Now on Slideshare

One of the best ways to bring attendtion to the high quality OER that we have found is to bring it together in places where people already look for resources. With this in mind we have set up a Slideshare account and are in the process of creating some ‘resource packs’ of images that can be downloaded, adapted and reused.

So far we have

  • Lines of Communication Troops and Gunners
  • Sport in World War One
  • Medical Services
  • The Battle of Arras
  • World War I Terrains

We have some resource over the next month or so to create more. What else would you like to see?

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Educators Workshop, 6th September

We have five places left on our workshop to explore the potential value of the World War One Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings website ( to teaching and learning. To attend you must be involved in teaching the First World War (in any discipline) at HE/FE level. More info is below. If you are interested please do drop us a line at

Workshop. 6th Spetember, 2012. Oxford.

World War One Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings ( brings together a range of innovative digital resources intended to reappraise the War in its historical, cultural, social and geographical contexts. The resources include digitised primary sources, e-books, images, interactive maps and simulations, and are organised into cross-disciplinary themes such as medicine, politics, and the topography of the War. At the heart of the site is a showcase of new academic perspectives on the War by leading scholars, presented in blog format so that readers can contribute comments of their own.

A distinctive feature of the resources and commentaries is that they have been licensed as open educational resources, so that they can be used, with or without adaptation, for teaching and learning in both formal and informal contexts.
The website has been developed by the team at the University of Oxford responsible for the acclaimed First World War Poetry Digital Archive and Great War Archive ( and funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) World War One Commemoration Programmes (

The workshop will explore the usefulness and relevance of the thematic collections for teaching and studying topics related to World War I . It will begin with an introduction to the thematic collections and academic commentaries. You will then investigate the collections yourself, select resources that might enhance your students’ learning and plan how you might use them. Members of the project team will be on hand to help out, and there will be ample opportunity for feedback and discussion.

Your contribution will help us not only to assess the value of the collections in encouraging students to consider different ways of approaching the War, but also to extend our understanding of how academic staff engage with open educational resources.

The workshop will take place at the University of Oxford IT Services, from 10.00am to 4pm on the 6th September 2012. Coffee and lunch will be provided, and reasonable travel expenses will be reimbursed for participants from outside Oxford.

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New themes

We’ve added three new themes to the web site.

  • Aftermath A theme specifically on the impact of the War in the years following.
  • Religion and Spirituality What role did religious faith play in the war effort and people’s interpretations of their wartime experiences?
  • Material Culture What was the material legacy of World War I? How did the objects of the conflict embody an individual’s experiences and attitudes as well as cultural choices in the technology of production?
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@Arras95 – the contributor’s view by Everett Sharp

My experience of social media for a ‘Real Time’ experiment – or – Confessions of an Arras Tweeter. Guest post by Everett Sharp, Subject Expert.

I am a very lucky man. When I joined Oxford University in an administrative role in one of its many departments computers were something relatively new to many staff including me. Therefore as we evolved through 246 to 346 and Microsoft’s Wordstar to Word within MS Office and its many updates I learned progressively more. I have graduated therefore today to being one of the many ‘silver surfers’, relatively computer literate and able to use the various programmes that are relative to my lifestyle.

And what a lifestyle – I sit here in my ‘office’ near the sea and a view of Exmoor in glorious north Devon typing this on my Viglen PC as I took early retirement when the fantastic First World War Poetry Digital Archive ( came to an end. It was therefore with great delight that I accepted Kate Lindsay’s offer to take part in her Arras95 project ( writing various articles concerning the Battle of Arras 19th April to 16th May 1917 a relatively unknown but major event in the conflict. One strand of the project was an attempt to record the events in ‘real time’, exactly 95 years earlier on a day to day; and sometimes hour to hour record using the social media programme Twitter.

I am termed a Subject Expert, for those of us who are given such titles know that you had better live up to it and consequently I read everything I could on that specific offensive and what else was going on in the world during from November 1916 to May of the following year. This was very enjoyable and enlightening showing that the actual battle involved people from all four corners in the globe. It was also interesting to learn of external events that influenced the course of the conflict although many not happening directly in France.

Writing the articles was straightforward and reminiscent of creating essays for university, with a limited number of words; direct, broad brush writing honed down to present the facts. But what of Twitter? This was new to me and initially I found it simple to establish an account which is rather easy and intuitive. The greater challenge was using the small number of keystrokes to impart the relevant information.
This took me a little time to master but after a few days when the ‘Tweets’ were a little hesitant I got to grips with the programme and reduced my entries to the required length, giving the information in a very concise and abbreviated form; however when writing I had to remember that my audience or ‘followers’ may only have a superficial knowledge of the First World War in general and Arras in particular. Remember that I wanted to include global issues, Russian Revolution the US declaration of war Chinese labourers etc.

How did I do? Only someone else can decide, so if you want to read my efforts please go to Twitter EverettSharp1. For me it was informative and like many good things a little taxing so if you do read my efforts I hope you find them interesting.

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@Arras95 – the reporter’s view by Fionnuala Barrett

Guest post by Fionnuala Barrett, Student Ambassador and Social Media Co-ordinator for @Arras95.

I have been overseeing the @Arras95 live-tweeting project, which came to an end on the 16th of May. Initially I was given a factsheet, prepared by Everett Sharp, with day by day details of the Battle of Arras. My first job was to construct these into tweets, so that they would suit the persona Kate Lindsay had devised – a real-time reporter sending messages back from the Front – and so that they would fit into about 130 characters, to facilitate easy retweeting.

My second job was then to line these tweets up for sending. We used a Twitter client called Tweetdeck, which allows you to schedule the tweets ahead of time to be published at a time and date of your choosing, as well as to add geotag information which we would later use to create a map of the tweets.

My last job on @Arras95 was day-to-day caretaking of the account, responding to and retweeting the messages of others. The group interaction made this part of the process most interesting, even including a few other users tweeting in character (notably @2ndCMR and @8thEastLancs) — a development we had not anticipated!

Now that the “Battle” has come to an end, we are creating new resources from the tweets. Though I like the tweet timeline, I am particularly gratified by the tweet map; while I was somewhat laboriously geotagging each of our tweets, I was unsure how useful such information would be, but I am very impressed with how the map turned out, and gives a new dimension on understanding some of the movements. It works particularly well with the Arras: Before and After resource.

As for evaluating @Arras95, I felt that commentators on the Great War Forum in this thread on the project put a number of very valid points, both pro and con. J Banning was particularly fair-minded about the limitations of the project, and the fact that a 140-character message would only be able to engage with complete neophytes to a limited extent. I think the brevity, combined with the project’s very specific remit, limited its appeal to those who were already quite knowledgeable about the period. Certainly there were times that the 140-character limit was a frustration, particularly with the more anecdotal stories sourced by Everett Sharp (as opposed to the factual messages such as “this village was captured” or “this number were wounded”) which I felt might have drawn in a less specialist audience.

Yet David Underdown makes an excellent point when he points out, on the same forum, that the live-tweeting project gives some idea of the “fragmentary … nature of the reports being received on the way up the chain of command”. Similarly, like a number of forum commentators, I want to see what is possible with the new technologies now available to historians, and @Arras95 is a valuable insight into how such tools can be exploited in research and dissemination of that research (and the maps and timelines are a further extension of that). Because the technology itself and the academy’s involvement in such technologies are both so young, naturally there is much to learn, and experiments such as these are the best way to discover what we still need to find out.

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@Arras95 – A knitted collection

So,what do we have at the end of the @Arras95 campaign?

  • 2545 Tweets
  • 9 new articles
  • 132 OERs

This is 2686 things that we didn’t have before that we can weave together to create resources that can help teach this historic battle. I like to think of it as a knitted collection. At the stat we had nothing but bits and pieces of information, and through five weeks of social media activitiy we created something that is very useful. Ok, it may have holes in it, and it may unravel and bit here and there, but the garment serves its purpose well.

It may be difficult at a glance to see how over 2000 tweets can be of worth, but we’ve been through them and pulled out links to images and articles on the web that are are available under licenses that you can use use and adapt. We’ll be creating image galleries and presentations so that you can browse these easily. The tweets themselves we have pulled into an interactive timeline and placed them on a Google Map or you can download the KML layer and view them in Google Earth. You can visit our @Arras95 theme and view the complete collection there.

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@Arras95 – Week 3

Here is a summary three weeks into @Arras95

1351 tweets sent using the #arras95 hashtag (not including our own account).
181 items of open content about the Battle of Arras added to our resource library.
4 new articles contributed to our site as OER.
5 co-live tweeters @8thEastLancs @15thBnCef @2ndCMR @DBS48 @EverettSharp
2 x new KML layers from OER created – Hitler at Arras and Military maps of Arras 1917
1,590 visits to our site.

The initial interest in @Arras95 seems to have dies down a little, we seem to have reached a saturation point in terms of following and site hits have slowed down. However, the community engagement is still strong and we are still building our resource collection at an exponential rate. We are starting to think about how we are going to use the archives of tweets (timelines?) after the event and how the resource library can be adapted into something a little more user friendly (e.g. PowerPoints and Slideshares of images, maps etc.). Watch out for a great revisualisation to be launched at the end of the week.

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@Arras95 – Week 1

arras95On the 9th April we launched the @Arras95 campaign. @Arras95 aims to surface a key, but lesser taught, turning point of the War, providing an innovative opportunity for others to learn about and engage in discussion about this historical event. @Arras95 will increase the visibility of open content around this one focal point, providing teachers, students and the general public with a wealth of resources for free use and adaption. We are also asking online communities to contribute facts and content around the historical event that can be released as OER. We will be adding any open content to our Resource Library and building an archive of all the information that comes in via Twitter. You can read more about @Arras95 in this blog post.

Here is a summary of Week One on the battlefield

Over the following week we hope to drive more interest in our Google Event Map and feed in the geotagged tweets from our Twitter account.

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Donkeys leading lions leading donkeys

For this project we are explicitly creating OER, and possibly, in a constructivist approach this means we take certain steps and author our materials in a certain way. However, this is still based around a production model of author to consumer, even if a consumer in remixing becomes a new author. Innately, there will always be a consumer, but the roles offered by the traditional OER model as production and consumption – it is rare that poacher producers become consumer gamekeepers – there remain distinct roles in the system; akin to the lion and the donkey. How many OER sites have “share this content with a wealthy company!” buttons, but then don’t have “edit”, or “share your version”. The cathedral and the bazaar is the oft mentioned OS model, but even the bazaar has a distinct trading model – perhaps it is a more barter based currency? Or kibbutz?

Does this limitation in the publishing model remove a benefit from OER – that peer working (perhaps akin to crowdsourcing) improves material you share, for which you also gain? Perhaps also, in altering the production model to a more distributed approach (one with less role distinction) we can work towards common, required goals of communities, and not a centralised, institutionalised approach? So this is just crowdsourcing? Probably, but ever seen crowdsourcing and it not be a wiki? And what of the fact data changes? What of the fact some pieces, such as a World War One Blog on Arras and Wikipedia are tied to the date of creation – and we need to accept that content would be worth revisiting. So a repository can handle versioning, but can it handle viewing changes – so for this wikipedia data sets, the changes in data across the sets are as important data set as the data sets themselves. It would seem foolish to leave this content static; and static content seems to be against a lot of what is open about OER. Shouldn’t we move towards a concept of OER being continually published in that we aim to use frameworks which allow for others to contribute as equals, rather than just consumers?

Our @Arras95 campaign will look into how we can best crowd source some data, but we’ve also set up a github account for the project so we are conducting a series of experiments in this area – we’ll try to keep you up to date and it’d be great if you could contribute.

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Presentation at the IWM

This week I gave our project its first public airing at the First World War Digital Commemoration Roundtable organised by JISC. This is the second event of its kind, and brings together a range of organisations to review and discuss plans for the creation and management of new digital content to mark the centenary of the First World War (2014 onwards). It seems that a great deal has happened since the last meeting. Meaningful ways are being developed for the public to engage with the War, reappraise it and understand it. Whilst teaching, learning and research lie at the heart of the new interfaces, resources and collections that are being created.

My presentation is available on SlideShare:

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