Riding Giants: How to innovate and educate ahead of the wave

The ALTC 2014, annual conference held at Warwick University, was one of the key events at the forefront of learning technology this year. The inspiring theme “Riding Giants: How to innovate and educate ahead of the wave” attracted interesting keynotes, speakers, researchers and various professionals involved in the field of learning technology.

This event was organised through the metaphor of surfing:
1.     Predicting Giants: What are the forthcoming big questions, big challenges, and big changes?
2.     Learning to ride: What are innovative examples of collaboration and knowledge exchange in Education?  
3.     Evidence on board: How do we collect evidence at scale (from experiments and full scale deployment)?
4.     Staying up, mobile and personal: How is digital (& learning) technology changing the learning journey? 
5.     All agog: What are the results for emerging technology and teaching practice in significant action?
 Ale Okada  presented her work “Co-authorship and Colearning through OER at UKOU” on knowledge exchange and collaboration (Learning to ride) within the scope of activities conducted by CoLearn, an international community of educators, researchers and students engaged in the use of technologies for collaborative open learning.   CoLearn’s  association and collaboration with the UKOU’s OER initiatives have been most significant in three specific projects – OpenLearn, OpenScout and weSPOT. Hence, aspects of these projects have been selected for discussion, providing not only evidence of impact but also, crucially, indications of ways in which co-authorship can, and indeed does foster pedagogical innovation.
Okada discussed five issues  related to the conference:
1.     Predicting Giants: We have been promoting knowledge media technologies for participants to re(create) knowledge through OER since OpenLearn(2006-2008). Our research  analysed a few innovative examples, such as the Project Santos Dumont’s life, which won the 1st Microsoft prize for innovative Educators. Teachers and students from Brazil, Portugal and France used Blogs and the OpenLearn FM webconferencing tool to investigate and reconstruct collaboratively the  aviation pioneer’s life story using social media. New research questions then emerged, such as:  How could we empower OER colearners through knowledge media technologies to interact as OER coauthors instead of OER consumers? 
2.     Learning to ride: During the European project OpenScout (2009-2013) our goal was to develop a tool-library of OER technologies. Colearners could then recommend tools, practices, examples and methods for readapting and recreating OER. We tested the OpenScout Tool-Library based on the social platform ELGG to promote knowledge exchange and collaboration. More than 30 research groups with more than 100 participants interacted in the Tool-Library to co-author a book – OER & Social networks. There are a variety of chapters and coauthors: scholars, lecturers, PhD researcher undergraduate students, teachers and web users. Coauthors not only produced a variety of OER together (image, video, maps, activities, text) but also contributed towards describing the tools and practices used in their chapters in the Tool-Library.
3.     Evidence on board: Our next step is to collect and analyse evidence at scale. This is not easy considering that the project finished, however the community are still engaged in discussing strategies for OER – knowledge reconstruction and dissemination through “knowledge media technologies”. We started our next project weSPOT (working environment for social personal open technologies). We are currently investigating what are the key competences and skills that colearners can develop using OER in open social and personalised platforms for inquiry based learning? Which instruments and methods can we use to identify and analyse evidence?
4.     Staying up, mobile and personal: Although we are still developing  the key functionalities of weSPOT, our pre-pilots and initial case-studies show that colearners as co-investigators can develop their skills and knowledge through personal mobile interfaces for  inquiry based learning.
5.     All agog Co-inquiry platforms, which integrate personal, mobile and even wearable interfaces can be considered emerging technologies for educators to empower colearners as co-investigators. There are already a few significant outcomes which were spotted by weSPOT users (undergraduates, teachers and PhD students) who not only tested weSPOT to create their inquiries with useful feedback to improve the tool but also led research publication presented at international conferences.
We had a few useful questions and comments, to continue the debate:

  • Knowledge exchange: How could OER projects promote more knowledge exchange between stakeholders and in particular colearners?
  • Collaboration: What are the OER tools that can support collaboration among learners with different skills and levels of digital literacy? How can they use collaborative platforms to develop their skills, competences and literacies?
  • Co-authorship: What are the next steps for co-authorship at scale? How are we aiming to make an impact on more active, collaborative and inquiry learning?

We definitely agree with one of the Conference participant’s thoughts, Jorge Freire, which has been adapted slightly:  “The conference reinforced our belief that the focus should be on a “co” learner-centred approach to TEL, and that our job requires us to be “co” learners: we try things, implement then, take risks, make mistakes and handle change. And that’s the only way to ride the wave”.

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