OER and open learning

Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’ve been a part of a several online discussions lately about “open learning” and OER. It’s increasingly apparent to me that these are two very different things and that there may not be as much overlap as I once thought. (I have often maintained that OER, even when used in conventional ways, leads to open learning.)

Another realization is that while open learning seems to be picking up steam (e.g. Connected Educator activities, Connected Learning, etc.), OER seems to be of less  interest. I wonder if OER is too cutting edge for mainstream educators who are risk adverse and not innovative enough for those on the leading edge.

Here’s an interesting exchange on this:


When did OER become equated with blackline masters?? I could elaborate on how OER spans many media and can be used for the most innovative learning imaginable, but the perception here that OER is the same old-same old is what is important (and this comment comes from an innovative educator who I greatly respect).

Particularly in K-12, where there is no one “buyer” who might be attracted to the cost savings (the purchasing morass of the educational-industrial complex in K-12 leaves no one feeling the immediate benefits of savings), this leaves OER in a tenuous spot.

And so, as I periodically do, I wonder if OER is a solution looking for a problem in K-12. (Note: The online learning space is a notable exception to this.)

This also reminds me of an activity we did at an OER advocates meeting during which everyone shared a particularly memorable and meaningful learning experience they’d had. As participants shared out, it struck me that not one story involved instructional resources or materials; instead they all revolved around community and relationships.

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Thinking about youth in cMOOCs

Posted by on April 14, 2014 in clmooc, DLMOOC

The cross-generational learning experiences that I’ve participated in have been uniquely powerful. This is leading me to think about how we might include more youth in our connectivist learning MOOCs.

My question is – what would incentivize youth to participate?

In many ways, this is the same question I am often asked about getting educators to participate in opt-in, no-pay/no-credit learning experiences.

And just as with educators, I am not looking for extrinsic incentives, such as stipends or course credit. I think those kinds of rewards detract from the rich self-directed learning that happens in opt-in cMOOCs.

With educators, my answer to “why should I participate?” centers on the learning itself. We participate in these connected learning experience because it has value to us and adds to our own personal learning. So perhaps that is the answer for youth as well.

I’m wondering though if there is a way to draw a more direct line to this for youth. Perhaps a connection to something like Genius Hour or some other highly flexible school project. (Is this too close to doing the MOOC for course credit? I’m not sure.) Perhaps a tie to certain passion-based affinity groups (e.g. art, cooking, etc.).

I’m thinking out loud on this. Would love to hear your thoughts.


Introducing the K-12 OER COP!

Posted by on April 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

K-12 OER Community of Practice

I’ve been working for the last couple of months on a new project: a K-12 open educational resources (OER) online community of practice.

It’s not really done yet. In fact, it may never be done. Which makes unveiling it publicly a little scarey, but here we are.

This project came out of a realization that while many in K-12 now know about OER, not that many are actually using it. As a believer in peer learning and support, I thought that an online place where teachers might collaborate on this could be helpful. (Along the way, a group of us debated whether the world needed one more online community and other design issues, all of which was very helpful in thinking this through.)

A premise for this project is that we’re hoping to provide utility for those who are just getting started with OER, not necessarily those already entrenched in using it. As such, you won’t find a lot of information on license nuances, repositories, metadata, interoperability, or similar issues. Instead, we’ve chosen to start with these areas:

(Are these the right categories? I don’t know, but they’re flexible to be changed as needed.)

For each of these categories, we offer a few resources to get started, a discussion board space, and a collection of related tweets, posts, etc. from the web.

What can you do to participate in this?

  • Visit and join the community.
  • Post to the discussion boards.
  • Suggest blogs or folks on Twitter that we should follow and include here.
  • Tag your own related posts with #oer and/or #k12opened.
  • Make suggestions for how we might improve the site and make it more useful to those just getting started with OER.
  • Tell your friends!

I am excited about embarking on this new adventure and hope you’ll join us!


Open is more than a technicality

Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

As open has gotten “popular,” there have been some disturbing trends in how the label has been applied.

On a few recent occasions, I’ve run into content that is advertised as open and Creative Commons licensed. But in trying to locate that content, I’ve been unable to locate to find it, though I was able to find a for-sale version.

In two cases, I knew the folks responsible for developing the content and asked about it. I was told the content was in fact available under an open license but wasn’t publicly posted in that format.


Berlin wall

credit: Eric Gilliland

In one case, the content had been produced in partnership with a commercial publisher who didn’t want to make the open licensed version available. (When I asked if I might post the open licensed version on my own site, I was discouraged from doing so.) In another, I was told that I could get private access to the open licensed content.

This is a worrying consequence of the dual licensing schemes that have been proposed. While I’m not necessarily opposed to dual licensing, I would hope that hiding away the truly open version of the content isn’t tolerated.

I hope that consumers and funders are watching out for this. It doesn’t serve the open movement or especially learners.


Open licensing your YouTube videos

Posted by on March 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

Some time back, YouTube made open licensing an option for videos there. (Vimeo has had this option available for some time. However, with YouTube’s great tools for close captioning, they are now a step ahead in my mind.) This is how you do it:

  1. Go to your video, and go into the Info and settings.
  2. Go to the Advanced settings.
  3. Scroll down to License and rights ownership. Select Creative Commons attribution.*c
  4. Save changes.

That’s all there is to it.You can also change your default YouTube settings to use this license by going to Channel settings -> Defaults -> License.

Sharing your videos under a Creative Commons license is a great way to let others reuse, remix, and republish them freely.

* Right now, YouTube only has an option for the CC BY license. If you want to use another Creative Commons license, you might consider noting that in your video description.


Open Education Week 2014

Posted by on March 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


Open Education Week is next week, and there are lots of great events and projects on tap.

For myself, we’re highlighting the Kids Open Dictionary and the soon-to-be-unveiled K-12 OER Community of Practice (stay tuned for a link and video on that).

I’m also going to be on Teachers Teaching Teachers on Wed., March 12 at 9pm Eastern with a bunch of other great open advocates talking about why open matters. Please join us if you’re available.

If you think open is important, make sure to tell others about Open Education Week and share the open love!



Open professional learning

Posted by on February 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

These notes and slides are for a webinar I’m doing with the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction on “Open Professional Learning.”

In this session, I’m talking about open resources for learning about copyright and OER and for other openly-licensed professional development resources, including MOOCs. There is so much out there!

All of these materials are open licensed so feel free to remix, reuse, and redistribute as you like.


(downloadable PPT)

Handout – PDF, Word

Related links:


My personal MOOC learning

Posted by on February 4, 2014 in clmooc

Over the last year, I’ve learned a lot about MOOCs, both as a participant and as a facilitator, in all cases as a learner. Much like my learning curve with Twitter, I dove deep and went from “meh” to “wow.”

One of my biggest leaps in understanding came when I realized that “all MOOCs are NOT created equal,” and in fact, there are huge differences between xMOOCs and cMOOCs.

The Making Learning Connected MOOC (CLMOOC) was especially influential in my thinking. It came at a time when I was solidifying my relationship with the National Writing Project and finding a home there. If every MOOC were like CLMOOC, I’d spend all my time there (and in fact, parts of CLMOOC, especially the relationships we formed, have lived on, which is a real testament to its power).

The CLMOOC facilitator team  has been working hard on a collection of resources that synthesize what we learned in designing and going through CLMOOC together. That collection has now been published, and I am proud of that work as well.

I look forward to future MOOC experiences. Like all learning experiences, I will try to choose carefully and will exercise my learner independence to come or go as meets my needs. I hope others will do the same.

moocs-no border


Enforced independence

Posted by on January 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

In #rhizo14 this week, the question is how to you enforce independence in learning?

Of course, this is a paradoxical question – can you really force people to take control of and responsibility for their own learning?

This leads me back to a debate I’ve had with myself over and over again in the last few years that I’ve become a believer in peer learning. I can support, beg, cajole, and encourage self-directed learning, but in many (most?) cases, this doesn’t make it happen. Maybe I’m just not a very inspiring peer learning leader. But in probing on this question over and over again, I have come to believe that the majority of folks in my main audience (mainstream K-12 teachers) don’t have the desire or the willingness to self direct their own professional learning. (The reasons for this are many, but that’s another post.)

So, as someone who really believes in peer learning, that leaves me with a few choices. First, I could simply be happy learning in community with the smaller opt-in group that wants to learn in this way. Second, I could keep embracing peer learning and try to convert more mainstream teachers (and likely be frustrated when they vanish). A third option I’ve started to experiment with is a hybrid sort of model that uses some peer learning oriented approaches, but also includes enough more mainstream teaching and learning methods to keep more folks engaged.

Frankly, I don’t like any of these options.

The first is probably the best option, but it is really preaching to the choir and doesn’t move the needle much. Selfishly, though, it may serve my own learning the best, and certainly isn’t frustrating, as the other two options are. The third option attracts and maintains a bigger audience, but does it move things along? Can those who don’t want to direct their own learning be moved along by being a part of a community and seeing others model the behaviour?

Sometimes, it all seems like too big a challenge for me.





What does “deeper learning” mean to you?

Posted by on December 18, 2013 in DLMOOC

I’m working on another MOOC, this one focused on deeper learning, and it is prompting me to think a lot about what deeper learning means to me.

(As background, the Deeper Learning MOOC or DLMOOC is a free, flexible, nine-week online course that will allow K-16 educators to learn about how deeper learning can be put into practice. It starts on January 20.)

To me, deeper learning is about the kind of learning experiences where you immerse yourself in something and learn in a way that sticks with you for life.

Thinking back on my own academic experiences, I realize that while I was in many ways the model student in elementary and secondary school, I rarely experienced deeper learning. I wasn’t particularly “smart,” but I was very good at the game of school. I was an excellent reader and writer, and perhaps most relevant to my success, I was a great test taker. I could whip through textbooks and ace whatever assessments were given, but I retained little. The few K-12 experiences I had that I would characterize as deeper learning were out of the mainstream of the curriculum – a science fair project, several independent study projects, extensive journaling on topics that mattered to me. These are the learning experiences that have stuck with me over the years and influenced my life and work as an adult.

The Hewlett Foundation defines deeper learning as “using … knowledge and skills in a way that prepares [students] for real life.” It is “mastering core academic content…, while learning how to think critically, collaborate, communicate effectively, direct their own learning, and believe in themselves (known as an ‘academic mindset’).” Curiously, this is a good description of my graduate school experience. It was filled with academic content, critical readings, collaborative group projects, and presentations. And yet, here too, I don’t feel that I learned deeply. Instead, I was fulfilling requirements to get a piece of paper.

In truth, this may be my own fault, more so than the program’s. While I was in graduate school, I was also working a 60+ hour a week job. Ironically, this job was where I experienced deep learning. There I was engaged in real-world content that consumed me, and my work had real implications. The elements of content, critical thinking, collaboration, effective communication, self-directed learning, and academic mindsets were present in both grad school and my job – but the learning experience was completely different.

Credit: Mark Hillary

Credit: Mark Hillary

As a teacher, I think the best example of deeper learning in my east African classroom was when we threw out our British curriculum for six weeks and engaged in a cross-disciplinary African studies unit. We still learned math, science, history, and language arts, but it was suddenly brought to life by hands on projects based in a more relevant context.

What do these personal experiences in deeper learning have in common? Personal relevance. In-depth exploration. Getting lost in discovery and problem solving. Immersive learning. Perhaps the particular strategies for achieving this (project-based learning, maker activities, etc.) should vary with the learner and the context. Certainly, there is no magic formula for achieving success. As with curriculum, good teachers can be successful with bad materials/methods and vice versa.

What does “deeper learning” mean to you? If you are interested in puzzling through what deeper learning means and seeing some stellar examples of deeper learning in action, perhaps you’ll join us for DLMOOC in January. You can sign up here.