More Info (Questions I get asked)

As I receive questions through this site and via email I will also work to update this page in case there are others who have the same questions:

What is the connection to the MN Partnership to Collaborative Curriculum (MPCC)?

The MPCC was formed by a group of districts with the same goal. It made sense to collaborate, save money, and offer a flexible alternative to vendor materials, textbooks, subscriptions etc.

The MPCC is a group of over 200 school districts in MN that have invested in creating materials to align with the MN State Academic Standards. The curriculum is ultimately all going to be Creative Commons licensed but inaugural and continuing members receive early release copies to customize in their own platforms. The Stillwater district made an initial investment as an inaugural member and is not an ongoing participant, though they have access to all 40 courses that were created to use as they see fit. All of the funds for the MPCC are spend on course development and are managed by ISD 287. My work in helping to form this partnership has been one of the most rewarding of my career and has resulted in numerous awards, recognitions, and presentations. It’s an innovative collaboration that is unmatched in any other state.

I was a writer on a few of the projects and I facilitate the writing on a few others. I also manage/maintain master copies and make updates based on member involvement. There is no profit to me, or the district that employs me through this project.

Who are you? How come you haven’t gone to board meetings?

I’m a parent in the district. Until now, my participation has been limited to paying PTA dues, classroom donations, classroom volunteer, reading stories to students, chaperone, many conversations (probably hundreds of phone calls and emails) with teachers, principals and other administrators. I have offered support through those staff and ultimately made the decision to use my experience on the policy side of the district. So, while I haven’t necessarily been visible at meetings, I am actively engaged in supporting students in the district. I also keep up with what is happening online.

Tell me about your work as an educational consultant.

I created a business about five years ago to work on some curriculum and professional development projects through the American Institute for Research (AIR) and the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE). I have also given workshops in greater MN to districts who wanted Moodle training or were working on implementing digital curriculum and were diving deeper into blended learning. I’ve not taken a consulting job in three years and am focused on my work as an educator for ISD 287 and an involved parent in the Stillwater District. I present at conferences around the country and internationally and have not taken a fee for those presentations.

Isn’t Online Learning just a way to replace teachers?

Short answer: No

Long answer: While there are vendors out there who will offer to take on thousands of students; and those who run charter schools across the country, I have seen what it takes to be an effective online educator (I still teach English); and what it takes to develop an effective online program. I set up a state approved program for ISD 288, and I work on program planning in the district I work for. Throughout that time I’ve stressed the fact that teaching online is just as much, if not more, work as teaching in the classroom. While the work is somewhat different, it’s not easier, student loads remain consistent with what a teacher takes on in a traditional face-to-face environment. I think online learning should be an option for students. For some students, it is their only option.

I also think that blended learning should be a regular part of a student’s day. What I believe strongly is that if we have the opportunity to have students in the same place at the same time then we should take advantage of that opportunity to build connections, collaborate, team build and work with peers. I believe in the effectiveness of well-designed online learning but it’s not something I would push a student into.

What is OER and what is its connection to Open Source?

OER stands for Open Educational Resource. They are objects that have been licensed in a way, usually with Creative Commons, that gives those who find them permissions and terms of use to implement them in their own organizations. Because of my work in a district years ago that didn’t have the funds for curriculum resources, I naturally gravitated toward that community and became amazed by the possibilities. I want to see districts take ownership of their content and not pay licensing fees when possible. When I create materials, I license them as open so others can use them and build off of them. Too many times teachers feel like they are recreating the wheel; with OER, they don’t have to.

Open Source relates to software with an open license, like Moodle. The software is free to download and use and you can make tweaks to the code to suit your needs. The cost comes with hosting. I am also an advocate for any district that wants to maintain their own content and not allow vendor learning management systems (LMS) to use all of the analytics that all of those student interactions with their platform gives them while paying them for honor of using their site. I have found Open Source softwares to be more responsive to the community (FireFox, Chromium, many servers run using open source software and you are likely using it almost every day and don’t realize it.) I think about it like this, Facebook and Twitter aren’t free. You are giving them something by spending your time there while they analyze your activity, behavior and connections. That is worth billions to them so they don’t ask us to pay them, but that is what is happening to schools all of the time.