Monday, April 18, 2016

Why Open Education Resources Matter #GoOpen

This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Imagine you need to run to the store to get the ingredients to make a cake.

You get the mix, eggs, oil, everything you need to make this most awesome cake.

When you get home you decide that cake isn't really what you want afterall. No, you want another dessert. And since you have these cake ingredients you might as well use them. You're not making the cake anymore, just using the stuff to go in a different direction.

Then a knock at the door.

It's representatives from the cake batter company. They tell you that what you did was wrong. You can't use the ingredients to make anything but cake and you violated their rules. You'll have to go with them to sort things out.


Might not be the best example but that's what happens to educators everyday. We rarely have anyone knocking on our doors but the fact is there is a lot of money in a closed system of education resources. Educators face, on a daily basis, the fact that many of the resources they use are expensive, can't be posted publically, can't be remixed and can't be shared.

This closed system of educational resources only hurts students. Using resources that require a specific piece of technology or can only be used in one particular way only serves to stifle an educator's ability to innovate in their classroom.

We are in a place where Open Education Resources (ORE) are poised to transform classrooms. The US Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology has placed heavy emphasis on the creation and use of OER resources in the classroom. When districts and educators #GoOpen they use copyright free materials, which usually come at no cost, and allow for educators and students to reuse, remix and share.

This short video does a great job of explaining why OER matters.

But you might be thinking these resources can't be all that great if they are free or can be changed around or reused over and over. Actually there are tons and tons of high quality OER resources out there, many can replace most of the paid resources educators are using the classroom right now.

Below are a few of my favorite OER sites and resources.

CK-12: I've been a fan of CK-12 Flexbooks for a really long time. These are OER digital textbooks that can be used in any classroom, for free. They are fully aligned to state and national standards. But beyond that they are completely editable. Educators can edit the text, examples, reorder chapters, completely make a textbook that is theirs, customized to their classroom. All open and all free.

OER Commons: This is a powerful OER search engine that will help you discover lessons and resources created and uploaded by teachers. It's not just lessons either. It's data sets, simulations, assessments, primary source materials and more.

PBS Learning Media: The folks over at PBS are constantly creating powerful shows and the PBS Learning Media site has all the resources to go along with those shows. Everything is sortable by grade or subject area. I can even look at specific standards to find just the right video, simulation or lesson.

MIT Open Courseware: Why stop with open textbooks and open resources. The folks over at MIT Open Courseware have created entire open courses for high school subjects. Biology, history, mathematics are all covered here and available for use and remixing.

These are just four of many. Edutopia has a deep list of OER Resources. I would also recommend spending time looking at the USDOE Open Education site. You can see what districts and states are participating along with some pretty interesting open sets of data. And coming soon, Amazon Education is releasing an OER registry too. So there are tons and tons of places to explore and find the best OER resources for your classroom.


photo credit: Come in, we're open via photopin (license)

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Some Videos of Our Favorite Things From #ASCD16

If I've said it once, I've said it 1000 times.

The ASCD Annual Conference is the must attend conference for any educator each year. The quality of the sessions is not something you find at too many conferences. The shear amount of educational leaders and growers that are so accessible is not something you find at many conferences.

I would save all my pennies each year to come to this conference.

This year I decided to do something a little fun. Rather than wrap up sessions or conversations I thought it would be great to find some emerging technologies on the show floor that are worth telling the world about.

Now this is daunting. The show floor is huge and if you've been to any conference similar to this, there are very few flowers in a sea of weeds. Many of the "tools," books, and other resources aren't worth very much time to talk about. But there are those hidden gems. Those new and exciting tools and resources that could have a great impact on the classroom and on learning.

So with the help of Nick Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) and Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) we hit the show floor to find our favorite things. We broadcasted them live via Periscope and then archived them with to be able to embed here.

We started with Littlebits. Nick and I are both huge fans of these snap together circuits. I'll let Nick tell you more.

We are excited about what Littlebits can do for any classroom. You can learn more by visiting their website or checking them out on Twitter.

Next we visited something I was excited about and that was a virtual reality system where students could get inside a heart, take apart an engine or follow the metamorphosis and transition of butterflies.

You can learn more about what ViziTech can do for your classroom by visiting their website and checking them out on Facebook.

From ViziTech we visited another place all 3 of us were excited about. Robotics in the classroom has been traditionally out of reach. That landscape is changing with EZ-Robot.

Imagine being able to 3D Print your own replacement parts. Or just the fact the pieces snap together. And then with the technology behind coding the robots these could be in any classroom! Check out EZ-Robot at their website and on Twitter.

And lastly something for the little folks. We don't often see high-quality edtech tools for kids 3-8 years old. That is changing with Tiggly. These are manipulatives to use with the iPad that help reinforce concepts related to shapes, colors, numbers, and letters.

As a father with young girls, Tiggly is definitely coming to my house. I love how the apps are all different to help keep kids engaged. And they aren't just drill and practice. There is practical use with the digital storytelling and sharing. Visit Tiggly on the web to learn more and check them out on Twitter.

So there you have it! Our favorite things from #ASCD16. Be sure to check them all out!