A Flexible Platform for Remixing Open Resources
Study.com: Tell us a little bit about OER Glue.
Joel Duffin: OER Glue is a mash-up platform for online learning. We let you take content from multiple sources and combine it into a context that's useful.
Imagine a teacher with a class on government policy. Using OER Glue they can easily include a relevant CNN article in their course; they could even include a discussion widget or a Google Doc. They can build an overlay of the Web that contains all these different resources.
Justin Ball: As new content comes online, you can add that to your course easily, and you can match it up with popular services. If you wanted to include Facebook as part of your course, you could drop Facebook widgets onto your pages. If you find a YouTube video that you like, you can drop it onto a Wikipedia page. You can grab images off a page and put them anywhere. At the end of the day you end up with a dynamic, living course.
JD: There are four main pieces to our technology: a discovery piece to find relevant resources, the mash-up piece, delivery/publishing and tracking, so when students use the content you've organized you can tell who's going where and how long they're spending. We collect analytics off other people's websites, and there's a dashboard where instructors can see that.
We like to say that we become invisible. Simplicity is paramount to our design. An organization likely already has a content or learning management system or some other portal. We integrate with those systems, so typically students go where they're already used to.
Upgrading Education for the Digital Citizen
Study.com: How is OER Glue attacking what you see as the problems in open education?
JB: We want to address how you discover content. The body of information available has grown exponentially. Teachers are typically very busy people, and they don't want to spend forever scouring the Internet, so we provide discovery tools, both searches and recommendations.
Also, we've built a number of projects over the years, and getting other people to adopt those projects was always a challenge because it required that content owners implement something on their website. That's very difficult to do, especially with large organizations; it has to go through so many approval processes. So we moved the power from the server side to the consumer of OER content. We wanted to let people easily grab stuff and do what they wanted with it. Hopefully that reduces the barrier for reusing OER.
Study.com: Would you say OER Glue has a single overarching goal?
JB: We're here to get this content to people who need it. In order to increase its impact, we have to deliver it to the people who provide the educational experiences, the teachers. We also have to make that experience enjoyable for their students. We want to provide authentic learning experiences.
Students - both kids and adults - surf the Web every day. They're used to that paradigm. When I sit you in a classroom and hand you a textbook, you feel like you've been sucked back to the Middle Ages in a lot of ways. We want to provide an experience like people have every day. Ideally, you'd turn in an assignment by posting to your WordPress blog. You'd engage with other students via Facebook comments. That way, when you're done with your education, you leave with an online reputation. It's a bit more difficult, but hopefully some progressive schools will implement this more ideal scenario where their students come out as well-rounded individuals that are already well-known to the world. They don't need a resume; people find them on the Internet.
JD: If you look at learning theory, the most basic principle is that whatever you practice doing you get good at. Therefore, education should approximate what's happening outside of education, but it's become farther and farther disconnected. I don't know if you're familiar with Stephen Wolfram's work, but his basic philosophy is that technology has moved on. In math, for instance, problem-solving is a 4-part process: recognizing a problem, formulating it in mathematical terms, calculating and interpreting your results. We didn't use to have technology to do calculations for us, so it was really important to learn how to do them. But now we tend to focus on 'calculate,' even though that's the part computers can do really well, and it's the part students have a really hard time with. We're drilling kids on all this stuff, even though interpreting the results is the real power. So Wolfram's goal is to create a new curriculum that assumes technology will do the calculation. We're going to focus on helping kids learn how to do these other things. With learning, the activity is not the objective, the outcome is. If you're focused on that, you can change your activities all over the place.
OER Glue speaks to a central underlying concept of OER, which is 'power to the people.' Instead of experiencing the Internet the way authors intended me to, I can choose how to experience it.