Friday, February 5, 2016

CBE and Student Learning Outcomes in Moodle announced today that the prototypes for the Competency Based Education feature targeted for Moodle 3.1 are available now. The Competency Based Education feature includes the ability to report on specific student learning outcomes. Here's what that means for K12  (I'll write about what I think that means for Higher Ed in another post to come.)

A teacher in a 3rd grade science classroom can create a learning activity for her class and align that learning activity with a specific state standard. In fact, all student learning activities could be aligned by the teacher in the classroom with a state standard. Teachers, of course, would still be free to teach things that can't be aligned to a state standard, but that list won't be very long for most teachers.  

Now, here's what that means in the broader picture. If all teachers in a district are aligning the learning activities of their students with state standards and an assessment of those learning activities appears in their Moodle learning management system, then how the students are doing relative to standards is a report that's available whenever anyone wants to run the report. That assessment can be a quiz, a score on a submitted assignment, or the teacher's more subjective evaluation of a performance of some kind by the student. When teachers record their assessments of a student's work or performance that record becomes available to all who have permission to access those records. So, a principal could run a report and see how all 3rd graders were doing on science standards, or math standards. The report would be based on learning activities created by the teacher, or that the teacher had chosen for or with the student. The report would be in real time, up to date as of the time the principal runs the report, or the teacher runs the report, or someone from the district office runs the report.  Students, also, will be able to run reports on how well they're doing on the state standards, or IB requirements, or whatever set of standards or competencies they and their teachers choose to track.

This will profoundly alter assessment of learning. Now learning will be assessed at the level of teacher and student. If a district wants all of its teachers to assess a set of specific standards on a set of activities or questions, they can do it as often as they want to do it. Outside testing agencies won't be necessary, but schools could choose to use 'standardized' tests if they want. The learning activities will be assessed against the standards. The student could even choose the learning activity and propose it as fulfilling their mastery of the standard. The choice could be left up to the teacher and the student to decide. If the principal, or someone at the district, or someone at the state wants to check to see if that activity meets the standards, the artifact of the student learning and the teachers comments and assessment will be available. This is real student choice and voice in learning. This changes lots.

Friday, January 1, 2016

OER and the Learning Management System

In its recent publication, OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES Advancing Widespread Adoption to Improve Instruction and LearningThe William and Flora Hewlett Foundation state that they're looking for ways to "facilitate their understanding of how to successfully scale OER and communicate its benefits." My suggestion to increase the percentages listed on the OER Dashboard on page 31 which are indicators of successes with OER is to focus on the use of OER with Learning Management Systems.

Few people want to be champions for LMSs in either higher ed or K-12, for lots of good reasons, but the LMS is the key to making OER more useful in both K-12 and higher ed. One of the reasons, I think, that LMSs have such a poor standing with all levels of education is that they haven't previously had OER. OER is the key ingredient to make LMSs really useful in either K-12 or higher ed. Without OER, LMSs can be an appendage or obstacle to teaching and learning. And, without an LMS, OER is often something that is harder to use than what we've always used previously - the textbook.

An open textbook can be fitted into a learning management system quite easily and practically. When the textbook is housed in a LMS, it is more easily available to students, teaching notes can be included, assessments are included, and reports aligning student learning outcomes can be created for all of the various potentially interested parties. The most exciting part is the fact that OER makes the content in a learning management system something that is alive, flexible, and well suited to the collaborative process that is teaching and learning.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The OER Business Model

     I was really pleased to see Sarah Hinchliff Pearson's Medium article, Open for Business:
A look at how platforms and creators build successful endeavors around open digital content. Sarah is attempting to answer the question that my sister-in-law asked me at this year's Thanksgiving dinner which was - "How do you make money doing that?" That came after she had asked, "so, what are you doing for work these days?" In between the first and second question I had said, "I'm creating a digital curriculum for Minnesota 3rd grade science, which will be free for any teacher in Minnesota to use; the curriculum will eventually be free for any teacher anywhere to use." The entity responsible for this new, free, open, digital curriculum is the Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum.

   Now, here's the thing that I don't think Sarah quite nailed down, yet. It's the act of creating the curriculum in a particular form that will be useful to Minnesota 3rd grade teachers that generates revenue for me, and not the content which is created. I'm getting paid for doing something; the content I'm using is already free and Creative Commons licensed or in the public domain. I'm getting paid for collecting this content and putting it in a particular digital format that makes it easier for teachers to use. That digital format will include notes for the teacher about how to set up lessons and learning activities - some of those notes I will be creating based on my experience as a teacher of 3rd grade science teacher using digital curriculum. Other notes will be the notes that others have written based on their experience using the curriculum. In many cases, I'm taking content that is designed to be printed out on paper and converting it to content that is digital and can be uploaded to a learning management system. 

    In addition to providing the teaching notes, I'm aligning the activities and content to the Minnesota Science Standards and creating assessments that work in learning management systems. The value I'm adding is the notes, the alignment and the assessments. When I'm done, that's it; I won't get paid any more money for doing the act of creating those notes and assessments. I won't get any royalty payments or accrue any percentage of profit from the continued sale of the content because the content isn't going to be sold; it's going to be free to anyone that want's to use it. All of the schools in Minnesota who use this curriculum will save any money that they otherwise would have paid for science curriculum. I'm not sure exactly how much money all of the schools in Minnesota are currently spending for 3rd grade science curriculum, but whatever the amount is, it can now be spent on something else.
   Those savings are important, but they're not the really big value that Minnesota schools will accrue. The big value will be the community of teaching and learning that gets created in the process of sharing notes and stories about how the lessons worked. The curriculum I curate is just a beginning. It will be revised and improved upon, I hope, every time another teacher uses it. Sarah does acknowledge that creating community is a crucial aspect to Open Education Resources, and I do think that there's a likelihood that the community might need more work from me, but it won't be for doing the same thing for which I'm being paid now. This is, indeed, a new kind of business model; it's very different than the models of creating or curating or providing learning content that have been in place for at least the past century in most of the world.
   The new business model is about creating specific value. That value needs to be replicable by others. That replication doesn't create monetary compensation for the 'original' creator/curator/collector. In order to keep getting paid creators need to keep creating new things that are of value to others and replicable by others. The new 'things' may be the act of coaching others how to use the content more effectively, but that, too, if done right will only produce compensation for a short time. Good creators keep working themselves out of jobs. But, the good news for me is that there is no shortage of needs in the world for new creations, especially when we're talking about the education of our children.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Our Schools Don't Need Saving

      Austin Dannhaus' recent piece is a perfect example of what David Hursh describes in his new book, The End of Public Schools: The Corporate Reform Agenda to Privatize Education, as a manufactured crisis created by corporate reformers where they "misrepresent data to have us believe that our public schools are failing so that public schools can be privatized." 
   Dannhous' pieceTechnology Won't Save Our Schools appears in various online outlets - I saw it first via Edsurge. Now, why might Dannhaus be interested in privatizing public schools? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that he's the Director of New Ventures at a business called Free Range Studios. Free Range Studios is involved in, from their website: 

                    Research insights brand innovation storytelling content strategy workshops new product market exploration brand & growth strategy campaign & fundraising strategy new brand and growth strategy analytics & optimization ux/ui product experience design.

   I'm guessing public school systems are not target clients of a business that does all of that unless they're going to help one district do a merger with or acquisition of a neighboring district. There probably isn't a lot of requests for such 'services' so it's not surprising that they don't list much experience with public education. Dannhaus appears to only have two years in a Prince George County elementary school as a TFAer after which he became a consultant and then a director of new ventures.

  One of Dannhaus' complaints is that "So far, edtech has only contributed small improvements rather than the scalable and systemic disruptions to which it might aspire." Who says we need to systemically disrupt our education system? Oh, yeah, the people who want to privatize education; that's who.

  What if we were to use technology to actually improve the system we already have? From my experience of more than twenty-five years implementing technology in various education settings, the reason that technology has not changed education very much is that very few people are bothering to train teachers how to integrate technology into instruction and assessment.

 It's not easy and quick for all of our teachers to learn how to use all of the great new tools that are available that will improve teaching and learning. Dannahus got this part right - education is complicated. Given the very little, if any, support they've gotten from their administrations or the teacher training institutions, it's not at all surprising that results have not changed. Dumping a bunch of tablets into classrooms without planning and professional development in a scalable and systemic way is obviously going to cause confusion and frustration. It doesn't need to be done like that.

 Let's give adequately supporting the great teachers and schools we already have a real chance instead of blowing up the system.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Moodle Competencies / Student Learning Outcomes

MoodleMootUS2015 (#MootUS15) was held this past week at the U of Mn Minneapolis campus. In his keynote Marting Dougiamus offered encouragement to all who have been longing for Moodle to finally make the reporting of student learning outcomes, or competencies, something that is easy to do and makes sense.  Note that I said encouragement. Martin didn’t say when the useful reporting of student learning outcomes in Moodle will actually happen, but he and a lot of other people are working on it.

Moodle has had the idea of student learning outcomes defined for many years.  It’s just that those  outcomes currently can’t be aggregated beyond the course level.  So, outcomes in Moodle are currently not something useful for anyone other than the teacher of a particular course which makes them not very useful.  As they are now, Moodle outcomes don’t provide information to program coordinators, to department chairs, to Academic Deans, to principals, to superintendents, to any of the people other than the teacher who might be interested in who is learning what.

Reporting student learning outcomes based on assessments of student learning as evidenced by work submitted via the Moodle LMS will make life easier for lots of people when it finally becomes available.  After spending time everyday last week talking to Moodle people about student learning outcomes I understand better why this hasn’t happened, yet.  Most of the people at the Moodle Moot were the IT developer types; there were very few people who were in the academic leadership of their institutions.  And, therein lies the explanation for why useful kinds of reports of student learning outcomes hasn’t happened, yet - the academic leaders don’t really understand what’s possible, and the IT developers are hesitant to make what’s possible a reality until they get some direction for academic leadership.

Reporting student learning outcomes beyond the course level alters the way lots of things in academic institutions have always been done.  This is not something that just impacts online learning or hybrid learning; reporting student learning outcomes is a systemic change.  It’s a change that won’t happen without leadership at the highest levels of an academic institution.  The reporting of student learning outcomes that can be sorted and filtered in a variety of ways is a change that is coming and will be a good thing once it’s available. The logical place to start is with those programs that have already clearly defined the desired student learning outcomes of their programs.  In higher ed that’s the professional prep programs:  teacher training, nursing, social work, health services, and  technical trade programs.  In K12, most areas have defined learning outcomes, but standardized testing has been falsely offered as a way to find out what students are learning.  So, the reporting of learning outcomes based on assignments created by teachers will need to compete with standardized testing.  That systemic change is possible, but will likely take more time because there are still way too many people who think that standardized tests are the same things as tests based on standards. The real sense of possibility in the air just below the Falls of St Anthony this past week gave me hope that we'll soon see student learning outcomes reporting in Moodle even though a firm date wasn't promised.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Missing from Horn's Blended...

The book that  Michael B. Horn wrote with Heather Staker "Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools."  ignores some important things about blended learning.  In his previous book, he ignored blended, and then I called him on it in a blog post, (see this blog for August 2010and then he started a whole series of work on his brand of blended learning leading up to this book.  I've recently finished a quick first read of my Kindle copy of the new book.  The nice thing about a Kindle is that you can use the search feature to look for certain words.   A search for terms came back with nothing or very little for some of the concepts and practices that are very relevant to blended learning. 

Terms that aren't included in this book are:

1:1 or one to one,

BYOD (bring your own device)



Universal Design

Terms mentioned only briefly:

OER Open Education Resouces (mentioned once in passing)

LMS or learning management system (again once in passing)  How can you even think about blended learning without considering a learning management system.

Also missing from Horn's book is an examination of the work of the many others who have studied blended learning.   Not even mentioning the seminal concept of blended learning as presented by Garrison and Vaughan in their 2008 book, is a major oversight, in my opinion. It's true that Garrison and Vaughan focus primarily on higher ed while Horn and Slaker are focused on K12, but in order for blended learning to be effective in K12, we'll need to learn from the experiences of those who've used the evolving practice in higher ed just as higher ed will need to learn from K12.   

TPACK, in the list above, is another important academic construct that deserves to be included in any serious discussion about blended learning.  Matthew Koehler and Punya Mishra's work which takes off from Lee Schulman's, is too valuable to not talk about with educators who are undertaking blended learning.  TPACK, like the Community of Inquiry approach of Garrison, Vaughan and Cleveland-Innes, keeps teaching integral and essential in the discussion.  Horn and Slaker's notion of blended learning is too much about the deployment of devices and substitution of devices for teachers and not enough about teaching and learning.  Horn and Slaker are not teachers; they're business people.  Their attempt to apply business school management principles to the complex art of teaching may be with the best of intentions, but it falls way short of what's needed in our classrooms today.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Measuring Student Learning

     Last week, the Education Department released a draft of its proposed college ratings framework.  One of the interesting things that the Ed Dept said in its announcement about the framework is that it is not going to consider student learning outcomes.  They say learning outcomes are central to understanding the value of an education "but vary widely across programs and institutions and are communicated in many different ways." OK, that's true, but it doesn't mean that student learning outcomes couldn't effectively be included in a college ratings framework.

       How about asking colleges to report whether or not the college is measuring student learning outcomes? I'd like to see the Education Department provide some leadership communicating about student learning. It might be useful to compare the colleges who are actually keeping track of student learning outcomes to the ones that aren't.   Of course, it would be important to define, at least, generally how the institution was tracking the student learning outcomes.  A few simple characteristics would be good for a start.  For instance, are student learning outcomes measured in all courses or just some? how often are student learning outcomes measured? what kinds of tools or systems is the college using to measure student learning outcomes?  Asking the colleges these simple questions would provide a great start to understanding that which is, in the departments words, "central to understanding the value of an education."

        The Ed Dept said that it planned to primarily rely on data sources to which it already had access.  That makes sense if you're trying to keep things easy, but it's not likely to produce much in the way of new and possibly game changing information.  If the Ed Dept really wants to expand the opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college, especially low-income and underrepresented students, it needs to require reports on measures of student learning sooner rather than later.