It was a useful class that got us thinking about (and applying) concepts in linguistics, philosophy, and logic. Second, teaching the concepts of programming does not require students to memorize lists of commands. With programs like Scratch, from MIT, students can quickly grasp core concepts of programming. As an adult basic education instructor, I have seen first hand how a lack of technical literacy can paralyze students. The less the students know about tech, the less access they have to the benefits of tech and the more likely they will be victims of it.

Back in the early 90s, I was a Special Education Aide at a Junior High School. Our classroom had one very old computer and the students were able to get on it one at a time to work on papers. I asked for more computers for that classroom and the  attitude of the administration was that “why would special education kids need computers?” I was pretty outraged. I immediately left campus and drove to the district warehouse to talk to  them. I asked if they had any extra computers. They said yes and took me into a warehouse that had tons of unused computers – practically floor to ceiling. These computers were considered out of date and ready to be dumpstered. In that room, was the history of education technology up to that time. There were Commodore Pets, Apples II, III, and Lisas. There were every kind of printer and peripheral you could imagine including biometric inputs (“lie detector” kits). I loaded up as much of Apple II computers and gear as I could in my car and went back to the school and set them up. I started the students playing games, making art, animations – in other words playing around. The programs were written in Apple BASIC. When the students were tired of the limitations of the programs, we explored how to change them and how to create their own programs. Not everyone was interested in looking under the hood, but that class certainly did not leave that year afraid of technology. A few of the students went on to tech careers or engineering later on.

How does this tie into Engelbart? Many at the school district would say that there was no technology available for the students because they only think of tech in terms of something that has to be directly funded and “up to date.” I think the combination of resourcefulness, curiosity, and playfulness allows us to think creatively about using any available technology in new ways, especially if we start, as Engelbart does, with purpose.


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