OCL4ED: Learning Reflection 2

I started off this section of this course having a strong aversive reaction to the definition proposed of OER, that being free plus having the rights to share, modify, and create derivative works.   Looking further into the proposed definitions, though, there were some nuances – option 3 suggested that in fact “Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others (Creative Commons[3]).”   Meaning that it’s about being permitted to use it freely rather than about it being free per se.   

I’ve been using free software such as that from the GNU project for many years.  The way they always said it in the GNU community was “free as in freedom” not “as in beer.”   I think it’s fine to sell OER – perhaps we want to make a DVD of all the best open textbooks and have a table at a teacher’s conference and charge $5 for a copy?   The issue, to me, is whether I can legally make a copy of that DVD for a friend, or upload what i got off the DVD to the Internet, or change what I received to meet my student’s needs and redistribute it to other educators…

OCL4ED: Session 1 Learning Reflection

Session 1 of the Open Content Licenses for Education course focused on considering why we teach, whether teaching was a vocation or a profession, about the freedom to teach, and about the freedom to learn.   For me education is a calling, something that I do because I’m passionate about, rather than merely being a profession that I do to earn a living.   That said, I’ve struggled to reconcile the desire to create and share with the need to pay the rent and the bills.   I’d like to be able to sit down and spend a couple of years writing free/open/libre (FLO) resources for other teachers, but I haven’t really figured out how to fund the creation aspect of this stuff.    There’s definitely a hierarchy between, say, a tenured professor who has a life-long secure job and a steady paycheck and can sit in their office and write freely licensed textbooks and someone who’s a graduate student who is struggling just to cover basic expenses.  I think too, that this is why we see a lot more Open Educational Resources aimed at the higher education level – K-12 teachers are just so overwhelmed with the day to day requirements of their job that really creating and polishing OER is much less feasible.  Plus, our evaluations in our K-12 teaching jobs don’t really take into account our contribution to the larger body of knowledge in our field the way that a higher education professor’s evaluation does.

I think to really see comprehensive, systematic OER created, we’ll need a new form of funding mechanism – perhaps something like snowdrift.coop – so that we can democratize the funding process and break the stronghold of the universities and government grants and have a bottom-up funding mechanism for the creation of both knowledge and of OER.

Open Content Licensing for Educators: Introduction

I just signed up for the Open Content LIcensing for Educators course that starts today.   One of the things that they had us read in the preliminary activities was about Personal Learning Environments.   Unlike a learning management system, a PLE is something that a learner sets up for themselves, using the tools of their choice to interact with other people who are interested in learning the same things.   So for this course, we had to set up our blog and our twitter account so that they will interface with the aggregator software on the course website.   That way, everyone can see the posts being made, even though we make them on our own blogs and twitter accounts.

The first post that we’re required to make is an introduction.   I’ve been working in the field of education since about 2001, when I first interned in an alternative school as as a college sophomore.   I first started using free software back in 1999 when I installed Linux, but got frustrated with the arcane nature of it; I had to go buy a book at the bookstore just to connect my computer to a dial-up Internet connection.   I moved back to Linux in 2009 after a virus infestation trashed my Windows computer so badly that i was unable to boot.   (Amazingly, Linux could access all my old files from Windows without getting infected by the virus).   I had designed some open content materials through P2PU and had been exploring various open textbooks available in mathematics.   But what really got me interested in Open Educational Resources was meeting Aaron Wolf; in the course of many long discussions with him, I realized that we needed to create a more democratized way of funding OER and other free and open content.   Our thoughts on what this might look like are on our prototype site at http://snowdrift.coop.    I’m particularly interested in this course, then, because I want to network with others that are involved or considering getting involved with OER and to further develop my own ideas about what free and open content looks like in the context of education.   I also want to have an opportunity to reconcile my own values around freedom and openness with the reality of my day job of working for a school that uses mostly closed-source and copyrighted materials and platforms in the process of teaching children.

Complex Instruction, My (Not-So Complex) Culminating Experience, and Continued (Complex) Financial Struggles

I met yesterday with one of my former professors, Dr. Sue Courey, to discuss my idea for a creative project to complete my MA degree in Special Education and to ask her if she’d be willing to chair the faculty committee for my creative project.

The basic idea centers around taking a critical perspectives on mathematics learning disabilities and then from that critical vantage point reworking the Stanford Complex Instruction model so that it can meet the needs of students with disabilities. Complex instruction is a model of instruction for detracked schools in which students are placed in heterogenous groups and explicitly trained on group roles (such as facilitator, recorder, thus delegating classroom oversight to students). Groups work on complex problems that require multiple abilities to successfully complete – problems should be challenging that even the top student in the class is forced to turn to the group for help. And then teachers intentionally intervene in this process to identify students with low intellectual or social status in the group and highlight their demonstrated strengths in groupwork to their group.

Once I’ve done a literature review and synthesized my own theory of how to use complex instruction with students with learning disabilities, I plan to write an hour and a half curriculum on both the critical perspectives and the complex instruction methods and then teach that curriculum at the upcoming California Matheatics Council conference at Asilomar in December.

Dr. Courey was particularly enthusiastic about my idea – in the one day since I had sent the proposal to her she had already shared it excitedly with another professor. She had two suggestions – one was that I specifically point out how this relates to the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice (which it definitely does!) and two was that I draw more on special education literature and look at some of the other names by which these ideas go under in special education – say, Peer Assisted Learning Strategies and Universal Design for Learning.

We also talked about how complex instruction is heavily grounded in sociological theory and studies of classrooms, and how special education as a discipline has discovered a lot of the same ideas but comes at it from a more practical perspective – but at the same time can miss the fact that general education research actually has a lot to say about students that are struggling in the classroom and often has a much stronger foundation in theory and research than the equivalent special education research. So she seemed particularly excited that I was interested in looking at both general education and special education literature in my literature review.

Finally, we talked about my acceptance into the CSU PreDoctoral Schoalrs program and how this literature review would make an ideal writing sample for doctoral program applications – which means that I need to have it done by Mid-November or so.

So, yes, she agreed to chair the faculty committee (I need two faculty) for my creative work, and now I just need to find one more faculty member. (I have someone in mind, but I haven’t asked them yet). She also said that SF Unified is really looking at what to do about the Common Core in Special Education, and to check into their latest strategic plan, which is on my to-do list for the week.

I took the day today and re-wrote my proposal for my culiminating experience. I need to send it to my predoctoral program mentor, Dr. Judith Kysh to see what she thinks.

I also am still wondering about how I’m going to fund this work. SFSU took away my State University Grant (fee/tuition scholarship) this year, and although I was able to raise money on indiegogo from my facebook friends in order to cover tuition, I’m still facing about a $2800 shortage this semester in terms of money for living expenses. I was given a scholarship by the predoctoral program to fund travelling to conference and presenting my work and to cover registration fees for the GRE and graduate school application fees, but this money can’t be used for tuition or living expenses. I’m determined to find a way to make it through this semester, but the situation does have me rather edgy and anxious every time I review my financial situation. (I keep logs of all expenses in a little notebook and transfer them to a spreadsheet weekly, with the help of a wonderful peer support group called Fellowship and Footwork that I attend at Alta Bates every Friday). It also seems weird planning trips to Chicago, Monterey, DC, and Philadelphia (where the conferences I’m attending are) when I don’t even know where rent money will come from…