Is there a future for open education beyond privatization? #utpol #utleg

The Utah State of Office of Education (USOE) announced today that “it will develop and support open textbooks in the key curriculum areas of secondary language arts, science, and mathematics.” They also encourage “districts and schools throughout the state to consider adopting these textbooks for use beginning this fall.”

This is clearly a major victory for proponents of open education and a move laden with tremendous potential!

That said, I have mixed feelings about the announcement – or more specifically about the timing and readiness of districts across our state to transition toward open textbook use. Here’s why:

  1. USOE requires Utah districts to conduct standardized testing using a Measured Progress-developed software client that can only be installed on Macintosh or Windows devices. There are no immediate plans for progressing (measuredly) away from this client-based testing solution and no solutions for the iPad or Android tablet devices in sight.
  2. Very few districts in Utah are ready for 1:1 technology access: neither pedagogically, financially, nor culturally. Really.
  3. Any initiative announced just before the Legislative session is subject to immediate suspicion.
Two questions now ring inside my open-education-loving head:
  • Have you ever snuggled up with a netbook to read a good (e-)book?
  • Is this really more of a political move – designed to convince proponents of private and home schooling that public school districts will now gladly hand over students (vouchers) AND develop a viable curriculum for them (open textbooks)?
Openness in education continues to be plagued with more than mere moral dilemmas.

More open?

Refining Purpose for 1:1

For me, there are four key reasons that schools should transition toward 1:1 technology access for students:

  1. Broadband, social networks, and mobility have spawned a new kind of learner (Waters, 2011). Children expect different things out of life today than we did in our youth and as a result, technology is a very important (and fully anticipated) part of their experience. Failing to produce the kind of learning environments that are tailored to those of the rising generation will be the hallmark characteristic of defunct schools in this and future years to come.
  2. In its ubiquity, the Internet has become the primary instrument commonly used to access knowledge on any subject. Under the guidance of a skillful teacher, every student should be privileged with unfettered access to knowledge – unhindered in his or her progress toward understanding. Clearly, an essential role of educators today should be to pay attention to the present (Draper, 2007), while leading students along safe and successful paths to a bright but challenging future.
  3. When used properly, technology can be the avenue through which teachers and students become co-creators of knowledge. Through these more learner-centric approaches to pedagogy, the “banking” concept of education can better subside as truly impactful learning takes hold (Freire, 1963). With greater access to educational technology, the customized learning, social and emotional support, self-regulation, collaborative and authentic learning experiences, and assessment for learning that commonly accompany learner-centric classrooms can be realized with far greater ease (Aslan et al., 2011; Watson & Reigelut, 2008).
  4. Outcomes of previous 1:1 efforts have included increased teacher and student engagement, higher test scores and a narrowing of the achievement gap, more effective professional development, and greater digital citizenship and community outreach (see for example Gray, 2011Digital Education Revolution NSW, 2011).
What are your thoughts concerning 1:1? What are its pros and cons? In your opinion, is it worth the investment?

In your opinion, can schools afford not to make the transition?

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