Exclude teaching and learning materials from the open access repositories debate. Discuss.

Much of last week’s meeting of the JISC Repositories and Preservation Advisory Group was taken up with a discussion of the findings of the Repositories Roadmap Review which is being undertaken by Rachel Heery. The Review, which is not yet public, sparked a lively discussion during the course of which Andy Powell put forward the suggestion that teaching and learning materials should no longer be included in the same discussions as open access scholarly works as the issues relating to their use and management are just so different.

As one of the small quota of œteaching and learning type folk on RPAG I was inclined to cautiously agree with Andy. Many of us who have an interest in the management of teaching and learning materials have been frustrated for some time that repository discussions, debates and developments often focus too much on scholarly communications and research papers while neglecting other resource types such as teaching and learning materials and data sets. Im sure Im not the only one who feels a bit sheepish about having to jump up at regular intervals and say œbut what about teaching and learning materials? There has in the past been a tendency to assume that Institutional Repositories set up to accommodate scholarly works could also provide a home for teaching and learning materials in their spare time. And this despite the fact that theres considerable debate regarding how effectively learning object repositories can manage teaching and learning materials, never mind capital I capital R Institutional Repositories!

In the past Ive suggested that the language and discourse of the Open Access movement œdoesnt fit teaching and learning materials. In a written contribution to the discussion Andrew Rothery of University of Worcester went further to suggest that:

the concepts and values around open access, archiving, metadata, sharing, and publishing dont really fit.

and that the whole model of formal institutional repositories just doesnt support teachers day to day practice.

So whats the answer? Id suggest that we need to begin by asking a lot more questions before we can start coming up with answers. Questions such as:

What to teachers actually do with their materials? Where do they currently store them? How do they manage them? How do they use them? Are there things teachers cant do now that they would like to? How do learners interact with teaching materials? Are there personnal, domain and institutional perspectives to consider? And how do they relate to each other?

We need a discussion that is focused squarely on the requirements and objectives of teachers and learners not one that is an addendum to the, admittedly worthy, open access debate.

A word of caution though¦. My one concern is that if we exclude teaching and learning materials from œrepository debates, and indeed JISC funding programmes, will we stop talking about them all together?

And one last thing¦itll be interesting to see how OER developments influence this debate.

Semantic Technology Working Group

Last Friday saw the first meeting of the new CETIS Semantic Technology Working Group. CETIS Working Groups are a little different from the Special Interest Groups you all know and love in that they have a much tighter focus, a finite lifespan and a remit to produce one or more deliverables. I was particularly interested to attend the launch of the Semantic Technologies Working Group as it is a direct offshoot of the Semantic Technologies for Teaching and Learning session that Phil and I ran at last year’s CETIS Conference. Sheila has already written a short blog post about this meeting but here’s a little more detail.

The working group has two primary aims, firstly to act as an expert working group for the new JISC SemTech project, also funded as a result of the conference session, and secondly to develop recommendations for potential future work based on the outputs of the project. The first meeting of the working group was closed to enable us to focus in detail on the scope of the SemTech project however future meetings are likely to be open to the wider JISC community and all those with an interest in the use of semantic technologies for teaching and learning.

Participants at this initial meeting included Robin Wylie of Learning and Teaching Scotland, Michael Gardner from Essex, Sue Manuel from Loughborough, Tony Linde from Leicester, Simon Buckingham Schum from the OU, Helen Beetham from JISC, Hugh Davis and Thanasis Tiropanis from Southampton and Sheila, Wilbert, Phil and I from CETIS. And not forgetting, as Wilbert tweeted at the time, “iSight, conference phone, projector, 3g modems, ipod, mobile phone herd and the odd mouse.”

Thanasis Tiropanis opened the meeting with an enthusiastic and engaging introduction to the SemTech project which is based at the University of Southampton and will run until February 2009. The aims and objectives of the project are:

  1. Survey of the relevance and use of semantic tools and services in HE/FE, informal and exploratory learning. The impact of current work on semantic enhancement of successful Web 2.0 services will be reported.
  2. A roadmap for further developments in semantic technology adoption in HE/FE, informal learning and exploratory learning.
  3. The HE/FE institutional perspective of tools, services, relevance and quantifiable benefits.

Much of the rest of the meeting was taken up by a discussion of what constitutes “semantic technology” for the purpose of the project. Unsurprisingly this discussion was not entirely conclusive but there seemed to be some agreement that there should be some level of reasoning involved at the machine level. “Inference” was another term that kept cropping up. There was also general agreement that to be relevant to the project the technology must be used with some pedagogic intent and not simply for recording or resource discovery. For example mindmapping tools may not be regarded as semantic technologies for the purpose of the project however an application such as Omnigator which consumes topic maps and merges them on the fly is very much in scope. There’s still a lot of discussion to be had on these issues and it’ll be very intriguing to see what kind of technologies Thanasis and the SemTech project turn up.

For further information on the SemTech project please visit the project website at http://www.semtech.ecs.soton.ac.uk/ or to learn more about the CETIS Semantic Technologies Working Group contact Sheila or I.

Choose your tag with care

The official tag for the recent Dublin Core Conference in Berlin is dc2008berlin however my colleague John Robertson noted that more than a few conference participants had uploaded images to flickr tagged dc2008. This tag also turns up lots of holiday snaps from Washington DC along with images from some rather more exotic events including DragonCon 2008.


Do you know where the Description Set Profile Working Group is?

By Foenix. Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

DragonCon 2008 055

Baleful twitterings

I recently heard a reading of the Tang Dynesty (8th century) poet Du Fus Ballad of the Army Carts on the radio. Normally Im not a fan of radio poetry, I find it a bit trite, but this was sufficiently moving to make me stop what I was doing and listen. Its a powerful meditation on the endless futility and waste of war and it was impossible not to appreciate the poem’s continued contemporary relevance after all these years. Sadly my musings on this evocative work were rather abruptly punctured by the final line:

The new ghosts complain and the old ghosts weep, and under the grey and dripping sky the air is full of their baleful twitterings.

Somehow that just conjured up all the wrong sort of imagery¦..

Translator (David Hawkes [1967]). A Little Primer of Tu Fu. Oxford University Press. ISBN 962-7255-02-5.