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Open Assembly is cloud-based platform for collaborative knowledge creation with open educational resources (OER)

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Edtech is Widening Skills, Achievement Divides. Why Not Narrow the Engagement Divide?

This work, “Kids at computer,” is a derivative of “Kids using the computers.” by San Jose Library, used under CC BY/Cropped from original
This work, “Kids at computer,” is a derivative of “Kids using the computers.” by San Jose Library, used under CC BY/Cropped from original

Despite efforts to provide technology access to poor and minority students and narrow the “digital divide,” educational tech may not be leveling the playing field after all.

A recent Hechinger Report story focuses on research conducted in two polar-opposite Philadelphia neighborhoods over a 10-year period. Susan B. Neuman of New York University and Donna C. Celano of LaSalle University studied academic and economic inequalities between children from affluent Chestnut Hill and those from struggling Kensington. They explored how kids used computers at public libraries, where they discovered just how differently poor and affluent students took advantage of the tech resources.

Chestnut Hill kids often went to the library with adult family members, who sat with them and answered questions or directed them to educational material. In contrast, the Kensington children tended to lose focus and interest while using the computers, and parents didn’t usually guide their children’s online learning.

Lack of tech savvy wasn’t the only problem for Kensington students in this study, nor is it the only problem for kids from similar neighborhoods:

Poor children also bring less knowledge to their encounters with computers…Not only are affluent kids more likely to know how to Google; they’re more likely to know what to Google for.

Edtech could very well exacerbate economic and achievement gaps that already exist between poor and wealthier students. Unless…we begin to address the “engagement divide.”

Why not attempt to work with the way that less-advantaged students prefer to interact with content: via entertainment or games? Why not try to meet these students on a 1:1 basis, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all approach?  Open educational resources (OER) for “productive gaming” could provide a solution; otherwise, poorer kids will fall further behind.

Productive Gaming
Image cropped from 10-Blended-Learning-Trends-Infographic, courtesy of http://www.dreambox.com

What if we developed an OER-based “Google Search Game” designed to support game-loving students in becoming more effective explorers in our knowledge economy by using tools that make the most sense to them?

Perhaps we also need to curate materials in OER repositories the way the best instructors do in prosperous classrooms—based on context, learning style, and skill level. This would give less-advantaged students access to higher-quality digital learning resources that narrow that “engagement divide” and the skills and achievement gaps—i.e., that foster and achieve “deeper learning” (expanding what students learn, deepening the experience through which they learn it, and improving the benchmarks for measuring their knowledge).

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation believes that “OER provide a powerful means to grow the impact of Deeper Learning” and supports grantees such as Expeditionary Learning who are developing Deeper Learning OER resources.

Higher Education Act’s Stamp of Approval on Edtech Innovation

HigherEdStamp
This work is used under CC-PD-Mark

Recent legislative plans to overhaul education came in two forms: jumbo and bite-sized. Senate Democrats presented a 785-pages-long bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, while a House committee, equal parts Republican and Democrat, offered 11 pages of targeted proposals for reform.

When it comes to digital innovation in education—especially as it relates to Open Assembly’s mission with regard to open educational resources (OER)—here are the three sections worth checking out.

1) Section 795E recommends an innovations fund for minority-serving institutions to boost student success, in part, by assessing the needs of any given institution, then researching and prototyping educational innovations that can improve student outcomes. Those innovations can and should include OER and digital content.

2) Section 796D offers grants to states that are able to greatly increase access to higher education for and foster the success of low-income students by 2020—especially students facing such barriers to college as having no high school diploma and working more than 25 hours a week. To qualify, states have to present plans that, among other things, promote technology to increase personalized learning and student retention. This includes blended- and flipped-learning innovations.

3) Section 932 outlines ways to provide accessible learning tools to students with disabilities, though we believe that the recommended reforms must apply to all students. The proposal calls for efficiently developing and delivering these materials to post-secondary students with print disabilities, such as open textbooks and other digital resources. States would need to compete for public or private grants and contracts to implement these improvements.

The House and Senate have their mark-up period in the weeks ahead, during which they’ll add amendments to their respective proposals before they leave for their August recess. Ever a hopeful bunch, Congress hopes to vote on the Higher Ed Act reauthorization before the mid-term election.

Catherine Cronin: Assessment in Open Spaces

Catherine Cronin shares her experience teaching in a truly open learning space as the progressive “thinning of classroom walls”, making an effective case for open pedagogy.

“Learning and pedagogical relationships are transformed when we engage with students in open online spaces or networked publics. These can become ‘third spaces’ of learning, beyond the binary of informal and formal learning. Once a closed classroom (physical or online) becomes open to the world, assessment options multiply, with many more opportunities for student choice, voice and creativity, and of course, feedback.”

Catherine Cronin: https://flic.kr/p/fEznQK
Catherine Cronin: https://flic.kr/p/fEznQK

“In terms of assessment in these open online spaces, students collectively created the rubrics for assessing their presentations and digital media projects. But that was not the whole story. Through engaging in open practices throughout the term, we became a learning community that was not confined to one classroom or one online space. The classroom walls thinned progressively as the term progressed, so that we truly became nodes in a broader network — sharing work openly, engaging in discussion, inviting and giving feedback. The main assessments for the module — the presentation and digital media project — were opportunities for students to chose their own topics, media, tools and ways of working (individual or team), to express their own authentic voices, and to share, engage and learn beyond the bounds of our classroom.”

Entire post here: http://bit.ly/1pa3vkf

A (Meaty) Question To Chew On: #FutureEd

Recently, in the context of an experimental MOOC she was teaching at Duke, Cathy Davidson asked the question: “Why have we so quickly adapted to a new mode of collaborative, cross-disciplinary, instrumental, just-in-time, non-expert knowledge-making everywhere except in school?”

Her argument:

“Whereas everyday, everywhere learning has become a hallmark of our social life and work life in the post-Internet era, education–K through 22–remains largely wedded to the disciplinary silos, formal knowledge taxonomies, summative assessment measures, and formal credentialing apparatus designed for the research university of the late Industrial Age. The Internet went public on April 22, 1993. We’re still teaching like its 1992.”

Open Assembly was founded with the goal of seeking a solution to the problem Cathy Davidson’s question highlights, with a software framework for collaborative teaching and learning designed to let us engage with each other and with content inside the classroom–much the way we do everyday, in every other context. Open educational resources (OER) inherently facilitate sharing and collaboration, and the Open Assembly platform is specifically designed to leverage that capability.

Julie’s Journey: Collaboration, or Why My Project is Getting Better Each Day

While my thesis and research this semester are technically independent, I’m starting to learn that not much can be done without collaboration. My work has developed and changed so much from when I first started, and a lot of that is due to discussions with peers and mentors. Going into the thesis, I only had an idea of what I might possibly want to accomplish. I went from broad ideas of different environmental issues to write my thesis on, to a project in which I am able to complete relevant and interesting research to include in my thesis as well as provide data on air quality around campus. It’s through conversations and trial-and-error of different ideas that I came to realize what would be possible, and what was too much of a stretch. Beyond that, the support I have received from my mentors is how I have gotten so far. This is my first time working with Arduinos, the micro-controllers I’ll be using to collect data on air quality, and with environmental monitoring in general. It’s also my first project that is this complex and large.

Embracing collaboration is just the culmination of how my education has been built. From English class in high school to my current physics courses, discussion and collaboration have played, and do play, important roles in how my peers and I have been taught and developed our knowledge. The tools available to support collaboration have come a long way from our 40-minute, in-class discussions about Shakespeare in high school. Now, courses use Blogger, Blackboard, Google Groups, and other resources to facilitate collaboration. Each has their own appeal, but these platforms are also lacking as far as trying to be the virtual classroom that teachers are attempting to create. Currently, my thesis class uses Google Groups as an email notification system and Blackboard for discussion. I find these limited compared to what I can do using Open Assembly.

Throughout my project development, I have had people sending relevant documents and information, others who just want a more detailed idea of what I am doing, and peers who have input and thoughts on my work. I have found that Open Assembly caters to all of these needs, more so than anything my professors have used to date. By inviting my mentors in my “course” with the role of  “Instructors”, they are able to upload pertinent material directly to the platform. Those collaborators invited as “Students” can comment on the work I have done, as well as upload other resources they think might be relevant and helpful. This set-up allows for fluid collaboration and discussion that would not be possible otherwise.

I’ll be sharing more about the collaborative power of Open Assembly further down the line. Stay tuned!

Creative Commons Kiwi

Have you ever wondered how to download and share digital content legally? How do you let people know that you want them to reuse your own work? Creative Commons licenses can help you do both. These Kiwis will show you how.

http://vimeo.com/ccanz/cckiwi

MOOC Rival OERu Puts Accreditation on Menu | Times Higher Education

MOOC rival OERu puts accreditation on menu | News | Times Higher Education.

Intro to Open Assembly

Open Assembly is a free, cloud-based platform for social learning, collaborative teaching, and content curation using open textbooks, open courseware, and other open educational resources (OER).

By unleashing the Power of Open, we’re encouraging innovation based on networked learning in hybrid and online environments. The platform is free for any user–students, self-learners, instructors, admins, institutions–for open education purposes.

Assemble a playlist of learning resources. Remix, adapt, or clone an existing playlist.  Share it with a colleague or peer, at the course or module level. Engage with comments and resources of your own. Analyze engagement. Archive only what you want to keep when the course or project is over. Take it with you on your learning path from course to course, or from one learning goal to another. Accessible on any web-enabled browser device.

Open Assembly can be used in numerous ways: to create a playlist or course, to assemble a digital curriculum, a coursepack or collection of resources, and to undertake research, on your own or better yet, in collaboration with others.

Our goal is to make teaching and learning online more accessible, more engaging, more interactive, and a lot more intuitive. We’re setting a new standard for teaching and learning with others. We combine teacher-centric and learner-centric tools, which makes us learning-centric. 

Interested in checking us out? Open Assembly is currently in private Beta, but feel free to Request an Invite on our website if you would like to explore Open Assembly or pilot our platform in your hybrid or online classroom. Here’s a preview:

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