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Teachers using OER: some pedagogical considerations

Didactic perspectives

The OER concept is not new, but is based on the principle that educators should select, from the full range of educational provision, those resources and methods that are most appropriate to the context in which they are providing education. The learning materials produced in the Skillman project, this means that teachers can benefit by considering some didactic perspectives.

A didactic framework for VET teachers and educational planners

The central questions a VET teacher or educational planner must consider, to meet the required learning goals and competences described in the curricula, are outlined here. These can be viewed as six perspectives, described by two Norwegian educational VET researchers, Hiim and Hippe (2003 and 2007).

Six didactic perspectives for teacher's didactic considerations

  • Learning prerequisites. Concerns learner’s and teacher's prior knowledge and experience.
  • Evaluation and assessment. Concerns both formative and summative methods, and requirements that can be referred to learning goals, competences and skills and likewise described in the curricula and other official documents.
  • Planning for learning processes, methods and activities. Concerns teaching methods, videos apps, task-based work etc., considering the relation and flow in the design of the learning process for the participants. 
  • Content. Selection of content in order of presentation.  
  • Learning goals Concerns the teacher's considerations of progression and the development of learning goals that VET students must reach. Naturally these goals should also be linked to the overall curriculum and official documents that describe the competences, skills and attitudes that the student must acquire.
  • Frame factors. Concerns the learning environment. These could be factors such as number of students, time to reach the learning goals etc.

The main point made by the two researchers is that all six perspectives are interrelated. This means that teachers and educational planners should be able to distinguish between the six elements, bearing in mind that change in one aspect affects the other five aspects. 

In the following, we will present some models that can help VET teachers and educational planners transform the curricula developed in Skillman into learning activities linking with and using elements from Skillman’s OER Platform.

Teacher’s choice of media, power and difficulty

When the teacher has considered and described the goals, content, learners and the requirements and activities necessary to achieve the learning goals in the Skillman curricula, it might be useful to specify the media needed to implement the activities and tests.

Each learning object may require a different mix of media. Each medium should be more or less easy to use, and the requirements concerning the teacher’s ability to use it, storage space, tools, network speed and so on varies, as does the difficulty of the media. Likewise it will be found that the power of the media – that is, the ability to communicate facts, explain concepts and trigger emotions – can differ. 

Though all media are possible, the following figure may be useful in considering which media are most appropriate for particular learning activities.


Technology applications that can be used in OER: a brief overview

This short overview provides a quick guide to some of the technology applications which are available to support education and development initiatives and that are helping to stimulate the creation and use of openly licensed, or at least openly available, educational resources.

  • Social network sites. These are web-based services that allow people to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, define a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and view their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The best known of such sites are probably Facebook and MySpace, although many such sites exist. Some also focus on specific dimensions of social networking. For example, social bookmarking sites such as allow people to save bookmarks to websites and tag them with keywords, generating community-driven, keyword-based classifications known as ‘folksonomies’. Likewise, photo-sharing websites such as Flickr allow people to upload, tag, browse and annotate digital photographs, as well as participate in self-organizing topical groups. While social networking sites have massive potential for influencing the ways in which we organize and find information and how we interact with people, it is important to note that the for-profit sector is selling itself as the provider of choice for these Web 2.0 collaboration capabilities, predominantly in an effort to create new platforms to fund consumers and sell advertising.
  • Blogging. Blogging is remarkable for the speed at which it has grown as an online communication vehicle. ‘Blog’ is an abbreviated version of ‘weblog’, a term used to describe websites that maintain an on-going chronicle of information. A blog is a frequently updated, personal website featuring diary-type commentary and links to articles or other websites (and, in the case of video-blogging, video). Given the personal perspectives presented on blogs, they often generate ongoing discourse and a strong sense of community. Blogs provide diverse, alternative sources of information for higher education, as well as supplying tools that can be used by academics and students for a wide range of educational purpose
  • Wikis. A wiki enables documents to be written collaboratively in a simple mark-up language using a web browser. A defining characteristic of wiki technology is the ease with which pages can be created and updated. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for mass collaborative authoring. The most famous example is Wikipedia, an online phenomenon that has played a massive role in challenging notions of what constitute ‘expertise’ and reliability of information. Wikis are already extensively used in many higher education programmes for educational purposes and are one of the authoring tools being used to generate ‘open’ content (see below).
  • RSS. Real Simple Syndication (RSS) is a protocol that allows users to subscribe to online content by creating lists of preferred sources of information in a ‘reader’ or ‘aggregator’ that automatically retrieves content updates, saving the user’s time and effort. RSS feeds can be very helpful in managing information and undertaking ongoing research.
  • Podcasting. This refers to any combination of hardware, software and connectivity that permits automatic download of (usually free) audio and video files to a computer, smart phone or MP3/MP4 player to be listened to or watched at the user’s convenience. This is typically done by subscribing to an RSS feed linked to the specific podcast, so that when new editions of a podcast are made available, they are automatically downloaded by podcasting software. Podcasting has made available a very broad spectrum of educationally useful audio and video material, including radio programmes from around the world, lectures, conference speeches and custom-produced podcasts created by enthusiasts. Growing numbers of universities and academics are making lectures available as podcast series, which are usually freely available to anyone around the world with Internet access.
  • Virtual worlds. These are immersive online environments whose ‘residents’ are avatars representing individuals who participate via the Internet. Some, such as the very popular World of Warcraft, are explicitly focused on gaming and entertainment. However, possibly the best known of these from an educational perspective is Second Life, a fully three-dimensional world where users with many varying interests interact, but within which many universities and businesses are now constructing virtual campuses for their students.
  • Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). VOIP is a protocol optimized for the transmission of voice through the Internet or other packet-switched networks. VOIP is often used abstractly to refer to the actual transmission of voice, rather than the protocol implementing it. VOIP facilitates applications such as Skype, which allow users to make free telephone calls between computers.
  • Instant messaging (IM). IM is a form of online communication that allows real-time interaction through computers or mobile devices. It is often bundled into applications such as Skype and social networking sites, so that it can be used seamlessly while within those applications. It has become such an integral part of students’ lives that many universities are working to move IM beyond the social sphere into teaching and learning.
  • Online applications. These are web-based programmes that run in web browsers and typically replicate the functionality currently available on desktop-based applications. A good example is Google Apps, which provides access to office productivity, communication and file storage tools. Another, more specialized example is Lulu, which offers online access to the tools one needs to design, publish and print original material, facilitating inexpensive production of publications. The online nature of such tools is also intended to facilitate collaboration, peer review and the collective generation of knowledge.

Wielding the application

By drawing on the potential of the above technologies, several new possibilities are emerging that can be useful for teachers using OER.

Mashups are web applications that combine data from more than one source into a single integrated tool. The power of mashups for education lies in the way they help us reach new conclusions or discern new relationships by uniting large amounts of data in a manageable way. Web-based tools for manipulating data are easy to use, usually free, and widely available. Mashups include:

  • Digital storytelling, which involves combining narrative with digital content to create a short movie or presentation.
  • Data visualization, which is the graphical representation of information to find hidden trends and correlations that can lead to important discoveries.
  • Open journaling, which manages the process of publishing peer-reviewed journals online, allowing authors to track submissions through the review process, and creating a sense of openness and transparency unusual in traditional, peer-reviewed publications.
  • Google jockeying, which involves a participant in a class surfing the Internet during the class for terms, ideas, websites or resources mentioned by the presenter. These searches are then displayed simultaneously with the presentation.
  • Virtual meetings, which are real-time meetings taking place over the Internet using integrated audio and video, chat tools and application sharing.
  • Grid computing, which uses middleware to coordinate disparate IT resources across a network, allowing them to function as a virtual whole and providing remote access to IT assets and aggregating processing power.

Last modified: Tuesday, 13 February 2018, 4:32 PM