Sharing curation in Open Scotland

Open Scotland is moving to a new model of shared curation by a community of volunteers, modelled on the wonderful #FemEdTech. For each of the coming months someone has volunteered to write a blog post or two about their own part of the Open Scotland world and to tweet a bit. The hope is that this will enable a more active Open Scotland without placing more burden on too few people. As the volunteer for the first month in this new mode I thought I would reflect a bit on what I think that means.

Open Scotland is a voluntary cross sector initiative that aims to raise awareness of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources, and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education.

Open Scotland about page

“Cross sector” is key. That means Open Scotland is interested in all levels of education: pre-school, school, FE and HE, continuing professional development and all forms of lifelong learning, formal and informal. It also means engagement with teachers, learners, academics, technologists, lawyers, librarians, curators and others in the cultural sector, as well as institutional and government policymakers including politicians and civil servants. So, not only is Open Scotland cross sector, it is also multidisciplinary. But what does it mean to be so encompassing? What can we learn from other widely scoped activities, and what should we bear in mind when engaging with all those neighbouring communities and interest-groups?

Another multi-disciplinary community that I’ve worked with in the dim past is that around crystallography, and something caught my attention when listening to the podcast BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time programme on one of my crystallography heroes, Dorothy Hodgkin. It’s near the end, starting about 45mins in, leading to the following observations:

Georgina Ferry: “The culture of science today actually isn’t very like that*, and I was just rather interested to notice recently that Wellcome, which is the funder of […] a very large proportion of Biomedical Science in the UK today, has recently set up a new project to look at the research culture and to try to shift it in the direction of being more collaborative and kinder — they’ve used the word ‘kind’– and there’s really a sense that the way things have gone is just too far in the direction of being competitive, and I think Dorothy’s example shows that it is possible to do very great science without it having to be like that.”

[* Determining what precisely it is that science isn’t very like is left as an exercise to the reader]

Judith Howard: “I am pleased to say that crystallography is still like that. It is a very caring, sharing community. As we spoke earlier: we need each other, we need people who are good at machinery, computers, growing crystals, extracting the compounds from the biology in the first place. We do need collaboration. The ground that was laid by […] many of the early pioneers, that was the way that they worked. They needed help from each other; it continues that way. We work on completely different materials but we all use computers, often the same software, we’re sharing things and we are sharing advances. So if someone has an advance in one area we share it through our international meetings into another area, and we develop instrumentation by having ideas and sharing them and sharing them with the instrumental manufacturers as well.”

BBC Radio 4, In Our Time: Dorothy Hodgkin

We all know that historically not all parties have been kind when advances in crystallography have been shared, but there is something in what Judith Howard says that strikes true to me personally. For example, one of the first examples of open data / open science that I encountered was the Protein Data Bank, which has been running since 1971. I think the point about how, in crystallography, no one person will have all the skills and resources to solve a problem is one that is true more generally, it certainly aligns with the range and scope of Open Scotland that I outlined above, and I think her conclusion that we need collaboration is equally transferable. I took a look at the Wellcome’s Trust’s website for the work to which Howard was referring. I think it is this, Research culture: let’s reimagine how we work together. Interestingly, the reference I see to be kindness is where Robin Farrar, director of the Trust, he says “it can be hard to be kind“.  That’s true especially in low-bandwidth communication such as Twitter, annual conference meetings, and papers and blog postings, limited as they are, respectively, by message length, infrequency and being essentially unidirectional. We really don’t need to add in any further toxic attitudes from overly competitive academics or vested commercial interests.

But it’s not easy. I think we do need a community that calls out errors when we see them; we do need to be careful not to amplify voices that represent interests that are at odds with openness, and that are abundantly capable of making themselves heard without our help. It means rewarding generosity. Making heard the voices that are too often silenced requires more effort than just providing a platform for everyone.

Open Education itself has a voice that needs effort in amplifying. It lives in close proximity to many other “opens”: Open Access, Open Source Software, Open Science, Open Data, Open Standards. All of these are of interest to Open Scotland, and we have a lot to learn from experiences in these fields, but I think we also need to assert that Open Education is distinct from those fields, especially when it comes to policy and strategic actions such as funding. Some of us have experience of programmes that have dealt with teaching and learning materials and research outputs within the same framework, where the research interests dominated. A conclusion then was that teaching and learning was not well served by being subsumed into programmes that largely focussed on research materials. In HE at least research is seen as more attractive and more prestigious than teaching (consider the phrases “research opportunity” and “teaching load”); the same can be seen in attitudes that lead to teaching money going research focussed higher education often at the expense of FE and life-long learning.

I don’t claim that this post represents Open Scotland’s view, if indeed it makes any sense to talk of an Open Scotland view, but I do welcome the Open Scotland Code of Conduct for shared curation which seems to be written to the same tune. I don’t have the answers to how Open Scotland addresses these issues, but I do look forward to it growing as space for collaboration, amplifying those voices that need it, and representing open education as an equal partner with other open endeavours.

Author information: Phil Barker is an independent consultant with Cetis LLP, working in technology to enhance learning and information systems for education. He specializes in Open Education, especially resource description and discovery.

Open Scotland Shared Curation Invitation

In an effort to revitalise the Open Scotland initiative, and to build on the Scottish Funding Council’s College and University Sector ICT Strategy 2019 – 2021, which commits to the aims of the Scottish Open Education Declaration, we are proposing to explore a shared curation model similar to the one used by the #femedtech network.  We hope this will encourage more people to get involved and to ensure that Open Scotland represents all sectors of education in Scotland.
Curation will involve posting a minimum or one blog post about any aspect of openness in education to the Open Scotland blog and tweeting relevant open education news using the #OpenScot tag.  Open Scotland does not currently have a dedicated twitter account but we would be happy to set one up if you feel it would be useful.
We welcome curators from all sectors involved in education in Scotland including further and higher education, schools, adult and community learning, training, professional development, galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM), health services, and the third sector.
All aspects of openness in education are in scope, including but not limited to:
  • Open education practice
  • Open educational resources
  • Open policy
  • Open assessment practices
  • Open textbooks
  • Open source software
  • Open standards
  • Open online courses
  • MOOCs
  • Wikimedia projects

Blog posts could highlight open initiatives from your own sector or institution, or interesting developments from across the world. We also welcome information about up and coming conferences and events, and reports from events around Scotland and internationally.

If you are interested in volunteering to curate Open Scotland for a month, please sign up using this shared spreadsheet: Open Scotland Curation, or contact either Joe Wilson ( or Lorna M. Campbell (  Please share this call for participation with any colleagues who might be interested.

Open Scotland Follow Up

(Originally posted 23rd August 2013,

Yesterday Sheila and I met with colleagues from the ALT Scotland SIG, Jisc RSC Scotland and Cetis to start taking forward some of the actions we discussed at the Open Scotland Summit in Edinburgh at the end of June. You can find the Open Scotland Summit Report and Actions here:

One of the key actions was to establish a working group, similar to Wales and the Nordic countries, that can stimulate research in the area of open education and hopefully inform future Government initiatives. As several of the delegates who attended the Summit in June expressed an interest in on-going participation, there seems to be a real appetite for taking this forward. In the first instance we’ve agreed to set up an Open Scotland blog to provide the group with an identity and a platform to publish information, articles and commentary on all aspects of openness in education. We’ll also use the blog to link to other related groups, lists and initiatives e.g. the Open Knowledge Foundation, OER-Discuss, the Scottish Open Badges Group, etc. Unfortunately someone is sitting on the domain so we’ve had to settle for There’s nothing to see there at present, but we hope to have the site up and running by the end of September. Several colleagues have already offered to contribute posts on different aspects of openness and how these relate to education and education policy in Scotland. We also discussed setting up a mailing list to disseminate information but as there was some concern about the proliferation of mailing lists we thought we would try setting up a google group instead.

The second key action from the June summit was to draft a position paper providing evidence of the benefits of openness with examples of how these can impact on Government priorities. As a starting point for this activity we’ve agreed to look at the Scottish Funding Council’s Outcome Agreements for 2013 – 2014 and to highlight areas where different aspect of openness could have a positive impact on the outcome agreement criteria. Once we’ve done a first pass through the Outcome Agreement criteria, we’ll post the resulting draft in a public document that everyone will be welcome to comment on and contribute to. Hopefully this will help us to focus on real tangible benefits of open education policies and practices and demonstrate how these can help to address current strategic priorities and challenges.

Another activity we discussed is to take the 2012 OER Paris Declaration and to start identifying examples of practice, from Scotland and neighbouring countries, that address the ten key points outlined in the Declaration document. I’m also keen to develop some case studies about institutions that have developed open education policies, but that’s an activity that would require rather more resources than we have at our disposal at present.

We also discussed the possibility of future Open Scotland events and hope to be able to build on the success of the June Summit to broaden the debate further. In the short term we have a couple of dissemination opportunities coming up; Joe Wilson of SQA and I will be doing a short presentation on Open Scotland and the work of the ALT Scotland SIG at the Jisc RSC Scotland Joint Forum event on the 31st of October, and earlier in the month we’ll we presenting a paper “Open Scotland – Policies and strategies for opening up education in Scotland” at the Open and Flexible Higher Education Conference in Paris on the 24th- 25th October. (When I say “we” that means that we’re not sure who’ll actually be going along to do the presentation yet!)

If you’re interested in keeping up to date with Open Scotland, keep and eye on the #openscot hashtag and this blog in the interim, or feel free to contact any of those involved.

Phil Barker
Lorna M. Campbell
Linda Creanor
Sheila MacNeill
Celeste McLaughlin
Joe Wilson

Open Scotland Overview

(Originally posted 3rd May 2013,

In collaboration with SQA, Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG, Cetis is hosting a one day summit focused on open education policy for Scotland which will take place at the National Museum of Scotland at the end of June. The event, which will bring together senior managers, policy makers and key thinkers, will provide an opportunity for critical reflection on the national and global impact of open education. Open Scotland will also provide a forum for identifying shared strategic priorities and scoping further collaborative activities to work towards more integrated policies and practice and encourage greater openness in Scottish education.

The Open Scotland keynote will be presented by Cable Green, Creative Commons’ Director of Global Learning. Creative Commons are a non-profit organization whose free legal tools provide a global standard for enabling the open sharing of knowledge and creativity. Representatives of the Scottish Government, the National Library of Scotland, SQA, ALT Scotland, the University of Edinburgh, Glasgow Caledonian University, the Nordic OER Alliance, the EU Policies for OER Uptake Project, Kerson Associates, Jisc, Jorum, Jisc RSC Scotland and OSS Watch will be among those attending. A synthesis and report of the outputs of the summit will be disseminated publicly under open licence.

Open Scotland Overview

“A smarter Scotland is critical to delivering the Government’s Purpose of achieving sustainable economic growth. By making Scotland smarter, we will lay the foundations for the future wellbeing and achievement of our children and young people, increase skill levels across the population and better channel the outputs of our universities and colleges into sustainable wealth creation, especially participation, productivity and economic growth.”

How can Scotland leverage the power of “open” to develop the nation’s unique education offering? Can openness promote strategic advantage while at the same time supporting social inclusion, inter-institutional collaboration and sharing, and create new opportunities for the next generation of teachers and learners? The Scottish Government’s ‘Scotland’s Digital Future’ strategy, published in 2011, sets out the steps that are required to ensure Scotland is well placed to take full advantage of all the economic, social and environmental opportunities offered by the digital age. However, whilst the Scottish Government has been active in advocating the adoption of open data policies and licences it has yet to articulate policies for open education and open educational resources. In March 2013, the Scottish Funding Council published a ‘Further and Higher Education ICT Strategy’ that builds on the Scottish further and higher education sectors’ culture of collaboration and the range of national shared services that are already in place, many of which are supported by Jisc, JANET UK and others. What kinds of open policies and practices can we develop and share across all sectors of Scottish education to help implement these strategies and move them forward?

Scotland has a proud and distinctive tradition of education, which is recognised internationally. The Curriculum for Excellence is transforming schools to better equip our children for the challenges of the 21st century. With our colleges and universities experiencing major changes in terms of structure, funding and access, Scotland’s colleges are opening up their educational content to the world through the new Re:Source OER repository. The University of Edinburgh have pioneered the delivery of MOOCs in Scotland, recently attracting over 300,000 students to six online courses, and Napier University is embracing open practice through their open 3E Framework for teaching with technology, which has been adopted by over 20 institutions globally. The Jisc RSC Scotland are making extensive use of the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI), which enables an open, standards-based way to issue digital recognition and accreditation. The Scottish Qualifications Authority is exploring how open badges can be built into the national qualifications system and the ICT Excellence Group, which is overseeing the re-development of the Scottish schools’ intranet GLOW, are also investigating their potential use

Elsewhere, the HEFCE funded UKOER Programme has been instrumental in stimulating the release of open educational resources and embedding open practice in English HE institutions. SURFNet in the Netherlands recently published their second ‘Trends Report on OER’, and a group of Nordic countries have launched the Nordic Alliance for OER. The UNESCO 2012 Paris Declaration called on governments to openly license publicly funded educational materials, and later that year the European Union issued a public consultation on “Opening up Education – a proposal for a European initiative” in advance of a new EU Initiative on “Opening up Education” expected to launch in mid-2013. Underpinning many of these developments is an increased acceptance and adoption of Creative Commons licences.

We are experiencing a period of unprecedented flux in all sectors of teaching and learning. For better or for worse, the advent of MOOCs has opened a public debate on the future direction of post-school education, though the balance of commercial opportunities and threats from the increased marketisation and commodification of education is still unclear.

Open Scotland is a one day summit facilitated by Jisc CETIS in collaboration with SQA, Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG. The event will provide an opportunity for key stakeholders to critically reflect on the national and global impact and opportunities of open education, provide a forum to identify shared strategic interests and work towards a more integrated Scottish approach to openness in education.

“UNESCO believes that universal access to high quality education is key to the building of peace, sustainable social and economic development, and intercultural dialogue. Open Educational Resources (OER) provide a strategic opportunity to improve the quality of education as well as facilitate policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building.”