On April 19, 2013 US Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris announced the third annual round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program (TAACCCT) grant program. The press release states that the current round of grants available is $474.5 million bringing the total 2011-13 program investment to nearly $1.5 billion. A fourth round is planned for 2014. Information on all the rounds is available here.
Funding is targeted at expanding innovative partnerships between community colleges and employers. All education and career training program strategies developed through grant funds have employer engagement and use labor market information to focus training on local economic needs. This years Solicitation for Grant Applications (SGA) says the TAACCCT programs aim is to help “adults acquire the skills, degrees, and credentials needed for high-wage, high-skill employment while ensuring needs of employers for skilled workers are met”.
In addition to partnerships TAACCCT stimulates innovation by requiring applicants to build five core elements into their initiatives:
1. Evidence-Based Design
2. Stacked and Latticed Credentials
3. Transferability and Articulation of Credit
4. Advanced Online and Technology Enabled Learning
5. Strategic Alignment
This years SGA even encourages the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
Another innovation, which DOL has maintained in all three rounds of the TAACCCT program, is the requirement for TAACCCT grantees to make all grant funded curricula and training materials Open Educational Resources (OER) by licensing them with a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (CC BY).
This year’s SGA states:
- “The purpose of the CC BY licensing requirement is to ensure that materials developed with funds provided by these grants result in Work that can be freely reused and improved by others.”
- “To ensure that the Federal investment of these funds has as broad an impact as possible and to encourage innovation in the development of new learning materials, as a condition of the receipt of a TAACCCT grant, the grantee will be required to license to the public all work (except for computer software source code, discussed below) created with the support of the grant under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CCBY) license. Work that must be licensed under the CCBY includes both new content created with the grant funds and modifications made to pre-existing, grantee-owned content using grant funds.”
- “This license allows subsequent users to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt the copyrighted Work and requires such users to attribute the Work in the manner specified by the grantee. Notice of the license shall be affixed to the Work. For general information on CCBY, please visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0“
TAACCCT academic resources developed by the first round of grantees for industry sectors such as health, manufacturing, energy, transportation, and information technology, will become available for reuse in 2014 followed by additional resources from subsequent rounds. What a boon to education and the economy.
Congratulations to the Department of Labor and the Department of Education for their leadership and foresight in requiring publicly funded educational resources be openly licensed in a way that allows them to be reused and continuously improved. This innovation will benefit students, educators, and industry.
Creative Commons remains committed to supporting TAACCCT grantees in deploying and leveraging the CC BY requirement. See OPEN4us.org for a current list of TAACCCT grantee services Creative Commons offers in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative, Center for Applied Special Technology, and the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges.No Comments »
On day 7 of our CC10 celebrations we have an exciting announcement: the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) has announced a 3.5 million dollar grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a new program to help adult English language learners improve their language skills — Integrated Digital English Acceleration (I-DEA). Importantly, all online learning modules developed for I-DEA will be made available under a Creative Commons Attribution license — the most liberal of our licences, allowing all teachers around the country and the world to reuse, remix and reinterpret them.
In honor of this announcement, we focus on education for today’s CC10 featured platform and resource. We take a look at Open content licensing for educators, one of the many courses provided by Wikieducator, a community-developed resource of free elearning content – created by the public, for the public. The Open content licensing for educators course, an initiative of the OER Foundation, has been running all this week, training educators both how to make full use of the wealth of educational resources now available for free download under CC and other open licenses, and how to share their own materials with others.
We also celebrate a milestone by another great community-created platform, as Wikicommons hits 15 million files, just in time for CC10. Wikicommons is one of the world’s oldest and largest resources of CC licensing and public domain media, from photos to videos to sound files. It’s the source of all the media you find on Wikipedia, and its files are used extensively by cultural and educational institutions to share and create open education resources. Check out our post on this great achievement to see two videos by our friends at WikiAfrica, explaining how and why a cultural institution might want to share their resources on Wikicommons.
Finally – everyone should take a moment to appreciate the fabulous CC10 poster above by @saidRmdhani. It was produced by attendees to our Arab World Regional Meeting, which has been running all this week in Cairo, and finishes up today. Congratulations to all the attendees, and we can’t wait to hear more about your workshops.No Comments »
The Saylor Foundation provides global grants of US $20,000 to college textbook authors seeking to openly license their educational textbooks for use in free Saylor college-level courses. Authors maintain their copyright and license textbooks to the world via Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) to enable maximum reuse, remix, and redistribution. To learn more and apply, visit Saylor’s Open Textbook Challenge page for more details.
In addition to providing grants for existing textbooks, the Saylor Foundation has announced a new option to award authors seeking to create open textbooks that will be CC BY licensed. Academics who are interested in creating a textbook can submit a brief statement about the proposed text and the relevant eligible Saylor course, and if successful they will receive a Request for Proposal from the Saylor Foundation (more details at the Open Textbook Development page). As a result of this new option and because preparing new texts is a lengthy process, the Saylor Foundation has decided to accept both textbook submissions and proposals for textbook development on an ongoing basis. The initiative has recently received funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Saylor Foundation expects to award millions of dollars for open textbooks under CC BY.
The cost of education is spiraling, for example the average amount that a U.S. college student spends on textbooks is almost US $1,200 per year. Textbook costs may represent up to seventy-five percent of a Californian community college education, and education affordability is frequently cited as a reason for course dropouts (pdf). The Saylor Foundation tackles this issue by providing free, college-level curricula worldwide via Saylor.org. Their Open Textbook Challenge aims to alleviate cost pressures by encouraging textbook authors to openly license their textbooks with CC BY so that students may use them for free.2 Comments »
This year the Content in Context conference (organized by the Association of Education Publishers and the Association of American Publishers School Division) will host a free Metadata Lab centered around educational metadata adoption.
The main highlights of the lab:
- Education data standards overview with Jack Buckley (NCES/CEDS), Ross Santy (US DOE), and Michael Jay (Educational Systemics)
- LRMI info session
- Group discussions
- One-on-one meetings
Of particular interest is the LRMI session, which will include
- A project update by Greg Grossmeier (Creative Commons)
- A discussion led by Brandt Redd (Gates Foundation) about LRMI in relation to other initiatives like the Shared Learning Collaborative and Learning Registry
- A demo of LRMI proof of concept by Mark Luetzelschwab (Agilix Labs)
Again, attendance is free but please register by contacting Dave Gladney (dgladney@AEPweb.org).No Comments »
As most of you are undoubtedly aware, next week, 5-10 March, is the First Annual Open Education Week – a time set aside each year to celebrate and raise awareness about open education and open educational resources (OER).
How better to spend it than learning how to share OER with CC… and to remind us all that open licenses are core to OER. OER are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.
Open education is extremely important to Creative Commons, and vice versa. Educators are some of the strongest CC adopters and proponents, and the majority of OER are under CC licenses. This is particularly the case in areas such as Latin America, Asia and Africa, where the CC and open education communities overlap significantly.
So for our contribution to Open Education Week we want to do something big, productive, and most importantly, global. What better than a worldwide series of multilingual webinars on CC?
Over the course of next week, CC community members from around the work will be running webinars in their own local language around the theme “Introduction to Creative Commons Licenses.” CC webinars are currently being planned by teams from Chile, Israel, Russia, Poland and Korea, as well as CC’s Director of Global Education, Cable Green, here in the US.
So if you’ve always wanted to know more about CC, open education, or how to use copyright resources in the classroom, legally, now is your chance.
But this isn’t the only way to get involved. There are lots of other exciting events planned for Open Education Week. Activities being planned by the CC community alone include a Spanish language webinar on open repositories from CC Colombia, a March 9 Open Education Salon by CC Korea, and many, many others. Participation is open to everyone!
Please join the world in celebrating Open Education Week!
March 5-10, 2012
And a special thanks to our friends at the OpenCourseware Consortium for organizing Open Education Week. Well done!No Comments »
On Monday, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) released the first 42 of the state’s high-enrollment 81 Open Course Library courses. The remaining 39 courses will be finished by 2013. Funded by the Washington State Legislature and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Open Course Library joins the global open educational resources (OER) movement, and adheres to SBCTC’s open policy, which requires that all materials created through system grants be openly licensed for the public to freely use, adapt and distribute.
All courses are available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 unported license (CC-BY).
The first 42 courses are available in multiple technical formats including:
- Common Course Cartridges and ANGEL course exports hosted on Connexions.
- Guest login to preview and copy parts of the courses:
- HTML via a partnership with the Saylor Foundation (most translations are still under development).
Michael Kenyon’s students at Green River Community College used to pay nearly $200 for a new pre-calculus textbook. Now they pay only $20 for a book – or use it online for free. Kenyon’s pre-calculus textbook (CC BY SA) was written by community college faculty David Lippman and Melonie Rasmussen, who teach at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. “We looked at a lot of textbooks,” Kenyon said. “There are some people who think this is the best book out there.”
“The courses were created with the needs of Washington’s college students in mind,” said Tom Caswell, SBCTC Open Education Policy Associate. “And with the idea we would share the courses with the world.”
Each course was developed and peer reviewed by a team of instructors, instructional designers and librarians. Use of the course materials is optional, but many faculty and departments are already moving to adopt them.
According to an informal study by the Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), the Open Course Library could save students as much as $41.6 million on textbooks annually if adopted at all of Washington’s community and technical colleges. The study also estimates that the 42 faculty course developers will save students $1.26 million by using the materials during the 2011-2012 school year, which alone exceeds the $1.18 million cost of creating the 42 courses. “These savings will not only help Washington’s students afford college, but clearly provide a tremendous return on the original investment,” said Nicole Allen, Textbook Advocate for the Student PIRGs.
Justin Hamilton, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, said the Washington state effort was groundbreaking for the nation. “Lowering college costs increases a student’s ability to take more courses, finish their degree on time, and enter the workforce prepared for success in a global economy. That’s not just good for them, it’s good for the country.”
“It really is the beginning of the end of closed, expensive, proprietary commercial textbooks that are completely disconnected from today’s reality,” said Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) of Washington State’s 36th District, a champion of the Open Course Library and OER. “This is a significant state investment in this era of massive budget cuts. We had little choice but to seize the opportunity of this crisis to challenge the status quo of the old-style cost models in both K-12 and higher education.”4 Comments »
Creative Commons is seeking highly motivated and organized individuals to fill two positions: Senior Project Manager and Senior Project Analyst. Both positions are full-time with full benefits. Both positions will be key members of the team supporting Department of Labor TAACCCT grantees.
Ideal candidates have contributed to open source, open education, open licensing, and/or other open content projects, are proficient in required technologies, and possess at lease two years of work experience. Joining CC means getting the chance to interact with motivated staff and a brilliant international network of affiliates and community members.
Please feel free to share these jobs descriptions as far and wide as possible. We will be accepting applications on a rolling basis until we find the right candidates. Please be sure to indicate the job title you are interested in applying for in the email subject line, and send to “firstname.lastname@example.org”
Application Deadline: Friday, 7 October.No Comments »
We’re excited to announce that Esther Wojcicki, current Chair of the Creative Commons board, esteemed and award-winning teacher, and leader at the nexus of education and technology, will become CC’s Vice Chair focused on learning and education. CC’s current CEO, Joi Ito, will step into the role of both Chair and CEO.
“Creative Commons continues to make tremendous strides in enabling openness and innovation in learning,” Wojcicki said. “I’m very happy to focus my experience and expertise on ensuring that high-quality educational materials are made easily and freely available to everyone in the world.”
Creative Commons benefits from a diverse board comprised of thought leaders, education experts, technologists, legal scholars, investors, entrepreneurs and philanthropists, all sharing a keen interest in improving quality and access in the learning sector. As a result, we anticipate that CC will be able to assist innovators, educators and policy makers in sharing the yet untapped potential of this revolution.No Comments »
We previously wrote about the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) Notice of Proposed Priorities (NPP) for discretionary grant programs. The Department offered 13 proposed priorities, specifically mentioning Open Educational Resources (OER). Essentially, if the priorities are adopted, grant seekers could receive priority if they include OER as a component of an application for funding from the Department. OER is included in Proposed Priority 13–Improving Productivity:
Projects that are designed to significantly increase efficiency in the use of time, staff, money, or other resources. Such projects may include innovative and sustainable uses of technology, modification of school schedules, use of open educational resources (as defined in this notice), or other strategies that improve results and increase productivity.
As mentioned, the NPP includes a Department definition of open educational resources:
Open educational resources (OER) means 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 or repurposing by others.
Comments were accepted through September 7. There are 228 public submissions listed in the docket folder at Regulations.gov (note that some of these items are essentially duplicates, as contributors who submitted comments via a document attachment were given two unique IDs if they also included an introductory note in the text field on the submission portal). There are a few submissions that commented on the OER provision of the NPP. The following is a brief breakdown of these comments, based on relevant keyword searches of the docket.
Creative Commons appreciates the inclusion of OER, and highlights the importance of public, standardized legal and technical tools for OER to be successful:
The OER movement is poised to greatly further global access to and participation in education, but only if a critical mass of educational institutions and communities interoperate legally and technically via Creative Commons. Why is interoperability important? Because in its absence, content such as OER cannot be aggregated or mixed and then shared further in a legal or efficient manner without securing special permission from the original creators. Interoperability requires standardized, public licenses that grant rights in advance. Creative Commons licenses are the global standard for open content licensing, grant rights in advance, and are easy to understand and use. Institutions, teachers, and policymakers in all arenas should be required to implement and recommend use of CC’s tools for educational resources.
Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, International Association for K-12 Online Learning, State Educational Technology Directors Association, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, The Student PIRGs, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges
The signing organizations appreciate the inclusion of OER, and suggest strengthening the definition of OER described in the NPP by: (1) replacing the conjunction “or” with the conjunction “and” to ensure that derivative use is clearly allowable; and (2) replacing the phrase “permits their free use or repurposing by others,” with the phrase, “permits sharing, accessing, repurposing (including for commercial purposes) and collaborating with others.” Under this approach, the revised definition would read as follows:
Open educational resources (OER) means teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain and have been released under an intellectual property license that permits sharing, accessing, repurposing (including for commercial purposes) and collaborating with others.
The signing organizations also encourage the Department to make the innovative development, use, expansion and dissemination of OER an element of several other priorities, including Priority 2 (Implementing Internationally Benchmarked College and Career-Ready Elementary and Secondary Standards), Priority 4 (Turning Around Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools), Priority 5 (Increasing Postsecondary Success), and Priority 7 (Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education).
State Educational Technology Directors Association
The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) appreciates the inclusion of OER, and echoes the suggestion made in the joint comment above for the strengthening of the definition. In addition, SETDA endorses the inclusion of OER in Priority 2 (College/Career Ready Standards), and suggests OER be included in a new proposed priority entitled, “Technology, Innovation, and School Reform”:
We believe that investments in technology for learning represent a new baseline infrastructure for education, including investments in the human resources necessary to make best use of the new tools and services enabled by this infrastructure. Under this priority, projects designed to support innovative approaches to school reform could focus on one or more of the following priority areas … (a) Transitioning from print to digital instructional materials, including especially those employing open educational resources …
Council of Chief State School Officers
The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) appreciates the inclusion of OER, and highlights the importance of OER as a way to providing quality resources to students:
The nation’s chief state school officers are committed to ensuring that all students have access to high-quality instructional materials and other resources and OER represents an important tool for reaching this goal. Many states are already leading in this important area and welcome the opportunity to seek federal support for furthering their work, particularly as it contributes to supporting cost-effective implementation of the CCR standards. We urge you to preserve this priority in the final rule.
1105 Media strongly supports SETDA’s recommendations for strengthening the NPP, especially the addition of its proposed new priority, “Technology, Innovation and School Reform”, which suggests that projects designed to support innovative approaches to school reform could focus on one or more of the following priority areas … (a) Transitioning from print to digital instructional materials, including especially those employing open educational resources …No Comments »
One venue for the advancement of Open Educational Resources (OER) is through policy change at the local, state, federal, and international levels. In addition to an Education landing page and OER portal that explains Creative Commons’ role as the legal and technical infrastructure behind OER, CC has been conducting a series of interviews on open education and policy to help clarify some of the challenges and opportunities of OER in today’s education landscape.
In this installment, we spoke with Linda Wallinger, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, and Lan Neugent, Assistant Superintendent for Technology, Career & Adult Education–both from the Virginia Department of Education. The Department has been exploring open education initiatives, including their work on the open textbook The 21st Century Physics Flexbook: A Compilation of Contemporary and Emerging Technologies. In general, Virginia has been supportive of openness, and passed legislation that indicates a preference for state-funded materials to be released with a CC (or equivalent open) license. Linda and Lan shared benefits and drawbacks to the Flexbook, challenges to teachers utilizing OER, and the potential for OER to dovetail with new student assessment tools.
Q: Virginia is well known for developing the Physics Flexbook, in collaboration with publisher CK-12. The FlexBook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license (CC–BY–SA) and thus can be used as is, used in part, or enhanced by teachers based on their curriculum and classroom needs. What is the status of the Flexbook project and to what extent is the Flexbook used in class instruction? What are the reactions from teachers and students?
Lan: Because Physics is not a verified credit course in Virginia, we had a little more latitude with that particular subject. We’ve been hearing a lot from the business community and some educators about how long it takes to go through the review cycle. It’s a 7-year process. Obviously, a lot of content can change within that time period. Science changes all the time and there are topics that teachers would want to add to their teaching plans. For example, nanotechnology is not something we were concerned about seven or eight years ago. Now, it turns up in all sorts of areas like cosmetics and clothing and might be something teachers want to put into their curriculum. As we speak, there are additional Physics content areas being added to the Flexbook. The Physics Flexbook ended up being an ancillary document. Scientists, high school teachers, and college professors were recruited and each selected an area of expertise to write on. The Flexbooks are in use right now, but we don’t collect data on how much they are being used. My expectation is that teachers who want to go beyond the curriculum and have the time to do that are likely using the Flexbook as a resource repository for their teaching.
Developing the Flexbook helped us to see some of the benefits to and limitations of this model. One of the limitations of the Flexbook structure is that you could clearly tell who authored the content by the style of writing–a scientist writes differently than a businessperson, who writes differently than a teacher. How to address quality control standards have been somewhat problematic with the Flexbook. In traditional printed textbooks, you don’t notice these different voices because it’s edited as a whole to maintain a consistent tone. Another limitation is, of course, copyright issues. Most of the graphics and photos used came from the Library of Congress because they are free. It’s not to discredit these materials; we just thought it was interesting. One of the reasons why we are a state partner with some of the major publishers is that they have solved some of the copyright issues in their development and publishing process.
Linda: The Flexbook was a good way to get some experience in an OER endeavor, but from an expectation of instructional materials I would have hoped that it would have been more interactive. In many ways it was like a paper book that was displayed on the Internet. While that certainly makes it more accessible to individuals and opens the content, I’m still not sure it’s where I hoped it would be to engage teachers with best practices for teaching. By providing textbook resources through technological methods, it might prevent schools from having to buy textbooks. But, students often don’t have access to computers and the Internet at home, or at least it’s not guaranteed that they have it. So, schools have to turn around and print out the resources anyway. It’s not actually as much of a cost savings as it’s made out to be.
Lan: After we were working on the Physics Flexbook for awhile and started to realize some of its limitations, we thought it would be good to conduct pilots with companies that publish textbooks. We put out a call for groups to come in to talk to us, and 40 people came, representing all the major textbook publishers, and some smaller ones too. The publishers have seen what’s been happening with all the changes and consolidation within the music and newspaper industries. We said to them, “you spend a lot of money in binding and printing and physical production…how’d you like to talk about the core stuff you do?” They seemed amenable to discussing this. We’ve met with companies that are demonstrating incredible uses of technology. Some are creating a whole new digital experience. We’ve talked to them about teaching and learning through apps too. We’re very excited about new technologies like the iPad–not that we’re not excited about other technologies–but we thought the iPad would provide a good way to test the technology. Technologies like the iPad overcome the limitation in interactivity that we mentioned before, because it allows users to interact with content beyond traditional text. A year from now other computer companies will have similar products.
Q: Many of us in the OER world talk about the need for teachers to be able to take educational content and manipulate it, repurpose it, remix it, share it. How do teachers want to use content?
Lan: Traditional textbooks have served us well, especially for me as a beginning teacher, because the textbook was the curriculum. The concept of looking at different ways to deliver textbooks could be as simple as putting it online or making it able to be viewed on an iPad or similar device. It could be more complex by including lots of multimedia and other interactive resources. But fundamentally, even experienced teachers are looking to textbooks for guidance on what to teach, what the content should be, and what the process should be. In developing electronic textbooks, you have to hold onto those concepts. The textbook is a teacher’s guideline and roadmap. Any of the multimedia and enhanced materials that you can include to enliven instruction would attest to that.
Linda: Teachers don’t work in isolation when they’re teaching. They are bound to a curriculum that’s been designed by their school division in Virginia and the curriculum is aligned to the standards of learning set by the state. Teachers want the flexibility to mix and match lessons, but they first need a structure whereby they have an idea of the order in which materials should be presented. This is important because many school divisions have a pacing guide that determines at what point in the year teachers should be on a particular chapter of a book or specific topic within a lesson. While creative flexibility is important, it’s important to have structure too. Most teachers don’t teach just one lesson plan. Elementary teachers teach all the content areas. Teachers don’t have the time to develop materials to support their curriculum and their lessons. Over a period of years teaching I’ve developed a sort of library of materials. I’m envisioning that this could be one way a teacher might use the internet-based materials or resources available under Creative Commons licenses.
Lan: Virginia is well positioned to do OER. We deliver just under 2 million online tests per year. Our general assembly and governor’s office have been very helpful in proving the connectivity and devices in order to do online testing. Fairfax School District in Virginia is working on a project called eCart, which is a bucket of OER and other electronic resources that are accessible and shareable by teachers. The Fairfax system ties together the resources and data on student achievement. The system helps teachers analyze whether their students are learning what they should.
Linda: One of the pieces required for states’ Race To the Top applications was addressing an instructional improvement system that was technology-based. It sparked a lot of conversation. I envision a dashboard that allows access to electronic tools used by the school division, like a grade book, but also something like an electronic filing cabinet where teachers can import other electronic resources. We also realized that there should be a common format for all of these electronic resources, along the lines of the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF) so that all of these resources can truly be shared by many, as opposed to materials being developed just for the iPad, etc.
Q: The Common Core Standards are a shared set of core state standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. How can the Common Core standards intersect with OER?
Linda: Certainly when you have Common Core standards in place across multiple states, any kind of technology that helps communications among these states is going to be invaluable. Most states have expended tremendous resources in developing content standards either before or as a result of No Child Left Behind. Virginia has spent a lot of money in providing resources and materials to support teachers and students, not to mention the assessments that are aligned with these standards. The sheer act of creating common standards is not anywhere near the end of the journey. Having looked at the Common Core, they’re not really written at a classroom level yet. Instead, they are broad statements describing what a student should know. In many cases, states may have to recreate educational resources they already have because the new standards are in a different order or are somewhat different than the standards their boards have adopted. As this work proceeds in reading and math across 13 grades, it’d be wonderful to have the opportunity for teachers to collaborate on developing these resources, or to have one state work on one grade and another state to work on a different grade. That way, there doesn’t have to be duplicative effort.
Q: One piece of legislation in Virginia in support of OER creates an Open Education Curriculum Board. How can it help with the adoption and exploration of OER in Virginia education?
Lan: Virginia had HB 724, which would establish an Open Educational Curriculum Board. The law was sent back to committee, but was not acted upon. We certainly expect it to move in 2011. The board will include governor appointees and general assembly appointees. They will be charged with taking a look at OER that will hopefully be utilized by Virginia schools. The board will be establishing criteria to do their review. We’ll serve as staff to the board.
Q: How do you see the role of Creative Commons within the OER environment? How can CC help in terms of educating policymakers and Virginia teachers?
Lan: We need to look at a state like Virginia, look at all their existing policies and procedures, look at the types of things impacted by OER, and make recommendations as to how states might reconcile those policies that don’t fit well in the new learning environment. We need to disseminate best practices around using technology, as well as the SREB guidelines. Right now, there’s a bit of chaos in the OER arena around copyright issues. Teachers know they can make a single copy of things to use. We need more guidance on these legal issues. With respect to the eCart program I mentioned earlier, OER needs to be tied to student learning outcomes. It’s too easy to take OER and shotgun them all over the place and be done with it.
Linda: When you convene groups working on OER, you need to include end users. Many of the people currently talking about OER are not the people that need to implement them in a school-based setting. Visionaries are important, but sometimes they get their feelings hurt when the educators don’t embrace everything they suggest. It’d be valuable to have people at the table such as principals, classroom teachers, school board members, and maybe state department staff form the instruction and technology side.
Q: Wrapping up, what does a successful teaching and learning environment implementing the power of OER “look like”? Do you have any lingering thoughts—worries, hopes, and predictions?
Linda: Lan mentioned that one of the biggest hurdles around adopting and implementing OER is that the policies in place now were mostly created for brick and mortar schools. Sometimes educators give off signals that they are intimidated by or not supportive of OER. But really, I think one problem is that the teachers are not able to visualize how OER can be introduced into existing teaching structures. This is complicated by the fact that board and state policies are not easy to change on a dime. Talking about OER, we get questions about things like assessment. The assessment process is high stakes–it determines whether a student graduates or whether a school is accredited. Clearly, there needs to be some policy changes or changes in the assessment process. Other questions revolve around the amount of time students should spend in school, as well as addressing appropriateness of some educational content and parent complaints.
Lan: One of the things interesting in K-12 is that when the classroom door shuts, all the policies, procedures and best practices really boil down to simply how the teacher teaches. If you take away the primary element of how teaching has been conducted–through direct instruction–many teachers are lost. I’m interested in looking at different methods of teaching. In college, you’re taught 20-30 different methods of teaching, but most aren’t used. In the virtual teaching environment, we’re prompted to look at those other methods beyond lecturing. We can energize students with technology, and there’s a lot of gold to be panned in exploring many new teaching methods. OER would allow many opportunities and latitude to have really good and engaging instruction. The sharing of resources and best practices would help teachers do other things to enhance the learning of not only mainstream kids, but gifted students too. Struggling students can use these resources to review content in other formats or at different paces. We’ve distributed iPod touches within our agency, because when people have the technology in their hands, they begin to see the new possibilities. In the teaching profession, teachers are enthusiastic their first year, they really learn how to teach in the second, third, fourth and fifth years, and by the sixth year they ask, “why am I teaching this in the same way forever?” Technology and open source can energize teachers and keep teaching fresh. We need to work through the nitty gritty of the policies, like copyright and restructuring books.
Linda: One of the big challenges will be to introduce the concept of OER as a methodology into our teacher preparation programs. Most teachers get their ideas of how to teach either from how they themselves were instructed or from the lessons learned in their teacher preparation programs. If they’re not made aware of the opportunities within OER, they’ll be slow to introduce them. I think the good news is that most teachers coming into these programs today are already familiar with many of these tools. Classrooms won’t immediately rely solely on OER, but will adopt a hybrid model. There will still be publishers and vendors that provide content in a structured manner that teachers can follow and school divisions can have confidence in. It’d be great if these vendors or publishers could then link into their own materials ways to import changing OER and apps.