Sunday, October 22, 2017

OER, The Commons, and K-12

In his keynote address at the OpenEd17 conference, David Bollier talked about the commons, or self-organized social systems for managing shared wealth. The U.S. K-12 public school system is a good example of a collection of institutions that serve the commons. 90% of the schools in the U.S.  are managed by public governmental entities that have authority to tax the citizens of the commons.


 Karen Cangialosi suggests that open education can enable us “to model the value of knowledge as commons in a way that shifts our thinking and practices towards the sharing and maintenance of all commons such as water, forests, soil, air and seeds.” The use of open educational resources and open pedagogy are still in an early emergent stage in the U.S. K-12 system even though some forms of open education have been around since the 1960s. Realizing the potentials that Karen invokes will be much more likely if OER and open pedagogy begin in K-12 and not just higher ed.


Implementing new things in K-12 is complicated. In my previous blog post I mentioned the tweet exchange at OpenEd17 that included TJ Bliss’s suggestion that a lack of trust in the K-12 education system was a key barrier to #OER growth. I doubt that lack of trust is the key barrier. Most parents trust the teachers in the schools where they drop their kids every day. A lack of deep experience with how the very complicated U.S. K-12 system functions is a much bigger issue for parents and the general public including most philanthropists, politicians, and journalists. The incentives to adopt OER and open pedagogy are different in K-12 than they are in higher ed. The lift is heavier in K-12 than in higher ed.


There are not many benefits of adopting OER  in K-12 unless the OER is used in a fully functioning learning management system, because as Karl Nelson, the COO of Illustrative Mathematics, said in his presentation at OpenEd17, 'the printed copies that Illustrative Mathematics sells to school districts don’t actually save the school districts money in the long term.' To really make a difference in K-12 teaching and learning, OER curriculum needs to be used in a learning management system that provides digital formative assessment, collaboration, feedback,  the ability for the student to take the digital copy of the content and all of their work and feedback with them,  and all of the kind of analytics that are currently being provided in higher ed by third parties for a fee.


In K-12, we have the opportunity to build the commons instead of make private for-profit companies richer. When we provide professional development so that our teachers have the ability to manage all of the wraparound abilities that are being sold to higher ed faculty in the current OER delivery models, we make the commons better.  

206 public school districts have trusted the Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum to create 40 complete OER courses. Here’s a video about that work. After creating the courses, the next step is providing the professional development so that teachers have the skill and experience necessary to use OER courses with their learning management systems . SABIER is the non-profit that I founded to take the K-12 part of the commons to that next level.

My first effort organizing open staff development was in 1997 when I created a NiceNet community for Minneapolis Public School middle school math teachers who were implementing the then new Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) curriculum. (CMP has a lot in common with the newly released Illustrative Mathematics curriculum. The big difference is that IM is OER, CMP is not.)  The experience every year since of leading efforts implementing specific curricula and a variety of technological tools and systems continues to convince me that teachers are very capable of doing the heavy lifting when given necessary support. There are a lot of moving parts to the K-12 system, though, and getting to the necessary consensus for successful innovation takes time. But, It’s worth it

Bolstering K-12 teachers to implement full course OER curricula will lead to more use of OER in higher ed, and K-12 teachers will be able to show higher ed faculty how to use the features of their LMSs so they can wean themselves from a dependence on 3rd party for-profit vendors. The commons will be better.

SABIER will have cohorts of 3rd Grade Science, 5th Grade Science, 8th Grade Science, all grades of Illustrative Mathematics middle school math, 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.

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, 5th Grade Science, 8th Grade Science, all grades of Illustrative Mathematics middle school math, 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 ….

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Digital #OER and Inclusiveness

Let's talk about what inclusiveness in Open Education is not.

In a recent very comprehensive Education Dive piece about OER in K12 and the need for administrators to consider teachers' professional learning needs in using digital, OER resources, the OER program manager for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington was quoted as saying, "teachers need to think about what materials will need to be printed to ensure that students have equal access to the materials if they don’t have reliable internet access at home."

Printing out paper copies of books for students who you think can't afford internet access is not being inclusive; it's keeping them stuck in the place where they're at. How can the office of superintendent of public instruction of the state of Costco, Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon, PACCAR, and Weyerhaeuser actually think that all students in their state don't deserve equal access to the internet and devices to use on the internet?

It's true that the office of the superintendent of public instruction might need to re-think a few of their processes of keeping track of who knows what, and lots of school districts are going to need to get serious about teaching their teachers how to use digital OER effectively, but those are small Idaho potatoes compared to the benefits that the state of Washington will accrue. Using digital OER will enable Washington's teachers and students to use all of the benefits of OER. OER allows teachers and students to retain, (way easier when it's digital) revise, remix, redistribute, and reuse. Have you tried to revise and redistribute a paper copy of a 3rd grade science textbook? How about translating a paper book? Washington has more than a few languages spoken in the homes of students. How about listening to a paper book? Listening to text enables learning for lots of people, not just the ones with long bus rides.

The time, money and energy spent printing out those paper OER textbooks would be much better spent lobbying Costco, Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon, PACCAR, Weyerhaeuser (well, OK, Weyerhaeuser makes paper, so maybe they'll be slow to chip in.) But, between them you'd think just Microsoft and Amazon would be able to figure out how to get all of the students of Washington state and their families connected to the internet and have a device to use on it. And, I even know a few people in Minnesota who will help out with the teacher professional development.

But, let's quit pretending that we're being inclusive by printing paper OER books. That's just being short sighted.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

#OER Adoption in K12 - slotting into technology

The recent report by the  Babson Survey Research Group, What We Teach: K-12 School District Curriculum Adoption Process, 2017 is a very useful starting point for looking at OER adoption in K12 school districts. The reported finding that "Being able to slot any new curricula materials into the district's existing technology is critical across all types and sizes of districts" was especially interesting because of the lack of specificity cited about what it means to 'slot curricula materials into the districts existing technology.'

Slotting curricula into existing technology can mean a lot of different things.  For instance, the curricula material can be:

A: presented by the teacher via a digital projector or white board  with student work collected and scored on paper;

B: presented in html and viewed with wifi devices with student work collected and scored on paper;

C: presented in OneNote and viewed with wifi devices and student work collected and scored via OneNote via the wifi devices;

D. presented in Google docs with student work collected and scored via Google docs;

E. presented in an LMS with student work collected via the tools available in the LMS.

There are other possible combinations of using technology, too. An alternative might be to use the centuries old technology of presenting the OER curricula materials on paper with student work collected on paper. It is unlikely that if the curricula material is presented on paper that student work will be collected and scored via electronic technology. Presenting the curricula materials on paper with student work collected on paper has the advantage of requiring the least amount of professional development for teachers. Paper versions are impractical, however, for revising, retaining, remixing, reusing, and redistributing the OER curricula materials. If a district is not taking advantage of the 5 Rs and buying printed copies of OER materials, they're simply buying the cheapest version of curricula materials available.

Presenting the curricula materials in an LMS and collecting student work via the tools available in the LMS is the method that affords the most flexible use of revising, retaining, remixing, reusing, and redistributing the curricula materials.  Using an LMS also enables multiple methods of collaboration and assessment that aren't available with the other methods. Of course, the issue with using an LMS is that it requires more professional development than any of the other methods. That's why we created the Stone Arch Bridge Initiative for Education Resources, SABIER. The idea is to take the money that’s currently being spent on textbooks and instead use it to pay for teachers to acquire the training and skill to make full use of the collaboration and assessment features of the LMS and to maximize the permissions of OER for revising, retaining, remixing, reusing, and redistributing. 

The Babson report's finding that there are more districts using OER than there are districts who understand the meaning of OER suggests that there's plenty of work yet to be done.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

OpenUpResources's Not Quite OER Common Cartridges

The recent Edscoop piece about OpenUpResources's Illustrative Mathematics is one of the best that I've seen on that great new offering.


It would be a service to educators, however, if the piece had explained in more detail the idea of platform neutrality. The suggestion appears to be that teaching and learning is the same when content is presented as:


A: Paper with student work collected and scored on paper


B: html pages with student work collected and scored on paper


C: OneNote with student work collected and scored via OneNote


D: an LMS with student work collected either on paper or via the tools available in the LMS


I have yet to get a look at the files that OpenUpResources are promising via Common Cartridge, but how the files are structured will make a difference as to how  easy they are to implement in various LMSs. A guy from OpenUpResources called me this afternoon to explain that I would need to sign some agreement that their very expensive lawyers were drafting before they could make the Common Cartridges available to me. Apparently those very expensive lawyers are having a hard time drafting that agreement. Making people sign agreements is not exactly in the spirit of open educational resources, either. He also explained to me that OpenUpResources thinks that professional development is the same no matter which of the five types of instructional models above are used. He further explained that it didn't matter to them because OpenUpResources is just a broker of professional development; they don't actually provide it.

It appears that Google Classroom has been left out of OpenUpResources’s mix, too, because I have yet to see a way to import either OneNote or Common Cartridge files into Classroom. Google Classroom is the most widely used platform (it's not really an LMS) so I'm not sure why OpenUpResources chose to have a OneNote version and not a Google Classroom version. It appears that Microsoft may have been able to exert a little influence despite the claim of platform neutrality.

We, SABIER, are creating versions of Illustrative Mathematics utilizing all of the features for discussion and collaboration in addition to the various methods of doing assessment that are available with Moodle. We chose to create the LMS versions in Moodle because it's the LMS that is truly open source and it is the most widely used LMS in K12 globally. Because it's open source and has an open repository that is capable of maintaining full courses, users of other LMSs such as Schoology and Canvas will be able to download the full LMS courses and convert them to their LMS including the collaborations and assessments. If you'd like to participate in one of the cohorts we have beginning in August for the 2018-19 school year submit this form. We will provide financial support, too; we're positive about teacher professional development.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Encouraging Teachers to use OER


"What do you think will encourage instructors to go beyond using the LMS as a document hub?" Bryan Alexander asked in a blog post comments exchange recently. This exchange followed an interview that Bryan did with Phil Hill, an educational technology consultant and industry analyst, about the future of the LMS. Bryan and Phil were speculating on what the LMS would become. What the LMS becomes is less significant, in my opinion, than how teachers or instructors use learning management systems in classrooms. Put another way, the feature sets and capabilities of the LMS aren't as important as teacher skill and understanding of how to use any LMS effectively with students. Adding more features doesn't necessarily make an LMS easier to use; more features might even make the LMS more complex and less easily understood. Of course, there are examples of new features making an LMS easier to use for some things, but I don't think that's been the general trend since I began using an LMS in the classroom over 10 years ago.

When I wrote this guest post, Writing the Elephant in the Classroom, on Scott McLeod's blog seven years ago, professional development and teacher training on how to use an LMS was almost non-existent in K12. An LMS was still thought of as web software to be used with online learning. In 2010, wifi was not available in most K12 classrooms, wifi devices were still relatively expensive and viewed as distractions to 'real' learning. Computers were mostly in labs and used primarily for testing or once a week or so for "Friday free time." Some schools were beginning to incorporate computers into media literacy, but not into everyday learning activities. Things were not much different in higher ed, either. 

What's changed in the past seven years is that wifi devices have become increasingly less expensive and most schools have wifi capabilities. Most students have 1:1 access to a wifi device. The other big change has been the emergence of OER, open educational resources. OER used with a well supported LMS will naturally provide greater opportunities for learning that is Personalized, Relevant, and Contextualized. Student agency and social learning are also essential components of the learning environment when students, teachers, parents and the larger community all have a stake in re-making the content to provide maximum local benefit.

As was the case seven years ago, professional support for the crucial work of designing new student-centered learning environments that effectively incorporate technology, are aligned to some set of standards, and allow for open-walled learning will cost money.

We created the Stone Arch Bridge Initiative for Education Resources, SABIER, to take the money that’s currently being spent on textbooks and divert it to paying for teachers to acquire the training and skill to make all of the possible customization available with OER and an LMS a reality. This is consistent with the U.S. Dept of Education’s #GoOpen Initiative and similar efforts being articulated in most states. SABIER’s recommended implementation refines the #GoOpen Launch Packet and tailors it to each team in a district. SABIER works with school districts to make the changes necessary so that all of the customization and personalization is realized. Districts are able to use existing money and available philanthropy dollars to pay for the initial teacher training that’s necessary to become proficient at using open education resources. It’s the next step in transforming ‘how kids experience school, how teachers teach and even how classrooms look.’

So, the answer to "What will encourage instructors to go beyond using the LMS as a document hub?" is OER and professional development. Start with K12 and higher ed will eventually start doing it, too.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

For-Profit Involvement in OER - Part 6

The business models of providing open educational resources are evolving. Now we have an example of two for-profit companies taking profits from the process of providing 'free' OER learning materials to students. This week Follett joined Lumen as a 'distributor' of 'free' OER learning materials. I've had an ongoing debate with David Wiley on this topic. Here's a link to previous posts, David is the open-education visionary who along with education-technology strategist, Kim Thanos, founded Lumen Learning. Lumen Learning is a for-profit company so it needs to make money in order to continue to exist. Open educational resources (OER) are by definition free, so that's a problem for a company that needs to make money and wants to be involved with OER.

David and Lumen solved this problem by creating some stuff to sell 'around' (that's the preposition David used on Twitter yesterday) the OER content they provide for free. They sell stuff wrapped around the free OER; it's like a package. The words on the page are free, you just need to pay for the paper that the words are printed on. Or, the OER stories are free, you just need to pay for the quiz at the end of the story. Or, all of the math problems are free, you just need to pay if you want the software to score the quiz. If a teacher wants to know how students are doing in this course, students are required to pay a fee, but the content is free.

It's 2017;  we have learning management systems that can house that free OER and provide all of the things described as added values in the Lumen model. A learning management system (LMS) allows faculty to create any kind of in situ assessment they want to create. An LMS has analytics to gauge where students are in the learning journey. All of the 'packaging' is available in an LMS. All of the 'added value' for which Lumen is charging recurring fees could be included in the free OER license if Lumen and now Follett, too, didn't need to make a profit.

 Most institutions are finding it impractical to host their own learning management systems these days, and many of even the larger institutions are choosing to hire out the management of their learning management systems. But, the $10-$25 per course per student that Lumen-Follett is collecting to provide the 'packaging' for free OER courses is a steep price.  Students at institutions that aren't ready to have their faculties manage the 'packaging' of the OER still save money, but it's doubtful that faculty that might want to manage even some of the things for which Lumen-Follet are collecting fees understand that it's Lumen-Follett's choice to not include more of the 'packaging' with the free OER license. The 'packaging,' however, is essential to good open educational practice and not really 'packaging' or 'added value;' it's essential value.