Opening the Access to Scholarly Research

This guest post by Ken Ronkowitz was previously published in his blog, Serendipity35.

Photo: Kevin Eng, CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo: Kevin Eng, CC BY-SA 2.0

I was listening recently to an episode of The Chronicle‘s Tech Therapy podcast on the “Moral Imperative” for Open Access to scholarly research featuring David Parry. He is an Assistant Professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas and his main point was that scholars have an obligation to publish their research in journals that make free copies available online.

This is a topic that I am interested in and I agree with Parry. This is also a hot and debatable topic tight now. Unfortunately, it was the suicide of Aaron Swartz after he was being prosecuted for trying to free such research that brought it to many mainstream news outlets.

“Information is power,” Swartz wrote. “But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.”  He had made unauthorized downloads of more than four million articles from JSTOR and the federal indictment against him said that he did it in order to then upload them to the Internet and make them available for free.

His approach was radical and was compared on news outlets to Wikleaks. The tragedy in his case was that even though the civil complaints against him were dropped and he had returned all the downloaded data, the case was still being pursued.

David Parry calls sites like JSTOR “knowledge cartels.”

The term “open” and open access (OA) has a number of meanings. According to Wikipedia (itself an open site), open access can be defined as “the practice of providing unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles.” There are a growing number of theses, scholarly monographs, articles and book chapters that are provided with open access to all.

There are two degrees of open access: gratis OA meaning no-cost online access, and libre OA which is like gratis but with some additional usage rights.

Similarly, we use the term “open content” with materials available online where the author(s) gives the right to modify the work and reuse it.  Most of us went through school learning to use content intact and to associate it with an author(s).

You might be familiar with Creative Commons licenses that can be used to make content accessible and yet to specify usage rights (such as attribution or non-commercial usage). My blog uses a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license for the content.

The open access concept was pushed forward at a rapid pace by the Internet, and in education it was pushed by its extension into learning objects and other resources used in online learning.

Scholarly publishing, much like the music and film industry and traditional publishing, has resisted open access, and may very well find that resistance to be why it will disappear.

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Opening the Access to Scholarly Research by Ken Ronkowitz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

10 Ways to Find and Share Lesson Plans Online

This guest post by Michael Zimmer was previously published in his blog, The Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness.

Photo: ISKME, CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo: ISKME, CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the great aspects of the Internet, the Web 2.0 craze, and collaboration is the ability to find and share lesson plans through various methods.  Teachers all over the country are doing great things in their classroom and are making these great things available on the Internet for anyway to download.  Some are free, some might cost you a little cash, but in the end, why reinvent the wheel, especially when that wheel has experienced success?

1.) Share My Lesson is a source I have previously written about and provides lessons for all grade levels and subject matter.  There is even a special section for special education teachers.  Create an account and easily find lesson plans or start sharing some of your own.

2.) Google Apps for Education has a lesson plan search option where you can choose what you are looking for, the subject matter and the grade level.  The lesson plans often require the use of Google Apps, but can be modified if necessary for your classroom if you are not able to access Google Apps for Education.

3.) Teachers Pay Teachers is a site that allows users to upload and download lesson plans and other activities created by teachers for teachers.  The prices are often on the low end and there is also an abundance of free lesson plans and resources as well.  There are also complete units available, but those do come at a higher price.  Create an account and upload your own, then you can make money off of the successful lesson plans that you are doing in your classroom.

4.) Federal Resources for Educational Excellence is a lesson plan homepage created by the federal government that has lesson plans by subject matter and grade level.  The lessons are often broken down into subtopics as well that make it easier to find the lesson plans to meet a teachers need.

5.) Better Lesson is an option for finding lesson plans from a data base of over 300,000 resources.  You can search by grade level and subject matter and also view featured lessons for each day/week.  You can also upload your own lessons to share while also getting feedback from other educators on how to improve and build on a lesson.

6.) Claco is a newer option, formally Class Connect, that allows teachers to join what is basically a social network for teachers.  Through this social network, teachers can upload an share lessons and collaborate with other educators as they discuss improvements and successes of those lessons.  To join you must request an invite, but that is just to verify you are an educator and because they are currently in Beta.  I have heard good things about this site.

7.) Read Write Think has a large database of lesson plans that teachers can download and use in their classroom.  You can find lesson plans by grade level and subject matter and it provides the total number for each as well making it easy to know what you are getting into when looking for lesson plans.

8.) Microsoft in Education has a lesson plan and teacher resource database that teachers can look through by selecting age range, subject matter, and even length in time.  Several of the lessons involve the use of technology as well, but could most likely be adapted if necessary.  You might also be interested in the free products for educators that is offered by Microsoft.

9.) The HP Teacher Experience Exchange is another option for teachers looking for lesson plans.  At the same time, it also provides a place for teachers to collaborate and connect with other teachers.  There is currently a large database of lesson plans and resources for teachers to search through.  You can locate by grade level and subject matter as well.

10.) TeachHubScholastic, and Edutopia also provide great options for locating lesson plans.  Many of the lessons on these sites are teacher submitted as well.  Like the other options you can also search by grade level and subject matter.  All these sites also offer many other opportunities and resources that teachers would be interested in taking the time to examine and look through.

Hope that you find a lesson plan of good use.  If you decide to upload your own lesson plans, just remember honesty and copyright and ensure that you are not uploading a lesson that you created using information and activities from other resources you have been provided previously.

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10 Ways to Find and Share Lesson Plans Online by Michael Zimmer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

20 Critical Vocabulary Terms for EdTech

This guest post by Michael Zimmer was previously published in his blog, The Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness.

Painting: Joshua Reynolds, public domain
Painting: Joshua Reynolds, public domain

Educational Technology has become a staple in a large portion of schools across the country.  Often times it is placed in classrooms and terms are used at conferences that have little meaning to many teachers.  Like the lingo of our students, teachers need to be aware of the lingo used relating to educational technology.  There are terms and aspects of educational technology that need to be shared and below you will find some of the most popular to date.  I hope this list can be used to help clarify questions teachers might have about this growing list of terms.

Web 2.0 – The term given to the current age of the World Wide Web where the web is used for interacting with a web app, and collaboration and sharing with others.  Most common examples include WallwisherGlogsterPrezi, etc.

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Rethinking Lurkers in the MOOC Experience

This guest post by Ken Ronkowitz was previously published in his blog, Serendipity35.

Photo: Ed Yourdon, CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo: Ed Yourdon, CC BY-SA 2.0

A discussion developed late in my “Academia and the MOOC” course about completion rates and “lurkers.” The term lurker has been used for quite awhile online. At first, they were people who went into discussions and chat rooms and just read/watched without participating. The term had a negative connotation.

The term carried over to online courses. Of course, in a class online with 25 students, anyone who does not participate is readily apparent. All the major LMS allow you to track student usage. In fact, it’s easier to monitor student participation online via the software than it is to monitor in a large face to face classroom.

In my own online courses, I will nudge lurkers. But in a MOOC with thousands of students, that may not be possible. I commented in my MOOC that at least 20% of registrants did not view any content. The LMS didn’t allow for me to get percentages for discussion participation for the class as a whole (only for individuals) but I could see that at least half of the other participants only participated in one of the four modules.
I suspected that some of those who used module one and then dropped out (or lurked) had decided the course was not for them. Now, I am having second thoughts about that.

As the discussion on this topic continued (and it has continued beyond the course in other places) and based on some 1:1 messages with participants, I realized that what I saw as lurking may be better described as auditing.

Module one was on the history of MOOCs and two participants told me that they were really only interested in reading that content. Although they may have looked at some of the other materials and posts, they entered the course to find out how MOOCs developed. They found what they wanted, and they left.

So, are they lurkers? I would say the term does not apply.

I had divided the second module into the roles of the stakeholders in academia that MOOCs affect – designer, teacher, administrator, support staff and student. I had contact with several people who told me that they were most interested in seeing what was posted about their role and participating in that discussion and less intersted in the other roles. I had hoped that people would enter all the discussions about the interrelated roles, but that may have been an unreasonable discussion on my part.

Again, someone who took the course to find out more about the instructional designer’s role in MOOCs may have looked at some history and looked at case studies from different colleges that touched on the designer role, but may nt have had the time or interest in the other sections.

It has been suggested that MOOCs might function more as a textbook online (content repository) that includes a way to engage with the author (teacher/designer) and with others who are interested in the topic. Since Canvas allows my course to remind online and accessible to the students who registered, it is possible for people to go in after the four week live run of the class and still read discussions (no posting allowed) that they didn’t get around to reading, and view the rest of the content.

So why not leave the course open for new registrations perpetually? Obviously, anyone jumping in now would be met with hundreds aof unread posts and no chance to post themselves and expect a response from the original poster who is likely to be done with the course. But there are MOOC providers experimenting with this idea and by having new start dates on a rolling basis, you could allow new groups of participants to use the material again and again with fresh discussions. Would it be necessary to have a facilitator in the course to keep things moving and revise the content? That is probably needed. My “course” was not typical in that it did not have assignments or grades, so anyone not posting in discussions was lurking/auditing. It wasn’t designed as a MOOCourse, but intended to be a MOOConversation, so not participating in the conversation would be, to me, a kind of failure. That may not be true for participants.

I came across a presentation on “Learning Theories for the Digital Age” by Steve Wheeler (see below) that contained these two slides. He suggests that lurking may be considered “legitimate peripheral participation.”


Where would we place the course auditor/lurker in his “architecture of participation?”


One of the participants in my course, Ann Priestly, has posted some thoughts on this topic on her own blog. She takes issue with my comment that “being engaged in any online course of any size means being involved in the discussions. It’s like web 1.0 and web 2.0 – read only and read/write.”

She is of the belief that there are many types of engagement including reading, reflecting and creating one’s own knowledge. She may be right. I am certainly coming from having taught for decades face to face and for more than ten years online in traditional credit bearing courses with always less than 25 students – and that just may not apply in the MOOC world.  I certainly have become “engaged” with books I am reading where there is no interaction between the content and myself or with other readers or the author. Was I lurking?

Ann included a link to another post on this issue of lurking that suggest these people might be called “listeners.” Still, as MOOCs become more accepted as legitimate courses for credit or advancement, the issue of what level of engagement will be required to complete a course successfully will become more important.

For now, my conclusion is that we need to rethink the reasons that people enroll in MOOCs and consider that lurkers have a legitimate reason for being there, and we might want to take that person into consideration in the course design.

I wish now that I had a required survey for students to register that included more information about what they wanted from the course and what their intention was in registering. (Typically, I see the question of how many hours do you plan to give to the course, which isn’t really a helpful number to me.) If 30% of registrants were there because of a particular content area or just to “experience a MOOC,” that would change your completion numbers from the start.

Learning Theories for the Digital Age from Steve Wheeler

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Rethinking Lurkers in the MOOC Experience by Ken Ronkowitz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.