As part of the work I do for the Global OER Graduate Network (GO-GN), last March I travelled to Cape Town with the OERHub crew and a great bunch of PhD researchers from around the world. This is the storify of those two and a half days in the South African capital.
Despite great initiatives like the DigiLit Leicester project on these shores and K12 OER Collaborative in the US, OER folks’ attention does not focus often enough on the K-12/school scene. TJ Bliss writes “If we want OER to become the default, we need people to use OER and to know that they are using OER”. In my experience, lack of OER awareness runs mostly unopposed among schoolteachers, who more than anyone should be supported in championing open education.
If you do a quick search for studies of OER use in schools, the return is only a handful of publications and reports. Our open-access paper to come out hopefully in the next few months will help fill this gap. In the meantime, the infographic below presents a frequencies analysis of data collected from surveys conducted by the OERRH until December 2014, in total a sample of 657 K-12/school educators across the globe. Open Education week is nearly over and we are seeing it out with a bang!
Download pdf here.
The 9th (and to date largest) iNACOL Blended and Online Symposium has now concluded. Joining the nearly 3,000 attendees at the massive Palm Springs Convention Center, I made my way from Pueblo to Sierra via San Jacinto and Catalina, ice cream in one hand and lemonade in the other, navigating the talks in the OER participant track –and believe me, with over 200 concurrent sessions packed in two and a half days, I very much welcomed a path to follow.
It wasn’t by coincidence that in her welcome address Susan Patrick, CEO identified open education and OER as one of the top ten trends driving the future of education: iNACOL are key contributors to the development of OER through policy –see for instance OER State Policy in K-12 Education: Benefits, Strategies, and Recommendations for Open Access, Open Sharing and OER and Collaborative Content Development.
At this year’s conference Karl Nelson, Director of the Digital Learning Department for the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) referred to current legislature to foreground his talk on evaluating OER: the state of Washington’s “recent adoption of common core K-12 standards provides an opportunity to develop a library of high-quality, openly licensed K-12 courseware that is aligned with these standards”. The familiar ‘it may be free, but is it any good?’ case initiated a review process of OER in Math and English Language Arts (ELA) to help educators select high-quality resources, provide information for materials adoption and identify gaps in alignment with Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Not small OER, mind you, but full courses that districts could adopt rather than spend money in a textbook.
The evaluation rubric combines five existing review instruments. For breadth, Common-Core alignment; publishers’ criteria, an overview of curricular materials (i.e. entire courses) that integrates content and practice; and reviewers’ comments, –‘Would you use this material in your classroom?’, ‘What is the ideal scenario for this resource?’, etc. For depth, the EQuiP rubric, which is unit-focused and measures overall quality when compared to CCSS; and a subset of the Achieve OER rubric, designed to evaluate the quality of digital materials.
The outcome of the review is not only an important library of K-12 open resources, but also a methodology for districts to replicate as they adopt OER. Kudos to both efforts but my slight gripe with spreading this ‘how-to’ is that, at least on first impressions, it’s a fairly complicated task even for a dedicated and trained team of educators/reviewers.
“Teachers think they don’t have the stuff to make Common Core work”, said Karl; this gap is about to be filled by K-12 OER Collaborative, a state-led project supported by Creative Commons, Lumen Learning and others. Nelson was nearly as tight-lipped as his co-presenters, Jennifer Wolfe from The Learning Accelerator and Layla Bonnot from the Council of Chief State School Officers (SSOO), or at least just enough to build up the excitement about an official RFP likely to be announced during OpenEd next week: the call to create openly-licensed, high-quality, common-core aligned comprehensive modules for K12 Math and ELA will be open to all content developers. Interested? Watch the space.
The slides for my own presentation ‘Teaching and Learning with OER: What’s the Impact in a K12 (Online) classroom?’ are available here.
I’m intrigued. The façade of the Universidad de Chile on Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins in Santiago displays a huge banner with a quote from Nicanor Parra, the anti-poet: “Don’t stop being a flea in the minotaur’s ear”. The university celebrates Parra’s 100th birthday recalling part of the speech he gave at the opening of the academic year in 1999. I haven’t read Parra, I’m not familiar with his subject matter but if I had a guess at what the quote means I’d think of the role of a critical university, standing up to the relevant powers with its own voice and annoying the hell out of the establishment. And maybe I wouldn’t be too far off. In a letter to Luis Riveros, Parra’s signature reads ‘Académico de la muela del juicio’ –Academic of the Wisdom Tooth. So irreverence counts, be it flea-style or of a more dental nature.
Staying on topic, it’s exasperation that sums up my participation in the VI Congreso Iberoamericano de Pedagogía, hosted and (dis)organised by Universidad Católica Silva Henríquez and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso. Where do I start? No abstracts. No time keeping. No information. No place to display conference posters. No conference proceedings. No wifi. No substance. And who the heck schedules a tour of Valparaíso, UNESCO World Heritage site, to coincide with presentations? Had I not hitched a lift back to Santiago with two Chilean academics who agreed that Silva Henríquez could have done a much better job, I would have been happy to suggest that sending a spy over to Europe to learn how to organize a conference was a damn good plan. Oh nasty. Me retracto de todo lo dicho. I take back everything I said. Not.
On a different note, it’s been interesting to learn that getting an education in Chile is extremely expensive, regardless of universities being state-owned or private. Werner Westermann, who leads one of ROER4D’s sub-projects, tells me that attrition rates in his institution reach nearly 50% in first year, partly blamed on students seriously lacking basic learning skills. His study of the effectiveness of OER use to improve freshmen’s mathematical and logical thinking is the only initiative I know of that relates to open education in the region. Surprising. I can’t think of a scenario where OER and open education make better sense.
In February of 2013 the newly put together OERRH team completed the humongous task of creating a bank of survey questions which would be one of the main research instruments to collect data around the project’s eleven hypotheses. Bear one thing in mind: at the time, each of us was working with a different collaboration –OpenStax, Saylor Academy, Flipped Learning Network,OpenLearn, TESS-India, CCCOER, etc.; initially, each collaboration was allocated a different hypothesis, which also meant a different pick of questions from the survey bank and a different version of the survey. I’ll give you a couple of examples: our collaboration with the Flipped Learning Network originally focused on teachers’ reflective practices so flipped educators never answered questions on the financial savings of using OER; students using OpenLearn were not asked about the impact of OER on teaching practices; informal learners did not have questions that related to formal studies, and so on. In addition, collaborations had a stake in the research and input in the design of their survey: questions were discussed further, tweaked, piloted and tweaked again ahead of launching. All in all, we put together 18 different questionnaires. The idea was always there to merge all data into one massive file (what I called the MONSTER) that would allow us to undertake comparative analysis. What follows is the official record of how I laboriously coded, recoded, corrected, deleted and cursed (a bit) through the OERRHub surveys in order to have a squeaky clean dataset.
SurveyMonkey and SPSS don’t talk to each other that well
Every researcher knows that there are errors and inaccuracies that need to be ironed out before you commit yourself to analysing quantitative data. We are all human, right? On this occasion, for the first complication that came my way, I’m gonna blame the software: when exporting data from SurveyMonkey as anSPSS file, your variable labels and values will get confused. Let me explain: say you want to find out about OER repositories, so you create a list in SurveyMonkey and ask respondents to tick options from it to answer the question ‘Which OER repositories or educational sites have you used?’. If you expect the list to appear as variable labels in SPSS, it won’t. Instead, the software will repeat your question in the Label box and use the name of the repository in the Values box with a value of 1.
As it happens, the wonderful OER researcher Leigh-Anne Perryman had a solution in her bottomless bag of tricks: the question design in SurveyMonkey had to be amended for future respondents to have the option to tick either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for each of the repositories on the list. To sort out the damage with any data already collected, what needed to be done was manually input the name of the repository in the label box, and give the variable a value of 1=yes and 2=no. Tedious but easy to fix.
Editing the survey questions to include a yes/no answer also served to remedy another software mishap: the fact that SurveyMonkey does not differentiate a blank answer from a ‘no’ answer when downloading results as a SPSS file. On this occasion, the required fix wasn’t quick. I closely inspected the data case by case: if the respondent did not choose any of the options in a particular question, I considered each a ‘missing’ value; if the respondent ticked just one option, the blank answers were recoded into a ‘no’ value.
Another curious instance of having to recode data was spotted by Beck as the two of us marvelled over having responses from a total of 180 different countries in the world: I can’t recall whether this was a default list in SurveyMonkey but for some reason Great Britain and the United Kingdom were given as separate choices. Obviously, these had to be combined into one.
Correcting human errors
I put my hand up. The OERRH surveys aren’t exactly short and sweet. As a result, and this is my own take on the matter, the data suffered. In some cases, respondents provided the demographic information but did not answer anything else; they were deleted from the final dataset. Exact fate met those who selected all options in one question, despite being mutually exclusive –I find it hard to believe that someone is studying in school and getting a degree while doing a postgrad at the same time, don’t you?
I’ve decided that for some respondents it must have been easier to provide an answer in the comments box than reading through all the available options; what other explanation can you find for a teacher who answers the question ‘What subject do you teach?’ by writing ‘Engineering’ in the ‘Other’ field instead of ticking that from the 17 items at his disposal? Duly noted and corrected.
In other cases, for instance, respondents would leave unticked ‘MOOCs’ when asked about what type of OER they use, but then add as an open comment that they studied with Coursera or EdX. These had to be corrected as well.
Although written in English, the OERRHub surveys were distributed world-wide: it is difficult to anticipate where people might find the language a barrier, but here is an example: we used the word ‘unwaged’ to inquire about employment status; several respondents left the option unmarked, but indicated “Unemployed” or “No job” in the comments field. Again, these cases were corrected accordingly.
Cleaning data is always painstaking work, especially when you are handling thousands of cases, but let’s face it, it is also mostly uncomplicated. What could have been if not avoided at least attenuated was the trouble that I saw myself in when having to merge the data from the eighteen OERRHub surveys. As days went by, the monster dataset grew fatter and fatter, but my love for my colleagues (and myself) grew thinner and thinner. Why? It is true that each of the individual surveys had to be customised as per collaboration but we researchers were a tad undisciplined: there were unnecessary changes to the order in which options were presented, there were items added and items subtracted, and wording altered without consultation. All this made data merging more time-consuming, cumbersome and fiddly than it should have been.
All is well that ends well though. We have a clean dataset that comprises of 6390 responses and is already producing very interesting results. Here is one of the lessons learnt: if you are dealing with multiple researchers and multiple datasets, nominate a data master: one to rule them all and bind them, although not in the darkness. Darkness is bad, open is good.
Have you ever heard of a microburst? Me neither, yet it seems that my trips to the US happen to coincide with freak meteorological conditions. Last year, Claire and I were the closest we’ve ever been to a tornado; this year it was a microburst. A what? Wikipedia to the rescue: “A microburst is a very localized column of sinking air caused by a small and intense downdraft within a thunderstorm”. Mad. Crazy. Un-be-lie-va-ble. Result: a sizeable chunk of dearest Route 228, without which I would never have made it to Mars, was closed off and my arrival in Pittsburgh was delayed by whatever time it took the shuttle van to bypass the microbursty mess. Forever. Twice.
And so it was that FlipCon14 came and went. This is how I saw it.
While the US soccer team mourned what would have been a mighty win over Portugal, Molly Schroeder kicked off inviting us all to live in beta: try things out, if they don’t work, bury them in your educational graveyard (like Google’s graveyard) and move on. The only expectation of living in beta is that you learn something.
An hour later I was happy to join World Languages teachers claiming their rights in a flipped world dominated by Science and Math. Flip Spanish. Flip English. Flip Mandarin. Flip grammar. Flip culture. Make it real. My kind of conversation.
Katherine McKnight’s talk had the gravitas of the research-savvy: effective videos need to be guided by theory of learning, and thus there are personalization principles, segmenting and pre-training principles, cognitive overload and so forth that translate into practical advice for teachers: show your face in your videos, provide information about key concepts before lessons, break recordings into manageable bites, include a continue button –students don’t know when to pause, apparently. All common sense, if you ask me. And what about length? Research says that anything longer than six minutes becomes a feat of endurance for college students –I chuckled, not Game of Thrones.
Irma Brasseur-Hock’s presentation was a disappointment. I was expecting to hear more about the results of the survey and focus groups that the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning conducted last year, but instead she rushed through her demographics (which incidentally match what everybody knows now, that most teachers flip in Science, in high school, have little experience in flipping but a lot in teaching) and hardly commented on the research questions: what are the biggest challenges that flipped educators face, how do they make and/or choose videos, has the flip changed what they do in class, what recommendation do they have for other teachers? Zilch. Is the data available anywhere? No, you have to wait for the publication; if it ever comes, I think to myself. Sigh. Instead she was keen on showcasing an online module they are launching in the fall, a how-to guide for flipped educators that focuses on teaching students with learning differences –and by that she meant not only under-achievers but also talented kids. Their idea is to take the research and create a teacher-friendly product; why are they so keen on sharing the (free) product but not the research?
On Wednesday, Taylor Pettis didn’t go deeper into the information that has already been shared in this infographic, when he talked about the growth of flipped learning in the last two years. A bit of discussion followed, but since all present very much fitted the Sophia profile, there was little new to take away.
And then back to the plenary. If you haven’t heard it before, yes, Jon and Aaron’s talk is inspiring, it’s public speaking at its best, but FlipCon14 was the fourth time I heard them speak since January 2013 and to be honest, if you can’t come up with something new in a year and a half, then Houston, we have a problem. Yes, teachers took the floor to tell us wonderful stories about how the flip has changed the lives of kids, one kid per teacher, three, four, five truly wonderful stories but to me it’s time to renew the discourse. You need the research, guys, policy makers want crunch numbers; the individual stories are good anecdotal evidence but, heart-warming as they are the first time you hear them, it’s one kid amongst millions.
Which is why it was disheartening to see that immediately after, the research round table was poorly attended, and the only concrete idea that emerged was that the scope is there to create a peer-reviewed journal of flipped learning.
After that I decided that the research strand was exhausted for me, or rather that I was exhausted by the research strand so I moved for a bit of action to Kate Baker and Troy Cockrum’s session on flipping canonical texts. Yes, you can flip without videos, fantastic! Here was yet another open invitation to share resources and support each other. Why do I have to read this, Mrs. B? Because it relates to your life, dude. Reading the Declaration of Independence as a break-up letter shows the brilliance of these teachers to make English palatable to students who don’t judge a book by its cover but by its thickness. Tip: disguise it as a digital book, they’ll never know how long it is.
And then it was time to say goodbye, to deliver flowers, thanks, prizes and 5-5-5 resolutions: what are you going to do in the next five days, five weeks and five months? asks Jon Bergmann. Write this blog. Think. Read. Think again. And write more, I hope.
Finally, my biggest hug to Kari Arfstrom who steps down from her position as Executive Director of the Flipped Learning Network after two and a half years of tireless work, amazing energy and elegance. I’m delighted that she is moving to better things, but I fear that the open movement loses her strongest ally in the ranks of the flipped.
FlipCon15 in Michigan in July. ¿Qué será, será…?
I’m in Mars, Pennsylvania Route 228, population 1,699. Most notable Martian? A certain Gino Crognale, of renown in the make-up world for his artistry in The Walking Dead. FlipCon14, the 7th Annual Flipped Learning Conference, is about to start and it’s not zombies descending on these 0.5 square miles of Butler County, but hordes of teachers with one thing on their minds: the flip!
This year conference organisers have divided presentations into different strands, so it’ll be difficult to come away not having found what you travelled here for, whether you are an experienced flipped educator, new to flipped learning, a sponsor showcasing your products or, like me, a humble researcher in the land of the free. Apart from plenaries and plenty of opportunities for networking, there are in total six slots of concurrent sessions where on site attendees will have to choose from up to twelve different talks each. My interest will stay with the research strand during the two days, so here’s what I’m looking forward to:
Katherine McKnight, Principal Director of Research for the Center for Educator Learning and Effectiveness at Pearson, and Jessica Yarbro, George Mason University will review research on teaching and learning with video.
Irma Brasseur-Hock and Meghan Arthur, University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, will share the research findings of a project involving a survey of 142 members of the Flipped Learning Network and focus groups interviews. What was exactly their research question? I’m eager to find out.
Kari Arfstrom and Taylor Pettis will compare the results from the most recent survey of flipped educators to that of two years ago in terms of the who, what, why, where and when of flipped learning.
Chris Luker, Chemistry Teacher from Highland Local Schools, will chair a round-table discussion with the aim of “collaboratively organizing research ideas that will continue to support the flipped learning model”. Ah, the need for research! Can’t beat it.
And Lucy Kulbago, John Carroll University, will examine student attitudes toward science and conceptual gains in a flipped undergraduate introductory physics course for life science majors.
There is plenty to tempt me away from this my initial choice, but I shall hope to stick to my guns and feed back in a couple of days.
Now where are those zomb… I mean flipped educators?
Photo: Pennsylvania Route 228 CC BY B. de los Arcos