July 1, 2014
The OpenEd “Formative-Flipped” Manifesto: How “Resource-Backed” Assessments Make Personalized Learning Practical At Scale for the First Time

We are here this week at the International Society for Technology in Education conference, where we just won Best of Show for our groundbreaking new assessment tool.   What’s ground-breaking about it you may ask?  Beyond the fact that its the only free assessment tool for “modern style” assessment items (the question types demanded by the Common Core, Smarter Balanced and PARCC), the OpenEd assessment tool is “resource backed”, enabling a new teaching paradigm that we refer to as “formative flipped”.  

What do we mean by this term? There is a growing consensus that teaching with formative assessments is a better way to do things.   Quiz your class first, and frequently.  Find the gaps in each student’s knowledge and work with them on those deficiencies.    

This still leaves the question of how to work with them on those gaps.   If you are truly going to “teach them” yourself, there’s a lot of customized lecturing for a class of 25 students.   

But another trend, the “flipped classroom” would seem to help.   Give the students videos and games to consume at home based on the needs you determine with formative assessments.   In a ten question test of mastery of a certain skill or standard, you can quickly determine just what they know and don’t know.  Then go find the right resources for each student to use to achieve mastery.    

Of course you (the teacher) then need to go find those resources.  That is time consuming.   Standards like the Common Core help quite a bit by identifying the “bite-size” skills that are necessary for a student to master a skill.   Most OERs and other online resources don’t do a particularly good job identifying standards.  But OpenEd was built to solve this problem: it will give you a wealth of resources for each and every Common Core standard.

That still doesn’t go quite far enough: you are still finding the resources to go along with each standard or skill gap yourself.  This is the primary reason why we built our own assessment tool.  OpenEd’s assessments are “resource-backed”, allowing the assessment tool itself to drive the personalized learning recommendations for students.

What does “resource-backed” mean exactly?  Assessment items (questions) can be associated with resources when they are written (we even suggest questions to use to the teachers and assessment writers).  When a student takes an assessment the OpenEd assessment runner suggests resources to address the knowledge gaps from any particular question.   

We believe that this “formative to flipped” approach will enable personalized learning for each student to take place at scale, not just for the lowest or highest performing students where most personalized learning plans get created today.  

We are piloting this approach with several districts this fall and will be measuring the gains with those districts of formative-flipped over conventional classroom methods.  

June 24, 2014
assessments video and the assessment question bounty program

We hope you are enjoying your summer, and that you are also spending some time getting ready for the challenges of the coming year. If you believe in teaching with formative assessments (as we do) part of that is planning your assessment content to determine mastery for each topic and guide the instruction needed for each student.

To that end, we recently released the first free modern (Common Core, PARCC and SBAC style) assessment tool. It is also the only assessment tool oriented around associating resources with assessment items. When students struggle with an assessment OpenEd will recommend resources to garner the necessary skills.

Take a look at this video from Brandon Dorman on building formative assessments with the new assessment tool:

(the direct link for this is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kv6M2zveuyY)

We also want announce our “Question Bounty program”. We are building many questions and assessments ourselves to cover Common Core standards, all released open source via Creative Commons license. We will also be announcing partnerships with paid assessment providers soon. Basically we will offer paid formative assessment item bank content as part of an OpenEd “subscription” (a small monthly fee of $10 to access all paid private content). But we want to encourage the community to contribute to the open free items as we are doing.

So here is what we are offering. For every assessment question you create which meets the following criteria we will credit you $10 towards a subscription (i.e. one month of free usage of paid content) allowing access to paid provider content. For an assessment item (question) to qualify it should:
1) be aligned to a Common Core standard
2) get used by another teacher 
3) does NOT get flagged as misaligned or otherwise inappropriate by another teacher within one month

We will have a “wall of fame” soon showing the volume of contributions for each teachers (since we need the report to give you credit for subscription anyway). We will also be featuring particularly good questions that are created on an ongoing basis. Please let us know if you have any questions about our Question Bounty program or our assessment tool in general.

May 30, 2014
Time for a Next Generation Assessment Tool: Free, Modern, Resource-Oriented

At OpenEd our mission has always been to provide the largest K-12 educational resource catalog.  And the tools (playlists, courses and recommendation engine) to help teachers get these resources used.  

We always wanted to focus on true high value resources, not random documents.  To us that has always meant videos, games and assessments.    And we have thousands of great assessments and questions from partners such as IXL and Shmoop.  

In the process of getting great assessment content we  found that there isn’t nearly as much teacher-created content for questions and assessments as there is for other resource types such as videos.   This results in not quite the breadth of coverage on each and every Common Core standard that we manage to have, for example, on videos.  And of course formative assessments are critical in insuring that other resources are working in helping students gain mastery before students get to high stakes tests.

Since formative assessments are such an important tool in using resources in personalized learning, we asked teacher community (forward thinkers all)  what they used for creating them.  The answers we heard varied from Google Forms to Hot Potatoes to handwritten worksheets.  But of course none of these are targeted at the modern style of assessment questions required by the Common Core (and its corresponding test types Smarter Balanced and PARCC).  This means supporting types such as Multiple Response, Free Response and Composite Items.  It’s just not possible to do these types with old school quizzing tools or Google Forms. 

We think this a big obstacle in getting students ready the demands of the Common Core.  So we have created a free (and open source) assessment creation tool on OpenEd oriented to the needs of modern assessment.  We believe that this is the only free modern assessment tool oriented to the needs of the item types required by the Common Core (and thus Smarter Balanced and PARCC). 

But most interestingly we allow teachers to associate resources (such as videos and games) with individual questions.  And when students don’t quite demonstrate mastery on the full assessment we suggest what resources they can use to achieve that mastery.   This takes formative assessments from a tool just a way to show teachers who needs help to showing them HOW to help them.

We think we have changed the game in modern assessment creation.  Please give it a try and let us know what you think.

March 7, 2014
"OpenEd Resource Search" LMS Addon Now In Beta on Edu App Center

We are announcing that the OpenEd LMS add is now in beta.  This means that you can access OpenEd’s million videos, games and assessments (searchable by standard, subject or grade) right from your existing LMS as long as that LMS supports the LTI standard (which almost every LMS but Edmodo does). 

To use this download it from the Edu App Center or just paste this URL.   You can also watch this short video tutorial

If you are familiar with using LTI addons from LMS packages such as Canvas, Moodle or Sakai, please check out the LMS addon beta now and give us feedback.  

March 6, 2014
schedule for the Common Core Tech Conference - Virtual Edition, March 26th to 28th finalized

We have been co-sponsoring a series of conferences on how technology can address the challenges of the Common Core, called Common Core Tech.   By request we are offering this virtually, via GoToWebinar for those of you who don’t live in California or other areas that we plan to offer this.

We are excited about our roster of leading ed tech innovators and educator leaders.  Please take a look at http://www.commoncore.io and sign up for any sessions you are interested in.  We hope to see many of you there.  

February 26, 2014
OpenEd now supports Public Courses!

Hello Teachers,

We are excited to announce the availability of public courses.   You can now choose to Publish any course you have created to the rest of the OpenEd community (tens of thousands of other K-12 teachers).

And of course you can use courses that other teachers have created.  You can find them by choosing resource type of Course in a search.  The OpenEd curators at OpenEd have created courses for every grade level (K-12) in mathematics, language arts and science.   The OpenEd created courses all have “OpenEd:” at the beginning of the title. These courses use every single Common Core standard for a grade level and group them together in logical topics.    Resources are then assigned for each topic.   

You can create your own courses starting with any of these courses by clicking on Clone Course.    Please let us know what you think about public courses and if you have questions for other course content that we can create for you.  

- the team at OpenEd

February 14, 2014
iPad and Android student apps released

Teachers,  

We now have both iPad and Android student-focused apps available for your students to consume the content of your courses.   The iPad app is here.  The Android app is here.    

The tablet apps allow students to view assigned videos, play assigned games and search for new resources themselves. 

Please note that these are student focused.  Today you need to log in as a student to use them.   We will be removing the distinction between student and teacher accounts later based on user feedback.

Please let us know what you think.  

December 24, 2013
Over One Hundred Thousand Assessments Added to World’s Largest K-12 OER!

Happy holidays K-12 Educators,

We are excited to announce a major new enhancement to the OpenEd catalog.  We have now added over one hundred thousand assessments.  These are from great content creators such as PBS, Brain Genie, and Khan Academy.  Most are aligned to Common Core standards.  Because of the availability of our API we are getting new contributions from content providers every week.  

The availability of assessments to determine mastery of standards and course topics opens the door to a variety of exciting new features which you will start seeing early in 2014.  

December 18, 2013
Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Now Available on OpenEd

We are excited to announced that we now have Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium content available on OpenEd.  Specifically this that we take the SBAC claims and targets and provide resources aligned to each one.  

You might say “hey, OpenEd already has resources tied to the Common Core standards, which SBAC purports to test. Isn’t this the same thing?” It turns out that SBAC does not actually test every CC standard. It has its own area of emphasis.   We are responding to teachers who have said that they want the focused list of resources for what SBAC tests.   We’ve listened and now have this available.  

Specifically please click on the By Standard tab and notice the following “standard groups” at the bottom left:

Choose specific claims and targets underneath these groups and you will see resources chosen for each one.    

We will of course be adding resources specifically tied to PARCC standards later as well.   But note that you already have resources tied to each Common Core standard that PARCC tests today.  

December 1, 2013
What Does It Mean To Be Truly Open? The Next Generation of OER

The premise of Open Educational Resources has always been that making content available to educators and students freely and universally would help accelerate educational progress and democratize educational opportunity.

To that end, a host of OER catalogs were started over the last decade.   These include Curriki, OERCommons, and Connexions. All of these catalogs relied on a community of content creators building compelling resources and making them available for free through some open source license such as Creative Commons. 

These catalogs are generally still rather small (all generally around 50,000 resources or less).  Despite the growth of the flipped classroom their traffic is steady or shrinking.  I believe that this is because, while the first generation OER catalogs benefitted from content creators opensourcing their own content, the first generation OER players haven’t practiced what they preached to the content owners that they benefit from. 

Specifically we believe that its important for an effective OER catalog to practice what it preaches to constituent content creators: BE OPEN.  What does that mean for a catalog?  We think its several things: open source the catalog itself, provide an open API for searching and contributing resources, universal access to all partners, and openness to paid and free content.   Let’s break these down one by one. 

Open Source

If you are truly mission-based to improve access to educational resources make your site software itself open source.  OpenEd does this on GitHub.   The core extensions of XWiki to support Curriki are open source.  But the entire site is not. Otherwise, none of the other OERs have exposed their source right from their site. It’s also important to make sure that the code is available via MIT License or other truly free license versus something like GPL which puts restrictions on usage.  Is it possible that someone else may take some of your code to do something on their own that is cooler or better than something you have done? Sure.  We at OpenEd would enjoy seeing that usage, because our mission is better access to K-12 resource whether we mediate that access or not. 

Open API

Along a similar vein, a catalog that wants to make it easy to access their resources should expose their content via an API.   In the 1990s a protocol called Open Access Initiative-Protocol for Metadata Harvesting was promoted. It didn’t get much traction with K-12 resources and repositories.  More recently the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative  has proposed some standard metadata for educational resources.   Some OERs have published mappings here (OpenEd will be going beyond a published mapping to an actual LRMI live query capability soon, something other OERs have not yet done).  

But in addition to metadata mappings it’s important to have a resource query and contribution API.  A few repositories support OAI-PMH for queries.   For example OER Commons does so.  But OAI-PMH is sorely lacking in metadata detail.  In general the full capabilities of the site are not exposed as formal, easily accessible APIs on either Curriki or OER Commons.   OpenEd has made our full catalog available to all comers without any restrictions (except that submitting resources requires an identity to be provided).  

Furthermore the API definition itself should be released as Open Source under the Creative Commons License (or equivalent) and publicized on a site such as API Commons (OpenEd’s API is listed there).  Specifically OpenEd has made our full API definition as an API Blueprint and exposed publicly to all comers on Apiary.  It’s very easy for any developer to test and use in an almost casual way.   I would challenge other OERs to make their APIs public on open API repositories. This is practicing what we preach to content owners about making their content available.  

Universal Access

If you are truly mission-based (i.e. your goal is to help teachers get to resources) we believe its also important to make your API available to any partner who wants to search or contribute, as long as that partner uses it reasonably.  Specifically they should use the exposed APIs appropriately. It is reasonable to rate limit API calls. Also providing an account for submission (so submissions are not anonymous) also makes sense. Especially in the case where not all resources can be realtime curated. 

But as long as partners are using it reasonably everyone should be encouraged to use the OER’s API.  For example, OER Commons has an API but they do not make it available publicly.  They also attempt to block access from specific addresses if they believe they are being harvested by other sites.   There are standard mechanisms on the Internet if you don’t want to be spidered by a search engine or anyone else.  Just set your robots.txt file to tell accessing sites or organizations to not spider your site.  If you claim to be a mission-based OER you need to follow those Internet conventions.  

At OpenEd we have other content aggregators using our API.   We have many people using it for retrieval only anonymously.  We only ask for identity (i.e. that you request an account) for content contribution to ensure appropriate usage and of course to give appropriate credit to content owners. 

Fair Use

Don’t disintermediate, or appear to disintermediate the content owner.  Give appropriate credit to the content owner and appropriately link and extend the content owners brand.  Don’t make it more than one click from the index of results to get to the site. For example, on both OER Commons and Gooru it is more than one click to get from the initial list of results to the end content page.  And before you get to the end content you are not seeing a reflection of the content owners brand.  

OERs should be a bully pulpit and stage for content creators. OERs should never even come close to implying that the content author’s product is their own. They should drive content to the content owner’s site and even drive followon interest to the content owner.  First generation OERs have failed miserably in the spirit of encouraging content creation and making the content creator the star. 

Free AND Paid Content

Most OERs focus on free content.   But this is too narrow a focus.  Teachers want good and relevant resources for standards and topics they are teaching. It is always good to have some free resources.  It makes sense to provide paid resources as well.   The variety is good.  And fostering an ecosystem where content creators can make money and be compensated for their efforts is a good thing for teachers.  

A Next Generation of OER

The purpose of this post is not to try to sell you on OpenEd. We are proud of what we have built.  But we are truly mission-based and want to see more access to educational resources.   We would like to see the older OERs try to adopt these principles.   A world where teachers have access to wealth of resources on any topic is only accelerated by OERs becoming truly open in all senses of the word.  

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