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Week 17 In Review: The #oeglobal Edition

The view

The view for much of my week in Banff, Alberta, where I attended the annual Open Education Global conference sponsored by the Open Education Consortium. This was my first time at the conference and a very enjoyable, informative conference it was. Here are some of my personal memories of the conference.

While it was a global conference, there were many more people from our local network than I expected, which was fantastic. I had some great discussions with our colleagues from the Alberta OER project, Washington State and Oregon.

Notable sessions included a session from BC’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University where Salvador Ferraras and Thomas Carey outlined how open education fits in the institutions strategic plan. It was notable because here were two high level administrators from the institution articulating an institutional open policy that goes beyond OER and Open Access and attempts to embed open practices within the institution. Some very forward, strategic institutional thinking about open education happening at Kwantlen. I knew that Kwantlen was into open, but I don’t think I realized just how deeply it was being embedded in the culture there until I saw the presentation. The paper.

I also enjoyed the session from Paul Stacey on large scale national OER initiatives.  I’ve been struggling trying to do some big picture conceptualization and come up with a plan for system wide open initiatives. Paul’s framework was like manna as it provides a solid starting point for me to do both some big picture thinking, and articulate that big picture to a large system.

Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation, delivered the final day keynote and was fantastic (Stephen Downes blogged the keynote), talking about the threats to the open web and the increasing power and control that a handful of digital corporations (the Apple, Google, Facebooks of the world) have over our lives. I think Mozilla has done an excellent job of both grounding and articulating their learning model.  I’ve been loosely connected to Mozilla Webmaker initiatives here in Victoria for a few years, and have been watching with interest as Mozilla increases their informal learning activities around web literacy.  The thing that  connected a lot of dots with how Mozilla works (at least in their webmaker and teaching & learning efforts) was when Mark talked about his punk background. You can see that punk ethos reflected in both the D.I.Y. ethos of their webmaker initiatives, and the wider social and political anti-oligarchy perspective that influences Mozilla’s proactive work on open. Mark hit all the right notes for me, including a nod to both McLuhan and the other, often forgotten Canadian media theorist Harold Innis. 

Was honoured to have the BC Open Textbook project recognized with an award of excellence by the consortium. But the winning project that really impressed me was Tony Coughlan‘s CYP (Children and Youth Programs) project, which is a repository/referatory of  open resources for teachers and trainers working in that field. What is so fantastic is that Tony created it for about $30. $30! And he receives thousands of hits from around the world. This is such a wonderfully illustrative example of how powerful – and important – a simple, well curated, well targeted collection of open resources can be to educators. And it was done by one smart person using a WordPress site. For $30. We need more projects like this.

As always, people are the heart of any conference and this one was no different. I especially appreciated having some one on one time with David Wiley over lunch where we talked about the OpenEd conference in Vancouver this fall,and strengthening the relationship between what Lumen is doing and the work we are doing at BCcampus. One of the items we talked about was our shared use of PressBooks (which Lumen has rebranded as Candela for their purposes) and how we can work closer together in development. Dave Ernst from University of Minnesota was also there (and the open textbook network he has been working on that came out of his stint at the Institute for Open Leadership looks like it is taking off) , and the three of us discussed the possibilities of having some kind of PressBooks specific event, like a code sprint with our developers, around the open textbook summit in May. We have agreed that, to be effective, we need to find a project that benefits all three of us, and I have pitched the idea of extending the API’s that Brad has been working on to see if we can created this federated model of PB instances where we can each search and copy content from our respective instances into our own instances. Conceptually, Brad has done the groundwork to enable this and I think that if we can make this happen it would be a good win for all of us. But this is something that is still in the very nascent stages, and a few things have to fall in place before we can make this happen at the summit. A more likely timeline might be OpenEd in November. Where the three of us have agreed to work on immediately is sharing the load in getting existing open textbooks that are in the commons into PressBooks. We all have people who are on deck to work on converting existing open textbooks into Pressbooks, and it makes sense that we don’t duplicate our efforts. So, we are sharing lists and roadmaps on making this happen over the next 6 months or so, greatly increasing the number of titles we collectively have in the platform.

Also very much enjoyed spending some time watching hockey and hiking mountains with Martin Weller from the Open University & the OER Research Hub. We have been working with the Hub on a research project for the past year, but I’ve followed and admired Martin’s work virtually for many years (and if you haven’t yet read The Battle for Open, it is a wonderful read that encapsulates so many of the issues we in open education are grappling with at the moment), so to have the opportunity to spend some time hanging with Martin was wonderful after connecting in virtual spaces for all these years.

Also great to again see and hang out with Richard Sebastian from Virginia Community Colleges (heart of Z Degree land), Heather Ross from USask, Una Daly from CCCOER, Barb Illowsky (who brought a game that has been developed by their librarians to help spread the word about student textbook costs – very clever!), David Porter, Paul Stacey, Danielle Paradis (who did a bang up presentation on her Masters research), Irwin DeVries (busy videotaping a whole bunch of early open education advocates for a project he is doing with UVic’s Valerie Irvine), Rob and Bea from the Hub, and a whole host of others that, as soon as you start making a list like this, you inadvertently and unintentionally leave off as conference blur sets in.

Finally, really enjoyed meeting & spending some time with Marc Singer from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey. Marc and I were seated next to each other on the 1 1/2 hour bus ride from Calgary to Banff, and Marc was the third of the hiking trio up Tunnel Mountain.

Tunnel Mountain Hike

Banff, you are much younger and have a more pronounced Australian accent that I remembered the last time I was there. And your crosswalks, while a cool idea to cross diagonally and all at once, did mess with my “only cross on green light” trained mind.

Walk/Don't Walk

Next week, off to BCNet in Vancouver.

Week 16 In Review

Presentations, Workshops, Courses

  • Working on upcoming BCNet presentation on (what else) open textbooks.
  • Met with Gill and Barbara about our Open Textbook Summit presentation on the Geography booksprint.
  • Submitted proposal for OpenEd15 this fall with Gill and Barbara to present on same topic (ok, not quite done this yet, but will beat today’s midnight submission deadline).
  • Co-facilitated a live webinar with David Porter and Paul Stacey (Creative Commons), part of a 12 day Open Education course I am co-facilitating with Commonwealth of Learning and BC Ministry of Education.
  • Prepped for a Monday webinar with Megan Beckett (Siyavula) for same course.


  • Finished up a testbank for the Noba Project (a great Psychology open resource). They co-sponsored the Psychology TestBank Sprint last summer that Rajiv put together. I’ve been working with Respondus to make LMS import packages of the question banks for them. They have been very patient with me waiting for these files as it was one of those projects that always seemed to get delayed by the tyranny of urgent. Was nice to be able to do something that was a bit edtechish.
  • We’re planning a revamp of the Open site this summer and I’ve started brainstorming some notes on things I’d like to see changed.
  • The night before the Open Textbook Summit, we’ve decided to hold a thank you event for authors and adapters who have worked on open textbook projects we have funded. Did some work on that event, although Amanda and Lauri are handling the bulk of the work.


  • The Portable Z: We’re Doing Five Blades by Richard Sebastian. Following on the success of the Z Degree at Tidewater Community College, the state of Virginia is going to be rolling out Z Degree programs at all 23 state colleges. This is really exciting stuff; entire programs with $0 textbook costs, scaling up to cover an entire statewide system.
  • Finding the Problems OER Solves Martin Weller. I tend to think of myself as a pragmatic dreamer (a recipe for cognitive dissonance if there ever was one) leaning a bit heavy on the pragmatic side. Which is why I appreciate Martin’s perspective so much. This pragmatism was also evident in a presentation of Martin’s that I watched this week on The Battler for Open (which I am three chapters into) when he responds to the criticism that, after 10 years OER’s haven’t disrupted education with “has it just been useful?
  • The Defining Characteristics of Emerging Technologies and Emerging Practices in Online Education Geroge Veletsianos. Looking forward to the new edition of the book.
  • I read some posts about the Microsoft/McGraw Hill partnership, but honestly I tuned out after I heard Powerpoint. I probably should care more since McGraw-Hill does a lot of openwashing in their press release “McGraw-Hill Education’s embrace of open learning.” Yeah, right. Embrace. Call me cynical, but I don’t think we’ll see a lot of openly licensed content come out of this arrangement.

Other stuff

  • Took some time with the rest of the open textbook team this week for a celebratory lunch.
  • Met with the Faculty Fellows this week. All are going to be busy at various events around the province in the coming months presenting and talking about open textbooks. We have also been going over the findings of the faculty survey we did earlier this year with the OER Research Hub. The findings will form the basis of their presentation at the Open Textbook Summit in May. We’ll also be releasing the results on the website over the summer.
  • Got the new @bcopentext Twitter account up and running.
  • Annoying login problem popping up with Pressbooks Textbook since we changed the login path in an attempt to stem the brute force attack that shows no signs of waning. Basically, if you are in as an editor or author in multiple books on the platform, you are being forced to log in twice. It may be an inconvenience we have to live with on our local platform (others who install Pressbooks Textbooks won’t have this issue – it’s something specific to our instance as a result of the persistent attack we have on our servers). Times like these, I am so grateful to have the skills of seasoned network administrators to rely on. I’ve spent too much time in the six stages of grief throughout my WordPress loving life.
  • Attended a presentation at my kids school on Internet Safety for Parents by Darren Laur. I was dreading this presentation since it was pitched to our school PAC a few months ago thinking it would be full of fear mongering. It didn’t make me feel much better after Googling about the presentation and finding out that Darren puts on the persona of a white hat hacker and creeps kids social media profiles befriending them as a 16 year old girl prior to doing his school presentations. Ick. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to see Darren present a pretty balanced view of digital citizenship. He made it a point to stress to the 50 or so parents in the audience that “your kids are doing some amazing things” and being positive digital citizens. I wish there was just as much emphasis on the role that schools should be playing in helping to create those digital citizens (I am still appalled at the lack of digital literacy education in my kids school curriculum) rather than placing the entire load on many parents to cultivate digital citizens, but overall I thought the presentation was good and not as fear monger-ish as I had expected.

Next week: packing my hiking shoes and off to Banff for OE Global, followed by a few days in Vancouver for the annual BCNet conference.

Week 14-15 In Review


Supporting the big bad mouse. I had to revoke my copy of No Logo at the gate.

Was on vacation with the family for most of last week and the early part of this week. Add in Easter. This summary covers 2 very compressed weeks.


  • Talked about Pressbooks TextBooks as part of a CCCOER presentation on OER authorng. Slides on Slideshare.
  • Prepping for upcoming presentations & workshops at BCNet & Thompson Rivers University.


  • Ministry update meeting.
  • Met with ROER4D project. They are kicking the tires with Pressbooks Textbook.
  • Took part in a Mozilla Community Education working group call with Emma.
  • Open textbook project meeting. Lots of planning for the upcoming Open Textbook Summit. We’re also planning on doing a special thank you event for our authors and adapters the night before.
  • Amanda and I met with CAST to talk how we can work together on accessibility.


  • Booked travel & accommodation to Kamloops for TRU faculty workshop in May, and Vancouver for BCNet (end of April) & ETUG (June).


  • Audrey Watters talk at Western Oregon, which lead me to Justin Reich’s article “Open Educational Resources Expand Educational Inequalities”. After reading the article and the research,  I don’t think the headline is accurate and unfairly throws OER’s under the bus.  Justin’s research isn’t at all about OER’s, but is actually about educational technology and (more specifically) the use of wiki’s as a teaching tool with his students.  A more appropriate title should be “educational technology expands educational inequalities”, not OER’s. In the comments, I found Justin does acknowledge that the headline is misleading, and that the original title of the article was “Will Free Benefit the Rich?” Not sure how OER got dragged into the mix, unless I am missing something in my reading of the research.
  • Open Ends? from Brian Lamb. Incidentally, the video of Brian and Alan’s presentation The Open Web at UVic a few weeks ago for Open Education Week is now available.
  • Finished We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. Stumbled across this book (which heavily influenced both Orwell’s 1984 & Huxley’s Brave New World) after seeing an interview with Noam Chomsky where he mentioned it. Can’t believe I have never come across it before.
  • Started Martin Weller’s Battle for Open.
  • Data on Textbook Costs from Alex Usher. 1350 Canadian students interviewed on how much they spend on textbooks. The interesting tidbit for me wasn’t with how much they spend (although it is interesting), but instead that “Overall, two-thirds of students said that they bought all of their required textbooks” Meaning 1/3 of students try to get by in their courses without purchasing the required material. I am not sure if that includes illegally obtaining copies of their material, borrowing from friends or the library, or just plain going without.

Other stuff

  • Connected some BC Physics faculty with OpenStax, who are looking for contributors for their new Physics book.
  • Working on another iteration of the Exploring Open Education with the Commonwealth of Learning and BC Ministry of Education.
  • Registered a new Twitter account for the BC Open textbook project @BCOpenText. I wanted to use the phrase OpenEd, but it is proving problematic to use that phrase in Canada.. I’ll have more to say about this at some point in the future, but it absorbed some of my time this week.
  • Ordered the Noun Project commemorative Creative Commons shirt.

Week 13 2015 in Review

Bamboo sunset

A gratuitous photo that has nothing to do with the post, but one I took & like.

Yeah, I’ve fallen off the wagon. back on now. Thanks, Tannis. Ironically, I am on holiday next week so just when I get back on….

  • Meetings with Campus Manitoba and Saskatchewan Ministry of Advanced Ed talking open textbooks & other open education initiatives.
  • Open Textbook Summit. Finalized presentation proposals with Amanda and Lauri. Very happy with the response to the call & such a great bunch of people coming to Vancouver at the end of May to share what they know about open textbooks.
  • Prepping Pressbooks presentation for CCCOER webinar April 8th on publishing tools.
  • Budget meeting. That time of the year.
  • Site visit for our co-op student with her program. Can’t rave enough about the work that she is doing for us. Nice to have someone with some programming bg helping out Brad on Pressbooks development.
  • Wrapped up PDF project with FunnyMonkey to add an open source PDF output egine (mPDF) to Pressbooks. Watch for that option coming to PressBooks Textbook in the coming weeks. Brad is just doing some finishing work on our end and then it gets released.
  • Signed development contract with Pressbooks to create an ODT output for Pressbooks. This will mean that you will be able to choose an output from Pressbooks that is Word compatible (our goal to make adaptation by faculty just that much easier by making a format that they may feel more comfortable working in).
  • Project update meeting with the Ministry. I have to say, when I took on this new (temporary) senior role in the fall, the thought of these meetings caused me anxiety. I had no idea what they would be like, or who I would be dealing with, despite Mary’s reassurances. I didn’t sleep the night before my first one. What has actually happened is that something I dreaded so much ahs turned into one of my most enjoyable meetings. I feel very fortunate that we have such wonderful support at the Ministry and are working with a crew of very supportive people. I sleep soundly the nights before our meetings now.
  • Prepping another offering of EdTechOpen workshop with Commonwealth of Learning & Ministry of Education April 17-22.
  • We released 2 new books. Our Criminology book developed by JIBC and SFU, and a very interesting and unique open textbook on First Nations economics that came to us from the Tulo Center.
  • Happy & proud of the recognition the entire open textbook team got this week.
  • Faculty Fellows meeting with Beck Pitt from OER Research Hub to discuss preliminary findings of our faculty research project on open textbooks and open education. Some excellent findings already that will help inform our future direction for the open textbook project, as well as help others.
  • Bit of work on a draft budget for OpenEd 2015 (proposals now open).
  • Invited by Colin to attend a faculty development workshop at TRU in May. Submitted workshop abstract for the session I am doing on OER.
  • Booked travel to Open Education Global conference in Banff next month. Looking forward to connecting with many open educators I have yet to meet IRL.
  • What would the BC Open Textbook project look like in 5 years? I’m writing this now.
  • Reading: How Much Do College Students Actually Pay For Textbooks? and postscript by Phil Hill. Also The Remix Hypothesis by David Wiley. David’s post has really resonated and one I hope that gets further exploration by researchers. The case study I often talk about in presentations  (and one that I suspect helped David formulate the remix hypothesis) is the  Houston Community College example of Carol Layman  where remix appears to have been a contributing factor in improving student outcomes.
  • Picked up a couple tickets to the Women’s World Cup in Vancouver in June. Really looking forward to taking my son to the games. We’ve been to a few internationals (not many roll through our neck of the woods) with a hilight being Canada vs. Mexico at the 2013 Gold Cup in Seattle. Such an awesome memory for both of us.

2013-07-11 19.33.09 2013-07-11 21.35.22


Photos for Class provides safe search and auto-attribute for Flickr images

Came across a site that may be a good one for k12 teachers looking for a way to safely search Flickr for Creative Commons material, and for anyone looking for an easy way to attribute Flickr photos.

Photos for Class is a site that uses a combination of Flickr’s Safe Search filter and a few in house filters and allow you to search Flickr for G rated CC licensed photos. Which is useful in itself, especially if you are in a k12 environment. But the bit that everyone will find useful about Photo for Class is that when you download the photo, the CC attribution is automatically added to the image using the CC recommend TASL (Title, Artist, Source, License) format for correct attributions. Which works great if you are simply wanting to find and use an image without modifying it.

I did a quick search for the phrase totem pole and came up with a number of images.With each image there is an option to download, view on Flickr or report (if an inappropriate image has slipped through the filtering process, there is community moderation). I downloaded the first result and got this photo with the attribution automatically added at the bottom of the photo.


One of the things I hear often from people new to Creative Commons licenses is how to attribute resources. Here is a nice tool that makes it very easy to find and correctly attribute a CC licensed photo on Flickr. There are other tools, like the OpenAttribute browser plugin, the Washington State Open Attribution Builder and Alan Levine’s Flickr specific attribution bookmarklet also available to help make it easier to attribute CC resources correctly.

h/t to Dr. Jo Badge blog post on teaching children about Creative Commons licenses.

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