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 will be based on my experience as a teacher of 3rd grade science 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 that 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 wants 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 Martin 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 from 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.