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.