Tuesday, October 17, 2017

#OpenEd17, Stong Women, and OER in K-12

As has been previously cited on Twitter, there were lots of strong women on the site of OpenEd17 in sight of the magic kingdom. Fireworks exploded out my window every night as I was drifting off after a full day of conferencing. My hands-down favorite keynote of OpenEd17 was the panel presentation on the first morning led by Cherylee Kushida and Jodi Coffman from Santa Ana College. The students on the panel explained and illustrated why and how we need to use Open Educational Resources. Very simply, OER makes education possible. When a teacher uses OER with digital tools effectively students are more engaged in learning.

Dr. Raúl Rodríguez, Chancellor, Rancho Santiago Community College District was a close second choice for best keynote. His welcome and opening was succinct, sincere, and authentic.

My favorite presentation of the conference was the group from Arizona State University - Laura, Lorrie, and Lev. SolarSPELL is the future. It’s wonderful. I’m looking forward eagerly to SolarSpell-SABIER collaborations.

The best vendor table was SERP - Strategic Education Research Partnership. Their commitment to supporting teachers in public education is refreshing in this era when we have so many new groups who want to re-think, re-imagine, and re-work public schools into private schools operated with public money, or charter schools, as they’re called here in Minnesota where that fascinating experiment in support of the commons was given birth. Thank you, Allie Huyghe, for showing off how Word Generation works. Generating words is, after all, the basic step in OER.

The real joy of the conference was all of the many informal conversations with so many creative, passionate educators. That was inspiring. I was delightfully affirmed when Verena Roberts thanked me for suggesting during the comments portion of Cathy Casserly’s keynote that K-12 might be a system to examine for ideas on DEI - Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Verena gets K-12 and OER in K-12. She knows more than a little about diversity, equity, and inclusion, too.

Another of those conversations happened when I sat down in my seat on the flight from Minneapolis to Orange County. In the seat next to me was a chemistry teacher from a Minnesota high school that uses MPCC curriculum. She was headed to the conference, too. She will be in the cohort of chemistry teachers who will participate in SABIER’s professional development sequence beginning in August of 2018. SABIER’s PD sequence will be a hybrid of face to face and online collaborative sessions, some synchronous and some asynchronous. The goal of the sequence is that all of the teachers participating will become masters of teaching chemistry using digital, interactive OER curriculum. Students will have frequent formative assessment and all of their learning projects will be aligned to standards. All of the teachers in the cohort will be chemistry teachers.  A faculty advisor from a higher ed institution (TBD) will participate in the cohort - informal conversations with administrators and faculty from the U of Mn, the MN State system, and from several other states happened at the conference, too.

I was disappointed that I didn’t get to meet many other public school teachers from other states. I don’t think there were many at the conference; that’s something that would benefit future OpenEd conferences. I did attend the session presented by teachers from the charter school that was founded by David Wiley, Mountain Heights Academy. It was affirming to note that they use a Moodle LMS for their OER platform. That’s the platform that we, too, prefer because of the open source repository that Moodle maintains. I was surprised to notice the lack of diversity in their staff, though; it’s not like any public school I’ve seen recently. When I asked about it, I was told that in Utah teaching is seen as a mothering role. Hearing teaching characterized as a mothering role is not consistent with the 16 years I spent teaching in an Open School in the Minneapolis Public Schools beginning in 1996 (some years before the first OpenEd conference) where I didn't consider that I was either a mother or father to my students; I was their teacher.

I also attended the session presented jointly by the Middletown public school superintendent and a VP from Education Elements. They appear to be doing great things with digital OER curriculum. I’m uneasy, however, with partnerships between public schools and vendors of proprietary platforms which their ‘player’ seems to be. I’ve disagreed with one of the Education Elements board members, Michael Horn, many times in years past.  I commented on his Disruptive book and he responded in the post previous to this one. Searching on ‘Horn’ on my blog will bring up more. I trust the Middletown public schools, I have a lesser level of trust with a for-profit company like Education Elements.

The most interesting, IMO, tweet exchange of the conference was the one that began with  “ @tjbliss naming lack of trust in the K-12 education system as a key barrier to #OER growth.” I don’t think TJ has any evidence to support that opinion. When he was at the Hewlett Foundation, though, TJ invested a bunch of money in orgs that don’t really trust teachers with the 5Rs of OER. One of those orgs, UnBoundEd, seems to not really be sure how to go about showing teachers how to use OER curriculum with interactive digital tools.  

UnboundEd just announced their institute at the Westin in Los Angeles this next February. They break their cohorts into multi-grade clusters of either math, ELA, or Leadership not unlike the cohort model that SABIER uses. The general difference between the UnboundEd approach and the SABIER approach to professional development is that UnboundEd is about $4400 per teacher for a week at the Westin in sunny L.A. with a group from Anywhere, USA made up of teachers that teach in grades close to the same level, while SABIER does hybrid cohorts for the full academic year that include higher ed faculty, are grade and discipline specific, state standards specific, and LMS specific. SABIER charges $2500 per teacher per year and insists that the district chip in PD stipends for the teacher. SABIER also assists districts in acquiring philanthropy and foundation support to pay for the professional development. It’s probably good for the OER K12 movement to have different models of professional development - some people like a week at the LA Westin; some people prefer PD embedded in the teaching and learning on a weekly basis throughout the year. The principal I met with yesterday in the Red River Valley while beet trucks were driving past on the street has options.

Another of TJ’s investments was in OpenUpResources/Ilustrative Mathematics whose COO said in his presentation at OpenEd17 that he doesn’t think that the printed copies that they sell to school districts actually save the school districts money in the long term. OpenUpResources has some kind of deal with Microsoft One Note (which almost no schools use) but not with Google Classroom (used by most U.S. K-12 schools), and they don't really support LMSs. So, if the paper versions don’t save any money and they’re not set up to work out of the box with Moodle, Schoology, Canvas, or Google Classroom, I would think that might be a barrier to OER Growth.

SABIER will have cohorts of 3rd Grade Science, 8th Grade Science, and Chemistry beginning for the 2018-19 school year.  If you would like to contribute to the support of a public school teacher becoming proficient at using OER curriculum with interactive digital tools that provide formative assessment, collaboration, feedback, and the ability for the student to take the digital copy of the content and all of their work and feedback with them, send your check to the attention of Danielle Ganglehoff at Propel for Non-Profits, Suite 600, One Main St. SE, Minneapolis Mn, 55414. Please, put ‘SABIER’ in the memo line.

And, if you want to come to a conference to learn more about OER in K-12, I’ll recommend TIES 2017, or the cmERDC National User Conference, or the Mn eLearning Summit. I expect that there will be even more sessions on OER in K-12 public schools than the multiple sessions at each in recent years. None of those conferences I mentioned are usually held at the Edina Westin, though. But, it’s close enough if you want to stay there, and the women are always strong in Minnesota, and ….


  1. Thanks for the commentary!
    As a math person, the OpenUp Resources appeal to me because it's more conceptual instruction than just about anything else I've seen. I support college students in pre-college math courses... so I see the people who didn't learn math in K-12 for myriad reasons.