Access to E-Learning 3.0 and the Distributed Web

Stephen Downes has once again written an excellent summary for the work we did last week on open educational resources.

He has tweeted:
Downes  @Downes

Friday’s #el30 newsletter is now available.… If you are at all interested in the future of open educational resources, please do take the time to read the feature article.

I would support this. Here is the direct link to the feature article.

Feature Article E-Learning 3.0, Part 5 – Resources, Nov 25, 2018.

The task for this week was to create a content addressed resource. Although I found the Resources topic interesting, I failed to complete the task and discussed this in my last post. But, as I noted in the post, some of the course participants (those with more technical skills than me) have completed the task and found it quite straightforward.

Stephen himself completed the task declaring on Twitter:
Downes  @Downes

I hereby declare dat://502bdf152d00a35f9785f78d107b9037b5eca9354bcf593e7b4995f9be97a614/ (the NRC vision statement, illustrated by me) to be the first Content Addressable Resource for Education (CARE) #el30 @nrc

The irony of this has not escaped my notice. Since I did not have the skills to install the Interplanetary File System or Beaker Browser, I am not able to access or see this first Content Addressable Resource for Education (CARE) – or experience this example of the distributed web in action. Effectively, this open resource is closed to me.

This has made me think about how the distributed web will be introduced to the population at large. Presumably there will be a period of time when access will not be equal, and open will actually mean closed for a proportion of the population.

Before Stephen declared the NRC vision statement to be the first Content Addressable Resource for Education, I noticed that he asked, on Twitter, whether anyone could check it for him. Matthias Melcher responded.


Anyone out there using Beaker Browser, could you test and see whether my first ‘Content Addressable Resource for Education’ (CARE) for #el30 is accessible? (Working form home with Bell’s tiny upload pipe) dat://502bdf152d00a35f9785f78d107b9037b5eca9354bcf593e7b4995f9be97a614/

Matthias Melcher @x28de
Replying to @Downes

Yes, I see a welcome and 6 slides.

Downes  @Downes

Perfect, that’s what you should see (as well as another six slides in french from the welcome page)

I am now wondering what I am missing by not seeing these six slides. It has reminded me that when I was teaching in HE, in one of my classes there was a visually impaired student. In order for this student to follow the class we were required to make special provision for her, e.g. provide handouts and copies of all slides and notes we distributed in extra large font.

It has occurred to me that the move to E-Learning 3.0 may need to make similar provision for those who do not have the technical skills to access the distributed web, i.e. alternative provision is made at least as a temporary measure.

Update 27-11-18

With a bit of gentle pushing from Stephen, I have now succeeded installing Beaker Browser (it really was quite straight-forward when I overcame the mental block). I have also viewed Stephen’s slides, and created my own site (see comment to Stephen below). I would need to know more html to get much further! Is a good knowledge of html considered an essential digital literacy?

Source of image 

Failing to Create a Content Addressed Resource for the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC

Montaigne’s opening words in his essay ‘Of Books’, seem so apposite to my experience of trying to engage with the task of creating a content-addressed resource for this week’s E-Learning 3.0 course. I quote them here to serve as a disclaimer for all that is to follow 🙂

This is how the task was presented by Stephen Downes.

Create a Content-Addressed Resource
Create a resource (for example, a web page) using IPFSBeaker BrowserFritter, or any other distributed web application (see some of the examples here). Provide a link to the resource using any method you wish.

To help prepare for this task, watch the video ‘From Repositories to the Distributed Web’ as well as these videos on IPFS and Beaker: installing IPFSmaking a website with IPFSinstalling Beaker. Due: Nov 23, 2018

Having just read it again, I see that I have already missed the due date, which is perhaps just as well, but was unavoidable since I have been away this week on another completely unrelated course.

I have watched the videos Stephen has created to support this week’s content and task. I am sure I heard him say something to the effect that we shouldn’t worry about not being able to understand all the technology, just aim to get the gist. Did I dream this?  Imagine my surprise to find that this task clearly requires more than just having got the gist! I hope I have shown that I have understood the gist of what this is all about in my previous post about distributed open educational resources on Web 3.0.

Despite this surprise, I thought I would give it a go, but here is a further quote from Montaigne’s essay, Of Books, which explains exactly where I am coming from.

So here is ‘my method’.

When I saw that at least three other participants had already quickly completed this task, and that Stephen had created videos showing us exactly how to do this, I thought what can be so difficult? I will just do exactly as he says.

On watching Stephen’s video, How to Install IPFS on Windows, I quickly realised that since I work on a Mac this video was of little help to me.

No matter. I had already seen that David Maloney also works on a Mac, so I went to his post and thought I would try and imitate what he had done.  Here, it didn’t take me long to see that David has skills and understanding that I don’t. In his post he writes:

The first task I set about was downloading and installing the go-ipfs distribution implementation of the Inter-Planetary File System (IPFS).

I unzipped/extracted the go-ipfs download into my home directory (davidmoloney$ in my case). It isn’t as easy as double-clicking on the .exe file in the directory and following an installation wizard I’m afraid! You are the installation wizard! 

I now have the go-ipfs downloaded, but I am no wizard. He lost me on his following instructions which for me went ‘under the hood’ more than I know how to go.

No matter. I thought there must be a video on Youtube for Mac users who need a ‘dummies’ guide. After a search I found one – IPFS – Getting Started.   I thought I’d cracked it until about 5 minutes in, when all of a sudden the creator of this video began to talk a foreign language, i.e. technical language I didn’t understand.

I found solace in Montaigne again.

Montaigne 4

So at this point I recognised that I had reached the point Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams recognises, where it was ‘too difficult to get my head round’ all this and gave up on the task. I have understood the gist of what this is all about, and I can see the importance of developing a distributed web with distributed open educational resources, but I think I will follow Montaigne’s advice when meeting these types of difficulties and ‘give them over’. Hopefully sometime in the future it will all become much more user friendly and relevant to web users like me who are unlikely to ever want to get ‘under the hood’.

For those who do want to have a go at creating a content addressed resource – here are some posts from other participants, describing how they went about it.

Kevin Hodgson –

Matthias Melcher –

Davey Maloney –

Frank Polster –

Laura Ritchie –

Roland Legrand –

Lou –

And here are the videos which have been provided by Stephen Downes to support this task.

How to Install IPFS on Windows
Nov 22, 2018 video
This video demonstrates how to download and install IPFS on windows using PowerShell. For the Resources Module of the E-Learning 3.0 course.

How to Add a Website to IPFS
Nov 22, 2018 video
This video shows how I used my previously-installed IPFS node to upload a website to IPFS. It also explores the IPFS Companion plugin a bit more and shows how now everything is working perfectly just yet.

Installing Beaker Browser and Creating a Page on the Decentralized Web
Nov 22, 2018 video
In this video I install the Beaker Browser, a browser that accesses the decentralized web using the dweb:// protocol. After installing and exploring a bit we create our own site on the dweb using the Beaker browser.

Sharing Dweb Content with Dat
Nov 22, 2018 video
In this video I work with Dat, a node application that creates a Dweb node and shares files, websites and data across the distributed web. A bit long, not everything works, but a way to watch the process in action. This video is an hour and 24 minutes – I could have made it a lot shorter but I wanted to show the thinking process as I worked with this.

Open Educational Resources and the Distributed Web

In this video, posted for the fifth week of the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC, Stephen Downes makes the case for open education. He claims that open education can change the world and is a kind of social literacy that can transform society, connect us across the globe, and enable each of us to believe we have the capacity to become an important person in society. Being open in such a society means being accepting of other people and being willing to share. It is about being in a conversation in a community.

Open educational resources in such a society are like the words in this conversation. We are forced to think about the words that are used; they can either block us or liberate us. Creating open educational resources is more than giving the resources we have created away for free. It also helps us to develop ourselves.

Of course there are challenges for education in taking this approach, in which it is expected that we will embrace the idea of open sharing of our resources and ourselves, and there have been, as you would expect, mistakes and failures. A criticism could be that it has made the rich richer and the poor poorer, but, as Stephen pointed out, the benefits to the poor can still be identified and it can make the poor richer more quickly. Another criticism that is often levelled at open education is that it has a colonising effect, propagating the voice of Western society, but Stephen also pointed out that if you create your own open educational resources, you can promote your own culture. Open online education, using open educational resources, can reach those who can’t access education in any other way. This is the promise of open education and open educational resources.

To date, open educational resources have been thought of as content (a product) which are stored on the web, often with creative commons licenses which may allow for free re-use and adaptation. But these resources have become increasingly locked down in content silos and behind paywalls. The distributed web, Web 3.0, is a kick-back against this. On the distributed web, new file-sharing systems, such as the Interplanetary File System (IPFS), do not rely on internet addresses to locate content. Instead they ‘use the hash of the data or content as an address, enabling the data to be distributed across the cloud’,  thus creating a content addressable resource. In the traditional model the server is in the middle (see image below), but in this new model, a network of servers is geographically distributed, meaning that when you click on a website you will get content from the local server;  it will be accessible from the nearest convenient source.

Source: via From Repository to the Distributed Web 

Gradually, but definitely, we are moving towards a distributed web. But I suspect we are some way off fully realising the dream of the distributed web.  Cheryl Hodgkinson -Williams and Sukaina Walji, both from the University of Capetown, were Stephen’s guests this week.

Cheryl and Sukaina had their feet firmly on the ground as to what can realistically be achieved in the creation and sharing of OERs and the development of open educational practices at the present time. In conversation with Stephen they explored the topics of open educational resources and open practices, considered some of the challenges around re-use of OERs, and discussed the potential of new resource networks (like the distributed web) to address those challenges.

This was an interesting discussion. Cheryl and Sukaina shared information about the research project they have been working on, together with groups from across the global south, in which they have been investigating how OERs are being developed, shared and used, and also exploring new methods for distributing OERs using the distributed web. I appreciated their focus on process rather than product, i.e. on the practices surrounding the creation of OERS and the constraints associated with these practices. They were well aware of the differences between the ideological intent related to the creation of OERs and the practical steps needed to ensure an ethical approach. As Cheryl said they have to be pragmatic despite their intention to openly share their practice, process and product.

I also appreciated their recognition that many people, whilst able to create a resource, do not have the digital literacy skills to apply a CC license or upload the resource to a site or repository, nor the confidence to openly share their resource with the whole world. Cheryl asked, ‘At what point is something too difficult to get your head round?’ and went on to say that we need a really easy interface, that is more user-friendly. Technology needs to be an enabler. Technology on its own will not enable change.

These are important considerations in the further development of the distributed web. It is easy to see that something needs to be done to counter the tyranny of the centralized web and that the distributed web seems to be the way to go. As with all such developments, it will take time for these developments to become sufficiently user-friendly to be accessible to the average internet user.

Resources (provided by Stephen Downes for the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC)

Feature article on The Future of OER by Stephen Downes 

The Learning Portal OER Toolkit
College Libraries Ontario, 2018/11/19
Have you heard about Open Educational Resources (OER) and want to know more? This module presents an overview of what they are, why they matter to post-secondary education, and how to get started on your OER journey.

OER World Map
A couple years or so ago UNESCO launched an OER mapping project. It has now come to fruition. “Using local knowledge to describe the OER ecosystem, the OER World Map will visualize the world of OER and support a range of widgets and tools, including powerful statistical analysis.” Here’s the OER World Map blog.

Models for Sustainable Open Educational Resources 
Stephen Downes, OECD, 2018/11/19
It “seems clear that the sustainability of OERs – in a fashion that renders then at once both affordable and usable – requires that we think of OERs as only part of a larger picture, one that includes volunteers and incentives, community and partnerships, co-production and sharing, distributed management and control.

Dimensions of open research: critical reflections on openness in the ROER4D project
Thomas William King, Cheryl-Ann Hodgkinson-Williams, Michelle Willmers, Sukaina Walji, Open Praxis, 2018/11/21
Using the Research on Open Educational Resources for Development (ROER4D) project as an example, this paper attempts to demonstrate the interrelation between ideological, legal, technical and operational openness; the resources that conducting Open Research requires; and the benefits of an iterative, strategic approach to one’s own Open Research practice

Introducing the Dweb
Dietrich Ayala, Mozilla, 2018/11/20
What’s the “D” in Dweb?! The “d” in “dweb” usually stands for either decentralized or distributed. A few examples of decentralized or distributed projects that became household names are Napster, BitTorrent and Bitcoin. Some of these new dweb projects are decentralizing identity and social networking. Some are building distributed services in or on top of the existing centralized web, and others are distributed application protocols or platforms.

Beaker brings peer-to-peer publishing to the Web, turning the browser into a supercharged tool for sharing websites, files, apps, and more. Beaker adds support for a peer-to-peer protocol called Dat. It’s the Web you know and love, but instead of HTTP, websites and files are transported with Dat.

Inter Planetary File System
IPFS is the Distributed Web, a peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol to make the web faster, safer, and more open. Each file and all of the blocks within it are given a unique fingerprint called a cryptographic hash. When looking up files, you’re asking the network to find nodes storing the content behind a unique hash. Every file can be found by human-readable names using a decentralized naming system called IPNS.

A Social Justice Framework for Understanding Open Educational Resources and Practices in the Global South
Cheryl Ann Hodgkinson-Williams, Henry Trotter, Journal of Learning for Development, 2018/11/22
In this paper, we endeavour to move beyond social change and social inclusion to develop a framework to make apparent the relationship between social justice and the adoption of OER and OEP. Drawing on examples from the ROER4D project, we propose a slightly adapted version of Fraser’s (2005) social justice framework as a way to map how and under what circumstances the adoption of OER and OEP by students and/or educators may counter economic inequalities, cultural inequities and political exclusions in education.

Try Dat
Dat Project, 2018/11/22
This is try-dat, a tutorial that teaches you how to work with datasets using dat. In this tutorial you will play around with data versioning and syncing workflows, and play with some awesome tools to publish or share data over the peer-to-peer web.

A bit more about Dat… Core pieces of the web shape how we communicate and organize. However, these pieces are increasingly controlled by large monopolies. In building Dat, we envision a future of community-driven tools backed by nonprofit organizations.