Alexandra Okada, Monday 14 December 2015

Syllabuses in science are not known for being interesting. They are typically shopping lists, itemising every fact and concept. The problem is, with all those items to check off, teachers spend most of the time drilling kids’ heads full of content instead of filling them with enthusiasm. 


The new KS3 Science Syllabus from AQA is different. Jointly developed by the Open University (KMi)’s ENGAGE project for the European Commission, it’s a blueprint for a different kind of science teaching. Students have time to explore real-life controversial issues that affect their lives now, from genetics to climate change.

Our breakthrough design has two special ingredients, which reduce the content teachers need to cover, and show them how to put science in context. First are Big Ideas. Instead of presenting science as a list of facts and concept, our Syllabus sets it out as a set of principles and theories which have changed our view of the universe and ourselves. By reorganising the stuff in the National Curriculum around these 10 big ideas, we slashed the content by a half. Teachers can now see what their students really need to know.

Our second ingredient is a new section in each topic - Apply. Syllabuses usually just define knowledge. Which is strange, because applying what you know to new situations is what we really want students to be able to do. The KS3 Science Syllabus sets out in black and white the ways we want students to be able use their knowledge – including the real-life science students want to learn about.

And this is where ENGAGE fits in - making it easy for teachers to introduce science-in-news issues into the classroom.  So Instead of just studying burning and writing equations, the Syllabus asks students to think about the applications and ENGAGE provides a lesson on the Diesel scandal. Students learn the chemistry by studying a diesel engine and wondering whether it’s a good idea to buy Diesel or not.

4000 UK science teachers already come to ENGAGE when they want to turn a conventional lesson into a provocative dilemma for students to solve. Now that these are on the syllabus, we hope these will become a regular part of students’ diets, and help to make learning science the exciting experience it should be.

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Alexandra Okada, Wednesday 17 June 2015

The Open University hosted the 15th International Conference on Technology Policy and Innovation (ICTPI) on 17-19 June 2015. ICTPI'15 conference brought together leading representatives of academic, business, and government sectors worldwide to present and discuss current and future issues of using science and technology.


The theme of ICTPI 2015 focuses on 'ICT and Science in a Complex World'. This event attracted large audience interested on: Education Futures, Smart Cities, New Economy, Data Security,  Energy and MK: Enterprise Growth. Professor Enrico Motta presented the project MK:Smart including 'MK Data Hub', which supports the acquisition and management of vast amounts of data relevant to city systems from a variety of data sources. Annika Wolff gave a talk on 'Bringing Smart City Data Skills to Schools' as part of MK:smart project.


Ale Okada introduced the project Urban Inquiries, which is based on various international and national projects. It applies pedagogical approaches such as scientific dilemma (ENGAGE), data inquiry (MK: Smart) and inquiry based learning technologies (weSPOT, LiteMap and nQuire-it). Urban inquiries aims to support educators and learners to develop authentic inquiry based projects and promote Responsible Research and Innovation. She also presented the paper developed with Annika Wolff and Alex Mikroyannidis: 'Promoting partnerships among Universities, schools and research centres to foster Responsible Research and Innovation for smart citizenship'.


This pilot research discusses three 'urban inquiries' projects on: Energy Consumption, Electric Cars and Solar panels, which were developed by Stantonbury school. This study indicated evidence on co-inquiry based learning focused on the collaborative construction of scientific questions. It showed how Personal Learning Environments supported young smart learners to develop collective inquiry and share outcomes. Secondary pupils co-authored 3 videos, 3 posters for international conference and 1 conference presentation through 'urban inquiries'.

Urban Inquiries, RRI and Partnerships from Alexandra Okada

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Alexandra Okada, Wednesday 03 December 2014

We are delighted to announce that the second edition of the book Knowledge Cartography: Software Tools and Mapping Techniques has been published this month with five new chapters. The aim of this book is to present how mapping techniques and software tools can be used for learning, teaching and knowledge management.


The readers will find 540 pages with all the maps and images in colour presenting the current state-of-the-art in the field. This pioneer book in the area of Knowledge Cartography includes 22 chapters from 45 leading researchers and renowned practitioners. Learners will find new perspectives and tools to expand their visual thinking repertoire, while researchers will find rich enough conceptual grounding for further scholarship.

The book  presents six chapters about OU research work, four European projects: OpenLearn, Engage, weSPOT and Catalyst and three KMi tools: Compendium, Cohere and Litemap. Dr. Anna de Liddo, co-author and head of the collective intelligence group in KMI, suggests this book to learners, educators, and researchers in all disciplines, as well as policy analysts, scenario planners, knowledge managers, team facilitators and research project coordinators.

Ale Okada, chief editor, highlights that it was a great experience for her to bring together renowned authors, practitioners and learners from across the world in various areas and divserse range of mapping techniques. "Various pioneers in mapping techniques and tools each authored a chapter. The book also includes innovative case studies developed by my students. We are now in the decade of BIG DATA. Knowledge mapping therefore became more relevant as a key skill for this digital age - useful in various fields for visualisation, sensemaking, management and collective intelligence. It is really fruitful to see that this book has been helping lots of new PhD students, educators, research groups and technologists. It has also been  an important reference for various funded research projects”.

The first edition of this book was one of the top most downloaded eBooks in the Springer Collection. We think that the second edition will be popular too.

Current funded projects in KMi, which include mapping techniques: In Education led by Dr. Okada: WeSPOT ENGAGE In Collective Intelligence led by Dr. DeLiddo: Catalyst EDV

The book is also available at the Open University Library soon! Okada, A., Buckingham Shum, S. and Sherborne, T. (2014)  Knowledge Cartography: Software Tools and Mapping Techniques.  London: Springer Verlag.

See more at: http://www.springer.com/computer/hci/book/978-1-4471-6469-2

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