One incredible challenge in being a leader of 21st Century leaning is how to approach the use of digital resources in classrooms. I believe that Alberta Education and many school jurisdictions are also struggling with this issue as well. Do we purchase and license resources? Do we try to collect suitable resources for teachers into repositories? Are online textbooks the answer? How do we manage the volume of resources available? These are just a few thoughts that I have in relation to this incredible challenge that is ahead of us.
Part of the answer to this challenge can be found in the competencies found in our Portrait of a 21st Century Learner. Collaboration and innovation are critical to a solution to this question. In addition, using the online applications that are available to us to collaborate digitally. This is evident in the direction that many of the Post Secondary Institutions around the world are demonstrating with their leadership in this area.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was one of the first schools to put all of their courses online for free in their MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) site. When they first started this it was to provide the global community with an opportunity to have access to first class courses. Soon they started a consortium as part of this site that now incorporates over 250 universities and organizations around the world to make available over 13,000 courses in more than 20 languages, unprecedented access to learning for our global community.
Recently, Kevin Wttewaall Director of Technology, showed me a relatively new site for open couse sharing called Coursera (these are MOOC environments ). Coursera only started about a year ago at Stanford University. Presently they have over 3,000,000 users and over 60 universities and colleges, including the university of Toronto, providing course content. These courses can in some instances be used for college credit. Finally, there is Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) which is a massive list of free online courses.
Why do I reference these initiatives a a solution for our challenge of how to manage digital resources. I believe that this example of open collaboration can serve as a model for what we can potentially achieve in Rocky View Schools and beyond. This approach by the universities is a real movement towards the democratization of knowledge globally. They have used the digital platforms available to them to collaborate globally on an unprecedented level. We can also use the digital applications and platforms that are available to us provincially and within the jurisdiction to share our resources on a new scale.
Many of you have recently been made aware of the Collaborative Online Resource Environment (CORE) project where RVS in working with four other school jurisdictions to develop an online environment to access and share digital learning resources. One of the features that people may not realize is the ability of staff and eventually students to post digital content, videos, moodle content, lesson and unit plans and other resources. Our own ability to share content openly.
Many of our high school and middle school teachers are familiar with the power of Moodle as a learning management system. Realistically, we could be using it far more effectively. We need to work to ensure that the instructional design of our online courses remains high. This is best done collaboratively. Within the RVS moodle site their are many teachers building content for the same courses. I refer to this as engaging in parallel play. We need to develop a master course as a starting point for these online courses. A master course that is in a good instructional design format with many of the interactive aspects of the course already built in. This will give teachers a starting point to build even stronger online courses to support student learning and their courses. We need to pull these courses to the moodle hub and make them available in an open format. Teachers need to have the confidence that the materials and courses that they are developing are worth sharing in this format.
If we are able to move in this direction we will not have to rely on licensing agreements with large corporations to maintain quality digital resources. E-textbooks would not really be necessary as the content for our courses collaboratively developed and placed in object formats either in CORE or a LMS like moodle. The resources are already available to us through resource collections found on the internet. Sites such as NASA, NFB, Merlot and others have highly reliable course content. Through collaboration we can access the best digital resources from these sites to populate our courses.