Week 5: Resources – introduction and reflections #Resources #EL30

Introduction to Week 5: Resources

This post is part of my reflections on week 5 topic, Resources #resources, on Stephen Downes’ E-Learning 3.0 MOOC #el30.

The first thing that I thought when I saw the word “Resources” on week 5 was that since I was familiar with this topic, I would be able to catch up. But pretty soon I discovered I was wrong. Yes, this week covers familiar topics: OER (Open Educational Resources) and OEP (Open educational Practices). But it goes beyond that. It not only also stresses their capacity to transform the world, but it present them within the context of the evolution of the web, from centralized to decentralized, and then to distributed web.

And within the distributed web, it highlights the concept of distributed applications (dApps), and more importantly, the use of content-addressable networks, where the hash of the data or content is used as an address.

And from there, it introduces the Content Addressable Resources for Education (CARE).

In summary, my prior knowledge of this subject was, in fact, very limited. And I ended up discovering a whole new “dimension” of the Internet!

Synopsis and videos

Week 5: Resources. The week started with a course synopsis and a live conversation with Sukaina Walji and Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams about the ROER4D project (Research on Open Educational Resources for Development). A recorded version of the conversation is here, and more information about the project is here).

I found this topic fascinating, and spent sometime thinking about it. Specially after watching From Repository to the Distributed Web. I thought this was an amazing presentation and very clear. In this video Stephen Downes gives a thorough explanation of (1) CDNs (Content Delivery Network), (2) P2P (peer to peer), (3) Dweb Project, and introduces the (4) Beaker browser. He also explains very clearly the (5) Interplanetary File system (IPFS), as the underlaying layer for all the content addressable hash-based resources; and the (6) Intern-Planetary Linked Data (IPLD), that links dWeb and IPFL with other distributed content-based networks. I began to discover a new dimension of the web 3.0, and felt the necessity of developing a new mindset to adapt to new emerging technologies and practices. I have some notes from the video that I will try to publish on a later date.

Another topic introduced were the Content Addressable Resources for Education: CARE. The idea is that these resources, whether courses, videos, programs, etc. “will be package and distributed across content-addressable network”, where “they become permanently open” (Downes). The hash guarantees their immutability.

The live conversation with Sukaina Walji and Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams touched on some of the most critical issues in the open movement. For example:

  • Sometimes “open” is not the ethical thing to do (for example, the first stages of writing a research paper); and sometimes when wanting to be “open” there is a gap between intent (ideological) and pragmatism (what is possible to do).
  • The OER cycle is: creation, use, re-use, adaptation. However, some digital skills are needed to be successful, lacking those skills will limit what you can do.
  • The need for quality assurance.
  • Re-use and the adaptation are limited. Sometimes there is more copying than adaptation. And that copying is not of the content, but of the structure.
  • Teachers and lecturers reported that the creation, selection and adaption of resources is time consuming. Some sort of recognition may be needed to reinforce and acknowledge the effort and commitment of teachers and practitioners.
  • The use of repositories is not straight forward. Sometimes they are difficult to use.
  • The need for meta level organization. OERs might be shared, but it might not be clear where each resource fit, and how they could be use together.

What did I take from this week?

This week I have been thinking about the widely unknown complexity of the web (pretty much unknown first hand to me until last week!). This “alternative” distributed web with its Content Addressable resources opens a whole new word for learning. However, I also consider the implications of this approach and its limitations. The main ones to me, a high level of digital skills is required, the system and applications are not user friendly and easy to use (at least yet), and it is not clear how it guarantees security (privacy, no data breaches, etc.).

On the subject of OER, I can see how CARE and CARENET could address some of the issues. It could help with the meta level organization and classification of resources (metadata, where and how the resource is used). Nevertheless, it seems to me that some of the other issues are more related with 1 the user’s digital skills, not only for the creation, re-use, adaptation, mixing, etc., but also to finding and storing them.

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