Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jerry Brown Unlocks the Nation's Digital Future through Open Source Textbook Innovation

English: Jerry Brown's official picture as Att...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed a monumental set of bills that create the nation's first free online textbook library, an effort aimed at alleviating the burden of rising costs to students attending California's public postsecondary institutions. California is now set to become the nation's first state to create a digital textbook library free of charge for the state's most popular college courses, says the 20 Million Minds Foundation.

Introduced by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), SB 1052 provides for the selection, development and administration of free open digital textbooks for the most popular lower-division courses and overseen by the establishment of the "California Open Education Resources Council" (COERC). COERC, established by the legislation, will be comprised of faculty members from the University of California, California State University and Community Colleges to determine which courses merit inclusion. Its companion bill, SB 1053, creates the California Open Source Digital Library to house the open source textbooks and courseware.

Both bills place California first in the nation among states to combat higher education's growing price tag with open source software and Creative Commons open licenses so that students can access sophisticated tools and college-level information at no or low cost, allowing them to mitigate escalating college fee increases and save their money for student housing.

With the Governor's signature, California is set to create a competitive "Request for Proposals" (RFP) process inviting faculty, publishers, and others to develop high quality digital open source textbooks and related courseware. The materials will be placed under a "Creative Commons" licensing structure that allows students and faculty free access, and allows instructors to create customized materials from these textbooks and other courseware. Materials must also meet the rigorous standards of college core curricula, and will be reviewed and approved by subject matter experts. "This is a great victory for students and middle class families struggling with the ever-increasing costs of higher education," said Steinberg. "This is a major step toward using technology to cut costs for students while enhancing the quality of higher education in California."

"At a time when the cost of attending California's public colleges and universities is skyrocketing, Governor Jerry Brown recognized that by embracing our digital future with innovative technological advancements like open source textbooks we can save college students in California millions of dollars in escalating book costs," said 20 Million Minds Foundation President Dean Florez. The foundation has been supportive of policy measures to create quality open source textbooks for college students throughout the nation. "This is the first time government has come in with substantial dollars that match philanthropic efforts to create a library where students can access free textbooks and faculty can utilize their skills to remix, revise, and repurpose these textbooks for their students."

Funding for the bills also signed by the governor (SB 1028), appropriates five million dollars for the project from the state public college savings plan ScholarShare Trust fund to be matched by private entities and philanthropy.

Dr. Larry Green, Mathematics Co-Chair of Lake Tahoe Community College, who has been utilizing a free open source textbook for his students, praised the governor. "From the instructors' perspective, having access to a wealth of professional course materials to edit, use and share frees up time for pursuing more one-on-one interaction with students and more personalized learning," said Green. "Choosing to adopt an enhanced digital open textbook for my students spares them several thousands of dollars in combined textbook expenses and increases student success. I thank the Governor for recognizing the need to provide faculty with the tools necessary for remixing curriculum while preserving academic freedom by providing free quality textbook choices for college professors and their students."

The open source library will allow students to download textbooks for free or pay around $20 for a hard copy, and was the principle reason the signed bills received approval by the University of California.

SOURCE The 20 Million Minds Foundation
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OERs at College of the Redwoods

These are the slides from my part of presentation "OER Adopter Communities: the Sustainability Factor in Open Education":

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Keeping Open Education Resources Open

A Wikiversity Logo for Open Educational Resour...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What does the "open" in "open education resources" mean? What it should mean is free to reuse, remix and share. If your open education resources are locked up with a proprietary platform, they are no longer open. If they are converted into "supplements" for a "free" text, they are no longer open. This is the fear behind those who choose a license that says "not for commercial use." That does not make it less open because you are not free to lock down someone else's work and make a profit off of it.

The reason I release materials to the wild with an open license is so that other educators can use them and benefit from them; maybe even modify them (and hey, feel free send me a copy back). I want to contribute to the education community. My intention is not to enrich some business who will repackage and "improve" on my work by locking it down into a closed system and then charging for access. The claim that I am making my work less open because it is not free for commercial use is ridiculous! That is like saying animals are only free if they are also free to be in a zoo. And the only ones who really benefit from the corporate lock-down of OERs and open textbooks are the corporations.

The Creative Commons license warning that an OER is not part of a "free culture" is an unnecessary distraction. FreedomDefined. org is not helping:
"Licenses which only allow non-commercial use are not considered Free Culture licenses. This is because in practice there are many ways that Cultural works can be used and reused which would be considered commercial. Another problem is that there is no generally agreed definition of where the border line is between Commercial and Non Commercial uses with very many cases falling in the undefined area in between. In practice Share Alike or Copyleft clauses provide a restriction on commercial profits since any reuse making excessive profits will soon stimulate a bunch of copycats which will bring prices down while encouraging even wider distribution of the works - which is the objective of the free culture licenses." 
That phrase "which will bring down prices" is the funny bit here. My goal is not to keep down the prices of my work but to remove the cost barrier altogether from my work! I want it free as in free of cost to any student, now and in the future.

The claim that OERs will not benefit from corporate modification and promotion is really missing the point. That is not the only way that OERs are adapted, developed, and distributed. OERs belong to the community of teachers and learners. They should remain there. The real work being done in the OER community is by communities of educators

So why do school districts go after corporate materials that are almost, but not quite entirely, unlike open? Because they are still clinging to the old paradigm that says that if it didn't get "vetted" by a corporate press, it lacks quality, legitimacy, the imprimatur and nihil obstat of a "reputable" press. We need to redefine this legitimacy. The corporate presses have not done education any favors: the price of education is outstripping the cost of inflation and healthcare. Each semester, publishers come up with new and interesting ways to justify their $280 dollar textbooks. And the sad truth is that the instructors know these subjects better than the project managers at corporate education publishing houses. The books are not more accurate because they went through their vetting process (see OER: The Myth of Textbook Reliability). Every open textbook that I have encountered that was created in-house or by a community of scholars has been hands down superior in every way to a corporate textbook because it addresses the needs of the teachers who created it and the students who are using it, it is lower in price and more accessible.

There are new models emerging for the development and implementation of OERs and open textbooks.   There are a number of models suggested by Stephen Downes in his article "Models for Sustainable Open Education Resources" that I feel have yet to be fully explored. There is also the implementation model suggested by the Kaleidoscope Project that begins with a community of scholars working on shared student learning outcomes and assessments and only then do they adopt OERs or open textbooks. In other words, open textbooks are an opportunity to have education content driven by the SLOs of the local schools, not by commercial interests.

Fretting over whether or not an OER is free to be exploited by a corporation is a huge step backward and a great disservice to the students.
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

OER Adopter Communities: the Sustainability Factor in Open Education

Open Textbooks from the Open Course Library
Open Textbooks from the Open Course Library (Photo credit: caswell_tom)
Una Daly has invited you to the event 'September 25 OER Adopter Communities: the Sustainability Factor in Open Education' on College Open Textbooks Community!

Check out the entire Fall 2012 CCCOER Webinar Lineup

Time: September 25, 2012 from 10am to 11am
Location: online Pacific TIme zone
Organized By: Una Daly Event

Description: Please join CCCOER September 25, 1:00 pm Eastern to hear how three successful OER adoption projects built sustainable communities of faculty and staff to customize open textbooks and open educational resources to lower costs and better meet the needs of students at their colleges. Presenters from the Kaleidoscope Project at College of the Redwoods, Cuyahoga Community College, and Scottsdale Community College will talk about their challenges and achievements in finding, evaluating, and adapting high-quality OER to replace high cost publisher textbooks.

 • Danielle Budzick, Interim Director of Faculty Development, Adjunct Business Instructor & Linda Glassburn, Assistant Professor Business & IT at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio. Danielle and Linda worked with the other Business Communications instructors at Cuyahoga college to adopt an open textbook from Flat World Knowledge and revise it to meet college learning outcomes.

A Wikiversity Logo for Open Educational Resour...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 • Geoff Cain, Director of Distance Education at College of the Redwoods in California and an instructional designer on the Kaleidoscope Next Generation Learning Grant. Geoff worked with Biology Instructor Wendy Riggs to find and adapt open educational resources to improve student learning outcomes and replace publisher textbooks.

 • Dr Donna Gaudet, Developmental Math Professor at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona. Donna and her colleagues in the Math Department have been finding and adapting open textbooks and open educational resources for over two year to improve student understanding of developmental math and replace their former expensive curriculum.

No pre-registration necessary. On the day of the webinar, please click here to login and then press the Connect button. You may use a headset or dial-in to speak live: (888) 886-3951
Enter your passcode: 918603

*0 – Contact the operator for audio assistance
*6 – Mute/unmute your individual line

PRIOR TO YOUR FIRST CCC CONFER MEETING, it is recommended that you:
Test Your Computer Readiness

FOR ASSISTANCE: CCC Confer Client Services – Monday – Friday between 8:00 am – 4:00 pm See more details and RSVP on College Open Textbooks Community:
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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Seoul Man: Viral Videos and the Shrinking World

I have been thinking recently about Psy and the K-pop phenomena of his video "Gangnam Style" that broke out of the internet and onto mainstream television and media. This video was destined to become the Numa Numa of the year (Gary Brolsma's lip-synching of the Romanian pop song Dragostea din Tei by O-Zone) except for one thing: the world is smaller now. Or rather, the internet and other media are quickly collapsing into a single macro-market. The video "Gangnam Style" was released in July and in two months, after being kicked around Facebook and Twitter, the YouTube video has gotten nearly 181,000,000 views. I believe it took Numa Numa a year or so to hit 2,000,000 views. Which is remarkable in itself seeing that Brolsma was just a kid with a web cam. (Mike Wesch has an excellent presentation on viral videos and YouTube that discusses Brolsma's video and many others called "An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube" that is really worth watching.)  Psy from Korea is part of the pop industry there, but there has been little breaking out of the K-pop world and into the mainstream until now. By mainstream, I mean Psy's appearance on the Ellen Degenere's show and his appearance at a Dodger's game. That would not have been possible without Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can't set out to create this kind of content on purpose. Most people who are watching the video are not familiar with the Korean TV personalities and comedians in the video, they do not understand the context. They don't really need to. The dancing is funny, and the music has a catchy beat. To many Western viewers, the randomness and cultural alienation is part of its appeal.

Of course, there is a darker side to the shrinking world too. Another viral video with a definite air of cultural alienation is circulating and being used to basically dismantle the Arab Spring and as a pretext by extremists to attack all things Western. The same connections that can create a pop sensation can create chaos.

We have to recognize this change in how unpredictable information can be. Psy and his producers could not have predicted anything like the reception he has gotten. We no longer live in a world of "media outlets" and consumers. The consumers of the past are creating responses to media using the same tools that were once only available only to "The Media." We are the media. And when something goes viral, we have no idea how it will be perceived. I am not saying that we have to be careful what we put out there, but learning how these new connections are changing the world has never been more important. A theory of how meaning or dissonance is created through connections, like George Siemen's Connectivism, would be very useful about now.
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