Thursday, April 28, 2016

Pearson's OER Plea

Curtiss Barnes, Managing Director, Global Product Management & Design at Pearson uses the 1st person personal plural pronoun, we, in suggesting  that  ‘We’ll just have to be careful that we’re not sacrificing the quality of the learning experience in the pursuit of lower cost.’ in the final sentence of his observations about OER. I think he really means ‘you’ better be careful if ‘you’ use OER because ‘you’ might be sacrificing quality if ‘you’ don’t keep paying us the exorbitant amount that ‘you’  have been spending on proprietary content.

Barnes is asking us to believe that the people he pays create ‘scaffolding that connects concepts and practice together, guiding students through the content in a way that maximizes learning’ better than the people he doesn’t pay to do that. But he doesn’t offer us any evidence.

Barnes also suggests that OER are ‘unlikely to deliver substantial savings over proprietary digital solutions in the long run’ because the people he pays make ‘core instructional content presented systematically and updated regularly,’ and implies that the people who aren’t on his payroll aren’t able or willing to present content systematically and update it regularly. Again he provides no evidence.

Barnes also suggests that people who use OER don’t understand that “open” doesn’t mean “free.” Barnes implies that proprietary content might be better at ensuring ADA compliance, and that it might integrate better with LMSs, and be easier to support technically. Since he isn’t bothering to provide evidence for any of those claims, it’s fair for me to say that just the opposite is true which is what my experience tells me.

Barnes admits that “When it comes to revising and remixing content, OER hold some advantages over the traditional textbook revision cycle. The ability to customize for a specific region or update to reflect recent world events is very academically appealing and can yield more relevant, up-to-the minute content.” But, Barnes suggests that doing all of the collaborating and creative work involved in doing that might be just too much for many faculty to handle. Maybe, but the teachers I know are more than willing to share and collaborate. The reason they haven’t been doing it in the past is because proprietary content made it too difficult to do. I might simply have a better opinion of most faculty than does Barnes.

In the absence of any evidence I’m inclined to give the OER buzz that Barnes is hearing the benefit of the doubt. The buzz is saying that OER offers more possibilities for good teaching and learning than Pearson’s proprietary content.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Messing with Blended

I want to take issue with a Mindshare Q and A that I saw today.

Horn and his co-authors didn't even get close to defining blended learning in Disrupting Class. After I called him out on it, they issued a new version of the book with their brand of blended.  Their definition of blended ignores the definition of blended used by Garrison and Vaughan and others  which works just fine in K12. Their messed up definition has only served to push the idea that teacher presence in the online part of the teaching and learning relationship isn't critical.

As I pointed out, Horn and Co.  didn't pursue how computers might enhance the student teacher relationship and improve both teaching and learning; they stuck with the notion of using computers to substitute for or replace teachers. That teacher displacement model continues, still. I've started calling the kind of 'blended' teaching and learning that began happening in my classroom over eight years ago a hybrid model. I now use hybrid to distinguish a model of blended that includes a strong teacher presence in the online portion of the learning from the Horn and Co model that pushes the teacher out of the teaching and learning relationship and substitutes a machine.

A hybrid model of blended learning is the model that will work best with the new breed of OER that is coming online now exemplified by the Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum.

The melding of the term LMS with 'platform' also serves to reduce the focus on student teacher interaction in the online portion of blended learning. For more on this see this post - 
OER, LMSs and Platforms
I had originally titled this post 'The Smudging of Blended' but I decided to change it to 'Messing with Blended' because what we call things matters. The definition of smudging that I intended in my use in the title was - "make blurred or indistinct" which is what I think Horn and Co have done with the term blended. But I realized that some might think I might be referring to smudging that is used in some sacred rituals - I wanted to be clear that I was not.  Horn and Co have blurred the meaning of blended learning and made it less distinct. Messing with the definition of blended and conflating LMS with platform makes it easier to not pay attention to teacher presence in the online and to make paid published content seem more equal to teacher created or curated content and assessments.  Horn and Co like to pretend that teachers can't create or curate their content; that teachers need some for-profit business to do that for them, a company like Intellus who sponsored the Webinar that I also heard today.

So, if you hear someone conflating LMS with platform, talking about how hard it is to find OER, or how hard it is to know which OER to use, check to see how their connected to a business that wants to make money doing that for teachers.