Yesterday seventeen open education experts came together to begin writing the Open Education Handbook. The handbook is one of the LinkedUp project deliverables, but the dissemination team have chosen to also make it one of the first activities of the soon to be launched Open Education Working Group. The handbook takes the form of an open, living document and it made sense to start the process through a collaborative effort – in the form of a booksprint.
The Book Sprint methodology was started by Adam Hyde at booksprints.net and involves bringing together a group to produce a book in 3-5 days. There is no pre-production and the group is guided by a facilitator from zero to published book. The five main parts of a book sprint (as described by Dr D. Berry and M. Dieter) are concept mapping, structuring, writing, composition and publication.
It was decided to take a less-pressurised and more collaborative approach to writing the Open Education Handbook handbook. We would get the process kick started with a mini-booksprint, which would hopefully give us the initial outline of the book, the final edited version would be written over a longer time period of time (with a final version delivered October next year). The booksprint was held at C4CC in London and open education experts from many different sectors (commercial, academic, government, not-for profit) were invited to attend.
The day began with coffee, biscuits and an opportunity for people to get to know each other and talk about their area of interest in open education. This allowed the team to be split into three focal groups: data, pedagogy and resources. To ensure everyone knew what was expected of they were given an introduction to the LinkedUp project, the Working Group, the handbook and the booksprints in general.
To start stimulating ideas Phil Barker from CETIS delivered an excellent presentation exploring ideas around the different shades of openness and how they apply to education.
Phil’s talk lead nicely into a warm up exercise based on the P2PU spectrogram activity. Participants were asked to write down a controversial statement on a post-it note. A statement was then chosen and participants were asked to stand on an ‘invisible’ line where one end stood for “I agree completely”, the other end stood for “I disagree completely”. They were then asked to discuss why they felt this way with the person next to them in the line. We also had people from opposite ends of the line explain their position. The statements we chose were “higher education is by its very nature elite” and “everything on the web should be free to repurpose and reuse”. Naturally the statements encouraged some vigorous debate, but the exercise also encouraged people to begin the booksprint with an open mind and no preconceived ideas about what the book should be.
As mentioned we began the day by assigning participants to topic groups. These topic groups implied high-level headings for the handbook. Ideally we would have liked to have begun from scratch but this decision was made to ensure that something concrete came out of the day. Particpants were sat at tables in their groups and began brainstorming about their topic area in the context of open education.
They were asked to write one-point post-it notes for ideas on:
- Audience for this topic
- Content (sub headings) for this topic
- Definitions needed
- Points that need to be made
- Questions that need to be answered
- Challenges – what needs to change?
- Opportunities – what can be achieved?
Later on in the morning the groups were asked to start clustering these ideas on the wall and to also try to come up with a couple of sentences to define that area. Prior to the lunch break each group was asked to report back on how they felt the morning had gone and offer their sentences up for others to comment on.
During the brief lunch break participants were asked to walk round the room and look at the other groups clustering. They could add their own post-it notes to the clusters or readjust them if they felt necessary.
Getting down to writing
The afternoon involved group writing. They began by using the clusters they had created on the wall for their topic to create a structure in a Google doc. The structure was then fleshed out with ideas around other resources and projects, web links, and groups of people or individuals working in this area. Participants were also encouraged to think about who could take on sections in the future. If there was time they assigned headings and individually began writing copy for those areas.
The day finished with a feedback session where people commented on what had worked for them and what they’d struggled with. We also talked about the next steps for the handbook. There have been many expressions of interest in contributing to the handbook and we plan to open it up to the wider community in the near future (after a little bit of tidying up). It’s possible that we could also organize a follow up booksprint later on in in the year. There was also some discussion around what software would work best in the future with Booki suggested as one option.
If you are interested in hearing more about the Open Education Handbook or would like to contribute to it then join the Open Education Working Group mailing list for updates.
More images from the day are available on Flickr.