Open Educational Resources (OER) are promising for different contexts. Whereas the majority of OER is in English, smaller countries might benefit most from the uptake of OER. But how can this be achieved without educational neo-colonialism? See our experiences from Greenland, a country with specific requirements but also with very strong educational developments and progress.
The University of Greenland and its institute for Educational Sciences, Inerisaavik (http://www.inerisaavik.gl/), is a partner in the leading project in Europe for mainstreaming ICT in schools. The project Open Discovery Space (ODS, www.opendiscoveryspace.eu) has the main goal to bring innovative E-Learning and OER into schools around Europe. An ODS-workshop was organized by Inerisaavik in Nuuk, Greenland. The workshop was organised in collaboration with the Nordic Open Education Alliance (www.nordicoer.org) which aims at creating OER collaborations in the Nordic countries.
ICT is crucial to boost the modernisation of education and training. The challenge is to reinvent the education ecosystem and re-empower teachers and other stakeholders in the digital age. ODS is supporting the development of partnerships and collaboration between key stakeholders, it introduces more open and innovative practices for richer and more engaging and motivating learning and teaching experiences will be key to facilitate the transformation of the education and training to embrace and fit the challenges of 21st century and to ensure our young people are equipped with the skills for employment. This is even more important for communities at the risk of digital exclusion – people living in remote and rural areas.
The development of effective learning communities in Greenland is a challenge for ODS. It contributes to the debate over these issues and opportunities by facilitating an open dialogue on how technological changes and scientific progress impact and accelerate developments, including social change, determine policy changes, and support new investments, involving diverse actors with different stakes and agendas.
In the case of Greenland ODS aims to develop and maintain a sustainable platform engaging a large number of key actors, stakeholders and communities of practices on how to improve co-creation and delivery of digital tools, solutions and services for the modernisation of education and training and for the employability of young people, as well as for tackling the risk of digital exclusion, and thereby socio-economic exclusion.
OER seem to be an obvious means to bring ICT into schools – by re-using, contextualising, sharing and improving OER, new opportunities can be brought into learning and teaching: incorporating innovative learning scenarios, saving costs and creating new learning and teaching collaborations. However, how to ensure the usage in countries with specific requirements and settings?
Greenland has a population of 57.000 people and around 90 schools with very different sizes. Larger schools are in the main towns such as the capital Nuuk, some schools in the settlements have just 2 pupils. Another important factor is the need for inclusion and identity: the need to provide high-quality education in Greenlandic and avoiding migration. The geographic and educational situation is therefore very different from most European countries. However, many initiatives and projects are on the way to reform and improve education for all. The main focus in this approach is implementing the OECD framework for ICT.
An Open Discovery Space workshop organised by Inerisaavik has discussed the barriers and opportunities for ICT and in particular Open Educational Resources for Greenland. In particular in smaller countries, it is very important to identify the main contextual influences (policies, projects, curricula, …) to initiate successful OER projects. In Greenland, the educational system has been reformed recently.
Seven principles of learning have been formulated which are applied in all educational sectors. Use of learning designs are set up to be used flexible, based on Joint Productive Activities with teacher scaffolding small groups of students through conversation and inquiry prior to the interactions in the classroom.
Many new initiatives have been started, promoting for example mobile learning with Ipad/tablet and fostering Joint Productive Activities through interaction on the internet. Social software / web 2.0 activities are also lounged for teacher networking and collaborative activities. These will be strongly influencing education – ODS integrates therefore existing networks and new teacher collaborations. Furthermore, inclusion is an important contextual aspect: there is a strong need to provide high-quality education to all settlements with limited monetary and staff resources. Last but not least, Greenland has been very active to achieve it autonomy which also is visible in education.
Based on the barriers, we discussed promising strategies and joint activities to overcome barriers and create a model for OER adoption.
These are only starting points but can serve as a role model for countries within and outside Europe to implement OER. It should be noted that the adoption of OER focuses on collaboration and mutual synergies, not at one-way transfer (such as most MOOC approaches).
- Awareness building: As in many other settings, teachers, administrators and decision makers are not aware of the opportunities of OER. Creating awareness and knowledge on the possibilities of OER and related topics is a must. It is necessary to build competences in particular on rights and licenses but most important is the discussion of OER benefits (such as cost savings, quality improvements and innovation).
- National and organisational policies: Greenland’s ICT and educational policies are very favorable for OER uptake. However, organisations (as in most other European countries) need to develop strategies for OER uptake, in particular recognition for OER development by teachers and lecturers.
- Integration: OER cannot be implemented as an isolated activity. It is very important to integrate OER into key programs and projects. In Greenland, several national activities have been launched (such as learning management systems, mobile learning projects). To assure sustainability in the project, the bottom-up approach is necessary, so participants feel co-ownership of the project, which is essential to integrate OER into those initiatives. Translation of the content of the project into Greenlandic is necessary to the key participants of the project, these are mainly monolingual teachers and parents. This could create a foundation for building a sustainable Community of Practice platform and OER in Greenlandic context. Always having the autonomy of the schools in mind, the overall perspective is necessary in the pursuit of coordinating the projects.
- Infrastructure and Resources: It is necessary to provide alternatives to high bandwidth solutions. Not all schools can participate for example in bandwidth-consuming solutions. It is necessary to create offline or low bandwidth alternatives. There is a project about digital infrastructure for teachers within the school but a technological solution for implementing the frame in other schools is necessary.
- Inclusion: OER is a strong vehicle to provide high-quality education for diverse groups of learners. However, it is necessary to adapt OER towards specific needs and requirements.
- Localisation and contextualisation: There is a strong need to find simple ways of transforming OER into local languages and adapt learning activities to cultural characteristics. It is necessary to provide localisation tools (such as automatic translation, collaboration). Most important is to create networks of educators which share the idea of open education and are committed to work collaboratively across borders and cultural heritage.
- Collaboration: One-way transfer of OER will never work, this would just be a new way of educational colonialism. It is necessary to collaborate and develop OER together! In particular in schools, partnerships should be developed and utilised to collaboratively develop and improve resources.
- Experience exchange and inter-organisational learning: OER partnerships are a strong instrument for educational development. Experience exchange should be facilitated between Greenlandic and other countries. In particular, Nordic partnerships (Nordic partners in ODS and the Nordic Open Education Alliance) should be encouraged due to the similarities of educational systems and values. If organisations commit to joint activities, all partners can benefit from the common experiences and expertise.
Summarising the workshop and discussions, ODS has created a role model how to include OER into educational systems in different countries – it is very clear that there is no one-fits-all implementation strategy. However, ODS has identified the main context factors as well as barriers as a starting point for ICT and OER uptake in schools.
As a next step, it is necessary to share experiences across Europe and beyond to create a better understanding of ICT and OER mainstreaming. We invite all institutions to support this effort and look forward to open and constructive idea and experience sharing!
Jan M. Pawlowski, Henri Pirkkalainen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Ole Thorleifsen, Inerisaavik, Greenland
Sofoklis A. Sotiriou, Ellinogermaniki Agogi, Greece
Open Discovery Space Project: http://www.opendiscoveryspace.eu