Sunday, December 18, 2016

Betting On Public Education - Part 2

We don’t need more schools. We need the ones we have to have teachers with the skills and expertise necessary for today.

In my recent Twitter exchange with Stacey Childress , CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, I said their publication, Reimagining Learning: A Big Bet on the Future of American Education  didn’t even mention #OER & was mostly about finance & governance of schools, not teaching and learning. Stacey said she disagreed but didn’t offer anything else beyond her best wishes on our efforts to improve teaching and learning. I appreciate her best wishes.

I think their proposal, or big bet, as they call it, is more focused on finance and governance than on teaching and learning because the word, teaching, is only used once in the entire document. It’s used in the sentence: “Most of our current K-12 schools were designed for a different time and purpose: teaching basic knowledge and skills to the vast majority of students destined for work in the early-to mid-20th century economy, with an elite few moving on to higher education.”

They talk about teaching only once when they propose a definition of the current system as being something that only works for an elite few moving on to higher education.”  Few teachers working in current schools think they’re teaching students who will be working in a early-to mid-20th century economy, with an elite few moving on to higher education.  Childress and Amrofell’s statement is an insult to all of the teachers who are working as hard as they can in today’s classrooms.

Childress and Amrofell are minimizing the work being done by today’s teachers in an effort to maximize their proposal for the 7% who go along with their view of how education should be.

They also make the outrageous claim that “Ed-tech is no silver bullet and will never be the primary mode of learning for most young people.” It most definitely is not a silver bullet, but technology is already the primary mode of learning for almost all people - both young and old. The issue is simply which technology and how effectively it’s used for teaching and learning.

We don’t need to spend $3 Billion to create new charter schools, or ‘redesign’ existing schools, or strengthen the ecosystem for innovation, or mobilize a diverse and effective coalition for change. Let’s just spend that $3 Billion to show our existing teachers how to use free digital OER curriculum on modern learning management systems with students who have wifi devices of their choice. Most schools already have the LMSs and students already have wifi devices.  We can use some of that $3 Billion for those students who don’t already have the devices, but most of the money should go to developing the skills and open pedagogical practice of the teachers who are already teaching in our classrooms.

Ubiquitous wifi, very affordable wifi devices, and digital OER are all very new. Using them in conjunction with any of the learning management systems that are getting better and better daily is the way to maximize the teaching corps and schools that we already have. Here’s a set of videos recently released by The Council of Chief State School Officers that explain what OER is and why it’s a good idea. The R & D portion of Childress and Amrofell proposal is not a bad idea but focusing more of it specifically on something that we already know has a good chance of returning positive results, OER, will strengthen the investment. I wouldn’t even call it a bet.

Betting On Public Education - Part 1

In a recent Twittter exchange  Stacey Childress, ‏@NextGenStacey CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, asked how I would frame OER "as bet w growth & learning outcome assumptions leading 2 an ROI forecast." I directed her to a post of mine from about a year ago.

I had suggested in a previous tweet that leaving OER completely out of the publication she'd coauthored, Reimagining Learning - A Big Bet on the Future of American Education, would cause them to lose big on a big bet by not even apparently knowing about #OER. Childress claims to know a lot about OER, but I don't see any evidence of that knowledge anywhere in their publication.

And, I don't understand the concept of betting on education. In their publication, Childress and Amrofell say talking about big bets is something that's currently common in the world of philanthropy. I've always understood that betting was about winners and losers, so I don't think it makes sense to use gambling as a model for education. Don't we have enough resources for all of our children to have a quality education?

It seems to me that Childress and the NewSchools Venture Fund are OK with not all schools being quality schools. In their paper about betting on education they say: 
"Twenty-five years from now, it’s possible for all students to have at least one school in their neighborhood that is designed to meet them where they are, help them figure out where they want to go and how they might get there. Today’s schools weren’t designed to accomplish this, so families and educators are tasked with squeezing as much as they can out of schools designed for a very different time and purpose."

What exactly does  "at least one school in their neighborhood that is designed to meet them where they are" actually mean? What about the other schools. Elsewhere in the paper, Childress and Amrofell talk about "with a total investment of $4 billion in philanthropy over 10 years, approximately 7% of U.S. schools could effectively make the shift to innovative models through investments in three key areas:"

The crap-shoot that Childress and Amrofell are pushing is about winners and losers, and that sounds to me like the other 93% of the students in the U.S. are losing the bet. I don't like those odds.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

OER, Stormy Seas, Worthy Research, Sound Ideas, and Responsible Arguments

Education Next's mission statement reads,  "In the stormy seas of school reform, this journal will steer a steady course, presenting the facts as best they can be determined, giving voice (without fear or favor) to worthy research, sound ideas, and responsible arguments. Bold change is needed in American K–12 education, but Education Next partakes of no program, campaign, or ideology. It goes where the evidence points."

That sets the stage for the piece that appeared in WINTER 2017 / VOL. 17, NO. 1 under the title, "Open Educational Resources, Is the federal government overstepping its role?" by the preeminent author Michael Q. McShane. McShane must be preeminent because he taught high school for a couple of years in a private school and he dropped a French term into both the second and third sentences - bĂȘte noire and cri de coeur. In the first sentence, he quoted Lois Griffin from Family Guy which means he's not only preeminent; he's cool.

It's too bad McShane doesn't understood open educational resources, though; he was off to such a good start. He thinks the most robust form of open educational resources is EngageNY's collection of PDFs that teachers are encouraged to print out and hand out to students to complete with pencil or pen. McShane also doesn't understand how the $17 Billion he quotes as the amount spent on textbooks could instead be paid to teachers to create the content that is used in their classrooms. He seems to think that only people paid by textbook publishers are capable of creating quality material. Here's the key to a responsible argument regarding OER - it's about license or use of the content, not about who creates the content. If a legacy textbook publisher decides to put a Creative Commons license on the book they publish in a Moodle format; it's OER. If a group of teachers get together and make a textbook and then publish it with a non-CC license; it's not OER.

I was hired last year by a venerable textbook publisher to show the publisher's software development team how to move one of their textbooks, previously a proprietary title selling for $225.00, into Moodle so that it could be eligible for California’s OER initiative. Not only did the venerable textbook publisher want to re-brand their content as OER, they wanted it available as an instance of an open source learning management system. I was happy 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 if not a sound idea.

McShane also seems to think it's not possible to make OER that aligns with standards.  He says,  "Just how “open” can resources be if they operate within the strictures of government-regulated scope and sequences? That is, if the state sets the topics and the order in which they must be covered via prescribed standards and assessments, how much room is there for improvisation?" A scope and sequence is not the same thing as a learning activity. States prescribe standards, but they don't say what kind of learning activities or assessment, even, is required to meet a standard. The options are as many as teachers and their students can create; it's open.

I don't think McShane understands Twitter, yet, either, because he described the DoE's branding of #GoOpen as stylized. (I'd call it incorporating a Twitter hashtag.) His closing quote of McGuffey’s Third Eclectic Reader  suggests he might be stuck a century or two back.  The cold water he throws on the flames of the #GoOpen movement is justified in his mind because he thinks that proprietary textbook publishing might come back some day when OER burns out and then what would we ever do; there wouldn't be any textbook publishers to save public education by charging them $17 Billion a year. Is that a responsible argument supported by worthy research?

The folks at Stanford where Education Next is published may be hearing some stormy seas, but there's smooth paddling up here in the headwaters of open educational resources. Here, where all the women are strong and all the children are above average, OER are empowering both teachers and students and saving school districts money.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Evolution of OER in K12

In his post last week, Patrick Larkin usefully moved the collective understanding of OER ahead. Sharing his district's lack of satisfaction with their initial attempts with OER is a great service to other districts who will be using OER in the days and years to come. Not getting it right the first time is not failure; it's learning.

 Larkin correctly noted that most teachers haven't been trained to create or curate curriculum, but he didn't talk about the other necessary elements of successful OER implementations. There was no mention of any ongoing support being provided to teachers throughout the year; no talk about a common learning management system, which is critical for successful implementation;  a clear pedagogical objective wasn't mentioned for either students or teachers; and the roles of the district IT department, Curriculum and Instruction and administration didn't appear to be well articulated.

He also didn't talk about money. OER is free, but teacher time needs to be compensated.  Professional support for the crucial work of designing new student-centered learning environments that effectively incorporate technology, are aligned to some set of standards, and allow for open-walled learning will cost money. But, that's money spent on strengthening capacity in the district instead of sending it to text-book publishers.

OER used with a well supported LMS will naturally provide greater opportunities for learning that is Personalized, Relevant, and Contextualized. Student agency and social learning are also essential components of the learning environment when students, teachers, parents and the larger community all have a stake in re-making the content to provide maximum local benefit.

Larkin put in a plug for  Open Up Resources (formerly the K-12 OER Collaborative), a new, nonprofit provider of openly-licensed full course curricula which will be published under the most flexible license - CC BY. Open Up Resources is a good option for middle school math.

If you're interested in any of the elementary content areas, I'll invite you to attend the workshop Seth Leavitt and I will be leading at this year's TIES 2016 Conference on Sunday, December 11. I'll be doing a regular break-out hands-on session on Monday, too. We will examine digital online curriculum as both a student and a teacher. We'll do an overview of the digital content available to schools by examining Open Educational Resources (OER), school district self-created content, subscription, and non-subscription commercial content. Techniques to evaluate digital curriculum will be next, and you will take away a workable evaluation process for your classroom. Examples of digital content implementation will be explored, and in groups you will create checklists and implementation plans for each of your schools along with action plans.

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; 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.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

OER and Teacher Preparation Programs

In my presentation last week at the Mn eLearning Summit, I included a slide requesting more participation by teacher preparation programs in OER development, curation, and masterfully teaching teachers how to use OER. Leaving all of that for institutes of higher ed to figure out on their own, or relying on the 'private sector' seems unwise. My hope is that the U.S. Dept of Education and each #GoOpen state and #GoOpen district explore how to include teacher prep programs in the #GoOpen initiative.

Teacher preparation programs are naturally and rightfully included in the converging synchronicity of LMSs and OER because the objective study of curriculum has always been a cornerstone of teacher preparation programs. Now, teacher preparation programs can be included dynamically in OER development, curation, and application in the classroom. Every OER course in every state can have at least one, and hopefully, more professors from a local university guiding OER development, curation, and revision. The teacher candidates who are students of the guiding professors will benefit by being included in the process as they begin their careers and take ownership of the content.

Using an LMS for instruction and assessment of learning is complementary to the convergence of OER and new methods of teacher preparation.  As I said in a post in January, "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."

Including university faculty in OER will only enhance ongoing collaboration and help ensure that the quality of the content remains up to date.  It's not hard to imagine the significant benefits accruing to districts and students when they, too, are included in the collaboration. Everybody wins, well, except maybe some of the legacy publishers. But, worrying about the well-being of legacy publishers is not part of my current job description.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

For-Profit Involvement in OER - Part 4

I’m genuinely glad that Lumen is doing what they’re doing, and I applaud the announcement this past Monday of the Major National Initiative to Help 38 Community Colleges in 13 States Develop New Degree Programs Using Open Educational Resources. But, I also still have significant reservations about the particular model that’s being used to provide access to the OER. And, I don’t think discussing the model of delivery and the specific nature of how and to where the money flows is merely ‘academic,’ as Dr. Wiley described it in his comment on my previous post, For-Profit Involvement in OER - Part 3. It may be that the Lumen model is exactly what’s needed at this stage in the development of OER, but I’m concerned that without a clearer understanding of the details (like documentation other than what’s on Git hub and a support network other than Lumen staff), we might be missing greater opportunity. Bluntly, I don’t want the purposes of a for-profit company spoiling the possibilities.

The really great thing about Lumen’s approach is that it is providing significant immediate savings to students and thereby enhancing the sustainability of the institutions where they’re studying. (Go ahead and quote me.) The for-profit textbook publishers have created a worldwide orchard with a whole lot of low hanging fruit.

Here’s the distinctions I want to make:

1.  Putting the OER in a separate platform and connecting to the LMS via LTI is only really useful if you want more money going to those that run the separate platform instead of keeping the money for running the LMS. I’m pretty sure that Lumen is already working with Instructure and other LMS purveyors to blur that line even more, which will come with the argument that that is the way of most opportunity which is Dr. Wiley's proclaimed rationale for Lumen being a for-profit entity.

2. The supporting functions that are necessary for the continued flourishing of OER can be provided by a for-profit entity, but the best value to community colleges, students and faculty will be when they are provided on a fee for service basis. The structure of the entity providing the supporting functions might be for-profit corporate, for-profit individuals,  non-profit corporate, consortia of governmental orgs, or combinations of the above. The particular mix of combinations matters, too.  The ultimate factoring to per student does not necessarily correlate to quantities. Sometimes it will be cheaper per student for a class of twenty-five students at a four year institution and sometimes it will be cheaper per student for all of the Algebra 1 students in the statewide CC system. As institutions including administration, IT support, faculty, libraries, student services, and students all come to understand all of the moving parts of OER, the institutions will better be able to determine which payment method for OER support is best for their particular circumstances.

As Dr. Wiley has pointed out, there is a need for all types of support. Different recipes produce different cookies. For now, cheers to Lumen and the Major National Initiative to Help 38 Community Colleges in 13 States Develop New Degree Programs Using Open Educational Resources.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

For-Profit Involvement in OER - Part 3

I’m very grateful that Dr. David Wiley posted a comment on my previous post and shared some observations. I have much admiration for the work that he’s done. I think our  differences are not nearly as numerous as the things we share in common.  Any criticisms I make are made in an attempt to achieve what’s best for students, faculty and educational institutions.

Dr. Wiley observed that my tone in the last post was critical and that bewildered him. I think his observation is accurate but I’m not sure why me being critical of Lumen’s method of delivering OER is so bewildering. Is it bewildering that someone else could have a different way of addressing the problems that Dr. Wiley described having experienced in Lumen’s first foray with OER adoption ? Is there a different way of using OER that doesn't involve passing money from community college students or those that pay for the books of community college students to Lumen investors.

Dr. Wiley incorrectly said “You say that "instead of addressing those problems" we started working with institutions and charging them for our services.” What I actually said was “So, instead of addressing those problems Lumen did the next best thing that also just happens to offer a ROI for investors of Lumen.” It’s the ownership structure of Lumen that I’m questioning. (Note the titles of this series of posts.) And more importantly, how did the ownership structure of Lumen influence the choice of OER delivery methods that Lumen developed? Lumen encountered problems using just one LMS to connect faculty and students with OER; could those problems have been solved differently if Lumen were a non-profit instead of a for-profit?

In my opinion, the Lumen way of implementing OER does not create the best value for the students or the owners of most community colleges, the taxpaying public. Nor do I think the Lumen method of implementing OER creates the best value for the faculty of community colleges. Implementing OER using LMSs like Lumen purportedly did initially is the better way, IMO.

That Lumen ran into some difficulties implementing LMSs is not surprising; it’s very complex work; it is very labor intensive and is not the kind of work that outside investors get excited about. For-profit investors would rather have an interest in something that can be sold again and again and involves as little labor as possible. Lumen’s solution for implementing OER looks more like a way to maximize return on investment for Lumen than a way to maximize savings for community college students.

I think For-profit companies that operate in the public education ‘sector’ have a special requirement to be as transparent as possible. Lumen’s announcement about their deal with SUNY and Dr. Wiley’s explanations since are not as transparent as they could be, IMO. My questions about why Lumen uses LTI from their platform to connect to LMSs was not about not understanding LTI;  it was about seeking transparency from Lumen and Dr. Wiley.  My thoughts on how best to implement OER differ from Dr. Wiley’s, I think, not because the bulk of my time in the last 20 years, at least, was spent in K12, but because I’m coming at it from the perspective of an independent contractor providing service to institutions, most of them governmental or other non-profits, rather than as the founder of a for-profit company. Implementing OER doesn’t fit well with for-profit software start-up modeling.

Experience in implementing systems in community colleges suggests that they are more like K12 public school districts than they are like major R1 universities, and they are significantly different than private liberal arts institutions of higher ed. Experience with software companies that link to LMSs via LTI in addition to the work for a major textbook publisher advising their IT team as to best practices using an open source LMS to deliver open source textbooks inform the notion that using an LMS is the most practical way to implement OER.  But, again, that may not be the same experience as the folks at Lumen, a for-profit software company.

Lumen’s ‘solution’ to the problem of how to most effectively provide OER in community colleges is problematic because it appears to introduce yet another LMS-like system that while being open source is not widely understood by either faculty or IT support staff. There is more to learn about how Lumen’s platform actually works, but Dr. Wiley failed to address my previous question of where to find documentation for their system, and he failed to specifically identify the faculty and community college support staff network of expertise with the Lumen platform.

Another problem with the Lumen method is the fee structure. Lumen’s fee structure appears to be per student use of OER, but that’s not clear from their website; it might be per student enrolled at the institution.  Fee structures of software companies selling to educational institutions are often ‘negotiable.’ There’s nothing wrong with that. The pay I receive from institutions for curating OER, faculty professional development and support, analytics and effectiveness research, and strategic and change management consulting for academic leadership is all negotiable, too.  I don’t work on a per student basis, though, and I advise institutions to avoid service provision on a per student basis whenever possible. Further discussions of professional service fee structures, approaches to checks of OER licensing and attribution, and the best type of org structure for supporting OER are in our future, I think. Stayed tuned.

Friday, June 10, 2016

For-Profit Involvement in OER - Part 2

David Wiley has posted on his blog what looks like an answer to the question I asked him last week that is referred to here in For-Profit Involvement with OER

“If OER adoption were to become widespread among the majority of faculty, it became clear that someone would need to do something more than create OER, post it on a website, and give conference talks about it.” That's an observation that Wiley makes in his post and which is so very obvious to anyone who has been involved with education and technology for more that a week or two.

The biggest reason that OER hasn’t had much of a chance of getting used in all kinds of schools is because devices to use OER have not been common enough in most classrooms to make it practical for teachers to begin the adoption of a new way of doing things. That is, until recently. OER are now practical because  devices to use OER are becoming cheaper every day and wifi is becoming stronger in every classroom every day. Adoption didn’t happen quicker because technology in education at the classroom level had not yet evolved to the point where it was practical.

Wiley wisely tried first to use OER with learning management systems.. Well, LMSs have had the same problem that OER faced - not enough commonly used technology at the classroom level. I’ll also add that there hasn’t been enough leadership or professional development for teachers to adopt either LMSs or OER. That, too, is changing, finally.

Wiley described a couple of problems that they ran into when trying to use OER within a LMS.

They also discovered that faculty don’t always follow all of the rules of attribution. Really !

So, instead of addressing those problems Lumen did the next best thing that also just happens to offer a ROI for investors of Lumen.

“Lumen has spent a lot of time, effort, and money creating an OER management and integration platform that solves many of the most common OER adoption problems, which is also free and open source. “ - that’s the Lumen Wordpress / Pressbooks LMS like thingy that they use to house the OER. Their thingy may be open source but how many people on the planet outside of Lumen know how to operate it? And, where is the documentation on how to operate this open source tool? How many faculty or teachers are there who typically and practically use this tool?

Because the OER that Lumen is offering to schools is in the platform that they built Lumen gets to charge the users of the OER as much as $25.00 per OER which also includes all of the other things that Lumen does.

‘Institutions partner with Lumen because Lumen provide faculty training and support, checks of OER licensing and attribution, hosting and technical support for our platform, and analytics and effectiveness research – as well as other services like strategic and change management consulting for academic leadership.”

It sounds like Lumen has become a LMS hosting company using a LMS that is open source but that not very many people other than Lumen actually know how use.

And, Lumen has created package deals for degree programs, too. I think that means that they will spin up a Nursing Assistant program, for instance, or some other special program that is popular and useful at colleges.  The OER content will be all wrapped in with all of the other things that Lumen does to make the degree program happen. So, they’re like the OPMs (online program management) that have been in the news lately. OPM is hot in higher ed and apparently worth over a $billion. Lumen and its investors deserve a piece of that money, I guess.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

For-Profit Involvement with OER

David Wiley has said in a tweet that he will be posting a response later this week to the question I asked in a couple of different ways recently about Lumen's announcement about its deal with SUNY. The question I asked was why Lumen was using LTI to connect the OER they were providing to the LMSs of SUNY. See my previous post or tweets at @sabier for more on that question.

I'm expecting that I'll learn something that I don't know in David's response. There must be something in the way Lumen is configuring their LTI to connect OER with LMSs that I don't quite understand.

But, I think there's another more basic question to be discussed. David talked about it in a recent post of his - the issue of For-Profit involvement with OER.  David said, "it’s impossible to select a single decision rule about the involvement of commercial interests in open education that will be “acceptable” (by whatever metric you care to use) in all cases where it will need to be applied." You can read David's explanation of why he thinks that on his blog.

I think it is possible to make some statements about for-profit involvement with OER. Notice, that I said OER and not 'open education' which is the term David used in his post. There's a difference. I think we can make statements about OER that will be universally true. I think we can say clearly and unequivocally that money can't be changing hands for OER. OER is free. Period. If money is changing hands related to OER then we need to be clear about why the money is changing hands. What value is being exchanged for money. Both individuals (like me) and for-profit companies can earn money for work related to OER, but we need to be explicit about what the value is that we're providing.

If the exchange of money is in any way a barrier or gate or qualifier for access to the OER, the OER is no longer OER; it's something else, but it's not OER. When we publish OER are we making it as easy as possible to do all of the 5 Rs or are we hedging a little? I touched on this subject six months ago, and I hope to say more about it this next week. Your thoughts are welcome.

Friday, June 3, 2016


If you happen to be reading this and don't know what the three acronyms in the title of this post mean, you're in good company. Lot's of people don't know what they mean. I have some experience with each of them, but I'm still not sure what they mean. I think the terms are evolving.

Yesterday, Phil Hill, someone I follow on Twitter, posted this tweet 'Lumen Learning – Announcement: Open SUNY Textbooks scales up OER Adoption .'

I read the announcement and was puzzled by this - "They will further develop a formalized approach to OER adoption that provides faculty with a suite of services to assist with curating, adopting, remixing and creating new OER content, along with a platform that makes it easy to maintain and deliver OER within SUNY courses. The platform supports Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), allowing for easy integration with any Learning Management System (LMS), and easy access for students through the LMS."

I was puzzled by the last sentence - "The platform supports Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), allowing for easy integration with any Learning Management System (LMS), and easy access for students through the LMS." I didn't understand how LTI makes accessing the OER through the LMS easier. I write and curate OER content for use with LMSs. I don't get why having another platform that sounds like it's another LMS except it's not being called an LMS, just a 'platform' and is connected to the LMS via LTI makes accessing the OER easier.

Lumen's website talks about the things they can provide in their packages that cost what looks like as much as $25 per student per book. That's a whole lot cheaper than the price being paid for textbooks that aren't OER, so that seems like a very good deal. The problem I have is that it is not clear how to get the OER material without paying the upcharge per book for the extras that Lumen provides in addition to the OER which is free.

I tweeted back to Phil that this didn't make sense to me and he tweeted some vague jargon back to me and said he'd ask David Wiley, the Lumen founder, to weigh in when he could, which he did. But David's tweets were just as vague and confusing as Phil's.
Then, this evening, 2 hours ago agree with Phil some things are done better by interoperability tools off the LMS,
to which I tweeted - "Some things' Like what ? 'Some things' is not a convincing argument." 
he replied - "e-reader software for example. Downloadable content so can access offline when not connected." 
Phil and Rich have both said this is not a topic that Twitter can handle, so I'm offering this blog for longer comments. I'd really like to know why the Lumen platform that supports Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) that allows for easy integration with any Learning Management System (LMS) is supposed to be a good thing and not another pay wall by a different name and another repository of data that is housed where faculty and students can only get at it by going through Lumen?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Creativity and Community are the Nature of OER

Andy Hargreaves's eloquent essay published May 20, 2016 in RSA Journal is titled Blooming teachers:  The essay is subtitled: "powering teachers to embrace their creativity in the classroom is the route to creating educational systems fit for the modern era." Using Open Education Resources, OER, is by definition a way of allowing teachers to be more creative if not demand creativity of them. To be fair, creativity could be avoided when using OER but only by not taking advantage of all that OER has to offer teachers and their students.

Let's review the definition of OER as provided in the Cape Town Open Education Declaration: That declaration is:  "Open educational resources should be freely shared through open licences which facilitate use, revision, translation, improvement and sharing by anyone. Resources should be published in formats that facilitate both use and editing, and that accommodate a diversity of technical platforms. Whenever possible, they should also be available in formats that are accessible to people with disabilities and people who do not yet have access to the Internet."

The Capetown Declaration declares that teachers should use, revise, translate, improve, and share. Except for using resources, the actions that teachers should do with OER are mostly, if not completely, prohibited by traditional resource publishing mechanisms. When teachers revise, edit, translate, improve and share resources they will be able to include students in the process of revising, editing, translating, improving and sharing those resources. Including students and the very acts of editing, revising, translating, improving, and sharing is creative and community building. 

As I said in my post six months ago about the OER business model: "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." 

The additional uses possible with OER beyond the offerings of traditional publishing creates community, and it is also what creates quality. Traditional publishers are often heard saying that quality requires a for-profit corporate structure. But, that's only true sometimes and not true at all if teachers are creative and revise, edit, translate, improve and share the content and allow or encourage their students to revise, edit, translate, improve and share the content. Most teachers are excited about this new possibility for creativity and community.

OER wasn't really practical for most K12 schools until wifi became as ubiquitous as it is now and until the cost of student devices to access wifi dropped to current levels. But now it's possible to replace all of the textbooks that a student would need for their entire P20 school years with some space on their devices. No more lugging those 40 lb backpacks around middle school. No more "I left my book at home." OER makes lots of things about school easier. Teaching and learning is naturally creative and community building the way that OER are naturally creative and community building.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Learning Registry's OE_ Search App

I was in a Twitter discussion recently about just how free certain entities that describe themselves as OER really are. See the previous two posts for more on that.  The Learning Registry's Open Education Search App claims that it "enables educators and other users ... to search for and assign OER directly within an LMS."

The language of the anouncement makes me wonder if the app really does search for only OER. As a curator of OER digital science curriculum I only want material that is licensed with a CC NC SA or CC BY license. I don't want to sift through content that is either not free or doesn't allow me to revise that content.

And, why does the app need to use LTI.  I understand LTI to be a method to connect an LMS to another interactive web application. I don't need to do that. I just want to find the OER that I need and be able to install it in my course in my LMS. I've written previously about why I think LMSs are essential for more widespread adoption of OER. I don't want to use my LMS as merely a portal to somebody else's application that collects information about my 3rd grade students. The use of LTI as a search mechanism to find OER on the Learning Registry seems to me to be an inappropriate use of LTI.

The line that gives me pause to wonder is this : "Creative Commons will continue to work closely with both to integrate CC license choice and content discovery across platforms." That seems to me to mean that it's not now possible to search for only real OER.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Is OER Free ?, Part 2

It's been about five hours since I published Is OER Free? I linked to it in the Twitter discussion that's been going for a couple of days. Here's the bulk of the exchange that's been going on since mostly with Doug Levin. Steve Midgely had asked in a Tweet if the Learning Registry was a problem for me. I said:

Doug Levin: IP license is part of learning registry schema

Me: Can you link me to some clear directions for searching for OER only on the Lng Reg

Levin:  Details and docs up on Github: . Feel free to join community.

Me: You're kidding, right? You think this is useful for a 3rd grade teacher in Mpls?

Levin:  Learning Registry is a tool for developers. Apps & services are absolutely of value.

Me:  so, Lng Registery is not for teachers?

Levin :  it is an open source data service about education content for developers

Levin: the tools/services developers can create benefit many, inc educators and students

That exchange follows my complaint about the Learning Registry's inability to sort for OER only. I'm writing from the point of view of an elementary classroom teacher who is attempting to locate OER to use with my students, a role I lived for 16 years.

Doug Levin doesn't realize that an 'IP address being a part of a schema' is not standard terminology for most elementary teachers, and most teachers don't want to spend their time on any Githubs, unless they're teaching some form of computer science. Maybe Doug just doesn't care about teachers, the people who actually use OER. He goes on to stress that The Learning Registry is a tool for developers. Except the Learning Registry claims that it's goal is "making it easier for educators and students to access the rich content available in our ever-expanding digital universe." (see the links above) And, that makes sense as a goal, but it's not what Doug is claiming as the purpose of the Learning Registry.

I don't think the Learning Registry is deliberately trying to be confusing to educators. I suspect their motives are more about wanting to avoid potential conflict with legacy publishers and developers who won't want to participate in a registry if their content is singled out as costing money while other content is pointed out as obviously free. 

It turns out that there might be an easier way than Doug suggested. After a little searching on the web I found a paragraph in a document called the Go Open Fact Sheet that says that "Microsoft is committed to index content from the Learning Registry by creating a new app so educators can search and access openly licensed educational resources through LTI compliant learning management and publisher systems." That info then led me via a few Google searches to this page on Creative Commons that announces the Open Education Search App.   I wonder why it's not called the OER Search App. Does it not return only OER if requested? The language in the announcement suggests that a search using the Open Education Search App might not be able to filter out non-OER material.  As I said earlier, this discussion is not over, yet. Stay tuned.