Tag Archives: oer

Linking to Objectives in the OERPUB editor (a prototype between MIT OEIT folks and OERPUB)

Decorative, colorful concept map
Learning Objectives, Concept Maps
Image: By Sborcherding at en.wikibooks
[Public domain],
from Wikimedia Commons

The exploration: When creating textbooks and interactive learning activities, wouldn’t it be cool if authors (and eventually others) could easily link material to learning objectives? This is the second exploration that OERPUB, Lumen Learning, and MIT’s Office of Educational Innovation and Technology (OEIT) took on together in Salt Lake City. Linking materials (textbook, activities, videos, quizzes) to learning objectives makes them easier to find, and could also allow navigation by objective rather than by a single linear path through the material.

The Scenario: An author is writing a textbook or course in the OERPUB editor. Perhaps it is a physics course, and the course has a set of objectives that it teaches (or hopes to). The author is writing a section on lattices and the ways that x-rays scatter through crystalline structures. Since the physics department at MIT has defined this as a learning objective, it would be great if the author could easily specify that a reading teaches this objective.

The Components: MIT’s OEIT has a service for storing and looking up learning objectives, called MC3. MC3 has an API for returning learning objectives. Before we got together, Cole Shaw took the OERPUB editor and embedded it in a page that connects with the MC3 server. The screenshots below show his prototype. He added a new “widget” to the editor for adding an activity and wired it up to include an objectives drop down. The choices in the drop down are coming from the MIT’s objectives server. He copied an existing widget and modified it.

shows the editor with a drop down added to choose which server to get objectives from and which set of objectives to use.
Cole added a top toolbar for choosing where objectives
should be looked up.

Here is the drop down in an activity added to the document. The choices
are looked up live. Once one is chosen, it is added to the activity.

And then when we all got together, Cole and Tom Wooward worked together to take Cole’s work and make it a widget that works in the github-bookeditor. That is shown below. Tom also showed Cole some of the ways to configure educational widgets within the editor. (That also tells us where we need to improve documentation for developers.)

This is the same widget, but in the github-bookeditor. The
server to query is hard-coded. This will live on a branch
to show how such a thing can be done.

Really making this kind of thing widely useful for general users of the editor, requires more thought, time, and effort. MIT is hosting their own course objectives, and their software provides the store and lookup service. But these aren’t general purpose. The user interface would need to provide ways of configuring which objectives are relevant, etc.

If we did come up with a way to do something like this, I would love to see a way to make choosing an objective a standard option on all content sections and educational widgets. In other words, an author could attach an objective to essentially anything within the HTML and the editor would provide an easy UI for doing that and a simple encoding as metadata to store in the document. I think that would probably be Schema.org’s educationalAlignment.   

Technical notes and links:

Sprinting to embed assessments and learning objectives with MIT, Lumen Learning, and OpenAssessment

Shows a quiz in a textbook page too small to see

Idea: Wouldn’t it be cool to have a really easy way to embed interactive assessments in textbooks, epubs, and courses?

People: The folks I have just been meeting with thought so and we got together to explore a few prototypes. I have been in Salt Lake City working in the Marriott Library at University of Utah, hosted by David Wiley of Lumen Learning, and joined by Brandon Muramatsu and Cole Shaw of MIT’s Office of Education Innovation and Technology (OEIT), Justin Ball and colleague James from Atomic Jolt consulting, and Tom Woodward of OERPUB via Daft Labs.

Scenario: The following scenario sets up our first exploration. Lumen Learning is adapting a biology textbook from Open Stax College. They are creating courseware for college faculty that takes each section and adds interactive, formative assessments, and discussions and analytics and other cool stuff. They are creating completely open banks of questions to go along with the books and these will live at openassessments.org. Open Assessments is building a quiz player that works like a youtube video player. You find a quiz you like and use a simple embed code to include that anywhere you want.

Exploration: So what we wanted to explore was including the ability to find and add a quiz from Open Assessments in the OERPUB editor. So, imagine you are creating a textbook section, or a learning activity for college biology and you have just written the section on parts of the cell, and you want to help students retain what they have learned. So you click on the ‘quiz’ button in the editor, and search for quizzes about cells, preview the quiz, and pop it in. This is what we put together yesterday. Keep in mind this is code written quickly to see how to do this kind of thing while we had all the experts together. It isn’t polished and beautiful. But the impressive thing is that we got this done in a couple of hours. The following screen shots show what we did.

After clicking on the quiz widget in the editor, search
for “cells”.

The search uses openassessments.org’s API,
and returns one result. Click on “select” to preview it.
Preview the assessment to make sure it is what you want. The
preview is live, so you can check the answers and all the
questions in the quiz.

The quiz is embedded in the content and will play in the editor
and also in the textbook as long as there is an internet
connection. The quiz is being played by openassessments.org.
The actual quiz is stored as a qti file at openassessments.

Technical notes and links:

Upcoming posts

Once upon a time textbooks were hard to create …

My Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow colleague, Arthur Atwell, sent an intriguing challenge out to our gang of fellows. The challenge was to come up with a pitch for our projects that follows the Pixar style of pitch, as described in Daniel Pink’s book, To Sell is Human (see full reference at the bottom of the blog entry). The beauty of the style is that it really emphasizes story, which of course is at the heart of movies, and really is at the heart of all human endeavor. But it isn’t always easy to articulate the importance and vision of a technical software project. At least not for those of us who regularly geek out and focus deeply on technical things.

The pixar style has the following components:

Once upon a time, …
Every day, …
One day …
Because of that, …
Because of that, …

Until finally…

So here goes. Here is my story of the vision behind the work I have done as a Shuttleworth Fellow. 

OERPUB Movie-Pitch

Once upon a time, textbooks were hard to create, expensive to buy, and out of date within a short time.

Every day, college students paid $150 for an algebra book containing information that is hundreds of years old. High school students learned from ten year old Biology textbooks, authors struggled to make everything look good and cursed while they tried to edit math.  Nobody could use the content in the textbooks to create interactive flashcards or quizzes.

One day we created a textbook editor that is easy to use and saves books to github (a place for freely storing books and software). We made sure the hard stuff, like editing mathematics, formatting the books, and delivering them to students was actually easy. And we made sure that things like definitions and homework problems were easy to reuse.

Because of that, authors can collaborate to build textbooks, deliver them to students online, on mobile devices or in print. They can make updates immediately, and share textbooks with others for translation and adaptation. Software developers can create interactive flashcards and study tools that use the content from the textbooks.

Because of that, textbooks are a pleasure to create, cheap or free to buy, always up to date, and part of a much more interactive and engaging experience.

Until finally we’ve transformed textbooks into true engines of learning.

Reference: Pink, Daniel H (2013-02-07). To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing, and Influencing Others (pp. 172-173). Canongate Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Sprinting with Connexions

First progress implementing a bit of a publishing API for OER, based on SWORD and AtomPub.

Last week at the Plone East Symposium in State College PA, plone developers across the US gathered together to learn and share about using Plone in educational settings. At the end of the week, Friday and Saturday, about half the attendees stayed to “sprint” (original plan, full report).  At sprints, people develop working code together on various projects in order to share expertise, learn from each other, and expand networks of technical mentors. Knowing that Connexions already had a partial implementation of SWORD for creating modules from Word documents, and that SWORD is likely to be the backbone for the OER Publishing API (your comments, approval, concerns welcome), I brought a sprint topic to the symposium — “OER Publishing API: Extend Connexions SWORD implementation”. Connexions provided an expert, Phil Schatz, to lead the sprint and we created a milestone to track the work. Carl Scheffler joined Phil and me working on SWORD and we got advice and help from Michael Mulich (Penn State), Ross Reedstrom and Ed Woodward at Connexions.

What the Connexions/Rhaptos SWORD service does now:

The current Connexions SWORD service is tailored to a very specific client, the Open Journal System (OJS). It takes a zip of a Word file and a METS file with some metadata and a bibliographic entry that is used to insert a reference to the the original publication of the article in a journal. The service then creates a new, unpublished module with the content of the Word file, and puts it in a work area chosen by the client.

What we got done at the sprint:

  1. Reorganized the existing SWORD code to make the coding cleaner.
  2. Extended the service so that it would take a Word file, or the Connexions native format.
  3. Changed the service to get the title and abstract from standard locations.
  4. Got the SWORD client toolkit, EasyDeposit, to work with the new code (and partially work with the existing code.)

Combining the best of the studio model with personalized learning: Is it doable?

I was recently at the NITLE (National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education) Summit meeting in Arlington, Virginia and John Seely Brown (JSB) gave the keynote address on “A New Culture of Learning for a World of Constant Change.” His speech made me wonder whether new virtual learning environments can combine the benefits of the studio model and the benefits of automated, but highly-personalized learning. But first a little summary of his talk.

First, he proposed three fundamental shifts that define the world as we know it in the 21st century.

  1. Explosion of data — Google’s former CEO, Eric Schmidt, says that every 2 days we create the same amount of information as we created from the dawn of civilization to 2003. I found an interesting analysis of this quote, but regardless of the exact numbers, the general trend is very clear.
  2. Exponential advances in computation storage and bandwidth: These shifts have led to cloud computing, GPU’s (graphics processors), machine learning that automatically processes vast amounts of content and usage patterns.
  3. Large-scale, deeply-connected problems. Grand challenges require an interdisciplinary, socio-technical (human process and technology) approach. As solutions are implemented, they change the problem.

The result of these changes are that the half life of skills is shrinking dramatically.

So the question that JSB poses is how do we educate people that will be able to thrive in this environment of constant change, discover opportunities, and tackle the grand challenges?

His idea, as I see it, is that the goal is to see ourselves as “designers”, “creators”, “producers”, and “makers” and to have the ability to empathize with others so solutions will be usable. People will constantly incorporate new skills in the pursuit of the current challenge and that will seem natural, rather than overwhelming. The ingredients for the human as designer are knowledge, play, and, making.

The studio model, where individuals or teams share a physical space and work in parallel on similar, but unique projects, provides the ingredients for learning and absorbing the identity of “creator”. In a studio, experienced “masters” provide critiques (advice that moves a project forward along its own trajectory), and everyone critiques, is critiqued, and benefits from the critiquing of other projects. Essentially, his recommendation is to incorporate this model into education as much as possible. (If you don’t know Olin College of Engineering, definitely check them out. I recently saw a talk by one of their faculty and they have embraced the idea of the studio model of learning completely. One of their design challenges has 5th graders judging the swimming ability and aesthetic appeal of college students’ robotic creations.)

My questions: I have been interested in “learning machines” research; investigating personalized and optimized individual learning that takes advantage of the data, storage, and computation now available to deliver knowledge and practice to students, just-in-time. Another benefit of open education resources (OER) is a giant pool of content for feeding into learning machines, thus tying in my fellowship goals.

If the studio model covers “making”, could learning machines cover the “knowing” part of the ingredients for human as maker?

Can the studio model be virtual without losing effectiveness, and maybe even create gains? Another Shuttleworth Foundation fellow, Philip Schmidt, co-founded P2PU, the Peer 2 Peer University, where learners organize courses and deliver and take them together, virtually. Others are also creating virtual environments for learning (University of the People, OpenStudy, Khan Academy to name a few). How much should virtual environments try and mimic the real world where people gather in one space at one time? Are critiques richer if they are delivered synchronously? Would thinking explicitly about how to incorporate more from the studio model enrich these environments?