Monday Morning Digest – 16 November 2015

After a one-week hiatus, the Monday Morning Digest is back. Next week will be a special edition, of sorts, as our team returns the Open Education Conference in Vancouver — we will do our level best to share the ideas, presentations, and initiatives that jump out at us.

Check the links below for what inspired us in the last two weeks…

Mainstreaming Open Textbooks: Educator Perspectives on the Impact of OpenStax College open textbooks (IRRODL)
This is an open access journal article; great to read if you’re looking to feel all scholarly. The research looks at educators’ responses to teaching with open textbooks. Spoiler: open textbooks are a net positive, according to teachers.

NYC schools that skip standardized tests have higher graduation rates (Hechinger Report)
Okay, there could be a number of factors that lead to the higher graduation rates, but the substitute for standardized tests is a focus on competency and proofs of that competency that extend throughout a school year rather than reliance on a GPA and state test scores to tell us how well the students, teachers, and schools are doing.

Graduates of four-year universities flock to community colleges for job skills (Hechinger Report)
In some places, “as many as one in five community college students already have bachelor’s degrees.” This Saylor Staffer, for example, has ten non-degree credits from a community college, acquired after a four-year degree. The downside, however, is that the community colleges get pummeled for their low-graduation rates (which can count students who never intended to take a certificate or degree) and the schools are stressed by trying to be many things to many different people, often in the face of budget reductions (the “do more with less” school of education policy).

The Case for Free Access to Higher Education (Academica Forum, h/t OLDaily)
David Wheeler, president of Cape Breton University, argues that the social contract in higher education “is now in urgent need of an overhaul”; that “it makes no sense for advanced economies to create barriers to entry to higher education for their own citizens”.

The digital revolution in higher education has already happened. No one noticed. (Clay Shirky, h/t OLDaily)
Shirky points out that the old non-traditional student is really the new traditional student, that online learning is not just a legitimate idea but a done deal, but that traditional, residential, four-year programs still loom over-large in our narratives in and about higher education.

Mozilla is Doing a Hack Job on Open Badges (Kerri Lemoie, h/t OLDaily)
We were early, excited observers of the Open Badges movement (this particular Saylor Staffer still signs into his Beta Backpack with his Persona account). We even articulated a technical and strategic proof-of-concept (undoubtedly still floating around in our digital files). We don’t take a particular stance on blame, but we’ve gone from enthusiasm to cautious optimism to something altogether more jaded about badges. Maybe we’re having the wrong conversation, though; “open credentials” is a concept that is both technically feasible and widely desirable…that is something we can still pin our hopes on and throw a little weight behind.

Desmos Activity Builder (Desmos.com, h/t EdSurge)
Desmos began its life an a free, online graphing calculator, emphasis on the graphing. It remains a great way to visualize, manipulate, solve, and share algebra, trig, and calc functions. Desmos has been improving upon its free activity builder lately, allowing anyone to create fully-articulated activities to use in class and to share with other educators. (Schools: if you are still making kids buy $120 calculators with the computing power of a 30-year-old lower-end PC, you’re doing it wrong.)

Visual Thinkery (Bryan Mathers, h/t OLDaily)
Mathers takes thoughts from others, often about education and technology, and turns them into simple, shareable graphics. He uses the CC BY-ND license; you can expect to see a few of these in our social media timelines!

The Primary Problem with Educational Technology (Iterating Toward Openness)
David Wiley suggests that our edtech priorities may be a bit out of whack, saying, “[W]e must find the willpower to reject the ‘caring doesn’t scale’ narrative and chart a better, more generous path forward.”


Image credits: “care” (modified) by Creative Stall from the Noun Project (CC BY 3.0), modified with circuit board motif from PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay (CC0).

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