Sunday, October 28, 2018

Assessment - Global and Local

This past week, assessment was both a global and a local news-maker. On the local scene, my old friends at Education Evolving presented a paper called “Defining and Measuring Student-Centered Outcomes.” EE’s paper covers a very broad spectrum of assessment domains, strategies and purposes before suggesting a few action items. EE asks us to “imagine if the state test could be taken in separate parts throughout the school year rather than all at once at year end (as is possible under ESSA), with results available the next day. Or, imagine the state partnering with a company that produces formative assessments (like the NWEA MAP) so that the same tests currently used for formative purposes could also serve for accountability with, of course, important modifications and accommodations. Or—even bolder still—imagine giving districts the option to embed standardized state questions into end of course exams, with safeguards in place to ensure question security.”

All of those imaginings are actually already very possible and they can all be accomplished using free open source software for which the the state wouldn’t need to pay a dime, or even a penny. Somebody would need to host the software on a server and somebody would need to manage the software and the processes, which would be necessary, too, if the state ‘partnered with a company’ to use a less open and flexible assessment platform.

The state can do all of the things that EE is imaginining with Moodle. We know this because the United Nations is already doing something very similar on a global basis using Moodle. This week the UN Secretary General's Award for Innovation was awarded to an online assessment platform built on Moodle. The U.N. is using this platform to assess the skills and abilities of the thousands of applicants they hire to do the many different and varied jobs that the U.N. does in all of its divisions - the General Assembly, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, and all of the sub groups. Moodle is a learning management systems that has been used for over ten years in a large percentage of schools in Minnesota at all levels. This post describes a scenario that allows students to participate in selecting tasks that meet a set of criteria or standards. The schools in the State of Minnesota will likely have slightly different assessments needs than the U.N. but the beauty of open source software is that the users of the software, the schools and teachers, can define the specifics.

It’s important to focus on the actual tools needed to accomplish the daunting assessment tasks that EE is talking about because if a more global tool for assessment isn’t used at the outset, the state will likely end up with a system like they already have - a bunch of different systems that work differently, measure differently, report differently. It wouldn’t be necessary for every school to use Moodle, though. Schools that want to use a proprietary system from a vendor of their choice would only need to make sure the system they used was capable of LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) which is standard on most learning management systems. The nature of the particular assessments, their domain, strategic focus, and the timing of the assessments are all things that can be adjusted once the system is operating.

Let’s have our students become globally prepared by taking a cue from the U.N. on the next step in assessment. Make the system open source, and use a system that is already successful. Most importantly, create a system that allows for maximum control by the teachers and students.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

OER Intent and Purpose

I agree wholeheartedly with the statement that Steel Wagstaff made on his blog recently- "we need openly-licensed formative assessments, learning objectives, etc. AND we need well-integrated, interoperable open-source platforms composed of open-source tools that allow educators to build openly-licensed (and thus free) alternatives to the partially-proprietary remixes that have been built upon the open content that we’ve already released into the world." Notice that I didn't include the first part of Steel's statement about the need for CC BY content. When we put CC BY content into remixes in well-integrated, interoperable open-source platforms and then put a CC BY NC license on those remixes we will be ensuring that subsequent remixes and revisions of the original content will be free.

For me this is an issue of intent and purpose. If our intent and purpose is to make more learning content free, we are true to that intent and purpose by declaring that all subsequent remixes of this content should also be free. I don't want LearnZillion, for example, to take the 3rd Grade Science textbook that I created/curated for the Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum and put it into their proprietary platform and put an all rights reserved copyright on it. The MPCC doesn't either and that's why the 3rd Grade Science content has a CC BY NC license on it. That is precisely what LearnZillion did with the CC By licensed Creative Commons Illustrative Mathematics middle school math curriculum that was largely funded by the Hewlett Foundation.

Taking CC BY licensed content and putting it into a proprietary platform and then putting an all rights reserved copyright on it is not activity I want to encourage; it is not consistent with my purpose. Another remix of the Illustrative Mathematics curriculum has been put into Microsoft's OneNote platform. Microsoft makes OneNote available to school district's at Microsoft's discretion. Microsoft doesn't make OneNote available to nonprofits that provide professional development for public schools. It is more than a little odd,I think, that a foundation funded by the Hewlett family is funding a 'freemium' for Microsoft.

I understand why companies that have proprietary platforms that provide content that is a value add-on to CC BY content want to promote CC BY, but the purpose of for-profit companies providing the added value is not necessarily beneficial in the long term for our public institutions. Eventually, our public institutions will begin exercising their ability to create publicly owned creative commons licensed alternatives to the current proprietary 'added value.' CC BY NC is consistent with that intent and purpose. It is also the purpose of SABIER, the Stone Arch Bridge Initiative for Education Resources.