Category Archives: GoOpen

OER and Equity: Part 2

When I first got really into the ‘open’ movement nearly two decades ago as a Linux user, a huge part of it was for the issues of equality it promised. Free software meant more money could help students in poverty was the promise. Free educational resources, ideally teacher-created also held the same promise – replace expensive, proprietary textbooks with high quality, highly skilled content creators (Teachers).

So it has surprised me in the past few months to get to work on what I would have previously said, “that doesn’t concern me.” as a creator/sharer of educational content and not a programmer at heart – educational standards. I gave a conference presentation about this a few months ago at LibreLearnLab but became aware of an effort from IMS Global a few months later. It seems others in the ed-tech industry had already realized that a common language to describe the various fields that could go into an educational standard were lacking. For example, in the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, there are a few things, “missing,” that could help both teachers, students, and ed-tech products:

  • Example problems to demonstrate the standardscreen-shot-2017-04-03-at-3-55-22-pm
  • Programatic progressions statements – ie this set of standards leads to this set. Yes, there are the progressions documents and it’s not too hard to figure it out, but not everyone can infer that the Expressions and Equations turn into the Functions strand in grade 8-high school unless they understand the pedagogy that leads them there – which I can tell you most engineers don’t care nor should they need to know this.
  • Type of statement (Cluster vs Standard vs higher-level headings) – sounds minor but when we’re talking about thousands of possible statements differentiating between these statements can really help. IE the math practices are standards not searchable by a keyword, but a human curator can recognize when those practices are apparent in a particular math task or learning resource.

In addition, the only ways to see possible connections between other frameworks such as the TEKS standards and CCSS are either costly correlation services or manual search. Even with that, there has not been a formally defined way to write the TEKS statements in common ways. Thinking about time, spending time translating statements and searching in the dark for resources is not the most equitable process.  Furthermore, at some point CCSS will be replaced by something else, and we will want some robust way to transfer the good curriculum activities/tasks to be in alignment (or not!) with those new standards. The NGSS introduce even more nuance with three dimensional standards that aren’t a simple tree anymore…








How Open Competency Frameworks Will Help K12

The advantage of machine-readable standards may not be apparent in their application to the Open Education movement. As standards change by jurisdiction or eventually new standards themselves, all of the hours spent categorizing and tagging resources may be able to be transferred over if the new standards have overlap. In addition, as opposed to monolithic PDF documents that States and Organizations normally publish their standards in, with an open competency framework those standards would be easily searchable and usable for content creators looking to find resources to help students.

The more metadata the standards have already on them – including notes, examples, rubrics as to what addresses that standard, connections to other standards and more – the better and more specific the OER content can be, which will give more choices of robust, rubric-evaluated standards-aligned curriculum to schools. Usually when standards are published they are not revised for 10-15 years which used to be the norm, but the world changes too fast now. Standards in an electronic format that automatically link to the updated format can become dynamically better (with major revisions every other year perhaps to address gaps as they arise or enhance wording, etc). Yes we need consistency, but just as once a student publishes a blog or other live-published feature we would expect some degree of revision based on feedback, so too should academic standards be open to revision and updating.

What is exciting to me – a curriculum guy – is seeing how the technical backend will enable better, more robust standards and description of the relationships between the standards down the line. As open educational resources are refined and revised, it is important that the standards they point too are not only the most accurate but also as informational as they can be.

OER and Equity

Over 20% of children in the United States live in poverty (

Most internet access in the United States takes place on “mobile” devices such as phones and tablets (


Taken together, we know that most internet consumption in the future will not happen on big screens with legacy OS’s. While this presents a problem for some sectors (software development, heavy graphics etc) for most of the internet this is a welcome problem.

Open Educational Resources is a term that’s been around a while, but with varying degrees of fidelity. I use the definition defined at by David Wiley and others at
The terms “open content” and “open educational resources” describe any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like “open source”) that is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  • Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)

  • Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)

  • Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)

  • Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)

  • Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

When it comes to reaching students in poverty with OER, my observations are that the ball has often been dropped but doesn’t have to be. Part of the Open Content definition is the ALMS rubric:

  1. Access to Editing Tools: Is it easy to edit the content?
  2. Level of Expertise Required:Is it hard to use the tools that edit the content?
  3. Meaningfully Editable: Is it easy to edit the content in a way that would help remix it (ie a PDF is a terrible way to publish open content)
  4. Self-Sourced: A more technical one, but “It the format preferred for consuming the open content the same format preferred for revising or remixing the open content (e.g., HTML)?”

A lot of the open content that I have seen thus far does not fit this definition. Sometimes folks have great content within their LMS, but it’s just sitting there. Or it’s on a website somewhere but you can’t easily copy and paste the text, or it’s in a Google Doc and thus not as easily searchable as perhaps other public information. PDF’s still make up almost 80% of non-HTML documents on the internet, so that’s a lot of information that for most intents and purposes is trapped.

There are a lot of great efforts happening to free this content – much of it thanks to folks like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, Creative Commons, IMS Global and various Open Education groups/consortiums.

I taught middle and high school for about 10 years in and around Fresno, CA. Many of my students grew up without fathers, without parents having even any kind of job (government assistance for_their_entire_lives) and computer use was either at school or cell phones. Some middle and upper class people mock those considered low-income and their use of often higher-end cell phones – not realizing these people don’t have a car, don’t have a mortgage, a retirement fund, etc – so money goes toward the immediate need/gratification.

Open Educational Resources need to be made with Universal Design for Learning principles in mind. My wife retells this image from the comic strip when talking about the need for universal design in all educational settings:

This need is still true even now. All OER should:

  • Be easily translatable (Google Translate works great)
  • Allow the option of being read aloud
  • Be licensed with no restrictions CC-BY
  • Follow the norms laid out by the ALMS rubric
  • Be printable: Of course being able to print materials easily (read: Not a string of oddly formatted HTML pages!) does a lot of good as well. If kids can print it they can access it, period – as long as the other accessibility guidelines mentioned are present like language, etc.

Failure to follow these principles of design will serve only to widen the gap between the tech elite and the tech poor. As we have seen in society today, there is a large gap not just in the reality of Americans but in the ability to have a perception of reality.

AIMS Zone of Proximal Construction – Tools for Productive Struggle

The AIMS Center on the campus of Fresno Pacific University is an organization that I’ve admired for at least 15 years. I actually was an AIMS scholarship recipient as an undergraduate mathematics major and as a teacher I used AIMS activities whenever I could.

AIMS has changed a bit in the past few years from producing print curriculum – they realized there was a bunch of OER stuff out there that it was getting hard to compete – and focusing on professional development and research.

My wife Meagan and I were invited to speak last week on behalf of their Colloquium Series – research-minded talks to math and science teachers going through an AIMS-related cohort.

We spoke about ways to help teachers let their students experience productive struggle. Emphasis on productive. Meagan, a special education teacher and adjunct professor, focused on environmental factors and things that teachers can do specifically for the learner. I focused on making the math connections when possible, as well as technology tools for formative assessment and PD to give the best information to both students and teachers. Formative assessment should really be called feedback in my opinion, and I made the comment either on the podcast or during the talk that if our formative assessment tools aren’t giving the STUDENTS feedback we’re missing the point.

Universal Design for Learning – designing learning not to accommodate learners with special needs, but thinking about those accommodations and then designing the lesson to reach ALL Learners with those methods – was the biggest takeaway so much so that Meagan and I are planning on attending the CAST conference in Boston this summer. It was a great night with feedback from the, ‘students’, conversations with Dr Brownell for the podcast, and overall feeling like being home and fun to be in front of people with great questions. My main points:

  1. Make formative assessment something the students themselves can learn about  – don’t keep the ‘dashboard’ confined to the teacher!
  2. Give students multiple ways to express their learning and struggles
  3. Design your classroom in a way that there are no questions for what is expected of students – the less outside stressors, the more they can focus on the academic tasks at hand.


Video Archive of the Presentation


Thanks Lori Hamada, Dr Chris Brownell and the entire AIMS staff for making our visit welcoming and great! We can’t wait to be back!

#ShareYourLessons – Youtube

Introduction Post

The Problem

Youtube is by far the most popular video platform on the Internet with over a billion users. But a standard youtube license quite simply isn’t good enough. When you upload to youtube you are given a choice of these two licenses (and one has to navigate to the ‘advanced’ tab to find it):screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-2-57-42-pm The problem I have with the Standard Youtube License being the default is that others can’t remix the content which is one of the five R’s.

The Solution

Since 2007 Youtube has allowed users to remix others content to make their own original content. Go to the Youtube Video editor ( ) then click the CC button.


You can add multiple videos to include, trim for size, add your own text, change the audio settings… and it doesn’t even have to be your own video!

As the image shows, you can also add your own free music tracks to the videos!

While I’m a huge fan of students using tools like WeVideo and others, why not use Youtube itself for basic editing/discovery? The native platform is almost always the best. Imagine the possibilities of students with youtube accounts now able to make their own mix-type style videos to share with friends and teachers. More education content could be created faster and with more fidelity then waiting for Khan to get around to recording more videos, that’s for sure!

Here’s the problem – if I search for just “math” on youtube, I get about 6,910,000 results. However if I filter for Creative Commons-licensed videos, I only get 279,000 or 4% of the total videos out there.

Share It Better!

  • When you upload your video, use a CC license
  • Write a good description – many education videos on youtube have terrible or NO description and thus are harder to find. Please write good descriptions!
  • Always include contact information in your description as well. As I watch videos on youtube I hate having to track down someone through their channel, then website, then contact page…
  • Make sure no background music etc that you use is copyrighted. It will get taken down.
  • Share your content on social media! Twitter, Facebook, you can even just take a screenshot to share it on Pinterest and Instagram! People are hungry for quality content…


output remixed video

#ShareYourLessons – Intro

This is the first in a series of posts designed to help teachers share their lessons and learning better.

I’ve gotten quite involved in the OER(Open Educational Resources) movement the past couple of years, building on a love of open source software in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. While the idea of OER is getting to be more commonplace in higher education, it’s still relatively new in K-12. Even within the US Dept of Ed’s #GoOpen movement, there is a lack of understanding of what it means to be open source.

A common definition that I will use here comes from David Wiley over at :

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)

  2. Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)

  3. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)

  4. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)

  5. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

Mr. Wiley also uses the ALMA framework to determine if a resources is sufficiently accessible.  Essentially, if something is published in a file format like PDF that may make it not able to be edited, then it would be difficult to call it truly ‘open’.

Some common content types (*my own analysis which may be flawed!)

Retain Reuse Revise Remix Redistribute Blog Post
Youtube Video Can't download natively IF CC-licensed Yes - but only by owner if not CC-licensed IF CC-licensed Yes - shareable Here
Google Doc YES YES YES with caveats around proprietary technology (google sign-in) YES with caveats around proprietary technology (google sign-in) YES
Word Doc YES YES YES with caveats around proprietary technology YES with caveats around proprietary technology YES

I’ll be taking a look at some of these content types and how teachers can actually share with fidelity in the coming weeks!

Git idea?

I’m still thinking about ways to somehow see if Git can be utilized in ways other than it was intended – code.

The idea behind this mockup (click to expand) is this:

  • screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-9-00-07-pmWhen all lines are ‘approved’, a regular git commit happens.
  • Other than that it will kick back comments, and if you select ‘reject’ the program  will just not make the change to that line.
  • The idea is that this would help with editorial changes, curriculum perhaps etc…
  • A clean commit file would actually be even better by forcing the line number to be appended to the Commit section.


Thoughts? (probably best on twitter but I welcome comments here too!)


Creative Commons License Add-On

cc_logoIn the course of my adjunct work at Fresno Pacific University, I’ve done a lot of work with current and future teachers to develop a sense of mission around sharing the resources they create. In my course “Developing Digital Rich Curriculum” I actually have them go through a mini-course on OER as part of the overall course.

This semester I was gearing up to include hyperdocs to supplant a long-held Webquest assignment in a course I was taking over.  At the same time, my day job and passion is all about Open Educational Resources – finding good ones, making more available and doing so with fidelity and curricular coherence. Hyperdocs – essentially google docs that allow for a certain degree of student voice – are interesting because they are being collected and published online – then often modified and submitted back to the collection! This is truly the essence of what makes open educational resources both compelling and sometimes hard to understand for school administrators.

Regardless, I saw some Hyperdocs with CC licenses and others hyperdocs-with-bulb2without. This is important if the author wants credit and also to send a clear message about the fact that these Hyperdocs ARE in fact intended to be remixed, reused, and shared widely.

So I decided a couple months ago to build a google doc add-on, partially inspired by OpenEd’s recent success with a Lesson Planning Tool add-on.

I mainly used as a template their sample script code about a google translate sidebar – kept the javascript I needed and scrapped the HTML which is instead based off the code from  (License Chooser). I eventually had to use Upwork a bit to fix some of the errors in the code and publish to Google but felt good about what I was able to contribute (and with the idea.)!

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-2-17-25-pmSo the Creative Commons License Chooser was launched in the Google Docs Add-on Store! So far the response has been very positive – especially for teachers publishing documents that are meant to be widely shared. I also see uses for STUDENTS publishing their work and using it as a way to teach about copyright and free/closed licenses etc.

Rekindling the discussion of better, cohesive OER discovery for math

Back in June, there were a flurry of posts related to Github for education (‘Curric-hub’) and possible variations of how it could work and why it wouldn’t etc.
Mike Caulfield
Max Ray
Chris Lusto (link is to his followup post)
Dylan Kane
Dan Meyer
Matt Lane
Obligatory Self-Post

and more!

There was discussion about cohesiveness, about how the resources would or wouldn’t be used, and the ‘grain size’ people were talking about – whole years’ worth, units, lessons…

But we didn’t talk about where or how they would reside as learning objects, in an LMS, printed out, or stand-alone. We didn’t talk about what tags we could add to them to help increase cohesiveness and usability for teachers across the country/world.

One of the million and one things I’ve learned at my job at OpenEd is how far behind education technology is behind the, “regular,” tech industry.

Sample API
Sample API

Many ed-tech companies don’t play well with API’s for accessing their systems or have crappy LTI implementations.  And while Metadata is so important to sites look google, but educational resources often are missing important pieces that make sharing resources difficult.

Google Yahoo and Bing banded together a few years ago to create  It’s a clearinghouse for metadata tags essentially, and many but not all of them are even used by . (which by itself is terrible in terms of usefulness as well, but that’s a different post). It used to be called LRMI but that functionality was absorbed into existing objects for Creative Works mostly.

There needs to be more efficient ways for this metadata information to get out to the world. To get out and be used by content creators and consumer sites such as Geogebra, Desmos, edpuzzle, Youtube etc. My idea is that these tags could be used to more gracefully piece together in a more cohesive way than creating Frankenstein’s Monster with OER.  For example, if tags ( ) indicated that the unit I published was for second grade, english language learners, included a three act math task and was accessible to deaf students, as well as had a spanish translation – that would be much better than searching for “barbie drop second grade” which is what we’d see now. Ideally a search engine would be able to piece together that needed information automatically.

But I’d want more that probably wouldn’t be in . I’d want to see how to best teach this lesson or lessons or Unit or Course in context of Literacy integration and STEM units to connect with. Classroom strategies for effective learning (online tools too!) and multiple ways to do assessment for it – not always just fill in the blank and multiple choice, but authentic assessment choices too. needs better ways to add metadata to everyday learning objects. We should shift towards an open set of decomposed learning objectives to be more clear about where a particular lesson fits into teaching a specific set of standards (Practices included!).

CC BY License


Google Doc Notes


Two years ago when I was first thinking more about a passion for sharing educational resources, I remembered hearing about a conference called OpenEdJam in San Antonio, TX. It was different than others because it wasn’t just for educators, but also for free software enthusiasts, hardware ‘hackers,’ (makers), and policy makers to come together around developing education that truly sets students ‘free as in libre’. In 2016 the conference was renamed to LibreLearnLab to better reflect the three primary strands of the conference and moved to Boston/MIT.

Day 1: Richard Stallman and more!

As background, in the 1990’s I got into using Linux on my computer because I was interested in the idea of free software and the possibilities. Alas, I never focused enough on programming to learn any language in a meaningful way, and once college started with studies etc I just used graphical tools in linux because there just wasn’t enough imperative to use the command line etc. So, I was familiar with the history of GNU/Linux and the free software foundation, etc – including their enigmatic founder Richard Stallman. What I didn’t know when I submitted two presentations in July to LibreLearnLab was that Richard Stallman would actually be keynoting! I had been excited enough to see Andrew Marcinek the former director of Open Education for the US DOE. Yet there he was speaking on Saturday morning with a wide-ranging speech about his belief in free software. He made the point that using services or proprietary software such as Google Apps removes freedoms because now the software is telling me what I can do with it only, instead of me telling it what I want it to do. It’s a simple statement with a world of implications. He also touched on other issues such as how he never uses cell phones because the act of having it in your pocket means you can be tracked for potentially nefarious purposes. This line of reasoning was extended to using cash only instead of debit cards, never using Facebook or social media, etc. In addition, I’d forgotten but was quickly reminded that he hates the term Open Source although I have to admit I’d been using exclusively when talking about software that has code online available to be shared.

The next presentation for me was one by Dan French on his transformational leadership. There was a lot of good information about his change model executed in Vermont, but the most exciting for me was his adoption of the Open Organization model from the book The Open Organization and forking it to make it more relevant for Education. True Open Source/Open Educational Resource leadership and resourcefulness at its best!

My presentation on OpenEd and how we’re helping encourage efficacy research on Open Educational Resources was fairly well received and I had a great time meeting teachers and non-educators from across the country. We at OpenEd are working on including more Computer Science resources in a way that makes sense as well as ways to incorporate Spanish resources.

Sunday morning started with the highly engaging Stefania Druga and her efforts to create and maintain Maker Spaces across Africa, Europe and the US. She notes that she laughs when people in more developed countries talk about their budgets for Makers Spaces, noting that that could have created 5 maker spaces in other parts of the world because everything gets reused! I also loved anecdotes about turning a webcam into a microscope!

My next session was by Dr. Felix Alvarado and a colleague Desiree Pallais. They have taken Guatemala’s published online curriculum published in PDF and put it online at . He made the point that it’s all well and good to put curriculum online but 1) Putting it in PDF makes it difficult to modify/adapt 2)The ‘last mile’ to getting it in teachers hands is also difficult. This is especially potent in a country with little infrastructure and thus he has started the OSI in Washington DC to help raise funding and awareness. The idea is that eventually the curriculum in the Wiki can be more seamlessly shared across spanish-speaking countries as well, but there a number of technical and marketing barriers to help that happen first.

My second presentation was on Open Learning Objectives, and a vision of what that can/will look like to have standards that are open to all for revision and input.

My final session was an amazing one all about Rasberry Pi – which to be honest I haven’t really had much of a chance to play with. Two kids/moves/jobs in two years will do that to ya 😉 . It was great to see how even at a Boys and Girls club kids were able to be learning about the advantages of playing/tinkering and LEARNING can happen on very little budget. I greatly enjoyed seeing this hands-on session but didn’t take any notes because my computer battery was running low. (Hence more pics in the Storify for it!)


This kind of conference was a great experience for me personally and needs to happen more. Most of the #GoOpen talk in my experience is not very technical – it’s usually more from educators who don’t know about the hardware/software platforms underlying the curriculum. Likewise, the free and open source software movement doesn’t know much about what teachers actually want and need. With Google classroom and Chromebooks beginning to take over education, there is an opportunity to have those devices themselves be open source software catalysts – imagine if kids started writing even little Chrome extensions that then grew more complicated into web-apps and the like… or teachers were able to automatically tag their shared Google Docs as Creative Commons.

It was definitely the most technical conference I’ve presented at and I was able to hold my own for the most part. It motivated me more to keep picking up how to modify/program but also to not become a full blown programmer and to stay more on the education side of things… there are not that many of us that know both the details of the tech and the pedagogy implications. Perhaps more in Math than other subjects as well but regardless, it’s something I’m committed too. I am very excited to see where the OpenLearningObjectives project will go and look forward to finding more hooks to the FOSS community as my work with continues!

Feedback for LibreLearnLab next time/throughout the year?

  • have three strands of presentations – OER, FOSS, Admin/Leadership
  • Help promote presenters of these kinds of ideas at other ed-tech conferences such as at ISTE, NCTM, INACOL, CUE, etc
  • Suggest the hashtag #OERFOSS to better encapsulate the ideas?


#GoOpen Summit in Vista!

Storify Summary

After hearing about the #GoOpen movement for a year, this event was actually my first time talking with it about people face to face!’s VP of Marketing Ron Drabkin and I flew to San Diego from San Francisco early in the morning and then took a nice Uber drive up to Vista. I could tell it’d been a while since being around Educator-only events because I had to laugh a bit as I saw the diversity of attendees. Teachers in their school polo shirts, ed tech business people in their suits, me in jeans and a Creative Commons t-shirt to talk about the Great Minds/Eureka Math mess.

I went to a session first from Collaboration in Common because 1) My friend Adam Ebrahim was presenting 2) I’m interested to see what they had in mind for a professional development platform. The politics get a little murky, but CinC is funded/partner of the California Dedicated to Education Foundation (CDE Foundation), not to be confused with the CDE (California Department of Education). The platform CinC will use for this collaboration platform is called Declara, which is just up the freeway from OpenEd in Palo Alto. It was an interesting conversation and some questions that I had were brought up by others as well which was good to hear. Things like no, this isn’t really for student-facing resources, but for teachers to share with one another things they were learning and wanting to do in their classrooms. The standards-based search would be nice if it was able to do other identifiable tags (is there a standard taxonomy of pedagogy-related tags? ) So, cool to get a tutorial for the declara platform and hear more about CinC’s vision to connect public school teachers in more permanent ways that Twitter etc can’t.

The next presentation was one I was very interested in from CUE’s CEO Mike Lawrence. I’d heard of Leading Edge Certification before as a teacher but hadn’t realized (because there was no need then!) that there are actually four Leading Edge certifications – Digital Teacher, Blended Learning, Professional Development and Administrator. If I were to pursue one, it would be for Professional Development as that is something I do as part of my job at OpenEd… but after getting (and paying) for my Admin credential in the 2014-2015 school year and then jumping ship into the private sector, I’m in no hurry to go back to school until I finish paying off my Masters and a car.

I left a bit early to catch my colleague Ron Drabkin present about the dangers of keeping information in Silos and how OpenEd attempts to rectify that by having an open API to let resources be displayed pretty much anywhere you’d want them. Was able to snap a few pictures. Then I met some amazing ladies from Oceanside and showed them all about OpenEd, talked about formative assessment, mathematics resources and more. One of them was a Boston Native as well so gave me tips in preparation for my Boston trip the following day.

The final presentation of the day was from Larry Singer, CEO of OpenUp Resources which just re-launched itself from K-12 OER Collaborative in the past few weeks. He was talking about how his curriculum for grades 6-8 were developed, the open nature of it and also their business plan, which seemed to make sense. Not only would OpenEd love to be a partner to help provide student-facing resources, I was excited to hear that mathematics investigation tools such as Geogebra and Desmos are integrated as well.

Overall there was a lot of positive energy at this conference around Open Educational Resources. It was great to see people putting up their presentations with Creative Commons logos as the education community at large becomes more aware of the implications of what licensing means and the beauty of being able to share your work with others inside a protected ecosystem. Well worth the trip to San Diego to connect with Educators, get their perspective and talk about and witness firsthand the GoOpen movement on the ground!