Alysha’s blog on her 2021 internship experience

photo of some books on shelves with lettering over the top saying Property of Everyone: Open Education Resources

Over almost the last three months in this summer of 2021 I’ve had the joy of being an Open Content Curator Intern. This has been an incredible experience for me and I feel really privileged to have any job right now, let alone one that I enjoy so much, with a great team. As I have just graduated from the University of Edinburgh, it has been brilliant to get experience of a job where I can use some of the skills I learnt in my degree, such as communication, particularly explaining complex concepts in an accessible way.

I’ve used communication skills a lot throughout my internship. Whilst editing open educational resources I make sure that complex ideas are explained appropriately for the target age group, but also that teachers, educators or whoever uses the resource can understand the material and concepts too. I have found editing such different resources really fun because of the wide range of topics. I have particularly loved having fun with the more playful aspect of the resources, such as one which used a call for wizards in training to set tasks that taught students different science, language and maths topics. This is a really fun concept that the author of the resource came up with, and I got to enjoy making really playful and whimsical ‘certificate of wizarding’ and a letter from the wizard as well as making the worksheets and PowerPoints suitably magic!

Something that I have found really satisfying is publicising the resources. Once we’ve finished editing and adapting them to be open licensed we then make a page for them on this Open.ed website, we also make a page for the resource on the TES website. As well as making sure any videos are uploaded with the right description and accessibility/permissions to media hopper correctly. Ensuring the cover image of the resource is consistent and all the resource descriptions are correct maybe doesn’t sound exciting, but I find it very satisfying uploading and publishing everything when it is all consistently looking professional and high quality as well as enticing!

One of the main things I have really enjoyed this summer has been working in a small way towards the broad aim of enhancing “the provision of learning opportunities for all” -from the University of Edinburgh’s Open Educational Resources Policy. The ethics behind Edinburgh’s OER policy but also the creation of internships has given me huge motivation to complete work and has also made me really proud when I tell people what I’m doing this summer. This background vision gives a purpose to this summer internship to have a positive impact as part of a larger global movement to create “a world where each and every person on earth can access and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge”. This quote is from the Cape Town Open Education Declaration, which was formed in 2007 and is a global call to democratise knowledge. As well as this motivation I am also always really excited for the authors of the resources we adapt to see their work have a long-term legacy as it is downloaded, reused and adapted by people in the future. These aspects of my internship are really inspiring to me because they allow the work students put into university to be used repeatedly and benefit people regardless of their access to higher education!

As a student in a pandemic I was feeling quite disconnected from the university, but working in a small team within the larger team of the university has restored my faith in higher education as a sector that is committed and is having a positive impact.

Something that I have reflected on a lot this summer is the importance of making resources that are truly inclusive. I read and wrote about intersectional feminism and decolonial feminism in my degree but putting these ethics into practice in the ‘real world’ is the reason I believe these theories are important. For example, using these theories in practice meant making sure the name of the wizard in an open education resource didn’t strongly imply a gender because anyone can be a wizard! Another example is considering the use of artwork in an open educational resource that suggests the colonial imaginary. I have been considering how to denounce the stereotypes they contain, but not ignore the significant legacy of these revered pieces of art. Particularly trying to use the piece of art as a potential learning opportunity to show how decolonisation is absolutely something that has to happen everywhere within an institution and with personal reflection. For example, as a white British woman, it is not my place to say what is offensive or acceptable to everyone! However, even in my low-level work at the university I need to make decisions about how we deal with the legacy of colonialism. This means signposting teachers/educators who access resources with works of art including the colonial imaginary, to the broader issues of the legacy of colonialism and how this impacts on our present stereotypes and societal injustice and inequality. I read and wrote about decolonisation and intersectional feminism a fair amount in my degree and it’s something I’m incredibly passionate about and in order to try to decolonise the University we need to step back in our daily work, not just when we have already decided we can be bothered to consider decolonisation, but always.

I have been really grateful to receive training and experience with how to make our resources and webpages accessible to everyone. Things as simple as putting boxes around test to help some people with Dyslexia have been really valuable in training myself to always consider accessibility as I’m working on a resource, rather than afterwards when someone has an issue, accessibility needs to be pre-emptive.

Something I didn’t have a wealth of knowledge in before my internship is copyright, particularly that copyright isn’t just laws, but actually a set of principles that protect the rights of authors/creators. And that there is something called copyleft, which is about protecting the rights of the works! I have had the privilege of working with Charlie Farley, who is an expert in copyright (among other talents) and has been amazing at explaining best practice and the principles behind it. Before my internship I was confused and a bit scared of copyright law to be honest! However, I now feel empowered by how simple the essential concepts of copyright and sharing knowledge correctly are and I want more people to not feel scared of transgressing laws. As a rudimentary understanding of licencing is not too hard to gain and would have been so useful to me at the start of university!

I have been really grateful to get some experience of social media as this is a skill that will be really useful in my career in the future. Helping run the twitter has been really fun, especially finding quite random open licensed images of fun things from various collections, especially the university’s. A favourite of mine that I’ve found is this open licensed colouring book from Europeana of women in history.

This internship has been both very fun, but also very useful for my future career in giving me a lot of detailed training and a chance to apply and build on skills from my degree. I am really sad that my internship is coming to an end, but I’m very excited for the resources I’ve worked on to go on being used and downloaded and I will be using some resources in the future with my Rainbow GirlGuiding group!

Header image: books  by opensourceway, used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.