Category Archives: OER

CK-12….where have you been all my life??

Alright, so as a current special education educator, I work with students in one classroom, spread throughout 4 different grade levels on “paper” (currently grades 5-8), but who academically are spread from grades 1-8 with their academic needs.  This makes it very difficult to plan lessons that can be taught to the entire class that are meeting curricular outcomes for those particular grade levels.  I am constantly searching for assistance to help my students develop their skills and academics, while continuing to engage them.

The discovery of CK-12 is a perfect solution. I began looking at the website, and what initially caught my eye was the CK-12 MAP. Upon clicking it open, I quickly realized the network of educators and students using this resource.

Source: CK-12 Maps

I mean look at this… it is absolutely amazing how many users are engaged in this resources from around the world.  I did notice there wasn’t a ton of Canadian users, so wondered if the content was applicable to the Canadian, and Saskatchewan Curriculum. But I thought it had to be good, with this many red dots.

Testimonials are important….to hear users opinions really matter to me. I found this video which made me even more intrigued to investigate CK-12 and why I could love it or hate it.

Diving deeper into CK-12 I was able the subjects offered, and the list is extensive.

Source: CK-12 subjects

From various grades, to various subjects, I was intrigued to explore more. th website itself was extremely user friendly. I quickly created an account using my email and password. From there I was able to navigate through the various subjects and grade levels, exploring with CK-12 had to offer.

Looking at several subjects I noticed many student friendly and teacher friendly options.  There are a lot of visual resources through videos, and graphs.  There are also discussion questions which occur frequently to engage students in the learning process. Activities also accompany the lessons which encourage the students to be active learners. The website is extremely clear and visually appealing as well.

Some great things that stuck out to me were:

  1. Flexbooks – online textbooks which were subject specific
  2. Simulations
  3. PLIX

Seriously, these are amazing.  I am very excited to use these in my classroom and with my students.  I am also very excited to share this with my colleagues and co-professionals.  What a fabulous resource!! I suggest you check it out.

Teacher GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Source: Giphy

 


AIM – OER for Higher Education

This week, we were charged with the task of evaluating an OER (open education resource) and I chose the American Institute of Mathematics since I have been teaching Calculus for the first time this year!  I wanted to check it out and see if there are any resources or lessons that could help me on my way to building my curriculum.  I was slightly disappointed by what I found.  To begin, the homepage is wordy and heavy texted.  There are limited pictures and seems more like a mathematician’s website than a teacher resource (which is what I was hoping for)!

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Homepage of AIM

I did watch a pretty cool video about how mathematicians are working with strawberry farmers to create an optimal profit which could be used to supplement a lesson of sorts, but there weren’t really any teacher resources on the homepage.

I began checking out some of the other pages and links and although easy to navigate, there aren’t a lot of resources for middle years or high school students.  There is a whole page dedicated to Workshops and a Problems List, however the problems are far above my students’ head as well as my own.  It’s definitely a well-organized site but more for a higher level of education than what I currently teach, and as I moved on, I found what I was looking for: the Online Textbook Initiative!

Our Calculus textbook was brand new when I was in high school (8 years ago) and it is STILL being used.  A new resource would be awesome for my students so I checked them out and was pleasantly surprised.  There is an evaluation criteria and it even gives information about the textbook: exercises, solutions, etc.  There is a plethora of textbooks to choose from for a variety of different courses and material and although I didn’t look at every one, they do seem to be of high-quality and focused on university course material.  This is again, above my level of teaching but might be a good place to check out for my AP course next semester!

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So although it is a high-quality website with a TON of resources, workshops, and problems, it is mainly a university website which is too bad because I was really excited to find some new resources for my students.  I’m sure if I weed through some of it enough, I’ll be able to some examples, and problems for my students to use.  But, I was disappointed in the text heavy layout of the website and pages as it makes it much more difficult to read and decipher.  The language is definitely for those who understand mathematics and teach it at a much higher level than me.  For high school or lower, it would not be very user friendly if you do not “get” the math language!  I’m sure it would be a useful website for mathematicians, and university students, especially in terms of finding some free textbooks to use instead of paying the big bucks for them!


Turning the page on traditional textbooks.

I looked into Open Textbook Library and this is a really neat resource. As a student, I’ve

OER Meme
Source

always been annoyed with the high cost of textbooks. I’ve started to purchase older editions of the assigned textbook in order to save money. This has always worked, and I have never had an issue (besides some chapters being in different order). However, the fact that the new editions of textbooks can be $200 is absurd. 

Open Textbook Library allows free access to a limited number of textbooks from a large number of different subject.

While browsing through the texts, I found one of particular interest, Introduction to Canadian Psychology.

OER Introduction to Canadian Psyc
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It’s even written by a Canadian author. Did I mention it’s free! Wow. In my undergraduate degree, educational psychology masters, and now my education administration masters degree I have had 3 Canadian based textbooks (outside of Canadian history classes). So to find a free one gives me hope for the future (a little over the top, but still it is awesome!).

 

What I like about Open Textbook Library:

  • Allows users to review the textbooks and provide feedback on them.
  • Chapters and textbook outlines are very descriptive and detailed.
  • Information is provided about the contributors/authors
    • Who they are
    • Qualifications
  • There are many different methods to be able to read the texts.
    • PDF
    • Kindle

      OER How to read textbook
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    • E-PubOnline
    • iBooks
    • To be fair, not all texts are available in all these formats, but a lot are.

There is a very descriptive Conditions of use. There is a lot too it, but here is the basis.

  • The Creative Commons copyright licenses and tools forge a balance inside the traditional “all rights reserved” setting that copyright law creates. Our tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. The combination of our tools and our users is a vast and growing digital commons, a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.

Read the full conditions to understand why this is so wonderful.

You can even submit a book as long as it meets some criteria. This almost seems too good to be true. 

Criteria for submitting a textbook
Source

But I still wonder, what is the financial reward for these authors and for Open Textbook Library to function. I have to think that if I was to write a 700 page textbook, that I wouldn’t be doing out of pure enjoyment. I would be motivated for a financial gain. Websites need to make money to stay operational. Where does Open Textbook get their funding from? They aren’t alone. There are more and more appearing on the web. https://openlibrary.ecampusontario.ca/ states that it is funded by the Province of Ontario. Other sites are more aloof as to where their funds come from. Very Interesting.

I would be interested to know which specific institutions have professors using these open textbooks. I know from a high school perspective, that anything free is worth it’s weight in gold, but post-secondary is a different story.

It’s my understanding that professors are required by their institutions to publish a certain amount of research or articles within a period of time. I wonder what would happen if say the University of Regina made a push for professors to create and publish textbooks within the scope of OER. What do you think Alec, how would this impact teaching in post-secondary institutions if profs were to help develop, create and foster a much cheaper alternative to students spending large sums of money on single textbooks?

If you can’t tell, I like this idea. I like it because for high school students, it’s a free, current, and vetted resource. For post-secondary students, it is a cost reducing measure that still provides suitable and appropriate resources. Texts are limited, but if institutions encourage their professors to collaborate and develop more resources, I think OER textbooks would grow in popularity. What do you think?