Public administrators interested in implementing an open education policy now have a practical guide to the subject. “How to Implement a Policy of Open Education and Educational Resources” by Priscila Gonsales, Débora Sebriam and Pedro Markun was released at the end of October by the Cereja Editora publishing house. The book is part of the strategy of the Open Education Initiative (IEA) in partnership with the UNESCO Chair in Open Education at the Nucleus of Informatics Applied to Education (NIED) of the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp) to increase the amount of information available on the subject.
“Open Education is considered a historical movement that today combines the tradition of sharing good ideas between educators through the digital culture of collaboration and interactivity. It promotes the freedom to use, change, combine and redistribute educational resources, prioritizing open technologies. The concept also involves principles related to open pedagogical practices, with a focus on inclusion, accessibility, equity and ubiquity,” explains Priscila in the introduction to the guide, which received institutional support and funding from the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br).
When adopting open education it is important to use open licenses, such as Creative Commons, “which represent a social solution to the new practices that have emerged through the expansion of the Internet,” says Priscila, who is the executive director of the Instituto Educadigital, which since 2011 has helped with the drafting of legislative proposals in Brazil’s legislature and executive bodies, provided training activities for educators and administrators, prepared guidance material and organized meetings on the subject.
Open Educational Resources can be, for example, books, lesson plans, software, games, school work, manuals or videos. “The term Open Educational Resources was launched at a UNESCO Forum in 2002 to designate teaching, learning and research materials made available on any media that were public domain or openly licensed, and thereby enabled use or adaptation by third parties,” explains the guide.
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Aimed at public system administrators interested in implementing open education policies, the guide can also be used by the third sector and by companies interested in transparency and social participation. Divided into five chapters, it provides an overview of current digital society, including challenges and opportunities in education; talks about the concept and history of the “open” movement, the free culture and its growth in educational practices and resources, and comments on public policies in Brazil and around the world.
It also provides guidance on the implementation of open education policies based on pedagogical, technical and legal aspects and follows three stages: planning, implementation and evolution. Finally, it lists the main challenges faced by administrators today.
“It’s an important theme and one which is complex and sometimes easily confused with ‘gratuity’. It was important to bring together basic and in-depth information in one document, with examples and successful situations that have already taken place in Brazil. Our aim is to provoke reflection and experimentation. We’ve just got back from the 2nd UNESCO OER World Congress in Slovenia and were delighted to see how our guidebook aligns with the Ljubljana OER Action Plan which emerged from that event, and invites governments to take part in the program,” says Priscila.
The publication lists ten benefits of open educational practices and resources. These include the promotion of freedom and creativity in production; the recognition of educators and students as authors; ensuring the best use of public investment; the possibility of sharing learning resources among institutions, academics and the practical community; facilitating universal access to knowledge and encouraging practices of collaboration, participation and sharing.
“When adopting an OER policy, administrators contribute to everyone having access to the content acquired and generated by the City Council or State and guarantee the most efficient use of public money. Instead of allocating significant funds exclusively for the restricted use of purchased educational material, the same value can be based on expanded possibilities of use, promotion of the production of new content (through the updating of skills and training) and incentivizing continuous teacher training in which the production of educational materials is a constant,” says the publication.
Another crucial point is stimulating content production. “Encouraging educators and learners to see themselves as potential producers of information, knowledge and culture makes a real difference. The culture of sharing is an important challenge highlighted by the internet and is what OER within Open Education is all about. Today we don’t need physical support to share our productions and in theory everything is easier with the web and social networks,” says Priscilla.
One of the main difficulties faced by Brazil and other countries when implementing a policy of open education is the lack of knowledge of the reason behind and the possibilities of open licensing. “Brazilian education, for example, is a long way from the debate on the reform of the Copyright Law. Such reform exists, but education has limited dialogue with it. It does not consider itself part of the discussion, which is a huge mistake. Just to give you an idea, EU countries have a petition/manifesto for the reform of copyright, asking for flexibility for educational uses in an equal manner in all member countries,” says Priscilla, who identifies Poland as the most advanced country in the world in this area.
Another problem in Brazil is that, compared to the USA and Europe, there are no investments, research funding offers or incentives for production and training in Open Educational Resources. “Such things are common over there, whereas we don’t have them at all here,” says Priscilla. Soon, the Institute plans to launch a platform that suggests digital resources with open licenses, known as the REIiA. For now, it is carrying out a collective financing campaign to raise funds for the project.
Open education in Brazil
One initiative that is already using Open Education Resources is the Educapes Portal, which offers several types of media, such as digital classes, audio material, videos, games, maps, images and other content. Searching for teaching materials can be filtered by subject, author, date and title. “It’s a very important system. It’s different from other countries. It is quite comprehensive, and serves every state and university,” explains Tel Amiel, coordinator of the UNESCO Chair in Open Education of NIED at Unicamp.
Inaugurated in 2014, the chair is a partnership between the university and the UN institution focusing on education to increase interest in open education and Open Educational Resources through the development of research projects, software, training materials and support for interested organizations and groups. Part of a group from several countries, such as New Zealand, Canada, and Tunisia, its main focus is basic education and teacher training.
According to Tel, another Brazilian portal that will soon be launched is that of the Basic Education Department of the Ministry of Education (MEC). The site will provide all open license material for the use of educators in the public network. It will also encourage partners and teachers to distribute their productions there. “It’s another concrete step forward,” says Tel.
In addition, the tendering process for the 2019 National Textbook Program (PNLD), launched this year, includes open licenses for supplementary teacher material. “It’s a small step, but it shows that there is a change of thinking. We hope that at some point all material will be open,” says Tel. The use of Open Educational Resources is also included in important documents such as the National Education Plan (PNE) and the resolution of the National Education Council (CNE) which talks about prioritizing OER in higher education through distance learning.
“There are normative documents that show how important this is for Brazil. Even if it isn’t obvious yet, interest is already strong. In MEC discussions involving departments and other official organs, they are becoming familiar with the concept, and can see the benefits and how to break down barriers. We need to raise awareness first. People don’t know how it works or understand it. Even the lawyers say it’s complicated. We are doing a lot of awareness raising so we can understand how it works within the MEC. We’ve made progress, concrete steps, but we are a long way from having a national policy and incentives,” says Tel.
One example of the use of open education is in the public education system in Bahia. The State Education Department maintains a multidisciplinary pedagogical internet space called the Educational Web Environment, which brings together digital content, TV programs, a channel for high school classes, a blog written by teachers, links to themed sites such as those on genders and sexualities and environmental education and a section that supports production and collaboration. All content is licensed by Creative Commons.
Through the Anísio Teixeira Network, whose platform will replace the Educational Web Environment as of the end of this month, the Department provides free media and educational technologies to the school community. From 2011 to August 2017, 3,578 people, including teachers, students, administrators, technicians, trainers and multiplier agents have taken part in the project’s training program, through courses such as educational video production, technological appropriations in teaching and learning and many others. In the same period, 2,472 media and free educational technologies were produced and 6,506 Open Educational Resources were made available in formats such as video, audio, animation and didactic sequences. The educational environment has already had more than four million views.
“We believe that the innovative nature of technologies in the educational context is not restricted to the latest generation of equipment and programs. The innovation proposed by the Anísio Teixeira Network covers the human relationships that surround the use of these production devices and the diffusion of knowledge, stimulating methodological strategies that value the potential and the authorship of the school community, who respect and learn from the diversity of their experiences. These strategies guarantee access, freedom of expression, autonomy and privacy. They stimulate the use of free software and Open Educational Resources and allow users to work collectively and share knowledge and create links and promote transformations in people’s lives. Appropriating the technologies in this sense can represent an act of political, social, historical and cultural affirmation by the school community. The challenges faced by public schools are huge and we know that we still have a long way to go if we are to construct a quality education system for our young people,” says Yuri Wanderley, the general coordinator of the Anísio Teixeira Network.
The city of São Paulo is another example in this area. It was the first to implement specific legislation on Open Educational Resources. The São Paulo Municipal Education Secretary, Alexandre Schneider, has written one of the guide’s prefaces. “Still in force, Decree No. 52,681, dated September 26, 2011, establishes the practice of the collaborative production of materials that already existed in the municipal education network, contributing to consolidate this experience as a public policy,” says the secretary in the book. The regulation defining the use of the materials can be found on the Municipal Education Department site.
According to Schneider, initiatives to transform schools into digital spaces, such as insertion in the digital literacy curriculum, with the teaching of programming languages and logic, the influence of maker culture and creative learning in school digital labs, as well as making data openly available and encouraging technological and collaborative innovation in educational management, are under development.
“OER are presuppositions of this whole process. In cooperation with universities, all our research will be developed and published as OER. All the software developed will have open and free codes and licenses, so that other public bodies and entities can reuse them, as well as making the data open,” says the Secretary in the preface to the guide.
* Translated by James Young