Thursday, April 16, 2009

Some neat OER websites for Geography

Spatial Worlds Website

Picture descriptions:
Left image: The participating teachers at the Brussels OER workshop.
Right image:Brussel streetscape.

Brussels, Belgium: N:50º 52' E: 4º 22'

One of the great aspects of being involved in the OER intiative was that a huge range of innovative resources were presented. Here are just a few to have a go at!
Physical Geography
Geography games
World Demographic Clock
Designing an habitable planet
History and DNA (I know it is not Geography but really neat as a site)
Historical maps
Outer space and geography
The breathing Earth
Lifestyle and the environment
Mapping worlds differently

It is worth looking at the well travelled initiatives related to Open Education Resources. Considering more and more teachers are using websites in their teaching today there is a need to start working on some type of quality control to ensure that the websites support good pedagogy in the classroom. Naturally this is true for geography as well. For example when looking at a website do you consider the following to make sure it is OK for your quality teaching and student learning?** If it was a book I am sure these questions would be foremost in your review.
Is the website:
o Culturally appropriate
o Gender appropriate
o Current
o Agenda of the developer- bias
o Credibility
o Authentic
o Interactive
o Advertising Free
o Attractive
o Engaging
o Easy to navigate
o Relevant to curriculum (even if not designed specifically for a given curriculum or for any curriculum)
o Adhere to W3C Accessibility
o Modular
o Content independent of structured
o Language Independent or Multilingual
o Remixable
o Easy to download and save
o Stored as a file type that is readily accessible with generally
available software
o Cross Browser Compatibility
o Cross Platform Compatibility
o Accessible outside of login
o Unlikely to be blocked by firewalls
o Degree of Openness (eg Rights)
o No cost to use
o Labeling
o Indexed for Searchability
o Time Limitations

** These criteria developed at the April 2009 OER workshop in Brussels.

All good questions and need to be reviewed before the website is used as a teaching tool.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Open Education Resource Conference: Brussels

Spatial Worlds Website

Picture descriptions:
Left Image: Historical square in central Brussels.
Right image: The OER workshop

Brussels, Belgium: N:50º 52' E: 4º 22'

Event: Open Education Resource Workshop
Dates: April 15th-17th 2009
Organisers of the event: European Schoolnet

This week I have been fortunate to attend the Open Education Resource Workshop in Brussels. The OER Teacher's Network Project is a scoping and feasibility study federating learning resource repositories both in Europe and internationally. The goal is to examine quality criteria for OER in order to promote more effective exchange of learning resources between repositories. I am particularly interested in this project because of its potential for the sharing of open education resources in geography and with spatial education resources in particular.

The study investigates how new mechanisms may now be required in order to facilitate in international K-12 OER collaboratives, particularly so that stakeholders can take a significant step forward as regards understanding what types of OER ‘travel well’ or have the most potential to be used and re-used in different K-12 curriculum frameworks, including in those countries in the less developed world where ICT deployment is still at a very early stage.

The Project is led by EUN SchoolNet with teacher participants from Europe, Australia, Africa, Finland, South Africa, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Zambia, Roumania, Spanish and the U.S. Fortunately there are about 4 geography teachers amongst the 16 teachers at the workshop for me to explore the use of OER resources in geographical education.
In this blog I will put down relevant facts, perceptions and resources which come out of the workshop. However what are Open Education Resources and what is the concept of travel well?

Open Education Resources: The Hewlett Foundation describes these as teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”
OER's enable teachers to republish material in new formats, publish online, permits reuse and remix of material, promotes innovation, promotes equity and accessibility and reduce costs - such resources are free of copyright and free to use.

Travel well:: Is the ability of an OER to be used across the globe in as widest range of contexts as possible. To be a travel well website one must consider copyright, language, visual representation, text density and is it easy to navigate, adapt and re-use.

Creative commons: Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved.

Website resources for sharing which provided the basis of the workshop

Of interest to the world of the geography teachers is the plethora of data which is regularly used to construct maps and other spatial representations. Is this data an open education resource or are we risking prosecution? This workshop is exploring the issues of copyright of such resources and what can be done in the future for teachers to feel comfortable and protected when accessing educational resources and data from a huge range of industry and contexts.