CSEDU Day 1, Session 1, “Information Technologies Supporting Learning”, Paper 1. (#csedu14 #AdelED)

The first talk “Overcoming Cultural Distance in Social OER Environments”, presented by Henri Pirkkalainen, who liked the panel apparently but is a big fan of open stuff. He started with a “Finland in 30 Seconds” slide but it had cars and ice hockey rather than Sauna, with a tilt of the hat to PISA educational rankings, metal music, Marimekko. Oh, and Sauna. More seriously, the social environment of FInland comes with an expectation of how social resources will be used. While most people think of Finland as snow, this year it’s very rainy due to … well, you know. Today’s topic is Open Educational Resources and the complications and opportunities of open and on-line environments. Henri is going to look at the barriers that teacher face in adopting these resources. We don’t just share resources, we share practices and these are as important as plain assets. (We see this problem in technological development of classroom, where we confuse putting assets into a room with actually delivering a technology.) There are a large number of open resources, including those with social and collaborative aspects. The work presented today is based on social OER environments such as the Open Discovery Space (ODS). Consider the basic user and usage experience, which is often very teacher-centric and may allow some student customisation. What can teachers do with this? Explore new ideas and practices, look at and share resources, including lessons plans, but there are many different contexts for this. The example given for context was the difference between the Finnish and German instructions for “How to Sauna”. (I note that the Finnish instructions are very authentic: take branch and beer, sauna.) The point is that didacticism varies by culture and examples may not be relevant when transferred from one culture to another, including manipulations of the pedagogy involved that can lead, unexpectedly, to success or failure.

For the objectives and methodology, the investigation take place over 92 workshops and 19 countries, with 2300 participants. The team used a questionnaire with open questions on overcoming challenges in organisational, quality, social and culturally-related OER-barriers. What enablers and interventions could be used to deal with these barriers? In the end, there were 1175 individuals (49% response rate) and this was analysed using factor analysis to construct a summated scale for the cultural distance barrier (for followup work in three years), with a generalised linear model to predict the cultural distance barrier.

The results? Some barriers group together, combining problems with culturally distant believes, lack of trust towards other authors, lack of information on context for digital resources and a desire to contribute primarily to discussions in your native language.

Using this knowledge that cultural differences exist, can we perceive the cultural distance in Social OER environments? Use material created by contextual others, collaborating in foreign languages and dealing with foreign methods and issues. What did the GLM predict? The age and nationality of the participant can predict this barrier – the cultural distance barrier does NOT depend upon the role of the teacher or the learner. (Unsurprisingly, younger people perceive less of a barrier.) So teachers are no more likely to perceive a cultural barrier than the student is. Even where the barriers exist, they aren’t incredibly significant but Buglaria, Croatia and Latvia have more of a problem than most – no idea why. Something that triggered my Spidey sense was that Finland was one of the lowest which (always) makes me wonder about the bias in the questionnaire. (The other low pegger was the Netherlands.)

How can we address this? Let’s use technology to support multi-linguality properly – including the metadata! Let’s make function support sharing and collaborating with the people that you actually want to meet. Localise your interface! Make your metadata rich, versatile and full! Have some good quality mechanisms in place.

There are issues that technology can’t solve – broadening resources to fit context which requires knowledge of the community among other things. There are two more years of these workshops where they can work on finding the reasons behind all of this.