Match 7 - 11 was Open Education Week. This was news to me. Even participating in a post-secondary program focused on online learning and teaching this event passed without recognition or even notice. That in itself is testimony to how important such events are to increase awareness of the open education movement.
One aspect of open education that was seen to have much promise was MOOCs (Masive Open Online Courses.) These courses, offered free to any individual, anywhere, with access to a computer and Internet connection originated in Canada.,The Pedagogy Of MOOCs reports that the first was rolled out in 2007.. The goal was to reach as many people as possible, measured by the number of students enrolled.
This makes one pause to consider the pedagogy of MOOCs. Face-to-face instruction values small class size. Would servicing larger number of students in an online setting sacrifice the quality of the instruction? In an environment where students have access to online articles, videos, discussion forums, and video conferencing with professors, experts and peers, should MOOCs be presented in a different manner than classes in brick and mortar setting? How should assessment look?
I liked how Dave Cormier presented a simple, yet comprehnsive plan for success in his video: Orient, declare, network, cluster and focus.
But even following this plan, will all students be successful? Dropout rates for MOOCs are notoriously high. Why is this? Are they not valued because they are free? Are students who are familiar with traditional learning models unprepared for an online learning experience? Are the selected platforms for delivering instruction poorly designed or not being utilized to their full potential?
In her video Koller presents many of the advantages of MOOCs such as those in Coursera. These include making it accessible to anyone regardless of their financial circumstances, large peer groups being able to help problem-solve in a timely manner through forums, easing the burden of grading through automated marking and peer assessment and the ability to review material whenever and however often the student likes.
In his article Bates argues that MOOCs have not been successful in providing higher education to the intended underprivileged population because many of the people in this demographic do not have access to computers or the Internet and the certificates granted by Coursera and other MOC providers are largely unrecognized. Bates states that MOOCs remain a " second class form of education."
Bates also argues that the predominantly behaviourist pedagogy of most Coursera courses is obsolete. He also points out that Koller's camparisons to face-to-face instruction are limited to lecture models and don't take into account the inovative practices that many educators are using in their classrooms today.
In his article Legon questions the quality of many MOOCs. He states that because many MOOCs afre being delivered by experts in the field it is being taken as a given that the content and delivery would be of a high quality. "This assumed connection between content expertise and a mature grasp of the challenges of online teaching, however, has not been demonstrated in MOOCs." (Legon 2013) Transferring a lecture-based program to a digital platform simply isn't effective and being an expert on a certain topic doesn't necessarily equate to being able to deliver instruction on that topic effectively.
The next generation of MOOCs (MOOC 2.0) are focusing more on instructional design . One example is NovoEd. Amin Saberi, a Stanford professor is quoted as saying "With this transition from brick-and-mortar classes to online learning, you shouldn’t lose the social, collaborative aspects of learning, It should be able to enable it."
I feel that while MOOCs have extraordinary potential, they will not be the solution to the problem of educating the masses until more thought is given to instructional design, all students have equal access to technology and the Internet and the learning is recognized by on-ground institutions.
Bates, Tony. Online and Learning and Distance Education Resources. What’s right and what’s wrong about Coursera-style MOOCs. 2012. Retrieved from http://www.tonybates.ca/2012/08/05/whats-right-and-whats-wrong-about-coursera-style-moocs/ (10 June 2016)
Cormeir, Dave. Success in a Mooc. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8avYQ5ZqM0
Koller, Daphne: What we're learning from online education. http://www.ted.com/talks/daphne_koller_what_we_re_learning_from_online_education. June 2012.
Legon, Ronald. Inside Higher Ed. MOOCs and the Quality Question. 2013. REtrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2013/04/25/moocs-do-not-represent-best-online-learning-essay (10 JUne 2106)
New, Jake. Chronicle of Higher Education. New MOOC Provider Says It Fosters Peer Interaction. 2013. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/new-mooc-provider-says-it-fosters-peer-interaction/43381 (10 JUne 2017)
Stacey, Paul. edtechfrontier.com. The Pedagogy og MOOCs. May 11, 2013
This blog post is brought to you by the word Corollary
In my classroom (and most elementary classrooms) students are encouraged to share. . The only exceptions are food (possible allergies/sensitivities/dietary restrictions) and answers during an activity designed for assessment purposes. Sharing is an act of empathy that demonstrates the ability to recognize and fill a need of another person.
So why do we revert to two year-olds who want to claim everything as “mine” when it comes to creative works? Why do we abandon our childhood teachings?
In his Video Sharing: The Moral Imperative Dean Shareski shares Ewan McIntosh’s statement
“Sharing, and sharing online specifically, is not in addition to the work of an educator. It is the work.“ Shareski further states that “When we focus on protecting our own work we are in some ways the antithesis of a teacher.” Strong words, which he admits. But there is a ring of truth to them.
As teachers we share our knowledge with our students. We often share a particularly inspiring lesson with a colleague. If we adopted Dan Meyers’ attitude that the more people we share our work, the more the effort seems worthwhile, perhaps this would occur even more than it already does. As educators we also share our students’ work with the school community on bulletin boards. I have seen the audience effect mentioned in Terry Heick’s article When Student Writers Learn That They Must Make Their Audience Care in action when students know they will be sharing their work with their classmates or others. They are much more motivated. Like many educators in elementary schools I have not yet taken the leap into having my students share online. Why not? I admit that the estimated amount of time required to produce materials I deem worthy of publishing so publicly is a deterrent. Privacy issues are also a valid concern. By allowing these concerns to influence my practice am I sacrificing my students’ education? This is a question I had not considered before.
In this day and age sharing with a large audience is not difficult. Access to the Internet makes it relatively easy. This means that not everything is of the same quality. Heick (2014) states that there is access to so much it is “an ocean of dreck, dotted sporadically by islands of genius.” This begs the question, is it worth the time and effort sifting through the dreck to find those rare gems? I don’t have the answer to that question.
Perhaps it is not the content of what is being shared so much as the process of sharing that matters. Even a poorly presented idea can spark innovation in someone else. In his article How Successful Networks Nurture Good Ideas: Thinking Out Loud Clive Thompson states that “Failed networks kill ideas, but successful ones trigger them.” As educators one of our primary objectives is to foster ideas. This makes me inclined to agree with McIntosh and Shareski that we do have a moral imperative to share.
Coming soon to an Internet accessible device near you...the work of my students!
Heick, Terry. When Student Writers Learn That They Must Make Their Audience Care. (December 7, 2014) http://www.teachthought.com/uncategorized/students-wrote-no-one-cared/
Shareski, Dean. Sharing: the Moral Imperative. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELelPZWx7Zs
Thompson, Clive. Wired. How Successful Networks Nurture Good ideas: Thinking out Loud. (September 17, 2013) http://www.wired.com/2013/09/how-successful-networks-nurture-good-ideas-2/
The inside of my head is currently a whirling vortex of information, ideas and resources all jumbled together and moving so rapidly it is next to impossible to catch one single thought to hold onto.
I began my week of exploring OER by watching an edWeb webinar a webinar titled "Using OER Smarter, Better & Faster for Elementary Mathematics." The webinar included a short YouTube video called “Why OER Matters”
The video addresses many of the points presented in one of the videos included in our week one reading/viewing list.
The webinar itself discussed the qualities of effective OERs (alignment with learning outcomes, quality of explanation of subject matter, utility of materials, quality of assessment, quality of technological interactivity, quality of instructional and practice exercises, assurance of accessibility) ) It included this link to a document for assisting educators in selecting OER for their classroom: http://www.setda.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Digital_brief_3.10.15c.pdf
It presented some resources that I had not as of yet explored: Rubistar, MIT Open Courseware, PHET, ReadWorks.org. I look forward to exploring these more in depth at a later time.
The webinar proceeded to address both the benefits and challenges associated with utilizing OER in the classroom. Some of the advantages listed included: spurring pedagogical innovation, the ability to modify or reuse materials, the potential to decrease costs associated with providing quality education, and the ability to promote educational technology developments.
The challenges acknowledged with utilizing OER in classrooms included: resources required to produce high quality OER can be prohibitive, quality of available OER varies, OER require periodic updating to retain their value, educator resistance and others.
The webinar than provided a sample Grade Three math lesson that utilized OER.
The webinar was a good entry point. Now I was ready to do some exploring of my own.
My first stop was the OER Commons. As I am exploring Google Apps for Education I was excited to see that it has links to upload content directly to Google Classroom!
Next I visited OpenStax. The content seemed to focus on secondary and post-secondary content. I checked out a text book on Astronomy. As I am not an astronomer I cannot speak to the accuracy of the information contained in the text but I can say that the site was easily navigable, it was easy to download content, and the content was formatted in a way that made it easy to read with the chosen font style and size and inclusion of images.
My final stop was Couesera. I found the range of materials broad. There is something for everyone there. Many of the courses are free (if you don’t want a certificate for credit) but others cost. The fees are, in my opinion, reasonable but does exclude them as free or open content. I decided to explore the resources on this site more in depth. I signed up for three courses. One I was able to begin this week, the other two do not open up until the end of next week.
The first course that I chose to audit was Foundations of Teaching and Learning. The course is introduced with an introductory video. The video is comprised of a mixture of clips of the instructor (the stereotypical professor with gray hair, a beard and glasses) lecturing and PowerPoint slides. In spite of the dated appearance of the professor and background the video contained good, basic content. The first module proceeded with three more videos similar in nature to the introductory video and concluded with a brief, self-reflective assignment.
I am eager to see what the next modules bring. So far the course has been a good refresher in basic teaching pedagogy and practice and even presented certain topics from a different perspective. I can see it being valuable for students contemplating going into education.
I still feel like I am caught in a funnel cloud but I think I am close to entering the eye of the storm where one experiences calm.
Everyone has heard of copyright. And if we are to be honest, all of us have broken it. Copyleft (gotta love the spoof on the term copyright) appears to be an ingenious method of acknowledging the original work of the creator while allowing for the inspiration of further works based on it. I liked how the definitions of open content found on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_content) I found that the 5 Rs that were articulated (retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute) really helped me clarify the scope of copyright and copyleft.
I have used Creative Commons in the past. I appreciate how it allows me to enhance my work while promoting the work of another by including proper acknowledgment. Prior to reading What is Copyleft (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft) and About the Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/about) I didn’t fully understand how the freedom offered by open resources was actually secured through copyright. The statement in the latter article that declares that Creative Commons provides an infrastructure that creates a “balance between the reality of the Internet and the reality of copyright laws” really summed it up for me.
My closing comments will be on Aaron’s Law, the recorded lecture of Larry Lessig, Once I got past the introduction, which I will refrain from commenting on, I found it not only deeply saddening to know that we lost such an intelligent, personable, sensitive person with a social conscious at such a young age but engaging and thought provoking. I only wish I had the opportunity to meet him. He seemed to be a dichotomy of introvert and activist. Intelligent and maybe naïve at the same time.
The lecture provokes the questions: Did Aaron actually break the law in liberating the JStor database? It wasn’t clear if he actually “broke in” as the server room itself was unlocked. As a member of the institution he was, in fact, entitled to access the database. Did he exceed his authorized access? Unclear. Did he have intent to distribute? Unclear. Was there proof that his actions caused harm? Again, unclear. As an accomplished lawyer Larry Lessig was careful not to come out and state it but the way he presented certain facts and skirted around others suggested that Aaron’s prosecution was less about copyright and more related to his ability to hack into secure databases. A prospect that would surely scare a paranoid government with sensitive information to guard.
Perhaps what struck me most was not related to copyright at all. What struck me was the essence of Aaron himself. Yes, he was a hacker. Yes he was an activist. Mr. Lessig is correct on these counts. But he was also a poet. Perhaps first and foremost. I wanted to find the description Aaron wrote of the picture he attached to one of his posts because it was particularly eloquent but was unsuccessful in finding it. Here is a different sample from his Stanford blog (http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/) where he talks insightfully and lyrically about the failing auto industry,
An organization is not just a pile of people, it’s also a set of structures. It’s almost like a machine made of men and women. Think of an assembly line. If you just took a bunch of people and threw them in a warehouse with a bunch of car parts and a manual, it’d probably be a disaster. Instead, a careful structure has been built: car parts roll down on a conveyor belt, each worker does one step of the process, everything is carefully designed and routinized. Order out of chaos.
And when the system isn’t working, it doesn’t make sense to just yell at the people in it — any more than you’d try to fix a machine by yelling at the gears. True, sometimes you have the wrong gears and need to replace them, but more often you’re just using them in the wrong way. When there’s a problem, you shouldn’t get angry with the gears — you should fix the machine.
And here is another discussing how mistakes are frequently undervalued...
This is a tale of two nonprofits.
At one, they hate making mistakes. How else could it be? “We’re not ever going to enjoy screwing up,” they told me. But this attitude has a lot of consequences. Everything they do has to go through several layers of approval to make sure it’s not a mistake. And when someone does screw up, they try to hide it.
It’s only natural — you know you’re going to get in trouble for screwing up, so you try to fix it before anyone notices. And if you can’t do, then your boss or your boss’s boss tries. And if no one in the organization can fix it, and it goes all the way to the executive director, then he tries to figure out a way to keep it from the press or spin it appropriately, so the world never finds out they made a mistake.
At the other nonprofit, they have a very different attitude. You notice it the first time you visit their website. Right in their navigation bar, at the top of every page, is a link labeled “Mistakes.” Click it and you’ll find a list of all the things they screwed up, starting with the most horribly embarrassing one (they once promoted their group under false names).
Extremely articulate and even elegant prose, I am sure you will agree, Coders will admit that there is a beauty and poeticness to eloquent code. Is it his eloquence that spawned his ability to appreciate and create brilliant code? Or has his ability to create and appreciate elegant code translated to his ability to communicate with the written word? Maybe a bot of both. The words recited from his blog posts demonstrated passion, vision and eloquence that are the hallmarks of a poet. I would suggest that it was this sensitive soul of a poet that called him to action and resulted in the torment that eventually caused him to take his life. I truly hope that he has found some peace.