My first babysteps into openness #101openstories

During #openeducationwk 2017 Penny (Australia), Vivianne (Brazil), Judith (Kenya), Jenni (Canada), Sujata (India) and I launched together the #101openstories project. We hope by the end of this year to collect and curate 101 such stories which show how individuals have become open learners, open practitioners or open researchers. The Open Education Working Group and especially Javiera, kindly offered to help us create an open book from #101openstories.

Stories have always fascinated me. As a passionate reader of novels, translator of novels and children’s stories, writer of children’s stories, but also teacher of modern foreign languages, teacher educator and academic developer. facilitator2-259x300The Open Facilitator project with Carol Yeager (@couki1), whom I met in 2011 when I engaged passionately in the Creativity and Multicultural Communication (CMC11) MOOC she developed, and in collaboration with the Open Education Working Group and the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University, is a collection of stories and brought insights into the facilitation experience that were of value for all of us. We hope others will use the collection to carry out further research in this area. Maybe I should also consider this myself after I have completed my PhD studies.


Another story-related project, the storyboxHE with Ellie (@ehannan14) aims to collect practitioner stories around learning and teaching that can be used in academic development situations and help academics to engage with these and reflect on their own practice through dialogue and collaborative problem-finding and problem solving. I am also using stories in academic development courses and FDOL and FOS that followed based on this, are such an example. 

Stories are a powerful way to share experiences, ideas and create links between the story and our own life experiences and learn from each other. We hope that many individuals from around the world will contribute their story to the #101openstories collection.

Today, I would like to share my open story.

The key questions I asked myself are the following:

  1. How did it all start?
  2. Were did it lead me?

Mmm… it is difficult to pinpoint the exact start. I suspect that my personal life journey in three different countries helped me recognise from early on the importance of sharing and collaborating as well as valuing diversity to survive and thrive.

Sheila, in her open story talks about the usefulness of a timeline… her post reminded me of one I created a while ago as an Excel spreadsheet when I was making another set of timelines for my PhD research. I thought it would be useful and linked to my prologue in the thesis in which I make reference to my path towards openness but as it is part of my PhD I am not sure I can just copy and past it here… so I didn’t read it but started from scratch here…. Creating the timeline helped me visualise some of the connections and see my path into the world of open, all on one sheet, at least the digital dimension. I suspect another layer that captures the non-digital dimension would be equally useful as this was my actual starting point into openness and perhaps I need to add this dimension too after I finish writing this post.

Professionally, I think I could locate my first baby steps towards openness when I started creating learning resources while I was teaching German in Athens. That was before 1990 and I used WordPerfect and a PC that took up a lot of room and hard hardly any brain and used these things called floppy discs which were really floppy. Life as an undergraduate student was challenging… only phone calls, word processing and email or fax for remote communication. No VLE or social media. And I was working full-time in Athens while studying full-time on Corfu… I know, hard to believe. Later, after I had left the Navy (yes, I was in the Navy for 5 years) in 1996 I had the opportunity to stay for a whole academic year in Germersheim at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz in Germany to carry out research into translating children’s literature where I also had the opportunity to teach in the department. I remember sitting in front of a computer screen there and was told that this was the internet… while I had been using emails for some years, also worked in a computer centre for five years, and was involved in localising cd-roms as a translator, the internet was alien to me… at that point in time… My expectations were that it would be something much more dynamic than the university site I was looking at. Believe it or not, I asked somebody for help to understand what this was all about… while still in Germersheim, I managed to find my mum’s best friend via the internet who she had lost many years ago… the rest is history. 

6e455650-0324-4907-abc7-e34ba46545d4As a translator I often struggled to find specific terms and I remember in one case calling a casino on Syros island when I was translating Hermann Hesse’s book Der Kurgast for Kastaniotis publications. Would you consider this as open practice? There was no network and especially when the author was no longer alive, books, reference guides and encyclopaedias did not always have the answer, as answers often are within people and the conversations with them, this is what I have found. 

main_menuWhen I become familiar with navigating the web, and social media arrived, I found the freely available SEBRAN software and volunteered to translate this into Greek in 2005.  I was living in the UK by then and was teaching again languages. Also I had an interest in coding  I attended a 10-week html could thanks to which I was able to create my own website and activities for my students who were learning Greek. My prior work as a computer programmer in the Greek Navy did help a tiny bit. I was hooked and soon had created 300 Greek language learning activities and made them freely and openly available. I had used many different freely available software tools that I had found online. This activity all started in 2004. Often people contacted me, not just my own students but also others who found the site and used the activities.this site no longer exists as it was build on a free freeserve ftp space.  I still have all the activities offline and would love to find a place for them online to share again and use in combination with an open course perhaps. 

Many other open activities followed. From wikis for audio feedback in 2008 to collaborative learning and development spaces in the same year using Ning. It was free at the time and I created a whole a teacher development course into it and anybody could access and join us. Earlier when I was still teaching languages, I used the ning platform for language learning combined with cookery lessons. A wide range of projects followed also thanks to the MSc in Blended and Online Education I did at Edinburgh Napier University. I started using the creative commons licenses and integrated open educational resources in courses and materials I used and created. Furthermore, open licenses were also added to the courses I (co-)developed as I feel that this would encourage re-use and adaptation. PhD research in open academic development (I developed a cross-boundary collaborative open learning framework) followed and will hopefully be completed this year. Very quickly, the open projects became collaborative ones as I felt that while I can plant seeds, ideas only grow when they are shared and there is mutual and sustained commitment and trust among collaborators and the focus is above all on the collective interest…

curiosity didn’t kill the cat (image source here)

My curiosity has led me to explore possibilities to maximise learning and development through making, practice and research based on open sharing. Through these activities and the communities these have developed around them, I have had the privilege to get to know and work with diverse individuals from different parts of the world. These relationships continue to expand my horizons with perspectives and ideas I could never have imagined before. 

Thank you all.

The open journey continues…



Share your open story with us all. How did it start for you?
Visit #101openstories!

Body Combat: Metaphor for Open Ed Practice & Critical Advocacy #OER17 #101openstories

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Just wondering what’s body combat? Click here

I’m really looking forward to attending #OER17 next week and participating in the conversation about openness in education, particularly as there’s an emphasis on critical perspectives. The conference theme is ‘The Politics of Open’.

This couldn’t be better for me, as I’ve recently set my cap at doing a PhD study that takes a critical look at aspects of open educational practice (OEP). Although I’ve followed the event over the last few years, it’ll be the first time that I’ve attended in person. However, I don’t think I’ll feel like a total ‘newbie’ because to some extent I already feel part of the ‘open community’. Notwithstanding the fact that I’m based in IET in The Open University and four fellow PhD colleagues will be presenting, plus the entire OER Hub team, also based in IET, it’s because, as an open learner, I’ve already blogged, Tweeted and hung out with a number of individuals who are attending the conference. Plus, there’s so much pre-conference interactive engagement on social media that I’ve been introduced to even more like minded ‘open peeps’. There’s a creative media challengequestions and hashtags and, get this, the keynote speaker, Maha Bali, has been preparing her keynote in the open through a series of blog posts, which she tantalizing pulled together in an #OpenEdSig webinar earlier this week. I strongly urge anyone to watch it as it serves as a REALLY powerful example of what it means for someone to be open ‘as a way of being’, and to engage in open, networked and participatory scholarship.

Which kind of brings me to my research interest, as well as nicely setting up this post as a contribution to the #101openstories project that launched this week. The project invites personal stories about openness, the aim of which is to

help us all get to know each other, share ideas and engage in conversations and identify opportunities to support each other and collaborate. These stories will help us learn with and from each other and grow individually AND collectively.

My open story is that I was hooked through participation in the whole cMOOC phenomenon, to which this blog stands testament. I’m wholeheartedly a product of innovative open educators who dreamed, and dared, to open up learning for all on the web, well, all like me any way 🙂 As such, I feel indebted to these educators and to the network that formed part of this experience, such that I’m interested to learn more about the Open Education and the OER movement and to advocate on its behalf. However, I must essentially be something of a skeptic because I always need to examine things critically, that is, to consider matters of power and to look for hidden assumptions. I know open education is contested, with it increasingly being seen as a response to pressures of neoliberal economics and austerity (Jones 2015). MOOcs being a case in point. Like Martin Weller (2014) says, there’s a ‘Battle for Open‘. Indeed, OER17 is a response to this.

The idea of openness as ‘a way of being’ is very appealing to me. I mean, there’s just so many people out there who seem to approach teaching and learning in this way – sharing openly and transparently as a means of democratizing knowledge. So when I recently discovered the concept of self_OER put forward by Maha Bali and Suzan Koseoglu at OER16, and its references to openness as a ‘way of being’, I was immediately intrigued, especially as they posed the question: how might the processes and products of open scholarship align/intersect with the goals of open education? It’s exactly this that I hope to take up. However, baring in mind that openness is contested, which is evident in the battle metaphor, and which, to be honest, seems to imply institutions, corporations and generally all things big and organized, I was wondering if a metaphor that specifically speaks to the individual open practitioner might be more helpful, body combat!! That’s right, a martial arts inspired mind set.

I recently started going to body combat fitness classes (no, that’s not me in the video) and I can’t help thinking that as open educators and researchers we might benefit from developing our practice, metaphorically, along these lines. Release the inner warrior to fight off the co-option of open, or ‘open washing’.

As Stephen Brookfield (1998) says, critically reflective practice

makes us more aware of those submerged and unacknowledged power dynamics that infuse all practice settings. It also helps to detect hegemonic assumptions – assumptions that we think are in our own best interests but that actually work against us in the long term (p. 197).

Open education has been critiqued for not engaging critically with aspects of power (Bayne et al., 2015; Knox, 2013), and where it has engaged, it has tended to focus on hegemonic aspects of sovereign power, and failed to take account of disciplinary aspects, or ‘technologies of the self’, whereby individuals constitute themselves within and through systems of power, which might seem natural but are either enabled or constrained by the techniques available in the associated discourse (Foucault, 1998). You can see why I’m intrigued by the the concept of the self as OER. The research I’m formulating is not to intended  to expose contradictions and pull the rug from under the feet of those engaged in open education, far from it, rather it’s to suggest something akin to collective self-examination, or a SWOT analysis, one that takes account of all aspects of power. I’m interested to become a better informed open practitioner and to advance the ‘true’ goals of open education. Therefore, extending the martial arts metaphor, I see critical investigation and a body combat mindset as presenting a way of becoming a ‘black belt’ advocate for open education. What do you think?

I look forward to participating in the conversation at OER17 next week and to developing my research ideas further.


  • Bayne, S., Knox, J. and Ross, J. (2015) ‘Open education: the need for a critical approach’, Learning, Media and Technology, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 247–250.
  • Brookfield, S. (1998) ‘Critically reflective practice’, Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 197–205.
  • Foucault, Michel, et al. (1988) Technologies of the self: A seminar with Michel Foucault. Univ of Massachusetts Press.
  • Jones, C. (2015) ‘Openness, technologies, business models and austerity’, Learning, Media and Technology, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 328–349.
  • Knox, J. (2013) ‘Five critiques of the open educational resources movement’, Teaching in Higher Education, vol. 18, no. 8, pp. 821–832.
  • Koseoglu, S. and Bali, M. (2016) ‘The Self as an Open Educational Resource [1091]’, #OER16 [Online]. Available at
  • Weller, M. (2014) Battle for Open, Ubiquity Press [Online]. Available at

A Tale of Openness in Two Chapters

Generously shared by Viviane Vladimirschi



By @vvladi


I divide my professional history into two chapters. During the first chapter of my professional history, I taught intermediate and advanced ESL/EFL to Brazilian students and developed instructional material to supplement textbooks at a non-for profit bi-national organization in São Paulo, Brazil. This chapter of my professional history is marked by unaware yet spontaneous acts of openness. In other words, it was a common practice between all instructors to share, adapt and remix the lesson plans and activities we had created for a particular course, lesson or activity. We were all fully engaged in this activity, as our objective was to help each other improve the instructional materials that were within our reach and which the school curriculum made available. Naturally, this first chapter of my professional history happened at a time when no one even dreamed the Internet would one day exist. Nevertheless, there was a lot of sharing and collaboration taking place between instructors, which ended up having a very positive impact on student engagement and performance in specific courses or lessons.

Indeed, from time immemorial, teachers have mashed up textbooks, photocopies, pictures, games and graphics, to name a few. However, it is worth noting that just mashing up these instructional materials misses the point of being truly open since all these instructional materials that we used to mash up were proprietary and were not intended for a broader audience. What distinguishes these common mashing practices from the use of open, open educational practices (OEP) and open education resources (OER) is that the latter are intended to be mashed up to be: “free to access, free to reuse, free to revise, free to remix, and free to redistribute” (Wiley, 2013, para. 2) through use of open licenses, such as those afforded by Creative Commons that are within the boundaries of copyright law. There are therefore important differences between mashing up materials that are proprietary and are not created to be freely accessed, reused, revised, remixed, and redistributed and openly licensed materials. The inherent and intrinsic characteristics of what today we researchers and educators define as being truly ‘open’ instructional materials, learning objects or OER resulted in part from the advent of the Internet, the World Wide Web, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), the Declaration of Open Education, the OER Movement and Creative Commons licenses.

This leads me to the second chapter of my professional life, which has been to this day profoundly marked and changed by all the factors mentioned above. I have always been passionate about technology and its potential to positively impact teaching and learning practices. The Digital Age has opened up all kinds of doors and possibilities for educators to improve their pedagogical practices. Consequently, in 2002, I decided to make a career change. I left the school where I was teaching EFL/ESL and was Supervisor of Online Courses, got a M.Ed. with specialization in distance education and founded a company that renders consulting, instructional design and training services to those institutions that wish to implement online learning, hybrid learning, mobile learning, and more recently, open educational practices. About a year after I had completed my M.Ed., I decided to embark on another journey, which was getting a PhD.

Since the very beginning of my PhD, I knew that I wanted to do something that would benefit public K-12 education in Brazil. My main goal is to build very specific bridges across very specific chasms between where we are in terms of K-12 public education in Brazil and where we ought to be in terms of bringing the concept of open and its practical implementations to this specific education sector. The focus of my research has been on finding ways to empower and build the capacity of Brazilian K-12 public education teachers so that they become more aligned and attuned with 21st century teaching and learning approaches and practices. Choosing open education, OEP, and more specifically OER, appeared to be at the time and still is today, the only natural and logical approach taking into consideration a public education sector that severely lacks physical, digital and human resources and social forms of support to improve education for its students. My thesis therefore is focused on raising awareness and building capacity on OER in this sector. As capacity building is fundamental for OER uptake, I am exploring how teachers experience open professional development opportunities and what factors influence the adoption of OER or OEP in practice. Hopefully, my study will contribute to the Open Education field by providing recommendations for a professional development framework for Brazilian K-12 public education teachers.

In conclusion, this has not been an easy objective to achieve. Throughout this journey I have had to learn not only how to assemble and repurpose OER so that I can understand the challenges the teachers themselves have to face when using and creating OER but have also had to deal with innumerous challenges, barriers and set backs along the way in regards to my own research. However, I feel confident that my choice and actions to go open will reap many benefits not only to the subjects of my study but also to the Open Education movement as a whole. I could have taken a different road during the second chapter of my professional life and undoubtedly today I would be doing something very different. Nonetheless, this particular road has brought me immense joy and self-fulfillment. As Robert Frost has so aptly written in his poem “The Road Not Taken”, “two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference”.


Wiley, D. (2013, October 21). What is open pedagogy? [Web log post]. Iterating toward openness. Lumen Learning. Retrieved from

Reflections on a little bit of open education (TL;DR: it works).


Generously shared by @Philbarker


We are setting up a new honours degree programme which will involve use of online resources for work based blended learning. I was asked to demonstrate some the resources and approaches that might be useful. This is one of the quick examples that I was able to knock up(*) and some reflections on how Open Education helped me. By the way, I especially like the last bit about “open educational practice”. So if the rest bores you, just skip to the end.

(*Disclaimer: this really is a quickly-made example, it’s in no way representative of the depth of content we will aim for in the resources we use.)

Making the resource

I had decided that I wanted to show some resources that would be useful for our first year, first semester Praxis course. This course aims to introduce students to some of the skills they will need to study computer science, ranging from appreciating the range of topics they will study to being able to use our Linux systems, from applying study skills to understanding some requirements of academic writing. I was thinking that much of this would be fairly generic and must be covered by a hundred and one existing resources when  I saw this tweet:

That seemed to be in roughly the right area, so I took a look at the University of Nottingham’s HELM Open site and found an Introduction to Referencing. Bingo. The content seemed appropriate, but I wasn’t keen on a couple of things. First, breaking up the video in 20sec chunks I fear would mean the student spend more time ‘interacting’ with the Next-> button than thinking about the content. Second, it seems a little bit too delivery oriented, I would like the student to be a little more actively engaged.

I noticed there is a little download arrow on each page which let me download the video. So I downloaded them all and used OpenShot to string them together into one file. I exported this and used the h5p WordPress plugin to show how it could be combined with some interactive elements and hosted on a WordPress site with the annotation plugin, to get this:

The remixed resource: on the top left is the video, below that some questions to prompt the students to pay attention to the most significant points, and on the right the pop-out for discussion.

How openness helps

So that was easy enough, a demo of the type of resource we might produce, created in less than an afternoon. How did “openness” help make it easy.

Open licensing and the 5Rs

David Wiley’s famous 5Rs define open licences as those that let you  Reuse, Revise, Remix, Retain and Redistribute learning resources. The original resource was licensed as CC:BY-NC and so permitted all of these actions. How did they help?

Reuse: I couldn’t have produced the video from scratch without learning some new skills or having sizeable budget, and having much more time.

Revise: I wasn’t happy with the short video / many page turns approach, but was  able to revise the video to make it play all the way through in one go.

Remix: The video was then added to some formative exercises, and discussion facility added.

Retain: in order for us to rely on these resources when teaching we need to be sure that the resource remains available. That means taking responsibility keeping it available. Hence we’ll be hosting it on a site we control.

Redistribute: we will make our version available to other. This isn’t just about “paying forward”, it’s about the benefits that working in an open network being, see the discussion about nebulous open education below.

One point to make here: the licence has a Non-Commercial restriction. I understand why some people favour this, but imagine if I were an independent consultant brought in to do this work, and charged for it. Would I then be able to use the HELM material? The recent case about a commercial company charging to duplicate CC-licensed material for schools, which a US judge ruled within the terms of the licence might apply, but photocopying seems different to remixing. To my mind, the NC clause just complicates things too much.

Open standards, and open source

I hadn’t heard much about David Wiley’s ALMS framework for technical choices to facilitate openness (same page as before, just scroll a bit further) but it deals directly with issues I am very familiar with. Anyone who thinks about it will realise that a copy-protected PDF is not open no matter what the licence on it says. The ALMS framework breaks the reasoning for this down to four aspects: Access to editing tools, Level of expertise required, Meaningfully editable, Self sources. Hmmm. Maybe sometimes it’s clearer not to force category names into acronyms? Anyway, here’s how these helped.

Self-sourced, meaning the distribution format is the source code. This is especially relevant as the reason HELM sent the tweet that alerted me to their materials was that they are re-authoring material from Flash to HTML5. Aside from modern browser support, one big advantage of them doing this is that instead of having an impenetrable SWF package I had access to the assets that made the resource, notably the video clips.

Meaningfully editable: that access to the assets meant that I could edit the content, stringing the videos together, copying and pasting text from the transcript to use as questions.

Level of expertise required: I have found all the tools and services used (OpenShot, H5P,, WordPress) relatively easy to use, however some experience is required, for example to be familiar with various plugins available for WordPress and how to install them. Video editing in particular takes some expertise. It’s probably something that most people don’t do very often (I don’t).  Maybe the general level of digital literacy level we should now aim for is one where people are familiar with photo and video editing tools as well as text oriented word processing and presentation tools. However, I’m inclined to think that the details of using the H264 video codec and AAC audio codec, packaged in a MPEG-4 Part 14 container (compare and contrast with VP9 and ogg vorbis packaged in a profile of Matroska) should remain hidden from most people. Fortunately, standardisation means that the number of options is less than it would otherwise be, and it was possible to find many pages on the web with guidance on the browser compatibility of these options (MP4 and WebM respectively).

Access to editing tools, where access starts with low cost. All the tools used were free, most were open source, and all ran on Ubuntu (most can also run on other platforms).

It’s notable that all these ultimately involve open source software and open standards, and work especially well when then “open” for open standards includes free to implement. That complicated bit around MP4 & WebM video formats, that comes about because royalty requirements for those implementing MP4.

Open educational practice: nebulous but important.

Open education includes but is more than open education resources, open content, open licensing and open standards. It also means talking about what we do. It means that I found out about HELM because they were openly tweeting about their resources. I think that is how I learnt about nearly all the tools discussed here ina similar manner. Yes, “pimping your stuff” is importantly open. Open education also means asking questions and writing how-to articles that let non-experts like me deal with complexities like video encoding.

There’s a deeper open education at play here as well. See that resource from HELM that I started with? It started life in the RLO CETL, i.e. in a publicly funded initiative, now long gone. And the reason I and others in the UKHE know about Creative Commons and David Wiley’s analysis of open content, that largely comes down to #UKOER, again a publicly  funded initiative. UKOER and the stuff about open standards and open source was supported by Jisc, publicly funded. Alumni from these initiatives are to be found all over UKHE, through which these initiatives continue to be crucially important in building our capability and capacity to support learners in new and innovative settings.

Open By Accident

Generously shared with us by Frances Bell

In 1996, I was lecturing in Information Systems in the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences at University of Salford.  A colleague ran a Lotus Notes Server (under his desk as I recall) that hosted a Student Information System – and I had an account on the server for that reason.

And then – Lotus released the Domino server  that transformed from just a Notes server to become an Interactive Web server ! What was posted on a Notes Server could be shared on the Web.


I had looked enviously at Universities that offered tilde Web spaces for staff and sometimes students, but had no idea how I could persuade IT Services, or learn HTML alongside all my other commitments.

But now, I had a user account that enabled me to create Lotus Notes databases that would allow students to access and engage with what I published on a MS Office template database. So I just uploaded Word and Powerpoint documents to Lotus Notes, and there they were – on the Web. OK so the urls were a nightmare, but I was sharing course resources openly.  And I could sync the databases to my home computer, reducing my dialup charges.

My intention was that students could access resources but I soon realised that other educators were finding my stuff, and contacting me. This encouraged me in different ways: I adopted a more scholarly approach to citation/referencing in slideshows; and I was able to share resources as my network increased. Later, a colleague who joined us from another university told me how much she valued my stuff and we worked to create new web materials together when we team taught a large module.

I had also discovered the Notes Discussion template, and realised that I could set up Discussion spaces for students (and invite others) where they could have conversations that were shared but not in the public domain.

And then, an institutional reorganisation happened and I lost access to the Lotus Notes server and had to learn HTML in a month but that’s another story !

This is a bricolage story for #101openstories. Find out more and share your open story at

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