Big Ideas Fest Day One

It’s difficult to summarize the first day of #bif2012 . There are scores of different ideas, content, people, and questions coming up …but I’m definitely among the right people here. A lot of excited, caring, super-intelligent people working to serve students.

Consider this a hurried write-up, just to help begin my digestion of all this information.

Something that is becoming quickly obvious is just how many new ideas there are. So many people are pursuing important, large-scale projects that attempt to make sense of the Ed Tech revolution and apply it to long-standing problems. There are a few key project areas that are closely connected:

1. Creating, personalizing and curating Open Online content (both for teachers and students)

2. Tracking and sharing Personal Ed Data (Learning Maps/Archives, Portfolios, Progress Tracking)

3. Assessing outcomes and engagement and proving the value of programs (and conversations on rubrics, metadata, and nation-wide data-synthesizing)

If you haven’t (also a note to self), take some time and research the term “metadata”. It’s meaning is ambiguous depending on context, but it’s an increasingly important concept as we require further levels of abstractions to fully understand the huge complexities required by educational modeling.

In processing the day, it’s becoming obvious that there needs to be a meta-conversation about how to: a. not replicate efforts; b. combine efforts into the best, most interconnected system; c. how to do a. and b.

Everything is moving so quickly, how can we be sure that the right people—on a national scale—are talking so that we can present cohesive, well-resourced initiatives.

I was thrilled to learn more about ISKME’s OER Commons project last night (essentially, Github for teacher-focused Edu.Content, letting educators collaborate on the creation, re-mixing, and sharing of learning units)… I’m rooting for it. In order to be successful, however, it really requires a cultural shift: teachers have to imagine themselves as active participants in this big content-creation community, not just consumers or private creators.

The great thing about the OER Commons is that is can require the educator to share their work and receive constructive feedback. The hope is that the Commons will act to improve excellence, accountability, and constant improvement. In short, it has the capacity to be a capable Professional Development tool, just as it can be a dynamic Open Content library.

Piggy-backing on Content Aggregators (like OER Commons and others), a new BIF-spawned project, “Passion Dragon” is trying to tag and sort that content by specific interests that excite students. Want to learn everything that is thematically tied to Basketball?  …the Passion Dragon project points to one of the issue behind all of this, the meta data.

How do we sort all this content when there are so many lenses to use. Some lenses are relevant for educators (Common Core alignment, assessments, disciplines), some are relevant for informal student browsing (interests, themes), some are great for workforce development (career tracks, industry educational requirements), some are best for independent learners (tags for societies, geographies, syllabus-paths, specialized learning styles). The options go on and on, with even the possibility to sort based on specific learning contexts (informal/formal, student demographics, etc.)

If we had to look at all of this at once, it would be overwhelming, but one can see how it will be useful to sort resources in all these ways. In this way, I think the concept of Lenses begins to make sense, to help us only browse using a certain set of metadata.

So, what’s the metadata? The annoying thing about data, is that it needs to be Universal or its value diminishes quickly. (CEDS, LRMI, Learning Registry Data Design, etc. ?) The Lenses concept is a way to make MetaData options somewhat customizable. Maybe you have one Metadata-Lenses be universally required and other Lenses optional, depending on the creator/consumers needs and the type of Content.

Another exciting realization is the possibilities that open up when the conversation on Resource aggregation and Creation begin to tie into the conversation on Personal Ed Data/Portfolios/Learning Archives). What if we could map all our learning, past, present, and future and everything point on the map is populated with our portfolio content, current work/assignments, and browse-able future content (respectively).

! All for now.