LiDA103: Open education, copyright and open licensing in a digital world

I got this reminder for the free, micro-course from Wayne Mackintosh this morning. I am really looking forward to participating. I will be posting what I learn and about the people I meet here on this blog. Projects like these are at the core of sustainability for OER  – the zero cost to this course encourages participants who may not have the budget for corporate classes, and this in turn, encourages others to participate in the Commons:

Dear LiDA101 and LiDA102 participants

This is a brief courtesy email to let you know that the Open education, copyright and open licensing in a digital world (LiDA103) micro-course starts tomorrow.

If you would like to join us for this free course and receive announcements via email, please register online here:

Below, I also provide links to copies of the OERu orientation emails for learners who are not familiar with the OERu platform.

I hope to see you online!

Best wishes
Wayne Mackintosh

  1.     Introducing the OERu learning platform
  2.     Recommended web site accounts
  3.     Recommended social media applications
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How OERs Will Destroy the Future!

StefonLeiLani Cauthen published an opinion piece called “Are you still going to prefer OER? The $2.28 Billion Loss to Publishers & the Future – Part 1” that has been batted around Twitter for the last couple of days (thanks Robin DeRosa). It is a textbook example about why corporations do not belong in the education sector. Or at least, I don’t remember that it was our job or in our mission statement to make sure that corporations can maximize their profits. I feel like Stefon. I want to say “Yes, yes, yes…this article has EVERYTHING…no understanding of how education works, face-to-face or online; corporate sense of entitlement, persecution complex, straw-men arguments, no historical context, no understanding of how OER are created, shared, adapted, or used, and a big dose of paranoia.” I could go on. This article is going to wind up a big, gleeful piñata party on the internet. Let me take a couple of swings.

The gist of the article is that maybe we shouldn’t be promoting OER because it is hurting the textbook companies. And of course, the future is at stake! Please at least read that paragraph, the seventh one down in her article. On one of the future threats she asks “Will poor kids get grainy video and scanned-in scraps of black-and-white text while the rich kids get animated and interactive math-on-steroids that talks back to them in encouraging tones?” This is actually why I went into education and have been a creator, advocate, and promoter of open education resources because I have worked and taught in school districts where the students got NOTHING because the district was out of money and commercial options were too expensive.

The whole language of the article is just loaded and strange. In the opening paragraph she writes about an initiative that has “…whole States to agree to lean more heavily on free or “open license” digital resources over paid professional materials (PPR).” The states are not relying on “free” materials – open licensed materials are free but not all free materials are openly licensed. She contrasts OER (I think that is where she is going) with something she calls PPR, “paid professional materials.” I find that really insulting to the professional educators, researchers, instructional designers, and the myriad of others who have created OER. No one calls commercial textbooks or commercial ancillary materials PPR. She is coining a word and an abbreviation that is pretty meaningless.

There are a lot of things in this article that are just plain wrong. There are three statements in particular that show the author’s complete lack of understanding of the current OER environment. I will just address three here that hit me where I live:

  1. On top of this, in the world of OER, no one is tending the posting or updating of each resource because it costs money and time to do that.” There are hundreds of projects out there with faculty and staff doing just that: creating, using, adapting, and sharing OER. I will just offer a few examples that I have directly worked with or used at one point or another: Community College Consortium for Open Education Resources, BC Campus Open Ed, Open Textbooks Open Commons, and there are so many more out there it makes my brain hurt that she did not do any basic research into OER! There are so many library initiatives for the curating and posting of OER – librarians, as usual, are taking the lead in innovative practices.
  2. No one is really marketing OER either, because Free usually has no marketing budget.” Yes, many people are “marketing” there are numerous conferences that market OER, Open Education, and Open Textbook projects, programs, and intiatives
  3. Lets not forget to blame the victims: “Universities don’t have to pick expensive books, but often do because their own professors helped write them and profit from them directly.” MOST college professors are adjuncts and are not given the time and resources to research or write textbooks. Lets just turn this around “Corporations don’t have to sell expensive textbooks but often do because their own subject matter experts helped write them and profit directly off of them!” My point is that either way it is a bad situation: both involve creating expensive textbooks. Okay, I am running out of exclamation points…

It sounds like a great idea: put OER in the hands of corporations and let them innovate. The problem with that is not just a tax status issue, but that the goals of education and corporations are nearly antithetical to one another: no textbook publisher or commercial platform is going to walk into the boardroom and say “good news everyone, we project that our clients will be paying less and less each year over the next ten years.” The other thing that happens is that one year you have an altruistic corporate board and the next the company gets sold because all the people who sort of understood education retire.

There are too many things going right with OER. Creation, adoption, and curation has been slow because the open movement is up against a lot of corporate money. I am not particularly against corporations, but they are not a replacement for the vibrant community that a grass-roots, instructor led, open environment can facilitate.

That’s my three swings. I will let folks more eloquent and smarter than I pick up the bat. I can’t wait for Part II!

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Open the Gateless Gate: OER and Open Education

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year (and last, as a matter of fact) was to fight less and celebrate more. I can get really annoyed when I come across a pay-wall when trying to access materials that are openly licensed. Or if I have to go through a gate-keeper: no matter how enthusiastic the “thought leader” may be, it is still a gate. What part of open don’t you understand?

Anyway, in the spirit of celebration, I want to point out the Open Pedagogy Notebook. Robin DeRosa and Rajiv Jhangiani created the site to “support community sharing of learning materials and ideas around access to knowledge and knowledge creation.” I love this site because it points out what I think is the real power of Open Education – connecting educators and creators together to make education happen. They go on to describe the project on their site as “a collaborative space where educators could share assignments, approaches, syllabi, and other examples of their Open practices. Though definitions of ‘Open Pedagogy’ are emergent and diverse, and this site is intended to inspire more than to inform, we hope having a space to gather interesting and promising work will be helpful to both advocates of Open and those who are new to these ideas.” This is so important. If we are ever to achieve the goals of Open Education and the OER movement in general, it will only be through modeling openness in our practices, connections, and institutions. Some of the best OER projects I have ever seen came from a community of teachers who looked at their surrounding school districts and found common problems and deficiencies and solved them using community-created or adapted OER.

Is the project “sustainable”? If by “sustainable” you mean provide a means for a corporation to make money off of the hard work of other educators, then no, maybe not. If you mean that the effects of work like this will go on to encourage and develop the education practices of others to make education more wide-spread and inclusive, or to encourage change in education over the long term, then yes – this is what real sustainability looks like.

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NWeLearn 2018 – Call for Proposals Ends April 16!

NB: Wipe those tears, the gin from your chin, and put down those tax forms: it is elearning conference time! I am on the board for this conference, and I think it is one of the best little gems in the elearning world – that is why I joined. I have met the most amazing people through this conference:

We’re excited for our conference this year! Please make sure that we hear about your brilliant work this October 18-19th at #NWeLearn18! Submit your proposal TODAY!

Call for Proposals Deadline April 16!

To submit a proposal, use this Submission Form.

Notifications regarding proposal acceptance will be emailed by mid-May, 2017. If you have any questions about the proposal process, please contact Weiwei Zhang at

For more information, please check the  Proposals Page on the NWeLearn website.

Thanks for submitting session proposals.  We couldn’t do this without you!

Super Early Bird registrations are open!

Add event to your calendar 
NWeLearn 2018
October 18 & 19, 2018

Warmest regards,
NWeLearn Board

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Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in Class

I have a policy with students about using old research and ideas. I want them to look at what has been happening with the issues they are writing about using articles and other media that are roughly no more than five years old. If it is a primary document (Darwin, the Constitution, etc.), or an essential or unique argument, then yes, especially if the student goes through the trouble to argue for the usefulness of the text. I have a few older documents that I use, despite some of the issues that they might present, that are useful tools for self-reflection. One of those is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I know that there are arguments against it, but I think other things that we do in class (discussing bias and cultural relativism) address this. One of the useful things about Maslow’s Hierarchy is that it allows students to realize that there are other lenses in which to see other cultures or social problems besides right and wrong, good and bad, and other false or loose dichotomies. You might think that Kim Jung Un is a madman, but that pretty much stops the conversation. How do you solve a problem with a madman? Or a student may declare that so-and-so is a “terrorist” or people from a particular region are terrorists without knowing the history of the region or what the needs and motivations might be of someone who would choose to solve problems in a different way than the student would choose.
Diagram of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
                                                 Diagram of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. (Wikipedia)

And there is another reason why I find it useful. I have students who come to school early in the morning after working until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. I have students worried about not having jobs; students who come to school hungry. And their attitude about their learning is often really skewed. I hear these students saying over and over that they are not good at math, writing, or reading. They will say that they are not smart or that school really isn’t for them when, according to Maslow, it is very difficult to be a creative problem-solver when you are still working on food, water, security, and self-esteem. If, as Aristotle said, one cannot philosophize on an empty stomach, then surely student will have great difficulty focusing on the binomial theorem. There is something liberating for some of these students when they realize that they are not stupid or that they are “not cut out for school” but their current, temporary circumstances can get in the way of their learning.

In the first week of Social Studies, we look at Maslow, Values and Public Policy, and other tools that not only let them look at the world a different way. It is a way to teach empathy, not just for the world, but for themselves as well.

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Locking Down Your Facebook Account

Mark Zuckerberg at the Facebook Developer Gara...

Mark Zuckerberg at the Facebook Developer Garage Paris, 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No one is really secure on the internet. And no one can totally lock-down their Facebook accounts. But there are some things that you can do to make it harder for others to access your information.

  1. Password
    I don’t believe we are still writing this in 2018, but change your password to something fairly complex every few months: use a capital letter, numbers, and a special character like one or more of these: “@#$%^?!”
  2. General Settings
    The “Settings” are found by going to the upper right-hand corner of the screen and clicking on the down arrow next to the help question mark.You should have a screen that looks like this:
    Note the “Download a copy of your Facebook data” – I definitely suggest you do this! Everyone else has it, why shouldn’t you? You will be suprised at how much is and isn’t there.
  3. Security and Log-In
    The first setting is Security and Log-In – I suggest that you enable two-factor authentication here. Facebook will send you a text to allow you to access the account.
  4. Privacy Settings and Tools
    This is how I have my privacy settings set-up. The default is to have your account be an open artery of data!
  5. Timeline and Tagging
    This is how I have set up my timeline and tagging:
  6. Blocking
    I won’t bother to show you the blurred out images of the obnoxious people I have had to block but I would like to note here that you need to block all the fun and games people invite you to use because they are really all data/identity vampires until proven otherwise!
  7. Language, Face Recognition, Notifications, and Mobile
    The language in mine is English. Face recognition sounds creepy but I have it turned off because I am not sure how far it really goes and I am sure Zuckerberg is not going to tell me. Notifications and Mobile should be looked at – it is not a security concern per se but a way to control some annoyance levels!
  8. Public Posts
    Facebook supposedly gives you some control over who views public posts. Note the “View your public timeline” to check how others on the internet can see you. This is how I have set this up:
  9. Apps and Websites
    This one can be a big deal to people. I liked the convenience of being able to connect Facebook to a lot of other websites so I do not have to take the time to repost things. But I am unwilling to brook the cost of that convenience. I recommend turning Facebook off as a platform. At least until Zuckerberg will tell us how he plans on securing my data to my satisfaction which will be the 12th of Never! This is what you want those settings to look like after you have turned them off:
  10. Ad Preferences
    I recommend that you go through these pull-down menus to check how you are being played by the advertisers but pay close attention to “Ad Settings”:

The rest of the settings should be links to the Support Inbox and such. What I am hoping is that the more people who adjust their Facebook settings, the less gargantuanly profitable Facebook will be and changes will be made. In the meantime, watch this space for alternatives and other ideas.

If you I missed something essential or if you have other tips and ideas, please support the revolution by posting below!

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What Should a Post-Facebook World Look Like?

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook (Wikipedia)

Facebook was not the first alarm that ever went off for me around corporate involvement with technology, and I know that I am not alone in that. We all pretty much guessed that it was a compromise. It is no surprise that they sell information. What most people are shocked at is not that their data is being commodified but how little control Facebook has over that data. I know a number of educators who use Facebook, mobile apps, Google Docs (Google everything) with little consideration for the consequences of placing that trust outside of the institution. As educators, we should constantly be asking corporations for more accountability. There are a number of honest corporations out there (I am sometimes wrongly accused of being “anti-corporate”), but part of the problem with corporations is that there may be great intentions by the founders, but when some small, personal operation with integrity gets a huge offer from Megacorp, that integrity does not transfer with the deal. We need to start thinking about alternatives to the “monetize at any cost.” I am not sure where Facebook goes from here, but I do know that some are leaving and others who remain are asking questions. So what is a post-Facebook world? It may be a world without Facebook. Zuckerberg could sell the whole enterprise off and it could get swallowed up into the maw of some competitor. But the post-Facebook world I am really talking about is the one where everyone now knows that these social media corporations cannot be trusted with our data. They are not interested in doing so, and apparently do not have the means or know-how to do so. We have to take responsibility for this if they won’t. Here are a few of my ideas about what a post-Facebook world will look like.

More Transparent
We need to end the victim-blaming idea that “it was all in the User Agreement.” Expecting the average user to understand the language and the consequences of such agreements is disingenuous at best. I think they are overly long and complicated to hide the fact that you have no real “agreement” or to insure there is no agreement. Tech companies should spell out in plain English exactly what their business model is and what they plan to do with our data. It should be written out, drawn, graphed, and animated – as an education consultant, I would be happy to show you how this is done. It needs to be a lot easier to find out how one’s data is being used, and how to protect one’s self. 

More Regulated
We need the same kind of regulations that protect health records (HIPAA) and education records (FERPA). This not an anti-business screed. It just makes sense that when so much is at stake (fake news, elections, etc.). Regulating data has not hurt the insurance companies any. I am glad that congress is asking Zuckerberg to testify. He should account for how our data managed to wind up at Cambridge Analytica, and how others have used his platform to manipulate the public politically. But we need to go further, maybe it is time to create an organization or government agency that develops protections for the public against abuses of data.

More Educated
Just as financial literacy is rightly consider at some institutions to be a critical skill, so should digital literacy. Students need to know how to set up a domain, get the tools they need (blogs, wikis, email, etc.), and control their own data. It takes time but no more time than it would take a student to learn how to use a learning management system, school email, or Microsoft 365. And while we are training students and teachers in digital literacy, we should also ask that “entrepreneurs,” business majors, tech investors etc. get some kind of basic ethical training. We teach medical ethics and even beside manners at some medical schools, why shouldn’t there be mandatory ethics classes for business folks? Our education specializations have really hurt us. Middlesex University could not have picked a worse time to close a philosophy department.

More Open
There are open source alternatives to Facebook, especially for educators. For instance one can get WordPress up and running fairly quickly. For many of my folks in the edtech world, the corporate solutions have time and time again failed. And not all domain services are equal: in education a good alternative model would be Reclaim Hosting* (or Rockaway Hosting outside of education) combined with WordPress, Known, or any other open source content management system. Then, it is only a matter of setting up a page that will allow you to follow other folks blogs or RSS feeds. This is not that hard. I was an English major and I eventually, reluctantly, figure this out. With advances in technology, it has only gotten easier. Whether it is the LMS, Open Education Resources, or Open Textbooks, the corporate model always defaults to “how do we make this sustainable” (i.e. how do we make money off of this). Again, this is not an anti-corporation attack, but we need to acknowledge that there are things that corporations do well, and things they have no business in. I am not ready to buy an open source, one-of-a-kind car, or take roll-your-own antibiotics. Our health care, education, and our relationships should not be managed by for profit entities, and neither should our data.

In the meantime:

Write a Letter
The original social networks were created by writing and the invention of the post. The day after I locked down my Facebook account, I wrote a card to my dear father, and it felt great. I have gathered snail mail addresses and am going to write folks more. Some of my friends on Facebook are actually posting their addresses and phone numbers to reconnect with people in the non-digital realm.

Take Someone to Lunch
Seriously, we all need to get out more.

AND, if you have some ideas or models of what a post-Facebook world should look like, feel free to comment below. I would love to hear from you – maybe we can have lunch sometime.

*I will readily admit that I am a huge fan of Reclaim Hosting and the people I know there. This blog is hosted there, but I have no financial interest in their company besides being a customer, and my sincere wishes for their continued success.

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Reading Apprenticeship in Renton

Reading a bookLast weekend I spent time at the Metacognition and Mindfulness: the Fourth Annual Reading Apprenticeship Conference. I am going to break this experience up into a couple of separate posts because even though the conference was only a day and a half, there was a LOT packed into it. If you are not familiar with Reading Apprenticeship, it is important to get to that definition first. According to the conference page: “Reading Apprenticeship at WestEd is a research-based framework that helps community college faculty members support students to become motivated, strategic, and critical readers, thinkers, and writers. Colleges implementing Reading Apprenticeship find that it can produce a dramatic, positive transformation of students’ engagement and achievement not only in literacy, but also in learning across all academic disciplines.”

According to the WestEd literature “Reading Apprenticeship is an approach to reading instruction that helps young people develop the knowledge, strategies, and dispositions they need to become more powerful readers. It is at heart a partnership of expertise, drawing on what teachers know and do as discipline-based readers, and on adolescents’ unique and often underestimated strengths as learners. Reading Apprenticeship helps students become better readers by:

  • engaging students in more reading—for recreation as well as for subject-area learning
    and self-challenge;
  • making the teacher’s discipline-based reading processes and knowledge visible to students;
  • making students’ reading processes, motivations, strategies, knowledge, and understandings visible to the teacher and to one another;
  • helping students gain insight into their own reading processes; and
  • helping them develop a repertoire of problem-solving strategies for overcoming obstacles and deepening comprehension of texts from various academic disciplines.”

According to my reading of the text “Reading for Understanding,” these strategies are probably familiar to anyone who has been around developmental education, composition instruction, or Adult Basic Education over the last 20 years or so: they include a lot of active learning techniques combined with Constructivist teaching strategies. What is different is that the techniques and research are all in one tool chest. And the techniques focus on the students’ metacognition: their active engagement with their own thinking processes.

Again, according to WestEd, Reading Apprenticeship involves teachers in orchestrating and integrating four interacting dimensions of classroom life that support reading development. These dimensions are woven into subject-area teaching through metacognitive conversations— conversations about the thinking processes students and teachers engage in as they read. These dimensions are the Social, Personal, Cognitive, and Knowledge-Building:

  • Social: The social dimension draws on adolescents’ interests in peer interaction as well as larger social, political, economic, and cultural issues. A safe environment is created for students to share their confusion and difficulties with texts, and to recognize the diverse perspectives and resources brought by each member.
  • Personal: This dimension draws on strategic skills used by students in out-of-school settings; their interest in exploring new aspects of their own identities and self-awareness as readers; and their purposes for reading and goals for reading improvement.
  • Cognitive: The cognitive dimension involves developing readers’ mental processes, including their repertoire of specific comprehension and problem-solving strategies. Importantly, the work of generating cognitive strategies that support reading comprehension is carried out through classroom inquiry.
  • Knowledge-Building: This dimension includes identifying and expanding the knowledge readers bring to a text and further develop through personal and social interaction with that text, including knowledge about word construction, vocabulary, text structure, genre, language, topics and content embedded in the text.

Dimensions of Reading Apprenticeship
“In Metacognitive Conversation, these four dimensions are integrated as teachers and students work collaboratively to make sense of texts, while simultaneously engaging in a conversation about what constitutes reading and how they are going about it. This metacognitive conversation is carried on both internally, as teacher and students reflect on their own mental processes, and externally, as they share their reading processes, strategies, knowledge resources, motivations, and interactions with, and affective responses to texts.”

I am not a huge fan of proprietary, copy-righted texts but to WestEd’s credit, they have put a lot of material online to support the model.

In my next few posts, I will look at some of these strategies as they were shared at the conference by my colleagues who presented there.


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What AI Is and Isn’t

Marvin the Paranoid AndroidI think there is a lot of paranoia about Artificial Intelligence. Some of it is warranted but not for the reasons many would suspect. On Twitter, for instance, Elon Musk speculated that an AI system could choose to start a war “if it decides that a prepemptive [sic] strike is most probable path to victory.” In fact, he has said elsewhere that there needs to be regulations curbing AI. Here is where a degree in the humanities would be useful to folks like Musk. There are such laws – they are called Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Of course, the whole point of Asimov’s “I, Robot” is to illustrate the ethical knots and unintended consequences of such “laws.” Currently, we are so specialized of a society, that there is no one individual who can manage this mischief. We need people like Asimov right now more than ever – people who can think about ethics and consequences.

AI will not destroy us. Our ignorance will do that for us. If we are stupid enough to put algorithms in charge of The Bomb, then we will get exactly what we deserve. Darwin will have done his work. We need to make decisions about politics, business and international relations, but we are woefully under-equipped right now to make those decisions. Trump is in office because of the failures of our education system – the specialists understand the data and analytics – but they don’t understand the bigger picture. The Russians and other actors will take advantage of our political and sociological ignorance, as well as our critical technological illiteracy. We have plenty of programmers out there – we need to think about the humanities and the digital world in new ways. I think that future professionals (teachers, programmers, doctors, administrators, etc.) should not only have a grounding in the humanities but also in technology (Harvard’s open course CS50 for instance). We also need philosophy courses for programmers and poets.

There is a theme in the humanities that you can pick up if you stick with it long enough: humans will go to inordinately absurd lengths to abdicate their responsibility for their choices or actions (or their refusal to act). Blaming AI for any of our ills is just ridiculous – it is like blaming a car for our bad driving. AI is just a tool, and we need to do everything we can to understand the tool and the choices innovation affords.

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Making Connections with Afghanistan in Kent

An old bazaar scene in Kabul City, Afghanistan.

An old bazaar in Kabul City, Afghanistan. (Wikipedia)

We had Emily Campbell’s ESOL class join my class today to discuss Afghanistan. I had a serendipitous meeting that took all of four minutes in the copy room – I mentioned that my students were working on a paper about Afghanistan and she told me that she had students from Afghanistan. We emailed back and forth for a bit and then agreed that they should all get together and talk about who they are, how long have they been in the U.S., and what should Americans know about Afghanistan. It was a very successful meeting. My students got a chance to meet students from Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries, and put a human face on to the headlines we have been reading about.

Each quarter my students in Language Arts/Social Studies write about critical areas in the world that are in the headlines. This serves a couple of purposes: first, it keeps the curriculum current and relevant. Second, it gets rid of all of the gun control and abortion papers that many of the students have already written in high school and are often available for download. Lastly, it helps them to figure out that social studies is a living subject and that history is made everyday by real people.

For the Afghanistan assignment, we read a profile of Afghanistan, watch the film “Children of the Taliban,” we read four positions on Afghanistan, and we bring in news articles for discussion. The students pick a possible solution to the war, write a short paper on it, and then present it in class.

I learned from the students that my curriculum for this assignment needs to be updated. I take that very seriously and am currently working on that. I was worried at first that students might not be willing to talk about something so personal. Some of them had lost family in the wars in Afghanistan. But that was not the case: it was a good conversation, and my students asked good questions.

This is why I got into education in the first place: learning is about making connections between information, ideas, and people. It is about building relationships and connecting with one another.

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