#oerhf notes part 2 – morning panel on US issues

The mid-morning session was a panel on Domestic OER Related Policies: Opportunities and Challenges Across Levels (Moderator: Phoenix Wang, Co-Founder, Startl). This session was very focused on the lobbying at state and federal level of OER, and a clear theme was the need for a consistency in the way OER was described and the advantages put forward. There was always a general belief that tax-payer funded materials should *always* be licensed unobstructively and that funding was a lever to change the dynamics of the content ecosystem. Most of the speakers identified themselves as “advocates” of OER, so most discussion centred around ways of promoting and explaining OER to “non-believers”

* Hal Plotkin, Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. Dept of Education
When asked “what are we not doing” to support OER, he replied that the current dysfunctional model of the delivery of learning material is an immense industry, with key lobbying access to politicians from commercial publishers. An alliance between the Democratic Party and publishers was instrumental in supporting academic freedom (eg in teaching evolution in schools) may not be beneficial in supporting OER. A match between a 400lb gorilla and a pipsqeak!

He flagged Jim Shelton’s “Invest in Innovation” fund c.$600 for which bids have just closed. Highlighted that OER is not a stand-alone activity, but needs to be embedded in other innovation.

FIPSI (fund for the improvement of post secondary education) worth keeping an eye on.

Noted that he was a “turtle on a fencepost” (he didn’t get there by himself!) and offered thanks to the Foundation and the community.

* Linda Wallinger, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Virginia Dept of Education (http://www.doe.virginia.gov/)
A former French teacher, Linda has a particular interest in using technology for language level. Noted parental preferences around value-laden topics as an under-appreciated driver in education. Using “race to the top” funding in working with universities there have been queries about what “freely available” means and they await a response. In Virginia they have legislated for the release of OER content – an open educational content board. Takes longer than teachers are willing to wait to enact policy, but the boards purpose is to designate OER consortia and to provide quality and licensing guidelines. No funding but enacted.

Betti (?) reported that Maine are undertaking a “multi-faceted attach”. Two HF grants around OER, also title 2-D (enhancing technology via No Child Left Behind Act) schools funds to release OER. Also have a non-profit company based at the University based on this (I was in the pub with the guy who runs this last night!)

* Reg Leichty, Partner, Education Counsel
Reg discussed the US federal education policy landscape, and looked forward to OER initiatives forthcoming. He noted that “no child left behind” would make way to more local and proactive initiatives. The Recovery Act looked at teacher development, more effective uses of data, school improvement, standards and assessments (eg the development of a common core of state standards, which will greatly effect the way states think about curricula). Implementation is ongoing, with billions of dollars available on application to states to work on local implementation via “Race to the Top”. Outputs from this grant will be freely available as OER. The Enhancing Education through Technology programme also includes OER language, and the School Improvement funding programme can be used to make outputs available as OER.

Reauthorisation of the No Child Left Behind Act is ongoing, with hearings in progress to define the future of this legislation. He called for the OER community to speak as one voice in advocating OER.

Doug ? (CC Broadband?) – stimulus programme means every American should have access to broadband, most focused on supply side but also some work on demand side – one area that was highlighted was around OER, recommendations delivered to congress and parts are being enacted. E-rate2.0 (cheaper broadband for education providers) also includes OER support.

Public Televison (PBS) (didn’t catch speakers name) have an interest in creating material for learners age 2-8, current programme mentions OER by name.

* Susan Patrick, President and CEO, iNACOL
iNACOL (http://www.inacol.org/) is a non-profit advocacy organisation looking at supporting online learning at K12. She has a particular interest in using OER to benefit students at this level – posing the question of how OER messages can be pulled together consistently, she saw this as a policy issue around terminology (eg around the use of the word “free”). She suggested a number of possible terms that could be consistently used within an OER definition (“non-obstructive licences so we can share access and collaborate”) as different advocates lobby in different places.

* Dave Zook, Chair, B&D Consulting
Has an interest in open access to research and OER and works as an advocate to policy makers concerning a variety of issues. Three key themes that have emerged for him in this work are a need to focus on the outcomes of OER release, a need to “go negative” on the current system of access to materials, OER as a solution to problems – access, learning beyond textbooks (will become a brand for OER advocacy) … Currently focused on K12 OER, moving in to higher education. Requested a contribution around evidence and a research – to turn into “lore” for advocacy.

* Jim Fruchterman, CEO, Benetech
Benetech (http://www.benetech.org/) Silicon Valley’s intentionally non-profit organisation exists to remedy market failure, sees OER as a way of providing what the market does not. Route 66 to Literacy (scenic route to literacy) developed as a CC online curriculum, using CC images, as a social enterprise. Bookshare is an online library available to US students with disability after a $25 set up fee and a $50/year subscription and explicitly allows for format transitions for accessibility (standard ebook licences fear piracy so do not allow this). Initially funded by silicon valley companies, Bookshare won a federal competition for $32million. Two OER initiatives: state-adopted K12 open text books made fully accessible, and partnership with Flatworld knowledge to make their books accessible. Particular focus on accessibility of graphics.

Problems they are facing – OER is not standardised, would like to see OER use the same standards as the publishing industry. Some students who would benefit from Bookshare are not eligible (eg those who are undiagnosed or cannont afford fees).

Questions (responses to various ones) and closing comments. Publishers have standardised on an an XML variant called ePoP, it would be good if OER could use this. Unobstructive licenses are a term which has allowed policy makers to understand OER. “Sharing” language can often be a stumbling block due to a culture (and policy areas) around not sharing. But legislation hopes to change at least the frameworks and guidance around sharing. Initially we had to create content because there was nothing to share, now we need to build communities of practice that can share. Broadband access (and school to home internet connections) can solve the digital divide and provide better access to OER.

(this text licensed under CC-BY 2.5 (UK) – these are my personal notes from the sessions, and any errors or omissions are my fault)

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