February 10, 2015
Goodbye textbooks, hello free online resources
Online material offers a free and worthy alternative to traditional textbooks in many districts:
Textbooks, those long-entrenched staples of classrooms, could soon be pushed from their place of prominence by a high-tech alternative: online lessons that can be downloaded, customized and updated — all at will, and all for free.
The online material offers enticing benefits as it provides more current content, appeal to students and saves schools potentially big money. San Jose Unified, for example, spends $1 million annually on textbooks.
For some time, textbook publishers and software developers have marketed digital lessons to schools. But unlike Apple’s proposition to replace books with more costly iPad lessons, the movement for “open educational resources” focuses on free material, created and curated by educators.
“We’re just at the initial stages of a revolution in education,” said Matt Chamberlain, principal of Venture School, an independent study school in the San Ramon Unified School District. Selecting and managing online material is challenging, “but to put resources in kids’ hands is very exciting.” Added Venture biology teacher Maureen Allison, “There’s so much potential, so much rich stuff out there.”
Efforts to collect and spread free online resources
The effort to collect, edit and spread that material has been quietly incubated by philanthropies like the Menlo Park-based William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, other nonprofits and now a consortia of state governments. It has made headway in school districts like Riverside Unified, where 40 percent of the curriculum comes from open educational resources, and in private and budget-conscious charter schools.
The challenge for teachers is assembling coherent lesson plans, if not using a yearlong course like ones provided by the Palo Alto-based nonprofit CK-12. But for teens, learning online comes naturally. “Using a textbook is really boring,” said Tiffany Bynum, 14, one of the inaugural class of ninth-graders at Design Tech High charter in San Mateo. And a book’s index and table of contents can’t compete with a quick Google search. “It’s hard to find things you’re looking for.” Said Morgan Richards, 14: “In the world we live in today, everyone is so used to looking at their phone screen all day.”
The startup school has turned to free online lessons for all classes, although it buys novels for English, and has plowed the savings into purchasing Chromebooks for its 136 students, all ninth graders. Teachers get curriculum from various sources: CK-12, the nonprofit Moodle, universities and teacher networks — what physics teacher Ryan Clark calls “the global physics department.”
Textbooks are costly and heavy, and easily become outdated and tattered. Many districts only can afford to buy new ones every six or seven years. And, unless students lug them to and from school, schools need to spend extra funds for a classroom set.
Publishers that dominate the lucrative U.S. textbook market, estimated to have $8 billion in annual sales, claim they aren’t threatened by OER, as open educational resources are called.
Jennifer Berlin of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the three firms that dominate textbook publishing, said, “We don’t believe that OER can replace the standards-based curriculum that schools want and need.” Publishers, she said, produce “strong and trusted content” that can’t necessarily be supplanted by material provided online by others.
Publishers themselves are moving quickly to online content, some of it free. But they’re being challenged on many sides. Earlier this month, Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel described the textbook industry as “unimaginative,” a burden on schools and ripe for change. The FCC funds Internet and broadband services to schools and libraries, recently increasing its spending to $3.9 billion. Rosenworcel is pushing to expand Internet connectivity for students, to eliminate the “homework gap” between rich and poor students, who can’t do work online at home.
Amid the educational technology boom, plenty of developers have joined the gold rush to cash in by improving the “how” of learning and teaching. Now more are tackling the “what,” seeking to create a vast public library of vetted lessons.
California has joined a coalition of 11 states to create online educational resources for K-12 math and English. Teachers are clamoring for material that lines up with the Common Core and new science standards, said Jennifer Wolfe of the Learning Accelerator, the Cupertino nonprofit that is coordinating the partnership. Among more than 60 respondents to the collaborative’s call for proposals are publishers, software firms, universities and education consortia, who seek to produce shareable lessons, essentially online textbooks that teach the things that California and most other states have determined students should learn.
Hard to grasp ‘free’
Florida is moving toward digital courses and Virginia has partnered with publishers to develop textbook apps. CK-12 also has won approval from California and Utah for its online texts aligned with new state standards, said co-founder and CEO Neeru Khosla.
CK-12 is dedicated to providing courses at no cost, an idea that can be difficult for educators to grasp. “You say it’s free and free and free, and they say, how much is it going to cost?” Khosla said. CK-12 materials, she said, will be forever free.
But it will be some time before online lessons become standard in California.
In a field still in its adolescence, there’s no easy way to search the web for open educational materials, said John Willinsky, an education professor at Stanford. Amid the wealth of lessons, he said, “the ability to see materials that are well-curated and relevant is another question.” Still, the promise is great, and the ideals lofty.
“We want people who can’t afford Pearson’s ‘Mastering Physics’ $180 textbook to be able to access the core content,” said TJ Bliss, program officer of the Hewlett Foundation.
Open educational resources, Bliss said, could help teachers focus on teaching, and get away from being classroom managers. Teachers are attracted to the material because they can use and alter it as they see fit.
Working with experts
There’s also collaboration with outside experts. CK-12’s online physics textbook includes a chapter developed with NASA on space transportation in which students create simulations related to an astronaut escape systems.
At OpenEd, another startup, “We have over 1,000 teachers a day signing up,” said CEO Adam Blum. The Los Gatos-based firm collects content, but doesn’t produce its own. It focuses on progress tests that assess what students know and follow-up video lessons to teach what they don’t yet grasp. It offers mostly free content, but also lists providers who charge for their material.
Blum started out three years ago, trying to help his son with science, and realized that video lessons held great potential, but it was difficult to find ones that addressed particular concepts. That remains difficult. “It’s been a challenging year,” said Design Tech’s Clark, who draws all his lessons from Web resources and posts student assignments on Google Classroom. It’s a “flipped” classroom model, with students learning new material at home, while Clark spends class time talking to them individually.
But at most California schools, textbooks remain the norm. Change takes great effort — especially when districts are lobbied heavily by textbook publishers and receive money from the state each year specifically for textbooks.
“We need more pressure on state legislatures,” said Esther Wojcicki, a Palo Alto High journalism teacher and national open educational resources advocate, “to use materials that are not only equally good, but are better.” It’s an uphill battle. Even in her own district classes are based on textbooks. But Wojcicki argues, “why do you pay $500 for a sweater at Neiman Marcus when you can get the same thing for $39 at Costco?”
$1 million Amount spent annually by San Jose Unified schools on textbooks.
40 percent Curriculum at Riverside Unified schools that comes from open educational resources.
©2015 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.). Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com . Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
By Laura Devaney On February 3, 2015 @ 6:11 pm In Curriculum,Digital Learning and Tools,McClatchy,Mobile and Handheld Technologies,News,Online Learning,Top News
These 6 questions determine if you’re technology rich, innovation poor
Want to test your level of innovation using technology? If you answer no to all six questions when evaluating the design of assignments and student work, then chances are that technology is not really being applied in the most innovative ways. The questions we ask to evaluate implementation and define innovation are critical.
1. Did the assignment build capacity for critical thinking on the web?
2. Did the assignment develop new lines of inquiry?
3. Are there opportunities for students to make their thinking visible?
4. Are there opportunities to broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world?
5. Is there an opportunity for students to create a contribution (purposeful work)?
6. Does the assignment demo “best in the world” examples of content and skill?
To read the entire article go to the following link.
Stephen Noonoo On January 13, 2015 @ 6:00 am In Boosting Classroom Efficiency with the Help of Technology,Featured on eSchool News,Google,Innovation Corner,Teaching Critical 21st Century Skills,Top News,Viewpoint, eschoolnews.com
Instructional Technology Meetings
Middle/High - February 19th, 2015
Elementary - February 20th, 2015
Meet Pecha Kucha, the Japanese presentations changing everything about PowerPoint
“Students, please remember to monotonously read every slide word-for-word when you present to the class.” Said no teacher ever.
This is awesome. Please read the linked article on this fascinating way to present.
Ivy Nelson is the Technology Integration Specialist for the Harrisonville R-9 School District in Harrisonville, MO. She previously taught at Monett High School in Monett, MO.Published in eschoolnews.com, January 2015.