Math Tasks and OER – More Than Rhetoric

The past couple of weeks have seen engaging blog posts from two math powerhouses – Dan Meyer and Matt Larson.

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The basic premise of the discussion back and forth is that teachers using open educational resources can’t always be trusted due to the fact that many math tasks on the internet are standalone – that is, not connected to the previously covered standards, tasks and curricular sequence.

I do partly agree with this – back in 2013 I was tasked with assembling (among other teachers) so-called example curriculum unit exemplars for my school district. While I loved the work of Geoff Krall’s Problem-Based Curriculum Maps, it was true that using work from many different authors often required finessing and sometimes modification if the particular task covered topics that hadn’t been adequately covered.

Both Dan and Matt make the point that teachers – with proper curriculum training – should be able to take the disconnected tasks found on the web and adapt them to their classrooms for coherent instruction. I am concerned however about a few things and will address those concerns here:

  1. Reuse : While from what I can tell there is little in say, Classroom Chef and Hyperdocs that isn’t already online in some (perhaps less refined) form, there is still a question about better formats to deliver instructional materials. Books are great and tangible, but most online math tasks etc live on webpages and blogs. Definitely not the most dynamic of content, but useful and simple. However, one way I’ve often felt Dan Meyer’s tasks for example could be made better was ‘student versions’ of the pages for teachers to be able to send their students from an LMS/Google Classroom – currently there is nothing to stop someone from linking/setting up just that since he lists the open license in his sheet. 
  2. Redistribute: Many authors of tasks do not properly license their work. Even a mention of a CC0 license would do well to ensure fair use by others for derivative tasks, etc. In addition, as more publishers in the future want to incorporate tasks by online teacher-authors, protecting their work and having the freedom to specify usage is important.
  3. Remixing: While John Stevens 3 Act Search Engine is useful, it essentially is a cobbling together of what shouldn’t have to be such a hard thing. I also strongly feel that when teachers take someone’s task and improve upon it, it should be easier to find those derivative tasks and see what/why they made those modifications. The community is thriving already
  4. Revision: When the original authors revise their works, it may not be immediately clear (although most post revision statements; Dan Meyer has all of his tasks on a spreadsheet that simply updates the source tasks, etc). A format to get more eyeballs on tasks before they are published/disseminated before revisions may or may not need to be made would be helpful. While posting anything to #MTBOS is sure to get you at least some views and comments, I almost wish there was something like “#MTBOS_CHECK” for an author wanting to release something to the world but asking for revisions or commentary first. Sometimes I’ll look at a task and not quite like it, send feedback to the author etc… then forget about it.

You may notice that I specifically pick out the so-called four R’s of OER – Remix, Reuse, Revise, Redistribute. 95% of all online math curriculum I’ve seen at least posted through say the #MTBOS on twitter adhere to these principles. My main point here is that more needs to be done within the Math community for education about what makes their task/game/lesson OER or not and if so – how to leverage that for maximum, even crowd-sourced potential. I am keenly aware of my own lack of contribution to several projects I’d love to devote more time too – openmiddle.com chiefly among them – but it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t if I had great ideas to share. Sometimes I feel I’m so busy exploring what’s already there!

I’ll also come back again and call out the importance of dynamic curriculum maps importance to ensure that students DOK levels are being seen and adequately addressed – as well as coverage of both the standards and mathematical practices. Side note: Dan Meyer’s spreadsheet already lists the MP’s, CCSS, and License.

References

creativecommons.org 
Defining Open, blog by David Wiley
Dan Meyer's Blog
Geoff Krall's Emergent Math
Matt Larson 

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