Category Archives: Open education

OpenStax: Mathematical Goldmine

When looking at the list of Open Education Resources (OERs) this week, I wanted to take a look at something that I do not have a lot of experience with and that I may actually use in the future, I am all about practicality in assignments where possible.

Bedarra Island
Banfield1 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I already have some experience with some of the OER repositories such as Khan Academy and TED Ed which I use in the classroom as supplemental support and visuals for my students. Khan Academy has great videos for mathematics where concepts are mapped out and taught in a method that I would use, but often with much better drawings. TED Ed also has great lessons for that “filler time” at the end of a lesson in their puzzles, my students LOVE them, but I find that although many these lessons come complete with Questions, Dig Deeper, and Discuss sections (see link for example), they are often what I refer to as “island lessons” where there is no way to make them all flow together to create a unit of sorts.

I first looked at American Institute of Mathematics. I found that they had quite a few open textbooks available but that most of the content was at a university or college level meaning they are not overly useful for a K-12 educator, outside of some of the Precalculus 30 outcomes. I did look through two of the textbooks, Precalculus and Precalculus – College Algebra – Trigonometry,  and found they were not bad but were very wordy, something that I often find students struggle with.

Next was MERLOT, I had never heard of this one and I was drawn to its name for some reason……… I did not like the look of this one, it was not very user-friendly in my opinion as there were a lot of things going on and it was not very easy to tell what type of resource each item was before clicking to open it. Probably the most critical downfall was that most of the math resources I clicked into were applets and interactive, needing Adobe Flash Player, and support for Flash Player is being phased out, my division is not updating our Flash versions any longer.


Then I hit the open jackpot (for math anyways). I took a tour through OpenStax and I loved the layout, it was very easy for me to find an area that contained their math resources. I skimmed through all of their Algebra textbooks, through their Precalculus and the first two Calculus textbooks and, I was impressed.

  • The textbooks were available in several formats: PDF (with high and low-resolution options), web-based, and print for a small fee.
  • Textbooks cover content from my Grade 7 to university Calculus, meaning that I could find outcomes from every curriculum hidden in one of the courses!
  • The PDF was hyperlinked so that you did not have to do the “long scroll of death” to find what you were looking for.
  • There was a good balance of visuals and text through the textbooks, enough visuals to keep you engaged and to understand concepts but nothing for the sake of an image.
  • Textbook examples and solutions are well-described, colour-coded to help with understanding, extensive and thorough.
  • Problem sets contained a comprehensive list of types of questions including word problems, real-life applications, technology applications, review of basics, and the list goes on. This is the part that I was most impressed with by far as often I find that textbooks do not contain enough varied practice for students.
  • Odd questions have answers provided to help students guide if they are completing the exercises correctly.
  • At the end of many sections, especially in higher level courses, there were links to Youtube videos which further described certain concepts that may be difficult to comprehend if just reading examples.

Overall, I was very impressed with the diversity of these textbooks and their quality and will 100% be sharing them with my math colleagues for additional exercises and supports for students. My only critique would be that I would like to be able to download portions of the PDFs at a time instead of the whole thing but, all in all, I don’t really think that is a true thing to complain about.

I took a peek at the Physics textbook which seemed good for the above reasons but I do not teach Physics so feel that I was not able to state whether it applies to our curriculum, it is for AP Physics so there may be some units that would apply. The Social Science and Humanities textbook offerings do not align with Saskatchewan curricula so I did not look too far into these.

I love the idea of OERs but unfortunately, our educational system has become very monetized, I am afraid to know how much is spent on textbooks each year in the North American K-12 system. Getting a textbook on the “approved” list for a curriculum is not always the easiest and some of the approved textbooks are less than desirable. What benefits do you see to moving towards OERs in Saskatchewan in our current economic situation? Do you think that they would be a “hard sell” to prove that they are just as valid as textbooks from the “big companies” or do you think that most people would accept them easily?

Lessons with animated videos: TED-Ed (part 3)

[You can read part 1 of this series on TED-Ed here, and part 2 here.]

After learning so many great things about TED-Ed, I believe it is important to understand the usage policy of these TED-Ed lessons.

TED Talks Usage Policy

TED Talks are under a Creative Commons License. This means we can share TED Talks on blogs (if sharing TED Talks is not the main purpose of the blog) with a visible link back to We are also encouraged to stream TED Talks in classrooms for discussions and share links to on class platforms.

TED-Ed Usage Policy

TED-Ed animations (videos) are made available through YouTube. This means TED-Ed videos are under YouTube’s standard usage policy. I was not able to find where it is clearly stated that educators can or cannot stream YouTube videos for educational purposes. So I asked my Twitter friends for help. I got zero responses. :(

Image by verygooddesign/fotolia

The Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement and TED-Ed as an OER

Christer Gundersen put OER projects that have influenced the OER Movement in an interactive timeline. The concept of OER is new to me, but since I support Kelsie’s belief that “education should be open and available to everyone,” I strongly believe that OER is a great way to make education more accessible to more people. I believe we are still too far from equity in education, but OERs are a great step towards this. I believe I’ve tried to complete some courses offered through OER in the past, but nothing too extraordinary comes to my mind. However, this week I came to know about two courses offered by two important Canadian Universities through Coursera: Indigenous Canada, by the University of Alberta, and Aboriginal Worldviews and Education, by the University of Toronto; I am planning to audit at least one of them (both start this month).

TED-Ed makes a great contribution to education by offering high-quality animation videos on a wide variety of topics. The videos are short and easy to understand.

I have been an educator for more than 20 years now, and I have never used someone else’s lesson in full with my students since I strongly believe we need to develop lessons to meet OUR students’ needs. Thus, I am not sure if someone will use a full TED-Ed Lesson in a classroom without any modification, but they are available mostly as suggestions to educators and, maybe, as complete lessons for self-taught students willing to expand their knowledge.

This 3-part series on TED-Ed took me more than 12 hours of research and writing, but I’ve learned useful information beyond the TED-Ed Lessons. Since my #eci831 classmates are going to analyze other OERs, watch our blog hub for the upcoming blog posts.

Additional information:

Now, it is your turn. Let me know how you liked this 3-part series on TED-Ed. :)

Filed under: EC&I 831, Weekly Reflections

Take the Red Pill

This week in ECI 831 we were given a long laundry list of resources to go through and evaluate. Each of them was an OER (Open Educational Resource) repository or something similar to that. Sapna does an excellent job of explaining what those are for anyone who does not know. Now, I consider myself to be a techie teacher aware of many online tools, but boy was I in for a surprise. I knew that theoretically there were free resources online, but most of the time when I went looking for them I came across piecemeal stuff of middling quality. I would find a worksheet here and a somewhat useful resource there. I had found a few go to sites for simulations for science classes, but I did not expect to find whole courses, well thought out lesson plans, and more online. At least I did not expect to find these things for free.

I am going to confess that I have not yet had time to evaluate all of the sites that we were given. For anyone not in the course, I have included a list of the resources.

    1. Connexions
    2. OER Commons
    3. (and Education)
    4. MERLOT
    5. Open Courseware Consortium
    6. CK12 Foundation
    7. Curriki
    8. Khan Academy
    9. Lab Space
    10. Open Textbook Library
    11. American Institute of Mathematics
    12. Open Learn
    13. TED Ed
    14. Wiki Educator
    15. P2PU
    16. OpenStax
    17. MOOC Providers: Coursera, Udacity, EdX
    18. A long list of many more repositories, directories, and resources here.

I made it a little over 75% of the way through the list and found myself enjoying one of the resources so much that I needed to just camp out there for a little while. There is some really useful stuff in this list and I do plan on evaluating them all for myself eventually. (I created a rubric that I am working on filling in, but it takes time.)

Here are my thoughts.

Wow, um. So why do I buy educational resources? Why do any of us buy educational resources? I mean I understand why the school would need to purchase physical resources like chemicals for my science lab, and equipment, but I no longer think that I could ever purchase another textbook, worksheet package, or anything like that unless it was absolutely magical. I weep at the fact that I have spent obscene amounts of my own money over my career so far on resources that are no better than what I found for free last week.

I would say that OERs are definitely the future. If you think about the cost for a province to purchase 10,000 textbooks (In a recent speech the minister of education said students should have access to textbooks) for a single grade in a single subject you are looking at a minimum of $600,000 if you can get the books for $50 each. The province would save money if instead it paid an expert teacher, or team of teachers, to develop a textbook and made it available online as an OER. Each teacher in the province could then access it and modify it as needed. You could have a shared repository for it and have teachers upload any lessons and modifications that they make. This would level the learning experience across the province much more. Since not every student has electronic devices available the province would have to print some copies of it, negating some of the savings, but even if you printed and coil bound 5000 copies at about $25 each you would still only spend $225,000 for the OER and the printed material. This would also mean that the textbooks and supporting resources would better match our curriculum than textbooks that we purchase that were developed for other larger markets. BC is already starting to do this as well as other jurisdictions. At a local school level, I know that I will never recommend the purchase of a textbook again without first scouring the internet first for appropriate free materials first. (I modified the image below to create a meme that expresses how I feel about this).

Adapted by Chris Reed from

So it is clear that OERs are awesome and exist in abundance, but what is the quality like? I really liked ck-12 because it focused so heavily on my area of teaching, maths and sciences at the high school level. Many of the other OERs were focused at the university level, which is great for me to review, but not so helpful to anyone other than my grade 12 students who are looking for supplementary material.

So what makes ck-12 great? Well, it has a teacher and a student side to it which means that there are different focuses on the kind of resources that it brings up for you. As a student it tries to bring up things that will help you learn the material. It is like a study guide or a tutor. It will suggest simulations and learning activities for the material that you are trying to master. It will also find groups to connect you with that are interested in the same kind of material that you are. There was a tool called stoodle that allowed you to ask for help, but also to offer it to others. It is like a big online study chat session. I can see this being really useful to students trying to learn more about a subject when they do not have access to a teacher. The teacher side presents resources differently. It is more trying to help you plan a lesson or a unit. It has a concept mapping tool to help you figure out how the ideas in a unit connect together. When you search for resources you can also narrow it by the type of standard you want it to match. While most of the standards are American you can still use them as a useful guide. I was able to find lots of material for the test concept that I looked up. I made a screencast of it below in case you want a quick peek at how it works.

I am converted to OERs and cannot see myself easily handing money over to anyone in the future for a resource without it doing a lot of things for me. At this point though I am still a taker. I need to learn how to help others by sharing my resources better. As a first step here is the link for the covalent bonding lesson handout that I developed for my class tomorrow. All rights granted. Have fun with it.

Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think in the comments.


Lessons with animated videos: TED-Ed (part 2)

[You can read part 1 of this series on TED-Ed here.]

Yesterday, we learned that TED-Ed is one branch of TED. We also learned that TED-Ed’s main goal is to offer animated video lessons for use by educators in the classrooms. Let’s explore this concept a bit further today.

Evaluating one TED-Ed Lesson as a learning resource

I chose the TED-Ed Lesson on how sleeping is important for our memory

I showed this video to my adult students (academically at risk) as part of a lesson on short and long-term memory, in Fall 2016. I only used the video as one of the resources for the lesson I developed.

The video is great especially because of the visual explanations of how the brain works. Neurological concepts are hard to explain, and I am sure the video made my class not only more interesting but also easier to understand.

At that time, I did not explore the other resources (THINK, DIG DEEPER, and DISCUSS) available within this lesson.

Let’s analyze each one of the resources of this lesson together:

THINK: It is a series of questions about the video. I read the first question, but when I clicked on my answer, I got a message saying that I need to Register or Log In to take this lesson.

Copyright: Image by StockUnlimited

I did not like to see that message at all. It decreased my motivation for taking the lesson. However, since I am analyzing the lesson, and the discussion tab also requests us to log in, let’s register! We can register/sign up with Facebook or email. I have a login for TED so I can use the same one. After logging in, TED-Ed asks me if I am a teacher, student, or other; what subjects I teach, and for what level I teach.

Okay, now I am ready to answer the questions!

There are five multiple-choice questions with five options each, and four short-answer questions. When choosing an answer to each question you can either save the answer or move to the next question. If you save each answer before moving to the next question, it tells you if it is right or wrong. If you move to the next question and save them all at the end, you get a “Thank you! All done.” message. So I don’t know if my answers were correct or incorrect, and it does not matter what I wrote on the short-answer questions, right? The lack of feedback made me not want to engage with those questions in future TED-Ed lessons. I felt that I wasted my time.

Image: iFanboy

Not happy with how the questionnaire ended, I went back to it and saved a wrong multiple-choice question. It shows me a video hint, the exact point in the video in which this is explained, and it allows me to try to answer it again. Great! However, the short-answer questions are not explained at all. Why include them, then? (Please, check the “customize this lesson” explanation below to understand the purpose of the THINK section. If you create a lesson, you can give feedback to your students, and this section will make more sense.)

DIG DEEPER: This section brings further information on the topic in the form of text with links to external sources such as Wikipedia, other TED-Ed lessons, news, TEDx talks, and scientific articles. To be honest, I wish I had taken the time to explore this section when I was developing my lesson on memory because it suggests great additional resources on the topic. Before Googling the topic, take a look at this section!

DISCUSS: In this lesson, there are three guided discussions and six seven open discussions (mine included). It is possible to answer the questions, flag the responses to the questions (as spam or inappropriate), or like them. It is also possible to write responses to comments. Beside your name, it will show if you completed the lesson already by the time you wrote a response or if it is still in progress. The guided questions were created by the lesson creator. The open questions can be created by anyone after login.

My overall opinion about this lesson:

  • The video itself is great for anybody, and it can be used in lessons about memory or about the importance of sleep.
  • The multiple-choice questions (THINK session) are good if you want your students to remember specific aspects of the video since they can watch again the exact part of the video that explains what they answered wrong. I would not ask my students to answer the short-answer questions on the website, but they could be used for group discussions in class.
  • The additional resources are great for teachers to learn more about the topic. I recommend exploring this section while developing your lesson.
  • The discussion section may give you extra suggestions on questions for in-class discussions on the topic. It can also be used if you want your students to engage in the conversation online.
  • It is not necessary to log in if you will only show the video to your students and if you don’t want to answer the questions or engage in the discussions. It is still possible to read everything without logging in.

To sum up, this is my opinion about each section of the TED-Ed lesson on The benefits of a good night’s sleep by Shai Marcu.


The best part of TED-Ed:

It is possible to customize the lessons. If you click on Customize This Lesson, you can change or crop the video, and change the title, description, questions, additional resources, and guided questions for discussion. In other words, you can change every single aspect of this lesson. When you publish the lesson, you get a link to share with your students; your customized lesson won’t be listed on the TED-Ed website. What is great about this is that you can monitor students’ responses and give them feedback.

Do you know what is even better? You can develop a lesson with any TED Original, TED Talk, or YouTube video using the TED-Ed website and lesson building tool. I will definitely use this tool for my classes!


Alright! Now we all know that we can use TED-Ed animated videos in our classes, but we can do much more with TED-Ed Lessons. We can learn more about the topics by clicking DIG DEEPER, find interesting questions for discussion through THINK, engage with other educators and share ideas at DISCUSS, and change a lesson or build our own at CUSTOMIZE THIS LESSON.

Tomorrow, we will wrap up this series on TED-Ed by discussing the usage policy of TED-Ed Lessons in our classrooms. See you tomorrow!

Filed under: EC&I 831, Weekly Reflections

Lessons with animated videos: TED-Ed (part 1)

This post is the first of a series on TED-Ed: an open learning resource:

PART 1 – TED, TEDx, and TED-Ed

PART 2 – Inside and out of a TED-Ed lesson

PART 2 – TED-Ed as an open resource for teaching

We use lots of TED Talks in our program to discuss academic success strategies with our adult students academically at risk. However, I rarely search for videos on the TED-Ed website; I remember using two TED-Ed videos only by now. I usually search for TED Talks by topic. So, I decided to take a better look at TED-Ed.

But before…

What is TED and how it started?

TED vs. TEDx:

Some facts and great things about TED conferences:

Now, TED-Ed:

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 10.01.39 AM.png
Image by

TED-Ed’s main page

It is colourful and beautiful. It is pretty simple to understand how to access the lessons there, by using the filter or by checking the series. And if you know TED, you know that TED-Ed follows the same high quality of its videos.

The “About” page tells us a little bit more about TED-Ed:

TED-Ed has a blog too:

The TED-Ed Blog discusses ideas and other projects for educators and for students, such as peer coaching, online groups for professional development, and tips to identify fake news. There are some interesting things on the TED-Ed blog; the TED-Ed’s first 360º animated video is a must see!

Great! We have learned the differences among TED, TEDx, and TED-Ed. Tomorrow, I am going to evaluate one TED-Ed lesson and let you know my opinion about each part of it.


Filed under: EC&I 831, Weekly Reflections

Week 9: TED Ed and English teaching for students in Vietnam



I guess most of us here used to watch at least one TED talk. Stared in 1984  with a conference, TED, a not-for-profit organization has reached a large percentage of scholars, educators, students…across the world with several related projects and events such as TEDglobal, TEDx, TEDMED…TED ED is part of these, established with the goal to “spark and celebrate the ideas of teachers and students around the world”

I would like to evaluate TED ED as one of the OERs from a micro level.

TED ED is popular in Vietnam and large population of Vietnamese students and teachers have been taking advantage of this open education resource in English learning and teaching. In some schools in Vietnam, TED ED is even put in English teaching curriculum as an required learning activities for students. Many Vietnamese students and English teachers find listening to TED ED talks help students improving in all four English skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking.

I can say that when I first looked at the TED ED, I was struck by how user-friendly it is. All categories are on the left and all talks are on the right. In Vietnam, the English learners range from young ages to seniors so “user-friendly” factor is important, I believe everyone can easily navigate through the TED Ed website.


On the homepage, the learners can filter what talks they want to watch by content type: TED Ed originals, TED Talk Lessons, TED-Ed selects. Student level: Elementary/ Primary, Middle School, High School, College/ University, with this option, teachers can filter talks that appropriate and relevant to their students. Video duration. Subtitles.

TED Ed talks are not only delivered in English but also many languages across the world which serves a wide range of audience.

In Vietnam, teachers usually have students in the computer lab rooms with headphones so have them listening to TED Ed talks.

For English listening skill practices, while they are listening, students are asked to pay attention to the pronunciation, the accent of the speakers in the videos.

For Writing skill, students take note of how the speakers use sentences, take notes of any English words that they want further explanation from teachers

For Speaking skill, students are asked to watch how the speakers use gestures, the tones, pitch in voices of the speakers.

For Reading skill, at the end of the videos, students and teachers learn about new words that are used in the videos, how to use them in a sentence.

I would say the overall quality of the materials is very good, most of the videos are in HD quality, clear sounds and with many attractive graphics. This is an example that demonstrate the quality of TED Ed video.

TED Ed videos are also used widely in English classes for Vietnamese kids. Many kids love the cute and colorful animated graphics and simple content and easy to understand contents of TED Ed videos. Take a look at this one:

What I think as one of the benefits to incorporate TED Ed videos in English teaching for Vietnamese students is that at the end of the video, the students can do a small quiz to test on how much they learned from what they watched.


I believe a great OER like TED Ed has not only been helping Vietnamese students in learning English but in a large scope, it’s been providing many learners from different fields the opportunities to get knowledge through interactive and user-friendly interface. These TED Ed videos make lectures less boring and arouse interests in students. I would love to see TED Ex is used more in classrooms across my country because I believe in TED, as a not-for-profit organization, they will be able to deliver non-biased learning contents and that’s also the goal of education.

Have you ever used TED Ed in your classroom and would like to share the experience? Can you give me some comments? Thank you for reading.

Alright students, now remix!

By Ansonlobo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
This week, we looked at open education and the culture of sharing. I have always thought of myself as a teacher that would share my content and will eagerly share the resources that I use and create with others that are looking for ideas, support, or a place to start. I will even admit when what I have is awful but at least a starting point for content (cue that one year I taught Science 5 for 2 months at the beginning of my career…I do not recommend ANYONE using what I created then!).

I have played with putting my course material online, I made a few flipped lessons last year, and I believe in using the internet to help support our students in their learning but, I realized as I was watching the videos assigned to us this week that I was more-so paying lip service to the idea of sharing openly than actually actively working toward contributing to open education. I felt a little bit guilty of feeling like I was contributing when I was still very much secluded in my own little world.

Creative commons license spectrum
By Creative commons (the original CC license symbols), the combined work by Shaddim and is hereby cc-by-4.0 licensed. [Public domain or CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Larry Lessig and his work on copyright and copyleft is something that I was aware of as I have previously taken a course from Alec, however, I was very intrigued by his idea that the internet is reviving creativity and the read-write culture. I resonated with his reference to how children and adolescents today are engaging in (re)creativity and how he is pushing for a change in how products are default licensed. To put this in a personal context, I would be a full supporter of copyleft, I encourage those I share my resources with to rework and adapt to their situation or to use “as-is”, whatever they choose. I encourage them to share with the next person down the line as well.

Oh, the possibilities that Ze Frank discussed in his TED talk, My Web Playroom! I think that when I decided to blog with my Social 9 class for my Learning Project, I was envisioning a final outcome that resembled some of the projects that he discusses but, after a few classes, I am not sure we will quite get there. (Maybe if I work with them on this until they graduate, we could make something really unique). The simple requests that he makes to the internet remind of the Post Secret project that was created by Frank Warren (maybe it has something to do with a common name…). Warren encouraged strangers to send him anonymous postcards and posts them on his website. He has published several books of secrets I have always been intrigued by Post Secret and see it fitting into Lessig’s definition of (re)creativity. The community around the project is very supportive (for the most part, darn trolls) and work together to decipher secrets that are submitted in other languages or in codes. I get the feeling of being a part of something bigger when I look at this project, connected to others around the world.

RIP: A Remixer’s Manifesto was a great watch, with some great music. In it, Brett Gaylor challenges the current definition and laws around copyright, gives a history of the intent of copyright and patents (which I was surprised to find out was created to encourage more production of ideas, not to monetize ideas), and there is even a hint that there the cure for many diseases may be just around the corner, but due to a patent, researchers’ hands are tied. He demonstrated that many songs by big musicians are already a remix of something they have heard elsewhere and that the songs his favourite artist, Girl Talk, creates are individual in their own rights.

So how does remixing play into our everyday lives as teachers? I think that Roberta summed it up in the most accurate manner: we ask our students to remix every day and we call it learning. Reading this caused me to pause and think about all of the assignments I give my students, and I couldn’t agree more. Teachers share information with students and, to ensure that their students comprehend, ask them to repeat, retell, and apply the knowledge to other situations. In fact, when looking at Bloom’s Taxonomy, the entire section labelled Synthesis could be renamed “Remix”.

This has left me with a lot to think about, much like Sapna, I like that online and open education supports learning as it tends to be accessible, affordable and flexible. I want to contribute but I need to stop just saying I am contributing and actually do something to help. Maybe that will be my next project….

The beauty of open education

This video made me remember a conversation I had with my husband about encyclopedias, two nights ago. In the 80s, encyclopedias were sold door to door in Brazil as well as in other parts of the world. Textbooks and encyclopedias were the main sources of knowledge available at the time. Encyclopedias were outdated mainly because families would rarely buy a new collection if they owned a full set. There were no encyclopedias in my house. So, I had to go to the school library to borrow an encyclopedia for my research papers. I never took them home though since they were super heavy, and I usually needed less than 1/4 of a page for my homework. As with many companies, Britannica also had to adapt to new technologies and no longer sells encyclopedias door to door.

Last weekend, my nephew, who is in grade 10, was telling us about his sociology class. His professor gives students the topic, and students need to find the content online and answer some questions on the topic to discuss in their next class.

Image by WestportWiki

Wait! I had to go to the library and borrow one of those heavy books to do my homework, and my nephew is not only allowed but required to use the Internet to do his homework? My young self would say, this is not fair!

Let’s do something together! Let’s pretend we do not have access to the Internet, but we all have encyclopedias on our home shelf, and our professor, Dr. Couros, asks us to do some research on “open education.” We all would open volume XVII of our encyclopedia collection (or another volume, if you have a collection older or newer than mine), look for the term “open education,” and COPY the definition. After little effort and little knowledge acquired, our homework is ready.

I was going to link the definition for “open education” through the online Encyclopedia Britannica, but, to my surprise, I can’t find the reference for this term there! What? What is the goal of an online encyclopedia if it does not include current and important words and terms? Not satisfied with this, I tried to find a definition for “digital identity.” Okay, forget the online encyclopedia. At least they know that Trump is the 45th president of the United States. :|

Now, back to our reality. Dr. Couros gave us some web links to videos on open education and the culture of sharing. Some of us will watch all the videos, others will watch some of the videos, and few students will search for extra sources on the topic. We will all write about this on our blogs, read and comment on each other’s understandings of the topic, and be ready for the discussion on the topic in our next class. This activity will be possible through access to interesting and diverse resources, more knowledge will be acquired (if compared to the knowledge found in encyclopedias), and the beauty of learning and sharing through collaboration will happen. As the Brazilian singer, Gilberto Gil, said, “collaboration is the nature of creation; [and] creation is a chain reaction”. My blog post is a creation based on my reaction to all the sources I read and watched before writing it.

My #eci831 classmates and I collaborate to online conversations and the creation of knowledge through our course blogs. The chain reaction is created when we link previous work to our posts, and when we read and comment on each other’s blogs. Do you remember when we were asked to disable comment moderation on our blogs? I thought about this when I was watching Lawrence Lessig’s TED talk and his explanation about the trespass law. Is comment moderation a way to try to protect our land (blog)? If we cannot control “who flies over our land” (reads our blogs), why do we think we can control what people do with the content we share online? We better learn what, how, and when to share.

And if you are like me, still learning to navigate this open education world and sometimes unsure about the repercussion of your blog posts or tweets, don’t worry; we will learn how to stop being passive consumers and start being the collaborators. As Ze Frank and lots of other people collaboratively sang, we’ll be fine; just breathe.

Just an update: this is Britannica’s response to my tweet:

Do you think my tweet was a way to collaborate with Britannica? Hopefully, after my public tweet, there will be a definition of “open education” on their website. :D

Filed under: EC&I 831, Weekly Reflections

Standing on the Shoulders of Other Teachers

I really enjoyed the viewings/readings that we had this week for my ECI 831 class. For those of you not in the course (I believe that I have one or two family members reading this at this point) it was about the idea of open education and open media.

To quickly give a definition for those of you not in the course, open education is basically the idea that resources are provided online in a format that is available for anyone to use to teach. This makes teaching and learning more democratic. It can be afforded by anyone with an internet connection then. If you have 3 minutes I really encourage you to watch the first video.

Open education is not just about helping out poor students or poor schools. It is about helping everyone have access to the best resources. As a teacher I do not have time to learn or dream up all of the great activities that I could be doing with my students. Open education means that I can find amazing resources and see ways of teaching things that never would have occured to me.


Now before I can just go and use something I have certain legal obligations. I need to make sure that I have the right to show it, that I am attributing it correctly, I need to make sure that I am following the copyright rules. Every year as a school staff we spend a whole staff meeting near the beginning of the year going over the Copyright Matters! handbook for teachers that tells us what we can and cannot use. I never want to be the teacher that:

Obtained via Quickmemes

Which leads me to a point that Larry Lessig makes in his TED talk “Laws that Choke Creativity.” At the end of his talk he points out the fact that our system of regulation is causing all of us to willfully break the law. He says, 

“We need to recognize you can’t kill the instinct the technology produces. We can only criminalize it. We can’t stop our kids from using it. We can only drive it underground. We can’t make our kids passive again. We can only make them, quote, “pirates.” And is that good? We live in this weird time. It’s kind of age of prohibitions, where in many areas of our life, we live life constantly against the law. Ordinary people live life against the law, and that’s what I — we are doing to our kids. They live life knowing they live it against the law. That realization is extraordinarily corrosive, extraordinarily corrupting.”

Almost everyone is violating copyright, not by accident, but on purpose. Many of us will use a netlix login from another country to gain access to content. Some will torrent movies, music, etc. My students at a Christian school, supposedly with good law abiding students often tell me of illegaly downloading music, movies, etc. I challenged one student on it saying that his use of an illegally download dreamweaver program made by Adobe was morally wrong. He simply laughed at me and said that they should not have made it so expensive and he might have actually purchased it. Larry’s point about this being a dangerous behaviour is correct. We do want to teach our students about critical thinking and about how to advocate for justice, but we want to make sure that they also understand that there is a difference between protest and just outright deciding that a law is inconvient for us and therefore should not apply. Also if we do that then the law does not change, in order to change the law we actually have to challenge the laws and demand that they change, not just ignore them. 

This is where creative commons and open education become so much more important now in this age of extreme copyright protection. These movements allow everyone, teachers included, to fairly and openly use material for appropriate uses and still allows for content creators to get money for when their materials are used for commerical purposes. The system is not perfect but it is improving things. People are also starting to connect more with the content creators through this system and it is leading to new collaborations, like Ze Frank talked about in his Ted talk, “My Web Playroom.

So in closing I find myself heavily in favour of the sharing economy of teaching resources. I often use material that I have found online. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, who was paraphrasing Bernard Chartes, “If my lessons have been better than those who went before me it is because I have been standing on the shoulders of other teachers.” It is important to note that the sharing economy only works if multiple people do it. We cannot just be takers, but must be givers as well. We can do this by posting materials online in blogs like this. We can also do it be sharing google drives with teacher groups, etc. None of us as teachers have gotten where we are on our own, and we must continue the tradition of sharing those resources that we develop or improve upon.



Third Time’s the Charm

This past week I have been thinking about my learning project. I had asked Alec about creating an open-source textbook and how that would work into the project and spent some time mulling over how I would like it to work. The more I thought about it, the more I wasn’t so sure that it was what I wanted to do. Trash can for Idea #1.


I looked into different things I could learn. I asked my students, I asked my brother. Ideas of Spanish (we recently had three students who speak minimal English join our school, so it would be practical), sewing (similar to Shelby  and Ashley, I love Hallowe’en and enjoy make elaborate costumes so sewing could be a handy skill), and my brother was excited to suggest coding (being the electrical engineer that he is) and even offered me his Arduino to learn and practice with . And yet with all of these great ideas, my heart was just not into any of them. Trash can for Idea #2.


AND THEN….our school became a little crazy. With newly added staffing of 0.5 FTE, new timetables for all grades 7-12 (and minor changes in PreK-6), and transitioning students to new teachers, my learning project took a rest in the back of my brain to simmer until the hectic was (mostly) over. After things had slowed down, I realized exactly what I wanted to do for my learning project, something I had wanted to do for a long time but had just never been able to get going properly: having my students blog as part of their course.

Photo Credit: MarcelaPalma Flickr via Compfight cc

So social media and open education implementation it is! It may sound like this was a last resort, but to be honest, the more I think about it, the more I have been getting excited about it. I have decided that I will implement blogging with my Social 9 class. I have already decided that I would allow my students more choice in the societies we study this year, developing units as inquiry and independent learning tasks with various supported activities. Using blogs for students to share their learning and interact with the public world, seemed like an easy and authentic fit for blogging! Last step before starting down the planning stages: clear with my administration, which was received very well (and with some personal anecdotes of their experiences).

And so we begin! I am still looking for what platform I will use, I want to play around with a couple before starting, the biggest annoyance for me when integrating something new is not liking the platform or program I choose and finding one WAY better suited to my needs a couple days after I have rolled it out. This may still happen but I want to try to eliminate the majority of the disappointment of missing out on a great platform. I like using WordPress for my personal blog but I’m not sure if that is the best option to use with my students, I know some use Edublogs but I don’t have personal experience using that platform.

Goals for my project:

  • Set up individual student blogs
  • Teach my students about blogging, integrating images and videos, and commenting on others’ posts
  • Create a unit plan that requires blogging about their progress through the unit as well as reflection questions and requirements around embedding videos, linking to websites, and sharing their sources they use.
  • Encourage students to use Twitter to interact with experts. I’m not sure if this will be done through their personal Twitter accounts or if I will use my account to tweet on their behalf. If you have suggestions around this, please share!
  • Encourage parent interaction with their child’s blog so they can see what is going on in class.

My Idealistic Product

I would love for my students to Skype or instant message an expert in the field they are studying, or maybe even just someone who has been to one of the sites they will study but I am not positive that I will be able to make this happen. I am definitely going to try but don’t want to set the bar so high I will never attain it! (On a side note, the first societies we will look at are Egypt and Mesopotamia, if you know or are an expert, lets chat!)

On my way

The plotting…. I mean planning… begins. I have a bit of time as we have just started a unit that I would like to finish before implementing this project but the learning about blogging will likely start sooner than our actual unit of study.

Have you used blogs in your classroom? Where did you host them? Do you have any suggestions or know of any “experts”? Let me know in the comments!