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.