Monthly Archives: April 2014

Education Made Easy for All


The New Library…Ahhh….

The advantages that open educational resources (OER) give are quite numerous and simultaneously interesting.  Among them:  accessibility to quality education, increased social mobility, paradigm shifts and educational reform, greater connectedness for larger CoPs/PLCs, and a plethora of resources repackaged that are swiftly shared and reshared.  However, with these benefits there are very real disadvantages, tangibly and theoretically.  Even so, the advantages outweigh any costs associated as learning and communities of learners gain crucial knowledge, skills, and confidence.

One of the biggest advantages I see is the possibility through MOOCs to get yourself educated and having a myriad of resources such as literature and journals available to do so for low to nonexistent cost.  With that follows a change in the way we think of education/school thus prompting reform and paradigm shifts.  For example, the Gates Foundation has been working to lift people out of poverty who otherwise would not attend college through a unique credentialing system that is a far cry from the typical and traditional university (Parry et. al, 2013).  Some people fear that this model may dilute the quality of education and also negate any exclusivity/selectivity traditional schools employ in hiring their students and teachers, as well as the “meaning” of a degree.  The benefits though, from a resource such as an MOOC, are great in comparison to current fights about education.  That is, that only those who can afford are able to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to function in a global society through their access to journals, professional learning communities, clubs/groups pertaining to their interests, and other like-minded individuals with whom they interact and ultimately join in the (higher-paying) workforce while attaining at least, a middle-class income (Stacey, 2013).  In order to replicate that experience, open educational resources including but not limited to MOOCs are necessary to ensure vertical movement and a greater social economy, but also a society rife with educated teachers and learners who are able to contribute which leads to my next point…

Open Educational Resources allow for constant revision and “remix” or the ability to take readily available information and edit it, add to it, learn from it, repurpose and repackage to create something unique and individual that benefits the community. The advantage then to having open lesson plans or open academic research is that the person reading, seeing it through their lens, can contribute their perspective which enriches the material (whether it be technological or traditional) and the community that he/she is apart. Especially in a connected world, OERs offer the ability to quickly view and publish the information and even converse informally and formally through social media; however, it is vital that the common disadvantage of copyright and licensing issues be solved in the near future so that the other disadvantages, such as single-ended transmission are avoided and that the same canon of knowledge doesn’t exclude novel information nor does it exclude a diverse population of those who can and will participate (Amiel, 2013).  After all, if it is difficult to come by the resources for reasons of fear/licensing/reputation, then people won’t contribute equally thus devaluing the resource.

As a home educator, OERs are fantastic because it means that I have SO MUCH available to me, and that includes humans who can converse and work with us.  The resources that are there are often shared by professional educators who are using time-tested techniques and those new practices that are more experimental.  In addition, it allows me to save money and also encourages a more discerning eye in quality materials or methods.

In regards to some of the lesson plans and activities that I have created and compiled, the WebQuest I’ve been working on, fits perfectly within the criteria of an open resource as it is collaboration at its finest and can easily be shared digitally.  I had never thought of putting it out there until recently and I think it would serve other homeschoolers as well as traditional teachers well if they so wish to use it.  Learning objectives, the materials to be used, the steps and procedure as well as assessment rubrics are included and ensure that it retains quality as an open educational tool.  Not to mention, I’ve included links to informative websites as well as interactive gamification to supplement the learning process.  Stay tuned!

What’s a WebQuest, you ask?: and

What is your favorite (either old or new) OER to use and explore? Why?


Amiel, T. (2013).  Indentifying barriers to the remix of translated open educational resources. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.  14(1), 126-144.

Parry, M., Field, K., Supiano, B., Gose, B., Hatch, J., Mangan, K., & Ruark, J. (2013).  The gates effect.  Chronicle of Higher Education.  59(42), 24-24.

Stacey, P. (2013).  Government support for open educational resources:  policy, funding, and strategies.  International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.  14(2), 67-80.


Different Learning Environments

As we all know, teaching and learning happens in a multitude of ways.  There are three main categories however, that help us understand education in today’s context.  Traditional, Hybrid (web-enhanced), Online are different modalities used in educational settings.  Understanding these, teachers and other educators including those in supportive roles, can better plan and implement instructional content and strategies.

image via

In traditional set-ups, the students and teacher are together in the same space for all of their required time.  Everything is done face-to-face and activities and assessments are completed in the classroom (with the exception of homework).  Because there tends to be ample time spent in this setting, teaching often regresses to a method known as direct instruction through the form of lectures (Bates & Watson, 2008).  While many educational experts agree that this form of teaching isn’t optimal since learning is knowledge that is merely transmitted and not discovered, it often happens due to comfort and time constraints.  Many traditional classrooms though, are working toward more engaging modes and the “teach to learn” philosophy is taking off with the accompanying research.

In hybrid classrooms, students and the teacher (or often, the team of teachers) meet regularly and behave similarly to traditional classrooms with much of the learning taking place in a specified time and place and a high level of interaction.  The difference is that technology, specifically additional activities, tests, self-checks, and social/group projects are practiced with online web help.  That is, the online learning environment is supplemental to learning.  There is less DI and a higher focus on collaborative and discovery based learning, with both the student and the teacher working together to learn.  It is important to note that hybrid courses work best when technology isn’t solely used as a replacement for mundane activities just for the purpose of using precious in-class time for unappreciated lectures-the same goes for complete online courses-more on that below (Doering & Veletsianos, 2008).

In online learning, the students and teacher never meet in person nor have a meeting time or place.  The responsibility of learning falls solely on the student.  While it may seem that online learning then is substandard-after all, when do they hear a lecture or when were they taught?-remembering that lectures and most forms of DI are undesirable, it makes sense that, given a well-prepared teacher and well-planned course, online learning can be equally engaging and effective.  It is crucial that online learning is different in its execution, yet still utilizes best practices such as support that is a given in traditional and hybrid courses, ongoing communication, and collaborative, problem-based and inquiry-guided learning (Crawford, Smith, & Smith, 2008).  Using current technology to do more that simply email and create PowerPoints is what engages students and allows for optimal learning.

I think that anytime collaboration is at the forefront, learning takes place and students begin to think critically, so I would say that problem-based and inquiry-led learning can and should be used in all three types of classrooms.  Of course, implementing and assessing would look different in each setting.

I like the idea of games and humor in the classroom in traditional set-ups as it fosters motivation and creativity and games often lead to critical thinking skills, especially on those days where DI is somewhat necessary, while team-based and case studies are great to use in hybrids because students and teachers can learn the important ideas, facts, etc, in the classroom and then work on the continued project through use of the web.  For complete web-based, discussion based learning via social media is helpful since our social/digital footprint is very strong and for the most part, a great representation of who we are which is extremely important when you can’t meet face-to-face.

One of my projects that can be used for students who are in a traditional setting or online, or even in my personal context at home, is an activity called a WebQuest. I am excited to see that it fosters critical thinking, discovery and active construction of knowledge, and most of all is fun.  It is very easy to tailor this activity to each setting whether by changing the lesson, changing the way it is implemented, or by it being added to the classroom versus it being the lesson/class/course in and of itself-it could survive as in an online setting.  I think this shows that the way we learn then, isn’t all that dependent on where per se, if the strategies used are sound and evidence-based.


Do you think that online education is “less” than traditional schools? Do you feel a degree or certification from web-based institutions are worthy of recognition?

What about hybrid based homeschool? Check this link for insight:



Bates, C. & Watson, M (2008).  Relearning teaching techniques to be effective in hybrid and online courses.  Journal of American Academy of Business.  13 (1),  38-44.

Crawford, C., Smith, R. & Smith, M.  (2008).  Course student satisfaction results:  differentiation between face-to-face, hybrid, and online learning environments.  Texas A & M University.  Retrieved from blacboard:

Doering, A. & Veletsianos, G. (2008).  Hybrid online education:  identifying integration models using adventure learning.  Journal of Research on Technology in Education.  41(1), 23-41.