Open postcard from Krakow – OPITE workshop

The OPITE (Open Practice in International Teacher Education) project is part of the work of the UK Open Educational Resources programme run by the Higher Education Academy. The aim of this strand is to work with UK Higher Education institutions to devise strategies and policies to promote their work at institution level, through their Open Educational Resources (OER), to an international audience.  One of the key objectives is to benchmark good practices in OER transferability across borders and explore practitioners’ experiences of using open educational resources internationally. OPITE builds on the “Digital Futures in Teacher Education” (DeFT) project whose aim was to develop guidance on digital literacy practice and the use of Open Educational Resources in teaching and learning. Sheffield Hallam University is the lead institution and we are working with three partners – colleagues based at the [Ed+ict] research unit at KHLiM (Katholieke Hogeschool Limburg – Limburg Catholic University College, Belgium); colleagues from the Centre for E-learning at AGH (Akademia Gorniczo-Hutnicza – University of Science and Technology, Poland) and from HAN (Hogeschool van Arhnhem en Nijmegen – HAN University of Applied Sciences).

We spent most of October and November talking to our colleagues to establish the principles for our collaboration and to decide the direction the project should take – we have decided to take the Open Textbook developed in the context of the DeFT project as our starting point and on that basis explore issues involved in re-using OERs in international contexts, to take a closer look at open textbooks and finally to look at barriers and enablers for embedding OERs within and between our institutions. We were lucky to receive some additional funding to be able to supplement the online conversations with some decent face time – and this is how we all ended up in the very cold but very beautiful town of Krakow for three days at the OPITE workshop.

Let's talk about the Open Textbook

Let’s talk about the Open Textbook

We’re using the workshop to show and share the tools developed as part of the DeFT project, talk about the main barriers and enablers to use and reuse of OERs including open textbooks as well as to reveal the hopes and wishes for open textbooks in partners’ contexts. Our colleagues from AGH were kind enough to offer to be our hosts and have surpassed all expectations; they even got us snow!

Keeping warm at the workshop venue

Keeping warm at the workshop venue

At this moment in time, we are at the halfway point in the workshop, with the group busily working on their contributions to the case study which will be developed at the end of the project  so watch this space for insights on transferability of OER frameworks, issues around context, localisation (and maybe a postcard or two…).


Teaching, learning and sharing at Wales High School

Yesterday Wales High School turned into Open Educational Resources central, with a full day dissemination event showcasing the hard work of Michael Payton-Greene, one of project teachers, on his case study which explores issues involved in the use of blogging as a tool for sharing practice. For the past couple of months, a group of volunteers (PE, maths and languages teachers) were involved in trialing out the Teaching and Learning in Wales High School blog by putting on resources related to feedback and assessment, the use of mobile devices in the classroom and commenting on relevant posts to share with others how these resources were implemented in their own teaching.  These early users shared their experiences at the dissemination event yesterday where the blog was introduced to all staff members on a drop-in basis.

Introducing the blog to staff at the school

Anybody visiting the drama studio could have a go at scanning QR codes, using a flipcam or exploring the education potential of iPads which were loaned to the school by the project team. They could also observe the lessons with the pupils who had a go at using the Brushes app and creating an interactive essay plan with the aid of Flipcams and iPods.

Senior management are supportive of the project and keen to align it with school priorities and from September onwards the project will hopefully be rolled out across the school. Some of the teachers I talked to yesterday had visions of connecting with their colleagues nationally and even internationally – while that might have to wait a while, the DeFT project team have contributed to projects which lived happily ever after long past the end of project (see the thriving Creativity for Edupunks wiki-based resource created as part of UKOER phase 2 Cascading Social Science Open Educational Resources project) so here’s to bright OER futures at Wales!

And the winners are…pupils at Dinnington Comprehensive!

On Monday, the DeFT project team took part in a very special event – the mini-Oscars at Dinnington comprehensive where the Chris Welch and his pupils revealed the results of their hard work for the case study. They explored the use of instructional videos for enhancing digital literacy and issues related to student-produced Open Educational Resources. The pupils turned out to be very creative in their interpretation of the brief, which was to create an instructional video on a topic of their choice and shared with the world their knowledge on  tea-making, plum-tree planting, hamster-feeding, e-safety and cartwheels.

Mini-Oscars at Dinnington

There was red carpet, bow-ties and (non-alcoholic) champagne  and of course awards to recognise the efforts of the directors and the supporting crew. This is where the media technicians deserve a special mention – the case study would not have been possible without Jodi and Rob supporting the group every step of the way.  They are still putting the final touches on the videos which should soon be released onto YouTube and so others will be able to see for themselves how easy it is to cartwheel or make a decent cuppa!

Digital bloom – we’ll be back!

Kids from Mundella Primary visit the installation

It’s been a whirlwind of a week – over 400 visitors (still doing the sums!), nearly 400 paintings created with the Brushes iPad app and countless conversations on digital literacy and Open Educational Resources with members of the general public who happened to be in Winter Garden in the centre of Sheffield and wandered into the pod with the Digital Bloom installation. Obviously, we need time to process everything that went on throughout the week, but overall, we’ve managed to reach out to a very diverse public between the ages of 2-82 (ish) and helped make Sheffield a digitally more open place. A big shout out to everyone who made it happen, especially the developers from RealSmart who gave up a considerable chunk of their weekend to make sure that the children from Mundella will be able to see their flowers.  Richard Johnson from Sheffield Children’s Festival once again added creative fire to the project with  Tori, Kayleigh and Jess from Sheffield Hallam University doing a great job as pod assistants. Last but not least, this installation was made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of the DeFT team – now on to the online version of the Digital Bloom and hopefully a second iteration of the public event, this time with the meadow focusing on student and teacher voices.

Have a look at the latest artwork on

Digital Bloom – day 2

So what do the following people have in common: a trio of Malaysian students on a summer journalism course; year 2 group from Mundella Primary School; a man in his sixties who’s never used an iPad, two American kids on a “spring break” (in July…) and a two year old who turned out to be a world champion in dummy distance-throwing? All of them happened to be part of the digital art drop-in event which took place in the Winter Gardens as part of the “Digital Bloom” installation.

Picture by Gary Lee (portraying his daughter aka sister of dummy-thrower)

The resident artist, Richard Johnson from Sheffield Children’s Festival set up a workshop outside the pod and anyone who passed by was invited to have a go at creating a digital painting using the Brushes app on an iPad and this way learn more about the creative potential of mobile devices. We also used the event as a chance to talk to people about their understandings of digital literacy and openness, the two key themes explored throughout the “Digital Futures in Teacher Education” project. The leitmotif of the day seemed to be that of technology as a threat and an opportunity – the teachers we spoke to were excited by the potential of technology to enhance learning, a number of workshop participants lamented the loss of innocence of the children who seem to be living their lives immersed in digital technologies in a way that is perhaps less authentic, whatever that might mean. Overall, we collected a veritable treasure trove of stories on digital literacy, all of which will be making its way to the project website as Open Educational Resources in the not so distant future.

To view the art that has been created on our ipads, visit flickr:

Digital Bloom at Sheffield Winter Gardens, 9-13 July

You may have noticed that the banner at the top of the blog has recently transformed into a meadow populated with flowers and no, we haven’t decided to ditch the project for the lures of (digitally) greener pastures. The meadow is a front-end for the “Digital Bloom” installation which celebrates the work of pupils from participating schools and will be on display at the Sheffield Winter Gardens over next week as part of Sheffield Children’s Festival.

Digital bloom installation inside the pod

If you happen to be in the area, feel free to drop by between 9th -13th July (Mon- Thurs 10.00 – 17.00; Fri. 10.00-1300) and step into the pod to find out more about the digital stories told, among others, by pupils at Mundella Primary Schools who created digital artwork using the iPad Brushes app, or pupils at Bradfield Dungworth Primary who acted as digital reporters for the Camp Cardboard event.

The idea stems from our attempts to explore the intersections of digital literacy and creativity as well as reflect on the ways in which creativity informs learners’ digital literacy practice, both within and outside of formal education institutions. In particular, we are also keen of capturing the stories of young people who have been excluded from the curriculum and focus on digital practices which happen outside of school environment. At the moment, the meadow incorporates stories submitted in the context of the project but we are working with developers at RealSmart who will help us offer an online version of the installation where other users will be able to add their own stories. Do watch this space for updates and help the Digital Bloom grow!

Dispatches from Camp Cardboard

This is a very busy week in the life of the project – we’re busily collecting data for the school and PGCE case studies, meeting with the teachers, presenting at the Higher Education Research and Scholarship Group conference at Sheffield Hallam University… We even managed to squeeze in a stint at Sheffield Children’s Festival and had some close encounters with cardboard boxes at Bradfield Dungworth Primary on Monday, where year 4 and year 5 children acted as digital reporters for the day. They were reporting on the involvement of the school with Camp Cardboard – a day of activities arranged by Timm and Sam Cleasby from Responsible Fishing, where throughout the day, the school children used cardboard boxes to create elaborate structures (tunnels, bridges, marble houses…) and learn about communication, teamwork and sustainability. The digital reporters were there with their trustworthy iPads to take photographs and notes, which were later converted into blog posts and can be admired in their entirety on; the YouTube video created from a combination of time-lapse photography and the photographs taken by the digital reporters also offers a brilliant summary of the day:

That said, I couldn’t help but wonder about the kinds of images the children have chosen to share with the world – the Instagram Gallery shows picture after picture of stacks of boxes and the different shapes they took on throughout the day and occasionally the viewer gets either a view of a group of children sitting down, photographed in a way that only shows their backs or sometimes an individual child with their face blurred out of focus, using special effects on Instagram. I missed seeing photographs that would capture the enthusiasm and the joy of the builders of the camp, who were excitedly jumping up and down and lugging around boxes with a big grin on their faces. This was part of the story we were not able to see because of e-safety – it was easier to adopt a uniform “no face” policy rather than try and cross-check the photographs taken by the children with permissions letters offered by the parents. There were a couple of other interesting teaching moments which brought home to us how complex and oftentimes messy the issue of e-safety can be. On behalf of the project, we invited other teachers to comment on the blog as it evolved throughout the day and suddenly Chris, the teacher at Bradfield, found himself answering some tough questions about why we were encouraging the kids to respond to strangers’ comments on the internet, which was in clear violation of the “no talking to strangers rule”. We continued that conversation at the meeting of DeFT teachers which conveniently took place on the following day; turns out that the kids are very good at communicating the “party line” to the teachers but will still be kids and get Facebook accounts well before they turn thirteen…