The idea space, open idea sharing and open education
Dimitra Pappa is a project manager at the National Centre for Scientific Research in Greece. Her colleagues develop the Idea Space and below she writes about the platform, open education and idea sharing:
Educational content is booming. Many people are engaging in the production of digital content for teaching and learning. Large amounts of teaching, learning, and research resources are shared in online repositories, under open licenses and are free for people to reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute. The rising Open Content movement is opening a new window of opportunity for teachers to exploit Open Educational Resources (OER) to enrich their courses and expand their curricula. Schools are transitioning from textbooks to Open Educational Resources and digital content delivery. The U.S. Department of Education recently announced the launch of the #GoOpen campaign to encourage states, school districts and educators to use openly licensed educational materials.
Despite the promise of OER and a growing collection of best practices and application guidelines, some challenges remain, mainly linked to finding quality content, aligned to the specific needs of each classroom, but also associated with fundamental motivational barriers to OER re-use.
Social authoring offers great flexibility to overcome these barriers and to create and distribute quality educational contents across the community. Bringing educators together to develop OER in an early stage of a participatory, generative and creative process is expected to promote “emotional ownership” towards OER, creating an affective binding towards resources and practices. Moreover it ensures alignment: early engagement allows educators to start sharing ideas and innovations before the resources are complete and hard to adapt.
This trend is reflected in the Paper on OEI life cycle which starts with idea sharing. Designed to enable and support this Open Education Lifecycle, the Idea Space platform is a socially enhanced environment, which enables educators to collaboratively and openly develop educational ideas into educational resources.
Within the portal, educators’ collaboration takes place and also OEI and OER access and publishing functionalities are provided. Further add-ons include social environment features, e.g. idea annotation and commenting, OER repository etc.
The Idea Space has the following functions
Educators and learners are able to:
- Share ideas (launch new open education initiatives) and find interested peer collaborators
- Find and join other open education initiatives sorted by topic, educational level and language/country
- Get guidance by creating workspaces with pre-set stages for open collaboration
- Create workspaces, freely defining the collaboration stages involved.
Within the OEI2 project, the concept of idea sharing for the development of OER is being validated in the context of Higher Education. Some of the key issues to be addressed with respect to OER are: How can we engage users in collaborative processes with simple and intuitive tools? How can we promote a sharing culture? How can we foster new collaborations in an open idea sharing and innovation process? How can we promote new forms of open education?
Early results, have demonstrated a positive attitude towards Open Idea Sharing. However, the study also revealed that educators are rather new to such collaborative practices and as a result online co-creation could be a challenging task.
Early collaboration and continuous peer support provide significant advantages towards the engagement of less digitally savvy educators, who would otherwise be unable to benefit from Open Education. The provision of templates is also a step in this direction: by choosing a predefined Idea template the idea is created using the specific format that applies to each educational resource type. While workflow flexibility is imperative, guidance from a methodological perspective is required. The collaborative authoring of learning materials should be a flexible, yet structured process: Adopting a rigid process flow would reduce the platform’s applicability, while opting for a free-flow approach could limit its sense of purpose.
Another important finding is that technology is enhancing teaching and learning in ways not previously possible. Teachers can create customized resources to provide personalized learning services, fitting the specific learning styles and preferences of individual students/learners.
Furthermore, moving beyond the one directional teaching model, the OEI platform has been utilized as a community canvas that is shared between educators and students. Its open and flexible setup has allowed the establishment and management of different teaching lines, ranging from the organization of PhD course resources, to project assignments and research collaborations.
Teacher-led innovation is among the cornerstones of school improvement. Providing teachers with the tools, as well as with the foundation for understanding the movement towards Open Education is an urgent priority.
- training and development services for instructors to develop the competences that will allow for the effective and appropriate use of emerging technologies (content authoring tools, social media, etc)
- community building/ networking to allow instructors to connect and consult with innovative and experienced teachers for the application of core strategies; Support the development of synergies between educators (e.g. collaborative, project-based learning etc).
The aim should be to
- Engage, inspire and support teachers to adopt and participate in Open Education;
- Develop the professional skills of educators to strengthen their abilities as designers, authors, and collaborators;
- Build sustainable capacity for knowledge exchange and collaboration among teachers.
Educators should be encouraged to take up an active role in participatory knowledge production, to engage with their peers and create reciprocal and beneficial relationships that harness the capabilities of individuals towards the development of usable OER.