Are you interested in OER in K-12? If you’re coming to ISTE, please join us at the Birds of a Feature session “Open Education and Open Educational Resources” on Tuesday, June 28 from 5:00pm–6:15pm. This will be an informal discussion to explore the potential of OER, how different schools are using it, and how we can get more folks using these great resources. Come help us strategize the future of OER in K-12!
I will also be doing a BYOL session “Open Educational Resources: Share, Remix, Learn” on Monday, June 27 from 4:15pm–5:15pm.
Here is a run-down of various OER- and open source-related sessions at ISTE this year:
- 10 Open Source Software Packages You’ll Love! – Monday, June 27 from 11:00am–12:00pm
- Sakai Project @ Bexley Schools from Pilot to Production - Monday, June 27 from 11:00am–1:00pm
- Alternative Assessment Strategies Using the Mahara ePortfolio System – Monday, June 27 from 12:45pm–1:45pm
- Drupal for Education: Latest Trends and New Ways to Get Started - Monday, June 27 from 2:30pm–3:30pm
- Open Educational Resources: Share, Remix, Learn - Monday, June 27 from 4:15pm–5:15pm
- Much Ado about Digital Content: What Do the Students Say? – Monday, June 27 from 4:15pm–5:15pm (Hmmm…same time as my session :()
- Open Source Toolkit: Saving Money, Securing More Programs – Tuesday, June 28 from 10:00am–12:00pm
- Got Books? Promoting Young Adult Literature using Technology - Tuesday, June 28 from 10:00am–12:00pm
- NETS Portfolio: Documenting and Assessing Student Growth with Sakai - Tuesday, June 28 from 1:00pm–3:00pm
- Building a Learning Platform with Open Source Software - Tuesday, June 28 from 2:00pm–3:00pm
- Overcoming Barriers through Open Source Solutions - Tuesday, June 28 from 3:45pm–4:45pm
- Open Education and Open Educational Resources” - Tuesday, June 28 from 5:00pm–6:15pm
- OER Glue: Leveraging Open Education Resources and Popular Tools – Wednesday, June 29 from 8:30am–9:30am
- Open Source, Open Content, and Web 2.0 - Wednesday, June 29 from 8:30am–9:30am
- Innovative Technology in Science Inquiry - Wednesday, June 29 from 10:15am–11:15am
- Bringing Algebra and Geometry Together with GeoGebra - Wednesday, June 29 from 11:00am–1:00pm
The culture of K-12 education in America is very staid. It is dominated by hierarchical structures and influenced by powerful lobbies. It is a huge, slow-moving bureaucracy generally not influenced by real student needs.
And yet the need for change is widely agreed upon, both inside and outside of the system. Our youth are not being prepared adequately for the modern world. And while there is broad consensus on this point, there is little agreement on either the direction or process for that change, and there is little substantive change actually occurring.
The culture of the open movement is very free-flowing. It is not dominated by any particular establishments or associations. Instead, it is a loose collective of individuals who value openness, creativity, innovation, transparency, and sharing. Together, many nodes in the community have collaborated on creating some magnificent works: Linux, the human genome project, Wikipedia.
And while it strikes many of us that the open movement could inspire and inform the reforms that K-12 education desperately needs, the question of how to reconcile these two very different cultures looms. The habits, preferences, and even vocabulary of these cultures are completely different. The K-12 establishment, for its part, is adverse to change and to ideas like openness, transparency, and collaborative creation. The fear of the unknown outweighs the potential benefits in the eyes of policymakers. The open movement is biased toward rapid and radical change and doesn’t easily accommodate trying to flex to the status quo. The notion of compromising to be inclusive of more conservative viewpoints is not well received. Between these two extremes, the chasm is great.
Historical precedents for significant reform movements are prevalent. Sometimes major change comes through grass roots efforts that swell to become large populist movements. A highly charismatic leader can propel a radical idea to be accepted and embraced by the masses. Other times, bloody revolutions bring about change.
It is not obvious that any of these paths are either desirable or likely as a road for the reform of the K-12 educational system. Perhaps instead, its future is to be that of a sprawling, languorous empire in its decline. One day it will collapse under its own weight. Hopefully, the rubble and ashes will someday see the emergence of something new and better.
With several different groups (districts, states, publishers, etc.) working on tagging content assets — especially open ones — for the new Common Core standards, a group of us thought it might be useful to have a standard (no pun intended) tagging schema.
I don’t know much about what makes a “good tag,” but not being one to let ignorance stand in my way, I’d like to throw out a tag format to get input.
Here’s a first thought on this:
One question I have is with regard to the suffix. My thought was that it would be nice to be able to search a repository and find all the content for standard G-1c that is open. However, another alternative would be to omit the -oer suffix or have a separate oer tag and then search on the combination. I guess you could also tag both with and without the tag (e.g. both cc-8m-g-1c-oer and cc-8m-g-1c).
What other ideas, thoughts, comments, etc. do you all have?
[Thanks to Doug Sovde at Achieve for helping think this through.]
It is an exciting time for OER in K-12.
The value proposition for K-12 education is high. There is a perfect storm of circumstances with the Common Core standards and forthcoming assessments, calls for more effective instructional models, and state budget crises. Federal and state policy is strongly calling for OER to be included in programs so that public funds result in materials that are available to the public.
There is considerable work being done by the OER community to make sure that policy continues to support these objectives.
As this work is done, I plead that the OER community also keeps in mind K-12 teachers. No matter how much policy progress is made and even how many district administrators embrace OER, it will be for naught if teachers are not included.
Currently, only a fraction of a percentage of teachers are familiar with OER, open, or even Creative Commons. Even fewer know about the great benefits of OER. We need to make sure this awareness grows. To do this, we need to keep in mind that the value propositions for teachers are quite different from those of policymakers. Teachers are concerned with:
- Achievement, achievement, achievement (not only in terms of test scores but of 21st century skills and deeper learning as well)
- Time (Teachers are very overburdened and don’t have extra time for a lot of new things.)
That helps set the agenda for OER awareness building for K-12 teachers:
- Strong standards correlation is a must.
- Show evidence of the ability of specific resources to raise achievement.
- Keep it simple. (Innovation will follow.)
- Provide lots of professional development focused on these areas.
If passion for OER at the grassroots level can be built to match policy level enthusiasm, we’ll have meaningful mainstream adoption.
When considering how to advance the adoption of OER by K-12, I often come down on the side of advocating for more traditional, comfortable formats, including open textbooks and fairly linear online course formats.While I agree that the big win for OER is as as a tool for reform that includes cultural changes, more innovative pedagogies, and new models of learning, I still think that a more mainstream approach is a wiser choice.
My reasons for this are numerous. K-12 educators, and even more so administrators and policymakers, are a fairly conservative group and are generally resistant to change. Open textbooks provide a comfortable alternative to traditional proprietary textbooks and provide an easier decision path. In my opinion, the OER movement has a big enough challenge to reach mainstream adoption without taking on the whole ed reform agenda. Most of all, I believe that innovative educators will innovate even with more traditional materials. More mainstream educators are unlikely to adopt extremely innovative materials, but may use more traditional open materials and then innovate with them down the road. More conventional open materials provide an entree to innovation.
My thinking on this was shifted significantly though when I recently thought about school adoptions of Google Docs.
Google Docs is an innovative and progressive tool that has received the largest widescale adoption in K-12 in recent memory. And it is certainly a tool that has shifted pedagogy for the better.
Google Docs came onto the scene in 2007. Sometime after that, a handful of experimental educators tried it. Like many other tools of innovation, this was done behind closed doors often without the knowledge of (and even against the policies of) administrative staffs.
What’s different about this model of adoption? Now, just three years later, a huge number of schools are using Google Docs, and many have adopted it district- or school-wide with the full knowledge (and even blessing) of their administrators and IT staffs. It is really unprecedented in the slow-moving world of K-12 education.
How did this happen? I’m not exactly sure, but here are some factors at work:
- Google Docs adoption grew up from the grassroots level.
- Students were an important part of the adoption process. When kids in a grade level, for example grade 8, moved up a year, they asked their 9th grade teachers, “Why aren’t we using Google Docs?” Most teachers shrugged, and kids kept using it. Google Docs doesn’t require full teacher support or participation for kids to benefit from it.
- Google Docs can be used in a very traditional (non-scary) way as an office suite. At the same time, using Google Docs naturally leads to more innovative uses that grow organically out of other uses.
- Google is a big name, and enterprise institutions also began adoption Google Docs, lowering the risk factor.
Many lessons can be gleaned from this that can be applied to OER.
- Grassroots enthusiasm is important. (I think that there is disproportionate attention being paid to the policy level in OER right now.)
- Put the resources directly in the hands of kids. (This feeds right into my idea of preloading as much content as possible onto mobile devices.)
- Give teachers a traditional, non-scary entry point. (Back to my original thoughts!)
- Partner with known and trusted groups.
Thinking about how well Google Docs has done in schools in such a short time makes me optimistic for the future of OER and other tools that prompt more innovative models of learning.
Awhile back, I was thinking about the idea of shareable media sets — collections of open-licensed photos, diagrams, maps, audio, video, etc. that could be used by teachers or students in word-processed documents or presentations or used to create web sites or other multimedia presentations.
I’ve taken this idea a little further and have now developed the following shareable media sets:
- Forces and motion (coming very soon)
- Diversity of life
- Properties of matter
- The planets
For each media element in the set, just right-click the file to find the credit, license, and source link.
I hope to do more of these over time. Let me know if you have ideas or requests.
This is a different kind of post for me… I’m really thinking out loud and looking for folks more knowledgeable than me to make suggestions.
I’m working on an OER project plan to develop open “textbooks” (collections of resources with a scope and sequence, not necessarily in a textbook format) for K-12 that can be remixed at a classroom or even student level to differentiate instruction. The focus is on flexibility, ease of use, and appropriateness for average K-12 teacher.
I want to put resources toward high quality content, not a platform. There are so many open platforms out there that there must be one (or more) that are appropriate for this. I suspect that there might be a need for two platforms: a CMS for the developers and an LMS for end users. Some key criteria would include:
- Support for various media types (text, audio, video)
- Support for interactive media (quizzes, writing response, assignment submission, etc.)
- Ability to export in multiple formats (print, electronic)
As an end user tool, I like Moodle for a lot of reasons, including that it is very interactive and geared for remix. It also doesn’t hurt that a lot of schools already use and like it.
While Moodle seems like a good LMS for my purposes, it seems like we’d need a front-end development CMS to host content in. The idea would be that a teacher would choose a course (or smaller content modules) from the CMS and then export them to Moodle where the materials could be customized for individual classes or even groups of students.
- Does this approach make sense?
- Do you know of anyone using a CMS to export content into Moodle?
- What other tools or approaches should I be thinking about?
Thanks in advance for any thoughts you care to share.
There was a fascinating article in the Texas Tribune this week about the recent legislation in Texas that, among other things, appears to allow textbook money to be directed toward technology, calls for “open source” textbooks to be authored, and gives the (appointed, not elected) commissioner a new voice in textbook adoptions there. It is a well-written and thought-provoking article — if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it.
There are so many aspects of this article worth thinking critically and writing about that I’m thinking of devoting a whole series of blog posts to it. For now, though, I want to talk about this comment by Board Chairwoman Gail Lowe in maintaining that textbook funds should be spent on printed books, not technology:
“Some homes in south Texas, in the barrios, don’t even have electricity, much less laptop capabilities. I think we’re putting the cart before the horse. It’s important that students grasp the material, not that they have a new toy to play with.”
I hope that in saying this, Ms. Lowe was really just venting frustration at the apparent spreading of power from only the board to the board and the commissioner. I really pray that she doesn’t advocate the view that technology is a “toy” and that it shouldn’t be wasted on children of poverty.
It is a crime that in the United States, we have such poverty that children are growing up without electricity and running water, much less high quality education. Surely, QUALITY EDUCATION is the most prominent path out of poverty.
Will textbooks that are written in a way that is neither engaging nor even accessible, especially to children of poverty, help this situation? I think not. Engaging technology is certainly not the only answer, but it is one answer. And with the attitude of many adults in the educational-industrial complex, who are responsible for traditional educational environments, engaging tools for independent, differentiated learning may be students’ best chance.
One more note — A few of the significant benefits of laptops are that they can be charged and run for hours on batteries, that their mobility extends learning opportunities, and that they can facilitate rich collaborations around the world. They are uniquely suited as a tool for developing 21st century skills in all types of environments.
Let’s put politics aside and give our kids a chance to be successful.
I’m working on some product plans and business models for open textbooks in K-12 and have been thinking a lot about how “textbook-like” they need to be to get broad adoption.
A lot of the work in OER is reform-driven, and in fact, the most substantive reasons to produce and use OER are pedagogical, not cost-driven. OER allows innovative teachers and learners to differentiate instruction in exciting ways.
Many in OER have questioned whether new open core curriculum should even be called “textbooks” at all.
Still, I’m not sure that an the best path for anew entry is to be hugely innovative.
The first and important goal for a significant new entry into the open ed market should be broadscale use. And the textbook adoption process in K-12, whether in formal adoption states or open states, is such that an innovative product is not likely to even be considered in many places, much less be broadly used.
I know this firsthand, having created some very innovative products that were used by few.
An important note, for those motivated by reform, is that those who are prone to innovate will do so regardless of the raw materials and/or environment. They are doing so now with very conventional materials (although in many cases illegally with great technical difficulty and huge personal time expenditures).
Providing high-quality open curriculum gives these innovators new resources with which to innovate. Providing open curriculum in a conventional textbook format gives traditional teachers a path to future innovation.
Now I’m thinking about how these materials might look like a conventional textbook but also be packaged with a toolset that allows for more innovation when users are ready. Stay tuned for more on that.