Tony Bates gave a keynote at the Fijian workshop I was at. It was, as always, good value as he covered changes in technology and their implications. I was in broad agreement with him but one element had me questioning him afterwards.
He repeatedly stated
that if he were doing this presentation as a set of OERs he would chunk it up,
stop at certain points and introduce a learning activity. He’d set it out with
learning objectives at the start. In his advice he suggested that educators
shouldn’t do it themselves (‘you’ll get hurt’, he joked) and should seek
support from instructional designers and technical staff.
These two things
seemed wrapped up in a particular view of OERs to me. In my question I argued
that his don’t do it yourself advice rather precluded a bottom-up approach to
OER generation, which was in my view, the best way to go. He gave a robust
defence, arguing that we need both, but to maintain quality people should seek
help and support.
Reflecting on this
made me appreciate that I have come to a particular view around OERs, without
really stating it. There is some of it in my Little OER and big OER post, but
for clarity (and for you to knock down), it goes something like this. I like
- are not explicit learning content – they do not
have to be generated with the aim of being used for learning;
- do not specify the learning that will occur – I
like Zittrain’s concept of generativity, that a system will have unpredicted
outputs when you allow a level of creativity. I want a ‘system’ that is
generative with respect to learning, and thus specifying learning outcomes or
activities restricts this;
- are easily aggregated into a pathway or
framework which is created by the educator. This is where I see the educator
coming into the system, they pull together many different resources, and add
context, activities, extra material and interpretation.
One question then is
‘are these OERs at all then, or just ‘stuff on the web’?’ I’m not going to
answer that on the grounds that it sounds like the interminable ‘what is a
learning object?’ debate that I gave too much of my life to a few years back.
This seems to me
another possible interpretation of the principle I suggested in another post
that ‘complexity resides in the network, not the application’ (I repeat this to
myself twenty times every morning as a mantra). The reason I felt uncomfortable
with Tony Bates’ approach was that it was pushing that complexity back in to
the app (or the resource).
An upshot of all this is
that I think the emphasis in much of the OER movement is on the adaptation of
OERs. This is because they are Big OER, with the complexity built in to them.
The Little OERs I prefer aren’t adapted, they’re aggregated, and you add stuff
around them. If I was ‘World OER Leader’, then shifting the emphasis to
aggregation would be my first and only decision, before I resigned and let David
Wiley do the job because he’d be better at it.