Open Only in Palm Springs


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.