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.

Is OER Free ?

Is OER free? Well, let's look at some sources:

Wikipedia: (retrieved today.)
  • "The idea of open educational resources (OER) has numerous working definitions.[3] The term was firstly coined at UNESCO's 2002 Forum on Open Courseware and designates "teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. Open licensing is built within the existing framework of intellectual property rights as defined by relevant international conventions and respects the authorship of the work".
Wikipedia then includes the he William and Flora Hewlett Foundation term which defines OER as:
  • "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".
Looking at the Wikipedia entry cited above will lead to some of the many issues that are not yet resolved regarding OER; there are many, but I don't think there should be any confusion about the idea that OER are NO-COST and available or FREE USE. That's how I read the above, anyway.

But there are some who offer different ideas. The company, PanOpen, says: 
  • "“Open” does not necessarily mean “free.” Not all OER materials are free and likewise, not all free materials are considered OER. Usage rights - not cost - primarily define OER. That said, when there is a cost, OER are typically significantly cheaper than textbooks - a factor students especially appreciate. 
  • panOpen has a growing library of high-quality peer reviewed and vetted open content."
Apparently, panOpen thinks that people don't understand the definition of OER as presented by the Hewlett Foundation, OER Commons, and the OECD.  PanOpen has a library and they want to get paid for letting you use it, which is not the idea of OER. Requiring payment for accessing free content makes it NOT free, therefore, not really OER.

The panOpen example is one of clear and deliberate confusion making. Another example of confusion in the OER universe is presented by The Learning Registry. The problem with the Learning Registry is that it's "an aggregator of metadata—data about the learning resources available online—including the publisher, location, content area, standards alignment, ratings, reviews, and more" except the 'more' doesn't seem to include whether or not the resources are OER or not. I would think that if they can sort the resources by all of those other ways, sorting the resources by OER or not wouldn't be that hard to do. And, it would be a really useful sort for those of us who only want to use OER and not content that requires payment to somebody.

There are plenty more examples of a line needing to be drawn between OER and non-OER, as was suggested by Nicole Allen @llen in a Twitter exchange that I've been involved in for a couple of days. How that line gets drawn and who and what is located on either side of the line will no doubt be a continuing conversation. Stay tuned.