What are OERs?

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By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Here at Curriki, we talk a lot about OERs assuming everyone is familiar with the term. But in case you’re not, here’s a short explanation of what they are and why they’re so beneficial. janetpic_preferred_cropped

What are OERs?

OER stands for Open Educational Resources, which are high-quality, openly licensed, online educational materials that teachers, educators, or other professionals have created and have made freely available to others for use, reuse, adaptation, and sharing.

What does that mean to you? If you’re a teacher or a student, you can freely use or adapt these materials to suit your personal needs.

How are OERs used in education?

Digital technologies like OERs allow us to personalize the learning experience so that students can learn at their own pace and have instant access to the latest information.

OERs can improve education by allowing costs to be shifted away from expensive, proprietary resources to open, sharable ones. Plus, OERs can help break down the barriers of the “Education Divide” – the gap between those who have access to high-quality education and those who do not.

Curriki offers K-12 OERs

Reaching more than 10 million users worldwide, Curriki is the largest global learning community where you can find more than 56,000 free learning assets, ranging from lesson plans, videos, and worksheets to multimedia activities and courses.

All of the OERs have been created and contributed by educators, curriculum designers, curriculum partners, and school districts. They are “mashable,” which means that you can select resources (e.g., lesson plans, videos, animations, photos, etc.), tweak them, or combine them with other resources to generate your own custom teaching tools. And many OERs have already been mapped to standards.

Have you checked out the thousands of OERs in all subjects and grade levels available on Curriki?  Here’s an example of what you’ll find:

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You can get access to these free learning resources by joining Curriki (it’s easy and it’s free). Start downloading resources today.

The Threat to Student Data Privacy

 

Data privacyBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

janetpic_preferred_croppedParent Earl MacEnulty was recently on The Stream on Al Jazeera America (@ajam) talking about the theft of his child’s identity since the age of five. As more and more schools move to online systems and the “cloud” to track everything from a student’s performance to behavioral, financial and health records, the security of students’ personal and academic information is at greater risk.

Of course, there are many concerns. One is that highly sensitive student data is not only used by the school district, but shared with third-parties, including for-profit vendors. Suddenly, students could be seeing pop-up ads saying “Struggling with Algebra? Tutors available…” Or worse, the danger that a student’s identity will be stolen, which is becoming increasingly common. According to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, children, 19 and under, made up 6 percent of all identity theft victims in 2012.

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According to Diane Ravitch, president of the Network for Public Education, “Since the passage of FERPA in 1974, parents expected that Congress was protecting the confidentiality of information about their children. However, in recent years, the US Department of Education has rewritten the regulations governing FERPA, eviscerating its purpose and allowing outside parties to gain access to data about children that should not be divulged to vendors and other third parties. The Network for Public Education calls on Congress to strengthen FERPA and restore the protection of families’ right to privacy.”

Last week, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy urged Congress to review and strengthen both FERPA and Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), to roll back the harmful provisions of the 2009 and 2011 FERPA regulations, and to update both laws in light of new and unforeseen threats to privacy rights. You can read more about this in their letter here.

Do you have concerns about student data privacy or do you believe we’re in an online era where “over sharing” is the norm and there is no privacy?

Common Core Adoption: A Tale of Two Districts

janetpintoBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Curriki is following the rollout of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) with great interest, and you will see us report on this regularly in this blog.

Since we have a broad international audience, here is a quick description of the Common Core initiative in the United States. K-12 education in the U.S. is primarily the responsibility of individual states and localities. The CCSS is an initiative whose origins date back to the 1990s. It is sponsored by the state Governors and state education authorities, and currently 44 states (out of 50) are fully participating. CCSS addresses Mathematics and English Language Arts only at present (Science and Humanities subjects are not covered).

According to Wikipedia, “the nation’s governors and corporate leaders founded Achieve, Inc. in 1996 as a bipartisan organization to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability in all 50 states…Standards were released for mathematics and English language arts on June 2, 2010, with a majority of states adopting the standards in the subsequent months.”

Curriki is supportive of the objectives of CCSS and we believe that we can contribute significantly, whether in the role of supplementary curricular materials or indeed, in a more central role.

Photo by ninhale via Flickr Creative Commons

The upcoming academic year 2014/2015 represents a key year in the CCSS rollout. While CCSS outlines standards and requirements, it does not provide curricula. It is up to each state and each district to determine what materials to use. Publishers of textbooks and other learning materials are naturally working toward adhering to CCSS standards. But this is a very large change and some updated textbooks are being criticized as just representing a rehash of older material rather than a fully top-down restructuring and redesign in order to fully adhere to the spirit and guidelines of CCSS.

Here’s an article comparing the experiences of two different districts -

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/04/23/29cc-curriculum.h33.html

One district is in the state of California (Long Beach) and the other is in Florida (Orlando). According to the Edweek article:

“They solved that problem in very different ways. The Florida group scoured the market and chose a suite of materials from a major publisher. Their colleagues across the country, dissatisfied with that same marketplace’s offerings—and limited by their thin pocketbook—wrote their own curriculum.”

The article notes that many districts across the country have delayed updating textbooks and curricular materials as they waited to see what publishers would produce. The district in Florida picked materials primarily from one publisher based on perceived “reflection of the common core and for having a better digital component and better interventions for students with weak skills”.

However the Long Beach district in California took a different path. Given their budget realities, and the slow schedule for CCSS rollout at their state level, they chose to retain their existing mathematics and English language arts texts, but to build new curricula and materials around those.

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One way to do this – enhance or develop curricula to align to CCSS – is to make use of Curriki! There are over 50,000 open educational resources on Curriki. These are available for free to build new curricula and supplement existing curricula. For example, Curriki Geometry is a complete geometry course, free at currikigeometry.org. Curriki’s Project-Based Learning and Common Core Aligned Geometry course will help your students build the skills and confidence that will help them conquer mathematical problems and develop 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, and teamwork.

We will continue to report to you on CCSS adoption experiences and issues across the U.S. 

Encouraging Girls in STEM subjects

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

While girls show a lot of interest in science during elementary school, the interest often fades in the later grades. Around 2/3 of girls in the U.S. at the fourth grade level express an interest in science and/or math subjects.

U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicate that about 24% of the jobs in STEM (science, technology and math) fields are currently occupied by women. The gender imbalance is particularly notable in the physical sciences and in engineering fields, while women are better represented in the life sciences.

In computer science there is a very large imbalance, and yet this is a field where many jobs go begging today – there are hundreds of thousands of software development jobs in the U.S. in this field which are unfilled at present.

Verizon has developed a wonderful “Inspire Her Mind” commercial -

The message of the commercial is – don’t discourage girls from “getting their hands dirty” with science or engineering projects. Rather, encourage their curiosity and their interest in these fields.

Curriki contains a wealth of resources in STEM subjects, even full courses in math including algebra and geometry. And of course developing math strengths is key to pursuing majors and careers in science and technology fields.

Here’s information on one project to address the gender gap in software development – it is a global effort to teach 1 million girls to write computer code and develop applications.

http://www.cnet.com/news/girl-geek-academy-wants-to-teach-one-million-girls-to-code/

As CNET reports: “A new initiative aims to teach women how to create apps and launch their own startups, with the aim to reach one million people by 2025″. There has been progress in certain areas. For example, the number of women involved in the gaming industry, one of the largest for new software development opportunities, has increased from 11% to 22% in recent years.

Here’s an article about Women Who Code UK founder and software engineer Sheree Atcheson, who is just 23 years old.

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Sheree Atcheson, Software Engineer and @WomenWhoCode UK Founder

Curriki also has resources to help girls, and boys, learn to code, including the Oracle Academy courses for Java, one of today’s most important programming languages.

Curriki’s purpose is to broaden educational opportunity in K-12 for students in all countries, including supporting greater participation by girls in the various STEM fields. These fields are so critical to future job opportunities for students and to the progress of humanity around the world, whether through the life sciences, physical sciences, or engineering.

Got Curriki? Summer Tips for Teachers

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By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

I enjoyed a recent blog on Top 12 Summer Tips for Top Teachers from Edutopia that includes lots of great tips on how we, as teachers, can become more productive and better at our jobs.

I thought I’d build on these tips with some additional ideas:

  • Rework the Worst to Be the Best. Take the time to revise last quadraticyear’s lesson plans to make them even better. Incorporate recent events, videos or hands-on learning experiences to enrich the classroom experience. You can find lots of ideas on Curriki. For example, use the Curriki Search function to find games like Quadratic Review or Free Online Math Games to make learning fun. Curriki also has video collections like this Technology Video collection from STEMbite that includes how to make your own bone conduction headphones, and how you can use a new pair of sunglasses to explore the polarization of light.
  • Tinker. What better way to spur creativity, especially in the dog alicedays of summer! Why not explore 3D printing or learn a new skill? We follow Teacher Christine Mytko, who’s using 3D printers in her classroom and blogs about it in Tales of a 3D Printer. Did you ever want to learn programming? Check out the free workshop Getting Started with Java Using Alice, where you can learn basic Java programming concepts with little or no programming experience. It’s fun and you can spend time creating animated stories, movies and games.
  • Laugh. I’m sure you can find plenty of things that will have you laughing out loud. But as teachers, we sometimes appreciate a special kind of humor. “Like” Teachers with a Sense of Humor  or Grammarly on Facebook to get more of these posts.

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LOL. If you know a teacher, please share this post with them!

Teachers: Equip Your Classroom for FREE

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By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

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Do corporations make their employees pay for their own office supplies? Nope. Yet the average teacher spends up to $1,000 of his/her own money every year on classroom supplies (not to mention personal time spent getting the classroom in shape before school starts!).

Teachers, here are a few ideas to help you out:

  • First of all, don’t be afraid to ask. Create a wish list and ask the parents of your students for supplies. But don’t forget to also ask local bookstores, or craft and office supply stores for discounts or freebies. Many companies can write donations off as a tax break. Tell them a little about your school and your students and how you plan to use the resource. You may get a donation or at least a discount. A nice gesture would be to send a thank you note to the business with a picture of the item in use. Or post to your social media page and thank the business publicly.
  • Register your classroom at Adopt a Classroom. Individuals can go to this site and search for a teacher they know, a school they have a connection with, or a subject they’re passionate about and fund it. 100% of their tax-deductible donation goes to the classroom. A similar site is DonorsChoose, where public school teachers can post classroom project requests online. When a project reaches its funding goal, they ship the materials to your school.
  • If you’re at a low-income school, you may qualify for free school supplies from Kids in Need Foundation, which maintains a national network of Resource Centers where teachers can get free supplies for their students who are in need.
  • Love shopping? Here is a list of 80 stores (from Office Depot and the Apple Store, to museums and clothing stores) from Gift Card Granny that offer discounts to teachers.  And you can find other teacher discounts on the Teacher Discounts Pinterest board.
  • NEA publishes a monthly list of 10 FREE Things, which includes “the best websites to find printables, your favorite books, instructional videos for you and your students, lesson plans, and other FREE stuff for your classroom.”
  • And finally, if you’re looking for free, high-quality teaching resources, make sure to check Curriki often as we’re continually adding new resources.

If you know of other free resources, would you please share?

Education Across the Globe

Kim JonesBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

The infographic in this post has some very interesting information on education and literacy around the globe. It was produced by Tutoring Expert in Canada.

A few facts: there are 1.4 billion students on earth, fully 20% of the world’s population. There are 65 million educators around the world. This is approximately equal to the population of France. Developed countries typically spend about 10 to 15% of their total government budgets on education.

Around 800 million adults across the globe are illiterate. Three nations each have over 1 million girls not in school: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Ethiopia. Only 12% of women in Afghanistan are able to read. Around 31 million girls of primary school age around the world are not in school.

In India, 88% of boys are able to read, but only 74% of girls. Clearly one of the challenges is increasing literacy for all, and especially, educational access for girls. On the other hand, in the Philippines, there are many more girls in school than boys.

Global edu infographic

In the U.S., only 32% of students are considered proficient in math. Children in Finland have the world’s highest scores in math and science, despite not starting school until age 6 or 7.

Despite the problems that remain, 1 in 3 young people are now expected to receive a college or university degree. Education is key to job opportunities, and to one’s standard of living, health, and social position. Most societies and parents around the world care deeply about their children’s future, for both boys and girls, and thus for their educational development. They invest considerable resources in their children’s education. But there are also serious shortcomings that must be addressed.

Curriki, as a not-for-profit foundation, is fully dedicated to improving education access and educational outcomes around the world. Over 50,000 Curriki educational resources are freely available to anyone with Internet access. These resources are also open source, in order to allow customization as needed. To date, 10 million unique users have visited the Curriki web site.

Take a careful look at the infographic, and see what other interesting factoids you are able to discover. The variation of school attendance hours between countries is fascinating!