Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Horn Leaves out the Teacher, Again


In a recent Edusrge column, Michael Horn, urged the Los Angeles Unified School District to focus on actual learning—and not the time spent pouring over course material. Horn is urging this in response to the LA Times’ editorial calling to the University of California to set “clear and rigorous rules governing how much time and effort students must put into make-up courses in order to earn credit.”


Horn is right in pushing to have the focus be on actual student learning instead of some measurement of how much time a student spends on an assessment. But Horn makes the mistake he has so frequently made in the past; he leaves the teacher out of the teaching and learning process and substitutes a machine. Horn likes the idea of replacing teachers with machines; but he’s a business guy, not a teacher. He can’t quite get his head around how technology can be used to enhance teaching and learning that includes a human teacher. He’s stuck on ways to use technology to replace teachers.

Assessment of student learning needs to be based on the student’s demonstration of learning. That student artifact of learning needs to be assessed by a teacher who knows the student and all of the various things that are particular to that student. The work the student uses to demonstrate their learning needs to be connected to their personal learning journey, not that of some arbitrary machine algorithm. Technology can, indeed, make assessment of student learning better than using measures of seat time, or screen time or mouse clicks I get that. But, we can’t leave out the teacher.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Paid vs OER in K12 - Part 2

                                                                   My previous post on Paid vs OER in K12 is here.

@McGrawHillK12  jumped into a recent Twitter conversation that mentioned one of McGraw-Hill's K12 products. I (as @Sabier) had encouraged a California elementary teacher to take notes on his implementation of a new offering from McGraw-Hill and asked if the offering was OER. In my role as director of professional development for Sabier I assist teachers, K12 school districts, and higher ed faculty who are implementing new tools, including OER, so I’m always interested in getting new insights.


When McGraw-Hill jumped into the conversation they included a link to Stephen Laster’s January 2016 opinion piece on Ed-Surge. Here’s where it gets interesting. The opinion piece appears under the Ed Surge heading News>Technology in School >Open Educational Resources, leading most people to believe that the opinion piece was about Open Educational Resources (OER.) It wasn’t. The piece was confusing, intentionally, or not. I suspect it was intentional because Laster must knows that his assertion ‘there’s some debate about just what we mean by “open” in the context of education’ is true only if you can’t read. The definition of open educational resources is well established. It is, from the Hewlett Foundation:


“OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”
                                       


That definition is not debatable. It’s very clear. If you write an opinion piece under a heading that includes Open Educational Resources, and you sit on the board of The Sloan Consortium for On-line Learning as does Mr. Laster, and you're a former CIO of the Harvard Business School, and you don't reference the Hewlett definition of OER, I gotta believe you’re messin’ with me. I think Mr. Laster, a C-level officer of McGraw-Hill, would like more people to believe that there’s a debate about what we mean by open in the context of education, but there’s no debate about what we mean by open educational resources. Laster’s opinion piece is a well crafted piece of writing that is designed to allow McGraw-Hill to make as much money as possible from their paid content until more people become aware of the definition of OER and begin to experience the tremendous benefits of using OER in K12 classrooms.


Here’s a statement from the FOUNDATIONS FOR OER STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT document that describes the goals and broader vision for OER which “are outlined in foundational documents including the Cape Town and Paris OER Declarations. These documents are critical for communicating the case for OER to the outside world and providing a unifying voice for the movement. But while the goals for OER are clear and broadly agreed upon by the movement, the means and strategies for achieving them are not. To actualize the full vision of OER, a need has emerged for a document that looks inward and addresses strategic questions about how we, as the global OER movement, can reach our collective goals.”


McGraw-Hill knows what is meant by Open Educational Resources, but they would like the full vision of OER to not be realized until some time much later, until they can squeeze as many dollars as possible out of cash starved K12 public schools. One reason I know this because I was hired by one of McGraw-Hill’s competitors to show the competitor’s software development team how to move one of their textbooks, currently paid proprietary for $225.00, into  Moodle so that it could be eligible for California’s OER initiative. Not only did McGraw-Hill’s competitor want to re-brand their content as OER, they wanted it available as an instance of an open source learning management system. I, of course, was very willing to assist them. When I asked when they would be doing this conversion for more of their textbooks, they answered “not until the market makes us.” That, at least, is an honest answer.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Paid vs OER in K12

My previous post looked at Readworks' David Ciulla's conflation of OER and Free resources. This post looks at Paid educational resources (PER) vs OER. Remember, OER are free, but free resources aren't necessarily OER.

Here, again, is the Hewlett Foundation definition of OER - "OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge." [1]

The essential part of that definition is that they have 'an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.' That's how the quality gets kept up to date without the need to pay publishers to pay teachers and professors to update the curriculum. Publishers don't have a secret group of magic wizards locked away in a book shelf lined room somewhere that do the editing of the content that publishers use to extract huge sums of money from cash starved public school districts. The real 'secret'-  publishers hire K12 teachers, and retired K12 teachers, and higher ed professors, and professors who used to teach in higher ed, and PhDs who hope to teach in higher ed to do the editing and revising. Of course, the publishers are going to say that we need them, the publishers, to organize that rascally group of editors and revisers, and that was sorta true back in the 20th Century and before. Not so today.

Yesterday, in a piece entitled New Open Ed. Group Vows to Battle Commercial Publishers for K-12 Contracts Sean Cavanagh said that Open Up Resources is going to pay for the editing and revising of their OER content by offering professional development to K-12 systems; printing and distribution services; and support and maintenance for districts seeking to use digital versions of the open materials. That's a solid plan. Open Up Resources will have even more chance for success if they encourage K12 teachers to collaborate with the higher ed professors at their higher ed teacher prep institutions - the people they've relied on for a century or so to prepare, certify, and re-certify teachers. I talked about that in this post. I haven't heard any objections to this idea in recent meetings with U.S. Dept of Ed officials and administrators of higher ed institutions. There's been a little chin rubbing about how to make that happen, but there's also been lights going on.

The publishers will keep bringing up the idea that they're essential to maintaining quality, as Curtiss Barnes did here.  It's still true, though, that OER offers more possibilities for good teaching and learning than Pearson’s proprietary content. The huge untapped potential of OER is the tremendous affordances that show up when OER are used in combination with a good and well supported Learning Management System. I think Open Up Resources has that on their long term road map, but former text book publishers will warm up to the pace slowly. And, as I said here, LMSs have suffered in all levels of education for the lack of OER just as OER have suffered the lack of well supported Learning Management Systems. Both LMSs and OER have suffered the lack of affordable devices and wifi coverage in schools, but that's history, too. I like Open Up Resources's chances against their CEO's former employer.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Free vs OER

In a recent opinion piece for Edsurge, entitled OER: Free Like a Beer, or Free Like a Puppy? , David Ciulla did his best to obscure the difference between Free and OER. He also did a very fine job of positioning his company, a non-profit, as a best bet for being the provider of choice to the K12 sector in the market of ELA products. He says "it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions about how the content market will shake out, and what the implications will be for various business models and growth strategies. He also says Readworks hopes "that there will be a vibrant and lucrative private-sector market for companies that are creating superb ELA products that make teachers much more effective and make students much better readers."

Yeah, I know, that doesn't sound like the language of an executive director of a non-profit providing free content to free public schools. I'm suspicious; I think there's a hook coming. I'm not sure what that hook will look like; it might have something to do with the coming Data Evaluation on the Digital Readworks. Maybe, I'm just being too suspicious.

Here's what I know for sure: Ciulla isn't even close to being interested in explaining the difference between OER and Free. He used the phrase 'free and oer content' 5 times in his piece without ever making a distinction between free and OER. That's after using OER in the title in combination with 'free' and in the sentence where he points out that the claim "free curricula and OER content were hardly free once the related costs and risks were factored in" is well reasoned. After reading Ciulla's opinion, someone who wasn't sure about the difference between free and OER, which would include about 99% of the people on planet earth, could be excused for thinking that that free and OER are pretty much the same.

So, what's the difference and why does it matter? You'd think a company, whether private or non-profit, that was dedicated to providing research-based materials to teachers to boost students’ reading comprehension would want to help teachers understand the difference between OER and Free content. Why would anyone involved in teacher support in 2016 Not want to help teachers understand the difference in OER and Free.

Here's the Hewlett Foundation definition of OER - "OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge." [1]

The big difference between OER and Free is that Free isn't necessarily OER. Free content doesn't necessarily allow teachers to revise, edit, remix, change, make the content more relevant to the student. OER content allows teachers, depending on the particular license, to do whatever is necessary to make the content better for students. OER empowers teachers to do all kinds of things with content for their students; free just reduces the cost.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

For-Profit Involvement in K12 OER - Part 1

I wrote a series of blog posts in June  about For-Profit involvement in OER. That series was mainly focused on OER use in higher ed. It's time for another series about For-Proift Involvement in K12 OER. The same basic principles apply to OER in Higher Ed and in K12, but there are differences, too.

Here's what prompted this post: Yesterday, TJ Bliss tweeted a "question for #OER community: How do we encourage more teachers to share their resources openly?" Shortly thereafter, Kristina Peters tweeted "How can we flip the 80/20 so that 80 teachers share? How do we help Ts curate? #GoOpen" TJ works for the Hewlett Foundation, the org that gets lots of credit for promoting OER. Kristina heads up the #GoOpen initiative for the U.S Dept of Education. Both questions are great questions that deserve a lot of discussion by everyone who cares about education.

TJ's tweet included a link to an article on Education World about a report on a survey from the company, TES. The article is titled "Survey Finds Teachers Stall in Sharing OERs Online."  There's lots of problems with the article and its title. The title implies that teachers aren't sharing OERs online as much as they 'should.' There's nothing in the article to indicate whether the current rate of sharing OERs is, in fact, increasing or decreasing from previous years. The article doesn't even begin to examine why or how any of the 'facts' being reporting came to be 'facts.'

The article and the survey don't make any distinctions between kinds of OER. All OER are not created equal, nor should they be, so making statements about OER in general is not particularly useful to anyone. It is very important that everyone in education acquire more knowledge about the various types of OER, how they are developed, how they are archived and accessed, and most importantly, how they are used in a classroom.

Sweeping statements by companies that are purveyors of Open-washed material (Open-washed material is material that pretends to be OER but is really a commercial product), like TES, about OER are misleading and harmful to the widespread adoption of quality OER in K12.  I'm calling TES a purveyor of Open-washed material because they're placing an article supposedly about OER in Education World and including a link at the bottom of the article to the TES web page that prominently states "earn money by selling your resources" in the middle of the page. The links on that page then lead to lots of commercial products and some free material but not to much actual OER. I'm hoping that TJ and Kristina can point us to solid explanations about the difference between free resources and open resources, and how both of those are different from commercial products that might include 'open' in their name.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Up the Down LMS

 A piece about George Siemens  appeared recently on the pages of Edsurge with Marguerite McNeal's name in the byline.  Siemens is said to have said that the LMS is "controlled, top-down, by the institution that bought it; it’s closed to anyone without a login. The LMS reflects a content-driven concept of education that encourages learners to master what the university thinks they should know." He is purported to have said this in an article that leads with the question "What does it mean to be human in a digital age?"

 If the LMS works the way that Siemens describes it's because a human being or group of human beings set it up that way. LMSs don't need to be "controlled, top-down." They don't necessarily require logins; requiring a login is a decision made by humans about how they want their LMS to function. It is very possible for a LMS to reflect a non-content-driven concept of education that encourages learners to totally ignore what the university thinks they should know, if it is set up that and used that way.

LMSs are very capable of engendering self-regulation and communication by students. An LMS can be a center of creativity, complex problem-solving and coordinating with others - if they're set-up that way and faculty are coached in how to use the LMS that way. If faculty are on their own to figure out how to make an LMS work to be a center of creativity, complex problem-solving and coordinating with others, well, then it might take them awhile to figure that out, but that's not the fault of the LMS. Teaching is an incredibly complex human activity - an LMS only enhances that activity when a teacher learns how to use this very complex tool for the very complex activity of teaching. When used properly an LMS is a very human tool. Here's one example Writing - The Elephant in the Classroom 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

OER and Teacher Preparation Programs: Part 2

The first part of this follow-up to last week's post is directed at all of Minnesota's College of Education Deans, Education Dept. Chairs, and professors of education. I'll have some thoughts for those of you not in Minnesota, too, later. It's time for you all, the Minnesota College of Education Deans, Education Dept. Chairs, and professors of education to get involved in OER development, curation, revision, and masterfully teaching teachers how to use OER. The MPCC is finishing up the forty digital OER courses in grades 3-12 in Language Arts, Math, Social Studies and Science that are aligned to Minnesota Standards. Content and curriculum experts are needed to guide the revision of these courses in the years to come.

Here's the thing about OER  - they're never done. That's the beauty of it. The process of continuing to make the courses culturally relevant and up to date is ongoing. The requirement for ongoing revision of these courses is the opportunity for professors of education to put their names on curriculum that will likely be copied and revised by others in all fifty states and many other countries. What a deal? How else can professors of education get included as co-authors of subsequent revisions of curriculum that has a never ending life expectancy? What better way is there for them to allow their students to get involved with the curriculum they will be using in their teaching?

That process of continuing to make the courses culturally relevant and up to date is also what makes OER so attractive to K12 school districts. Sure, the districts will be realizing some immediate savings by not sending money to the coffers of the legacy text book publishers, but the real and ongoing benefit will be the fact that because K12 teachers will now own the content and can be as involved as they choose in its revision, teacher professional development is now authentically embedded in the teacher's everyday work in the classroom. Contributing to the revision of curriculum is reflection on and sharing of the best practice of each classroom.

 Another neat thing about Minnesota's College of Education Deans, Education Dept. Chairs, and professors of education getting involved in OER development, curation, revision, and masterfully teaching teachers how to use OER is that it solves the problem of how to get technology infused in higher ed teacher preparation programs. The seasoned, or not, professors can now be brought in as curriculum experts and not necessarily be asked to be technology experts or to fake liking technology. The expertise they've spent their careers developing is now uniquely relevant in cutting edge teaching and learning. That's a good thing for everybody.

Now, to those of you not in Minnesota, The MPCC courses are aligned to Minnesota standards, but revising them to fit your state's standards is just the task to ask of the College of Education Deans, Education Dept. Chairs, and professors of education in your state. The MPCC courses are Creative Commons licensed so they can be revised any way another state wants to do it. The Minnesota content is a great place to start. The education professor guided revision committees in other states will also undoubtedly add content and lessons that are pertinent to their states. And, we Minnesotans hope you'll share those lessons we've left out that will work in our state, too. Thank you, in advance.