Reflecting the diversity of activities and initiatives that come under the ‘open’ umbrella, we have changed the title this category from ‘open education initiatives’ to ‘open practices’.
Politics in Spires Blog Editorial Team: Workshop on Academic Blogging: Political Analysis in the Digital Age
Blake Ewing, Katharine Brooks, Chris Prosser, Dr. Stuart White, Dr. Scot Peterson, Kate Candy, Liz Greenhalgh
The Politics in Spires blog started as a joint project between Oxford and Cambridge, funded by JISC in 2010-11 as part of its Open Educational Resources programme. It is now recognised as a core part of the output of the Department of Politics and International Relations, with a regular flow of 3-5 posts a week. Blogging is now seen as a way to increase academic output, reach new audiences and foster original debates.
The challenge for the Politics in Spires Editorial Team this year was to extend the understanding and commitment of department members, in order to increase their participation and contribution to the blog and to ensure its long-term success as a part of mainstream departmental activity.
The half-day event on the 25th February, Academic Blogging: Political Analysis in the Digital Age, was held to raise awareness, review the range of practice, reflect on the realities and increase our understanding of blogging as an aspect of academic life. The event was intended to create an opportunity for a wider audience to learn about the world of academic blogging and to understand current trends. It was successful on all these counts, with over 50 participants and talks by speakers from The Guardian newspaper, the LSE, OII, and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism among others.
The workshop sessions were recorded and are now available as a series of five audio and video podcasts under a Creative Commons licence.
Professor Timothy Garton Ash & Kim Wilkinson: The FreeSpeechDebate
Professor Timothy Garton Ash is Professor of European Studies and Director of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Anthony’s College. Kim Wilkinson is a DPhil student at Wolfson College and editor of the FreeSpeechDebate.
The internet has transformed the conditions for both free speech and for debating free speech, as images, information and ideas move between frontiers. The rationale behind the FreeSpeechDebate project was to use these new possibilities to promote a well-structured and well-informed debate about what the terms of free speech should be. More than this, it intended to harness digital technology to allow for such contributions to be accessed in multiple languages (13 in total) so that the discussion can be opened up to a wider range of cultures and communities.
The FreeSpeechDebate has helped to develop 10 guiding principles which aim to sharpen and structure free speech of the future. The majority of principles, discussion pieces and case studies are commissioned from a carefully selected, international cast of academics, journalists and experts in the field (e.g. lawyers). However, there is also an active team of Oxford graduate students who write, edit and translate articles, which means that the site is an excellent platform for early career researchers to showcase their language skills and academic insights. Some of these videos have been condensed to make them suitable for classroom use.
The FreeSpeechDebate has received over 588,000 unique visitors from all over the world during the 2 years since its launch with an average of 30,000 a month. Updates are disseminated across a multitude of social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, Webo and YouTube, and the team have found this a particularly useful tool in gaining feedback of users’ experiences with the site.
All of the content is released under a Creative Commons licence, enabling others to share the materials in a variety of contexts.
Sophie Kay: Scientific Reproducibility: Learning with Lego
Sophie, a doctoral student in the Department of Computer Science, won an award last year for her Open Science Training Initiative. It is always good to see how colleagues build upon and develop their open practice.
The role of good communication in scientific research has been a hot topic for some years now. An increasing emphasis on the reproducibility and repeatability of scientific results places demands on researchers to enhance and hone their communication skills in the delivery of their research outputs. Sophie’s Lego-based teaching scheme provides a means of educating young students and researchers in communication of methods and techniques, through the fun and engaging medium of Lego.
The workshop sessions centre around teams reproducing a full Lego model from written instructions (no images!) which have been intentionally designed with flaws. Time pressures require each team to deliver a finished model within 30-40 minutes. Participants then have to identify why the instructions failed to deliver their information successfully.
CC BY Neil Chue Hong
The pilot workshop took the form of a one-hour session at SpotOn London in November 2013, the Nature Publication Group’s annual conference. Interest from delegates was so great that a queuing system had to be operated. Sophie had advertised the session ahead of time on her blog, and also provided the instructions on her blog so that people could participate remotely. The workshop was live streamed, and Sophie’s instructions have since been downloaded 182 times.
Thaddeus Aid: Use of OER Courseware in an ITLP Online Course
Thaddeus is studying for his doctorate in the Life Sciences Interface Doctoral Training Centre (LSI DTC) in the Department of Statistics, and also teaches for IT Services’ IT Learning Programme (ITLP).
Becoming proficient in a computing language takes time and practice. Standard ITLP courses give a brief introduction to programming, but don’t have sufficient time or resources for extended teaching support to the participants. It was felt that an on-line course over a period of four or five weeks might give participants more exposure to the topic, and provide some support from a tutor during the extended self-study that the course would entail.
Thaddeus’ idea was to use an existing course that might be available as OER, so he researched the available courses and found How to Think Like a Computer Scientist: Learning with Python, produced by staff at Luther College in Iowa, USA. Although the course provides a great deal of interactivity, Thaddeus also set up a discussion forum in WebLearn so that he could interact with the students, and they could engage with each other.
The course has proved to very popular, and Thaddeus has used the feedback from students to make improvements: for example, he now holds an introductory one-hour face-to-face session so that the students can get to know each other.