CONNECT UK-Brazil Knowledge Exchange Seminar on Open Schooling with fun participatory approaches

The International Knowledge Exchange Seminar on Open Schooling UK-BR was organised by Dr. Okada , scientific coordinator of  CONNECT and member of Rumpus Research group.

CONNECT – inclusive open schooling with engaging future-oriented science is funded by the European Union and by two Brazilian Universities.

This event was held in Milton Keynes on the 22nd of March 2022. The seminar brought together 30 experts in the field to discuss open education, participatory design, emerging technologies as well equity, diversity and inclusion. Its aim was  to  provide a forum for academics and non-academics (from enterprises) to present their work in a straightforward format, on issues that are relevant to open schooling.

To make it more inclusive the event at Berrill Theather was in Portuguese Language, livestream, recorded and shared.

The OU speakers were Alexandra Okada (WELS) who opened the event and presented open schooling in Europe, Roberta Davies (EDI) talked about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Lara Piccolo (STEM-KMi) discussed about participatory design of a chatbot with children.  In addition, the OU research fellow visitor Prof. Alexandre Marino Costa presented his research that started with Dr. Okada about Augmented Reality in Brazil – project funded now by the Brazil Government using open schooling. Various examples were discussed to enhance innovation ecosystems with open schooling for tackling the societal challenges of our world. The Bett-Brazil speakers were from various enterprises including Lenovo, Samsung, Kroton Education,EduInfo, Fore Education, Bedu Tech; universities: FATEC, UFSC, Jundiai, Maua, and schools: Lourenco Castanho, Language School, Marista,… and policy makers from UNDIME – a large Union of Municipalities in Education.

The poster session enabled participants to obtain and discuss information about open schooling and research developed during the 1st year of the project  CONNECT.

The Open schooling CONNECT network engaged a full range of R&I stakeholders: researchers and research organisations, policy makers at national and regional level, business and industry representatives, science education members, and civil society organisations of Brazil. It encouraged discussion, fostered improved understanding and  enabled opportunities for more in-depth engagement with the UNESCO Agenda 2030, the EU Green Deal and The NEW-GREEN DEAL of BRAZIL.

During this event, the CONNECT policy report was launched. Three workshops were organised.

Various relevant questions and opportunities for partnerships were discussed: What does “open schooling means” for our organisations? What are the key principles of Equity – Diversity and Inclusion to support open schooling for all? What are the initiatives that bring together education, enterprise and society? What are the examples of participatory design that engages students, teachers, families and researchers to produce innovation to address students’ real-life problems? What are the best practices of open schooling with emerging technologies, for example, augmented reality?

After the workshops, all participants presented their practices and initiatives.

The evaluation of this Knowledge Exchange event was very significant with three key outcomes:
1. Business benefiting from project experience and ideas shared by speakers
2. New curricula including open educational resources and tools shared by participants
3. Networks developed enabling new collaborative projects and partnerships

As an example, the event enabled the cooperation between the OU-UK Rumpus with Policymakers – The Secretary of Education in Sao Paulo – Brasil Government leader of UNDIME-SP to develop together a case study  about the open schooling “protecting the largest urban forest in the world” which is located in Brazil .  This CONNECT event  brought  key findings to the attention of key participants and decision-makers, in education, academia, industry and policy. And it will be now expanded to the wider public sector and others in the next event of BETT Brazil in May 10th , which Alexandra Okada is a keynote with Marcia Bernardes the head of UNDIME, including Silvar Ribeiro the coordinator of Social Innovation Research in Bahia UNEB   who will be talking about Environmental protection in the  semi-arid  region of Brazil ,  and Thais Castro leader of technology for inclusion in UFAM who will talk about  citizen science initiative to understand issues of Amazon – the largest tropical forest in the world.



SEE our Policy report


O Seminário Internacional sobre Open Schooling UK-BR foi organizado pelo projeto CONNECT time da The Open University financiado pela Comissão Europeia, apoiado pela BETT Brasil e grupo de Pesquisa Rumpus. Este evento foi realizado em Milton Keynes no dia 22 de março de 2022. O seminário reuniu 30 especialistas na área para discutir educação aberta, tecnologias emergentes, design participativo, bem como equidade, diversidade e inclusão.

Vários exemplos foram compartilhados para aprimorar os ecossistemas de inovação com escolarização aberta para enfrentar os desafios sociais do nosso mundo. A rede Open schooling CONNECT envolveu uma diversidade de organizações interessadas em I&I: investigadores e organizações de investigação, decisores políticos a nível nacional e regional, representantes de empresas e da indústria, membros da educação científica e organizações da sociedade civil do Brasil. Entre muitas empresas, houve participantes da Lenovo, Samsung, EduInfo, Cogna, Fore Education, Bedu Tech; universidades: FATEC, UFSC, Jundiaí, Mauá, e escolas: Lourenço Castanho, Escola de Línguas, Marista,… e formuladores de políticas da UNDIME – uma grande União de Municípios na Educação.

Durante este evento, foram discutidas várias questões relevantes: O que significa “escolarização aberta”? Quais são os princípios-chave da Equidade – Diversidade e Inclusão para apoiar a educação aberta para todos? Quais são as iniciativas que aproximam educação, empresa e sociedade? Quais são os exemplos de design participativo que envolvem alunos, professores, famílias e pesquisadores para produzir inovação para abordar os problemas da vida real dos alunos? Quais são as melhores práticas de escolarização aberta com tecnologias emergentes?

O evento começou com um painel incluindo quatro palestrantes brasileiros da OU, seguido de uma discussão em grupos e apresentações.

Foi o primeiro evento em Língua Portuguesa da Open University UK parte do projeto CONNECT.

OLAF, CONNECT and OS together

Discussing the role of open schooling and online learning and fun at the “Sustainable Development and Education” – International Conference.

By Alexandra Okada


The SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND EDUCATION Conference took place online on August 26th – 27th as a special edition of the 8th International Conference for Responsible Research and Innovation organised by LSME – London School of Management Education.  This event (Figure 1)   brought together academics and practitioners across three continents: Asia, Europe and South America.

Figure 1 – The Sustainable Development and Education Conference, VIII LSME Aug.2021

The core theme of this event focuses on “Democratic Participation in Educational Process & Sustainable Development.”  The objective of this large event was to discuss the vital role to be played by education in preparing learners to cooperatively address   the global challenges and its local issues facing humanity at this time related to global warming, climate change, environment destruction, diseases, inequalities and violence.

The online event with more than 70 presentations received more than 150 attendees and the special keynotes including Professor Petra Molthan-Hill Faculty Lead, Green Academy, Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, UK, who opened the event with an inspiring talk  “High Impact Climate Solutions: We can do it!” . Petra’s work highlights the importance of equipping youth with the information to teach others about climate change and providing skills needed to make these high impact changes in our activities to reduce carbon emissions. Her framework differentiates between climate change science education, climate change mitigation education and climate change adaptation education. Some interesting links presented are: Carbon Literacy designed for business schools and universities and inspired by a training in the television sector. The UN PRME Climate and other initiatives aim at engaging students in curricular and extracurricular activities.

26th of AUGUST 2021

The session about Open Schooling for Sustainability attracted a large number of participants from Austria, Brazil, Catalunya, Denmark, Ghana, Greece, India, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and UK. It was chaired by Dr Peter Gray from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The session started with the panel “Open Schooling to Enhance Innovation Ecosystems”  (Figure 2) whose aim was to debate issues, drivers and challenges.

Figure 2 – Open Schooling – OS Together Panel and CONNECT studies – VIII LSME Aug.2021

Dr Alexandra Okada from the Open University – UK and scientific coordinator of CONNECT (2020-2023 introduced the ‘open schooling’ term as a key feature of the openness movement to empower students as protagonists for sustainability supported by schools, universities, enterprises and civil society underpinned by Hodson’s theoretical principals – Looking to the future: building a curriculum for social activism. In CONNECT, students and scientists solve real problems supported by the ‘CARE-KNOW-DO’ framework with participatory approaches for science actions enhanced by structured curriculum materials and open scenario resources. She highlighted the United Nations’ event COP26, which takes place in the UK in November 2021. This event is now opening doors for children and youth to participate in discussions and voice their concerns. She brought some questions for those interested in open schooling as an innovative approach to enhance quality of education for the Agenda 2030. “Is the school preparing young people to express their voices authentically with critical-creative-scientific thinking for sustainability? And for those who do, are they by chance considering the regions and actors that are less well represented?”

Dr Maria Vicente from the Leiden University in Netherlands, the project coordinator of OSHUB (2019-2022), highlighted the importance of engaging and supporting all participants to implement open schooling. This includes families, universities, research institutes, industry, media, local governments, civil society organizations and wider society. Engagement and support are key requirements for open schooling implementation.  The OSHUB network is inspired by the Science Shop model. The OSHUB teams use research and innovation for educational communities in disadvantaged geographical location, socio-economic status and ethnic minority group background – to develop real-life projects that meet societal needs using a seven-steps approach: school engagement, stakeholder engagement, community building, tackling local-to-global challenges; co-creation of open schooling projects; value proposition; and technical and financial feasibility plans. To reflect more about open schooling, Dr Vicente is interested in two questions: “How can open schooling become a whole-school approach (opposed to promoted by individual motivated teachers)? What are the needed institutional incentives and how can they be developed / put in place?”

Dr Cyril Dworsky from the Vienna Children’s University in Austria, coordinator of PHERECLOS (2019-2022),  mentioned that  Models of Engagement and Intermediation, like Children’s Universities, can be beneficial for educational establishments and for the social communities in a wider context and have been proven useful and sustainable.  Children can attend lectures and workshops, and also get in touch with scientists and experience the university. “The Vienna Children’s University has been organised by the Vienna University Children’s Office every summer since 2003. For two summer weeks, the doors of the university are open to more than 4,000 children aged 7 to 12”. As highlighted by PHERECLOS team, the disconnection between classroom-centered teaching and learning and the day-to-day life of the community is a big challenge for educational communities, which  could  be addressed by open schooling  to bridge the formal curriculum and societal issues including the interaction with society. In PHERECLOS, Local Education Clusters involve diverse school levels and explore and deploy various didactical concepts and approaches from co-creation to problem-based learning with a clear focus on an inclusive and gender sensitive way of teaching and learning. Cyril is also interested in continuing the discussion with two questions: “How can institutions be opened up and how far can horizons of its agents be broadened towards the challenges of a transforming society of today? How serious are possibilities of learners limited by the confined walls of traditions?”


Dr Pavlos Koulouris, from the Research and Development Department of Ellinogermaniki Agogi in Greece, led the open schooling project OSOS (2017 – 2020) and is the coordinator of SALL (2020-2023). He emphasised that one of the key outcomes of open schooling is students’ engagement through an active role that they play in open schooling. SALL is based on Living Labs Approach, which supports user co-creation systematically by integrating research and innovation processes in real life communities and settings. Its theme focuses on the innovation ecosystem related to food, which covers all elements and activities related to the production, processing, distribution, preparation, and consumption of food, as well as its disposal. It also includes the environment, people, processes, infrastructure, institutions, and the effects of their activities on our society, economy, landscapes, and climates (EC2030 Expert Group, 2018).   SALL brings together school communities – with the direct and active involvement of students -, research institutions, science centres, third-sector organisations, businesses, as well as policy makers, and engages them in intensive dialogue, mutual learning and exchange.

The following sessions all about CONNECT, provided an overview about studies developed by various countries. In Brazil, three groups presented their work. First, Dr Cintia Rabello, representing COLEARN network presented the work coordinated by Alexandra Okada with five associated partners supporting open schooling projects in five less well representative territories and actors, including her work about sub-urban region – LabLanguages, multiliteracies to face misinformation in Niteroi;  urban town the Webradio Project with podcasts about racism demystifying science – led by Dr Miriam Strichiner in Rio de Janeiro;      rural territories with gender equality project about girls’ early pregnancy and puberty, led by Dr Rossana  Moura; semi-arid area with scientific and digital skills to empower teachers and students led by Dr Karine Souza; and indigenous communities initiative about reducing digital divide with inclusive STEAM approaches led by Dr Thais Castro in Amazonas. The video bellow provides a summary of the five open schooling initiatives in Brazil.

There were two other initiatives: own in the South of Brazil focused on multi-literacies enhancing scientific thinking and mother languages to help students develop critical-creative thinking for problem solving and project-based learning, led by Dr Patricia Torres and Dr Raquel Glitz from PUC-PR. The other constitutes a significant open schooling initiative in the North of  Brazil, Rewilding Birds in the semi-arid of Brazil, which focuses on environmental protection. The wildlife trade, capture, marketing, and captivity of songbirds was selected as a theme for open schooling because it has a strong impact in the region’s ecosystem. The project is led by Dr Silvar Ribeiro and Anna Rocha from UNEB.

Dr Sigrid Neuhaus, representing DBT – Denmark, introduced   the open-ended scenarios building upon the tradition of Deliberative Democracy and Technology Assessment. It is based upon the idea of democratic, well-informed, and inclusive decision-making processes relevant for scientifically literate society by putting scientific knowledge into the context of society as well as using this knowledge for decision making processes.


In Spain and Catalunya, open schooling initiatives and framework for open schooling engagement were presented by Dr Rosina Malagrida from IRSI-Caixa, the open schooling initiative aimed at addressing the prevention of COVID-19 in the school environment. An innovative approach to enhance the engagement of participants was to invite the education community to participate as co-researchers in the research project “Escoles Sentinella” led by the Catalonia Local Government. IRSI developed an innovative approach supported by participatory action research (exploration, consultation, integration, priorisation and dissemination) implemented with engaging workshops.

In Greece, Dr Giorgos Panselinas from RDE presented the open schooling initiatives using   open scenarios and structured curriculum to support students’ science actions in various topics: renewable energy, global warming, chemical pollution, plastics and COVID-19 . These initiatives were enhanced by teachers’ professional development community which enabled the collaborative production of resources. Some key benefits were identified: (1) developing resources that can be used in activities in and outside schools; (2)providing students with activities that are more real with topical data selected by scientists including meaningful connection with the curriculum; and (3)having students motivated with resources that enable them to become agents of sustainable development.

The session was enriched by various comments by attendees who participated in the discussion with speakers in the chat. Some of the comments are illustrated below:

  • Very insightful and enlightening sessions by great speakers.
  • Thank you for the wonderful and knowledgeable session with useful information about open schooling.”
  • The co-evaluation is a challenging endeavour and I liked how the program becomes part of the doctoral process.
  • Hi all it is very interesting to see open schooling involving students, teachers, families and experts from various knowledge areas – multidisciplinary projects – Language, Numeracy, Digital and Scientific Literacies.
  • Thank you for these valuable highlights.”
27th of AUGUST 2021

The session “Online Learning and Fun” was chaired by Alexandra Okada from the Open University, UK, who brought together various partners from the UK, Portugal, Brazil, Spain and Indonesia to explore students’ epistemic beliefs about how they learn and their views about fun in learning. 

Figure 3 – OLAF – Online Learning and Fun Research Studies and Discussions – VIII LSME Aug.2021

This session included eight research studies presented by eleven speakers from various universities   led by Prof Dr Daniela Barros in Portugal, led by Prof Dr Elizabeth  Almeida in Brazil,  led by Prof Dr Maria Cacheiro in Spain, and led by Prof Dr Kieron Sheehy Prof Sheehy opened the session  with a key issue: “Should ‘Meaningful’ Online Learning Experiences be Fun for Higher Education Students in Indonesia?” He pointed out that 80% of institutions whose students have left campus and returned to their home locations are concerned about how to support students’ retention and progress. Kieron’s study identified two key factors:      students’ epistemological beliefs and their beliefs about fun in learning.   Findings indicated the lack of enjoyment with online study including a dissatisfaction with a content delivery approach to online teaching. These results will be used to provide recommendations for tertiary education in Indonesia.

Dr Paula Carolei presented ‘Creative Gamification and Fun: Possibilities of Authorship, Autonomy and Collaboration’ with her colleague Diene Mello. Carolei highlighted fun as a dimension of gamification, but it is not the type of fun that distracts or alienates. Fun contributes to students’ immersion and agency as it creates opportunities for experimentation, exploration,  tensions  and overcoming      challenges  to a more authorial and creative attitude.

Prof Dr Daniela Barros’s work was entitled ‘Higher Education in Pandemic Times: Personalization, Engagement, Autonomy and New Learning Strategies’.  The objective of her study was to propose recommendations for the customization of teaching strategies through pedagogical resources, aiming at promoting online education with fun. Her findings show that  personalising learning according to the student’s profile allows more engaging and fun pedagogical approaches from the point of view of the students in higher education.

Prof Dr Klaus Schluzen Junior presented ‘The CCS Approach and Fun Learning: An Analysis of Research Data for Inclusion’.  His study analysed the perception of educators concerning the relationship they establish between diversity, inclusion and fun learning with reference to the assumptions of the CCM approach – Constructionist, Contextualized and Meaningful pedagogical approaches. These teachers and lecturers reveal they use diversified pedagogical strategies to promote open, more meaningful and engaging learning.

Dr Lucy de Mello discussed ‘Learning Experience Design and Active Methods for Student Fun, Pleasure and Engagement in Online Courses’. Her work examined how to assist teachers in the adoption of active methods in online course offerings through the adoption of fun and enjoyable activities that result in student engagement and improvement of their learning results, through a learning experience design instrument. Her findings present the relationships between the fun and pleasurable practices reported by the students. These relationships indicate characteristics of the active pedagogy, dialogical education and design instrument.

Prof Dr Ana Hessel’s work about ‘The Pleasure of Learning: The Vision of Complex Thinking’ is  underpinned by the concept of understanding in the context of complex thinking (Edgar Morin) complemented by the concept of meaningful learning (David Ausubel). To reflect on the conditions in which the pleasure of learning can occur in the context of online classes through the following developments: what senses and meanings are present in learning; in what extent the relationship between theory and practice contributes to meaningful learning; how didactic and methodological strategies, such as problematization, are valued in pleasant learning experiences. Her findings highlight the relationship between the individuals’ perceptions of the pleasure of learning and the concepts of understanding in the systemic/complex dimension and meaningful learning.

Prof Dr Alexandra Geraldini presented Motivation, Involvement and Fun in the Online Learning Process: Perception of Undergraduate Students. This work was developed with her colleagues Karlene Campos and Mario Cesaretti. The study examined how undergraduate students perceive fun learning and the extent to which it articulates with motivation and involvement and whether, in their opinion, fun should be part of learning. Data reveal that most students consider that fun should be associated with learning and relate fun learning to activities that promote motivation and involvement. However, online learning experienced during the period of social isolation was considered fun by only 27% of participants. Considering the important role that fun and enjoyment can play in the learning process, this last data reiterates the already addressed need to reshape pedagogical dynamics and strategies at the University.

Prof. Dr Graça Silva discussed the ‘Algorithmization of Happiness or the Reconstruction of the Humanizing Nature of Numbers?’ – work developed with her colleague Prof Dr Fernando Almeida. Their study analyses the students’ voice regarding their online classes, through the lens of Paulo Freire’s (1997) theoretical principles, to provide evidence of paths for the reconstruction of the humanizing nature of education.  Their  findings indicate that students understand learning that is happy, pleasant or fun occurring in situations that involve a challenge, group projects, interactions between teachers-students and students-students, when they feel respected, listened to, and valued.

The session was appreciated   by participants, both speakers and attendees, who established a fruitful dialogue in the chat during the presentations. Passion led us here:

Figure 4– OLAF – Online Learning and Fun Research Slides and Discussions – VIII LSME Aug.2021

  • Exploring and understanding the contradictions are important for developing inclusion post-pandemic… Great work.
  • very important connection with inclusion and how we can work with fun
  • thank you for these valuable highlights
  • I really like the finding term ‘enchantment’ -that is insightful.
  • “Seems that collaboration(social) is key to fun in online learning”
  • “Yes, It seems it is. I was not expecting this to emerge from all the different countries.”
  • “About de social aspect, the collaboration is really important… in fact the quality of it is important… the way the teacher can promote and instigate the collaboration is one of the key points”
  • “This is very relevant results to reflect about recommendation for students, retention and progress.”
  • “Thank you so much… Looking forward to hearing about your next steps.”
  • “Thank you Again, collaboration and interaction for online learning”
  • “‘Kindness’ in learning, is deeply related to this next presentation => Humanising the nature of Education”
  • “Amazing title!”
  • “By the way, everyone – Paulo Freire is a reference in Brazil and across the world – scholar of Critical Pedagogy – author of Pedagogy of Oppressed; Pedagogy of Autonomy;… and Emancipatory Education”
  • “Thank you everyone. I really enjoyed this session. OLAF is great and very worthwhile  :-)”
  • “This was such great session -really well done. Everyone was brilliant. OLAF rocks!”
  • “Wonderful presentations”
  • “Great Session Indeed. Thank you!”
  • “Namaste 🙏🙏🙏🙏”

The event was ended by the keynotes H.E. Dr Abdulla Naseer, Minister of State for Environment from the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology, Maldives and H.E Dr Ibrahim Hassan, Minister of Higher Education, Maldives. Both highlighted the effects of climate change and the relevance of education for sustainable development.


“The impact of the pandemic on open schooling”

by Alexandra Okada

Understanding the impact of the pandemic on open schooling projects is a key topic of the European online event using “fishbowl approach” organised today March 24th  by  OStogether a network with nine European projects – all part of the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme – Science with and for society. The moderator was Maria Zolotonosa (from Make it Open). There were four speakers who started the debate.  

  • Alexandra Okada (The OU, UK – CONNECT): How can we help schools to connect and cooperate with local communities during the COVID pandemic?
  • Matteo Merzagora (Association TRACES, France – SALL) :the challenge of building trust at distance – difficulty of stakeholder engagement when actors do not know each other  
  • Nicole Salomon (OVOS media, Austria – COMnPlay): experience of organising a virtual makerspace
  • Erik Knain (UNIVERSITETET I OSLO, Norway – SEAS): Open schooling can help teaching during a pandemic, but maybe not teachers

The rapid spread of the new COVID-19 variants has put the world on alert. The various school lockdowns have affected the educational system in our countries.  Challenges and opportunities must be considered to better respond to these issues. How can our open schooling projects support schools during and post-pandemic? What can be done, and what can be done differently?

Open Schooling (OS) is a key approach promoted by the European Commission through nine funded projects to support the cooperation between schools, scientists and local communities for youth to become more engaged with science through real-world problems.

These OS projects have been developing a variety of relevant approaches to bridge formal, non-formal and informal science education to improve students’ experience in science. These approaches include a variety of relevant scenarios, themes, pedagogical methods, tools, environments and multi-actor platforms with high-quality resources, learning materials, and events, for example, workshops, courses, coaching and mentoring programmes.

A relevant issue suggested by a member of OStogether was

“How could we help schools connect and cooperate with local communities through open schooling in science during COVID-19?”

This question leads to many others.

Are schools interested in connecting with communities? What type of connections are they willing to establish? Will they benefit from cooperating with external partners? What are the advantages of cooperation for schools and partners involved in open schooling?    

To respond to these issues, more questions are necessary.

What are participants’ needs (what they care)? What are their priorities (what they need to know)?  What are their expectations (what they can do) during and post-pandemic? 

CONNECT is an open schooling project with 10 partners led by the AI enterprise EXUS  responsible for project coordination and technology and the Open University responsible for scientific coordination, ethics and evaluation.

Our aim is to increase students’ confidence towards using science in life now and future by connecting them with science professionals, family, and community members.

CONNECT is designed to facilitate teachers’ work through the curriculum enhanced by multi actors’ cooperation. Our open schooling model focuses on socio-scientific issues and societal challenges that:

  •   activate students and their local communities interests, concerns, “CARE”,
  •   create the need to KNOW linked to the curriculum supported by teachers and,
  •   offer opportunities for students to DO science-actions and develop skills guided by scientists and STEM professionals.

To facilitate connections and cooperation, schools are provided with future-oriented support by scientists, engaging activities, fun participatory science tools, and more inclusive teaching strategies with special attention to disadvantaged students, gender equality, and educational equity.

Pandemic has affected significantly the education system. Schools and universities had to move to distance education during various lockdowns. Many teachers and students were not prepared nor equipped to work with technology. A large number of disadvantaged students of state schools with free meals missed social relationships, learning, and food.

UNESCO (2021) has been calling our attention to the human capital loss during COVID-19.

Approximately half of the world’s population (some 3.6 billion people) still lack an internet connection… 463 million or nearly one-third of students around the globe cannot access remote learning. The pandemic shows that connectivity has become a key factor to guarantee the right to education. Digital skills and learning must be incorporated into education systems in order address the injustice of the digital divide”

 The context that we have now with COVID-19, school lockdowns and self-isolation,  is completely different from when we develop our open schooling proposals. To identify the needs, priorities, and expectations the OU team developed three studies with students, open education researchers, and teachers during the pandemic.  

The first study examined students’  views of an introductory module of the Open University (Okada & Sheehy, 2020). We contacted 4,500 students, and 550 participated in our exploratory study about online learning during the first lockdown in the UK. Our aim was to understand their views about collaborative learning, cooperation with others, problem-solving and inquiry based-learning, traditional teaching approaches, and the value of fun/enjoyment in distance education. The OU is the largest university in the UK open to all learners with a significant number of disadvantaged students, 72% work full or p-time, 26% live in the 25% most from deprived areas, 34% of new students come from secondary schools or failed to complete it and 33% with a lower qualification at entry. (OU, Facts, and Figures)

 Our findings revealed that more than 85% of students valued fun in learning to support well-being, motivation, and performance. However, approximately 15% indicated that fun within learning could result in distraction or loss of time. Three groups were identified   (1) students who value fun in collaborative learning wish more interacting activities and cooperating with others, (2) students who think that fun gets in the way of their individual learning prefer to learn at their own pace and on their own with useful activities problem solving and inquiry-based activities to succeed in their exams,  (3) students who mentioned that there is no fun in online learning think that online learning is transmissive – focused on content, they do not want to waste time with discussions, teamwork, and participatory approaches. There are also students who cannot see the point of cooperation, fun and engagement. They  are struggling to study, feeling depressed, or stressed, they mentioned that are not capable nor ready to engage with collaborative projects 



The second study focused on a workshop organised at the OEGLOBAL conference with 700 attendees, 277 presentations with 12 studies about open education and COVID-19 pandemic.  We investigated the key issues for open education – open schooling including learners’ competencies, learning environments, open partnerships, and education 2030 with SDGs. In this workshop, we also discussed the recent reports of UNESCO, World Bank, and OECD about Education and COVID – technologies.

Four key topics emerged in our discussions – a significant loss of human capital: 1. learning disruption including low achievement and high dropout rates; 2. students’ health (mental, physical, and emotional);   3. teachers’ workload (pressure and stress) and 4. Inequalities (increased gap of disadvantaged students).

Participants highlighted eight key drivers: education for all, special attention for girls, affordability, free education, pedagogy, new education policy, each one –  teach one, the added value of open school/ open education. Fifteen recommendations were grouped to enhance open education to support learners’ access, learners’ retention, learners’ attainment, and learners’ progress.  


The third study focused on various communities of teachers from Amazon, Pantanal, and the large semi-arid area of Brazil. This study will be completed for the book  “Adversities in Education” edited by Dr. Holliman and Prof. Sheehy.

While all eyes are on COVID-19, both the Amazon forest and the world’s largest tropical wetlands Pantanal face fire… Conservation and environmental protection are in crisis

BBC (Nov. 2020) Highlighted that  “The number of fires blazing in Brazil’s Amazon region in October 2020 was more than double those in the same month last year, satellite data suggests. The Institute of Space Research said there were 17,326 fires in the Amazon, compared to 7,855 in October 2019. Data released by INPE   suggests there were 2,856 fires in the Pantanal region in October.

Our study reached more than 7,000 teachers from these areas. More than 1,000 teachers completed our questionnaires, participated in our webinar, discussed their issues, practices, needs, and expectations related to open schooling through webinars, questionnaires and interviews. We are now discussing what type of connections and kinds of cooperation are relevant for state schools and communities considering not only the effects of the pandemic, digital divide but also environmental socio-scientific, and political issues.  

To sum up, CONNECT project was designed before the pandemic and started during the peak of COVID-19. Understanding the stakeholders’ needs and more inclusive and future-oriented strategies are fundamental especially in the UK, Brazil, Spain/Catalunya, Greece, and Romania.  Some research studies developed with schools during various lockdowns in CONNECT indicate some challenges and drivers. In terms of challenges, the negative effects of the pandemic for schools to implement open schooling are :

  •   More emphasis on completing the curriculum and fewer opportunities for external activities.
  •   More teaching time is needed and fewer learners’ centered opportunities.
  •   More emphasis on preparing students for exams and less time for inquiry-based learning and community-based projects.
  •  More concerns with students’ achievement – knowledge acquisition (short term) rather than scientific skills development (long term).
  •  More resources and support online but limited opportunities for the most needed students, who do not have access to the internet nor digital devices.

In terms of drivers, the positive effects of the pandemic for schools to consider open schooling integrated into their lessons are:

  • More high-quality learning resources linked to the curriculum.
  • More enjoyable activities – fun and relevant – that are meaningful for students’ learning.
  • More opportunities to help students become more confident, more interested in, and more capable to succeed in science.
  • More strategies to deal with outbreaks and foster scientific and digital literacy
  • More support through cooperations to help a large number of disadvantaged students, educating girls and the various minority groups.

To open up further discussions, our preliminary findings suggest that there will plenty of relevant societal issues for developing useful open schooling projects. There will be some meaningful practices to evaluate the value of open schooling approaches/ models in-depth. However, …

…will there be opportunities to scale up our open schooling models before the end of our projects and keep it sustainable after it? How?


Questions discussed during the event:

  • What are the challenges for open schooling? How have these challenges changed with the pandemic? 
  • How can we engage parents/families in your open schooling projects, given that their role changed a lot during the pandemic? 
  • How can we best support teachers?  And the rest of the stakeholders including policymakers? 
  • How do we find the balance between being on time with your open schooling projects (in terms of following the Grant Agreement) and not pushing schools too much?
  • Have we made any big adjustments to our projects due to the pandemic? 
  • How can we convince schools to stay on board when things get tough? 

Fun and the benefits of Sign Supported Big Books in mainstream Indonesian kindergartens

Khofidotur, Rofiah; Sheehy, Kieron; Widayati, Sri and Budiyanto (2021). Fun and the benefits of Sign Supported Big Books in mainstream Indonesian kindergartens. International Journal of Early Years Education (Early Access).



Inclusive kindergarten provision remains relatively rare in Indonesia. This article indicates factors that contribute to this situation (stigmatisation, lack of resources and training) and reports on an approach to begin to address it. Sign Supported Big Books were evaluated in mainstream kindergartens (i.e. classes without children with special educational needs ) as a way of enhancing their inclusive affordances. These books used Signalong Indonesia, a keyword signing approach, to support whole class stories with 76 children in five kindergarten classes. Four classes used books with signs, and one used a book without signs as part of their everyday activities. Five teacher interviews suggested that the approach enhanced pupils’ engagement and was enjoyable and fun for pupils and teachers alike. There were also positive effects for children’s story comprehension and sign learning. The findings of this study support the novel position that having a disabled child in a class is not necessary in order to justify using an inclusive keyword signing approach. The implications of these findings are discussed for developing a proactive approach to facilitate inclusive practices in Indonesian kindergartens.

Factors and Recommendations to Support Students’ Enjoyment of Online Learning With Fun

A Mixed Method Study During COVID-19

Okada, Alexandra and Sheehy, Kieron (2020). Factors and Recommendations to Support Students’ Enjoyment of Online Learning With Fun: A Mixed Method Study During COVID-19. Frontiers in Education, 5(1), article no. 584351.



Understanding components that influence students’ enjoyment of distance higher education is increasingly important to enhance academic performance and retention. Although there is a growing body of research about students’ engagement with online learning, a research gap exists concerning whether fun affect students’ enjoyment. A contributing factor to this situation is that the meaning of fun in learning is unclear, and its possible role is controversial. This research is original in examining students’ views about fun and online learning, and influential components and connections. This study investigated the beliefs and attitudes of a sample of 551 distance education students including pre-services and in-service teachers, consultants and education professionals using a mixed-method approach. Quantitative and Qualitative data were generated through a self-reflective instrument during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings revealed that 88.77% of participants valued fun in online learning; linked to well-being, motivation and performance. However, 16.66% mentioned that fun within online learning could take the focus off their studies and result in distraction or loss of time. Principal component analysis revealed three groups of students who found (1) fun relevant in socio-constructivist learning (2) no fun in traditional transmissive learning and (3) disturbing fun in constructivist learning. This study also provides key recommendations extracted from participants’ views supported by consensual review for course teams, teaching staff and students to enhance online learning experiences with enjoyment and fun.

Drawing as a mediating artefact to support Responsible Research and Innovation with fun

by Alexandra Okada

In the context of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), drawing when combined with other methods can be considered a useful instrument for explorations of participants’ views. RRI aims to examine the priorities, views and values of all participants; so that scientific development is aligned with the expectation and needs of societal actors including youth (EC, 2020).

A research study in Ireland developed by Tatlow-Golden (2011) investigated the views of young people about “Who am I?” through the activities and types of relationships they valued most. This was explored through drawings and other graphic means such as ‘Identity Pies’, as well as interviews. Drawing combined with conversation and writing was important to identify what the young people thought was important and why.

When young people talked, drew and wrote about what was important to them, and why, they foregrounded many relationships beyond peer popularity (friendship, and relationships with parents, siblings, extended family and even pets) and activities beyond sports and school (very many creative and active pastimes)…

Young people almost never mentioned school or curricular learning — unless it was to discuss relationships or activities in the school context, or the obligation to ‘get an education’. ” (Tatlow-Golden & Montgomery, 2020:13)

This study was selected for the RUMPUS – we explore fun – blog to highlight the importance of selecting enjoyable instruments and procedures that help participants to express themselves in a more pleasant way.  Drawing combined with dialogue can promote the involvement of youth to respond to questions with more freedom than articulating words. It also supports researchers by creating opportunities for a more spontaneous conversation and reflection which can generate more meaningful data when participants are enjoying the experience.

The methodology of this study is also useful for CONNECT and OLAF researchers who are interested in fun participatory approaches to explore learning and engagement.  Drawing can be an engaging and helpful artefact to externalise views and values where words may be more difficult than visual representation. Artefacts that are enjoyable for participants are helpful to obtain more expressive and authentic views; so that the values, expectations and priorities of young people can be unveiled in the research. Although Tatlow-Golden found that participants aged up to 13 years readily engaged with these tasks, an important feature of using drawing in research is that some participants lack confidence in their own drawing ability, so it is crucial to create an atmosphere in the research encounter of exploration and play, rather than setting an expectation that participants will make a ‘good’ drawing.

The work of Tatlow-Golden (Tatlow-Golden & Guerin, 2010, 2017; Tatlow-Golden, 2011) is considered original and relevant because it examined the voices of youth about their lived   experiences through qualitative instruments (conversation, drawing and writing) to question the validity of quantitative self-concept scales that are widely used in psychological and educational research. This body of work found that conventional self-concept research scales are limited as they omit domains of self that young people value.

Tatlow – Golden and Montgomery (2020) highlight that “it is impossible to  imagine  how  psychological  measures  that  do  not incorporate children’s perspectives can yield accurate, meaningful psychological findings about young people’s selves.

Without such insights, psychologists are unlikely to achieve their ultimate goal of supporting children and young people to develop and fulfil their potential, and so this is another area in which Childhood Studies perspectives and methods have the potential to enrich psychological research”.

The methodological approach that combines drawing and dialogue to for participants to express themselves is congruent with RRI which highlights the importance of incorporating participants’ perspectives – their thoughts, views and voices during the process of research and innovation.

Figure 1: An example of a child drawing (1) basketball after school, (2) breaktime, and (3) videogames at home   from Tatlow ‐ Golden & Guerin

Figure 2:  Procedures to combine drawing, dialogue and writing from Tatlow ‐ Golden & Guerin (2011)

Figure 3:  Visual Analogue Scale to check participants’ self-rated importance of aspects of self featured in their drawing   from Tatlow ‐ Golden (2011), see also Tatlow-Golden & Guerin (2017)

Figure 4:  Identity pie from Tatlow ‐ Golden (2011)

Other studies that use drawing as part of the research methodology also highlight that drawing needs to be integrated with other instruments. Sondergaard and Reventlow (2019) examined drawing as a facilitating approach when conducting research among children. Their findings revealed that children expressed feelings, emotions and, experiences through drawing. The authors suggest that visual representation helps children to express themselves more easily than through words. However, two requirements are vital, including other fieldwork data to support the interpretation of drawings and above all having a solid contextual understanding of the field.

Blog Video Interview   

Mimi, could you please let us know what inspire you to use drawing in your research? What were the challenges and benefits?

What are your recommendations for researchers who are looking for research instruments that are fun (children will enjoy it) to explore fun in learning ?


Identity Pie


is a   graphical method  for representing the relative importance of my self-concept domains used to describe who I am.
(Who am I?)
Is a self-description about what I am;
it  includes self-representation, for example,
about my values, roles, activities, goals in my life.
It is closely related to self-esteem
Self-esteem how much I appreciate and like myself, what I am.


Søndergaard, E., & Reventlow, S. (2019). Drawing as a facilitating approach when conducting research among children. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 18, 1609406918822558.

Tatlow-Golden, Mimi and Montgomery, Heather (2020). Childhood Studies and child psychology: Disciplines in dialogue? Children & Society (Early access).

Guerin, Suzanne and Tatlow-Golden, Mimi (2019). How Valid Are Measures of Children’s Self-Concept/ Self-Esteem? Factors and Content Validity in Three Widely Used Scales. Child Indicators Research, 12(5) pp. 1507–1528.

Tatlow-Golden, Mimi (2011) Who I Am: Exploring the Nature, Salience and Meaning of Children’s Active and Social Selves. PhD Thesis. University College Dublin.

Tatlow-Golden, Mimi and Guerin, Suzanne (2010).   ‘My favourite things to do’ and ‘my favourite people’: Exploring salient aspects of children’s self-concept. Childhood, 17(4) pp. 545–562

Questions suggested by Mimi for researchers and readers to establish a conversation about drawing in research: 

1. What are the challenges of using drawing in research?

2. What are the recommendations for analysing drawings?

3. How about reliability and rigour? Is drawing reliable as a projective method?

You are very welcome to leave your comments on our blog … We will be glad to interact with you!

“I like to climb and pick coconuts”

Moving Towards A Child-Guided Agentic Participatory Research Methodology: 7 To 11 Years Children’s Experiences Of Physical Activity.

Plowright-Pepper, Linda Caroline (2020). “I like to climb and pick coconuts”. Moving Towards A Child-Guided Agentic Participatory Research Methodology: 7 To 11 Years Children’s Experiences Of Physical Activity. PhD thesis The Open University.



In 2018 only 18% of children met the UK Chief Medical Officers’ recommended physical activity levels in England (Public Health England, 2018). Despite emerging evidence suggesting that declines in physical activity may originate from 7 years old, little research has been undertaken with middle childhood children. This study addresses gaps in research which gives children an opportunity to express their lived experiences of physical activity.

The aim of this thesis was to evaluate the extent to which a new child-guided approach to researching lived experiences of middle childhood physical activity provided insights into children’s activity choices and familial influences. Informed by social constructivism this study assumed that children were agentic social actors capable not only of contributing to research but capable of guiding research into matters which affected them. Participatory and existential phenomenological methodologies were brought together in a new model of agentic child-guided (AChiG) participatory research. Physical activity was conceptualised as an embodied experience and framed as an individually socioecologically contextualised phenomenon (e.g. Merleau-Ponty 1962).

I enabled coresearchers to identify fresh conceptualisations of physical activity through the use of the AChiG model. Coresearchers conceptualised physical activity for instance as ‘conquering creative challenges’ and ‘playing at’ structured activities.

High levels of imagination and creativity together with a strong motivation to connect with close family members underpinned fun and enjoyment which drove physical activity. Coresearchers also contextualised physical activity within a broad range of physically active and inactive free-choice pursuits. These competed for coresearchers time in fluid, layered and spontaneous ways. These insights and lessons learnt from the new child-guided approach provide potentially fruitful strands to inform further research.

“Sources of fun and enjoyment were multi-stranded and interconnecting. For instance, perceived competence and a sense of mastery(Mccarthy and Jones, 2007b)could be underpinned by a sense of autonomy and agency in the decision to participate,(Mackintosh et al., 2011). Fun was found both in the activity itself but also in having a friend with whom to share the activity (Agbuga, Xiang and McBride, 2012)”

The value of fun in online learning

a study supported by responsible research and innovation and open data

Okada, Alexandra and Sheehy, Kieron (2020). The value of fun in online learning: a study supported by responsible research and innovation and open data. Revista e-Curriculum, 18(2) pp. 319–343.



Okada, Alexandra and Sheehy, Kieron (2020). The value of fun in online learning: a study supported by responsible research and innovation and open data. Revista e-Curriculum, 18(2) pp. 319–343.



Humanistic learner-centred curriculum approaches that use new technologies are vital as a response to a world dominated by grand challenges such as the COVID-19. This article examines the value of fun in distance education to promote student success and retention. Although the experience of fun is part of human nature, research in this area is sparse. This mixed-methods study, informed by Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and open data, focused on 206 students including teachers, consultants and education professionals. The results indicated that 91% of participants valued fun in online learning; highlighting well-being, motivation and performance. However, 17% believed that fun within learning could take the focus off their studies and result in distraction or loss of time. This article introduces the new concept of emancipatory fun and offers some educational recommendations

Portuguese Abstract – Abordagens curriculares mais humanistas centradas no aprendiz com tecnologias são vitais como uma resposta para o mundo dominado por grandes desafios, tais como a COVID-19. Este artigo examina o valor da diversão na Educação a Distância visando promover o sucesso dos estudantes e reduzir a evasão. Embora a experiência da diversão seja parte da natureza humana, pesquisas nessa área são escassas. Este estudo de métodos mistos apoiado pela Pesquisa e Inovação Responsáveis (RRI) e dados abertos focou 206 estudantes, incluindo professores, consultores e profissionais da educação. Os resultados indicaram que 91% dos participantes valorizaram a aprendizagem on-line divertida, destacando bem-estar, motivação e desempenho. Entretanto, 17% acreditaram que a diversão na aprendizagem poderia tirar o foco dos estudos, resultando em distração ou perda de tempo. Este artigo introduz o novo conceito de diversão emancipatória e oferece algumas recomendações

What do students think about fun and online learning during the pandemic?

By Alexandra Okada

Currently, Rumpus team is developing a series of studies about fun and online learning with undergraduates from an introductory online course module offered by the Open University – OU in the United Kingdom.

OpenLearn and Fun
OpenLearn and Fun

Data was generated at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.  A variety of participants contributed to this study including a representative sample of beginners who came from secondary schools. As this module is offered to all undergraduates at the Open University UK, there were also students from other levels of study.

Two instruments were provided for volunteer students: (1) a structured self-reflective questionnaire (Sheehy et al., 2019)  which was replied by 551 students  and then (2) an open and optional question replied by 207 students who provided their points of view, with freedom including their perceptions about  fun and learning.

Most – more than 90% – ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ agreed that

  • To learn effectively, students must enjoy their learning
  • To learn effectively, students must be happy while learning
  • Learning should involve fun
  • I am enjoying studying this module

Students identified factors relating to fun and online learning as:

freedom, engagement, real scenarios, personalised learning, more pleasant experience, meeting people, opportunity to interact and learn from both the lecturer and peers, sense of humour, flexibility (study on your own time), study on my own pace, collaborative learning, expand knowledge and enjoy the process of learning and something that differs from the standard read/ watch and answer questions, more enjoyable learning environment.

These were associated with various benefits, such as:

taking the stress out, breaking up the intensity of learning, to better myself, to keep up and catch up with learning with a better mindset, more effective participation, motivation alive and inspiration, interest to interact and learn more, makes the student want to take part in learning and continue studying, less likely to drop out, improve learning experiences.

Some students reported that fun is needed for academic engagement but felt it was difficult to achieve online. They felt isolated and that they were ‘missing out’ from closer (and possibly fun) interactions with peers.

In addition to positive ideas about fun and learning held by most students, one in five (19%) strongly or somewhat agreed that fun can get in the way of learning. Some felt having fun is difficult or may distract from learning – preferring to study without wasting time. Some see fun as part of social interaction and would prefer to work on their own (i.e., without fun). Some felt online activities were repetitive and boring, linking distance education with an explicit lack of fun or contrarily as ‘forced’ fun. Some students who felt under pressure or stressed did not expect online learning to be fun and instead wanted more support from tutors.

Rumpus members found some findings interesting, in particular the connection established between 1% of students who highlighted that fun should not be forced:

Being able to work on my own. My other modules force us to participate in group work, which is why I didn’t choose a “brick” uni, as I don’t have the time to sit and wait around for other people to be able to do group work.” OU student, Feb 2020.

“I think fun can be a valuable tool in learning, however I question how it can be applied in distance learning, without forcing students to interact with other peers. Fun activities could be viewed as a waste of time by certain students”. OU student, Feb 2020.

Rumpus members shared their comments and highlighted the importance of understanding students’ needs and expectations.  Findings that indicated negative perception about fun that is   “forced” surprised the team.

“It’s interesting that two of the students who are quoted as finding fun a distraction, link it with ‘forced’ social interaction and don’t connect it with something you could do or experience as an individual. There’s always a tension between learning as the social construction of knowledge, and students’ experience of group or collaborative learning – but I’m surprised that it extends to fun as well.” R.F., May 2020.

These findings confirmed the results of previous surveys which  revealed, for example,  that  there is a negative reaction if students’ participation in forum discussion is assessed because they do not like to be forced to interact with others .

“Yeah the resistance to forced social interaction produces some surprising results, for instance one of my colleagues in Learning Design surveyed a lot of students and found that (amongst those participating in the survey) 8% of the students who are only occasional users of the forum, actually contributed less if the contributions were assessed – the interpretation of this is they resented it so much that they’d protest by dropping out. We regularly got students stating they chose modules to avoid having to interact with other students. It wouldn’t surprise me if these effects translated to including fun in activities, particularly if the fun activities were assessed.  I’m not sure how much it would help to point out that they’re not forced, students are quite at liberty to not do them and simply forego the marks – as they are with any other parts of the assessment. For some reason they resent being graded on their interaction with other students while they don’t resent being asked to write essays.” M.C. May 2020

Students’ reflective views about the relationship between fun and learning led to these six recommendations for all learners:

1. Fun can have a positive impact on your learning when you have enjoyable activities, feel motivated, focused and engaged with your studies.

2. Identify what is difficult or boring during your own learning and discuss it to find alternatives, in order to avoid anxiety or lack of interest.

3. Distance learning can potentially be lonely and isolating, so being open-minded towards social online activities might help you engage

4. Your personal views about fun can help you identify factors that affect your enjoyment and engagement with distance online learning.

5. Interacting with other students may be fun – so do consider these opportunities when they arise.

6. Keeping your study engaging and fun with time allocation and intervals to be able to face busy life and lack of time.

You can read more about the study and its findings in this OpenLearn article:


Creating a Framework of fun and Learning

Using Balloons to Build Consensus

Ferguson, RebeccaChilds, MarkOkada, AlexandraSheehy, KieronTatlow-Golden, Mimi and Childs, Anna (2020). Creating a Framework of fun and Learning: Using Balloons to Build Consensus. In: 14th European Conference on Games Based Learning – ECGBL 2020, 23-25 Sep 2020, Brighton (held virtually due to COVID).


The relationships between fun and learning are far from clear. Some argue that the two are mutually exclusive, while playful practitioners draw attention to links with motivation, exploration and creativity. This is an important issue in the context of games-based learning – should fun be emphasised, or should it be set aside in favour of other elements? In order to explore the relationships between learning and fun, it is first necessary to understand the meanings of ‘fun’, a term that previous studies have shown is interpreted in several distinct ways. In this paper, we explore a new approach to researching fun and learning, the Consensus Workshop. This method was used to address two research questions: ‘What elements of fun do a group of educational practitioners identify within a Consensus Workshop?’ and ‘How do participants see these elements translating to a learning scenario?’ It was also used to explore whether a Consensus Workshop can be used to collaboratively create a taxonomy of fun, and to identify any practical and conceptual barriers to this being done effectively. Participants in a Consensus Workshop used balloons to help them construct two typologies of fun and its relationship to learning. We evaluate this approach and its outcomes, identify elements of a future typology, examine how understandings of fun are shaped by context, and consider the ways in which participants linked fun and learning. The study highlights the importance of context to understandings of fun, and also finds indications that studies in this area are limited by a tendency to focus on socially acceptable views of fun and its relationship to learning. It finds that a Consensus Workshop has the potential to be used to create a taxonomy of fun. In this initial trial of the method, educational practitioners identified multiple elements of fun and made a range of connections between fun and learning.