Updates 2017-09-29T09:13:04+00:00


OERs Part 2: Focus on Solutions to the Problem

Part 2 of a 3 part series. 

In my previous post, I discussed a number of the problems facing OERs. To recap, they were:

  1. Quality Control
  2. Searchability and Indexing
  3. Portability
  4. Funding

With this post, I’m going to brainstorm ideas and solutions to the particular issues surrounding OERs.

Quality Control Solutions

Define Authority

Nothing new here, just a need to define “who” the authority is for reviewing an OER (beyond the teacher). The authority should have some type of credentials or proof that they are, in fact, an authority in the content area of the OER.

In Ohio, a number of organizations come to mind. InfOhio, ITCs, ESCs, various school consortiums, even (fingers crossed) the state.

When authority is defined, some type of system also needs to be put in place to verify an OER is reviewed.

Wisdom of the Masses

On the opposite side of defining authority is using the wisdom of the masses. In this type of system, you have the masses up voting or down voting resources based on their quality. Similar to Reddit, Amazon reviews, or Digg.

This solution has its own challenges. First, you need critical mass to leverage the wisdom of masses. An OER watering hole where educators hang with fellow nerds. Second, sometimes the masses aren’t very wise (see Jaron Lanier’s Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism).

Maybe the masses know something I don’t?

A Hybrid

The best solution would likely be a hybrid of sorts. A collective place to share and vote – but giving extra-weight to authority. Or possibly a curated collection of highest voted OERs. Wikipedia and BetterLesson have elements of this as well.

Searchability and Indexing Solutions

To some extent, InfOhio has laid some groundwork in this area with their iSearch feature (although this doesn’t necessarily search for OERs). Other organizations such as OER Commons and Search Creative Commons are making solid strides as well.

Personally, I would like the next level of searchability with an open API that allows districts to tie their curriculum platforms with a robust OER search engine. OER Commons has this. Abre will soon have APIs available as well.

OER Portability Solutions

This is not a new problem and others have put forth some solutions. SCORM, IMS Global, Tin Can API: All are possible approaches to a portable “unit” of learning. The geek in me really likes them. The pragmatist in me gets that their complexity prohibits widespread adoption. Your average teacher (much less technologist) is going to interface with an API. The problem is that this is very much a difficult problem to solve without complexity. That said, we can look at popular models to get some ideas on how we might grow OERs.

Take OverDrive as an example. When I want to read Thinking, Fast and Slow I follow this procedure:

  1. Login to my library account
  2. Click Overdrive
  3. Select Thinking Fast and Slow
  4. Pick how I want to read the book.

Step four is key. I’m given simple options: Amazon Kindle, ePub, web, PDF. While not exactly platform agnostic, the creator/publisher does pick the top 4 platforms (three of which are pretty open) to allow 95% of the market access to their content.

Thinking Fast and Slow

Human Behaviour Really isn’t Rational

Was I a betting man, I would bet the development of OERs using web standards (especially with the recent announcement of the merging of the two major consortiums W3C and IDP). Then the issue becomes how to “extract” an OER made with web standards into whatever flavor of platform a school or district uses.

The key is keeping OERs as open as possible in their original form. I might create a Word Document worksheet and give it a Creative Commons License. It’s technically an OER. But if I want to build on that worksheet I really need to own Office. (This is a bit of a gray area. Microsoft would say that docx is technically an open XML format. But I’ve had many a Word Doc blow up when trying to open it with any other program other than MS Office).

Next Post: Open Education Resources: Marketplace Model

February 19th, 2018|

Abre is a Powerful Tool Transforming Education

Education has come a long way since the days of chalkboards, bulky textbooks and meticulously-kept, handwritten gradebooks. In today’s educational environment, schools at every level are embracing powerful digital resources to transform their classrooms, from digital whiteboards to e-books, online gradebooks and more. Abre in Cincinnati, Ohio, was developed by educators to unify all these new digital resources to enable teachers to spend less time managing their services and more time teaching students.

Read full article on Tech Ohio

February 18th, 2018|

Open Education Resources (OERs): Part 1 of a 3 Part Series

Challenges, Potential Solutions and the Marketplace

Open Education Resources (OERs) increasingly capture the attention of districts looking to leverage their internal knowledge base and to save money. I’ve had the good fortune of being part of a number of conversations within Ohio concerning OERs. It’s worth spending some time discussing how OERs might work in a public school setting.

First, What Are Open Education Resources?

Open is the key word here. As in, resources are not restrictive. The internationalist in me likes the Cape Town Open Education Declaration:

“Open educational resources should be freely shared through open licences which facilitate use, revision, translation, improvement and sharing by anyone. Resources should be published in formats that facilitate both use and editing, and that accommodate a diversity of technical platforms. Whenever possible, they should also be available in formats that are accessible to people with disabilities and people who do not yet have access to the Internet.”

Licenses and copyrights run a range. Being good law abiding educators, we need to pay attention to those licenses and copyrights on materials we use to teach students. Open Education Resources make this possible. More importantly, OER allows us to build on what others have created.

But OER has Challenges

OERs are not a panacea to education. I’m particularly struck by the following challenges:

  1. Quality Control
  2. Searchability and Indexing
  3. Portability
  4. Funding

Before Pearson cribs those talking points and starts having lunch with legislators, I wanted to explore those issues in greater detail through a series of posts.

On the Issue of Quality Control

Why a textbook? Sure, it’s nice to have resources. But our rockstar teachers are constantly curating and creating resources to fit the academic needs of their students. They don’t necessarily need a publisher’s textbook. So why buy them? We buy them for quality control. For beginning teachers or teachers who struggle in the profession, textbooks provide a uniformed experience for students. These experiences might not be super rigorous or engaging, but at least the materials have been vetted by experts and are common.

Because OERs can and are created by anyone, they don’t necessarily have a quality control mechanism built in. That open textbook might have been written by a writebot gleaning information off a reddit page. I’ve seen a lot of shoddy OERs (usually with bad clip art and lots of Comic Sans, which is odd).

Comic Sans Image

Aesthetics matter. Comic Sans will always raise quality control flags.

Now ideally and fundamentally, a teacher provides the quality control for their resources. They’re the expert. Trust them. And I do. Most teachers I work with are incredible.

But teachers are also overworked. Sometimes they’re trying to get a quick worksheet fix before 5th period (I’ve been there). If there was a way to ensure quality in OERs, it would be a great help.

On the Issue of Search and Indexing
How do I find quality OERs? Google isn’t necessarily the answer. Where do I direct teachers to find open education resources?

On the Issue of Portability
The largest issue I face as a technology director is the silo effect of systems. School districts are complex organizations with many moving parts. The parts need to talk with each other. Frequently they don’t.

The last thing I want is OERs to add to this complexity. Districts use different Learning Management Systems, Student Information Systems, Devices, Operating Systems, and personnel with different skill sets. OERs need to be as agnostic and portable as possible to account for these different conditions. The question is how?

On the Issue of Funding
Writing and creating good open education resources are hard. It can be particularly challenging asking for the creative commitments without considering some level of compensation. Does “open” need to mean “free”?

In my next post I’ll cover possible solutions to these issues.

February 9th, 2018|

Customer Success Associate

Job Description

Abre’s Customer Success Associates are the critical link between the delivery of our software platform and the schools or districts after the sale is complete. Their primary responsibility is to ensure our customers have a smooth implementation of our platform.  This includes supporting the initial integrations, stakeholder engagement with the product and delivery of any needed training and best practices for how schools effectively use Abre.

Position Overview

  • Working with the business development team, the CSA will manage the post sale implementation of Abre software by coordinating with the Customer, Abre product team and third party partners (typically IT entities) on the initial data integration requirements
  • The CSA will lead onsite or web-based training for Abre users to ensure understanding of the software to drive high adoption rates
  • The CSA will be the main point of contact for Customers to address any questions and effectively manage the resolution of any issues
  • The CSA will assist the business development team on opportunities or issues that could impact retention or growth of a Customer
  • Document all activity

Job Requirements

  • Experience in or passion for Education
  • An affinity for utilizing and explaining technology
  • Customer Service and Project management skills and experience – Collaborative, Organized and Articulate.
  • A bias towards action. Gets things done.
  • Uncompromising in follow up and follow through
  • Problem solver with the ability to work with a software development team
  • Customer advocate who is passionate about delivering value

Apply Online

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February 7th, 2018|

Marketing Content Associate

Job Description

The Marketing Content Associate will manage and execute both direct and inbound marketing campaigns to drive interactions with our content and, ultimately, demand for our Platform.   The position will report to VP of Sales and work closely with the CEO.

Position Overview

  • The Marketing Manager will be an integral part of a marketing team comprised of the CEO, VP of Sales, VP of Product and Director of Customer Success with the primary responsibility to execute Abre’s Marketing strategy
  • The Marketing Manager will be responsible for managing and executing Email campaigns, social media execution, content calendar and content creation (blogs, webinars, webcasts, customer testimonials, podcasts, white papers, etc.)
  • The Marketing Manager will monitor social platforms and respond as appropriate
  • The Marketing Manager will manage, monitor and report on results via Hubspot
  • The Marketing Manager will recommend , coordinate and direct execution of our demand generation strategy with our marketing partners ( freelance or agency)

Job Requirements

  • Experience in or passion for Education
  • Experience with Hubspot Marketing software
  • Experience developing and managing marketing campaigns
  • Excellent writing and communication skills

Apply Online

Apply Now
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February 7th, 2018|

Abre.io Announces the General Availability of Its Education Platform

Growing Number of Schools Adopting the Innovative Education Management Software

CINCINNATI, Feb. 6, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Today, Abre.io, an innovative software platform for schools, announces the general availability of its software based on an open source project of the same name.  Abre.io Inc. will continue support and grow the open source community.

The open source project was started by Co-Founders Zach Vander Veen and Chris Rose under the support of Hamilton City School District, Hamilton, OH.  They created a single sign-on environment where all web-based technology lives for teachers, staff, students and parents.  Subsequently, Vander Veen and Rose turned Abre into a platform by developing apps that are accessible on the platform.  “Today there are eight Abre appswith three coming online by the end of the school year.  We focus on building simple, open apps that teachers and staff say they need the most to efficiently run their schools and classrooms.”  says Rose, VP of Product.

The combination of the Abre Homepage and the growing collection of connected Abre apps is what has attracted an increasing number of school districts. Damon Ragusa, Abre.io CEO, puts it this way “Abre started as a way to simplify access to increasing number of software apps in schools.  But it has become the central place where education happens for teachers and students.  We quickly see 100% utilization of our platform with little to no professional development saving districts money and teachers time.”

Tricia Smith, instructional coach at Hamilton City Schools said of Abre, “As a teacher we have so many requirements and responsibilities. Abre is that ‘one stop shop’ that as a teacher has become a must-have. To have everything I need from student data, email, Google Classroom and all my apps. Honestly not sure how people function without it.”

About Abre.io

Abre.io provides an education software platform that delivers a growing number of connected apps designed for schools who use the web to manage critical information and to deliver instructional content.  Abre apps are designed to simplify managing schools and delivering education.  School districts benefit from Abre by reducing professional development time for teachers, freeing up data to support improving performance and saving money.   Abre.io manages a community edition based on an open source project of the same name developed at Hamilton City School District (OH). https://abre.io/ Follow us on Twitter @abreplatform.

Available On

Yahoo Finance
Business Insider
Seeking Alpha
Business Journal
PR Newswire

February 7th, 2018|